I’m three books deep into the magical series Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin. So basically every time I check out our website for puzzles and I see wolves, dragons, or anything slightly resembling from the fantasy realm (even if it doesn’t occur in Game of Thrones, like fairy jigsaw puzzles) – it’s all I can think about. I drag this book with me everywhere I go, and you can bet whenever I’ve got a spare ten minutes I’m back in Westeros cheering on my favorite House for the throne.
So, if for some reason you haven’t picked up this series, first: gods be with you. Second: DO it. There is no easy way to summarize this series because it is so intricate, but I will try before I give you five reasons you should drop everything you’re doing and dive into these novels.
Basically what you need to know is that the Kingdom of Westeros is under threat from presumed rightful heirs as well as mysterious dark forces to the North, with a 700-foot Wall to and only a few hundred men sworn to keep it safe. The current king stole the throne fifteen years prior to the beginning of the novel from the Mad King; to some he is an usurper, to many he is lovable and good ruler. However, his chief advisor has just died and there’s something fishy about his death. His new advisor, Ned Stark, is determined to unravel the truth, but he finds himself digging around the Queen’s business. Meanwhile, the long ten-year summer is coming to an end, and the world is turning cold. All of these events lead to a battle for the Iron Throne and raise the question: Should the one to sit the throne be the one with the rightful claim, or the one fit to be the best ruler? And then there’s a more pressing question: what’s happening North of the Wall, and is the Kingdom prepared?
So, five (spoiler-free!) reasons you should read Game of Thrones:
1. It’s a fantasy series for people that “don’t really like fantasy.”
I’m one of those people. Game of Thrones came out in 1996, but the new HBO show based on these books is going into its third season next March, so now the series is engrossing the masses. You’ve probably already heard about it, and heard how good it is, and how people can’t put it down, how they are totally addicted, and like me, still thought, “You don’t get it. I don’t really like fantasy.” Besides a few casual mentions of fantasy-elements, like dragons, that had all but disappeared before the timeline in the story starts, it’s really not all that fantastical. The otherworldly elements are minimal in the first 800 pages of the series and only start to pick up once you’re seriously invested in the characters and storyline. And when they do show up, these elements are so awesome that you’ll probably think, “Don’t like fantasy? How could I have ever said that?”
2. It will rip out your heart and stomp on it—in the best way possible.
You will become grievously attached to some character. Maybe it won’t even be a main character, but maybe it will. Either way, this person will probably have to weather a severe storm in the plot that will make your heart ache. You will design a godswood in your backyard and pray to the Old Gods that your character will be saved, redeemed, or rewarded for persevering through whatever brutal thing s/he has had to go through, but it will all be in vain. He or she will probably die, and you will be left a withering mess on the floor. George R.R. Martin is, in the best way possible, not afraid of his fans. What happens in the story happens because it needs to, and don’t worry about it when it does. You will fall in love with a new character, or you will find yourself becoming attached to one you previously despised.
3. It’s got everything.
It’s both a complicated murder mystery and a passionate love story. As much as it is a story of the war happening on the battlefield, it also depicts a quieter war of the old, new, and newest religions. Then some of the greatest action is an underhanded political move. It depicts good and bad marriages, the loving parents and the terrible ones. There’s funerals, weddings, affairs, attempted murders, sorcery, hero’s journeys, dragons, and much, much more. The dead seem to walk, the seasons stretch for years, and the future is told in dreams and fires. Characters enact vengeance, back away honorably, or run away as cowards. They rise up out of difficult circumstances or they fall deeper into pits of despair or they prevail stoically and honorably as their lives take a drastic turn for the worse.
4. It’s utterly engrossing.
Even if the basic plot from above doesn’t trigger you to jump into these novels, the same things that drive the characters will capture you. These are realistic human conflicts, and as readers, we are naturally attracted to that. The queen is driven by her fierce love for her children. The king gets sidetracked by his passion for joviality and celebrations, but he proves just and devoted to his friends and allies. Money and recognition drive many, and a quest for peace and a “normal” life is important to all. But threats linger, mistakes are made, and characters face difficult choices, and the consequences are very real. And because Martin’s storytelling device is to switch the point-of-view between an array of characters, we get to see almost everything.
5. It’s a surprisingly easy read.
Because of the point of view switches, each chapter is between 10-20 pages, meaning it’s easy to read the story in chunks, which is important for a series where the first book pushes the 1000 page limit and all the rest succeed it. There are many things going on at once – so there’s a little something for everyone. If you don’t like reading about Sansa Stark’s happy fantasies of her betrothal to the prince, you might very well like reading about her sister’s lessons in swordfighting, or their father’s deeper investigations into the murder of Jon Arryn, or their mother’s investigations into her son’s accident. It’s fast paced, plot-oriented with minimal frills of fancy description, and even though it takes place in some vague sort of medieval time, the language is easy to grasp and it’s never hard to get swept up in the cultures and customs of Westeros life.
The best thing about Game of Thrones is that it’s not easy to convince other people to read it or watch it, because you can’t tell them too much without giving too much away. And you don’t want to give anything away, because the surprises are shocking and you don’t want to take any of that away from anyone. This is the first series in a while where I’m prone to sticking my fingers in my ears so nobody will spoil anything from me. Just know it’s a true epic story with wonderful characters and solid writing – and go out and get your hands on a copy now!