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Saturday, January 22, 2011

cover of 'A Game of Thrones'

An intense, complicated book with a large cast of characters, and plenty of political maneuvering and betrayal. This is the kind of world where children who wander around the castle, climbing walls or trying to catch cats (as children do), are likely to see or hear something that could get them killed. The book is narrated in the third person, but each chapter follows the perspective or events around a different person, so the story starts with Eddard Stark and his family in the northern part of the kingdom, but the story ranges out as members of the Stark family travel, and as we get the stories and perspectives of other characters, such as Daenerys and Vyserys, the exiled children of House Targaryen, which formerly held the throne of the Seven Kingdoms.

Stark is content to stay in the north at Winterfell with his family, away from the royal court; but when Robert Baratheon, the King and Eddard's good friend from years before (they were raised together and Eddard helped fight to win him the throne), comes and asks Eddard to be his Hand, Eddard feels he must accept. He seems to be the only honest man at court, and he doesn't know who to trust. Robert was a mighty warrior, but it seems that he doesn't make a very good king-- he'd rather be wining and dining, and leave the running of the kingdom to Eddard. As Eddard investigates the death of the previous Hand (which he suspects was not an accident), he uncovers a secret that could have a huge impact on the succession of the throne, and the kingdom itself-- but, in this world, the truth alone is not enough to win out.

Well-written in many ways, in the details of things. Early on, Stark and a group of his men and older sons find a group of direwolf puppies in the snow-- their mother has been killed, and there is a broken-off horn of a stag still in her throat. Everyone except Eddard sees this as an omen, and we already know at this point in the book that the direwolf is the emblem of House Stark, but we don't yet know at this point in the book who the stag represents. This adds to the significance when the king comes to visit Winterfell and ask Eddard to be his Hand, since there are already indications that all is not well in the kingdom. I liked the fact that the direwolves aren't just a floating symbol-- the puppies become part of the story. There is one puppy for each of the Stark children, and they each claim and name their own-- and the wolves suit their owners, and accompany them, and play their own part in the stories that unfold.

I found the book a bit rough to read in some ways, because of the brutality and violence that happens, sometimes to those who seem completely innocent (children, animals). After about half way through, the story progressed in a way that made it harder to put the book down from there pretty much to the end. And the ending, which was surprising in some ways but included some details I had guessed, changes things and sets up more war and conflict in this on-going and deadly game to control the throne-- which makes it hard to wait to read the next book in the series.

Title:A Game of Thrones
Author:George R. R. Martin
Date published:1996
Series:A Song of Ice and Fire (book 1)
Number of pages:694
Notes:loaned and recommended by Scott


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