A Game of Thrones' is truly a refreshing novel. Gone is the slow beginning we've become accustomed to, the young boy coming of age, finding his true lineage, and the like. This time around, we're thrown right into the thick of things. We know who's who, and we know were everyone stands. Only their loyalties and goals remain to be questioned.
Years ago, the mad king Aerys Targaryen was overthrown by the Robert Baratheon, and Eddard Stark, Lord of the North. Robert reigns as King now, and Stark rules in Winterfell, as his ancestors have done for countless generation. Now however, the realm is in turmoil, and Robert must once again seek the aid of the man who helped him gain the throne, and his greatest friend. Eddart Stark however, is loath to leave Winterfell. In this land, winters can last years, and be decades in the coming. As the Starks well know, winter is coming, but Lord Eddard must carry out his duty and become the King's Hand, and try to bring peace to the realm.
At the heart of the conspiracy to depose King Robert are the Lannisters, the family to which Queen Cersei belongs to. She, along with her brother and father, are scheming the downfall of Robert, and their own rise to power. The Queen has her own terrible secret, and she cannot let Eddard discover it, even if it means his death.
In the North, beyond Winterfell, and beyond the Great Wall which runs from the eastern coast to the west, great powers are stirring in the frozen lands. Beats of Old, and the King Beyond the Wall are preparing for war, even as the southern realm falls into chaos. The men of the Watch, who's sworn duty is to guard the wall above all else, are dwindling. Even as they send messengers southward for aid, the land is preparing for war, and the threat in the north is forgotten.
Across the sea, Viserys Targaryen, last son of Aerys Targaryen, has sold his sister, Daenerys into marriage, in hopes of securing an army to reclaim the lands his father once ruled. Daenerys, now married to a Dothraki prince, must adapt to a new life. Aided by Ser Jorah Mormont, a knight long exiled by Lord Stark, she will cross thousands of leagues, and seek to revive the ancient legacy of her family: Dragons.
And so, the stage is set for 'A Game of Thrones'. The plot is simply enormous, switching between many different storylines, always leaving you hungry for more. From the Lannisters in the South, to the Starks in the North, and the Targaryens across the Sea, the novel never lets down. We're especially blessed with a host of likable characters. Foremost among them are Jon Snow, Tyrion Lannister, and Daenerys Targaryen.
Although both Tyrion and Daenerys are technically 'bad', as Tyrions duty is to see house Stark smashed, and Daenerys wishes only to sweep the Kingdoms with blood and fire, Martin has written them so strongly, so completely human, that it's impossible to dislike them. Tyrion, a dwarf, is a disgrace to his powerful father, the eminent Lord Lannister. Hated by his sister, the Queen, yet loved by his brother, Jamie, one of the most feared Knights in the realm, Tyrion must choose wisely. He must balance his respect and understanding of the weak, with his heritage of one of the strongest family in the nations. He's a humorous character, and one can't help liking him.
As for Daenerys, it's impossible to feel anything except for pity, and then respect for her. She is so young, and terrified of her half mad brother, Viserys. Yet, by the end of the novel, she has been tempered, and has grown strong. Even King Robert across the sea fears her, and the child she bears. He will stop at nothing, even the murder of children, to see the Targaryen line ended.
As if the above isn't enough, Martin offers us even more. Hints of an epic love story between Robert and Eddard's dead sister years past are slowly revealed, along with the story of how a great war was fought for love of a woman. What bits and pieces of this story we manage to pick up are tantalizing, yet we can't help but be disappointed that more of the land's history isn't revealed.
A novel highly amibitious in it's scope, 'A Game of Thrones' nevertheless manages to attain everything it strives for, and more. This marks the begining of what will surely be a landmark series in the fantasy genre.