A review by fifteenthjessica
A Game of Thrones, by George R.R. Martin

challenging dark mysterious slow-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? Character
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? It's complicated
  • Diverse cast of characters? It's complicated
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? Yes


So, this is my second time reading it. After feeling like Wizard of Earthsea was a drudge and a few dnfs, I thought I should reread something I liked, and picked Game of Thrones (first read in summer of 2013) because, for the better part of the year, my urge to write fan fic of it has returned. I spent about a month and a half on this.

I'm still invested in a lot of the characters, both ones who played a major role in this book and ones who don't play a major role or even appear until later, but reading it when you know a lot of the shocking moves,
Spoilerlike Bran's fall, the incest, the death of Eddard Stark,
wasn't as fun for me. George R. R. Martin's prose alternates between gorgeous descriptions and awkward or uncomfortable in ways that I don't think served Martin's goals.
SpoilerPart of the reason I rooted for Viserys Targaryen's death was because I thought after he died, I'd hear less about 13-14 year old Daenerys Targaryen's breasts and nipples.
Dialogue can be iffy as well. Like, characters who probably haven't talked much all refer to the political games in King's Landing as "the game of thrones" which comes off as a heavy handed title drop. Between how long it took me to read this and Dreamsongs, volume 1 this year, the rest of his writing doesn't do as much for me as his characters.

I have heard a lot of people praise his world building, and as an aspiring writer/actual dungeon master who has dabbled in world building her own fantasy settings, Martin's quality is very inconsistent at best. Daenerys spends a lot of time with the Dothraki over the course of five hefty books, but the culture comes off as very one dimensional and most members of it are forgettable. I don't think I'm alone in remembering all Dothraki characters except Khal Drogo exclusively in terms of their relationship to Dany and maybe a name because they are very unimportant. Heck, there's a short paragraph in one of Dany's later chapters that feels like Martin is just dumping the personality of the youngest of her future bloodriders (Aggo? The three of them really blur together) on us in place of letting it unfold naturally as he interacts with Dany. The culture is mostly a combination of raiding and horses, almost to the point of impracticality (how many horses do they keep if they need them for transportation, fighting, clothing, and meat, plus burn horses in the funeral pyres of their leaders so they have a mount in the afterlife? There's a reason real world horseback nomadic cultures usually herd other animals). This is especially bad if you compare them to the equally raiding focused Ironborn, who in later novels are fleshed out through four point of view characters and with a number of memorable side characters that show that not everyone is raiding every waking hour of the day.

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