A Game of Thrones

By George R.R. Martin.

When I bought A Game of Thrones nearly a year ago, I did wonder whether my patience would last to the end of the first volume in the series. It survived sufficiently intact for me to have bought A Clash of Kings for my Kindle last week and to have started reading it over the weekend. But more of that in a later entry.

There’s civil war in the Seven Kingdoms after King Robert is killed by a boar while hunting and his son, the petulant boy-king, Joffrey, has Eddard Stark, the former king’s right-hand man, executed on a whim. Meanwhile, the sole survivor of the previous dynasty, married off to Genghis Khan, finds herself raising a litter of dragons.

Each chapter of A Game of Thrones is written from the perspective of a particular character: Eddard Stark, his wife, Catelyn, his daughters Arya and Sansa, his son, Bran, his illegitimate son, Jon Snow, Tyrion Lannister, and one or two others. It stops the narrative from getting stale, and Martin has managed to keep each part sufficiently interesting to prevent readers from skipping the dull bits.

I’m not so sure about the characters themselves. They feel a little 2D with Robert, the fat, roistering king (sounds familiar); Eddard, the sensible friend (i.e., the designated driver); Catelyn, the hard-arse (think of Lynette Scavo from Desperate Housewives); Arya, the tomboy; Sansa, the naive girlie girl; Lysa (Catelyn’s sister) and Cersei (Robert’s wife), the deranged loons. There’s even a new religion on the block, and the next thing you know, Joffrey will be ordering the invasion of a remote nation because they might have weapons of mass destruction. We also have that obsession about the son (Tyrion) with the greater father (Tywin), which seems to be a stock trope of American culture.

There’s also an excess of child characters in the story. I know it’s based on the Wars of the Roses, but we’ve got a whole tribe of Wesley Crushers running around from Arya and Robb Stark to Jon Snow to King Joffrey.

The book is fairly light on the fantastic, but there are supernatural elements lurking in the background such as the wights who come to life in the Black Tower (or whatever it’s called) and the dragons which Daenerys hatches in the fire at the end of the book. There’s also something important about the seasons in this world, but again, there have only been hints.

Apart from the occasion intruder, the language is thankfully free of Americanisms, which can utterly destroy the tone of fantasy literature. So far I’ve seen no sign of any of the “dwarven [sic!] strike teams” or “kobold assassination squads”, which litter the world of D&D.

Time to read a little more of A Clash of Kings.

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