“Martin’s is a raw, gritty, physical world, where the only joys are fighting and drinking and fucking, and the wicked and capricious gods are no better than the men and women they watch over.” – Lev Grossman
Set in a world where eerie arctic winters can last a decade, A Game of Thrones is a medieval epic that rivals Lord of the Ring‘s long undisputed claim over the fantasy canon. Unlike typical fantasy fiction, the world within Game of Thrones takes place in a time where magic and beasts apparently exist only in myths and legends. The dragons have been extinct for centuries and the spells that forged heroes’ swords were forgotten along with the reasons to fear the Haunted Forest beyond The Wall. Seven hundred feet tall and spanning the width of the narrow land between the northern seas, The Wall is a architectural feat of ice and steel built thousands of years ago to protect the realm of men from the unknown threat that lurks in the shadowy tundra.
This is no lighthearted fairy tale. A 900 page epic with Bible-thin pages (and four more in the series), this intricate saga is wrought with graphic incest, highborn bastard sons, merciless treason, a cunning dwarf, and lawless tribes that roam mediterranean coastlines and only mount their women from behind – the same way their sacred horses mate. Martin immerses you in the gritty lifestyle of the middle ages, where juice oozes from uncooked meat into men’s unruly beards, women are either highborn ladies or abused whores, beheading is the only way to punish petty crime, and commoners starve while royalty feasts on six course meals.
Even though you are inundated with characters in the first few chapters, you quickly learn which ones are peripheral to the dense plot and which are the ones that matter: the northern Stark and southern Lannister families. While the monarchy plays their game of thrones and political unrest sweeps throughout the realm, the peasants arm themselves for battle and try to protect their harvest and children from plunder and rape. And remember the ominous Stark family words as the long summer draws to a close: Winter is coming.
Watch a scene from the critically acclaimed HBO series here.
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