Critical Studies Review 1: A Game of Thrones

A Game of Thrones is the first novel in the fantasy series A Song of Ice and Fire by American author George R.R. Martin. A Game of Thrones was first published by Bantam Books and Voyager in 1996, however it was over a decade before it gained the readership it has today, following the very successful TV adaptation, Game of Thrones, in 2011. This in turn changed the initial target audience of the book from mature readers to young adults. The work of fiction focuses on four powerful families on the continent of Westeros, and their battle to win the coveted Iron Throne. Take away the swords/ occasional incest and each house would be like any other dysfunctional family; there’s sibling rivalry, family leaders and pets (albeit dragons and direwolves).

The novel begins in Winterfell where young Brandon Stark is about to witness the beheading of a deserter of the Night’s Watch. Martin’s choice to write such a morbid chapter from the point of view of an eleven year old is harrowing, but the American author starts as he means to go on. A Game of Thrones is an epic 780 pages of struggle, sex and scandal, yet it is a book that is almost impossible to put down. The tales of war reflect the teen angst of many of the protagonists’, coming of age in a time of conflict and tension where “when you play the game of thrones, you win or you die.” However, what makes the book a real treasure, in my opinion, is that it is not based around one age group, region or family; allowing for a richer reading experience and the chance to see the situation from various sides.

Each chapter focuses on the intertwining stories from a different character’s point of view. Even though the book is in third person, Martin manages to capture the essence and thought process of each character as if they were narrating the story themselves; from a rich dwarf to a young maiden married off as a pawn in her deluded brother’s selfish schemes. Although the characters may seem rather eccentric at first, readers begin to relate to them, this is largely due to their underdog status alongside Martin’s informal lexical choices. This also means that there is no black and white in terms of characters, each are their own unique shade of grey with their own endearing qualities and pitfalls.

A Game of Thrones is often associated with highly sexualised taboo subjects and violence. These are minor aspects to the book compared with the relationship building between the characters, and the unavoidable linking of their seemingly independent narratives. They are handled in such a manner that they do not seem shocking to the mature reader, rather they are realistic inevitabilities in a restless kingdom written by a brilliant author who does not view the world through rose tinted glasses.

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6 thoughts on “Critical Studies Review 1: A Game of Thrones

  1. “Each chapter focuses on the intertwining stories from a different character’s point of view. Even though the book is in third person, Martin manages to capture the essence and thought process of each character as if they were narrating the story themselves”

    I agree wholeheartedly with this statement which is one of the things that really draws me into the world. George is extremely gifted in giving us great detail. Even though the story is being told in third person it feels like a first hand account. Because we really get inside each characters head. I love it because we the reader don’t know what’s going to happen next. A character could be dead by the time the series ends but we won’t know it until it actually happens because it’s not told in first person. Keeping this element of mystery is great.

    As good as the surprises are the main draw for me is the world building. I love reading about all of the history of the past kings and lords. And about each of the unique regions and how they came to be. A game of thrones does a great job of setting things up but by the 4th book we really get a great sense with how big the world is. And it feels like there is just a wealth of untapped background and history.

    I just got the world of ice and fire and as a big fan of the series its great is it provides plenty of maps and additional backstories for the entire world.

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    1. Thanks for commenting! Until I read these books I used to dislike third person accounts because I felt that they never gave the detail of first person accounts, but Martin has changed my mind! I agree with you about the world building, he manages to create a believable world by describing even the smallest detail.

      I’ve seen the world of ice and fire, is it any good? I am considering buying it.

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      1. Well I would say yes and no. I must admit I’m bias so I really really like the book. And since you seem like a fan of artwork I would say that you would probably like it. However, I must point out that its not a traditional story. It has some great art in it and it reads like a book of fake history written by a maester. Since it is written by a maester some of the information is not reliable. So it may or may not be your cup of tea so to speak.

        But I would say if you are starting to become a big fan of the world go out and buy it. It adds some great insight into each region and the other lands in essos and even beyond. It’s gives readers some great stuff to speculate about. I bought the book for $40 but I think you can buy it now on amazon for $20.

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      2. Yes I think I would definitely like the illustrations! I love the idea that they have a history book for Westeros, a bit like “The a Magical World of Harry Potter” I suppose.

        I suppose the information not being reliable would make it more realistic though? Or it might annoy me, not sure! Thanks for letting me know, I might actually buy it now!

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  2. Reblogged this on SJ Art and commented:

    As part of my foundation course I have started a new blog: http://www.sophiejohnsonartwork.wordpress.com this is a link to my first post, my first Critical Studies review, which I chose to base on the first “A Song of Ice and Fire” book, “A Game of Thrones”. I hope you like it! I might continue to put work on both of these blogs, but I’ve worked so hard on SJ Art that I don’t want to leave it and start a fresh! Watch this space.

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