Legendary storyteller George R. R. Martin’s first entry in his ongoing series A Song of Ice and Fire is A Game of Thrones. Followed by A Clash of Kings, A Storm of Swords, A Feast for Crows, A Dance With Dragons, and the upcoming Winds of Winter, Thrones introduces a sprawling, thoroughly realized world set in the high-fantasy genre. Like many people now interested in the books, I was first exposed to Martin’s fiction in 2011 when the first season of HBO’s Game of Thrones was aired. Following the heartbreak of an absolutely jaw-dropping climax during the third season, it wasn’t possible for me to wait another year before knowing what happens next. Five or six months later, I had devoured A Dance With Dragons.
As much as I love what showrunners D.B. Weiss and David Benioff have done with the television series, Martin’s source material is far more potent, as is usually the case with all adaptions. With each chapter written from the perspective of one character, the sheer quality of Martin’s prose is evident, given that it conforms to each of the personalities we are presented with throughout the series. From the lofty naiveté, to the willfully impatient, to a razor-sharp wit, it is a marvel to watch how the language shifts back and forth. That being said, a lack of convention is what draws the reader to the many stories with which we are presented. This is not a tale of good guys vs. bad guys; as the fiction develops, the three-dimensional nature of every character is gradually revealed.
Published in 1996, A Game of Thrones set the stage for a series that will undeniably stand the test of time. Typical fantasy genre elements aside (magic, dragons, undead), George R. R. Martin presents us with a brutal world rife with exploitation, warfare, skepticism, romance, and, best of all, calculated, Machiavellian, political maneuvers. The parallels able to be drawn to our own world are quite limitless and I will, until the day I die, wholeheartedly recommend this book to everyone.