by Savannah J. Foley
GAME OF THRONES. The title is in the air. The four-book-long (and soon to be five) series called A SONG OF ICE AND FIRE from George R. R. Martin was recently turned into a (fairly fantastic) HBO series, and since then everyone’s been talking about the books: when is the next one coming out, why has it been so long of a wait (7 years!), the subculture fandom, and even the people who stalk Martin to complain about him not writing.
For a series so huge, you’d think that we’d all have read it already, or at least have heard of it. But until a few months ago I never had. How can that be possible? I’m an avid reader. In high school I read two books a day! I’m a fantasy fan. I hung out with people who are fantasy fans, as well! WHY didn’t anyone tell me about this fantastic series sooner?!
That’s the point of today’s post. If you’ve never heard about GAME OF THRONES, or if you have and are curious to learn more, or even if you’ve heard and think it’s not for you, let me tell you about it and hopefully convince you to run out right NOW and buy the book!
First of all, the series is classified as high fantasy, but it is NOT boring, dusty, or nerdy. It’s beautiful, violent, sexy, surprising, and witty. When I first heard the generic description: multi-POV, war-based, 700 pages, etc., I thought to myself ‘Greeaaat. This is going to take months and I’ll have to skip a lot of chapters.’ Not to offend, but I was expecting Tolkien.
Boy was I wrong. I could (and have) sat and read all day, as fast as I could, absolutely dying to find out what was going to happen next. The multiple POVs was rarely taxing or boring; most often I would be exasperated that the next chapter wouldn’t continue where the previous left off, yet at the same time thrilled to return to a previous character. These books are an excellent example of multiple POVs done right.
As for the plot itself, again, the basic description did nothing for me: a clash of great houses, all trying to claim (or reclaim) the throne of the Seven Kingdoms. Meh. But then I got to know the characters. The deal with this story is that, for all its sweeping plot, it’s a character-driven story. I care what happens because these characters are fascinating and entertaining. They plot and love and lose their tempers, both betray and are betrayed, sacrifice and thieve. And I was rooting for them at every turn. The most interesting about this multiple perspectives is that we follow people on all sides of the clash, and can’t be quite sure who we want to win.
Is it the Stark family, protectors of the North, whose six children all claim direwolves as pets, scattered to the four winds and trying to find each other in a maze of battles, imprisonment, and uneasy alliances? Arya, the little girl who passes for a boy to stay safe, wielding her own sword and fighting with rocks when she has to, Sansa the beauty, caught in a court of lies and cruelty, trying to survive without being forced to betray her family, Bran, the young boy who slips into his wolf’s skin, Robb, who might be king if he can stay alive, and John Snow, their father’s bastard child, sworn to chaste and life-long service on the Wall, a gigantic barrier barring the North from the South, keeping both wildlings and the mythical Others at bay.
Or are we cheering for the Lannisters, wed to the royal family? Cruel, conniving, incestuous, and murderers, yes, but what about Tyrion, the black sheep of the family, a sarcastic, whoring dwarf alternately trying to protect his family from themselves while holding the kingdom together and wading through the web of lies and secrets of the past. I love Tyrion; he’s tortured and witty, brilliant and jaded, yet oddly naïve in the matters of the heart. Every time I get to read another of his chapters I nearly burst in excitement, because I know it’s going to be packed full of plot development.
Then we have Daenerys Stormborn, blood of the dragon. Sister of the murdered former King, exiled beyond the sea as a baby, and recently married to a horse-riding barbarian king, she is the rightful heir to the Seven Kingdoms, but struggling to raise her army to return and claim her throne. At fifteen she becomes a queen of barbarians, but the only way to victory is through tragedy, black magic, vast, conquering armies and the rule of threes: Three loves, three betrayals… and three dragons.
In this world, when winter comes it stays for an unknown number of years, but always longer after a long summer. And it has been a very long summer. With the throne up for grabs and five contenders for King (or Queen), the world ignores a plea for help from the Wall. The ancient legend of the Others is proving true: undying snow mages who make the dead walk and only arrive in the dark and cold. And as the Stark family motto says, Winter is Coming.
If you haven’t yet, you MUST read this series. And then watch the HBO show, because it’s fabulous as well. A word of warning: I had a hard time getting past the prologue in GAME OF THRONES, mostly because I didn’t have a grip on the world yet, but you need to read it because it foreshadows something really important. Additionally, there’s a tragedy that happens early on, but you need to keep reading past it. Just trust me. Give yourself five chapters and you’ll be hooked. I promise.
Savannah J. Foley is the author of the Nameless (originally known as Woman’s World) series on Fictionpress and is signed with the Bradford Literary Agency. Her website is www.savannahjfoley.com, but she updates more frequently on her livejournal. She is currently working on editing Nameless to go out on submissions. You can read an excerpt from Nameless here.