My Sunday afternoon was lazy, allowing me to finish this through my Kindle app. The second book, A Clash of Kings, is the only one left in my Kindle archive that I have yet to finish. So that's exciting.
22) A Game of Thrones: A Song of Ice and Fire #1 by George R.R. Martin
The people in charge of marketing the Scott Pilgrim movie got it wrong because the first book in the A Song of Ice and Fire truly is an epic tale of epic epicness; this coming from a person who doesn't like using that word in such a flippant fashion. Also notable? Fantasy isn't my thing. The Lord of the Rings trilogy was a great series of films, but I've never taken the time to read the books. Sure, I own two different editions, but the scope of most fantasy worlds (and some of the stigma surrounding them) have always put me off giving the genre a shot. That changes now.
Martin creates a vast world, following one main story and two other concurrent tales removed from the main narrative. Each chapter follows a different character using a third-person limited structure. Ned Stark, his wife Catelyn, their children Bran, Sansa, Arya, and Tyrion Lannister cover the main story of the Seven Realms going through a massive political upheaval. Meanwhile Jon Snow, Ned's bastard son, gets used to his new life on The Wall, a last outpost to the north of the Seven Realms, and Daenerys Targaryen adapts to life with the Dothraki, a horse-worshipping group of not-quite Klingons. There are so many more characters involved in this story that it's next to impossible to keep up with them all. I started to highlight the name of each character the first time I saw them, but it felt like a fool's errand before too long. There are THAT many. A few of the characters come off cartoonishly, but the ones that matter become terrifically endearing. Tyrion is an easy favorite and one I think that George R. R. Martin feels the closest kinship towards, but Arya, Jon, Dany and Ned are pretty great, too.
But characters and plot aside, the story is about the relationship between power and compromise. Knowing where power is attainable and the lengths to which characters will compromise themselves (whether said compromise involves his or her values, family members or own bodies) to attain power drives each and every story line throughout the first book, and I expect it to continue throughout the rest of the series.
While I purchased the books back in January, the impetus for doing so was the current HBO television show. The hype for the show lead me to sit down and finally start reading, and everything I heard said that the show stays really faithful to the original source material. Watching the show became a game all on its own, since I didn't want to have too much of the story spoiled for me, but it was also neat to see what I had just finished reading show up on the screen. The differences between the original and the adaptation only helped to inform the story and characters; usually the TV show adds scenes that explore some of the characters that don't have their own chapter perspective. And I'm sure that some of the nuance explained through those "extra" scenes are probably points that the series will reveal later on, but that's just my assumption.
In fact, needing the series to explain a few of those plot points is what keeps this from getting the full five-star monty. I'm not sure if that's fair, but I shouldn't need a TV show to explain aspects of a book I'm enjoying. Still, I dug this book a whole lot and really want to tear into the rest of the series. I bought the first two books at the same time and purchased a paperback version of the third a few weeks ago, so I'm covered for awhile before I even need to worry about the forthcoming fifth book. Still, read it! It's a fun series, and hopefully HBO will keep the show going despite its astronomical cost.