Author: George R. R. Martin
Shall I tell you a story? Once upon a time, there was a sleepy grad student who forgot to bring her reading material on the metro. Seeking to please her boyfriend (i.e. get some major points) and get some necessary fiction time in before the school house grind, she (aka yours truly) picked up the Game of Thrones book. And, well, now I’m intimidated. I’m actually going to do it; I’m going to review Game of Thrones because, obviously, there aren’t enough reviews of it out there anyway. It has nothing to do with my pedantic, obsessive need to talk about every book I have ever read, or my excitement that now I am finally in on this huge cultural phenomenon and know who Jon Snow is and what all the internet memes about Cersei mean. This novel may also have also been that excuse that I needed to buy a glow-in-the-dark dragon bracelet at Awesomecon while parading around in t-shirt ensemble complete with the Khaleesi and her dragons.
I’ve dabbled around in fantasy literature before. A dyed-in-the-wool fan of the Dragonlance Chronicles and anything ever produced by Ravenloft, I was intrigued by the first several episodes of GoT that my boyfriend showed me. The hype was good, the show looked promising, and it had been awhile since my last epic fantasy adventure. Why not?
The shared nature of the narrative creates an instant world, something both medieval and yet oddly modern. Combining a War of the Roses type of joust for power, modern ideas of sex and implementation of language create a realm with oddly vicious characters, a gray space peopled by mostly villains and a few woebegone heroes. It’s dynamic. There is just enough fantasy to keep the element of intrigue and to allow for fake kingdoms in a created world, meaning that history does not necessarily learn from itself so much as unravel itself before us. The fantasy keeps the world at play and fluid; each chapter is related by a different point of view (POV) character, and as the powerful houses vie for the throne (or for their loved ones), the story becomes unique in that readers don’t side with just one family or one person. Even the villains (in this case the nefarious house Lannister, as everyone knows) have their good points, and this is what makes the tale just so damn good. It’s like real life, but with the elegance of the occasionally unexpected advent, whether that is a hatchling dragon or a walking corpse from the frozen lands beyond the wall.
I could go into the characters and their plots, and subplots, and overlapping plots, and the plots about plots. . . but let’s be honest here, everyone already knows all those details. I get the award for officially being the last person ever (as per usual) to get down with the latest fictional addiction. This would be a good thing (and normally is for me) if the series was complete, and all the books were out. I managed this with Harry Potter and Twilight (yes, yes, I have a Masters in Writing and I enjoyed Twilight, shut up) but all of the books aren’t out and everyone’s beloved George R.R. Martin isn’t looking any younger. Not even all of the episodes of the show are out. So, basically, I’m in the same boat as all y’all, just much further up the river.
Being a quick reader, I’ve taken to reading multiple novels and non-fiction works simultaneously to keep myself from finishing favorites too quickly. GoT was my match. It’s not a fast read. Instead of the usual weeks, I took months to indulge myself, but they were happy months. The story has a richness and a texture, a variegated and complicated nature, that makes slow reading a rich reward. I was also watching the first season at the same time, so my reading pattern matched well with the events in the show and helped me to understand some of the more difficult points in the drama (keeping up with all the characters and who is related to whom.)
My heart was in Winterfell or out in the desert with the Khaleesi the entire time, and although I enjoy a wary snobbishness toward popular fiction, I bow the knee to GoT. The novel attracts lovers of history, drama, and fantasy, and interweaves human nature in all of its shades of grey into an epic. The characters are real, the dialogue superb, the writing descriptive and yet intriguingly vulgar at some points, and the slow build successful because of readers love for the denizens of Martin’s realm. Still wary of jumping on the band wagon? Well, I’m glad that I did, and I already have the second novel in the series purchased and sitting by my reading chair. Cheers to another six months of shenanigans over the fight for the Iron Throne.
- Frances Carden