Genre: Fantasy

Notes: Epic.

Review: I like fantasy.  I like magic.  It was/is my life’s ambition to attend Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, and when my owl didn’t arrive at 11, I was slightly disappointed Dumbledore didn’t see it fit to let me on the Hogwarts Express.  But that’s beside the point.  Hogwarts has nothing to do with the setting of “A Game of Thrones.”  (But Dumbledore better be glad Snape took care of him first…I’ve been practicing my Unforgivable Curses.  And they will work because I will mean them!)

In all seriousness though, I got into this series because my roommate at the time finagled a free 3 month trial of HBO just so she could start watching the show.  The show is amazing.  Given it’s HBO, there is a lot of sex, nudity, blood, and swearing, but really, isn’t that what we want in a tv show?  Plus Sean Bean was born to play a medieval lord.  When I moved to South Carolina and set up my Comcast account, lo and behold, I had a free 6 month trial of HBO!  “A Game of Thrones” helped me get through those first lonely weekends with no friends.  Don’t worry though, I think I made one friend in Charleston.

I’m not one to say the TV or movie adaptation is better than the book, but I wish I had skipped this book and gone straight to number 2.  If i had read the book before I watched the show, I might have felt differently, but HBO did such a good job that reading the book didn’t give me any further insight into the characters or illuminate any events the show may have left out.  They got it all in there, except for minor details that really don’t add anything critical to the story.

The saga starts in a mythical land where summers can last years and winter can last a lifetime.  There isn’t really much said about how people survive in the winter, except for the oft-repeated phrase “Winter is coming,” which are the words of the house Stark – the northernmost House.

The Houses constantly shuffle and posture for power.  Lords wed their daughters to the sons of Houses they hate for alliances.  Men lusting after power double cross other men they’ve pledged their allegiances to, women (cough Cersei cough) use their husbands as puppets, and a sense of honor doesn’t lead you anywhere except to a public beheading.  In the game of thrones you either win or you die.

Martin does an excellent job with his characters, for the most part.  Some of the characters are flat and two-dimensional (Jon, Catelyn, and Sansa), but the majority have motives, personalities, and live in the gray area between good and bad.  Even characters you think are wholly bad do something to redeem themselves for a time.  And characters you think are wholly good reveal a troubling amount of bloodthirsty behavior.  Lord Baelish and Tyrion Lannister never fail to keep you guessing and you can’t help but love Arya Stark.

Bottom Line: If you haven’t seen the series on HBO, read the book.  If you have, skip ahead to the second.  Take this as fair warning though – there are a lot of characters to keep straight.