Coming late as usual to the party, I’ve just finished the first book in A Song of Ice and Fire by George R. R. Martin, A Game of Thrones. You may have noticed if you’ve been following this blog, or if you scan down the entries, that I don’t frequent adult fantasy. I have just not found myself as drawn to adult heroes as I have to those working beneath the noses of adults and on a curfew or those just coming of age and discovering themselves while saving the world. Perhaps that makes A Game of Thrones a great introduction to adult fantasy for me and others who usually don’t read above teen level. Many of the heroes of A Game of Thrones are not adults.
Rickon Stark, the youngest of his siblings, is only three, and his next oldest brother, Bran, [SPOILER] now heir to Winterfell, [END SPOILER] is younger than nine. Danaerys (Dany) Targaryen, whom I expect to be a major player in this deadly game, is in her early teens, just developing the curves of womanhood. Robb Stark, [SPOILER] Lord of Winterfell, [END SPOILER] and another major player in the game, is only fourteen. These last two easily fall into the age range of heroes about whom I usually read; the other two are actually younger, though Bran, who is one of several third person limited narrators, is very well-spoken, maybe too well-spoken to accurately portray his age, actually, even allowing for a culture at which one comes of age around fifteen.
Though sexual relationships are perhaps more key to the plot in this book than in many teen novels, in truth, I think there are probably more graphic and more blunt sex scenes in some teen literature (generally not in what I read, but I avoid most teen romance and most teen issue books). What truly marks A Game of Thrones as adult literature is its length. This book would not be publishable as a teen book on the merits of word count alone. The greatest maximum word count for a teen fantasy manuscript that agents will consider that I have found is 120,000; the Internet claims that A Game of Thrones nears a hefty 298,000 words. Teens who love to read and aren’t daunted by page count shouldn’t be discouraged from reading this book.
A Game of Thrones further deviates from the majority of books that I read in that is so very plot- rather than character-driven. When I realized that with the wealth of characters, I was shipping no one, I began to suspect such was the case. Now, if I’m planning marriages, they are marriages of position and peace-brokering not love.
Many of the necessary trope characters are here, but on many of them, Martin has put a new spin, and he has created several atypical characters to balance the tropes. Martin has not neglected creating likeable characters. There are those that I hope to see live and those that I hope die.
Martin’s political intrigues are exceedingly twisted and leave the reader guessing and second-guessing whom to trust and what is best for the kingdom. His world itself is vast, though not exceedingly well-mapped (though Martin just published a book of maps to complement the text).
I’ve just bought book 2.
Martin, George R. R. A Song of Ice and Fire, Book One: A Game of Thrones. New York: Spectra-Bantam-Random, 1996.
This review is not endorsed by George R. R. Martin, Spectra, Bantam Books, or Random House, Inc. It is an independent, honest review by a reader.