Monday, 4 July 2011

Books I should have read by now: A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin

"Winter is coming."

Perhaps it was happy coincidence that Gabriel's challenge and the HBO series George R.R. Martin's A Game of Thrones piqued my interest around the same time. I have always been fond of the fantasy genre: The Lord the Rings, Harry Potter and His Dark Materials are amongst my favorite series of novels but my exposure to epic high-fantasy has been severely limited. I purchased Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire series years ago during my fantasy fiction phase and even began reading A Game of Thrones but ended up abandoning it half-way through. My initial consternation was largely due my preference for fantasy rooted in mythology and the otherworldly as opposed to a soap opera of an alternative history political narrative about the courtesans of noble gentry. Not to mention, Martin's writing tends to be bloated, uneven and at times, laughably lame in terms of characterization and prose. However, this time around I was more forgiving and decided to put aside the stringent literary critic and just enjoy the novel as a piece of high-fantasy fiction. Suffice it to say, by the end of this 800 page tomb, I was rather pleased and surprised how entertaining the novel turned out to be. A definitely slow-burn narrative, the novel only starts to kick into high-gear around page 500 when the drama shifts to the political tensions between the different factions of the realm that lead to war. I'm glad that I did not abandon the novel this time during the slow sections because Martin takes his sweet time detailing this world of the Seven Kingdoms and slowly develops the many characters. Nonetheless, it is the intriguing story and rich detail of this world that make it such a compulsive read. A Game of Thrones may feel inadequate or unsatisfying in certain regards but this is only the introduction to the series and I am now incredibly anxious to read the rest of the books to find out what happens next.

Can Martin's novel ever be considered "great" literature? Of course, such a label is completely subjective and open to debate but I find it narrow-minded that genre fiction is often considered a lesser form of literature. I doubt his name will  appear alongside popular canonized authors like Hemmingway, Faulkner and Joyce anytime soon but to be honest, I would still prefer to read Martin over them. His prose obviously lacks the profound depth and complexity of those highly-respected authors but the man is gifted at writing a great story filled with a plethora of amusing characters, intricate plots and counter-plots along with a fascinating world containing such a rich background of history. Where Martin lacks in brevity and ornamental prose, he makes up for it ten-fold in sheer epic narrative scope. I have always turned to the fantasy genre as a form of escapism; an outlet for losing myself in a mystical reality where the imagination is given free reign: Martin's A Game of Thrones not only provides that opportunity but sets up what could potentially be a landmark fantasy series. 

On a side-note, the HBO series adaptation is wonderful and perhaps even better than the book! Season 2 can't come soon enough!

Rating: ****

Read from June 26 to July 01, 2011


  1. When I saw that the TV show was based on a book, I thought about picking it up but then I saw the size! I'm not the biggest fan of high-fantasy either so I'm giving it a miss for now.

  2. The size is certainly daunting and it takes a while for the story to get rolling but before you know you it, you want more! The show is a fairly spot-on adaptation and absolutely wonderful! Have you watched it yet, Ellie?