In a fantasy world that mirrors ours, several families are locked in a struggle for power, ultimate power. In other words, the Iron Throne, which rules over Westeros and all its peoples. Lord of Winterfell, Eddard Stark is named Hand of the King by an old friend, King Robert Baratheon. He tries to uncover the truth amid the murder, incest, and regicide of the capital. Meanwhile, the power-hungry Lannisters spread their influence through the city; in the east, the last of an ancient line seek to return to Westeros. And at the end of the word, a Wall stands in the north to protect men from the unknown beyond. Alliances are forged, mysteries uncovered, and the tables are turned--who will survive the game of thrones?
Today, the characters of A Game of Thrones have become household names. Daenerys Targaryen. Jon Snow. Sansa Stark. Tyrion Lannister. But before TV producers D. B. Weiss and David Benioff took the story to the screen, the books of A Song of Ice and Fire stand as a testament to the rare and sweeping imagination of creator George R. R. Martin. Written nearly twenty years ago, the books are an escalating saga, only heightening the stakes with each twist and turn. And it all begins with the first book, A Game of Thrones.
For a book that introduces so many storylines at once, Martin creates an immediately immersive world, complete with its own histories, legends, and lore. The book is divided between different people’s perspectives--from the eyes of kings, lords, and ladies alike, we watch the story unfold. The geography, in itself, is incredible. Throughout the course of the novel, we travel from the blizzarding north, to the brewing south, to the wild wild east. Martin creates whole cultures that are simultaneously familiar and enticingly foreign. In every sense of the word, the book is grand.
There’s something else that brings A Game of Thrones into sharp focus today. As we read of the undead, magic, and dragons, the basis of the novel is set in a very human world. Death is finite and shockingly final, as Martin’s universe resembles much of medieval culture. But unlike the songs we hear today, Martin writes in a much grittier reality. Where knights often lack chivalry and kings are like psychopaths, lords abuse ladies and liars are made lords, the bitter truth of the Westeros is set in a landscape of profanity, ambition, and lust. Heroes emerge from the unlikeliest of places, and are often felled for their honor. Martin’s ability to spin a tale unlike any other makes the story relentlessly gripping--and it’s only just begun. Because in the game of thrones, winning is everything.