by Guest Writer Sanjee Bandara
Long ago, in a time forgotten, a preternatural event threw the seasons out of balance. In a land where summers can last decades and winters a lifetime, trouble is brewing. The cold is returning, and in the frozen wastes to the north of Winterfell, sinister and supernatural forces are massing beyond the kingdom’s protective Wall. At the center of the conflict lie the Starks of Winterfell, a family as harsh and unyielding as the land they were born to. Sweeping from a land of brutal cold to a distant summertime kingdom of epicurean plenty, here is a tale of lords and ladies, soldiers and sorcerers, assassins and bastards, who come together in a time of grim omens.
Here an enigmatic band of warriors bear swords of no human metal; a tribe of fierce wildlings carry men off into madness; a cruel young dragon prince barters his sister to win back his throne; and a determined woman undertakes the most treacherous of journeys. Amid plots and counterplots, tragedy and betrayal, victory and terror, the fate of the Starks, their allies, and their enemies hangs perilously in the balance, as each endeavors to win that deadliest of conflicts: the game of thrones.
I watched the first three episodes of the TV series before I began the book, and I have to say that I was not disappointed by either. The TV series is faithful to the book, but as always, the book is so much better. The insights into characters – their perceptions, their vices, their loves, their passions, their treachery, their faith, and their will – are so much better expressed in the novel, that I felt like I was old friends with many of the characters. I found myself as entrenched in the battles, terror, betrayal, victory, plots (and there are so many of them!), and counter-plots along with the characters that I found myself holding my breath through large chunks of the narrative. The setting is also spectacular in it’s breath and depth, and the seamless merging of magical elements (there are dragons!) into an otherwise stark and inhospitable world, for the most part, makes it impossible to believe that this world is not our own. George R.R. Martin gives Tolkein’s Middle Earth quite a lot of competition – it’s mind-boggling.
As much as I enjoyed the novel, it took me three tries reading the first two pages before I grasped what was happening, and was able to continue reading past page two. The other aspect I was not prepared for was how emotionally attached I would become to characters – big mistake! Characters die quite regularly throughout the novel, which was emotionally taxing for me. So, if you are like me, dear readers, you have been warned.