Thursday, 31 March 2011

Book of the Month (March)

I've read an awful lot of books this month - and in February too (I kind of, maybe, forgot to do a Book of the Month for February so I'm combining the two here). I read a lot of great books this month. In spite of that, though, picking this Book of the Month was surprisingly easy.

My pick?

George R. R. Martin's Game of Thrones.

The first in an ongoing series, this novel is epic/high fantasy, full of politics and intrigue and a lot less magic that you might expect from the genre (which in my opinion, was a good thing here, as the whole epic/high fantasy magic thing can get old fast). Here's the Amazon summary:

The first volume of George R R Martin's glorious high fantasy tells the tragic story of treachery, greed and war that threatens the unity of the Seven Kingdoms south of the Wall. Martin unfolds with astonishing skill a tale of truly epic dimensions, thronged with memorable characters, a story of treachery and ambition, love and magic. Set in a fabulous world scarred by battle and catastrophe over 8000 years of recorded history, it tells of the deeds of men and women locked in the deadliest of conflicts and the terrible legacy they will leave their children. In the game of thrones, you win or you die. And in the bitter-cold, unliving lands beyond the Wall, a terrible winter gathers and the others -- the undead, the neverborn, wildlings to whom the threat of the sword is nothing -- make ready to descend on the realms of men.

And if that summary happens to sound good to you, guess what? It's so, so much better than it sounds!

I'll be honest: I had vaguely heard about this series and Game of Thrones a couple of years ago, and more recently when Steve, who is a fan, asked me if I'd ever read it. But I never actually took much interest in reading it, because I'd hit my aversion-to-epics phase. I used to love high and epic fantasy when I was fifteen, sixteen. I wrote high and epic fantasy. Then I went off it. Maybe it was because everything I read started to sound corny and repetitive. In six years, I think the closest I've come to reading an loving a novel in this genre would be Jacqueline Carey's Kushiel books and even then I think those gripped me because they were different.

I'm happy to say Game of Thrones has given me back my faith in the genre. I finally started reading it this month, after learning about the HBO TV series based on the novel. When I saw the trailers, and saw that Sean Bean and Lena Headey were starring, I couldn't resist. And, like any good reader, I decided to read the book first.

I think I'm a bit obsessed. With the characters more than anything else. Specifically Cersei and Jaime Lannister. This is a series full of fantastic characters. You know the whole good-evil thing? Yeah, forget about it. Very few of the characters in Martin's series are entirely good or entirely bad - most don't even lean either way. Cersei and Jaime, for example, are twins. At first, you might think they're horrible, ambitious people. But there's so much more to these characters and I just love them. I might even be in the minority on this one, with other readers outright despising them. But that's a good thing because there's nothing quite like a rabid, divided fanbase to prove how a character can get under your skin.

And on another note, there is very little magic and sword-and-sorcery in this series. It's almost entirely about power, and politics, and love, and intrigue. Which sets it apart from most of the novels in the genre.

And that is my quite incoherent view of this series - and this novel in particular. I read Game of Thrones and then, within days, read its three sequels and am now desperate for the fifth book. And these are monster-sized books. But so compelling.


  1. Feel the pain of those of us who have been desperately waiting for the new book for YEARS! The publishing dates have been constantly pushed back and it's so annoying.

  2. That sounds just up Jon's street, I'll tell him about that. Even the cover looks like his kind of book.
    The website I use for cheapie flights is - absolutely brilliant, lovely people and the price quoted is the price you pay, no sneaky hidden extras. Three weeks direct flight to Goa for under £300 each, not bad, huh? xxx

  3. I've been meaning to read that book for awhile now! I mean, I should, right? Cause I'm a fantasy author. :) I just heard it was an incredibly sad book, and I didn't feel up to it at the time. Now however... now may be a good time. :)

  4. I don't think anyone outright despises Jaime, at least, after his arc in Feast. Cersei is harder to like but everything she does is for her kids in her own, twisted way. And as much as I hope the HBO show bumps Martin's sales, I'm wary that Dances has a release date set when he hasn't even finished writing.

    I cannot imagine the pressure being put on him by his publisher on top of the constant wheedling of his fans that he's taken so long to write this sequel. Makes you appreciate the benefit of being unpublished and not having a hovering deadline. I promise when your book is out I won't turn into a crazy fan demanding your next book come out *now*.
    - Sophia.

  5. Sounds like a great read! Thans, Sangu.

  6. Duh, THANKS! My typos are OUT OF CONTROL lately.

  7. I decided I wanted to see the series just because of Sean Bean! Now I have to read the book too. Far out.

  8. I'm halfway through A Clash of Kings right now. So far it isn't quite as good as aGoT, but's that only because aGoT was SO good.

    Great review, thanks Sangu!