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An Epic Story in an Epic Saga

If I had to pick one word to describe the book series A Song of Ice and Fire, it would be epic.

The first book in the series, “A Game of Thrones,” hails from a world far, far away which seems to be experiencing its own version of the medieval period.

There are knights and ladies a plenty, along with dethroned princes, mysterious eunuchs, and ancient brotherhoods, but this book surpasses the average “Kill-the-wizard-save-the-princess” fantasy book by a long shot, because behind the fearless knight, is a heartbreaking story; behind the beautiful lady, is a Machiavellian mastermind; behind the dethroned prince, is a desperate fool who just wants his kingdom back.

This book and the ones that follow it do more than take you to a world that astounds and surprises at every turn: it tells the story of the people as much as the events.

Everyone has his or her own favorite character that he or she loves to root for, which makes it hard when characters die, which is common (it’s not quite “Hamlet,” but it’s close).

The narrative is told through the eyes of several different characters; eight, to be exact. This is done simply because the plot is too big to be seen by only one person.

The story’s tendrils stretch from Winterfell, the stronghold of the honorable house Stark, to the country’s capital in the south – filled with scheming courtiers and ubiquitous spies – across an ocean where an exiled king sells his sister in return for an army, to the frozen north where a brotherhood of watchmen guard the realm from undead monsters.

This writing style gives you the sense that the story is one enormous puzzle that’s put together, piece-by-piece, as you read.

The plot in “A Game of Thrones” spins all of the unforgettable characters together in an intricate tapestry of murder, secrets, kings, and civil war. The main overreaching plot in “A Game of Thrones” is a war between two powerful families that will determine the fate of The Seven Kingdoms, but rest assured that this is far from the only plot contained in the nine-hundred-odd pages of the book.

There are so many diverse plots and characters that you feel as if you’re reading several different books, instead of just one. There are plot twists galore in this novel, some which are more predictable than others; from opportunistic betrayals to surprise beheadings, this book won’t cease to surprise you (or at least attempt to).

I am staunchly opposed to the idea that there are no ‘good guys’ or ‘bad guys’ in “A Game of Thrones,” a notion that I have heard several times before.

There is no mistaking Bronn, a mercenary with all the empathy of a brick, for a good person (although he does make a very good character).

No, the thing about “A Game of Thrones” is that the ‘good guys’ and ‘bad guys’ are scattered across every side of the enormous conflict. I think that this, in itself, is a comment on war, saying that no army made entirely of devils, and no army is entirely made of angels.

Keep in mind that this is not a book to read to your little sister; in addition to frequent profanity, there is matter-of-fact sexuality throughout the book that only increases as the series continues.

There is also much violence in the novel, as is to be expected from a fantasy book. The violence and sexuality are intensified by the high quality of the writing – writing on a par, some have said, with literary giants like Charles Dickens or fantasy legends like J.R.R. Tolkein.

There are some drawbacks to the novel; it is very long, (it took me months to read, albeit I am a very slow reader). It can be tedious at times (do we really need to know every course of the banquet?), and it is also very complex, requiring a lot of attention and memory.
I may not stand for everyone here, but when I read “A Game of Thrones,” the story, and the world it was set in, gripped my mind in the way toddlers become obsessed with fire engines or race cars.

While I was reading it, every butter knife I touched was Valyrian steel (a magically sharp type of metal), and every howl in the night came from a direwolf (a race of wolves the size of horses). It filled me with the kind of excitement that you get from a great story told by a great storyteller.

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