Friday, August 26, 2016

BookMarks #16: A Game of Thrones

Title: A Game of Thrones
Author: George R R Martin
Genre: Epic Fantasy
Setting: Fictional continent of Westeros, in medieval times
Published: 1996

“In the Game of Thrones, you win or you die”

That’s the central theme of this epic plot set in the fictional continent of Westeros. It is a tale of seeking power, in the background of political intrigue and conspiracies, with alliances being forged and broken, sworn duty and deaths (lots of them). Multiple plots are in progress across the seven kingdoms of Westeros in a gigantic chess board where each player plays his/her own game. 

We follow the tale of Eddard ‘Ned’ Stark and his family as they are torn apart having been caught in the eye of a raging political storm. King Robert Baratheon and his family arrive in Winterfell to offer Ned the position of the Hand of the King thereby setting up a series of tragic events for the Stark family, which culminate in Ned getting beheaded for treason post King Robert’s death, his son Bran crippled, his daughter Sansa kept near-hostage as new King Joffery’s bethrothed, while younger daughter Arya goes missing. Meanwhile his wife Catleyn and eldest son Robb seek revenge. The book concludes with Robb being appointed as the new “King in the North” by his fellow northern Lords. 

Ned Stark discovers the incestuous relationship of Queen Cersei Lannister and her twin Jaime. He also learns that Robert had not fathered any of Cersei’s children, thus the rightful heir to Robert's throne would be his brother Stannis. But he is betrayed by Petyr Baelish leading to his arrest for treason and later beheading on the orders of new King Joffery, Cersei's son.

Meanwhile, Ned’s bastard son Jon Snow, becomes a sworn brother of the Night’s Watch, at the Wall, which protects the realm from wildlings and mystical creatures. The Wall has its own troubles with frequent disappearances of their rangers, the appearances of undead creatures and the wildling army being raised by Mance Rayder, a former member of the Night’s Watch. Jon’s loyalty to his oath is tested when he hears of Ned’s beheading and Robb’s battles. Jon is also troubled by the disappearance of his uncle Benjen, who had gone beyond the Wall and not returned.

Catelyn captures Tyrion, the younger Lannister brother, the dwarf, accusing him of attacking Bran. This leads to Tywin Lannister unleashing his forces on Catelyn’s family. Tyrion is released with the aid of a sellsword Bronn and joins his father’s forces. During the battles, Jaime gets captured by Robb’s army. Robert Baratheon’s brothers Stannis and Renly also stake their own claim for the Iron throne.

There are multiple references to the events of fifteen years before which led to Robert Baratheon taking over the throne from the “mad” King Aerys Targaryen, with the aid of Ned Stark and Jon Arryn and other Lords. During the rebellion, Aerys Targaryen was killed by his own Kingsguard Jaime Lannister, thus earning him the derogatory title of kingslayer. 

Meanwhile Aerys’s son Viserys is plotting to take back his “rightful” throne. He marries off his sister Daenerys to a tribal warlord Khal Drogo in hopes of gaining control of the Dothraki warriors to mount a challenge for the throne. But his over-eagerness leads to his death at the hands of Drogo. Later when King Robert attempts to kill Daenerys, Drogo is ready to take on the Iron Throne for Daenerys and his unborn child. During a raid, Drogo gets wounded and is attended to by a healer who sacrifices his unborn child for Drogo’s life. But Drogo is left in a vegetative state which lead to Daenerys killing him out of mercy. Drogo’s funeral pyre is lit. Daenerys walks into it clutching the three dragon egg which were her wedding gift. When the pyre burns off, Daenerys is seen with three baby dragons while all remaining Dothraki and Ser Jorah Mormont swear allegiance to her.

This is the first book in the series “A Song of Fire And Ice” and also the basis for the megahit TV show – “Game of Thrones”.

The book is filled with a huge number of characters, too many to fit in such a short summary. Each chapter is told from a central character’s perspective (known as point of view character).

I started reading the books after having seen all the six seasons of the TV series. And also knowing about how the story unfolds makes the reading even more interesting. I could enjoy the details without losing grip of the tale. 

The storyline of the book and the first season are broadly matching. Although the books present a more vivid picture. The biggest difference is that the characters are much younger in the book than in the TV adaptation. Thankfully the TV Show-runners decided to age the characters, otherwise it would have been a show all about teenagers doing adult stuff (which would have been very weird to watch)

Although set as a fantasy in a fictional realm, the storyline has quite a few parallels to the history of Britain. 

Previously on BookMarks – Infinite Sacrifice

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