A Game of Thrones

Historically, around one out of every twenty books I read are sci-fi/fantasy/horror books. Last year was kind of an anomaly because I read three (out if thirty). I read Dune, followed it up with some teen lit, and finished with a less than stellar vampire novel. I want more books like Dune. It’s such a great book, but then to finish the year with that disappointing horror/vampire thing left me empty.

I was ready to give up on the genre, actually. Then this Game of Thrones thing comes along. I mentioned a few weeks ago how I stumbled on the TV version. After seeing that, my first thought was, “I gotta read the book.” Eventually, I’ll watch the show, but that could be years down the road.

It’s a long, meandering epic set in a mystical, medieval-style world with kings and queens and wars and politics. It’s 800 pages long and this is only book one of five in the series. It’s kind of like Lord of the Rings meets Pillars of the Earth meets 48 Laws of Power. Yeah, that may be an apt description.

It’s about people, probably a dozen of them. Each chapter is titled with a person’s name and it bounces from one to the other in about equal proportions. They are all related in some way to protecting or pursuing the king of the land, who sits on an iron throne made from swords. The land is called Westeros and it’s a place where summers last decades and winters just as long. The novel is set at a time when the summer is ending and people are readying for a long, long, long winter.

Westeros is a piece of land bordered by a cross-able body of water on the east and a massive, 700 foot wall on the north. Besides internal strife among the seven families who run Westeros, there is a looming threat east of the water and north of the wall. East, across the water, there are fearsome warriors and deposed inheritors of the crown. North of the wall are mysterious, supernatural beasts. The people of Westeros acknowledge these threats, but they hate each other so much that they concentrate more on fighting each other rather than protecting themselves from outside threats.

I mention supernatural beasts, but this book is mostly devoid of much magic, mysticism, and fantasy. It, oddly enough, only speaks of these beasts in dreams and stories. It’s mostly humans fighting with words, wit, and swords. However, based on the ending, it’s clear that the next book will leave this familiar, medieval setting and incorporate supernatural creatures.

I’m not sure how I feel about that. I’ll have to sort through that before I buy the next book. I can’t go all-in with imaginary characters and the magic. Dune was really well done in terms of incorporating imaginary things. Can anyone suggest something comparable? Dune, for me, didn’t get bad until after the guy turned into a worm (that was maybe book four). I don’t know, it was just so out there that it didn’t work for me. But, in general, I haven’t completely bought into the fantasy genre.

Regardless, I thought it was well done. I’ll let it rest a few months before I decide if I press on.