A Song of Ice and Fire: A Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin (1996)

Drogo’s braid was black as midnight and heavy with scented oil, hung with tiny bells that rang softly as he moved. It swung well past his belt, below even his buttocks, the end of it brushing against the back of his thighs.

“You see how long it is?” Viserys said. “When Dothraki are defeated in combat, they cut off their braids in disgrace, so the world will know their shame. Khal Drogo has never lost a fight. He is Aegon the Dragonlord come again, and you will be his queen” (p 31).

game-of-thronesIn the mythical land of the Seven Realms, lords and ladies scheme, manuever, and betray to rule. Robert Baratheon has won the crown by overthrowing the cruel dragon king family of Targaryens, whose remaining heirs, Viserys and Daenerys, have fled the continent. In the cold north, Robert’s honorable friend Eddard Stark rules at Winterfell. To the west, the Queen’s family of ruthless Lannisters scheme from Casterly Rock. To the east, Jon Arryn, the King’s Hand, holds the Eyrie.

When word of Jon Arryn’s death reaches Winterfell, it whispers of murder, setting in motion an upheval that will bring the kingdom to war again only 15 short years after the fall of The Mad King, King Aerys II. While the Stark sigil (a wolf) flies against the Lannister’s (a lion), Daenerys forms an alliance with the Dothraki and dreams of recapturing the Iron Throne.

“The common people pray for rain, healthy children, and a summer that never ends,” Ser Jorah told her. “It is no matter to them if the high lords play their games of thrones, so long as they are left in peace.” He gave her a shrug. “They never are” (p 196).

The reading of this book is not to be undertaken lightly. I used a full-page color map and several family trees just to keep all the characters and settings clear in my head. There is no graceful way to introduce the enormous cast of characters that populate a world roughly the size of South America. But once the reader is immersed, the reading is a delight and not just for the plot twists (I do love strategy and politics in my books!) but for the characters. They are flawed and wild and suffering in a world whose rules can change at any time, like the weather.

nedI admit, I picked this up because of the new HBO series. It’s held me hostage for a week but I’m glad of it. I haven’t read a book this demanding of my attention in a long while. And the HBO series is equal to the task.

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