A Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin Book Review

Thursday, April 10, 2014 10:00 AM
Title: A Game of Thrones
Author: George R. R. Martin
Published: August 6, 1996
Publisher: Bantam
Series: A Song of Ice and Fire #1
Genre: Adult Fantasy
Pages: 837
Source: Gift
Rating: 5 stars
Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble
“When you play a game of thrones you win or you die.”
―George R.R. Martin, A Game of Thrones

In a land where summers can last decades and winters a lifetime, trouble is brewing. The cold is returning, and in the frozen wastes of the north of Winterfell, sinister and supernatural forces are massing beyond the kingdom's protective Wall.

At the center of the conflict lie the Starks of Winterfell, a family as harsh and unyielding as the land they were born to. Sweeping from a land of brutal cold to a distant summertime kingdom of epicurean plenty, here is a tale of lords and ladies, soldiers and sorcerers, assassins and bastards, who come together in a time of grim omens. Amid plots and counterplots, tragedy and betrayal, victory and terror, the fate of the Starks, their allies, and their enemies hangs perilously in the balance, as each endeavors to win that deadliest of conflicts: the game of thrones. (Goodreads)
My Thoughts
Some time ago, there was girl named Courtney who decided to take a chance and buy the first season of Game of Thrones without having watched a single episode. From that day on, her life would never be the same. But seriously, it wasn't the same and it has changed for the better. After discovering this extraordinary tv series, I knew I had to read the books. Finally, I have started this popular series, and, so far, I have no regrets.

I know A Game of Thrones may be intimidating in size, but, trust me, it's worth it. From the very start, I was hooked. There's never a dull moment, and it's not long before all hell breaks loose. Before you know it, George R. R. Martin has taken you completely unawares and all the characters you hold dear could be a page away from death. I'd like to say it was nail-bitingly suspenseful, but having already seen the tv show, there were no surprises for me. But for someone who has never seen the show, this book may be quite a shocker.

Even though I knew what this book contained plot wise, there were still some scenes that were unbearably raw and emotional. Rape, pillaging, murder, incest...A Game of Thrones has it all! The whole gruesome package that could leave you staring at the page open-mouthed not fully processing what you just read. In some books, the main characters are held sacred while the secondary characters are dispensable. Not so in A Game of Thrones. George R. R. Martin throws all caution to the wind, basically saying screw it, this is my book and I'll do what I like. And, I'll be damned, but I actually respect his heartlessness! He's willing to risk pissing off readers, and yet somehow it works. The vulnerability of every single character actually makes for a more convincing read. Though I am terrified about what will happen after I've passed the point the show has reached.

In A Game of Thrones, we witness the unfolding battle for the Iron Throne through the eyes of several main characters. Usually, I prefer reading a book from a single point of view, but I can't imagine how George R. R. Martin could have done it differently. By flipping from one character to the next, Martin is able to fully develop his world without sacrificing any character development. Yes, I ended up preferring the voices of certain characters more than others. Interestingly enough, I found that the opinions I had formed while watching the show remained unchanged after reading the book. In fact, my tv watching experiences may have influenced my reading of the book because I could not help imagining the actors as I read. Bran's and Jon's parts tended to bore me as they do in the show, and Daenerys and Arya were still my favorites. Catelyn annoyed me while at the same time I admired her and sympathized with her plight. I found Sansa detestable, but I liked her a little more as the story progressed. Tyrion's chapters were amusing as always, and I found them rather enjoyable. Eddard's parts were fascinating and offered a wealth of knowledge and political intrigue. Each character brought something new to the table, and I enjoyed slowly peeling away their complex layers to take a peek at their true identities.

A Game of Thrones is rich with history and storytelling. Slowly, the book unwinds its backstories with old folktales and battle stories. Each new tale contained hidden truths and deeper meanings just waiting to be revealed. As I learned more of the history, I became greedy for more knowledge, and I couldn't help reading on to discover the remaining fragments of the tale. Of course, Martin will drag out some mysteries for who knows how long. You devilish fiend! How do you play me so and keep me coming back to read more? When it comes to world building, Martin leaves nothing to be desired, and I cannot wait to read on and find out more.

After reading A Game of Thrones, I honestly couldn't tell you whether I like the tv series or the book more. They're both amazing for so many reasons that I simply couldn't decide. If you haven't watched the show or read any of the books, I strongly urge you to do so. Discovering this fantasy world is a rewarding experience filled with adventure, heartache and wonder, and I've only just begun.


  1. The tv series is so good - I agree - hard to tell which is better. I must say though, I'd skip book 2 and just watch the tv series as the book is really slow and meandering. The 3rd book though - it's a must read!

    Tanya Patrice

    1. Oh no! and it's such a long book too, but they only seem to get longer as the series continues. I did notice that the second season was a little slower which was the second book, but I hope I still enjoy A Clash of Kings.

    2. If you guys think book 2 is slow, just wait until book 4 when everything changes and we get a new slew of characters. A lot of people didn't like it for that reason. And it's definitely a challenge to struggle through. But I hear the ending pays off.

      I probably read book 2 faster than any of them.

    3. That's good to hear. I was nervous about reading book 2 but now I'm a little more excited to start it. :)

  2. I read the books first and - obviously - like them better than the TV Series, though it's wonderfully done. I think the first season winds up being very true to the book, though later on the series diverges in certain aspects where I enjoyed the book better, but the casting is so brilliantly done for GoT that I can't complain because ALL the actors are amazing. And, like you, the length of this one intimidated me but wound up being such a tiny factor as I flew through it. Martin really is fantastic, isn't he? I can't wait to see how you enjoy the sequels, Courtney! :)

    1. The only thing that's confusing about the casting for the TV series is that the actors are mostly older than the characters are in the books, like Robb, Sansa, Daenerys. But I can see why they would need to do that because so much time passes in the books; it just works out better. And unfortunately, they recast the actor who plays Dario. :( and I really liked him.

      I'm really looking forward to reading the other books! I'm going to take a breather in between (they're so long and dense), but I will definitely continue then :)

  3. I've been meaning to read the books because, like you, I absolutely love the TV series. Usually I read the book before the movie (or TV show) so I was curious to read your review since you watched the TV series first. I've been wondering whether I would like doing it in that order, but it sounds like it worked for you. I have enjoyed watching GoT so part of me is hesitant to get ahead of it by reading the books because I love being so shocked when I'm watching. Great review! ~Pam

    1. Yeah, I am also worried about getting ahead of where the show is, but I couldn't resist picking up the books. I think reading the book after watching the show also helped me to keep track of all that was going on in the book since there are just so many characters. Thanks, Pam!

  4. I saw the first 3 seasons before reading the books. I came on to the show late. The first 2 seasons had already aired, so I binged watched to catch up to the start of 3.

    So during the break, I was recommended to start reading the books. I didn't realize that I went through them so fast, for the length they are! For the first time ever, I'm ahead of a TV show in the books. I'm about 60% through book 4. So when watching the show this season, my mind has to go back to book 3. It's weird, but I like it.

    I like both for different reasons. The book can be extremely tedious and bogged down with details in a populated universe, so I applaud the show for cleaning it up and focusing in on the more important story lines. But I do miss some of the cleverness about the book characters, especially Tyrion. He has a lot more snide and funny comments.

    Having seen the show first helps me envision the characters ad keeps me interested in the books. I don't think I would've lasted past the first one without it. A perfect introduction to the epic fantasy genre.

    1. I agree. The show has increased my interest in the books and I can imagine all of the characters now, making it a much more rewarding experience. And it's easier to digest all of the details in the books when I've already seen the show and been introduced to most of the characters.


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