Monday, October 17, 2011

A Game of Thrones: Book One in the series 'A Song of Ice and Fire', by George R.R. Martin

I became interested in the 'A Song of Ice and Fire' series when a friend recommended them upon hearing it was going to be made into a show. I am honestly surprised I hadn't heard of them before, the fantasy genre being my absolute favorite and this being a series of HUGE depth, comparable to Tolkein's 'The Lord of the Rings' though not as ground breaking. 'A Game of Thrones', for which the HBO series was named, is the first book. I initially downloaded it on my Kindle app and began reading it. Working full time, being a mother of two, and having a hundred and one other obligations began interfering with my ability to immerse myself in such a huge piece of literature. It was taking me forever to make headway on it. Once I began purchasing audiobooks, it was only natural that I looked into listening to this instead of picking away at the book.

A Game of Thrones is thirty-three hours long, which is pretty formidable. Nonetheless, I was happy to be able to make it through the book, finally, despite the entire first season having concluded already. The TV series seems to have followed the book pretty closely, so the majority of it was no surprise. There is no real efficient way to summarize the plot of the book. It's, again, comparable to the Lord of the Rings and reads similarly to the books as they're written after the Fellowship divides, where the chapters move between the different party members or groups in turn. It's ripe with sub-plots, some of which became my favorite, but none of which bored me. The cast of characters is huge, with personalities to appeal to everyone. George R. R. Martin is an absolute genius for character development. I found myself very quickly becoming attached to certain characters and their storylines, and drawn in to their personal trials and drama. I hate to keep making comparisons to Lord of the Rings because it leans more towards Historical Fiction than hugely fantasy-rich tales of Elves and Dwarves, but the epic feel of it forces comparison. Having compared them frequently, it should be said that it certainly holds it's own against the beast that is the Lord of the Rings trilogy.

One aspect that is touched on frequently and is one of my favorite details of the book is a giant wall that was constructed along the top of the Seven Kingdoms to separate it from the northern lands. This wall also keeps out sinister, cryptic races of creatures whose existence becomes evident in delicious little tidbits throughout the book. The way the north outside the wall is described is frankly bone chilling, both in the depth of its temperatures- impossibly cold- and in the way the darkness is described- absolute and cloaking all manners of evil.

The book starts out focusing on House Stark, in their home in Winterfell, which is the northernmost kingdom in the Seven Kingdoms. Their family members are eventually divided and lead us into the remainder of the book, where the attention begins to reach out and touch on other families in other areas. The Stark motto, "Winter is Coming", is mentioned frequently and lends a lot to a foreboding atmosphere. You come to find out that Summers and Winters last years and years in this world, and that Winter brings with it pain and hardship so bad that mothers are known to kill their own children just to avoid having to watch them freeze or starve to death.

To focus on the audiobook, since I've now mentioned the book and the show as well, it's read by Roy Dotrice, who I've come to find out is NOT the reader on Book Four- hugely disappointing. This man is a master. As one of my friends who has also listened to the book mentioned, he is almost comical at times. He seems to start out a little rusty- having trouble recalling the voice he used for a specific character, it seems, though I can surely forgive him that since there are so very many characters. By the end of the book, I was so sorry to be finished. He is absolutely IMMERSED in his reading. He really defines what it means to be a voice "actor". You can hear the actions and efforts of the characters when he reads their dialogue- if a character is in pain, you can hear it without mistake in Roy Dotrice's voice.

Having said all these things, it's a pretty massive undertaking to listen to. Again to compare it to the Lord of the Rings, there is an abundance of description of lands and castles and people's lined faces and histories, etc. that can sometimes reach a point where it almost becomes a "drone" to someone like me who listens while they drive. I had to use the 'rewind' function several times because I'd become suddenly aware that I'd zoned out and missed something. Admittedly, I tend towards being a bit attention deficit at times, particularly in the car when my attention is constantly being drawn back to what's happening outside of the vehicle.

All in all, It's worthwhile if you can get your head into it. Some people don't like to have to "commit" so much to a reading. It's what can be referred to as "heavy", so light readers won't like it. It's long and detailed and has such a huge cast of characters that it's got to be a genre of particular interest to you if it's going to hold your attention. For fans of the fantasy/historical fiction genre, however, it's a masterpiece as far as I'm concerned. There will never be another 'Lord of the Rings', but this is close enough to warrant repeated comparisons.

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