In the first book of the series for A Song of Fire and Ice, George R. R. Martin sets the stage for the series and shows that no one is safe when people are thirsty for power.
In long ago forgotten time, there is trouble brewing throughout the land. The cold seems to be returning to the land and as strange events are happening throughout the Kingdom and only those who remember the last time the cold was present recognize the signs. But as the cold return so does the heat of those in pursuit of the crown, from those within the castle to those across the sea, all want one thing the power. At the center of both conflicts is the Starks of Winterfell, who believe in loyalty, honour and protecting ones family, but often one is in conflict with the other. Each Stark must choose their own path as they attempt to navigate each conflict but there are people who do not want to see the Stark succeed and there is death and treachery around every corner. The Starks must tread carefully.
Most people who have read my reviews realize that the Fantasy genre is not my favourite to read, but every once in awhile I like to delve into it in search of something great. Now I will admit that I decided to read this book because HBO made it into a TV series, however, I have had the book on my TBR shelf for about 2 years now, I just could never bring myself to pick it up, even after my brother read it and told me it should be a must read (but in my defense he is a big fan of the fantasy genre). Now with all that said, this book was Fan-Freaking-Tastic. I absolutely loved it, from start to finish it kept me entertained and even sitting on the edge of my seat. Martin knows how to write.
I think the reason that I liked this book so much was that it was not a book that had allowed the fantasy aspect to be the main aspect of the book. While reading it the book followed more of a medieval format than one that I would expect in a fantasy one. This was due to the fact of all the political intrigue that was happening throughout the book. I was actually shocked that this is thought to be an epic fantasy series, when I cannot find that much fantasy within this book, however, I have not read the next books in the series so the fantasy aspect may pick up.
I know I have criticized other novels where there is a different chapters for each character, however, Martin was able to make it work to his advantage as the reader was able to get different points of view of what was happening inside and outside the realm. Additionally, the chapters were not short, and the characters were not similar, therefore, the reader was able to get to know each individual quite well and there was a character really for everyone to like, hate and relate to. I think this is part of the reason that this book and series is so successful. For me it was hard to choose a favorite character, but I was very entertained by Arya and her antics and I liked the juxtaposition of her sister Sansa who is very much her opposite (though there were many times I wanted to Throttle Sansa as well). Martin definitely tried to give you both sides of the coin for each of his characters. The one character that I felt was lacking or I wish we could have seen more of is the Queen or the Villain in this book. I have not read farther into the series other than this book so possible Daenerys is supposed to be the enemy but I viewed the Queen as a far more sinister individual than Daenerys. I think some of my confusion is that of all the character who get their own chapters I feel like I got to know Dany the least, and that her story really was a world apart from the others as she is really more of a side character in the first book, but I think that Martin was setting the stage for books to come (big emphasis on the I think part, but it seems logical to me).
This book is so much more than a fantasy novel (as stated above, there was not a high element of fantasy in this particular book, the other books may be different, but the only real fantasy aspect are a few things that happen to Bran, the novel takes place in a different world and the hint of the creatures to the north). This book is about power and the political power and military force that is needed to take and keep the power that one has. It is about hedging your bets and double crossing your allies in order to get the best out come for you and your family. I absolutely loved all the twist, turns, double crosses that you really do not know who is your friend or foe. I think that Martin was able to keep the suspense of the book up in a very subtle way that the reader finds themselves wanting to read more and more.
My one criticism about the book is there some predictable foreshadowing and moments in the book, there are events that you know are going to happen later even once you have read the first 100-200 pages. However, I think that it is impossible for a book to keep it's plot and where things are gong completely a secret or else the reader would probably not know what is going on, it just seemed in this book that there was predictable foreshadowing for major events.
I think that fantasy lovers may be a little disappointed with the first book, for well, the lack of fantasy aspects, but for an individual who does not read fantasy that much and maybe has an aversion to the genre will be pleasantly surprised by this book. I am very excited to get the next book int he series as I need to know what is going to happen next. I also hope (now that I can watch it) that the TV series did this book some form of Justice.