A Game of Thrones
|A Game of Thrones|
US hardcover (first edition)
|Author||George R. R. Martin|
|Cover artist||Steve Youll|
|Series||A Song of Ice and Fire|
|Genre||Fantasy, political strategy, epic fantasy|
|Published||1996 (Bantam Spectra/US & Voyager Books/UK)|
|Media type||Print (hardback & paperback)|
|Pages||672 (UK Hardback)
694 (US Hardback)
804 (UK Paperback)
835 (US Paperback)
|Followed by||A Clash of Kings|
A Game of Thrones is the first novel in A Song of Ice and Fire, a series of high fantasy novels by American author George R. R. Martin. It was first published on 6 August 1996. The novel won the 1997 Locus Award, and was nominated for both the 1997 Nebula Award and the 1997 World Fantasy Award. The novella Blood of the Dragon, comprising the Daenerys Targaryen chapters from the novel, won the 1997 Hugo Award for Best Novella. In January 2011 the novel became a New York Times bestseller and reached #1 on the list in July 2011.
In the novel, presenting various points of view and plot-lines, Martin introduces the noble houses of Westeros, the Wall, and the Targaryen plot-line. The novel has lent its name to several spin-off works based on the series, such as several games. It is also the basis for the first season of Game of Thrones, an HBO television series which premiered in April 2011. A March 2013 paperback TV tie-in re-edition is also to be titled Game of Thrones, without the "A". The title comes from a proverb that Queen Cersei quotes on page 471: "When you play the game of thrones, you win or you die. There is no middle ground."
A Game of Thrones follows three principal storylines simultaneously.
In the Seven Kingdoms
Eddard Stark—known to his intimates as Ned—is the Lord of Winterfell. On behalf of the Seven Kingdoms, he must condemn and execute a deserter from the Night's Watch, with his sons among the witnesses. On the return journey to Winterfell, Eddard's sons discover six direwolf pups, which are entrusted to Eddard's five legitimate children and his bastard. (The direwolf, the sigil of House Stark, is integral to the Stark family tradition.) Following the death of Lord Jon Arryn, previous "Hand of the King" (the highest advisor to the king), King Robert Baratheon visits Eddard at Winterfell. Because he trusts him as an old friend and as an ally in the previous struggle for the throne, King Robert asks Eddard to become the new Hand of the King. Eddard agrees, against his instincts, and at the same time promises his wife, Lady Catelyn Stark, that he will investigate the death of the previous Hand, Jon Arryn. Lysa Tully, Catelyn's sister and Lord Arryn's widow, had suggested in a secret message that Arryn may have been the victim of poison and political intrigue at the hands of King Robert's wife, Queen Cersei and her powerful family of House Lannister.
Before the Starks leave for King's Landing in the South, Eddard's young son Bran Stark witnesses Cersei committing incest with her twin brother Jaime Lannister, who promptly flings Bran from a tower hoping to conceal the secret. Bran survives against the odds but enters a coma. During his recuperation, an assassin attempts to murder him, only to encounter Catelyn, who has refused to leave his side. Bran's direwolf then saves his life, as well as Catelyn's, by killing the assassin. Catelyn realizes her husband faces danger in King's Landing; she travels there incognito by ship to warn him, leaving the eldest son Robb Stark to rule as the Lord of Winterfell. Not long after Catelyn's departure Bran awakens from his coma as a paraplegic and with no memory of how he fell. He remains at Winterfell along with his older brother Robb and younger brother Rickon.
Meanwhile, Lord Eddard travels to King's Landing, the capital, taking with him his daughters Sansa and Arya. Thirteen-year-old Sansa is betrothed to King Robert's twelve-year-old son Joffrey, the heir apparent. At King's Landing, Eddard assumes the duties of the Hand and the ruling of Westeros, as Robert is a renowned knight with little interest in governance.
Upon Catelyn's arrival in King's Landing, she is brought to a secret meeting with Petyr Baelish, known as Littlefinger, a childhood friend and admirer turned "Master of Coin" or Treasurer of King's Landing. He identifies Tyrion Lannister, the dwarf brother of Cersei and Jaime, as the owner of the dagger used in the attempt on Bran's life. While traveling back to Winterfell, Catelyn encounters Tyrion, returning from the Wall, and takes him captive. She changes her destination and takes him to the remote Eyrie, where her sister, Lady Lysa Arryn, rules as Lady of the Vale. Lysa blames the Lannisters for Jon's death and is eager to execute Tyrion, but he demands trial by combat and regains his freedom when his unlikely champion, hired-sword Bronn, wins the duel. In retaliation for Tyrion's abduction, Tyrion's father, Lord Tywin Lannister, wages war. He is soon joined by Jaime, who angrily confronts Eddard in King's Landing, killing a number of his men and crippling Eddard before he flees the city.
Eddard learns, as the murdered Jon Arryn had learned before him, that Robert's legal heirs are in fact Jaime Lannister's children by his sister. He confronts Cersei and offers her a chance to escape before he tells Robert the truth, but Robert is mortally injured in a hunt and Eddard cannot bear to tell Robert the reality about his supposed children as he lies on his deathbed. As Robert lies dying, his youngest brother Renly suggests to Eddard that they should use their combined household guardsmen to detain Cersei and her children and take control of the throne during the night, before the Lannisters can act. Eddard refuses, deeming such a deed dishonorable. Renly flees Kings Landing with the loyal House Baratheon guards instead. Eddard recruits Littlefinger to have the city guards arrest and charge Cersei, but is betrayed by him, resulting in Eddard's arrest, the death of all of his men, and Sansa's capture. The Lannisters attempt to capture Arya as well, but she flees the castle after her fencing master, Syrio Forel, the ex-First Sword of Braavos, intervenes.
With Eddard imprisoned, Cersei and Jaime's eldest son, Joffrey, is crowned as Robert's heir and King of the Seven Kingdoms. Eddard is persuaded by Varys to confess to treason, and to swear fealty to Joffrey as the trueborn King, in exchange for Sansa's life and his own, as Varys has arranged with Cersei to have Eddard sent to join the Night's Watch rather than be executed. Eddard then makes a public confession, but Joffrey orders his execution despite his council's and his mother's advice to spare him. Lord Eddard is then beheaded in full view of his daughters, Sansa and Arya. Yoren of the Night's Watch then takes Arya with the intention of delivering her to Winterfell on his journey north to the Wall with his new recruits.
As news of Eddard's arrest spreads across the Seven Kingdoms, a civil war erupts. Robb, now Lord of Winterfell, masses an army of northmen and marches south, joining with Catelyn to rescue his father and sisters in King's Landing, but upon learning of Eddard's death, goes instead to the Riverlands to raise support from his maternal grandfather, Lord Hoster Tully. To reach Riverrun, he agrees to a marriage pact with House Frey. At Riverrun, Jaime Lannister is currently laying siege, while holding Lord Hoster's heir and Catelyn's brother, Edmure Tully, as hostage. Upon hearing of Robb's march, Lord Tywin also advances his army to meet Robb's. In a bold move, Robb covertly detaches his cavalry towards Riverrun, while his infantry under Lord Roose Bolton engages Tywin's army. Tywin, joined by the now-liberated Tyrion who has massed his own army of mountain clansmen, defeats Bolton's host, only to discover too late that they were a decoy. Robb's forces then take Jaime's army by surprise during the night, capturing Jaime himself after setting a trap for the reckless knight. Jaime's host is scattered and Edmure Tully is liberated, joining the houses of the Riverlands to Robb's army. During "The Battle of the Whispering Wood" Jaime slays two of Lord Rickard Karstark's sons.
While Lord Stannis Baratheon is the next rightful heir to the Iron Throne, Lord Renly Baratheon of Storm's End—the youngest brother of King Robert and Lord Stannis—campaigns for the Iron Throne, and wins the support of House Tyrell by wedding Lord Mace Tyrell's daughter, Margaery Tyrell. Declaring himself king, Renly masses all the strength of Storm's End and Highgarden, a host of 100,000, and begins his march on King's Landing. After extended discussion, Robb's bannermen to House Stark and the House Tully bannermen, lords of the Riverlands, proclaim Robb King in the North, a title which had been long abandoned after the last King in the North swore fealty to the Iron Throne some three hundred years before
On the Wall
The Prologue of the novel introduces the out-kingdom Northern wilderness beyond the Wall, an ancient 700-foot-high (200 m), 300-mile-long (480 km) barrier of ice, stone and ancient magic, shielding the Seven Kingdoms from the North, manned by the order of the Night's Watch. Men of the Night's Watch (nicknamed "crows") swear an oath to serve on the Wall for life, foregoing marriage, and they wear clothing dyed only in black. In the lawless lands North of the Wall, a small patrol of Rangers from the Night's Watch encounter the Others, an ancient and evil race of beings thought to be long extinct and mythological. All the Rangers are killed except a single survivor (who flees south, becoming the deserter whom Ned executes in the beginning of the story). Jon Snow, the bastard son of Lord Eddard and despised by Catelyn, is inspired by his uncle, Benjen Stark, the First Ranger of the Night's Watch, to "take the black" and go to the Wall to join the Night's Watch. Jon travels north to the Wall with the Queen's brother, Tyrion Lannister, and other members of the Night's Watch. He becomes disillusioned when he discovers that it is little more than a penal colony meant to keep "wildlings" (human tribesmen who live in relative anarchy, north of the Wall) in check.
At the Wall, Jon unites the recruits against their harsh instructor, and protects cowardly but good-natured and intelligent Samwell Tarly. Jon hopes that his combat skills will earn him assignment to the Rangers, the military arm of the Night's Watch. Instead he is assigned as steward to the Lord Commander of the Watch, Jeor Mormont, nicknamed "the Old Bear" due to being the former Lord of Bear Island. He is at first angered that he has not been made a ranger, but then Samwell points out that Lord Mormont is most likely keeping Jon close to groom him for command, which lifts his spirits. He arranges for his friend Samwell Tarly to be made steward to elderly Maester Aemon, one of the last of the deposed ruling family. Meanwhile, Benjen Stark leads a small party of Rangers on patrol beyond the Wall but fails to return. Nearly six months later, the dead bodies of two of the Rangers from Benjen's party are recovered from beyond the Wall, and their corpses re-animate as wights in the night. Undeterred by sword wounds, the wights kill six men while Jon and his direwolf, Ghost, save Lord Commander Mormont by destroying one of the wights with fire. For saving his life, Mormont presents Jon with the Valyrian-steel bastard sword "Longclaw", an heirloom of the Lord Commander's House Mormont. Lord Mormont has replaced the existing bear pommel with a pommel in the shape of a white direwolf's head, representing both House Stark and Jon's albino direwolf.
When word of his father's execution reaches Jon, he attempts to desert the Night's Watch and join his half-brother Robb in war against the Lannisters. His friends among the Night's Watch catch up to Jon before he gets too far from the Wall and persuade him to return. Mormont convinces Jon that his place is with his new brothers, and that the war for the throne does not compare to the evil that winter is set to bring down upon them from the North. With Jon's loyalty secured, Mormont declares his intention to lead a massive ranging north of the Wall, to find Benjen Stark—dead or alive—as well as to investigate the disappearance of many wildlings and the dark rumors circling the King-Beyond-the-Wall, a deserter from the Night's Watch known as Mance Rayder.
In the East
Across the sea in the Free City of Pentos, twenty-one-year-old Viserys Targaryen lives in exile with his thirteen-year-old sister Daenerys. He is the son and only surviving male heir of Aerys II of house Targaryen, "the Mad King", who was overthrown by Robert Baratheon during the War of the Usurper. The Targaryens had ruled Westeros as dragon-lords for 290 years, but their dragons and power are gone. Viserys negotiates a marriage contract and betroths his sister to Khal Drogo, a warlord of the nomadic Dothraki horse warriors, in exchange for use of Drogo's army to reclaim the Westeros Iron Throne for House Targaryen. The wealthy merchant, Magister Illyrio, who has been hosting Viserys and Daenerys, gives a wedding gift to Daenerys of three petrified dragon eggs. A knight exiled from Westeros, Ser Jorah Mormont (son of Jeor Mormont, Lord Commander of the Night's Watch), joins Viserys as an advisor.
Unexpectedly Daenerys finds trust and love with her barbaric husband; she conceives "the Stallion who will mount the world", a child who is prophesied to unite and rule the Dothraki and will lead them to conquer the entire world. When Drogo shows little interest in conquering Westeros, the temperamental Viserys initially tries to browbeat his sister into coercing Drogo, but Daenerys, emboldened by her position as the Khal's wife, begins to stand up for herself and refuses to be bullied by her brother any longer. Initially, Drogo endures Viserys and punishes his outbursts with public humiliation. When Viserys publicly threatens Daenerys, Drogo executes him by pouring a pot of molten gold on his head, ironically giving him the "golden crown" he had been promised in return for Daenerys. As the last Targaryen, Daenerys takes up her brother's quest to reclaim the Iron Throne of Westeros.
An assassin seeking King Robert's favour unsuccessfully attempts to poison Daenerys and her unborn child. Enraged, Drogo agrees to invade Westeros to seek revenge. While sacking villages to fund the invasion, Drogo is wounded. The wound festers and Daenerys commands a captive maegi to use forbidden blood magic to save him; the treacherous maegi sacrifices Daenerys' unborn child to power the spell, which reclaims Drogo's life, but leaves him in a vegetative state. As the leaderless Dothraki horde disbands, Daenerys takes pity on her once-proud husband and smothers him. Eager for revenge, she orders the maegi tied to Drogo's funeral pyre and places her three dragon eggs on the pyre with Drogo. While she watches it burn, Daenerys is seduced by the beauty of the flames and walks into the inferno. Instead of perishing in the flames, she emerges unscathed and with three newly hatched dragons draped around her and nursing at her breasts. As a true Targaryen, she is suspected to be immune to flame. The few remaining Dothraki and Ser Jorah swear their allegiance to her as The Mother of Dragons.
Each chapter concentrates on the third person limited point of view of a single character; the book presents the perspective of eight main characters. Additionally, a minor character provides the prologue. Chapter headings indicate the perspective.
- Prologue: Will, a man of the Night's Watch.
- Lord Eddard "Ned" Stark, Warden of the North and Lord of Winterfell, Hand of the King.
- Lady Catelyn Stark, of House Tully, wife of Eddard Stark.
- Sansa Stark, elder daughter of Eddard and Catelyn Stark.
- Arya Stark, younger daughter of Eddard and Catelyn Stark.
- Bran Stark, seven-year-old son of Eddard and Catelyn Stark.
- Jon Snow, bastard son of Eddard Stark.
- Tyrion Lannister, a dwarf, brother of Queen Cersei and her twin Jaime, son of Lord Tywin Lannister.
- Princess Daenerys Targaryen, Stormborn, the Princess of Dragonstone and heiress to the Targaryen throne after her older brother Viserys Targaryen.
In the later books certain characters are added or removed.
The novel has been published in multiple editions in hardcover, paperback, audio book and e-book form. In June 2000 Meisha Merlin published a limited edition of the book, fully illustrated by Jeffrey Jones.
A Game of Thrones and the subsequent novels in the A Song of Ice and Fire series have been adapted in a HBO television series, a comics series, several card, board and video games, and other media.
A Game of Thrones has received much critical acclaim. Lauren K. Nathan of the Associated Press wrote that the book "grip[s] the reader from Page One" and is set in a "magnificent" fantasy world that is "mystical, but still believable." Steve Perry told readers of The Oregonian that the plot is "complex and fascinating" and the book is "rich and colorful" with "all the elements of a great fantasy novel". Writing in The Washington Post, John H. Riskind commented that "many fans of sword-and-sorcery will enjoy the epic scope of this book" but felt that the book "suffers from one-dimensional characters and less than memorable imagery." Phyllis Eisenstein of the Chicago Sun-Times wrote that although the book uses many generic fantasy tropes, Martin's approach is "so refreshingly human and intimate that it transcends them." She described it as "an absorbing combination of the mythic, the sweepingly historical, and the intensely personal." John Prior, writing in the San Diego Union-Tribune, called Martin's writing "strong and imaginative, with plenty of Byzantine intrigue and dynastic struggle" and compared it to Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time books, "though much darker, with no comedy or romance to relieve the nastiness."
Awards and nominations
- Locus Award – Best Novel (Fantasy) (Won) – (1997)
- World Fantasy Award – Best Novel (Nominated) – (1997)
- Hugo Award – Best Novella for Blood of the Dragon (Won) – (1997)
- Nebula Award – Best Novel (Nominated) – (1997)
- Ignotus Award – Best Novel (Foreign) (Won) – (2003)
- "1997 Award Winners & Nominees". Worlds Without End. Retrieved 2009-07-25.
- "2004 Award Winners & Nominees". Worlds Without End. Retrieved 2009-07-25.
- Taylor, Ihsan. "New York Times bestseller list, 2 January 2011". Nytimes.com. Retrieved 2011-05-16.
- Taylor, Ihsan. "New York Times bestseller list, 10 July 2011". Nytimes.com. Retrieved 2011-07-04.
- See: Works based on A Song of Ice and Fire
- "Coming Next Month". George R.R. Martin. February 13, 2013. Retrieved February 13, 2013.
- Martin, George. "Frequently Asked Questions". Retrieved 2011-08-10.
- Nathan, Lauren K. (November 10, 1996). "`Game of Thrones' fit for a king". The Associated Press.
- Perry, Steve (October 13, 1996). "Writer leaves TV to create epic fantasy". The Oregonian.
- Riskind, John S. (July 28, 1996). "Science Fiction & Fantasy". The Washington Post.
- Eisenstein, Phyllis (August 11, 1996). "Near the frozen north, where dragons awaken". Chicago Sun-Times.
- Prior, John (September 12, 1995). "Chilling 'Decline' a feminist vision of confrontation between the sexes". San Diego Union-Tribune.