“If Tolkien and Dickens had a baby it would be Martin.” –Caitlin McCann (Me)
I recently finished George R. R. Martin’s Game of Thrones and have been recommending this thing like a madwoman. Heck, I was recommending it before I had the whole book finished.
I got into Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series because of my friend Chelsey. She kept telling me about this amazing series I had to read. For months I put her pick on the back burner, because as any bibliophile knows, a must-read list quickly becomes an infinite thing. Plus, Game of Thrones is about 800 pages and I was waiting for summer time to read this mammoth at my leisure.
A reader’s tip: I read the appendix first to get a good feel for the characters and the history of Martin’s world. It made me feel more knowledgeable, and I wasn’t constantly flipping to the back of the book.
I also read the book in segments of fifty pages or more because this book is dense (in the best way possible). You have to attack this book or risk defeat. For me, the density is a bonus, but I understand it may not be for everyone. Some of my favorite authors are Tolkien, Irving, and Dickens: all known for their detail and depth.
I rattled off my quote above to my friend Carolyn, as I was making yet another recommendation. Truly, if Tolkien and Dickens had a literary baby it would be George R. R. Martin. Tolkien fans will be drawn to the fantasy element of Game of Thrones. There’s a well-developed backdrop of fantasy that bolsters but doesn’t over-dominate the plot. Dickens lovers will also appreciate Martin’s skill at character development and casual craft of language.
The novel takes awhile to truly pick up in pace, but what will pull readers through the intellectual thicket is the characters. Martin has a talent for connecting readers with his characters. Everyone will have a favorite. Mine are Daenerys Targaryen, the naive but regal young exile, and Tyrion Lannister, the witty and honest dwarf of a noble house. Game of Thrones is composed of small chapters, each told in the voice of one of eight characters. As I writer, I have to give Martin praise for the finesse it takes to balance so many perspectives. He takes on adults, children, men, and women, as well as differences in class. Martin’s gift is that each character is fully developed as if the whole novel was theirs. It’s damn hard, and he makes it look easy.
The multiple perspective format enhances the element of mystery inherent in the story as each character reveals new information that helps the reader piece together the plot. I felt more drawn in to the story because each chapter took me somewhere new. I also appreciated that not every character was pristine and 100% lovable. Some were definitely more likable that others but each is flawed and has to come up against those flaws in some way or another. I thought the characters made the book worth the read. Beware, they will grab you.
Game of Thrones is the first novel in a series, and it sets the tone well for a visual thrill ride full of strong characters. If you’re not already a fan of the HBO series by the same name, then get on that too. The stellar visuals translate beautifully to the small screen, and book purists will be happy to note the TV series follows the novel respectably. [Note: I haven’t seen the second season yet so I can’t pass judgement on it.]
George R. R. Martin has quickly risen to my personal pantheon of favorite authors. I can’t wait to start the next installment, A Clash of Kings. And next time, I’ll be moving Chelsey’s picks to the front of the line.