*Disclaimer* This review is for the BOOK version only. Not everything said will translate across mediums to the Television Adaptation. A separate review will cover the Television Show*
WHAT IS IT ABOUT?
A Song of Ice and Fire is an epic five-book series (with two more volumes to come) by author George R.R. Martin. Set in the fictional, secondary universe of Westros, the series follows a vast assortment of flawed characters as they navigate a dangerous, unforgiving medieval society. The story contains an array of supernatural elements, but they are kept on the fringe. Instead, political intrigue, warfare, corruption, and family drama take center stage. Lord of the Rings this is not. Instead, A Song of Ice and Fire is what you’d get if Leo Tolstoy had added dragons into War and Peace. When the king of the Seven Kingdoms of Westros is murdered, the land is thrust into civil war as the great houses vie for the Iron Throne. With dozens of relatable characters on both sides of the battle field, you won’t know who to cheer for as the betrayals come and the causalities mount with shocking brutality. In the end, only one can sit upon the coveted throne. Who will it be?
WHY IS IT IMPORTANT?
The first novel, A Game of Thrones, was released in 1996. The series has since grown tremendously in both length and popularity. The books have been a hit with both fans and critics alike. Author George R.R. Martin has been hailed as the “American Tolkien.” Corresponding to the release of the latest entire, A Dance With Dragons, Martin was included in Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People List as well as being named “Author of the Year” by USA Today. The books’ popularity spiked further with debut of HBO’s television adaption. During its current four year run the show has received 42 Emmy nominations and thrust Game of Thrones into household name status. The sixth book, Winds of Winter is arguably the world’s most anticipated book. The saga is a regular fixture in any “Trending Lists.” With two more books and 4-5 more seasons expected, A Song of Ice and Fire will remain a cultural mainstay for the foreseeable future. For better or worse, Game of Thrones has changed the landscape of fantasy stories and television.
A CRITICAL REVIEW
As a fantasy author myself, I make a habit of keeping up with the notable works within the genre. I had been aware of A Song of Ice and Fire for years but was hesitant to dive in. The repelling factor was not the density, with each tome clocking in between 700-1000 pages, and more due to the stigma’s attached to the books. Game of Thrones had developed a reputation for its gritty violence and gratuitous sex. Last year I finally decided to test the waters. I quickly discovered that while the aforementioned reputation is well earned (as I’ll discuss in next section), I had been missing out on a masterful work of Fantasy. From a technical standpoint, Martin is a superb writer. With hundreds of characters and a complicated, interweaving plot, the books are not for the feint of heart. The real strength in Martin’s writing comes from his well-developed, complex characters. Whether hero or villain, these are some of the most memorable characters you will find in literature of any genre. In our culture that demands instant gratification, A Song of Ice and Fire is a throwback, or sorts. The story is a slow-burn, with the plot unfolding in a gradual, more realistic manner. Some readers have found the deliberate pacing tedious; however, the result is that when the big moments arrive (and boy, do they ever), the payoff is great. The series hits its high-point with the thrilling A Storm of Swords (book #3), and tapers off with two much less satisfying books.
A CHRISTIAN PERSPECTIVE
If you have time, I encourage you to watch this fascinating interview with George R.R. Martin. In his answers he touches on many of the points discuss3e below and the interview provides a helpful foundation to form your own opinion on the controversial work. If not, just skip to the discussion below.