Sunday, 1 July 2012

The fantistorical epos A Song of Ice and Fire - A Game of Thrones (Book 1)

I have never actually liked epic fantasy novels. I barely finished the first part of LOTR (yes I know the books are better than the movie) and I was quick to claim fantasy epics as something I would never waste my time on. The magic swords, the creatures, the wizards, the rings, all of that made me bored as hell. However, as I have discovered quite a few times in my life, the things I tend to judge way too quickly, at the end turn out to be not only not that bad, but actually pretty awesome.

I guess I am pretty slow to discover George R.R. Martin's epic A Song of Ice and Fire. The fantasy and science fiction fans must have known it for years. As much as I like to criticize book adaptations, though, thanks to HBO's series A Game of Thrones I actually looked into the books. I have sworn I would never watch a movie before checking out the books, so after I was totally hooked up by the first episode, I deleted the whole series, went straight to the bookstore and bought my self the first novel.

George R.R. Martin's style captured me from the first couple of chapters. As much as I was expecting the same sort of bullshit (I don't meen to offend anyone) as LOTR, I was pleasantly surprised, and yes, completely hooked. The story of the magical land of Westeros, where 7 noble houses fight for a throne (i.e a game of thrones) is a good mixture of science-fiction and fantasy. Yes, Martin has the occasional walking dead, wizards, wildfires, and inexplicably clever direwolfs, but everything is done tastefully. A Game of Thrones much more reminds of a mediaval story of knights, ladies, fights, glory, and honor. It actually resembles Rome, Spartacus, etc much more than LOTR and Harry Potter. And that was what I actually enjoyed most about it.

Martin is a great storyteller. His attention to detail is magnificent; he spends a fair amount of time on even minor characters. His novels are long, yes, but the inclusion of minor characters combined with the focus on inner struggles, conflicts, and battles provides a insightful picture into the land of Westeros and into its characters' minds.

The novel is told through the point of view of several main characters, which alternate in no consistent order. As such, I was able to grasp a conflict from both of its sides. What is more, Martin's characters are neither good, nor bad. All of them are able to feel compassion, yet all of them fight inner demons and not always act in the righteous way. In that sense as well, it is not a fantasy epic about good vs. evil, it is an epic about the good in men vs the bad in men. The seven noble families must overcome not only their enemy, they must decide within themselves what is more important - family and love or honor. Martin is no predictable author, so don't get to love any of the characters - at any point of time anyone can be killed. In that sense A Game of Thrones (and A Song of Ice and Fire) is not an epic about any particular character; it is more of a bible of a medieval society, where power, money, and love attempt to live together.


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