A Song of Ice and Fire #1
Eddard “Ned” Stark, Lord of Winterfell, is approached by his oldest friend and the king, Robert Baratheon, to take up the role of Hand of the King after the previous Hand, Jon Arryn, dies. Ned is not keen on the position, his place is in Winterfell, with his family in the North. His wife, Catelyn, insists that he take the job, especially after her sister Lysa Arryn warns her to beware of the Lannisters, whom she suspects are involved with the death of her husband. Robert’s wife, Cersei, is a Lannister, as well as her twin brother Jaime, who is a member of Robert’s kingsguard and known as the Kingslayer, making it difficult for Ned to approach Robert and discuss his fears with him. Ned decides that he will go with Robert to investigate the suspected murder of Jon Arryn. Shortly before leaving Winterfell, Cat and Ned’s youngest son, Brandon, who loves to climb, witnesses Jaime and Cersei together in a way that is most incestuous, and Jaime pushes Bran from a window, damn near killing the boy in the fall. Ned is loathe to leave, but Robert will hear nothing of it, and so he sets off for the capital of Westeros, King’s Landing, with his youngest daughter Arya and Sansa, whom Robert has proposed should marry his son, Joffrey, to bind the families together.
Once Ned has left Winterfell, his eldest son Robb takes up his place to rule, with the younger brothers, Rickon and the comatose Bran, remaining behind. Ned’s bastard son Jon Snow, moves to take his place as a member of the Night’s Watch, though he is sad to do so, but eager to make something of himself. He leaves with his uncle Benjen Stark, but is disappointed when the Wall turns out to be a terrible place, and that Snow still does not fit in. Many people are terrified of the direwolves that the Stark children have, and the wolves protect each child in turn. Across the Narrow Sea, Daenerys Targaryan is sold by her brother Viserys to Khal Drogo, a powerful warlord who is to help Viserys win back the Iron Throne from Robert. Daenerys initially starts unhappy, a young girl who was bartered for a crown, but soon takes up the Dothraki as her own people, falling deeply in love with her husband. In the khalasar, she makes the acquaintance of Ser Jorah Mormont, a banished knight from Westeros who swears to serve her brother. Daenerys receives beautiful gifts for her wedding, including three stone dragon eggs which are priceless. Daenerys dreams of the Targaryan dragons of old, reflecting that her and her brother are the last of that line, and that Viserys is the last dragon. Soon she discovers that she is pregnant, and is overjoyed by the news.
After Ned has left Winterfell, someone makes an attempt on Bran’s life, who wakes some time after the incident. Cat, meanwhile, has rode off to meet Ned in King’s Landing and discuss the rare dagger that the assassin had used. There they learn from Lord Petyr Baelish, a member of the king’s small council, that the blade belongs to the dwarf Tyrion Lannister, youngest brother of Cersei and Jaime. On the way back to Winterfell, Cat encounters Tyrion and captures him, taking him with her to the Vale, where her sister resides, to make him stand trial and answer for his wrongs. This, however, causes complications when Ned deals with Jaime in King’s Landing, who wishes for his brother’s safe return, and with Tywin Lannister rallying his men to go to war in order to retrieve Tyrion and show that they are not afraid to fight for their own. Arya and Sansa are at opposites with each other, Arya wanting to master the art of the sword, whereas Sansa is terribly embarrassed by her sister and wishes she was more ladylike. Ned investigates further, and his findings are very complicated and messy, meaning that there is no way that he can ignore the discovering Jon Arryn made and was slaughtered for. His news will have to wait, however, seeing as Robert is away on a hunting trip. Daenerys, on the other hand, has problems when Viserys starts pushing her husband to hurry up and complete his end of the bargain, saying that a deal is a deal. Jon Snow is dealing with life on the Wall, but is terribly lonely since Benjen Stark left and never returned. The Stark words of Winter is Coming are starting to ring true, as rumours and evidence of dark, evil things beyond the Wall are making their way to the ears of men.
What will Khal Drogo do about Viserys Targaryan and his anger? What will Ned to with the monstrous discovery that he has made in King’s Landing concerning the Lannisters? Will he be able to prove that Jon Arryn was murdered? What will happen with Tyrion at the hands of Lysa Arryn, who holds him responsible for her husband’s death and the attempt on her nephew’s life? What will Jon do at the Wall, and will Benjen Stark return?
So I had actually started these books a few years ago, but stopped when someone asked me if I really wanted to ruin the show for myself by knowing what was going to come next (because so seldom do things get adapted correctly). At any rate, a friend of my of mine was kind enough to have let me borrow his books which he got for Christmas. So trusting, right? Well, I jumped at the opportunity. Physical books trump ebooks anytime, though reading wherever works anyway. Initially I was afraid (because of the range of characters and events) that these books would read like textbooks, overburdened with information, though still possess a great story (think The Lord of the Rings – wonderful but definitely not light reading). My fears were almost immediately allayed. Martin writes with a style and grace that simply flows, it reads easily, and you don’t get stuck and don’t stumble or anything like that. The layout and presentation is interesting, too, what with each chapter being told by a different character. Initially the chapters are all relatively close together, but as things start to happen, the characters drift apart, the scope of the story ever widening. It is far easier to keep up with the characters in the books as opposed to the series, and there is an awesome amount of history in here that is just so interesting. I found the story to be rich and presented well, with an abundance of characters both likable and hated. I also like how you get to see how each of them think and develops differently over the course of the book. My other half calls Petyr Baelish “Petyrphile” because
of the whole Sansa Stark thing. When I started reading this book I was horrified to feel that I was a Petyrphile when the knowledge was dropped on me that Robb Stark is only fourteen, for instance, and that Jon Snow is the same. WTF man?! Oh well, aside from that, if you are not a reader and you have watched the show, that should be enough for you, it has been very loyal to this one (and to where I have read in the next one). If you liked the show and love reading, these are well worth the read.