"When you play the game of thrones, either you win or you die. There is no middle ground."
This is a wonderful feast of a book.
In the first book in the A Song of Ice and Fire series, Martin introduces to us the mythical world of Westeros, where Summers last for decades and Winters last for generations. In this epic fantasy medieval world, there lie the Seven Kingdoms -- each region governed by different Houses. North: House Stark of Winterfell (my favourite). East: House Arryn of The Vale (annoying). West: House Lannister of the Westerlands (evil). South: House Baratheon of the Stormlands (quite pathetic).
Sounds simple, doesn't it? It isn't.
The plot and the characters are a tangle of webs. You're forewarned in the prologue when a group of rangers were mysteriously killed by 'creatures'. Dangers not only lurk in the Haunted Forest in the North, but also the court rooms. The previous "Hand of the King" died mysteriously. Was it a natural death or was he murdered? Who killed him and who will be killed? is the question. Ned Stark, ruler of Winterfell and childhood friend of the King, was reluctantly dragged to the South to become the new Hand. The plot gains pace as Winter is looming and everyone seems to be playing the game of thrones, scheming to obtain one thing -- the Iron Throne.
1. Martin's world building skills are out of this world. It's dense but fluid and tangible, you're more inclined to feel like you're watching from a screen than reading.
2. The story is told by eight different characters' perspectives which keeps the pace going. Pace is important to me and what Martin did was that he kept his plot to the point. The writing was not elaborately done, like Tolkien's LOTR, and I appreciated that.
3. Haven't you watched the HBO series?! It's an amazing success which means the books will be even better!
4. This book has everything: politics, family, friendships, romance, deceit, loyalty.. elements which make your heart break and things that trigger some book flinging out of frustration.
5. There are 1001 characters in this book and it can be hard to keep up sometimes but somehow, the author manages to help us keep up.
6. The book is immersive. You cannot say: "My, what a lovely day, I feel like reading a couple pages of this!" because I assure you, you're not going to just read a couple of pages. When you're not reading it, you're thinking about reading it.
Characters I Liked:
2. The willful and flavourful Arya Stark, who is the tomboy of a daughter to Ned.
3. The caring and unfortunate Jon Snow, who is Ned's bastard. I admit I have a bit of a crush on him, mainly because he's so broody and righteous.
4. The lewd, shrewd but highly amusing dwarf or Imp, Tyrion Lannister. He has some sort of odd compassion towards Jon.
I urge you to read this. I watched the series first and that didn't deter me from reading the books. I must praise Martin, as the writer for the telly series, for doing such a good job in staying true to every major events in the book. The book has better conversations, though. I want to live in Westeros, I want to see the Wall (it protects the Northern area from "dangers" in the Haunted Forest). GoT is gripping, fast paced and impressive. (807 pages) ★★★★★