Even though it had been out for years before I started reading it, I first got into the Song of Ice and Fire series after hearing of the TV series Game of Thrones (which is the first book in the series). This was one of the most built up shows leading up to it’s premier (and I thought the trailers looked pretty cool - I'm a sucker for fantasy type shows in general as you know), so I decided to read the first book in preparation for it.
As a quick synopsis, A Song of Ice and Fire is a series of fantasy novels set in the world of Westeros, ruled by a king who sits on the Iron Throne. After the death of the current king, many lands battle for the throne in a war that rages across the land. Not only that, but the true heir to the Iron Throne gathers forces from across the sea - and in the North, an undead enemy not seen for many thousands of years has started to rise up in the forests.
My first impression on reading the book was “Wow! Why did I not get into this sooner?” I love this series of books as it's completely unique to any other fantasy series out there. The plot is expansive, including themes of dominance, war, greed, treason, betrayal and even incest. It's not intended for younger readers, but adults will certainly get enjoyment out of this. The story is fairly complex, but twists and turns so that you never know which way it’s going to go. And just when it looks like something is going to happen, another thing jumps in the way that totally changes the arc. This really keeps you on your toes and makes you want to read one to find what happens.
Rather than having chapters, the books sections are told from a POV of one of the characters of the story. This is a great technique as you only see that part of the story from that characters eyes - meaing that most of the time we aren’t getting the full story at first, but gradually build the pieces as they fall into place. It also means that we get to know the characters thoughts on the situation and some of the little “asides” the character has are a really nice touch.
There are lots of characters in this series, so much so that sometimes I have trouble keeping up. But the characters have interesting personalities which make them stand out from characters in other fantasy novels. There are no real heroes or villains, just people with their own motivations. Some are more noble than others, but even the the nastier characters do have a certain charm to them. As more characters are introduced, some other ones are pushed to the back, which is a shame as some of my favourites tend to get overlooked later on. But author George R.R. Martin has enough skill to make it that every character makes full use of their time on each of their respective chapters.
The books are huge (usually about 700 plus pages) and the twisting story means that this is not the sort of book that you can pick up and casually read - you have to really sit down and pay attention. Due to the many plotlines that often happen at once, I do find myself having to backtrack now and then. However, if you commit to it and give it the time of day, then I highly recommend this series. It’s a really intelligent political thriller and a definate change to the usual “swords and sorcery” fantasy. This is the sort of fantasy novel that I WISH I could write and it gives a whole new meaning to the world epic.
Currently I’m about to start book 4 A Feast for Crows, trying to catch up to book 5 A Dance With Dragons. And with two more books in the series to be released, I got a LOT of reading to do - and you know what? That suits fine with me. If I read no other book series in my lifetime, I would be happy knowing I read this one.
Oh, and in case you’re wondering - yes I do recommend the Game of Thrones TV series as well. It truely does the books justice, but it’s also an entertaining show if you just want to sit down and watch a good fantasy. And the casting is just spot on, particularly the children actors. I think my favourite is Peter Dinkage as Tyrion. He is my favourite in the book and his on screen portrayal is just entertaining to watch!
Final words - read this series!
A Song of Ice and Fire and all the Novels within the series were written by George R.R. Martin - and I highly recommend you check out his work!