A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin book review

I reviewed A Game of Thrones back in 2021 quite early on after I started this blog – since then I’ve done a reread and decided I want to give it another crack. I wrote my review based on memories of about two years after I’d read the book. This updated review is based on a reread I finished literally days ago.

first game of thrones book review

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A Game of Thrones is the first book in the epic A Song of Ice and Fire series by George R.R. Martin – if you’ve not heard of it then I imagine you’ve been living under a rock. The book series has been turned into arguably the biggest television series ever made – pioneering the way of not only fantasy TV series but large-budget fantasy TV series.

A Game of Thrones introduces us to the land of Westeros and its families, cultures and political goings-on. It introduces us to the Lannisters, the Starks and the Targaryens and other families throughout Westeros.

Plot – 4.5/5

You can’t really describe what happens in A Game of Thrones as it’s so long that many things happen. Essentially everything starts off quite calm, controlled and peaceful, however, a large secret comes to light and things start to spiral out of control. Old friends become enemies and the peace is eventually broken, causing the land of Westeros to become as unbalanced as it has been for decades.

On top of this, there are whisperings of dark creatures and beings not seen for hundreds of years being seen by travellers, suggesting other things are at unrest beyond “the wall” too. it’s all very interesting and exciting to read. It’s a storyline with lots of twists and turns where Martin isn’t afraid to kill of the characters you like or keep those you dislike alive.

George R.R. Martin does an incredible job of throwing us around to different characters involved in different plot points but making us feel at the same time that they’re all connected. Despite being a book that focuses on different points of view, you feel like you’re following one continent move at the same time.

Characters – 5/5

When I first read A Game of Thrones , I had no perspective as to what makes well-written characters or not. George R.R. Martin has carved some truly fantastic characters in this book. He could have taken the easy fantasy option of having “a chosen one” and the main villain but instead, he’s developed families, genuine relationships, flawed heroes and detestable characters. There’ll be characters in this book who you can’t help but have respect for and others for who you spend your time hoping to meet an unfortunate end.

Tyrion is probably my favourite character – as he is many. He’s smart, witty, and sometimes rude but has a very strict moral compass. Tyrion is a dwarf and his life has seen his lack of height make him feel that he must make up for it with a sharp mind. There’s an argument here that because he’s the smartest, this makes him make some of the best and wisest decisions.

What I love about many of the characters is that nearly all of their actions are steeped in reason. Joffrey for example makes cruel and awful decisions because he is young, naive and has no idea how to rule. He believes ruling by force is the best way as it seems the easiest way to get people to obey you. However, I can see in the future how this might fail him.

There are copious amounts of other characters I’m looking forward to seeing the rise and fall of too. Yes, I’ve watched a couple of series of the TV series, but I’m still excited to read about them all as I imagine the books portray them differently. In fact, I know this to be even more true in the latter books.

Summary – 5/5

A Game of Thrones is the best opening book to a fantasy series you’ll find. It has become a sensation for a reason – the TV series is brilliant, yes. But the first book is probably better. You get such a great feeling of grandeur but also a really personal feeling from some of the characters. One moment you’re learning of great wars, deep histories and long legacies and the next you’re sitting by a campfire as Tyrion Lannister tells Jon Snow why he reads so many books. It’s an epic in every sense of the word and is, without a doubt, an absolute must for any fantasy fan and even those who don’t think fantasy is their bag.

first game of thrones book review

One thought on “ A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin book review ”

I found the first 3 books in a “little neighborhood library” on the sidewalk yesterday, so I figured “why not” and grabbed them. So far I have read the prologue from the first book, in which there are 3 characters: Gared (in his 50s, 40 years of which serving in the Night’s Watch), Will (caught poaching and drafted 4 years prior to the Night’s Watch), and Ser Waymar Royce, 18 years old lordling heir and commander of this latest ranging in pursuit of some wildlings who are leading them further and further north. Will had just returned from tracking the wildlings 2 miles from their present location, seen they were all dead, and returned to the group. Gared figured they had died from the cold (he himself lost both ears and some fingers and toes from some previous exposure), but Royce asks Will about the Wall; Will says it had been “weeping” meaning it wasn’t possibly cold enough to kill the wildlings. So Royce demands they go to see, remarks that Gared had been “unmanned” by fear of the dark for his insistence on building a fire, and Gared barely holds himself back from murdering Royce then and there. Then Royce and Will go to see the dead wildlings, only now there are none left, just one weapon (a valuable war ax) and Royce instructs Will to climb up a tree to see what he can. Meanwhile some ghostly foe comes and approaches Royce with some kind of magic sword. Will sees more ghosts coming but fears to shout a warning since he is sure to die. Royce and the ghost have a duel, Royce gets hit by the ghostly sword and it cuts him through his mail armor, he charges and hits the ghost sword with all his might, but his own steel sword shatters into a zillion pieces. All the ghosts advance and chop him up and then they all disappear somewhere. Will eventually climbs down and recovers Royce’s broken hilt for evidence, but before he can leave Royce rises up and is towering over him, and strangles him dead, too.

I have a few issues with this first scene, which are: why is Royce ignoring his more experienced companion’s better advice, and why are his companions daft enough to let Royce out-reason them about the cold, and how can Will climb up a tree and none of the ghosts can see him up there, and how can Royce shatter a steel broadsword at all, he must have superhuman strength to possibly do that, and why does he come back to life and strangle Will out?

I’m reading this story and already I’m appalled at how sloppily it is written and how uninteresting it is. I think I’m like Gared, I have half a mind to throw these books out and find something better.

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first game of thrones book review

The Original Reviews of George R.R. Martin's A Game of Thrones

Long before its tv adaptation became a global phenomenon, here's what the critics thought of the first volume in martin's a song of ice and fire series.

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first game of thrones book review

When you play a game of thrones you win or you die.

“George R.R. Martin’s new novel, A Game of Thrones , is the first in an epic series about a land in which the seasons shift between periods of seemingly endless summer and seemingly endless winter. The story begins with the kingdom of Winterfell facing both external and internal dangers. Beyond her borders, the cold is returning, a dragon prince is scheming to win back his lost kingdom, and the eggs of supposedly long extinct dragons are beginning to hatch. Within Winterfell itself, war soon erupts when the king is murdered by a family grasping for unlawful power.

Many fans of sword-and-sorcery will enjoy the epic scope of this book, something of a change of pace for Martin, who has spent the last decade working for television and who has long been honored for his award-winning stories (e.g., ‘Sandkings’). Still, to my mind, this opening installment suffers from one-dimensional characters and less than memorable imagery.”

–  John H. Riskind, The Washington Post , June 28, 1996

first game of thrones book review

“George R.R. Martin’s  A Game of Thrones— a 694-page novel that begins a series — is in many ways a tale fit for a king. Its tapestry is satisfyingly rich and complex, weaving together dozens of characters, major and minor, in a wide spectrum of shades of hero and villain, all vivid and memorable. The settings are equally diverse and evocative. Martin writes as convincingly of tart juices oozing from an apple as of sleet on the side of a mountain, and his book is as much an adventure of the senses as it is of the mind. On the other hand, the thimble-full of living dead and the soupcon of dragons we’re served here add little to the story. Or, they may indeed be setting the groundwork for sequels—which seems clear at the end—but their presence in A Game of Thrones seems little more than frost and steam on the window.

“…this is an old story, but A Game of Thrones is so well played that, like a vibrant re-make of an old hit record, you can enjoy almost every beat of it. Indeed, Arthurian/Shakespearean clashes among great and lesser lineages, with all the opportunities they afford for exploration of such perennial themes as honor, loyalty, ambition, love in all its forms, are always welcome subjects for science fiction and fantasy. Such political and personal strìngs served as superb accompaniment to the science fiction in Dune, and they’re often heart-rending, always provocative and appealing, to behold here—though as a center-stage performance, not as background or foreground for fantasy which is barely there.

But the dragon thread has other problems. Published as a stand-alone novella in the July 2006 Asimov’s Magazine (‘Blood of the Dragon’), it follows the trials and exploits of the overthrown King’s two lineal descendants—a brother who is a claimant to the throne with no army, and his sister, whom the brother gives as a bride to a Ghenghis Khan-type character reigning with a vast army in this England’s version of Europe and Asia, in hopes of getting that army to cross the ‘narrow sea’ and reclaim the pretender`s throne. The descriptive passages are marvelous—you can smell the spice, and taste it in every cup of wine Martin renders—but the story as a whole is not special.

“These other threads show us two different daughters, a romantic and a tomboy, and how they fare in these less­-and-more than chivalrous times; a bastard and a ‘true-born’ hero and another son whose legs are paralyzed but whose mind soars; another family where one son is handsome and vicious and evil yet brave, and his brother—a dwarf, my favorite character in the novel—is conniving, yet so honorable that he pays his debt of gold to a cruel, stupid jailor whom the dwarf has talked into taking a message that will free him. Yes, I liked this dwarf so much that I truly felt glad when, after months of travail, he finally finds comfort in a prostitute’s arms. The book is so good at this, so real and effective in its complex characterizations, that I would vote it an award just for that, and the dragons be damned.”

– Paul Levinson, Tangent Magazine , Fall 1996

first game of thrones book review

“In a world where the approaching winter will last four decades, kings and queens, knights and renegades struggle for control of a throne. Some fight with sword and mace, others with magic and poison. Beyond the Wall to the north, meanwhile, the Others are preparing their army of the dead to march south as the warmth of summer drains from the land. After more than a decade devoted primarily to TV and screen work, Martin makes a triumphant return to high fantasy with this extraordinarily rich new novel, the first of a trilogy. Although conventional in form, the book stands out from similar work by Eddings, Brooks and others by virtue of its superbly developed characters, accomplished prose and sheer bloody-mindedness. Although the romance of chivalry is central to the culture of the Seven Kingdoms, and tournaments, derring-do and handsome knights abound, these trappings merely give cover to dangerous men and women who will stop at nothing to achieve their goals. When Lord Stark of Winterfell, an honest man, comes south to act as the King’s chief councilor, no amount of heroism or good intentions can keep the realm under control. It is fascinating to watch Martin’s characters mature and grow, particularly Stark’s children, who stand at the center of the book. Martin’s trophy case is already stuffed with major prizes, including Hugos, Nebulas, Locus Awards and a Bram Stoker. He’s probably going to have to add another shelf, at least.”

– Publishers Weekly , July 29, 1996

first game of thrones book review

“After a long silence, the author of the cult  The Armageddon Rag  (1983) returns with the first of a fantasy series entitled, insipidly enough,  A Song of Ice and Fire . In the Seven Kingdoms, where the unpredictable seasons may last decades, three powerful families allied themselves in order to smash the ruling Targaryens and depose their Mad King, Aerys II. Robert Baratheon claimed the throne and took to wife Tywin Lannister’s daughter, Cersei; Ned Stark returned north to gloomy Winterfell with its massive, ancient Wall farther to the north that keeps wildings and unspeakable creatures from invading. Some years later, Robert, now drunk and grossly fat, asks Ned to come south and help him govern; reluctantly, since he mistrusts the treacherous Lannisters, Ned complies. Honorable Ned soon finds himself caught up in a whirl of plots, espionage, whispers, and double-dealing and learns to his horror that the royal heir, Joffrey, isn’t Robert’s son at all but, rather, the product of an incestuous union between the Queen and her brother Jaime—who murdered the Mad King and earned the infamous nickname Kingslayer. Ned attempts to bargain with Cersei and steels himself to tell Robert—but too late. Swiftly the Lannisters murder the King, consign Ned to a dungeon, and prepare to seize the throne, opposed only by the remaining Starks and Baratheons. On the mainland, meanwhile, the brutal and stupid Viserys Targaryen sells his sister Dany to a barbarian horse-warrior in return for a promise of armies to help him reconquer the Seven Kingdoms. A vast, rich saga, with splendid characters and an intricate plot flawlessly articulated against a backdrop of real depth and texture. Still, after 672 dense pages, were you expecting a satisfying resolution? You won’t get it: Be prepared for a lengthy series with an indefinitely deferred conclusion.”

– Kirkus , July 1, 1996

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From the a song of ice and fire series , vol. 1.

by George R.R. Martin ‧ RELEASE DATE: Aug. 12, 1996

After a long silence ( Portraits of his Children , stories, 1987), the author of the cult novel  The Armageddon Rag (1983) returns with the first of a fantasy series entitled, insipidly enough, A Song of Ice and Fire. In the Seven Kingdoms, where the unpredictable seasons may last decades, three powerful families allied themselves in order to smash the ruling Targaryens and depose their Mad King, Aerys II. Robert Baratheon claimed the throne and took to wife Tywin Lannister's daughter, Cersei; Ned Stark returned north to gloomy Winterfell with its massive, ancient Wall farther to the north that keeps wildings and unspeakable creatures from invading. Some years later, Robert, now drunk and grossly fat, asks Ned to come south and help him govern; reluctantly, since he mistrusts the treacherous Lannisters, Ned complies. Honorable Ned soon finds himself caught up in a whirl of plots, espionage, whispers, and double-dealing and learns to his horror that the royal heir, Joffrey, isn't Robert's son at all but, rather, the product of an incestuous union between the Queen and her brother Jaime—who murdered the Mad King and earned the infamous nickname Kingslayer. Ned attempts to bargain with Cersei and steels himself to tell Robert—but too late. Swiftly the Lannisters murder the King, consign Ned to a dungeon, and prepare to seize the throne, opposed only by the remaining Starks and Baratheons. On the mainland, meanwhile, the brutal and stupid Viserys Targaryen sells his sister Dany to a barbarian horse-warrior in return for a promise of armies to help him reconquer the Seven Kingdoms. A vast, rich saga, with splendid characters and an intricate plot flawlessly articulated against a backdrop of real depth and texture. Still, after 672 dense pages, were you expecting a satisfying resolution? You won't get it: Be prepared for a lengthy series with an indefinitely deferred conclusion.

Pub Date: Aug. 12, 1996

ISBN: 0-553-10354-7

Page Count: 672

Publisher: Spectra/Bantam

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1996


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New York Times Bestseller


by Samantha Shannon ‧ RELEASE DATE: Feb. 26, 2019

A celebration of fantasy that melds modern ideology with classic tropes. More of these dragons, please.

After 1,000 years of peace, whispers that “the Nameless One will return” ignite the spark that sets the world order aflame.

No, the Nameless One is not a new nickname for Voldemort. Here, evil takes the shape of fire-breathing dragons—beasts that feed off chaos and imbalance—set on destroying humankind. The leader of these creatures, the Nameless One, has been trapped in the Abyss for ages after having been severely wounded by the sword Ascalon wielded by Galian Berethnet. These events brought about the current order: Virtudom, the kingdom set up by Berethnet, is a pious society that considers all dragons evil. In the East, dragons are worshiped as gods—but not the fire-breathing type. These dragons channel the power of water and are said to be born of stars. They forge a connection with humans by taking riders. In the South, an entirely different way of thinking exists. There, a society of female mages called the Priory worships the Mother. They don’t believe that the Berethnet line, continued by generations of queens, is the sacred key to keeping the Nameless One at bay. This means he could return—and soon. “Do you not see? It is a cycle.” The one thing uniting all corners of the world is fear. Representatives of each belief system—Queen Sabran the Ninth of Virtudom, hopeful dragon rider Tané of the East, and Ead Duryan, mage of the Priory from the South—are linked by the common goal of keeping the Nameless One trapped at any cost. This world of female warriors and leaders feels natural, and while there is a “chosen one” aspect to the tale, it’s far from the main point. Shannon’s depth of imagination and worldbuilding are impressive, as this 800-pager is filled not only with legend, but also with satisfying twists that turn legend on its head. Shannon isn’t new to this game of complex storytelling. Her Bone Season novels ( The Song Rising , 2017, etc.) navigate a multilayered society of clairvoyants. Here, Shannon chooses a more traditional view of magic, where light fights against dark, earth against sky, and fire against water. Through these classic pairings, an entirely fresh and addicting tale is born. Shannon may favor detailed explication over keeping a steady pace, but the epic converging of plotlines at the end is enough to forgive.

Pub Date: Feb. 26, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-63557-029-8

Page Count: 848

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2019


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by Samantha Shannon



by TJ Klune ‧ RELEASE DATE: March 17, 2020

A breezy and fun contemporary fantasy.

A tightly wound caseworker is pushed out of his comfort zone when he’s sent to observe a remote orphanage for magical children.

Linus Baker loves rules, which makes him perfectly suited for his job as a midlevel bureaucrat working for the Department in Charge of Magical Youth, where he investigates orphanages for children who can do things like make objects float, who have tails or feathers, and even those who are young witches. Linus clings to the notion that his job is about saving children from cruel or dangerous homes, but really he’s a cog in a government machine that treats magical children as second-class citizens. When Extremely Upper Management sends for Linus, he learns that his next assignment is a mission to an island orphanage for especially dangerous kids. He is to stay on the island for a month and write reports for Extremely Upper Management, which warns him to be especially meticulous in his observations. When he reaches the island, he meets extraordinary kids like Talia the gnome, Theodore the wyvern, and Chauncey, an amorphous blob whose parentage is unknown. The proprietor of the orphanage is a strange but charming man named Arthur, who makes it clear to Linus that he will do anything in his power to give his charges a loving home on the island. As Linus spends more time with Arthur and the kids, he starts to question a world that would shun them for being different, and he even develops romantic feelings for Arthur. Lambda Literary Award–winning author Klune ( The Art of Breathing , 2019, etc.) has a knack for creating endearing characters, and readers will grow to love Arthur and the orphans alongside Linus. Linus himself is a lovable protagonist despite his prickliness, and Klune aptly handles his evolving feelings and morals. The prose is a touch wooden in places, but fans of quirky fantasy will eat it up.

Pub Date: March 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-21728-8

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Tor

Review Posted Online: Nov. 10, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2019


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by TJ Klune


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first game of thrones book review

About the Book

A Game of Thrones

By george r. r. martin.

From an intricately well-streamlined story to realistically-depicted characters, great detail in settings, excellent description of events, and well-crafted dialogues, ‘A Game of Thrones’ is undoubtedly one of the best stories in the fantasy genre.

Joshua Ehiosun

Written by Joshua Ehiosun

C2 certified writer.

As of April 2019, A Song of Ice and Fire has sold 90 million copies worldwide. It exists in more than 45 languages. George R. R. Martin’s epic tale of family, war, history, dragons , and blood has become an inspiration to upcoming writers and an undeniable source of entertainment to readers.

‘ A Game of Thrones ’  became popular because of its story. Its intense attention to detail in an extensive universe made it easy to follow the characters on their journey of identity, honor, and sacrifice. 

George R. R. Martin introduces the reader to an abstract concept, the White Walkers. The introduction of the monsters in the prologue creates a feeling of intensity and looming danger. The story begins, and Martin puts the reader on a pedestal where they watch as the primary characters try to overcome their problems.

The first character to face a problem is Ned Stark. As the lord of Winterfell , he receives a letter that puts him in a dilemma. He learns the king, Robert Baratheon , is coming to visit and learns of the death of his dear friend, Jon Arryn, the Hand of the King . Ned’s dilemma grows as Robert asks him to become the new Hand of the King . Though he realizes the gravity of the position offered to him, he agrees to become the Hand of the King, a decision that changes his life forever.

The story’s introduction of more than one conflict into Ned’s life hooks readers as they want to know what happens next. When Ned follows Robert to King’s Landing , he discovers that the world of politics does not respect honor. However, he decides not to adapt; this leads to his death.

When Ned dies, the reader enters an uncomfortable position where they realize that Martin’s universe has no pity for its heroes and does not follow the logic of moral values.

The story of ‘ A Game of Thrones ‘ puts other primary characters in dilemmas they do not wriggle out of easily. Jon Snow joined the Night’s Watch to become a warrior with an identity. However, he realizes that his oath has put him in a position where he can not help any of his family. The dilemma forces him to abandon everyone he once loved.

Daenerys, on the other hand, was a young girl of 13 thrown into the world of pain, tears, and suffering. At the young age of 13, her brother gifts her like a piece of jewelry, and even though she rises above the first hurdle, her life comes crashing down as everything she loves, her husband, her unborn child, and the people she feels attached to leave her. She becomes a shadow of happiness and realizes that the world does not revolve around kindness. 

Sansa, a lovely and elegant girl, believed that the world is a place where knights fought dragons and defeated the bad guys. However, she realizes that the world is cruel and dark and it does not care for lords, knights, and even kings. Tyrion, the dwarf son of Tywin Lannister , gets placed in a dilemma that puts his head on the line. However, the story shows how he craftily wriggles out of the dangerous situation. It also intentionally shatters the dream of its characters and forces them to admit to reality.

The intentional gradual introduction of dilemmas into the characters’ lives makes the story realistic in a way that makes the reader reflect on the rules of morality, honor, and love. The reader gets forced to change their perception regarding fantasy as the story makes them admit the reality of the consequences of actions and choices made by characters.

‘A Game of Thrones’  uses an extensive list of characters to propel its story forward. The use of limited prescience according to the characters’ perceptions makes the story transcend as the characters grow. It puts its characters in dilemmas that make them choose between morality and survival; this adds an overwhelming sense of realism to the consequences of the actions taken by the characters.

For primary characters like Ned, Bran, Sansa, Arya, Jon, Daenerys, Tyrion, and Catelyn, the presence of conflict forces them to change their perception of the world. Ned was an honorable man who believed in family and friendship. However, he learns that honor sends a man to an untimely grave when he does not adapt to a society of corruption. 

Bran’s accident forces him to realize he will never be a knight , no matter how hard he tries. He faces reality and has to start thinking about how the loss of his legs will affect his future. Sansa, a naïve girl who believes in elegance, comes to grips with reality after watching her father lose his head. Jon, a bastard son, realizes that his insatiable desire to get his identity cut him off from his family.

Jon learns that because he decided to join the Night’s Watch, he can no longer help his brother in the war against the Lannisters. Daenerys had to admit that the world never cared for her. After losing everything in the blink of an eye, she faces the harsh truth that life throws darts of reality and forces one to reevaluate themselves. 

Another crucial aspect of characterization in the story is the value of minor characters.  ‘A Game of Thrones’  features over 50 valuable minor characters. The intricate design of each minor character adds depth to the overall story as the characters help propel the story while assisting the primary characters through motivation and antagonization. Minor characters like Mirri Maz Duur , Syrio Forel , Bronn , and Sandor Clegane impact the primary characters’ lives as their actions change their perception of life.

‘A Game of Thrones’  uses excellently crafted dialogues to push its plot forward and give its reader a better understanding of Martin’s fantasy world. The use of dialogue to describe characters, explain concepts of morality, and narrate the history and how it affected the present world of Westeros makes it a pillar of the story. With each dialogue, Martin emulates the voice and being of the characters when they converse with others by showing their faults, aspirations, and thoughts on morality, fairness, and justice. 

Martin’s unique vocabulary makes the dialogue resonate with an anciently historical tone; this makes the novel addictive as the readers get dragged into the conversations between characters and choose if each interaction has real-world value. When Tyrion meets Jon Snow, he gives him a piece of advice that stems from his experience with life. Tyrion tells Jon that a dwarf has little value in the world. He makes Jon realize that reality treats everyone differently and is never fair.

Writing Style and Conclusion

‘A Game of Thrones’  employs a limited third-person perspective to lure the reader into its world. George R. R. Martin’s use of limited prescience adds the element of uncertainty to the story as the reader gets put through a roller-coaster of events that goes against the heroes and favors the antagonists. Though it sometimes helps the protagonists, they get forced to experience the overwhelming burden of failure, regret, and pain.

In its conclusion,  ‘A Game of Thrones’  ends on a cliffhanger. The story’s conclusion makes it one of the best novel endings ever because it makes the protagonists reevaluate their stance on morality and sets a tone of anticipation for the next story.

Is A Game of Thrones a good story?

‘A Game of Thrones’  is an incredible story. The characters are realistic, and the dialogues are intricately influential on the plot. The presence of consequences with caliber makes it an intriguing read as it puts one on a rollercoaster of emotions and action.

Is A Game of Thrones better than Foundation ?

While  ‘A Game of Thrones’  tells a story of knights, kings, and dragons,   ‘Foundation’   tells a story of a race to save humanity from collapse. The former uses many characters to propel its story, while the latter uses fewer characters.

What are the similarities between GOT and the novel?

Game of Thrones  is closely similar to the novel. Its plot line follows the story as many events, like Ned Stark getting beheaded and Daenerys getting three dragons occur in the show.

A Game of Thrones Review: Winter is Coming

A Game of Thrones Book Cover

Book Title: A Game of Thrones

Book Description: 'A Game of Thrones' by George R. R. Martin is a complex tale of power, corruption, and dragons.

Book Author: George R. R. Martin

Book Edition: First Edition

Book Format: Hardcover

Publisher - Organization: Bantam Books

Date published: August 1, 1996

Illustrator: Jeffrey Jones

ISBN: 978-0-553-10357-8

Number Of Pages: 694

  • Lasting Effect on Reader

‘ A Game of Thrones ‘ tells the story of many people on the continents of Essos and Westeros. It follows their lives’ journey as they discover the secrets of a world filled with corruption, power, and dragons.

  • The characters are well developed
  • The story is interesting
  • The ending is remarkable
  • The dialogues are intricately soothing
  • The novel is lengthy
  • It may be hard to keep track of the characters as they are many

Joshua Ehiosun

About Joshua Ehiosun

Joshua is an undying lover of literary works. With a keen sense of humor and passion for coining vague ideas into state-of-the-art worded content, he ensures he puts everything he's got into making his work stand out. With his expertise in writing, Joshua works to scrutinize pieces of literature.


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Ehiosun, Joshua " A Game of Thrones Review ⭐ " Book Analysis , https://bookanalysis.com/george-r-r-martin/a-game-of-thrones/review/ . Accessed 27 March 2024.

The Game of Thrones section of Book Analysis analyzes and explores the Game of Thrones series. The content on Book Analysis was created by Game of Thrones fans, with the aim of providing a thorough in-depth analysis and commentary to complement and provide an additional perspective to the incredible world George R.R. Martin created in his books.

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Grimdark Magazine

REVIEW: A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin

  • Book Reviews
  • July 6, 2022
  • By John Mauro

first game of thrones book review

Last Updated on February 12, 2024

Life is full of insignificant events, small perturbations that are rarely of any consequence. But occasionally the conditions are right for a small perturbation to escalate into something that alters the entire world, leaving a permanent mark on history. Whether it’s the start of a World War or the beginning of a global pandemic, the impact of a single, seemingly insignificant event can grow to outsize proportions, pushing the world out of its delicate balance.

A cover for A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin

The impact of A Game of Thrones on the world of fantasy cannot be overstated. Its publication in 1996 brought about an irreversible step change in fantasy literature, which for decades had been following the blueprint laid out by J.R.R. Tolkien in The Lord of the Rings .

Since its release in the 1950s, The Lord of the Rings had become the single most influential work of fantasy ever written, spawning countless imitations, none of which could reach the same level of impact achieved by Tolkien. Tolkien’s cultural influence stretched far beyond the world of literature, encompassing cinema (Peter Jackson), music (Led Zeppelin), and any number of role-playing games, including both tabletop games like Dungeons and Dragons and video games such as the Final Fantasy series.

Tolkien combined expansive, detailed worldbuilding with an epic good-vs-evil struggle of biblical proportions. Although Frodo struggles mightily against the corrupting power of the One Ring, there is never any doubt that he is on the side of good, a Christ figure who is willing to sacrifice himself to save others. Only two notable characters in The Lord of the Rings exhibit discernable gray morality. The most obvious of these is Gollum/Sméagol, but his gray morality is just a superposition of two dichotomous personas, one of which is good (Sméagol) and the other evil (Gollum). The other character, of course, is Boromir, who is fundamentally good but ultimately seduced by the Ring, becoming the Judas Iscariot figure of the Fellowship.

In A Game of Thrones , George R.R. Martin embraced Tolkienesque worldbuilding while taking an antithetical approach to character morality. Both Middle-earth and Westeros feel authentic because they are so fully realized, complete with their own history and culture, giving the reader a fully immersive experience where they can suspend their own reality while diving into a richly detailed new world.

The main difference comes in the gritty approach that Martin has taken toward character morality, making A Game of Thrones one of the first true grimdark fantasies. Whereas Middle-earth is a world of black and white, Martin uses a full palette of gray to paint his cast of characters. If Tolkien has written an allegory for the epic battle of Christ vs Satan, then George R.R. Martin is more interested in the sneering Pontius Pilate, questioning the meaning of truth itself.

In presenting a grittier, more realistic approach to fantasy, A Game of Thrones became part of a larger cultural movement that emerged in the 1990s. For example, at around the same time, grunge bands such as Soundgarden and Alice in Chains came to prominence, bringing an unapologetic rawness and honesty to a music scene that, in the preceding decade, had been hiding behind a façade of synthetic sounds, big hair, and heavy makeup.

More than a quarter century later, A Game of Thrones has rightfully become one of the most respected and influential works of fantasy. A Song of Ice and Fire has sold close to 100 million books worldwide, becoming one of the best-selling series of all time.

Rereading A Game of Thrones , it’s easy to see why. George R.R. Martin is an outstanding writer. Given the complexity of the world and the plot, this book could have easily become unreadable in less capable hands. But Martin does a wonderful job introducing us to the characters and worldbuilding in a natural and accessible fashion. A Game of Thrones is never a chore, and the pacing is remarkably consistent throughout the book.

Although A Game of Thrones is fantasy, the magical elements are of secondary importance, at least in this first volume of A Song of Ice and Fire. Instead, A Game of Thrones is driven by its wonderful cast of characters. George R.R. Martin has crafted some of the finest characters in all of fantasy, including the inimitable Tyrion Lannister, whose astute political skills are coupled with a keen wit and a genuine kindness toward the less fortunate.

One of the interesting choices made by George R.R. Martin is that, out of the eight point-of-view characters in A Game of Thrones , five are children. Jon Snow and Daenerys Targaryen are both 14 years old at the beginning of A Song of Ice and Fire. Among the Stark children, Sansa is 11, Arya is 9, and Bran is 7. Beyond these point-of-view characters, Robb Stark is 14 and Joffrey Baratheon is 12. This may be surprising for fans of the HBO series , since all the actors portraying these characters were significantly older than the characters themselves. Considering their young age, the terrible situations experienced by these children in A Game of Thrones become all the more harrowing. I particularly admire the way Daenerys overcomes unspeakably terrible abuse to grow into the strong, self-assured leader that she becomes.

We are living the legacy of A Game of Thrones now, with its indelible impact on both grimdark fantasy and epic fantasy in general. One prominent example is The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson, which is clearly influenced by the narrative structure, expansive worldbuilding, and character-driven plot of A Game of Thrones . Both are full of political intrigue and focus on sparring factions of a fractured society who are fighting each other when they should be focused on a more sinister enemy posing an existential threat to their civilization.

Does this remind you of anyplace else? Although A Game of Thrones emerged in the 1990s, I would argue that it is even more relevant today in our own time wracked by political extremism and a breakdown of global order, where irrational nationalism trumps our ability to confront the serious existential threats facing our society.

A Game of Thrones is one of the finest and most influential books ever published, and its impact only continues to grow. If you have somehow put off reading A Game of Thrones , please put aside whatever reservations you may have and just dive in. You won’t be disappointed.

Read A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin

Buy this book on Amazon

John Mauro lives in a world of glass amongst the hills of central Pennsylvania. When not indulging in his passion for literature or enjoying time with family, John is training the next generation of materials scientists at Penn State University, where he teaches glass science and materials kinetics. John also loves cooking international cuisine and kayaking the beautiful Finger Lakes region of upstate New York.

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Book review: a game of thrones (a song of ice and fire, #1) by george r. r. martin, january 11, 2019 petrik leo comments 2 comments.

first game of thrones book review

A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Series: A Song of Ice and Fire (Book #1 of 7)

Genre: Fantasy, Epic Fantasy, High Fantasy, Grimdark Fantasy

Pages : 896 pages (20th Anniversary Illustrated UK edition)

Published: 1st August 1996 by Bantam Spectra (US) & Voyager Books (UK)

A totally magnificent start to a seminal epic fantasy series. If you love watching the first season of Game of Thrones , you’re most likely going to love reading A Game of Thrones .

Like countless readers around the world, I probably wouldn’t have known about A Song of Ice and Fire without its TV series adaptation: Game of Thrones . I’ve been following the TV series since the release of its first episode; I was utterly captivated by the originality of the storyline and characters. Upon finishing the first season of the TV show, I immediately picked up A Game of Thrones , and honestly? I couldn’t finish it; I put it down about a quarter into the book. It wasn’t because the book was bad per se; it was because the TV show—at least the first season—did such a spectacular job of adapting the first installment of A Song of Ice and Fire . When my first entrance into a series is through a well-produced TV series/movies adaptation which I ended up loving, I often find the original material—usually novels—to be inferior because I already know how the main story will go down. It’s the biggest reason why I struggled to finish The Fellowship of the Ring , and unfortunately, it’s also the reason why I couldn’t finish A Game of Thrones back then. Fast forward to now, years have passed since my first attempt at reading A Game of Thrones . I’m finally able to finish it, and I also loved it so much; I craved for more by the end of it.

“… a mind needs books as a sword needs a whetstone, if it is to keep its edge.”

Was there even anything new with the book once you have watched the first season? Not so much. There’s Ned’s dream and the differences in character’s ages; the age of the characters—especially The Starks and Daenerys—in the novel shocked me because they’re so much younger than they’re portrayed in the TV show. Then there’s also the fact that the book has more intricate world-building and history explained; story-wise, almost everything else was the same. On Goodreads, during the time of writing this review, A Game of Thrones has about 50,000 reviews and almost 2,000,000 ratings; I doubt anything I say about it will add anything substantial to what’s been said before. I have watched all the episodes in TV shows, and I pretty much know what the general plotline of the main series is all about. But I’ll keep this review strictly narrowed to the reasons why—in my opinion— A Game of Thrones and the first season of the TV show reached its phenomenal fame.

Picture: A Game of Thrones by Marc Simonetti

first game of thrones book review

There’s immense strength in the unpredictability of Martin’s storytelling style. Martin is a storyteller that doesn’t follow the classic fantasy norm. A Song of Ice and Fire achieved something much greater instead; it has practically shaped modern fantasy. Sure, the series wouldn’t have reached its worldwide fame without the HBO adaptation of the series, but that doesn’t have any influence on the long-standing—and ever-growing—praises for the books. Just observe the amount of inaccurate “if you love Game of Thrones you will love this” or “George R. R. Martin/ Game of Thrones meets whoever/whatever” blurbs invading the current fantasy market; they’re uncountable.

“Bran thought about it. ‘Can a man still be brave if he’s afraid?’ ‘That is the only time a man can be brave,’ his father told him.”

Personally speaking, Martin brought a lot of something refreshing to the fantasy genre. Instead of writing a high fantasy comprised of magical battles and creatures, Martin did the opposite; magic and fantastical beings were relatively minimal, and unbelievably, he successfully nailed it. A Game of Thrones is not a story of good versus evil; it depicted a realistically grim story where the characters were morally flawed, grey, and the evilest beings in the world may not be The Others or dragons, but human after all. The good doesn’t always win, and the bad could brutally triumph. Martin explored this deeply and brilliantly within the bloody dispute and politics over the Iron Throne—the seat of the Lord of the Seven Kingdoms.

“Why is it always the innocents who suffer most, when you high lords play your game of thrones?”

In the battle for the throne, no one is safe, not even the virtuous ones; the good and honorable ones frequently suffer more. The sense of unpredictability and danger sparked from Martin’s freedom and bravery to hurt and kill off the crucial main characters in the series—after making his readers care for them—brought an intensity that can only be found in very few of my favorite fantasy series. And get this, the majority of these authors claimed Martin as one of their main inspirations.

“When you play the game of thrones, you win or you die. There is no middle ground.”

There’s this meme that has been spreading around the internet. This meme compared George R. R. Martin to Steven Erikson. Erikson himself has stated that he’s not competing with Martin with his fantasy, and I have no idea how this even became a meme in the first place. I’m talking about this picture:

first game of thrones book review

I strongly disagree with this meme. Don’t get me wrong; Malazan Book of the Fallen is one of my top favorite series of all time. However, the main strength of the series—by far—doesn’t lie in its character’s death. Honestly speaking, by book 5 or 6 of Malazan Book of the Fallen , the impact of the character’s death in the series has decreased significantly. Sometimes, I even eye-rolled when he killed off a character in the second half of the series; Erikson had an obsession with this particular plot device, and I was proven right over and over again. I don’t think it’s a spoiler to say that Martin is a brutal author; he’s merciless towards his characters. But more importantly, ANY of the characters he decided to kill off frequently resulted in a massive and jaw-dropping impact that heavily affect the character’s decision and storyline progression.

“What is honor compared to a woman’s love? What is duty against the feel of a newborn son in your arms . . . or the memory of a brother’s smile? Wind and words. Wind and words. We are only human, and the gods have fashioned us for love. That is our great glory, and our great tragedy.”

If you’ve watched the first season, is it still necessary to read the first installment of A Song of Ice and Fire ? What exactly is the biggest reason to read A Game of Thrones after watching the first season of the TV show? I wouldn’t say that it’s required to do it, but you’re most likely going to love the reading experience, and you’ll also get more out of it as I did. I’ve said it at the beginning of this review, I’m a very critical person when it comes to experiencing the original material of an adaptation I truly loved. However, I was simply too immersed in this read, and I thoroughly enjoyed every moment of reading it. And it’s all due to Martin’s impeccable narrative, characterizations, and world-building.

Picture: The Night’s Watch Oath by Didier Graffet

first game of thrones book review

Character’s internal thoughts and world-building are two factors—from my perspective—that the TV show won’t be able to capture perfectly; they haven’t managed it to this day, and I doubt they will be able to with only one season left. Every character in the book was extremely well-developed. Although each new chapter always follows a different character’s POV than its previous one, all of them were superbly compelling and crucial to read. Reading A Game of Thrones brought a clearer and better understanding of the characterizations. That shouldn’t come as a surprise; they’re two different mediums of storytelling, and this is one of the main advantages of reading a novel than watching a movie/TV series. The nuances in the character’s thoughts, personalities, and motivations made them more human and believable. All POV chapters in A Game of Thrones were written efficiently and effectively. Martin colored his characters with distinctive voices terrifically that every single dialogue and action felt like an addictive dance of inspiring and memorable words.

“Never forget what you are, for surely the world will not. Make it your strength. Then it can never be your weakness. Armour yourself in it, and it will never be used to hurt you.”

The world-building was outstandingly intricate and immersive. A Song of Ice and Fire is a complex epic fantasy with multi-layered world-building; history upon history, accompanied with character’s connections that sprawled throughout the world. I mean it, if you’re not a fan of a massive fantasy world with detailed histories, politics, and many characters, you might want to prepare yourself before getting into this book. I do, however, believe that the complex and sprawling world that Martin created is somehow quite accessible to many fantasy readers.

“A lord must learn that sometimes words can accomplish what swords cannot.”

After you finished the novel, a realization will dawn that the main story and chaos have only just begun. A Game of Thrones is an absolutely stunning beginning to an incomplete legendary fantasy series. I’m seriously holding myself back here; the novel’s strengths and why this book/series is so special and important for modern fantasy will need at least another thousand words to elaborate. But I doubt I need to; practically every fantasy reader these days knows about the existence of A Game of Thrones . The worldwide fame of this series speaks for itself already; quality stays. I recommend this novel with all my heart to every epic fantasy reader. The intricacies of the plot, characterizations, and world-building are worth your utmost attention; the maximum depth of them can only be achieved by reading the book, nowhere else. I feel like I’ve gotten to know the characters and world further after reading A Game of Thrones , and I’m undeniably excited to continue reading A Song of Ice and Fire . Currently, A Song of Ice and Fire remain frozen in an incomplete—most likely won’t ever be finished—status, but that doesn’t matter; reading this series is irresistible to me. Even if A Song of Ice and Fire doesn’t end up fully composed, I’m confident I’m happier to have read the series than not. That’s how incredible A Game of Thrones is.

“The things I do for love.”

Sidenote regarding the 20th Anniversary Illustrated Edition:

The 20th Anniversary Illustrated Edition is freaking gorgeous, and its production value is high; no doubt about that. However, I strongly recommend you to read this edition only if you have watched the first season of the TV series or you’re on your reread. If you’re a newcomer to the story, I suggest reading the prose-only edition instead. This edition is beautiful; each chapter begins with a black and white illustration done by highly praised artists in the industry. I mean it, each art could’ve worked as a cover art due to its beauty and quality, even when most of the arts aren’t original to this edition. But this is also the main problem of this edition. Most of the art appeared at the start of a chapter, and they have a strong tendency of giving spoilers, or at least hints, of what’s to come in the particular chapter. Not to mention that a lot of the colored artworks are placed on the wrong page. An event happened in a chapter, but the colored artwork of that scene could appear in the next or previous chapter, which frankly just doesn’t make any sense. Because of all these, I think it would be best if a complete newcomer to the series read the text-only edition.

Pictures: Two examples of Magali Villeneuve’s illustrations for A Game of Thrones: 20th Anniversary Illustrated Edition . Pictures are taken from her Twitter account and official website.

first game of thrones book review

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2 thoughts on “ Book Review: A Game of Thrones (A Song of Ice and Fire, #1) by George R. R. Martin ”

Incredible review, Petrik! I started watching GoT pretty late, probably around early 2017. And I regret I didn’t watch it sooner! I spent the whole two weeks to finished the entire seasons and I was completely blown away. Maybe I should read the books this year.

Thank you so much, Vinny! Oh that’s quite late, but hey, better late than never! I’m glad you ended up loving the TV series though! I can’t wait for the final season this year!!! As for reading the book, I really recommend it but there’s no rush. Might as well wait until the TV series is done in June. 🙂

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A song of fire and ice (a game of thrones) series, common sense media reviewers.

first game of thrones book review

Dark, violent epic upends the usual fantasy clichés.

A Song of Fire and Ice (A Game of Thrones) Series Poster Image

A Lot or a Little?

What you will—and won't—find in this book.

George R.R. Martin creates a medieval fantasy worl

Tradition is important, and promises should be kep

In A Game of Thrones and its sequels, author Georg

From its first scene to its last, A Game of Throne

Although not as prevalent as violence, sex plays a

Think of a swear word, and it's probably used

Adults and teens drink alcohol at court and in pub

Parents need to know that A Song of Fire and Ice -- adapted for the popular and very mature TV series Game of Thrones -- is a seven-volume fantasy saga by George R.R. Martin, of which only the first five volumes have been published as of April 2016. Set in a magical version of the Middle Ages, it…

Educational Value

George R.R. Martin creates a medieval fantasy world that is nearly overwhelmingly rich in detail. He aims to provide a more "realistic" kind of saga, upending clichés and providing viewpoints of unusual characters.

Positive Messages

Tradition is important, and promises should be kept. It's better to face a problem head-on than to deny that you're in trouble.

Positive Role Models

In A Game of Thrones and its sequels, author George R. R. Martin rarely shows only one side of his characters' personalities. Few of them are all good or all bad. He clearly sympathizes with the members of the Stark family, but each of them is also capable of accessing a dark side.

Violence & Scariness

From its first scene to its last, A Game of Thrones contains violence, which often strikes without warning to the guilty and the innocent alike. There are beheadings, sword fights, wolf attacks, rapes, and death by molten gold. A young boy is thrown out a window. No character is ever safe, and the graphic details of their injuries or deaths are usually provided.

Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Violence & Scariness in your kid's entertainment guide.

Sex, Romance & Nudity

Although not as prevalent as violence, sex plays a large part in A Game of Thrones and its sequels. Cersei and Jaime Lannister engage in an incestuous relationship. Tyrion falls in love with a courtesan. Barely in her teens, Daenerys Targaryen enters into a sexual relationship with an older man before marrying him and becoming pregnant with his child. Sometimes such encounters are described in graphic detail.

Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Sex, Romance & Nudity in your kid's entertainment guide.

Think of a swear word, and it's probably used in A Song of Fire and Ice at some point, from "damn" and "bastard" to "c--t" and "f--k."

Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Language in your kid's entertainment guide.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Adults and teens drink alcohol at court and in pubs.

Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Drinking, Drugs & Smoking in your kid's entertainment guide.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that A Song of Fire and Ice -- adapted for the popular and very mature TV series Game of Thrones -- is a seven-volume fantasy saga by George R.R. Martin , of which only the first five volumes have been published as of April 2016. Set in a magical version of the Middle Ages, it chronicles the exploits of the Stark, Baratheon, Lannister, and Targaryen families as they struggle for power in a deadly civil war. Violence percolates through nearly every scene, including sword fights, beheadings, rapes, wolf attacks, death by molten gold, and more. Sexual content includes an incestuous relationship between a brother and a sister, the marriage of an older man to a teen girl, and a prince's love affair with a courtesan. The language is predictably rough, ranging from "hell" and "damn" to "f--k" and "c--t." If the books were rated as movies are, they would receive a "hard R."

Where to Read

Community reviews.

  • Parents say (20)
  • Kids say (58)

Based on 20 parent reviews

A good read, but be cautious

Amazing dark fantasy with great rich story., what's the story.

After his predecessor is murdered, Eddard Stark reluctantly agrees to serve as "the Hand" to his good friend, King Robert Baratheon. His honorable decision has far-reaching consequences for his family. After King Robert dies, the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros are plunged into civil war, thanks to the plotting of the Lannisters, and the Stark children and their mother are scattered in all directions. Each must find a new way to survive in a rapidly changing world, even as magic grows stronger, a new peril approaches the Wall that protects the kingdoms, and the threat of the ultimate weapon -- tame dragons -- grows in the East.

Is It Any Good?

There have been many fantasy sagas published in the last half century, but few can boast the scope, depth, and attention to detail of A SONG OF FIRE AND ICE. George R. R. Martin is a master plotter, moving his huge cast of characters from one harrowing situation to the next and keeping readers anxious and surprised again and again. Some of the first five volumes work better than others ( A Feast for Crows leaves many readers disappointed), but all add new elements that only increase the complex richness of the narrative.

This book series is certainly not for sensitive readers. The language is rough, the violence is brutal, and the sexual content sometimes veers into the perverse (including brother-sister incest). But readers with the maturity to handle adult material will be amply rewarded. Martin is a serious storyteller of the first order, and A Song of Fire and Ice is his masterwork.

Talk to Your Kids About ...

Families can talk about why fantasy sagas have become so popular in books, in movies, and on TV. What aspects of them appeal most to readers and viewers?

Why do some writers choose to include profanity in their dialogue and descriptions? Does it add a sense of realism to emotionally charged situations?

What role does violence play in the story? Would some of the characters be better off if they had not resorted to violence so quickly?

Book Details

  • Author : George R.R. Martin
  • Genre : Fantasy
  • Topics : Magic and Fantasy , Adventures , Brothers and Sisters , Monsters, Ghosts, and Vampires
  • Book type : Fiction
  • Publisher : Bantam Books
  • Publication date : March 30, 1996
  • Publisher's recommended age(s) : 15 - 18
  • Number of pages : 835
  • Available on : Paperback, Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
  • Last updated : September 19, 2021

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Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.

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first game of thrones book review

Book Review

A game of thrones — “a song of ice and fire” series.

  • George R.R. Martin

first game of thrones book review

Readability Age Range

  • Bantam Spectra, a division of Bantam Books, owned by Random House
  • Locus Award, Best Fantasy Novel, 1997

Year Published

This book has been reviewed by Focus on the Family’s marriage and parenting magazine . It is the first book in “A Song of Ice and Fire” series.

Plot Summary

Just outside the kingdom of Winterfell, Ser Waymar Royce, Will and Gared, three members of the Night’s Watch, investigate some mysterious deaths. Will previously found a camp full of dead bodies, but the bodies have now vanished. Royce is attacked and killed by supernatural beings called the Others, but he rises from the dead to kill Will. Gared flees.

Bran Stark is a young boy who watches his father, Lord Eddard Stark, execute Gared for abandoning his post as a member of the Night’s Watch. After the execution, Eddard’s two older sons, Robb and Jon, discover a gigantic dead direwolf and her six living cubs. The children adopt the pups as their own. Back at the Stark castle, Eddard’s wife, Catelyn, tells him that his friend Jon Arryn has been killed. The King, Robert Baratheon, is riding to Winterfell with all his knights and retainers to speak with Eddard about the problem.

In the far-off city of Pentos, Viserys Targaryen is making arrangements to regain power. Viserys is the son of the Targaryen king, who was deposed by Robert Baratheon 15 years earlier. He plans to marry off his 13-year-old sister, Daenerys, to Khal Drogo, a powerful warlord.

In Winterfell, Eddard welcomes Robert Baratheon. Robert and Eddard visit the grave of Eddard’s sister Lyanna, the woman Robert loved and wanted to marry. Robert makes it clear that he is unhappy with his wife, Queen Cersei Lannister. Robert offers Eddard the chance to take Jon Arryn’s place as the Hand of the King, his chief adviser and war commander. Robert also says that he wishes to betroth his son, the crown prince Joffrey, to Eddard’s young daughter Sansa. That night, Catelyn Stark receives a message that says Cersei Lannister ordered the murder of Jon Arryn, the previous Hand of the King.

Seven-year-old Bran is exploring an abandoned part of the Starks’ castle when he hears a man and woman talking. Bran peers through a window and sees Cersei Lannister and her twin brother, Jaime, having sex. When they discover Bran watching, Jaime throws him out of a high window. Bran’s back and legs are broken by the fall, and his parents fear that if he ever wakes up from his coma, he will be crippled for life.

Daenerys Targaryen marries Khal Drogo in the city of Pentos. She cannot speak his language, but they still come to an understanding and consummate their marriage.

Jon Snow, Eddard Stark’s illegitimate son, and Tyrion Lannister, the dwarf brother of Jaime and Cersei, ride with a group of men to the northern Wall of Winterfell. Jon is going to join the Night’s Watch, a ragtag group of men who are exiled to the Wall to defend Winterfell against unknown threats. Eddard and his two daughters, Sansa and Arya, leave with King Robert for King’s Landing.

Lady Catelyn remains at home to nurse Bran. She is still tending Bran when an assassin comes to murder the boy. She fights the assassin, and Bran’s direwolf kills the man. Catelyn decides that she must travel to King’s Landing to meet Eddard and warn him about the plots against his family. When she arrives in King’s Landing, her childhood friend called Littlefinger tells her that the knife the assassin used to attack Bran actually belongs to Tyrion Lannister. Meanwhile, Eddard discovers that King Robert has bankrupted the kingdom with his constant requests for tournaments and lavish feasts. Littlefinger secretly leads Eddard to Catelyn, who tells him about the attempt on Bran’s life.

Daenerys Targaryen gradually adjusts to life as Khal Drogo’s wife. Her cruel brother, Viserys, accompanies Daenerys and Drogo on the long ride back to Drogo’s country. Daenerys is finally tired of Viserys’ mistreatment of her, and when Viserys attacks her, she makes him walk behind the company of horsemen in disgrace. Toward the end of the long journey, Daenerys learns that she is pregnant.

Bran has awoken and is having a difficult recovery in Winterfell. He is paralyzed from the waist down.

At Castle Black, Jon Snow meets Samwell Tarly, an overweight teenager who cannot fight. Jon befriends Samwell and protects him from the other boys.

On the road back to Winterfell, Catelyn Stark meets Tyrion Lannister and has him arrested on the suspicion that he ordered the attempt on Bran’s life.

A courtier named Lord Varys tells Eddard Stark that Jon Arryn was poisoned after he started asking too many questions about the Lannisters. Eddard is horrified to learn that King Robert has almost no true supporters in the capital city. Almost everyone who surrounds the king is secretly loyal to the Lannisters.

Wild men in the mountains attack Catelyn and the group of men who helped her capture Tyrion Lannister. Tyrion saves Catelyn’s life in the fight, and her attitude toward him softens somewhat.

King Robert wants Eddard to agree to help murder Daenerys Targaryen so that her unborn child will not one day threaten his kingdom. Eddard refuses and resigns as the Hand of the King. Robert tells him to return to Winterfell or risk execution. A short while later, Eddard and his men are attacked by Jaime Lannister, who wounds Eddard and kills his attendants. After Eddard heals slightly, King Robert apologizes to him and reinstates him as the Hand of the King. Eddard stumbles across some uncomfortable information about King Robert’s children, and Eddard concludes that Queen Cersei’s children are illegitimate. Cersei openly admits to Eddard that her twin brother, Jaime, sired her three children. Eddard advises Cersei to take her children and leave the kingdom because he intends to tell the king about her betrayal.

Catelyn arrives at Eyrie, the home of her sister, Lysa, the widow of Jon Arryn, the first Hand of the King. She finds Lysa in a mentally unstable state. Lysa imprisons Tyrion Lannister because she believes he has played a role in her husband’s death. After Tyrion’s champion wins a trial by combat, Tyrion is set free on the dangerous open road.

Daenerys arrives in the city of Vaes Dothrak to be presented to the medicine women, the dosh khaleen . Daenerys has to eat the fresh heart of a slaughtered stallion to prove that her child will be a strong ruler. At the feast after the ceremony, her drunken brother, Viserys, holds a sword to her pregnant belly and demands that Khal Drogo give him an army. Instead, Drogo melts some gold pieces and kills Viserys by pouring the molten gold on his head.

At King’s Landing, King Robert lies dying and names Eddard as the Lord Protector of the kingdom. When the king dies, Cersei proclaims her son, Joffrey, to be king and has Eddard imprisoned. Littlefinger betrays Eddard, and it is revealed that Eddard’s daughter Sansa also betrayed him unknowingly by telling Cersei his plans.

Jon Snow and other members of the Night’s Watch discover strange bodies in the woods. The corpses have clearly been dead for a long time, but they haven’t decomposed. Jon fights against one of the undead Others who invades Castle Black.

Robb Stark and all his bannermen ride away to King’s Landing to free Eddard from the Lannisters. Robb leaves Bran in charge of Winterfell.

An attempt is made on Daenerys Targaryen’s life, and when Drogo learns that King Robert has sent assassins to kill Daenerys, he decides to take all of his warriors and invade the Seven Kingdoms.

Tyrion Lannister recruits several armies of tribesmen to support him in upcoming battles. Tyrion meets his father, Tywin, at a roadside inn and learns that the Lannister armies have been winning battles all over the land. Tyrion’s tribesmen agree to fight with the Lannisters against the Starks. Tyrion and Tywin win a battle against some of the soldiers sent by the Starks, but meanwhile, Robb Stark and Lady Catelyn win another skirmish against the Lannisters and capture Jaime Lannister.

After sustaining a severe wound in battle, Khal Drogo lies dying. A healing woman named Mirri offers to do a dark magic ritual that will save Drogo. Drogo’s men begin to fight each other, and the camp is in chaos. Daenerys is dragged into the tent where the ritual is happening, and the dark magic kills the child she is carrying. When Daenerys wakes, she learns that the dark magic has saved Drogo’s life but left him in a permanent vegetative state. She smothers her husband to end his ruined life.

In King’s Landing, Arya Stark is disguised as a beggar child, and she watches as her father, Eddard, is publically executed. Sansa is still betrothed to young King Joffrey, who abuses her and enjoys frightening her.

The Stark armies gain ground. Instead of supporting one of King Robert’s brothers as successor to the crown, many lords decide that they will only follow Robb Stark, who they wish to crown as King in the North.

Daenerys builds a funeral pyre for her husband. As his corpse burns, the three dragon eggs that she places on the pyre begin to hatch. Daenerys and her dragons instantly draw the adoration and loyalty of many people, who will one day form her army.

Christian Beliefs

Other belief systems.

The Others are supernatural creatures. They bring cold temperatures with them. When the Others kill Ser Waymar Royce, he rises from the dead and becomes a wight, an undead person.

Each ruling family has its own godswood, a place where the family may go to worship or to seek solitude. Catelyn Stark is not fond of the Stark godswood, which is a memorial to ancient nameless gods, but Eddard finds it comforting. Catelyn comes from a family who belongs to the Faith, a religion that worships a god with seven different faces. Jon Snow decides that he cannot pray to either the old or the new gods because they have not shown him any kindness. After his accident, Bran Stark takes great pleasure in being near the godswood and thinking about the old gods.

Characters pay attention to signs and omens. When the Stark children discover a dead direwolf in the snow and find that the creature was killed by a deer’s antler, people believe that the Baratheon House will destroy the Stark House, because the Starks’ symbol is a wolf and the Baratheons’ symbol is a stag.

The dosh khaleen of the Dothraki are women who function as shamans. They can supposedly foretell the future, and they predict that Daenerys’ child will be the leader who will unite the known world under one banner. Mirri the maegi performs a bloodmagic ritual that saves Drogo’s life by killing his unborn child.

Authority Roles

Eddard Stark is kind to his sons and tries to explain the concepts of justice to them. He makes his sons take responsibility for the direwolf pets they take in, and he warns them about the possible dangers of trying to domesticate wild animals. Eddard routinely asks his wife about the children, and he is involved in their upbringing. Eddard is displeased that his 3-year-old son, Rickon, is afraid of a direwolf pup, because he feels that his children should overcome their fears as soon as possible. He encourages his quarreling daughters, Sansa and Arya, to put aside their differences and love each other as sisters should. He hires an expert swordsman to teach Arya to use her small sword when he learns that his daughter has an interest in fighting. Eddard knows that Joffrey will make a bad match for Sansa, so he tries to take her away from Joffrey and promises that he will find a more worthy husband for her.

Catelyn Stark loves all her children and constantly looks out for their best interests, but she resents her husband’s illegitimate son, Jon Snow. Catelyn does not want to have Jon around her children. When her own son Bran breaks his back and legs, she tells Jon that she wishes he were the one who was injured. Catelyn stays by her comatose son Bran for days, and she fights an assassin who comes to kill him. Catelyn’s hands are cut to the bone by the assassin’s dagger, but she manages to save her son’s life. When Catelyn’s oldest son, Robb, begins to command other men when the war starts, she takes special care to treat him like a grown man in front of his soldiers.

Jon Snow becomes a leader of the young men in the Night’s Watch. He overcomes his own tendency to bully boys who are less skilled at swordplay, and he teaches the common boys how to use their swords. When the sword instructor Ser Alliser pointlessly orders the overweight Samwell to be beaten bloody, Jon stands up to defend him. Jon takes care of Samwell and convinces the other boys to be kind to him.

Samwell Tarly’s father told him that he had to either join the Night’s Watch, or his father would kill him and make it look like an accident.

Tyrion Lannister frequently mentions how his father despises him for his dwarfism and deformity.

Catelyn’s sister, Lysa, calls her own 6-year-old son a baby, pampers him and openly discusses his delicate health and tender feelings. She still breastfeeds the boy.

King Robert Baratheon does nothing to advise or discipline his three children by Cersei, who are actually not his children at all. King Robert has many illegitimate children, and he provides for some of them but never visits them.

Profanity & Violence

Although d–n or a form of it and b–tard , as it refers to Jon Snow, are used profusely throughout the book, a few words are used a number of times, such as variations of h— , b–tch (usually used to refer to a female dog) and s— . The following words are each used a handful of times or less: tit, c–k, a–, the f-word and c–t . After his sister’s marriage, Viserys calls her a whore and a slut instead of using her name.

The Others kill Ser Waymar Royce with their swords. Royce comes back to life as a wight, with a shard of his opponent’s sword still wedged into his eye. Royce chokes Will to death.

Bran Stark is 7 years old when he attends his first public execution. Eddard Stark cuts off a man’s head with his sword. Eddard’s teenage ward kicks the decapitated head and laughs.

Eddard’s older brother Brandon was strangled to death by order of Aerys Targaryen, the previous king. A knight named Ser Ilyn is mute because King Aerys had his tongue pulled out with hot pincers.

At Daenerys’ wedding, men begin fighting, and one of them is cut so badly that his intestines spill out on the ground. Several more men die in fights that break out at the wedding.

Years ago, the infant heir to the Targaryen throne was murdered by being thrown against a wall. Eddard was horrified by the brutality, but he recalls that Robert was pleased by the death of any Targaryen.

Catelyn fights off the assassin sent to kill Bran. She grabs the man’s dagger with both hands, cutting herself deeply. She manages to bite a chunk of flesh from the man’s hand before Bran’s direwolf attacks him. Bran’s wolf rips out the assassin’s throat, which sprays Catelyn with blood.

Sandor Clegane, a knight who serves the Lannisters, hunts down a 13-year-old boy and cuts him nearly in half with his sword. Clegane kills the boy because Prince Joffrey falsely said the boy injured him. Sandor Clegane tells Sansa Stark that his horribly scarred face is the result of his older brother intentionally rubbing his face into hot coals when he was a small child. Eleven-year-old Sansa watches men die while jousting in a tournament.

Old Nan says that the Others let their dead servants eat the bodies of children. Many men suffer bloody deaths during fights.

When Bran Stark defies the men who want to rob him, an outlaw woman suggests that her companions cut off Bran’s genitals and stuff them in his mouth.

As part of an old Dothraki ritual, Daenerys has to eat the bloody heart of a freshly slaughtered stallion to prove that the child she carries will be a strong ruler. Later that night, Drogo kills Viserys by pouring molten gold on top of his head. Daenerys has the medicine woman Mirri burned alive.

Arya Stark runs her sword through a stable boy when he tries to harm her. Joffrey orders his knights to hit Sansa in the face many times. He enjoys showing off her father’s head mounted on a spike.

Sexual Content

Bran has heard rumors about women who live outside the Wall. Some supposedly have sex with the Others in order to have magical, half-human children.

Jon Snow is Eddard Stark’s illegitimate son. Snow is the surname of all illegitimate children in Winterfell. Eddard says that he dishonored himself and his wife by fathering a child outside of marriage.

Viserys Targaryen sexually appraises his 13-year-old sister, Daenerys, to judge how he may benefit from arranging a marriage for her. Viserys strokes and pinches his sister’s clothed breasts. Daenerys has always assumed that she would marry her brother because the Targaryens have always married their siblings to keep their bloodlines pure. Viserys tells his sister that he would gladly let a whole army of men rape her if he could regain his throne by doing so. After her marriage, Viserys grabs his sister’s breast hard enough to cause her pain.

Viserys believes that the Dothraki people practice homosexuality and bestiality. King Robert talks about how the women in his city have very little modesty in the summer and how he enjoys watching them swim naked in the river beneath the castle. King Robert’s insatiable lusts are well-known and frequently discussed, and a major plot point hinges on Jon Arryn’s investigation of Robert’s many illegitimate children.

In one scene, Catelyn and Eddard begin a discussion immediately after having sex. Catelyn hopes that their relations will produce another child. While in their chambers, Catelyn receives a message that shocks her so much that she stands and walks around naked in front of the messenger, old Maester Luwin. Catelyn reassures her husband that this is not problematic because Luwin delivered all her children and has seen her body before.

Seven-year-old Bran witnesses the twins Cersei and Jamie Lannister committing incest. Cersei later admits to Eddard that she and Jaime have been lovers since they were children. Cersei says that King Robert did impregnate her once, but she had an abortion, and since that time she has avoided intercourse with the king.

At Daenerys’ wedding, Daenerys watches people engaging in the Dothraki custom of having group sex in public. Daenerys and Drogo’s consummation of their vows is not described, but they do engage in explicit foreplay. In the early days of their marriage, Drogo will only have sex with Daenerys if she is facing away from him. Daenerys is grateful for this position because it means that he cannot watch her cry. After a few weeks of this, Daenerys asks for marital advice from a former prostitute. After Daenerys learns a few new techniques and positions, she and Drogo both enjoy sex more than they had previously. Later on, Drogo has sex with his wife in public.

Rhaegar Targaryen repeatedly raped Eddard’s sister Lyanna before her death. Littlefinger owns a brothel and hides Catelyn Stark inside it, so the Lannisters do not discover her. The scantily dressed employees of the brothel flirt with their clients.

Several of the teenage boys who work for the Night’s Watch were sent to the cold, remote outpost as punishment for being rapists. They are known by their past crimes and called “the rapers.”

Prostitutes are the subject of many off-color jokes from various characters. Tyrion talks to Catelyn Stark in a sexual manner and makes comments about her body in order to shock her. Tyrion later jokes that he would like to die peacefully in his old age while receiving oral sex. Tyrion has sex with a camp follower named Shae.

The scene is not intended to be sexual, but Catelyn’s sister, Lysa, openly breastfeeds her 6-year-old son.

In Vaes Dothrak, women dance while dressed only in garlands of flowers. Drogo vows to let his men rape the women of the Seven Kingdoms.

Tyrion Lannister tells the story of how he lost his virginity when he was 13 to a peasant girl who was only a year older. He secretly married the girl, but then his brother revealed that he had arranged the entire relationship for Tyrion. The girl was a prostitute, and in order to break Tyrion’s attachment to the girl, his father had her brought to the Lannister castle and made Tyrion watch as she had sex with every man in the castle guard.

Characters discuss giants mating with mortals and say that it is easier for giant women to mate with human men, because when giant men have intercourse with human women, they split them open.

When the Dothraki begin to attack other people groups, Daenerys learns that they intend to sell all the boys and girls they capture. The children will be sent to brothels, where extra money will be paid for the boys. Daenerys hears a girl being raped and stops the Dothraki warriors from continuing to hurt her. Daenerys continues to save every woman she finds being raped and takes the women into custody as her slaves. Daenerys asks her husband to stop his soldiers from any further rape and encourages him to have his men make wives of the conquered women.

Discussion Topics

Additional comments.

Alcohol: Characters drink wine and other types of alcohol. At age 14, Jon Snow is glad that no one is paying attention to him at a feast, because it means that he can drink as much alcohol as he wants.

Drugs: Dying and injured characters are given poppy juice to ease their pain.

Media tie-in: HBO launched a television series based on this book series. It debuted in the spring of 2011.

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A Game Of Thrones by George RR Martin (A Song of Ice and Fire: Book 1)

As warden of the north, Lord Eddard Stark counts it a curse when King Robert bestows on him the office of the Hand. His honour weighs him down at court where a true man does what he will, not what he must ... and a dead enemy is a thing of beauty. The old gods have no power in the south, Stark's family is split and there is treachery at court. Worse, a vengeance mad boy has grown to maturity in exile in the Free Cities beyong the sea. Heir of the mad Dragon King deposed by Robert, he claims the Iron Throne.

Ever since my entry into the heady and wonderful peaks of fantasy literature following the release of the Fellowship of the Ring movie in 2001, I have been hard pressed to find an author greater than the inimitable J.R.R. Tolkien. Robin Hobb’s ‘Realm of the Elderlings’ story tops it in terms of pure enjoyment for me, and Terry Pratchett writes with such skill he too edges out Tolkien. But both authors have fallen short of the sheer scope that Tolkien envisioned and, successfully, created.

Since then, I have only come across two authors who have come close to envisioning and successfully carrying out their literary creations to match Tolkien; Steven Erikson and George R. R. Martin.

Martin’s epic fantasy series, ‘A Song of Ice and Fire,’ has managed to – in both scope and creativity, not to mention simple writing ability – capture and recreate the story that started in Martin’s head. Some authors try, and fail miserably. Some capture and recreate perfectly, but the author’s scope is minimal.

For Martin though, in scope, creativity, and writing ability, A Song of Ice and Fire is everything you want in an epic fantasy tale.

The first book, ‘A Game of Thrones,’ was first released in 1996, and since then another three books have been released, with the fifth hopefully to be released this year (2009). Set in a world very akin to our own medieval history, specifically the English War of the Roses, A Game of Thrones introduces us to one of the greatest (and largest) character lists around.

The story is told from eight perspectives. Each perspective is held within a chapter which, when the characters move away from each other, allows the author to continually leave minor cliff-hangers at the end of each chapter.

While six of the characters from this first book are from the same family, the perspective is shifted around in preceding books. Death is commonplace, almost to the point of horror, but conducted in such a way that it, sadly, reminds us of our own bloody histories. Martin does not shy away from the death, rape and plunder that would have been norm for the setting and in doing so provides a much more complete story.

Mindless destruction is often the cause for character splits and confrontations, and by the end of the book characters you assumed you would be attached too for some time are left headless, gutless or simply gone.

Throughout the entire series Martin focuses almost primarily upon one continent. However there is one character, Daenerys Targaryen, who has been forced to flee to a separate continent as a young girl. At first I remember feeling disorientated and a little slighted at seemingly being provided this perspective which seemed nothing short of pointless. However as I have continued to read, she has become one of my favourite characters.

‘A Game of Thrones’ is without a doubt one of the most involved and simultaneously enjoyable books I have ever read. Dense to the point of labour, but captivating well past my bed time, Martin knows exactly where to draw the line between lots of information and tedious boredom.

If you like Tolkien, or if you like the idea of an epic fantasy series, then you must pick up ‘A Game of Thrones’ as soon as possible. Martin’s ability to create a world both entertaining and disastrously realistic is nothing short of mind numbingly brilliant. Joshua S Hill

The novel, A Game of Thrones, begins with an encounter with supernatural beings; this may give a false impression as to what will come. As the story begins to unfold, the theme moves strongly into the area of political intrigue and this forthcoming war that will happen as a result. The fantasy element, while always there plays only a minor role in the majority of the rest of the book.

A Game of Thrones in not your usual fare, it is hard-hitting and bad things do happen to the good people. Two families take centre stage in a battle for the Throne; the Starks and the Lannisters. The Stark family live in the cold hard North, Winterfell is the seat of their domain. We are, using chapters headlined with the family names, introduced to the Stark family. Once we have familiarised ourselves with the Stark’s, King Robert and his family visit them at Winterfell. King Robert is married to a Lannister, Queen Cersei. The King’s main reason for visiting is to offer Eddard Stark the honour of becoming his Hand (most trusted advisor). Eddard unhappily accepts and he must move to King’s Landing in the South.

Eddard Stark’s young son Bran is injured during the King’s visit, whilst this is originally thought to be an accident that occurred when he was climbing it becomes apparent that the Lannisters played a part in this tragedy.

In an interesting sub-plot Jon Snow, Eddard’s bastard son, joins the “Black” or the “Night’s Watch”, a company of men who’s role is to guard a huge wall of ice in the far North. He is accompanied there by Tyrion Lannister, a dwarf. Although they do not become friends they end up with a grudging respect for each other. Once Jon has pledged himself to the “Black” he must forsake friends, family, marriage and children and his whole life will be spent in the protection of Land.

With Eddard now in place as the King’s Hand, tensions rise between himself and the Lannisters. Then, suddenly one day, the King is killed hunting wild boar and Eddard and the Lannister are drawn into a battle for the throne.

Finally, at the end, the fantasy element once again returns and we are left looking forward to the second instalment.

This is a very good novel, full of twists and turns. It leaves you wanting more and move on to A Clash of Kings. Floresiensis

"Colossal, staggering ... one of the greats" SFX

"Fantasy literature has never shied away from grandeur, but the sheer mind-boggling scope of this epic has sent other fantasy writers away shaking their heads ... It's ambition: to construct the Twelve Caesars of fantasy fiction, with characters so venemous they could eat the Borgais." Guardian

10/10 An epic, action packed starter from George R. R. Martin.

  • Buy on Amazon

Reviews by Floresiensis and Joshua S Hill

101 positive reader review(s) for A Game Of Thrones

243 positive reader review(s) in total for the A Song of Ice and Fire series

George RR Martin biography

Natkrit from UK

This movie is very interesting in it's setting and story line. Character development are so smooth they make you attached to the story. I recommend this series to everyone but keep in mind that it is quite dark.

Game of thrones from Kazakhstan

This is the best book I've ever read. It's gripping. It feels like you are in another world. I recommend it.

Eric from America

This is a great book. I enjoy the brutal realism of the characters and the world that Martin has built.

McIntosh from USA

How are they considering Game of Thrones high fantasy? It seems like the perfect example for low fantasy to me. Most of the show revolves around politics and wars, and magic isn't a normal part of everyday life.

Brecken from USA

There are no books I love more than the A Song of Ice and Fire. Honestly, it deserves so much better than a 9.5 (based on books I've seen with higher ratings that don't measure up nearly as high as ASOIAF). I almost exclusively read fantasy and these books are as good as lord of the rings, in a different way (a very different way). The best thing is they are all about character. In fantasy, characterization is often put to the side so that cool battles and fun magic can be explored more. There are only two characters in the entire series that I know are the bad guys, and the author even has me feeling bad for them at some points. Every character feels real, and there are moments where I have hated every one of them, and moments where I have loved them. They all develop over time in ways that you can barely notice until it hits you that, wow, that character isn't evil anymore. There are a million plot lines, and each one is very real. No one cheats, no one can "just do the magic thing" to get out of a situation. Actions have consequences. Our favorite characters die, and the bad ones get to live. It is extremely well written, fast paced in some places and slow in others. The books have a depth that make you want to read the series over and over again so you can find out just what is going on with the characters, and catch all of the hints and symbolism the author puts in there. I will never look at fantasy the same again, this series has changed my world view.

Kath from England

Takes a while to read and some parts are slow but the storyline is amazing and I highly recommend.
I loved AGOT. An absolute masterpiece. I could not put it down even if I had wanted to.

Sundar from Lal

This book, and the other books published of the series, are as impressive and amazing piece of literature. The characters in the story are superb. I read these book and absolutely had to recommend them to every book buddy.

Rebekah from New Zealand

This thick, material crammed book is written so brilliantly that it is impossible for one to get bored whilst reading. I enjoy the fact that everyone is somehow connected in the story, no matter how far away they all seem from each other. What additionally made this novel awesome was that at each end of chapters, GRRM would leave a cliff-hangar, forcing you to read on till it's 3:34 on a school morning. I would rate this book 11/10 is I could.

Ewan from Scotland

This book was the first book I finished on my own and not being forced (English in school). This book is so good that it made me, someone who would never even try a book. Get into reading, you know it's good.

Alice from England

I will give it just over half stars, purely because I think that the concept is brilliant, and the series begins very strongly, with the first book in particular being excellent. However, sadly, what could have been an explosive series slowly dissolved into an anti climax with absolutely nothing happening. Book one, and most of book two are very good, book three has some interesting parts, although admittantly it begins to loose structure, book four however, I struggled with despite flying through the preceding books and I gave up on book five. It seems that the interesting characters that Martin established in the first book have either been killed off or their storylines have dried out and have subsequently been replaced with much less interesting characters and storylines. All in all, the disappointment factor when reflecting upon what this story could have been is perhaps the worst thing about it. It could have been great, and it has its moments, but when you look at the potential that Martin had to begin with, which slowly dissolves into nothing, it's just such a shame that he couldn't carry it out and that's the worst thing about the series, the dreadful waste of potential. Still, I wouldn't say avoid it completely, just be aware that this story will probably not play out the way you had hoped and you may well find yourself as disappointed as I was.

Alex from Greece

I absolutely loved it, the whole idea, the writting style... but damn I have to admit that the fourth book was bloody boring. I do not get why everyone disses that "Dance with Dragons" (fifth) book though. I found it quite interesting.

Maria from US

"Six" as a rating is deceptive. I gave 10 to the first three books, and single stars to the last two books, and 6-7 is what I got. Sadly, the last two books take all the momentum of the first three, and flush it down the toilet. I wish they didn't. I'm waiting for book six, and hoping that Martin gets his act together, but at this point the story is so bloated that it's unlikely to happen. If anyone wants an excellent series that moves like a well-oiled machine from start to finish, try Joe Abercrombie's First Law trilogy.

Wayne from US

Awesome book, enticing read. Love the series and people complaining how it's poorly written... Seriously?This is really a great series, not a single one of you could even come close to matching Martin's writing.

Jayne from United States

For a while, I've been trying to figure out how I feel about these books (I've read all 5). They're a deviation from the traditional fantasy storyline (hero that overcomes all vs. true evil) and I can appreciate and respect Mr. Martin's boldness. I do think he does it well, the story is well written and always keeps you guessing. I didn't have a problem with the multiple characters and their separate chapters (I made it through the Wheel of Time series and loved it), but I did have a problem with caring what happens. I like that Mr. Martin has no qualms about killing off whatever character needed to die and the revolving complexity of the plot is really interesting. But honestly, what I think he lost between the multiple characters and their impermanence was making me care about the character. I think he shows their negative sides much more than any goodness in them and in not knowing how long they're going to be around, I found myself avoiding getting too emotionally involved in their stories to the point that I just don't really care what happens to them anymore. I also agree with another reviewer here in that somewhere the overall plot gets lost. Also I'm just confused about the role of the whole "winter is coming" idea - I would like to see that come to more prominence because I could see that forcing everyone to set aside their differences and their petty politics to fight a common foe - and it's seemed like that since the very first chapter. Overall, I say kudos to Mr. Martin for daring to break the traditional fantasy conventions and hopefully opening a whole new realm of possibilities for other writers but I hope that after this series, he learns from his mistakes and writes a much better one. I give it 6 stars for boldness, creativity, interesting characters and good writing.

Felix from America

An absoloutely brilliant novel. In my opinion, A Game of Thrones is one of the greatest fantasy novels ever written by one of the best authors ever. George RR Martin is able to capture emotions and build suspense and leaves you wanting more. A truly great novel.

Jake from Australia

To all the haters, you're entitled to your opinion. I like to recall the story of how the producers of the TV show read a part of the first book and were immediately overwhelmed, impressed, taken by the imagery, the ambience, the sense of place and the characters. So, at least 2 people in the world were touched by the book. Now that's 2 more than a lot of other writers.

Anthony from UK

To those who say the writing isn't good, I challenge you to write at Martin's level. You'd fail. The different pespectives add depth to the story but I understand that some people might have trouble understanding.

d'Argantel from Japan

Since so far I read but Game of Thrones, the first book to the series. I wish to note that in no mean I judge the series alltogether. G.R.R. Martin have created an interesting world with lots of likeable charachters, epic story and unique in a sense playing with reader... The problem I have is that it's boring. No, not the story, however overdone and simple, but the narrative. Never have I reade such flat descriptions and emotionless dialouge, not to mention forced expositions... Honestly , the idea of charachter perspective told story with each chapter being presented from pov of different one involved in an event is nice, the execution is less than impressive. If not for the HBO show I would have hard time getting into the presented world. Another thing are all the Deus Ex Machina literaly forcing the plot to continue the intended way. [spoiler] Honestly no one thought that it is odd that before Joffrey there was no other Baratheon of blond hair?[/spoiler] To be honest I am almost sure the whole book series was written from the very first page to be made into a movie or, as it came to be, tv series. HBO patches some holes, adds here, takes away there and makes the story overall better and of course... Puts life into the charachters and dialogue! I hope the other books of the series are better because so far my jaw hurts from yawning.

Gordon from Oklahoma, USA

A Game of Thrones, and the rest of the Fire and Ice series, are the finest stories I have read in many years, and I am a prolific reader who enjoys many different categories of literature. After having read Tolkien's Lord of the Rings trilogy as well as the Hobbit a few years ago while the Peter Jackson movies were being progressively released, I am of the opinion that "A Game of Thrones" and the entire Fire and Ice series to this point are several steps above anything Tolkien ever wrote. An added bonus is the result of HBO is doing a great job of bringing the Fire and Ice books to the homes of people who would never consider picking up a 1000 page novel. Anybody who bothers to read each of the books from both writers can count themselves lucky to be able to enjoy such well written literature. For those who have seen the HBO series and enjoyed it so far, you should read A Game of Thrones and decide for yourself if the written material is superior to the theatrical release. I would also put this series above the Harry Potter books and movies.

Emily from England

Read it because of the series on television and am not ashamed. It does include adult scenes, which I thought fitted the atmosphere of the novel and I am a teenager, so it is understandable I would find them more awkward... I didn't. You can't complain about not understanding the novel if you don't read all of it, including the 'boring' parts. All the Tolkien lovers need to broaden their horizons. GRRM isn't trying to be Tolkien, he's an epic writer on his own with his own style.

Kah from Brazil

This is modernity, I guess. The way of narrating a story has certainly changed. Things are about discourse and action, now. "Less plot" and "more character". This is a great epic which is providing nice adaptations. Of course, the plot is very long and, because of this, its quality oscilates sometimes. I myself didn't like the fourth book (the first three books were an amazing experience) and the fifth has been little playful. But this is not about comparing G.R.R.M to Tolkien or Lewis. This is about accepting what this generation is producing and understand it withouth making anacronisms.

Thomas from England

I would like to point out that the book being reviewed is Game Of Thrones, not the whole series, A Song Of Ice And Fire, which many people seem to be forgetting...

Eric Showatt from Australia

People seem to think the reason why the opinion about this series is so divided because the way the author kills off the character and the amount of angst, miseries this series content. While this may seem like a plausible reason, the real reason is actually far more simple. Game of Thrones sucks. Period. Now I'm not here to troll or bash the author - I'm here to review this series honestly. There is no doubt in my mind that GRRM is one of the most prolific writer of our time. His world building ability is on par with Tolkien, and the character he has created are very realistic and interesting. One can almost read Game of throne like an alternative history if we forget all the magical element within the story. The political motivation of each character are very well defined and the consequences for failure in this series are heavy - you are lucky if you managed to die a clean death, as is the case with Ned Stark. He died, sure, but there are many character who ended up wishing they were dead but couldn't quite manage it because their tormentors prevent them from doing so. There is beauty in this book. Beauty in the finality of death and the cruelty of living. However... I would like to ask every reviewer and every reader of Game of Thrones, what is the actual plot of this series? Lots of things happen, sure. You get loads and loads of characters. Each of them have their own arc. Some gets killed off, some don't, but are any of them truly relevant? Just consider this for a second and you will see what an appalling story the series is - it's not actually a story. It's many story woven into one book, like a game that contains several character sheet and no main plot whatsoever. Things unfold, but it's just things that happens. If I were to describe what this story is about, I would simply say "It's a book about a bunch of things that happened in a land called Westeros", and that's pretty much what the series has become by the end of the third book. Now I will go on to say that the first book is simply breath taking. There is actually a plot, and the characters pov are consistent and - most importantly - relevant. You get the honorable idiot Ned Stark who is trying to figure out why Jon Arryn was killed, while his wife and kids are trying to figure out who pushed Bran off the balcony. The two conspiracies tied together, because what Bran witnessed was the key to Ned Stark's hunt for the reason why Jon Arryn is killed and why he is becoming involved in the first place. The subplot with Dany? That's just the icing on the cake, like something that you can either read or ignore completely. The tradition continues on to the second book, after Ned stark's tragedy, the land is divided and the war happens. We see the brutal aftermath, we see the people fighting for the Iron Throne. While the plot began to dwindle after the first book, the characters are presented with one goal - that is to fight for the Iron Throne, with a subplot of getting their loved ones back to safety. However, after the third book everything went downhill. The war is more or less resolved. The winner and losers are already evident. Major character are killed off, new ones are introduced but none of them are coherent anymore. Everything literally becomes "just shit that happens", and the entire series has become a wait for "something to happen". And that's why the series has become such a disappointment in so many eyes. If anyone has to ball to say GRRM can't write for a damn, they have no business in writing or creative industry in general. However, if anyone says reading A Song of Ice and Fire is becoming increasingly pointless, then you have my sympathy. I've no doubt that things are going to change now that Dany and Tyrion is coming back to the mainland to reclaim their home, but as it stands today, Game of Thrones is a massive disappointment that has a strong beginning but poorly executed plot throughout the middle.

Manpreet from India

This book is full of all the emotions and elements; this book is a journey full of violence, treachery, loyalty honesty, love, families, romance, conspiracies, back stabbing and much more. Read the complete review of the book - GAME OF THRONES on my blog - http://manpreetkaur93.blogspot.in/2013/03/book-review-game-of-thrones.html

Maja from Croatia

I studied literature and know that some of the best books ever written did not develop stories, characters and endings the way the audience wants or deserves. It's not a matter of a compromise. However, these days, for the fact of globalisation we as readers want to think that the book, the author and the reader are one big factory. I prefer waiting for each book sequence in suspense, even if it does not satisfy my expectations. JRRM's Song of Ice and Fire in my opinion is simply amazing, and it's definitively not easy to read. It's like an expanding storm that swirls the characters and plots in concentric circles. Consumes time for sure, and if you think it's too long - you should read shorter books. If you think it's overly descriptive - you're missing the beauty of visualisation of every spot and object and character, when you should be grateful to JRRM for letting you see what he is seeing. It's not a one-read-book and will show you something new every time you reread.

Hans from Belgium

I enjoyed reading it. And i will finish it. This is mainly because i believe the story has enormous potential to end , and i quote the great academic J Clarkson , on ' a bombshell'. But i do have to critisize a bit. The book is frustratingly long. To long. 5 books would have sufficed. At this point i'm acctually just hoping jrrm doesnt screw up the ending his readerers/fans deserve.

Jonathan from United States

This is a great and wonderful read, from start to finish it keeps you guessing and gets you involved with each and every character, so much so that you find yourself falling in love with each one of them, even the not so nice ones, and if you see a bad rating it's simply because that person did not get it or understand the plot.

Anon from Sydney, Australia

It's not that the author is trying to say that good people die, it's just that a lot of people really don't get what goes on. It's the most cunning and luckiest that survive. The characters do tend to change quickly from time to time, which would level my rating down a bit, and some of the characters I love to hate. It is unpredictable and the last two books have been a droll, again lowering my rating. Overall, it's a great fantasy book, and better in quality than a lot of other fantasy novels. The lore is immersive and detailed, though some parts unecessary. The book may have started out as Lancaster vs York (as in War of the Roses, which is what the books are based on) but now it's turned into a massive fight for dominance over land and power, with no one exactly safe and leaving a lot of hype. Do hope Martin picks up in the next book and hurries it up a bit. And I don't get why people say the good guys always lose... most of the characters are grey and do what they believe is right. The good guys occasionally triumph. For the people saying that they want to argue why it's not good, wish there was a comment section.

Jon from UK

Captain Frogbert, you a clearly a moron who is obsessed with LOTR. I really don't even know where to start with how wrong you are on every point you made in your review of this book. If you are really that upset with this book you should just go read LOTR another eleventy twelve times and leave the rest of us alone.

Anon from Anon

OMG I have just finished the blooming lot of them and I have to exactly the same confusion, I am utterly exasperated that barely a plot line has been concluded... The whole thing after the quite good Clash of Kings has become an utter nonsense, time I will never get back.

Sean from Australia

It's ok. He's not a particularly good writer, in terms of characterisation (some of the pov writing of the younger characters is execrable) and the book is pointlessly long. I have severe difficulty in accepting that any reader who gave this book 10 stars has seriously thought at all about the possibility that a 15 year old could successfully lead a hardened army into battle without a viceroy pulling he tactical strings or that a 4 year old would be capable of being the master of a a wild wolf... Ok it's fantasy, but that doesn't mean it has to be total b.s. If it wasn't for Tyrion the book would stink quite badly. Convolution is no substitute for good writing, by the way. Good for fantasy writing but it ain't great... Watch the series instead, still contains a teeth- gratingnumber of 'yes, my liege' type conversations, but again, Tyrion saves the day.

Guy from England

I am outraged at the position of this series on the top 100 list. This should be at least second (the Malazan Book Of The Fallen is also AWSOME). Out of the many, many books that I have read these are my favourite: the many interwoven storylines are well thoughtout and presented. The books set a new level of fantasy, portraying a brutal, gritty and mature story with many hundreds of realistic characters. There are no good vs evil here, no super powered imortal heroes. Martin is a master writer, he leaves you laughing and weeping and it is extremly easy to loose yourselve in his world. Once I got the first book (purchased on a whim) I was hooked and had read the whole series on the inside of a month. READ!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

John from John

Incredible. Simply incredible. Best high fantasy series I have ever read.

Andy from uk

the most engrossing read i just couldnt put it down. the first and third books are by far the best in the series up to this point in fact i read the third book in a fortnight. it does however contain an enourmous amount of characters and book four and five do meander somwhat however they are worth reading if not just for the character of ramsey bolton who is perhaps the most despicable creation ever to polute prose. overall a satisfying read and i just hope GRRM finishes the series before time catches up with him

John from Australia

Possibly one of the best series I've read in a while, every chapter is a cliff hanger.

Fateh from Canada

"Words are wind" go read the book to see for yourself how amazing it is!

Uday from Canada

I think most of the readers giving negative remarks just either can't take the complexity of the story or are the kind of people that have to have everybody live and have a corny happy ending. I mean one of the great things that GRRM has done with this series is how he makes you really love the characters-yes even Cersei- and how he isn't afraid of actually killing off those characters. That alone makes the story so much more interesting and suspenseful, because you never know when any character might die. Also, as for those of you saying that you don't see the importance of characters like Jon, Dany and Sansa you just haven't read far enough into the series. They're chapters become very interesting and you can really relate to them. The first three books have to be the best. The characters are rich, writing style superb, more of the fantasy and magic further on in the series and way the chapters are split really make you see things on a much larger scale and make you appreciate the effort of all that detail even more. Another thing, it takes lots of superb writing and imagination to not just use the "magic" part of fantasy to solve all of the conflicts, and than you can appreciate characters like Tyrion who use their intellect a lot more. If you liked the Wheel of Time I feel you will like the Song of Ice and Fire series just as much or more.

Jake from United States

Personally, I find people who really criticize this series only look at things on the surface (it's too long, too many characters, too graphic, poor characters, etc.). They don't look at things deeper, try and see why things are the way they are, and just think of this great series as a pointless kill fest. In reality, a lot of the space is meant to build tension and expand on things, the characters are much deeper than people give them credit for, and if you can't follow along then there is nothing I can do for you. Also, why would anyone say Martin's writing is bad? I think his prose is excellent and really develops emotion, atmosphere, and setting.

Wes from Australia

First off - this series isn't for everyone. It introduces a lot of characters, so if you struggle with that you won't like it. Second, no one is safe. For this, I love the series. But for many people who need to have their heroes survive - you will hate this. Third, the writing is long - but beautifully written, and I think some people will miss a lot of the intricacies and don't quite get the writing style. This series breaks a lot of convention, but if you can handle that and have the patience you will love it! If you struggle with multiple characters, need a safe happy warm ending and like a more traditional style this series isn't for you, and frankly that is where a lot of these negative comments are coming from. Also many of the negative reviews abandoned the series early on, and in my opinion the second volume of Storm of Swords is where it gets amazing. One reviewer felt characters got killed off and the story arcs ended there - to that, I say they aren't getting the bigger picture, but I won't say specifics as not to reveal any spoilers. Bear in mind it will be years before the next book, so if you don't want to wait that long (and possibly many years after that for the final book) then you might want to avoid the series. Otherwise, great read.

Jon from England

Overall, a very good series. The first three books are excellent (the third truly brilliant, 10/10 if considered in it's own right, in my opinion). The last two not so good, but still a reasonable read (I'm hoping that Martin will pick up his game again for the next books). It's been levelled here that he's not the best writer in the world and that's probably fair, but then neither was Tolkien (and he was an Oxford don) and I'm unlikely to read Erikson or Jordan for their literary value either, if it comes to it. He tells a good story and, whilst they're not as atypical as some reviews might like to suggest, he creates characters that you actually care about. This is evidenced here by the number of peole moaning about how he's killed off their favourite characters - it wouldn't upset you if you didn't like them. One thing that I particularly like about the series is the sparing use of magic. It's always been an annoyance in fantasy that when faced with a difficult situation, the writer could (quite literally) wave a magic wand at it. It also increases the impact on the reader when there actually is magic. As a result, this isn't a series for fans of more overtly magical fantasy. There aren't wizards, elves, goblins and orcs pouring out of the woodwork here. I think that due to the size of the series, there are now a lot of plot strands for Martin to hold together. This means that, firstly, it's tough to follow some times and secondly, it's tough for Martin to write. As a result, it takes him a while to get each installment written, so you need patience and a good memory. Finally, there's a lot of sex and violence. Really, who cares? Get over it.

Bob from England

This is a fantastic book but too little action and its quite slow to start.

Ivan from Canada

Wow, these books are incredible. Best books I've ever read. Do not listen to the trolls calling it poorly written. The number of different story lines and character incentives is incredible.. Probably too much for some readers to understand and they get lost with the amount of characters. Do yourself a favour and get these books!!!!!

Brett from Canada

Not sure if half the people are elitest or the other half are fanboys but I found the book very engrossing, funny and angering at times although I hate that he killed off my 3 favorite characters.

Maurice from Cayman Islands

Anyone not loving this series must be seriously dull or retarded. I have an IQ of 147, making me a genius and have read just about all the great fantasy series. This series yields to none.

Alex from Italy

The best book I ever read, just finished the third book and I can't get enough of it!

Andy from Ottawa, Canada

When I read these books (and I did read 1-5) there was not one moment where I was not totally into it. Once you get to know the characters, the books get better and better all the time... never mind the sex and the battles (for all you action thrillers who need "Actions" all the time). After book 1-3 there are no requirements for big battles scenes at least until the characters are deemed ready to do so. Its fantasy, its action, its drama, its horror, its all I need all at once. George R.R. Martin did a great achievement so far writing this most excellent story and I'm sure the next two books will be as good as the first five. - Cersei is sooooo cunning!

Veronique from Canada

The best book I have ever read!

Plato from Timbuktu

Nice writing style, excellent plot, amazing world. I love how Martin weaves together seemingly unconnected plotlines and shows us so many perspectives, giving us a much more sophisticated understanding of the story. The world Martin created is awesomely huge and complicated, although the endless introductions of new characters can be hard to get into. Also, the not-deaths get pretty annoying after a while. Other than this, I have no criticism for the series, and am eagerly awaiting the release of the 6th book.

JW from Canada

The best series of books ever written, IMHO. Martin is the Shakespeare of our time.

Nat from India

Well I had heard a lot about this book online and saw that it had got great reviews from everyone, moreover the HBO series of AGOT was also there so I finally decided to read this one.The book is um something very unique and good in its own way. It's gritty and mature more to the extent than I had anticipated, the plot is laid out brilliantly. The storyline and characters are good though it seems that Martin according to me didn't satisfactorily end it. The tortures through which the characters are put through and it seems that Martin's focus on keeping things like this makes me wonder that there won't be a great ending to this thing and things would cross to such an extent that it wouldn't matter at all. One more thing is that it's surprising a bit that there is absolutely next to no magic though there are some fantasy elements but for most of the times it seems like maybe a non fantasy novel. The book was with all things still great. Full of twists and surprises. Definitely a good read though maybe not for everyone.

Jani from Finland

I can't really understand many of the reviews posted here. The sex scenes I don't have a problem with. It's not like they are great, but I don't get ticked off about them either. The only complaint I agree with is the occasionally dull storyline (Arya's chapters mostly) but there are just more good chapters than bad. But the thing I really don't get is the overwhelming complaining of G.R.R. Martin killing the likeable characters. I mean come on people! SPOILERS!: The only important and likeable characters he has killed have been 1) Ned, who's from the old storyline like Robert with most of his grand deeds already done, 2) Robb, who was NOT a POV, and clearly not invested in storywise as much as his bastard brother, 3) Khal Drogo, again not a POV, 4) Oberyn Martell, appears only in like 4 chapters, not a POV, 5) Renly, not POV, his death making great room for Stannis character arc, 6) Tywin, who also was not a POV, and his death granted a great boost for Tyrion's character arc. I might be forgetting someone but not anyone special. Remember, Catelyn DOES NOT die, Bran and Rickon don't die either, not Davos, not Tyrion, not Jaime, not Daenerys, not Brienne, not Arya and it also seems that the Hound is still alive, working with his sins as are gravedigger. I am pretty sure that Jon doesn't die in book 5 either, just another Martin cliffhanger. A lot of the unlikeable characters have died. Joffrey, The Mountain, Balon Greyjoy and Theon is a spacecase. SPOILERS END. I myself found the books great, but a rating of 9 is accurate because George is occasionly stretching the storyline through cliffhangers and dull chapters.

Frank from Cork

The best fantasy series of all time in my opinion. It's a complex plot that makes you work and even re-read the books to pick up the clues, but if you do then you will be rewarded. It's not for everyone and if you want instant gratification, black and white good guys and bad guys, clean-cut dragon-slaying heroes, evil wizards, etc., or if you need to have the plot spoonfed to you, then ASoIaF is not for you. If you're the type of idiot who skips whole chapters and still expects to get something from the book, then ASoIaF is most certainly not for you. GRRM is a genius and this series is a brilliantly woven masterpiece. That said, I'm not surprised by some of the negative comments, there will always be people who prefer the likes of 50Cent to Beethoven.

Matt Cole from Vancouver BC

If writers are Gods - and they are - then George R.R. Martin is Zeus, King of Gods. Martin flawlessly weaves a tale of epic fantasy to launch, which is arguably the best fantasy series ever ( I know The Lord of The Rings and The Malazan Empire have their fans). Game of Thorns achieves not only because of a great plot, which does not stagnate, but because of the intriguing characters, both male and female, that are brought to life through Martin's skill. Tyrion, Sandor Clegane (the Hound), Cersei, Arya, and Daenerys are particularly memorable. This first installment is not heavily loaded with magic and the supernatural. Other than the appearance of a supernatural race in the opening pages and again briefly later on, and the emergence of other mythological creatures in the closing pages, Game of Thrones is devoid of magic and the supernatural. The conflict is among men and women, noble houses positioning themselves for the throne of a Kingdom. The book is laden with political intrigue, conspiracy, ambition, and hidden family secrets. Still, while the great houses maneuver for control of the throne, the reader is ever aware of a long dormant evil, that may rise to threaten the populace of the seven kingdoms. I am looking forward to getting into Clash of Kings & Storm of Swords and beyond. As per the suggestion from other reviewers that this book is too explicit, I can say I have no idea where this is coming from. I would not consider either the sex or violence in this book too explicit. Certainly Steven Erikson and R. Scott Bakker have gone farther in their series.

John from Ljubljana

I have read the first three books and they are all fantastic to read; they involve everything a great fantasy book needs. The series has an absurd amount of astonishingly realistic characters who couldn't be more different and yet at the same time they are all still the characters inhabiting this amazing fantasy world. I fell in love with the Game of Thrones almost immediately, mainly because of unexpected turns and twists, that are not so common in this genre. I highly recommend it to all fantasy fans out there.

Cat Fitzpatrick from London, UK

I think a main reason why there is such a difference in opinion regarding this series is that the fantasy element is very small compared to the huge volume of story. The main strength of A Song of Ice and Fire lies in the politics of a kingdom embroiled in a civil war where there isn't just two armies battling for the throne, there are up to seven various forces struggling to lay claim to either part or the whole of Westeros. There are very good characters that come through - Tyrion Lannister for one is really interesting, and I really like the deviousness of Petyr Baelish - but as you go through the books the volume of characters increases, which can swamp the story in parts, and characters can vanish for quite a long time whilst the others are worked through. The story can be quite slow and repetitive, and not enough time is spent to really build all of the main characters as well as they could be. Sex is also overused with everybody at it like rabbits or raping their way up and down the length of Westeros. However, some great set pieces are developed such as the use of wildfire in a river battle, and if you like epic stories this is richly detailed if maybe too over ambitious as to the amount of stuff crammed in. It's worth a read, but takes a lot of investment of time to get to the good bits.

James from Philadelphia

This is one of my favorite series of all time. Being able to understand so many different characters' perspectives on the books' events makes the series an extremely interesting read. Books 1-3 are absolutely brilliant. 4 and 5 are a little less so, but I partly chalk that up to the fact that you only see half the POV characters in each. I am eagerly awaiting the final two installments and I hope they can live up to the promise that the series has shown up till now.

J�rn from Hagalid

Amzing is an understatement.

Erik from Ohio

The first three books are great. They held my attention throughout with lots of different things happening in the same time period due to the variety of characters. I like the setup of writing chapters about certain characters, and it's even more exciting when one character's fate brings them alongside another main character in the same chapter. I wish GRRM would have kept the Starks intact with their direwolves completing the immensely strong family, but it's not all happy endings in life either.

Modesto from New York

This is a great adult fantasy series. This story is not for everyone. Especially for people who like sexy elves and tough dwarfs... Not for those who seek instant gratification. This is fantasy, a whole new fantasy, an adult fantasy. I love how people are mad that certain characters are killed off but yet they bash the book, if you were not hooked and attached to the character you wouldn't care someone got knocked off. So that is what GRRM does, he hooks you right in, (**SPOILER**) I see a lot of complaints over Ned's death, Ned is in the book maybe a handful of chapters, HAHA. (**End of Spoiler**) Sure there is a lot of fill in but that makes the world he created bigger, brighter, darker, dangerous, sexier and more alive than most reads out there today. This story is fantasy, thriller, exotic and poetic, you can argue it's real, if Westeros existed and Dothraki... That is how people would have lived, killed and ventured. It would be A Song of Ice and Fire!

George from Toronto

This story is the best ever written in any genre, period. The first book is a wonder, the second is as good, and the third is best in the series. I agree, the fourth and fifth aren't my favourites. But they're still above-average. I can't wait to see how the story concludes -- Martin is planning a total of 7 books. I read some of the negative reviews. The ones who are negative put right in their review that they skipped chapters. What? Martin is a genius story teller, he didn't write 1,000 pages for his health. It was for a purpose. If you skip a chapter, how on earth can you complain if the rest of the story stops making sense? The man is a God. I read Erikson, Tolkien, Rothfuss, Hemmingway, and also crap like the Hunger Games. Martin's story is #1 by a significant margin.

Claire from Cardiff

Finished reading 'Game of Thrones' last night. Now I am just falling out of bed to get to my nearest bookshop for 'A Clash of Kings'. Yup. It's that GOOD! Haven't been able to put it down...

Kaleb from Colorado

After having just finished reading the first book in the series. Anyone who says it is boring or not well written has odd to questionable taste. This book is easy to read and I found my self engrossed in the plot and totally lost in the world the author created. Martin leaves it no secret that characters make the story. I don't see how people can be so quick to criticize. I have only read the 1st book, but I would say Martin is the equivalent of Hemmingway when it comes to the Fantasy genre. I was lost at times due to the amount of characters, but between watching the show and reading the novel, it wasn't that bad. The book definitely is better than the series. The HBO writers tried to make it adaptable to their style shows. There are gay references, an over emphasis on sex, and it strays from the dialogue of the book where I thought it would be better to just be faithful to the book. Overall an amazing read and I'm looking forward to the 2nd book.

Alex from Alaska

This is a different kind of fantasy book. This is my favorite of the 5 books out so far in the series. I like it because it lays such a powerful groundwork. (Spoiler alert). I thought the prologue with the Others was an introduction to a world of magic and wizardry. Much the opposite. Eddard Stark goes south, I thought to right the wrongs of the kingdom. No, he dies. I felt like Sansa in the book - I grew up reading 'fantasy' novels where good wins and good and evil are clear and heroes did great more than human things. But Martin is not interested in that kind of story - he is telling history the way it happens - to individuals involved in the muck. I was drawn to the book for its fantasy roots, but in truth this is a book for anyone interested in political thrillers or history buffs. It's like reading the diaries of many historical figures, and putting the history together that way, as a historian does it. I don't think it's accurate to refer to Martin as the American Tolkien. Few characters in Tolkien's world are interested in being human. They are superbly good or superbly bad. I prefer to compare him to Victor Hugo, specifically to Les Miserables, which goes into great detail in order to explain a moment in a characters life. The book doesn't tell you the moment is important, because it has BECOME important. Such is the ability of Martin to cause us to care about his characters. Must-read.

John from New York

Do not listen to the low rated reviews. Anyone who claims that "nothing is happening" or that the characters "lack depth" are probably not capable of picking up on how much is actually happening in the book.

Ben from California

I can't see why people are so divisive in their reviews of this book... I almost listened to the negative comments, and I'm glad I didn't! It is extremely entertaining for those who like to actually read, and I suggest any fan of the fantasy genre to pick it up immediately. You'll find yourself rooting for characters you wouldn't think to -Tyrion Lannister is perhaps the best anti-hero I've ever read. READ IT!

Michael Patrick from Niceville, Florida

Great series. I'm on the second book and like them so far. Many of these reviews have said that as you progress the writing gets weaker, but so far I see no cause or effect of that. Bottom line great series similar to Tolkien but easier to understand and not so boring.

Joel from Australia

These comments seem to be either at the bottom or the top of the scale. It's quite confusing, really. I'm currently on the second book and loving it, the main flaw I have is that I find Bran's character and his chapters are boring, but that's subjective. Aside from that, I recommend these books if you aren't afraid of some adult themes.

Simao from Vila Nova de Cacela

Excellent book, a must read, Tyrion lannister is simply incredible, lots of twists. Incredibly written.

Anders from Norway

An excellent book! If you like action fantasy you should deffinitly read this book.

Chris from Middlesbrough

Excellent book, loved the structure of it. the series was a little dissapointing (only minor things such as Tyrion's war efforts not being the same as in the book, and possibly a general low 'first series' budget). I'm just instantly thrown into the fictional world that GRRM created and wish that I'd lived in times like that myself!.. Brilliant

Jessica from Belgium

Nearly finishing book 2 - A Clash of Kings - of the ICE & FIRE Series, this is indeed an incredible way of writing , capturing times that we will never know. Because of the multiple character roles, you get different perspectives of the storyline and the plots combined. Reads a lot more fluent then Lord of the rings ever did. Highly recommendable author. This is what fantasy really needs to be .. I won't be surprised if these were filmed by James Cameron or Steven Spielberg one day.

Mike from Pittsburgh

I just don't understand how some reviewers are giving this series less than nine stars and are calling the writing middle school level. Martin's prose is leagues above any modern fantasy writer and is better then Tolkien in my opinion. I have read some good modern fantasy, namely Erikson and Sanderson, and none of them even come close to matching the character depth and plot development that Martin weaves. Hands down, this is the greatest fantasy series of all time.

Gary from Vancouver, BC

This book will always have a special place in my heart for it's heavily inspiring story-line. George R.R. Martin has the vigorous spirit to lift this tale of the altered Europe (via medieval period), with plenty of appealing characters which seem astute as they are tantalizing. The fact that it doesn't follow a typical mono myth had me interested, because many high fantasy that I have read, had done so. Overall this book had a few faults (What book doesn't?) though it was an enriching tale.

Kyle from Kentucky

HMMMMMM.... lets imagine for a second, you're stuck in a time period where there are no cell phones, security cameras or even police around to keep the naughty kids from coming out to play. What do you think would happen? Probably wouldn't be pretty, but we now chose to forget that our morals of today weren't the morales of ancestors. They didn't have welfare or the Salvation Army, if you were hungry or freezing you would probably have to do some pretty bad things to better your situation. And if you've bashed a man's head in for a chunk of bread some of the other things that GRRM writes about probably wouldn't seem to bad. I think he does an excellent job capturing the morale dilemmas of the time period. If you think murder, rape and incest weren't common in that time period then you're extremely naive! Great book though, do read.

Connor from America

I find it funny how the shallow reader claims this book is all about good versus evil when it's really about how people are neither good or evil but GRRM is a great writer and one I will gladly keep following.

Zuzurlo from Italy

Stunning! That's what this serie is! I couldn't even sleep because I had to read more and more. It's the best around for whoever is not afraid of a little adult content. The only downside is that it's 2 books and many years short of the end.

Tony from UK

My god how is this series not in the top ten! George RR Martin is the American Tolkien. A Song of Ice and Fire is top notch adult fantasy and there is a good reason why these books are best sellers. The current rating here is not a good advertisement for the website. I voted 10/10 to try and bump it up a bit.

Aaron from Australia

An engaging and thrilling start to a fanastic series, Game of Thrones is fantasy filled with political intrigue, double crosses, betrayals and shocking reversals. The characters of Game of Thrones are the stand out feature, with deep personailites, it's difficult to identify who the real heroes and villains are (and after five books I still don't know). Oddly these reader reviewers have been hijacked by puritans who feel compelled to descibe the books as dull AND obscene. Allow me to retort: what a load of bollocks. While sex and violence are elements of the book, they're never used gratuitously. Anyone who claims the books are pruile or offensive, or that they felt ill reading them, obviously hasn't read many novels above a Harry Potter reading level. There's more explicit content in the 117 bible verses that make Song of Songs of Solomon.

Rod from West Country

I saw the HBO mini series, and thought that the book is usually better, I will read it. I am so pleased I did! Absorbing, Super Epic, no one is safe, not the heroes, not the villains. There is magic but malevolant........ Downside only five books...

William from London

I think that this is a good read, however, having read four of the books now, I am struggling to carry on. Firstly Martin seems to take an age to write his books, and secondly, it just to seems to me to be unbelievable how many of the main protagonists and characters are all killed off or changed dramatically in such a short period of time. So, a good read, but don't get too close to any of the characters, as by the end of a novel, it is likely something you don't want to happen to them... has.

Rob from UK

Epic is an understatement.

Kyle from Indiana

I've only just started this series and I plan to finish it. It's the best thing my eyes have ever seen, hands down!

Paul from Glasgow

Steep learning curve at the start as Martin introduces a plethora of new characters in rapid succession; still found myself sucked in completely and ended up reading the whole series.

Shell from Winchester

Brilliant series - can't wait for film series.

Ryan from Wisconsin

A Game of Thrones definitely deserves to be rated up with Lord of the Rings. Has some of the most interesting and in-depth characters of any fantasy book.

JP from Finland

I have read first three books of this series so far and enjoyed it very much. GRRM is not a superb writer in all meanings of that but he definitely knows how to write hard as rock fantasy series.

John from Leeds

A Song of Ice and Fire is pretty much the last word in medieval fantasy. Martin's work is in a league of its own, head and shoulders above the next comparable work in terms of plotting, characterisation, world building and quality of writing. Other authors may as well abandon the medieval milieu and explore new avenues in fantasy, as there is little left to say on the matter that this series does not say better.

Mathias from Gothenburg

Simply the best fantasy epic ever written. Nuff said.

Tim from Perth-Andover

Someone said Eragon was better than this. .. .. .. ...after I stopped laughing, I decided to write this review. Martin's books are some of the best fantasy being written today. The time it takes for them to come out should not judged as part of their quality. Are they simple commercial fare? No. Emphatically no. These are books for intelligent people who like to read. They deserve to be higher on the list.

PP from The Hague

One of the best fantasy series so far... however I understand why it is not on the top of the list: the series is not complete and me and probably many others will wonder whether or not the series will ever be complete. The story lines are becoming more and more complex and interwoven in every next book GRR writes. But still, like a Leonardo's David without the head...

Anthony from Cardiff

I had to correct my review. Just finished the 4 books and I am totally ashamed of my last comments. Its simply that the more you read the rewards will come. I am 37 and have been listening to audio books for a year now, since I have lost my sight. Talented writers like this keep blind people in the world sane. I am gutted I have to wait for the next book - Mr Martin please hurry up!

Eric from Quebec

In my opinion, one of the best series, probably my favorite. In most series, it is easy to expect what will come next. This is one series where everyone has an opinion, and a different one (if you debate with other readers). Not everyone agrees who they think will be the "main" character in the end, if any. I really love to see how, from every character's perspective, their perception of Right and Wrong changes. It makes you think about what we do in our lives, that we consider "right", that from another perspective would be viewed as "wrong". Overall, this story makes me think, surprises me and captivates me, which are the foremost reasons I use what time I have to read =)

William from California

First off George R. R. Martin has got to be the SLOWEST author in history. With only 4 of the 7 planned books released, don't plan on finishing this series for at least a decade. The book itself is not bad. The prose is good and the plot is fairly intricate. However what I find the drawback of this series is the, I guess you would call it realism, or pessimism maybe. The good guys don't always win in this, in fact, they usually lose. I am going to finish the series because it is fairly well written and I am curious about the ending. But I doubt I will ever want to reread it like I have with many other series. Just my 2cents.

Dustin from Washington

Amazing piece of literature, the character development and the story telling is superb. I read these book and absolutely had to recommend them to everybody I knew. Several of my co-workers started reading the books and they all love them as well. There IS a reason for all the hype behind this series.

Tom from Qc

Really, GRRM is not a writer, he is a god! A Song of Ice and Fire is way better than the Lord of the Rings! I have almost finished the last published book so far. A Song for Lya is very good too, GRRM is not only good for fantasy, he is a great SF writer too!PS - sorry for my bad English, I'm a French Canadian.

Lester from Manchester

This is amazing. The entire series is amazing. Buy these amazing books!

Darren from Wilkinson

This book is much better than Lord of the Rings. It really is that simple. LOTR was overly descriptive and had far too many silly songs and dances. Tyrion Lannister is one of the best characters in fiction. Buy the whole series - you won't be disappointed.

Chris from Netherlands

This book, and all of the series, got me reading till 3.00am. Martin uses Point of View characters to reveal bits of his plot in such a maner that you're always hoping to find out more. I for one couldn't wait to read the next chapter of my favorite characters. Beware, as the review says, bad things will happen to the characters you like most. Hate it or love it, every page you turn could mean the end, it's thrilling and exciting in every way...

Steve from Burton

This book, and the other books published of the series, are as absorbing and intriging as any I've read. Could replace Tolkien at the top of your bookshelf.

Russell from Cardiff

I think you've rated this book to low, it at least deserves to be on a par with Ursula Le Guin's books. Don't get me wrong, the Earthsea books are great and among my favourites but this is quality fantasy and needs to be seen as such.

9.2 /10 from 102 reviews

All George RR Martin Reviews

  • A Song of Ice and Fire (A Song of Ice and Fire)
  • Fire and Blood (A Song of Ice and Fire Companion)
  • A Game Of Thrones (A Song of Ice and Fire: Book 1)
  • A Clash Of Kings (A Song of Ice and Fire: Book 2)
  • A Storm of Swords 1: Steel and Snow (A Song of Ice and Fire: Book 3)
  • A Storm of Swords 2: Blood and Gold (A Song of Ice and Fire: Book 3)
  • A Feast for Crows (A Song of Ice and Fire: Book 4)
  • A Dance With Dragons (A Song of Ice and Fire: Book 5)
  • The Armageddon Rag
  • Tuf Voyaging
  • A Game of Thrones: Graphic Novel Volume 3
  • Dangerous Women
  • The Ice Dragon
  • Inside Straight (Wild Cards)

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Top 100 Fantasy Books Of All Time

Looking for great fantasy books? Take a look at the 100 pages we rate highest

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Fantasy Series We Recommend

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Fantasy Books Of The Year

Our fantasy books of the year, from 2006 to 2021


Book Review: A Game of Thrones

A Game of Thrones

“A Game of Thrones” by George R.R. Martin tells the tale of various clashing households and their quest to conquer control over the seven kingdoms. Set in a distant, but vaguely familiar medieval-Europe, the story bears parallels to England’s “War of the Roses,” while also introducing its share of unique fantasy elements. As the reader progresses through the book, they follow the politics of the Iron Throne- a metaphor representing the complete and utter control a King possesses in a feudal government system. Furthermore, the reader tracks 8 character perspectives, which are alternated through passing chapters.

As the King rides north to Winterfell to meet with his trusted vassal, and friend, Eddard "Ned" Stark, he strikes up an agreement to anoint Eddard as the hand of the king. Reluctant, Ned follows the King back to the South, but as the plot continues to unfold, Eddard learns of a secret unbeknownst to the King and some of his most trusted advisers. With the death of the King and the ruin of Eddard’s house, war rages in Westeros- as several characters attempt to strike their claims on the Iron Throne.

I initially picked this book up after finishing J.R.R Tolkien’s, “Lord of the Rings” series and have been pleasantly surprised with it. Many fantasy readers have speculated that the literary masterpiece of Tolkien’s novels could not be out done, but I am now inclined to disagree. I thought the book was well-crafted and engaging as an intermediate to advanced reader. However, I would file the complaint that the book moves a bit slow for my taste. Some may lose interest in its plot, especially considering the sheer volume of the book series. The old-language also adds to this effect, as it may cause some readers to struggle following along.

Overall, I would say that this book is certainly worth a try for someone who enjoys medieval-fantasy novels. Admittedly, it will take a while to read and is certainly no small undertaking, but by sticking with it, I found myself enjoying every page more than the last!


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George R. R. Martin Is Typing

This fantasy series clearly won’t write itself.

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first game of thrones book review

By Choire Sicha and Alan Yuhas

Winter may finally be on its way to Westeros. Eventually. Or not.

But all that fans of “A Song of Ice and Fire,” the sweeping fantasy series that led to the HBO hit show “Game of Thrones,” have to go on is the word of George R. R. Martin, its creator.

Mr. Martin, who is 71 and lives in Santa Fe, N.M., has for years blown past deadlines to deliver the final manuscript for “The Winds of Winter,” the sixth book in the series, which began publishing in 1996. On Wednesday, he tweeted that “the enforced isolation” of life during a pandemic was helping him to make “steady progress” on the book.

He did not say when readers might get a look at it. “I finished a new chapter yesterday, another one three days ago, another one the previous week,” he wrote in a Tuesday update to his blog that was shared with the tweet. “But no, this does not mean that the book will be finished tomorrow or published next week. It’s going to be a huge book, and I still have a long way to go.”

I have to confess, after half a year of pandemic, I am showing signs of cabin fever. If nothing else, the enforced isolation has helped me write. I am spending long hours every day on THE WINDS OF WINTER, and making steady progress. https://t.co/i0DRw51PC7 — George RR Martin (@GRRMspeaking) June 24, 2020

He also lamented that he had been forced to cancel plans to visit New Zealand, but said there was “definitely a silver lining in that cloud.”

“The last thing I need right now is a long interruption that might cost me all the momentum I have built up,” he wrote. “I can always visit Wellington next year, when I hope that both Covid-19 and THE WINDS OF WINTER will be done.”

That was the only clue for his publication plans. He urged fans not to “give any credence to any of the click-bait websites that like to parse every word of my posts,” although fans of the series are well known for doing that on their own.

David Moench, Mr. Martin’s representative at Random House, declined answer questions about the timing of the next book.

“George Martin is not available for an interview, as he is indeed focused on writing THE WINDS OF WINTER,” he said. “Random House will publish that book once it is finished, whenever that may be.”

On Reddit, fans at the “A Song of Ice and Fire” subreddit responded to the announcement with a mixture of despair, excitement and plot suggestions. “This is not great news, it hardly even qualifies as news,” one contributor wrote. “I hate to be negative but the only posts I want to see are about an imminent release,” another wrote.

Hungry fans of the written series have gathered at the subreddit for years, collectively sharing their hopes and frustrations for the series, noting each blog update and dissecting every word from the author in an attempt to find just one more bread crumb about the upcoming book.

Mr. Martin also assured readers that he was healthy “for an out-of-shape guy of 71,” gave a few author recommendations — Stephen King , Emily St. John Mandel — and said he was still involved with the slow production of “The House of the Dragon,” HBO’s follow-up to “Game of Thrones.”

“A Dance With Dragons,” the most recent volume in the series, was published in 2011. The HBO adaptation began airing at nearly the same time, stretched on for eight years, and then lapped Mr. Martin’s production of plot. While that show soared to audience heights, regularly breaking HBO audience records , it ended in critical defeat for its creators.

Mr. Martin has declined interview requests from The New York Times this year, and his team is protective of his writing time. He did find time in recent months to buy a railroad with his friends. (He also owns a cinema in Santa Fe.)

With a possible delivery date of 2021, that would make the unfolding of the books a three-decade process.

Except “The Winds of Winter” is not the end of this story. There’s meant to be one more.

Aimee Ortiz contributed reporting.

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  • TV Show Reviews

Netflix’s 3 Body Problem adaptation channels the book’s spirit but not its brilliance

Though david benioff, d. b. weiss, and alexander woo’s 3 body problem is impressive, it really feels like just an introduction to cixin liu’s deeper ideas..

By Charles Pulliam-Moore , a reporter focusing on film, TV, and pop culture. Before The Verge, he wrote about comic books, labor, race, and more at io9 and Gizmodo for almost five years.

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A woman in a formfitting, sleeveless back outfit accented with a flowing black cape, and a sheathed sword on her back. The woman is floating into a pale, rust-colored sky in which the sun is being eclipsed by two smaller celestial bodies.

In his 2008 sci-fi novel The Three-Body Problem , Cixin Liu created a fascinating world where cutting-edge particle physics, VR gaming, and Chinese history played crucial roles in shaping humanity’s response to an imminent planet-wide threat. It also seemed unfilmable. The depth of the book’s ideas about cultural memory and the complexity of its central mystery made The Three-Body Problem feel like a story that could only work on the page.

That hasn’t stopped streamers from trying, and last year, Tencent debuted its own live-action, episodic take on Liu’s book . Netflix spent a fortune putting 3 Body Problem in the hands of executive producers David Benioff, D. B. Weiss, and Alexander Woo. Their adaptation is leaner and more diverse than the book in a way that makes it a very different kind of story . Often, it’s a good one — and very occasionally a great one — that works as an introductory crash course to the basic ideas key to understanding the larger concepts that shape Liu’s later books. 

But rather than confronting the sophistication of the book, Netflix’s main priority with 3 Body Problem seems to be selling it as the next Game of Thrones (Benioff and Weiss’ last series). And while it’s easy to understand why the streamer might want that, it’s hard not to see the show as a flashy but stripped-down version of the source material.

  • Dive into the world of Netflix’s 3 Body Problem

3 Body Problem involves a constellation of distinct narratives spanning multiple decades and generations. But at its core, the show is a compelling thriller about how the sins of humanity’s past come to shape its future. In a world where the scientific community has been rocked by an alarming wave of mysterious suicides, private intelligence officer Clarence Shi (Benedict Wong) and a group of researchers get swept up in a race to save the planet from destruction. 

As a former agent of both MI5 and Scotland Yard, Clarence is no stranger to shadowy plots. But he’s vastly out of his depth in the worlds of cutting-edge theoretical physics and materials engineering. Meanwhile, scientist Jin Cheng (Jess Hong) is also navigating uncharted waters as she struggles to make sense of what’s happening to her peers and why many experiments involving particle accelerators are going wrong. The panic of the present day pushes Jin to reconnect with her four best college friends, and the dynamic of the reunited “Oxford Five” inches closer to revealing a world-ending threat.

Given the structural complexity of Liu’s books, it isn’t surprising that Netflix’s 3 Body is streamlined in a much more linear fashion that makes it feel like Lost -style mystery-within-a-mystery you’re figuring out alongside Clarence. But it’s actually in 3 Body Problem ’s core group of characters that you can most clearly see the steps Benioff, Weiss, and Woo took to rework Liu’s ideas for a more global audience.

Before the book’s story in present-day China really gets going, Liu spends quite a bit of time in the past in order to give you a better grasp of the Cultural Revolution, the Maoist movement to purge society of capitalists and intellectuals. It’s the Party’s reversal of these horrifying policies — instead embracing academia and scientific research — that sets China on a path to become a global superpower. And as the book moves into the present, that historical context helps you appreciate why a sudden and sustained spike in inexplicable scientist suicides would prompt the government to deploy counter-terrorism operatives to investigate.

In the novel, much of the early mystery is rooted in the fact that its characters — like offputting former detective Shi Qiang (often referred to as “Da Shi”) and nanomaterials specialist Wang Miao — are solving it in isolation. Netflix’s answer to Da Shi, Clarence, is now British and a softer, more contemplative presence than his curmudgeon literary counterpart. The show also splits Wang’s character into the Oxford Five, an ethnically diverse group of friends consisting of Jin, research assistant Saul (Jovan Adepo), nanotech expert Auggie (Eiza González), physics teacher Will (Alex Sharp), and snack magnate Jack (John Bradley).

A group of six men and women wearing business attire, and sitting around a table in the booth of a bar.

Making characters fumble in the darkness on their way to solving the puzzle of Three-Body was one of the many ways Liu mirrored, on a microscopic level, the book’s larger ideas about the power of collaborative efforts versus the control that comes from individual decision-making. But because the show’s Oxford Five are all friends (and former lovers in some instances) who quickly begin working together, relationships drive the plot forward more than its existential puzzle. These changes bring a new level of interpersonal drama to Netflix’s show that isn’t present in the book, especially for Auggie, who’s haunted by visions of a glowing countdown that seems to be seared onto her retinas. Dividing Wang into five distinct characters emphasizes the idea that there’s power in looking at complicated problems from a diverse array of unique perspectives.

But because the Oxford Five are all based on a single character and spend so much time talking each other through theories about what’s going on, scenes focused on them often feel the show taking a moment to spell out plot points in ways that feel clumsy and inorganic. This is less the case when 3 Body Problem shifts its focus to the past and zeroes in on the life of Ye Wenjie (Zine Tseng), a promising young astrophysicist whose entire world is upended by the onset of the Chinese Cultural Revolution. Like in the book, 3 Body Problem truly begins with Ye and how the personal choices she makes — all informed by her experiences as a survivor of the Revolution — have an incalculable impact on the future at a worldwide scale.

In both the book and Netflix’s adaptation, Ye’s story is a powerful one that contextualizes the present in important ways. But the show is less willing to dwell in it. Rather than consider the political and personal effects of the Revolution, the series commits to being a thinky but easily digestible chronicle of the world readying itself for war. An older version of Ye (Rosalind Chao) sticks around as 3 Body Problem to watch events unfold with a knowing solemnity. 

A woman in form fitting dress walking across a fiery landscape where the ground seems to be lava.

Meanwhile, the show invests in the messy lives of the Oxford Five and their flirtations with a futuristic piece of technology that plunges its wearer into an unimaginable world of riddles, mathematics, and roleplaying. The headset also gives the show a way of stepping outside the confines of the detective genre and into an otherworldly space that has the recognizable markers of science fiction, like planets with multiple suns. Smartly, 3 Body Problem balances out some of that predictability by placing many of its most imaginative, impossible set pieces in the game where the uncanny combo of Netflix’s signature visual look and an inordinate amount of shiny VFX. And it actually works as a plus rather than a minus here because of how unsettling playing the game is supposed to feel.

There are at least a few truly breathtaking action sequences unevenly sprinkled throughout 3 Body Problem ’s first season. But for all their terrifying beauty, they’re not quite enough to keep the show from feeling like Netflix’s adequate attempt at distilling a literary masterpiece into eight hours of television. 3 Body Problem ’s first season works as a solid introduction to this world, but by the finale, it becomes clear that these episodes are really just laying the groundwork for an even bigger, more deeply complicated narrative. With the right plan, tapping into the wildness of Liu’s later books could definitely take 3 Body Problem to its next level in future seasons. But that’s all going to depend on whether the show takes off.

3 Body Problem also stars Sea Shimooka, Marlo Kelly, Saamer Usmani, and Eve Ridley. The series is now streaming on Netflix.

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More from this stream Dive into the world of Netflix’s 3 Body Problem

The creators of 3 body problem want to have ‘a back and forth’ with the book, 3 body problem vr headset review: magical tech in need of more apps, 3 body problem’s final trailer is a prelude to war., peacock will stream the chinese adaptation of the three-body problem.

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Intriguing … Jess Hong as Jin and John Bradley as Jack in 3 Body Problem.

3 Body Problem review – the creators of Game of Thrones have done it again

Not content with turning one borderline unfilmable set of novels into highly watchable TV, they’ve repeated the trick with this deeply complex sci-fi series

W ell, hello again to Game of Thrones’ David “Unfilmable books a speciality!” Benioff and DB “Likewise!” Weiss! This time they are on Netflix, with an adaptation of the hardest of hard sci-fi tomes, Liu Cixin ’s The Three-Body Problem (the first in a trilogy called Remembrance of Earth’s Past). The eight-part series is near-named after the book as 3 Body Problem and opens with a truly harrowing scene of a Maoist struggle in which an eminent professor of physics, who has fallen foul of the Chinese Cultural revolutionaries for teaching the principles of western science, is beaten to death on stage in front of his wife – who denounces him as he is killed – while his appalled daughter and protege, Ye Wenjie (Zine Tseng), watches in the audience. One of the timelines follows her as she is sent first to a forced labour camp in Inner Mongolia and then, when her astrophysicist skills are needed, to a mysterious scientific project (lots of buttons, big satellite dish) on its outskirts.

In the present day, particle accelerators around the world have started delivering results that make a mockery of all known physical laws and eminent scientists are killing themselves – or looking as if they’ve killed themselves – at what is mathematically known as a rate of knots. These “suicides” are being investigated by ex-cop Da Shi (Benedict Wong, the acceptance of whose transition to dramatic roles after 15 Storeys High I still find harder than understanding the three body problem itself, regardless of his excellence here). He reports to Thomas Wade (Liam Cunningham), a shadowy figure who is working for (or is possibly the head of) an even more shadowy secret authority bent on preserving humanity. Or not. I think.

Anyway. One of the mysterious deaths brings a group of five former students of the deceased teacher back together. It comprises underachieving borderline nihilist genius Saul (Jovan Adepo), engineering supremo Auggie (Eiza González) who is on the verge of a world-changing breakthrough in nanofibre technology, brilliant theoretical physicist Jin (Jess Hong), relative dropout Will (Alex Sharp), who now teaches science to high schoolers but is as in love with Jin as he was in their university days, and Jack (John Bradley), who sold out to make a fortune from snack foods and whose wealth is going to come in handy later. And who was their late teacher? Vera Ye (Vedette Lim), the daughter of the daughter in the audience who watched her father being killed in 1966 Beijing. The first of what promises to be many, many links looping together, back over themselves, and round about again is forged.

Soon, Auggie is visited by or starts hallucinating a countdown to what appears to be her own death – and only renouncing her nanofibre ambitions will halt it. An impossibly advanced virtual reality game comes into play and may or may not be connected with the death of Vera and the other scientists. Characters appear who don’t show up on CCTV and who seem to know more about other characters and the future than they should. More worryingly, an increasing number of whiteboards and blackboards start being wheeled out by people purporting to explain a growing number of higher dimensional geometric operations, orbital mechanics, the “Wow! signal” and all sorts of other reminders of something very important. No matter how much human interest an adaptation team brings to a book about abstruse and abstract physics there will still be knotty problems we are all going to have to do our best to understand.

Nevertheless, 3 Body Problem does well to pull us onward, as much through the relentless, but never overplayed, suffering and hardening of Ye Wenjie as she endures her effective imprisonment in the project grounds – and the stealing of her work by others – as by the present day mystery. It looks great, it soon has Jonathan Pryce joining proceedings as Mike Evans, an eco activist turned reclusive oil tycoon billionaire, and the answers to the mystery of who (and what) the extraordinary forces are, what they want and who summoned them are doled out at a fair pace.

But it can’t quite get rid of the cold abstraction that was at the heart of the books and which is revered by its fans. It’s impressive, it is – at its best – intriguing, but the threat is distant metaphorically and literally. There are puzzles to solve, if you are capable, but nothing and no one to root for. Even its design as a metaphor for the climate crisis and human inertia in the face of potential doom doesn’t give it enough heft – in fact, such is the way of these things, it may even serve to alienate us further from emotional engagement. It won’t be Netflix’s answer to Game of Thrones. But Benioff, Weiss, and their collaborator Alexander Woo have undoubtedly proved yet again that there is no such thing as an unfilmable novel.

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Best Books For Game Of Thrones Fans

G ame of Thrones is one of my favorite fantasy series of ALL TIME. It's right up there next to Lord of the Rings and The Witcher series . With its dizzying array of political intrigue, backstabbing (sometimes quite literally), and dragons – oh, the dragons! – it's no wonder we're all left craving more after that bitter-sweet ending.

But fear not, fellow Westerosis! I’ve scoured the Seven Kingdoms and beyond to bring you a list of must-read books that will transport you back to a world of noble houses, epic battles, and intricate plots. These novels are the perfect cure for your post- Game of Thrones blues, each one a gateway to fantastical realms filled with the intrigue and drama you’ve come to love.

A Chorus of Dragons collection

The empire's ruin (ashes of the unhewn throne book 1), of blood and bone book collection, the complete farseer trilogy, the pillars of the earth, best books for game of thrones fans.

A Dance of Magic, Dragons, and Destiny

Embark on an epic journey with Kihrin, a thief entangled in a web of treachery, magic, and dragons in the vivid world of Quur.

  • Rich, immersive world-building that captivates you from the start.
  • Intricate plot with twists that keep you guessing.
  • Deep, diverse characters adding layers to the narrative.
  • The first book starts slow, but it's worth the patience.

"A Chorus of Dragons" series is a familiar yet refreshing dive into a world of political intrigue, complex characters, and mythical beasts. Its blend of dark, intricate storytelling with a fantasy world that feels both vast and intimately detailed makes it a fitting follow-up for those missing the intricate plots of Westeros.

The tale revolves around Kihrin, a character whose journey from the slums to the heights of power mirrors the classic hero's journey with a twist. Like GoT, the series is not shy about delving into the darker aspects of its world, from political machinations to family betrayals.

However, it's worth noting that while the series offers a rich narrative, it does take a bit to gather momentum. The initial complexity and slower pace of the first book might not be everyone's cup of tea, especially for those used to the more straightforward storytelling of GoT. Also, the narrative style, with its non-linear approach and footnotes, is a departure from traditional fantasy storytelling, which could be a fresh experience for some but potentially off-putting for others.

All in all, "A Chorus of Dragons" presents a world where magic and political intrigue intertwine in a complex narrative. It's a series that offers a new flavor to the epic fantasy genre.

A Dark Journey Through a Fractured Empire

Brian Staveley's "The Empire's Ruin" thrusts readers back into the rich, dark world of the Unhewn Throne series, blending old characters and new in a tale of survival and identity.

  • Gripping narrative with a blend of familiar and new characters.
  • Rich, vivid world-building that immerses you in its dark setting.
  • Cinematic battle scenes that are both vivid and imaginative.
  • Some might find the language and portrayal of female characters problematic.

The Empire’s Ruin is a dark, sprawling epic that should resonate well with fans of high-stakes fantasy. It took me a while to get into this one because it needed prior knowledge of Brian Staveley's original trilogy. Set five years after the events of the original trilogy, the book delves into the aftermath of a great war, exploring themes of identity, survival, and the rebuilding of self.

Staveley’s skill in world-building shines as he expands the mythology of his universe, particularly the Southeast Asian-inspired city of Dombâng, which is depicted with a depth that echoes real-world history. The narrative alternates between three main characters:

  • Gwenna Sharpe, a Kettral fighter on a mission to save her empire
  • Ruc Lakatur Lan Luc, a priest battling his dark past
  • Akiil, a lapsed monk with his own agenda

Each character’s journey adds a unique perspective to the story, especially Gwenna, whose arc echoes a traditional hero's journey. While it might not be for everyone, its vivid setting, intense plot, and dynamic characters make it a noteworthy addition to the genre. As with any book, it's worth approaching with an understanding of its stylistic choices and thematic elements.

A Saga of Heroes, Demons, and Unyielding Courage

John Gwynne's "Of Blood and Bone" series, a sequel to "The Faithful and the Fallen," is a compelling mix of betrayal, war, and morally complex characters set in a richly imagined world.

  • Engrossing character development with a diverse cast.
  • Masterful blending of epic fantasy and gritty, realistic elements.
  • Intricate world-building that's easy to dive into.
  • Multiple POVs may initially be challenging for some readers.

John Gwynne's "Of Blood and Bone" series is an epic fantasy triumph that's sure to delight fans of the genre, especially those looking for depth and complexity in their reads. Set in the same universe as "The Faithful and the Fallen," this series—occurring 130 years later—is accessible to new readers without requiring knowledge of the previous books.

Here, Gwynne introduces us to a cast of characters that are as diverse as they are captivating. There’s Riv, struggling to control her anger and find her place among the White-Wings. Drem, a hunter's son grappling with his father’s mysterious past. Finally, there's the giantess Sig, embodying the burden of a long, loss-filled life.

One of the series' standout features is its realistic portrayal of characters. Even in a world filled with larger-than-life warriors and mythical creatures, Gwynne doesn’t shy away from infusing his characters with human traits and vulnerabilities. Drem, for example, with his compulsions and ticks, offers a refreshing take on the traditional fantasy hero.

The series is not without its challenges, particularly the use of multiple points of view. Newcomers to Gwynne’s style or to epic fantasy might initially find the shifting perspectives a bit disorienting. However, as the story progresses, these seemingly disparate threads weave together into a compelling narrative, rich with detail and emotion. For fans of epic fantasy looking for a series that combines the grand scale of war and politics with intimate, personal journeys, this series is a must-read.

Tale of Intrigue, Loyalty, and Magic

Robin Hobb's Farseer Trilogy follows FitzChivalry Farseer, a royal bastard turned assassin, in a deeply immersive tale of court intrigue, personal growth, and subtle magic.

  • Exquisitely detailed character development, aging with the characters.
  • Engaging first-person narrative that brings the world to life.
  • A well-crafted blend of realistic magic systems and compelling world-building.
  • The pacing can be slow, especially in the final book, which may test some readers' patience.

OK, the thing I like most about Robin Hobb’s Farseer Trilogy is that it's a masterful exploration of character and world-building. Although some parts of the last book could use a bit more work, the entire trilogy is still an excellent choice for those craving for more GoT-like readings.

The story starts with "Assassin's Apprentice," introducing us to FitzChivalry Farseer, the illegitimate son of a prince. Raised in the shadows of the royal court, Fitz’s journey from a boy to a young man is marked by the duality of his life – an outcast by day and a trainee assassin by night. Hobb’s first-person narrative allows readers to see the world through Fitz's eyes, creating a deep connection to his experiences and emotions.

One of the trilogy’s greatest strengths is its character development. Hobb crafts characters with such depth and intricacy that they feel like real, tangible beings. You don’t just read about Fitz and the supporting cast; you grow and age with them, experiencing their joys, sorrows, and conflicts. This connection is further enhanced by Hobb’s rich world-building. The Six Duchies is a realm filled with traditions, cultural norms, and belief systems that are both fascinating and relatable.

The Farseer Trilogy is a standout in the fantasy genre, offering a richly woven tale of loyalty, betrayal, and the complexities of human (and non-human) relationships. It’s a series for those who appreciate a slow burn, where the journey is as important as the destination.

A Sweeping Tale of Ambition and Conflict

Ken Folletts "The Pillars of the Earth" is a grand, sweeping historical epic set in 12th-century England, revolving around the construction of a magnificent cathedral in the fictional town of Kingsbridge.

  • Richly developed characters who grow and evolve over decades.
  • Masterful blending of historical detail with a compelling narrative.
  • Vivid descriptions that transport you to medieval England.
  • The book's length and detailed narrative might be daunting for some.

"The Pillars of the Earth" is a masterclass in historical fiction. As you embark on this journey through medieval England, you are drawn into a world of ambition, conflict, and resilience. Follett’s narrative is a tapestry, weaving together the lives of characters such as Tom Builder, whose dream is to construct a cathedral, Prior Philip, whose devotion and leadership are central to the story, and Lady Aliena, marked by a secret shame yet undeniably strong.

Follett’s portrayal of 12th-century England is nothing short of spectacular. You feel the dampness of the forests, the imposing presence of castles, and the bustling life of Kingsbridge. His detailed descriptions of cathedral building are fascinating, making you appreciate the artistry and engineering of the time.

The characters are the heart of this novel. Follett has a gift for creating multidimensional characters that you grow to care deeply about. Their struggles, triumphs, and failures are portrayed with an honesty that is both brutal and beautiful. The intricate plotlines involving love, betrayal, and political machinations keep you thoroughly engaged, and the moral complexities faced by the characters add depth to the narrative.

NOW, at over a thousand pages, this book is a commitment. The pacing is deliberate, allowing for a detailed exploration of the characters and setting. Still, it might test the patience of those used to faster narratives.

Echoes of Lost Names and Forgotten Lands

Guy Gavriel Kay's "Tigana" is a beautifully woven tale set in a fantasy world mirroring Renaissance Italy, exploring themes of memory, identity, and the cost of freedom.

  • Kay's poetic and vivid writing style vividly brings the world and characters of "Tigana" to life.
  • The novel delves into the gray areas of rebellion and conquest, challenging readers to ponder difficult ethical dilemmas.
  • Effectively reflects historical events and cultural nuances, enriching the story's fantasy elements.
  • The novel's slow pace and detailed focus on world-building and backstories might hinder its momentum for some readers.

Having delved into the pages of "Tigana," I found myself deeply immersed in Guy Gavriel Kay’s meticulously crafted world. This novel is much more than a fantasy; it's a complex exploration of themes like cultural identity and the impact of historical erasure. Kay's narrative style is poetic and rich, painting a vivid picture of a land reminiscent of Renaissance Italy but with its unique magical twist.

The characters in "Tigana" are its crowning achievement. They are sketched with such depth and complexity that their struggles and triumphs feel incredibly real. The moral ambiguity that Kay infuses into the story is one of its most compelling aspects. As a reader, I appreciated not being offered clear-cut heroes and villains but rather characters who exist in shades of grey, making choices that are both questionable and understandable.

However, the pacing of the book might not sit well with everyone. I noticed a considerable slowing down in the middle sections, where Kay delves into detailed backstories and world-building. While this enriches the narrative, it does break the momentum established in the earlier chapters.

Regardless, "Tigana" is a standout novel in the fantasy genre. It’s a thought-provoking, beautifully written exploration of memory, loss, and the human spirit.

Should I start with a series or a standalone novel after Game of Thrones?

This depends on your reading preference. If you're eager to immerse yourself in a new world for a long period, starting a series is a great choice. However, if you prefer a story that wraps up in one book, a standalone novel would be ideal. Both formats have their merits and can provide a satisfying narrative experience similar to Game of Thrones.

I love the historical elements in Game of Thrones. Do these books offer something similar?

Yes, they do. Many of the books on this list blend rich historical details with their fantasy elements, giving you that perfect mix of reality and imagination. Whether it’s medieval-esque political intrigue or war tactics reminiscent of historical battles, these books will satisfy your craving for historically-inspired fantasy.

Are there any specific fantasy subgenres that Game of Thrones fans might enjoy exploring?

Fans of Game of Thrones might particularly enjoy delving into high fantasy and grimdark fantasy. High fantasy typically features expansive world-building, complex political systems, and a clear distinction between good and evil, akin to the grand scale of Westeros. Grimdark fantasy, on the other hand, offers a grittier, more realistic approach, focusing on moral ambiguity and flawed characters, much like the nuanced personalities and darker themes found in Game of Thrones. Both subgenres promise immersive experiences that resonate with the depth and intricacy that Game of Thrones fans appreciate.

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Best Books For Game Of Thrones Fans

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The ‘3 Body Problem’ Primer

The creators of ‘Game of Thrones’ are back with a blockbuster adaptation of the acclaimed book series, which happens to be quite dense. Here’s a guide to understanding what in the universe is going on.

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first game of thrones book review

This Thursday, Netflix premieres 3 Body Problem , its long-awaited adaptation of the hit Chinese book series known as Remembrance of Earth’s Past . The series is led by none other than David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, now a few years off the series finale of their previous mega-hit, Game of Thrones , along with a third showrunner, Alexander Woo.

There’s a fair amount of hype for this adaptation, and the source material is quite dense. So, luckily for you, we’ve got our very own spoiler-free primer ahead of the series premiere. Let’s dive in.

What’s the deal with these books?

A decade ago, The Three-Body Problem was a global literary sensation. It was an unusual take on the classic first-contact theme in science fiction —an expansive and engrossing story about several generations of humanity contending with an eerie extraterrestrial threat to life on Earth.

The Three Body Problem , first published as a standalone book in 2008, was the first book in a hard sci-fi trilogy that had already been released in China before Ken Liu and Joel Martinsen got to work on translating the series into English. This trilogy is known as Remembrance of Earth’s Past and consists of The Three-Body Problem (published in English in 2014) , The Dark Forest (2015) , and Death’s End (2016) , each book a bit longer and weirder than the last. The first book won the 2015 Hugo Award for Best Novel and only then went on to become a bestseller in the U.S. The trilogy ultimately achieved a great deal of commercial success and critical acclaim in the West, with Barack Obama stanning the series in The New York Times at the peak of its hype. This was the biggest hard sci-fi breakthrough in literature since Andy Weir’s The Martian , published a few years earlier.

Remembrance of Earth’s Past was also pretty remarkable for its peak popularity coinciding with the ascent of China as a cultural and geopolitical rival to the U.S. The series author Liu Cixin was raised in the Shanxi province in North China in the 1960s, amid the Cultural Revolution, with the Cultural Revolution itself being an important historical backdrop in the first book (more on this later). Before he was an acclaimed sci-fi author, Liu was a computer engineer, working at a power plant in Shanxi for several decades. He often cites Leo Tolstoy and Stanley Kubrick as major influences in his writing.

How did the Game of Thrones guys get involved in this TV adaptation?

There was at one point a huge scramble among the major streaming platforms to adapt Remembrance of Earth’s Past in some form or fashion. This despite the book trilogy often being described as “unadaptable,” given its many exceedingly wonky sci-fi concepts, its vastly bureaucratic intrigue, and its multi-generational narrative scope. But the books also have some spectacular sci-fi set pieces, which obviously lend themselves to big-budget production. Amazon was reportedly prepared to spend $1 billion to acquire the rights and produce several seasons of an adaptation—in an effort to make its own Game of Thrones, funny enough—but ultimately Netflix struck a deal with the Chinese holding company, Yoozoo Group, and tapped David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, who additionally recruited Alexander Woo, to direct a TV adaptation.

Notably, this is the second adaptation of the series for television. Last year, Tencent produced its own live-action adaptation, titled Three-Body , with a Chinese cast and international subtitles. Three-Body was pretty well-reviewed but rather limited in its exposure to North America, since it launched on a relatively obscure platform, Rakuten Viki. NBC and Amazon only recently acquired rights to stream the series on Peacock and Prime Video, respectively.

What does the title even mean?

The three-body problem is a long-standing problem in astrophysics.

Consider the moon, the Earth, and the sun. The moon revolves around the Earth, and the Earth revolves around the sun. But the moon isn’t simply hitching a ride with the Earth, it’s also revolving around the sun in its own way. And while the sun is much larger than the moon, the moon is still pretty massive, and so it exerts some gravitational influence of its own on the Earth. The interaction of these three bodies is a bit more complex and chaotic than: x revolves around y, which revolves around z.

Now imagine the problem in generic terms. Consider three celestial bodies of comparable mass—say, three stars—in intertwined orbit. Who’s orbiting who? What’s the pattern? Is there a pattern? How often does it repeat? Does it repeat? What, if anything, can you accurately predict about the movement of these three bodies? These are pressing questions posed to key characters in the first book.

What is this series even about?

It’s surprisingly hard to answer this basic question without spoiling bits of the first book. It is, in the vaguest terms that I can manage, about a bunch of scientists, engineers, philosophers, and politicians responding to a series of extraterrestrial provocations. But the conflict in this series isn’t as abrupt or straightforward as the alien invasions in War of the Worlds or Independence Day ; Remembrance of Earth’s Past takes a much longer and much more technical view of the conflict. Accordingly, these books are heavy on dimensional physics, quantum mechanics, string theory, computer science, and game theory. They’re also quite thoughtful about human history and human nature.

This brings us to the historical and political aspects that often lead readers to describe these books as “very Chinese.” The first book opens with an extensive depiction of a violent struggle session in Beijing in the late 1960s, and sure enough, this is also the opening scene of the show. The massive popularity of these books in China, and the Chinese government’s eagerness to promote them, often surprises Western readers given Liu’s unsparing depiction of Maoism . This is a complex subject, but basically: modern Chinese leaders take a dim view of the Cultural Revolution, so criticism of this period isn’t as verboten as one might expect. Furthermore, the later books include some critical depictions of social and political ideals more associated with the West, so there’s indeed some culture clash in the series between geopolitical perspectives.

So, a hard sci-fi relitigation of post-war communism. Sounds complicated. How true is the adaptation to the books?

Benioff, Weiss, and Woo have actually taken a lot of liberties with the source material. The result—for better or for worse—is an adaptation with a very different vibe than the books.

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Most conspicuously, Netflix’s 3 Body Problem rearranges the plot, such that late-stage developments in the first book instead happen as early as Episode 2 of the adaptation. The first season also overshoots the conclusion of the first book. The title of the eighth and final episode of the season, “Wallfacer,” is a concept introduced about a hundred pages into the second book, The Dark Forest . The show reveals the real conflict at the heart of The Three-Body Problem pretty quickly. The pressing question in the show is less “What are we dealing with?” and more so “How are we dealing with it?”

Also quite conspicuously, Netflix’s 3 Body Problem introduces a core group of characters who aren’t in the first book but all together map onto one character, the physicist Wang Miao, introduced in the first book, and another character, the astronomer Luo Ji, introduced in the second book. These new characters are a decidedly cosmopolitan bunch of 20-something drinking buddies from Oxford. They’re seemingly introduced for the sake of a general audience that isn’t necessarily into the more technical indulgences of hard science-fiction, and/or an audience that might struggle to connect with a cast of hardboiled Chinese antiheroes. “It’s been our directive to do a global show from the beginning,” Woo recently told The Hollywood Reporter , “and the Chinese-ness of the book’s philosophy is preserved in some of the characters.”

Also, I hate to use this term, but: the books are nerdy in a way that the show simply isn’t. Both are sci-fi thrillers, but the books put the emphasis on sci-fi where the show puts the emphasis on thriller. Both are intriguing in their own way, but again: different vibes.

That said, Netflix’s 3 Body Problem is an effective thriller. While the books were often described as “unadaptable” before Benioff, Weiss, and Woo got their hands on them, Netflix’s version if anything underscores Hollywood’s strengths. The show streamlines the presentation of a lot of concepts that are otherwise developed with reams of lecture notes in the books. It’s much easier to illustrate 10-dimensional constructs with a dynamic visual aid .

There are tradeoffs with this sort of streamlining, of course. Some of the wonkier concepts are actually illustrated rather beautifully in the books. I’m especially fond of the passages in The Three-Body Problem that are dedicated to explaining computer architecture in awesomely absurd terms, and I don’t think the show really does this bit justice. But then Benioff, Weiss, and Woo turn some other technobabble set pieces from the books into utterly spectacular television. Two words for those already in the know: nanomaterial monofilament.

What about the other two books? Is this thing getting another couple of seasons?

The early reviews have been pretty good, though with a few notable dissents, mostly concerning the creative liberties taken to make the source material supposedly more approachable. The first season finale will surely leave viewers wanting more. I can’t imagine Netflix wanting to cut this title or this particular creative team loose—with humanity’s fate hanging in the balance and whatnot. Benioff recently told Collider that he’d need “at least three, maybe four seasons to tell the whole story,” a modest ask given the plot in the books spanning millions of years.

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Is "3 Body Problem" brainy? Certainly. It's also divisive, depending on who's watching it

Once again the creators of "game of thrones" and a "true blood" writer endeavor to tame the unadaptable, by melanie mcfarland.

It doesn't take long to decide whether Netflix’s “ 3 Body Problem ” is extraordinary or a disarranged travesty. That decision rests on a variety of personal inclinations, including how open someone who has read author Liu Cixin’s novels may be to D.B. Weiss and David Benioff ’s liberal interpretation of the novel’s aspects, along with co-creator  Alexander Woo .

For one, the book’s main protagonist has been split into a group of scientists called the Oxford Five, all of them young and charismatic with made-for-TV specificity .

In case that part escapes us the band’s resident stoner Saul Durand ( Jovan Adepo ) – there’s at least one in every academic squad, don’t you know – ribs another, Auggie Salazar (Eiza González) by telling her she’s beautiful, but in a “boring way,” like an actress who only qualifies for movies like “Speed 3.”  

That seems cruel when read out of context, but it’s a joke she invites willingly, and at a point when the two realize that allowing Fermi’s paradox stand might have been better for humankind: Maybe there is other intelligent life in the universe, and maybe we haven’t met them for good reasons.

The question of how much hard science the average viewer wants in their sci-fi is also relevant, although “Game of Thrones” executive producers Weiss, Benioff and Woo make these concepts commonly accessible.

Liu’s novels swim through game theory, quantum mechanics and dimensional physics, along with other super-geeky concepts that would combine to create a high bar of entry for the typical viewer. This isn’t my take on the books, since I haven’t read them, but that of someone who has read them and harbors doubts about this interpretation.

Their concerns are probably shared by the millions who made Liu’s “Remembrance of Earth’s Past” trilogy international bestsellers after the first book was translated into English a decade ago.

3 Body Problem

Maybe there is other intelligent life in the universe, and maybe we haven’t met them for good reasons.

But I doubt others will mind this version’s deviations from a text that studio executives considered to be unadaptable for many years. So was “Game of Thrones,” which Weiss and Benioff distilled into an international blockbuster. As long as an interpretation follows a story’s spirit as it tames sprawling storylines into narratives we can wrap our heads around, people are willing to forgive a great deal.

We may have rescinded that for absolution for Weiss and Benioff by the end of “Game of Thrones,” but it started well enough. From the perspective of someone coming into the story cold, the same is true here.

Mind you, there will be people who resent the simplification of Liu's plot into what initially presents as a mystery winding between reality and virtual reality, making the two indistinguishable for some. Characters are introduced who are corporeal and do things that only an actual person can do, like light a cigarette or commit murder, but don’t show up on any video recordings.

Ditto for the sky, which blinks on and off like a light one night. Everyone on the planet sees this, but mechanical devices don't register any anomalies. Meanwhile inside of a game’s universe humans survive by dehydrating to a flatness that enables others to roll them up and carry them around like a yoga mat.

This is not a binge to be undertaken lightly, if at all; frankly, this should have been a weekly drop. Why streaming services insist on dropping entire seasons of shows like this while dribbling out brain candy like “Love Is Blind” incrementally is beyond me.

Inevitably, then, some will be turned off by its density. One person’s methodical structuring is what another might deem pokey or too much effort for a piece of entertainment. That isn’t entirely wrong because it takes on quite a bit. Besides interlacing environmental, scientific and social themes that whirl through zealotry and nihilism, it’s also a first-contact scenario that forces a reckoning.

This version of cosmic judgment reflects on another paradox, that which is inherent to being human. Trees provide oxygen, yet we destroy forests in the name of progress. We claim to value truth but find lies seductive. Scientific development makes our lives better, but when it questions the universe’s inner workings, we cast it aside.

Our lack of consideration for our planet will lead to our undoing. That’s no mystery – we’re soaking in our unwillingness to curb our greed, and right now that’s raising sea levels. “3 Body Problem” simply shifts the equation ever so slightly, placing our doom 400 light years away while convincing humankind that it is real and on its way to us.

Liu’s trilogy spans millions of epochs and eventually reaches beyond Earth — a challenge for any TV creator but one Weiss, Benioff and Woo can tackle later. For the majority of these eight episodes, we travel between two timelines, starting in the 1960s with a student-led struggle session during China’s Cultural Revolution.

This is where a young woman, Ye Wenjie (Zine Tseng), watches Maoists murder her father, a prominent physicist, and force her mother to denounce him to save her own skin. This lesson worms into Ye’s psyche with greater force than any physics principle. A prodigy in her own right, she’s recruited for a secret Chinese government program.

One person’s methodical structuring is what another might deem too much effort for a piece of entertainment.

Several decisions she makes during that period alter humanity’s trajectory, influenced in part by a chance meeting with an American environmentalist named Mike Evans (Ben Schnetzer).

Another act profoundly resonates decades later, in our present, when lab tests across the globe begin spitting out nonsense. Auggie, who is on the verge of a nanotechnology breakthrough, begins seeing numbers appear out of thin air shortly after her mentor and Saul’s supervisor Vera suddenly kills herself.

They reach out to their schoolmates Jack Rooney (John Bradley), who traded in a life of research and academia to create a snack and beverage empire, along with Will Downing (Alex Sharp), who teaches physics to high schoolers.

He quietly pines away for Jin Cheng (Jess Hong), Auggie’s best friend, a theoretical physicist for who can’t resist complicated riddles – including the purpose of a futuristic virtual reality visor that Vera’s bereft mother (Rosalind Chao) gives to Jin.

3 Body Problem

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Wong’s humor is one of the graces that prevents “3 Body Problem” from collapsing under its self-seriousness despite the overall agreeability of other performances, mainly Adepo’s. Circumstances bring the two actors together later in the season, perhaps setting up future installments linking them more consistently, which is worth anticipating.

Balancing them is Tseng’s ranging tumble between sharp agony, quiet rage, and calcified disillusionment, all of it encapsulated in a physically understated portrayal that quietly builds to a small twitch that changes everything. Calling out these performances is necessary in a show where several "Game of Thrones" players draw our attention, including Jonathan Pryce, who plays an older version of Evans.

For some those details matter less than the visuals, especially in the alternate universe Jin is drawn into as part of a storyline that for a time distracts us into thinking it holds our salvation. One person experiences the game as a version of Shang dynasty China; for another, it’s Tudor England.

(The congruity is that the “boss” of each game is inspired by a hedonistic ruler known for their libidinous nature and their cruelty. Depending on how you feel about Weiss and Benioff's liberal exploitation of sexuality in their previous work, that might be a commentary on humanity or an excuse to tightly focus on a woman’s naked breasts as her dehydrated body reconstitutes. “I just never thought I’d get bored of nudity,” Jack jokes.)

Regardless of the era, these are the main stages for the show’s effects, riding the line between realism and a video game sheen quite well. But the true test is in scenes blending practical effects and digital where, for example, we see tons of machinery and everything it carries being unmercifully sliced into layers slowly and without relenting.

Want a daily wrap-up of all the news and commentary Salon has to offer? Subscribe to our morning newsletter , Crash Course.

It’s an impressive display of effects artistry. The reason we can’t tear ourselves away is because it’s also horrifying – a small visual metaphor within the broader parable. In “3 Body Problem” humanity reacts to a crisis inching toward the planet by giving up or getting religion or acts of extremism and expensive desperation.

Some can’t think of anything better to do than purchase the rights to celestial bodies they will never reach, which makes about as much sense as gearing up to fight an enemy we won’t be alive to confront.

“Why don’t we all just relax and smoke a J because we’re all going to be dead by then?” someone asks. The response is already familiar to many of us, that we owe it to our descendants to fight for them.

Stability and chaos are often separated by thin margins, echoing the refrain of warnings we ignore. Sometimes the universe winks at us and we can’t figure out if that’s a provocation, a flirtation, or the side effects of some strong smoke. This adaptation makes finding out engrossing, if not altogether simple. What theory worth parsing is?

"3 Body Problem" streams on Netflix on Thursday, March 21.

about this topic

  • Republican senators push back against Netflix over "Game of Thrones" creators' new series
  • "The Expanse" shows the dangers of treating extremism as a joke
  • Why can't Hollywood sci-fi and fantasy imagine alternatives to capitalism or feudalism?

Melanie McFarland is Salon's award-winning senior culture critic. Follow her on Twitter: @McTelevision

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first game of thrones book review

Can the Writers Behind Game of Thrones and True Blood Make the 3 Body Problem the Next Sci-Fi Sensation?

The showrunners talk to ign about adapting the chinese literary phenomenon for netflix and western audiences..

Can the Writers Behind Game of Thrones and True Blood Make the 3 Body Problem the Next Sci-Fi Sensation? - IGN Image

If you’re well-versed in contemporary world science fiction, then Chinese author Liu Cixin’s The Three-Body Problem — the first in his Remembrance of Earth's Past trilogy — is likely already on your favorites list. In 2015, the English translation won the Hugo Award for Best Novel and helped sweep Chinese science fiction onto the modern global literary radar, with eight million copies of the trilogy sold worldwide.

Yet for mainstream Western audiences, the Remembrance of Earth's Past novels haven’t crossed over into the general pop culture zeitgeist. So when Netflix bought the rights for an English language streaming adaptation in 2019, finding writers who could distill the heady subject matter about astrophysics, extraterrestrials, and human extinction into an exciting series narrative, and make it alluring for global audiences was imperative.

In 2020, Netflix put together a trio of seasoned television writers who had already succeeded in turning sci-fi books into hugely popular series. Writing partners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss (nicknamed D&D) were the sole showrunners of HBO’s Game of Thrones series based on author George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series, and Alexander Woo who was an executive producer on HBO’s True Blood based on Charlaine Harris’ Sookie Stackhouse novels and creator of The Terror: Infamy. After reading Liu Cixin’s work, they were hooked and ready to go.

Watch this exclusive clip from 3 Body Problem featuring Benedict Wong:

Why the Books Work As a Series

“When you start reading it, there's some absolutely amazing things going on,” Weiss said of the narrative. “With a book that has that cover , you don't expect it to start that way. You expect it to start with Space Captain Brock Sampson, or whatever, and it doesn't. It starts in the world, as it was, in a terrible, real event. So, it automatically raises the question, how does this turn into a book that has that cover? Out of the gate, it pushed me through the book because there's a question that it planted in me and I needed to know the answer to that question.”

Woo said he was also deeply impressed with the “gear shifts” the author pulls on the reader. “It starts as historical fiction and then it's a murder mystery, then science fiction. It was really exhilarating. You're wrong-footed constantly, which is something that we wanted to certainly adapt the spirit of.”

The book opens following the tumultuous existence of Ye Wenjie, a Chinese astrophysicist. A survivor of the Cultural Revolution, she eventually becomes a trusted member of a secret Chinese program searching for extraterrestrial life, where she decodes a message from the Trisolarans. Their alien world is doomed and she invites them to Earth. Whom she tells, and what comes from their response, spans decades involving a broad ensemble of Chinese characters.

3 Body Problem Gallery

first game of thrones book review

“I'm not really a science fiction guy. For the most part, I just don't care enough about the stories because I don't care about the characters,” Benioff admitted about his ennui about the genre. “So when I finished these books, the one thing that was incredible to me was where it starts.

“Right away, I was on that woman's side,” he said of Wenjie. “I don't know where she's gonna go, but I am rooting for her. And then there’s the ending, which is incredible and powerful and also very much about characters, and quite small. There's all the stuff in the middle that's science and really heavy stuff. But it starts and ends with characters and our connection to these characters. So that was everything for me, and I think for all of us.”

What to Keep and What to Change?

The trio started work in February 2020, and then due to the pandemic spent the next two years separate, virtually writing their adaptation, 3 Body Problem. Their mandate was to reconfigure the books as needed to make the story work in a visual medium but to stay character-focused.

To do that, they would diversify the book’s ensemble of characters to include more ethnicities and countries of origin for its five contemporary scientists—played by Jess Hong, Jovan Adepo, Eiza González, John Bradley, and Alex Sharp—whom they dubbed “The Oxford Five”. But Ye Wenjie’s (Zine Tseng) story would remain very close to the book’s arc, and carry through as a central throughline in the series adaptation.

“It was important for us to start with the Cultural Revolution and then go into the mystery aspects of the story,” Woo explained. “That was something that we just loved from the novels.”

“For us, that had to be faithful,” Benioff confirmed. “But then we wanted to internationalize it and have people really representing humanity. And the other part of that is just like, how do we get these characters who might not intersect in the novel, get them to know each other? So we came up with this notion that most of [the Five] went to school together … and we bring them together in the first episode and you get to know these relationships.”

“And so even if the specific details are different, the one thing I think that's most important to adapt from the source material is just the spirit of it,” Woo continued. “It's [about], ‘What is that feeling that you get when you first read that book?’ And hopefully, it's the same feeling you get when you watch this show.”

“In general, our primary goal was to make as good a show as we could make,” Weiss concurred. “And sometimes with any adaptation, whether it's for television or for film, from any source material, that will inevitably involve diverging from the source material. We knew from the beginning that we needed to make this not just palatable, but exciting and thrilling and compelling to people who had never read these books. Hopefully, watching the show will draw people to the books…It's kind of a win-win scenario in that way, but the show needs to walk and talk on its own. It can't lean on the source material as a crutch, because it won't work for the vast majority of the people out there if it does.”

Benioff concluded, “The author has bequeathed us with this insanely ambitious, genius narrative, but we have to do work on the characters to make people care. Obviously, we want a big audience. It's an expensive show. We need a big audience to justify that to get further seasons. But a lot of it's just like, how can we make a show that we're going to love? Because I don't think I'm a unique person. I think if I love something, other people are going to feel the same.”

3 Body Problem premieres on Netflix on March 21. Read IGN’s review here .

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