Friday, 14 June 2013

A Game of Thrones #1: pages1-100

A Game of Thrones is over 700 pages - and to review it at the end would be stupid. I may not even get to the end. Though I'd love to finish it and move onto the sequels. So here's a non-spoiler review of the first 100 pages.

I suppose I've got into A Game of Thrones for two reasons. One; there's been a buzz about the TV series from the end of the first series, and even more recently from the ending of Series Three. So it's something that's always been in the corner of my eye. The second reason - that my brother's girlfriend lent my mum the book to read. Mum attempted it and got bored, so I attempted it and got bored.

And then (as I only read the first few sentences on my first attempt..) I tried again. And I'm hooked.

I'm not one for the fantasy genre, any books that take the principles of an old fashioned time, or any books that are big. But to find a big book that's modern that I can essentially fly through (if one can go that quickly through a 700 page book) I'm lucky, and to find a fantasy book so reliant on character and relationships is lucky too. It's the character and emotion that's important to me in every book. A Game of Thrones has this without getting too bogged down in the emotion. When emotion comes near, it skips to a new character, mentions it, and then talks about family feuds and sex.

If I'm honest, A Game of Thrones, without the swearing and the sex/nudity, could be a children's book. Get rid of a few families, and obviously the aforementioned things, and any teenager could read this at age 13. They could probably manage the endless names and family feuds a lot better than an adult reader can, anyway. So I imagine because all fantasy books are essentially children's stories, the author's put in the sex and the swearing and the "adult themes" to show that distinction. The prologue is gory, but gripping, and it succeeds in throwing you into the text.

The family feuds are even interesting. There are enough off shoots to make the book seem interesting and layered, and all of these slowly lead and hint to the bigger theme - which I presume is the fight for the Iron Throne. The characters are distinct and understandable, each of them has a personality - which is great for me, who hasn't seen the TV show. The dialogue is written for the era and yet still modern. The use of swear words threw me at first, I still keep thinking this is some Medieval book, but the fact the swear words are (so far) limited to the younger characters works great. The age distinctions are well written.

I normally hate books that jump perspectives. Melvin Burgess' Junk was one that confused me when it switched characters, yet A Game of Thrones handles it well. Perhaps that's why the characters feel so real and alive, and why you're so interested in them. Because you see it through their eyes, and the author is showing you only what he wants you to see. That goes back to my point about emotion. There's a fairly shocking event at some point (which is handled well - as the writing style remains simple the whole way through, allowing the themes to be complex, and allowing more dramatic events to be reacted to by the reader) and the action skips four days. Then two weeks. Yet this feels natural. In a book that lasts 700+ pages, there's no evidence of it dragging so far.

The simple fact is that I'm just fascinated. It is a completely different world, and the author is, although sometimes it seems pointlessly, taking away all of our laws and our knowledge. It is his own world, and it is a completely believable world. The relationships are ours, from our time, the morals and the ethics and the history is from a different world. The blending of the two makes this a perfectly accessible and interesting book. The character's personalities and relationships make me interested in all these political and historical feuds going on around the place. There are moments that shock - and they aren't shocking, they're just not from our world - and this almost loose nature in such a complex plot is welcoming.

The plot, although it has so many characters and names, is kept on top of at all times - and it doesn't feel that complex. Your head tricks you into thinking it might be - but it isn't. The book doesn't even take any getting used to. There are a few moments where paragraphs are spent explaining concepts of the world, and though they seem a bit dull and out of reach, you do pick them up as people talk about them.

Overall, it is a fascinating book. It's simply written, you can grasp it, and the characters feel real. You learn about each character individually, and the background characters even feel understandable. As long as you give this book space to explain, it will fill the space and extend itself further, unravelling concepts and mystery, deploying standard book techniques yet making them fascinating.

I can't wait to keep reading - and one day (when I've finished the book) I will watch the series.


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