Tuesday, August 16, 2011
Book #25: A Game of Thrones
Where. Do I. Begin?
It has been a long while since a book has devoured every fiber of my being like this book did... Every now and then, you just have that book. The last time I read a book that was that book, it was Pillars of the Earth, back in 2007. That's not to say there haven't been tons of books I loved since then, because there have been -- The Hunger Games and Millennium trilogies, to name a few. Still, nothing has been quite so captivating as the first book in George R. R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire series.
Let me begin by saying that it took me a very, very long time to read this, and that includes listening to the audio book on and off. The copy I have is 800-ish pages, so it's a monster of a book, but I've read longer books in shorter amounts of time. For me, the issue wasn't that the book didn't have me hooked -- it did. It's just not a book I want to pick up for a few pages at a time, or a book I want to read while I'm, say, sitting on a school bus full of loud elementary school children. (Tried it -- major comprehension fail.) You get sucked in to the world that Martin builds, and you don't want to just stop in for a minute and then leave. You want to commit an hour or so at a time to reading, and I think that's something most would have trouble doing on a daily basis.
I will also say that for the first several chapters, I was completely confused. It's hard to read at first, and there are a lot of characters and places and families/houses to get to know. When I was about 50 pages in to the book, I was discussing it with a friend at work, who told me that there's an appendix in the back that lists the members of each house, including servants. MAJORLY helpful. I would actually recommend reading that first, and then starting the book, but even if you don't, it's great to have that to flip back to when you get confused.
OK, so, what's it about, right? Well, I'm avoiding that question because there's a lot going on, and I'm not really sure where to start. The major focus is the Stark family, head by Eddard Stark, the Lord of Winterfell. Winterfell is in the frigid northern region of a kingdom ruled by King Robert Baratheon, who is a longtime friend of Eddard's. King Robert seized the throne from the Targaryen family, whose young heirs still live and want to restore their family's reign. King Robert married a lady from the Lannister family, who are known for their wealth and their shrewd attitudes. (Confused yet?) You obviously have the issue of the Targaryens seeking to win back their power, but at the same time, the Hand (or advisor) to the King has mysteriously and suddenly died. Many in the kingdom suspect foul play, and they begin searching for an answer. Add to that some creepy snow zombies running around outside the Wall that protects the kingdom, and you have yourself one action-packed book.
I really cannot say enough good things about this book. Everything about it is amazing. The Lannisters are deliciously evil, and the Starks admirably noble. There are characters that you will absolutely fall in love with and characters that make you rage. I always think a book is good if I can't stop thinking about how much I hate one of the characters. (Characters I'm supposed to hate, that is -- not like Bella Swan in Twilight. I'm supposed to like her, but I hate her. Not the same.) I laughed out loud several times while reading this, I was totally thrown for a loop more than once, and I will admit that I cried. Only once, but I did. I was totally heartbroken, and it was awesome.
Here are two of my favorite quotes from the book:
"A mind needs a book as a sword needs a whetstone, if it is to keep its edge." -- Tyrion Lannister
"When you play the game of thrones, you win or you die. There is no middle ground." -- Cersei Lannister
READ IT, I SAID.
Read from June 30, 2011 to August 4, 2011