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A Song of Ice and Fire
The story takes place in a medieval-like kingdom where seven major clans, or Houses as they are called, are in perpetual competition for power. The realm is vast, consisting of terrain ranging from the steamy south-lands of Dorne, through the treacherous mountain region of the Eyrie, to the northern tundra of the Haunted Forest, a forbidden and untested darkness where Wildling are fabled to reign.
Martin most closely follows House Stark of Winterfell (Motto: 'Winter is Coming'), their patriarch Ser Eddard, and his wife Catelyn of House Tully. The Stark brood consists of: Robb, eldest son and heir to Winterfell; Sensa, eldest daughter betrothed to the King's son; Arya, youngest daughter and budding warrior; Bran, an athletic boy of seven, Rickon, the youngest, a toddler; and Jon Snow, Ser Eddard's bastard son, who is bound for service in the Night's Watch, a security force charged with guarding the northern wall of the realm. They are wolf clan; All the kids have dire wolves to guard and protect them. Ned, as Ser Eddard is commonly called by his close friend, Robert Baratheon , the Lord of the Seven Kingdoms, is on the cusp of a major change in his lordly life. His entire family will play a major part in how it will work out for him.
Unlike many other books in the fantasy genre, Martin's tale is closely based in reality. There are no orcs, elves, or hobbits; though there is one dwarf, Tyrion Lannister, of the scheming. power hungry Lannister clan. Tyrion more than makes up in smarts, what he's been so cruelly shorted in life, which is not limited to mere physical size. The litmus of good and evil is not so clearly portrayed in A Game of Thrones. When Ser Arryn, the Hand of the King is found dead, it sets off a web of machinations involving all of the major houses of the realm, some are more devious than others but they all position for power and revenge.
Not least of all involved are the Targaryens of Dragonstone, the exiled House, recently toppled by the combined forces of Lannisters, Starks, and Baratheons. King Aerys, and his entire family including Prince Rheagar, his heir, were slain by Jaime Lannister and Robert Baratheon. The only escapees were Prince Viserys Targaryen, who considers himself the unrecognized Lord of the Realm and Princess Daenerys, his sister, betrothed to Khal Drogo of the horsemen of the Dothraki, a primitive warrior clan; their child will be proclaimed "the stallion who mounts the world".
As the Seven Kingdoms erupt in war: a veteran in battle is severely tested, one young avenging warrior shines among his people, and an exiled princess discovers her true birthright. Martin expertly works his reader's up to a froth and does not disappoint. He leaves us poised for further embroilment, retaliation, and mythic quest.
Will Tyrion ever gain the respect of his father? Will Jon Snow find his uncle Benjen? Will Theon Greyjoy play a larger part in the story. One will have to read the next book in the series, A Clash of Kings to answer these and other questions. The point is, he makes us care about his characters and want more. If that's not the mark of a great writer, I don't know what is.
~Book Jones~ 4.5 stars
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