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||August 6, 1996 (Bantam Spectra/US & Voyager Books/UK)|
|ISBN||ISBN 0-553-10354-7 (US hardback)
ISBN 0-00-224584-1 (UK hardback)
ISBN 0-553-57340-3 (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 August 6, 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, recounting events from various points of view, Martin introduces the plot-lines of the noble houses of Westeros, the Wall, and the Targaryens. The novel has inspired several spin-off works, including several games. It is also the basis for the first season of Game of Thrones, an HBO television series that premiered in April 2011. A March 2013 paperback TV tie-in re-edition was also titled Game of Thrones, excluding the indefinite article "A".
The title phrase surfaces at various points in the book and its sequels, first appearing when Ser Jorah Mormont tells Daenerys Targaryen, "The common people pray for rain, healthy children, and a summer that never ends. It is no matter to them if the high lords play their game of thrones, so long as they are left in peace. They never are." Later, Queen Cersei Lannister warns Lord Eddard Stark in the godswood, "When you play the game of thrones, you win or you die. There is no middle ground." Stark thinks on her warning after his capture and transfer to the dungeon under the Red Keep; Lord Varys visits him there and inquires, "Why is it always the innocents who suffer most, when you high lords play your game of thrones?" Finally, amidst the strategic discussions of Robb Stark and colleagues, Ser Stevron Frey (speaking of the opposition between Joffrey and Renly Baratheon) advises, "Wait, let these two kings play their game of thrones. When they are done fighting, we can bend our knees to the victor, or oppose him, as we choose."
A Game of Thrones follows three principal storylines simultaneously.
In the Seven Kingdoms
At the beginning of the story, Lord Eddard Stark executes a deserter from the Night's Watch, the main force of keeping out the dangers north of the Wall, a huge structure of ice, stone, and magic that protects the Seven Kingdoms. On the way back, he and his men discover six direwolf pups, the animal of his sigil. There are three trueborn male wolf pups and two female wolf pups, as well as a runt, which matches his family of three trueborn sons, two trueborn daughters, and a bastard. That night, he receives word of the death of his mentor, Lord Jon Arryn, who had been a close adviser of Eddard's childhood friend, King Robert Baratheon. During a subsequent royal visit to Eddard's isolated northern castle, Winterfell, Robert recruits Eddard as a replacement for Arryn, as the King's Hand. Eddard is at first reluctant, but agrees to go when he learns Arryn's widow, Lysa, Stark's wife's sister, believes Queen Cersei and her family poisoned Arryn. Shortly thereafter, Eddard's son Bran Stark inadvertently discovers Cersei having sex with her twin brother Jaime Lannister, who throws Bran from the tower to conceal the secret. Eddard and his daughters Sansa and Arya depart for the royal capital of King's Landing, while his wife Catelyn, a comatose Bran, and their other sons Robb and Rickon remain at Winterfell.
During the journey south, a physical altercation between Arya and Robert's son, Prince Joffrey, to whom Sansa has been betrothed, involving the direwolves of Arya and Sansa, increases both the tension between the Starks and the Lannisters and the sibling rivalry between Arya and Sansa. Arya's wolf is chased away by her while Sansa's direwolf is executed to pay for what Arya's wolf did to Joffrey. Meanwhile, at Winterfell, an assassin hired by an unknown party attempts to kill Bran, and Catelyn departs for King's Landing. to bring word of this newest complication to Eddard. Shortly thereafter, Bran awakens as a paraplegic, and with no memory of the circumstances of his fall.
At King's Landing, Eddard meets the King's main advisers, including Petyr Baelish, known as Littlefinger, the royal treasurer, and Varys, the master of secrets. Eddard soon assumes effective royal power, while Robert devotes his time to sensual pleasures. Upon Catelyn's arrival in King's Landing, she is brought to Baelish, who was a childhood friend of hers, who identifies Tyrion Lannister, the dwarf brother of Cersei and Jaime, as the owner of the dagger used against Bran. He agrees to help Eddard investigate the possibility of Lannister treason. During her return journey to Winterfell, Catelyn meets Tyrion by chance, arrests him, and takes him to Lysa. Tyrion demands trial by combat and regains his freedom when his champion, a sellsword named Bronn, is victorious. In retaliation for Tyrion's abduction, Tyrion's father, Lord Tywin Lannister, sends soldiers on violent raids across Catelyn's family lands.
Eddard eventually discovers that Robert's legal heirs, including Joffrey, are in fact Cersei's children by Jaime. That was the secret that Jon Arryn had died for. He offers Cersei a chance to flee her certain execution before he informs Robert, but she uses his attempt at mercy to arrange for Robert's death in a hunting accident. Eddard, made regent by Robert's will, recruits Littlefinger to have the city guards arrest Cersei, but is betrayed by him, resulting in Eddard's arrest, the death of his men, and Sansa's imprisonment. The Lannisters attempt to capture Arya as well, but she flees the castle. Joffrey is crowned King of the Seven Kingdoms. Eddard agrees to swear fealty to Joffrey and join the Night's Watch in exchange for Sansa's life. Joffrey nevertheless has him beheaded.
Robb Stark has gathered an army and marched south in response to his father's arrest; upon learning of Eddard's death, he moves to raise further support from his maternal grandfather, Lord Hoster Tully. To reach the Tully lands, he agrees to a marriage pact with House Frey, who control the intervening territory. Robb proves victorious in an eventual confrontation between his army and Lannister forces led by Tywin. Tywin withdraws to the southern border of the Tully lands, sending Tyrion to King's Landing to keep the unstable Joffrey under control. Robb, electing not to ally himself with Robert's brother Renly, who has made his own claim to the throne, instead reclaims his family's ancestral title, King in the North.
On the Wall
The Prologue of the novel introduces the Wall: an ancient barrier of stone, ice and magic, hundreds of feet high and hundreds of miles long, shielding the Seven Kingdoms from the Northern wilderness. The Wall is manned by the Night's Watch, an order of warriors sworn to serve there for life, forgoing marriage, titles, property and children. North of the Wall, a small patrol of Rangers from the Night's Watch encounter the Others, an ancient and hostile race of beings thought long extinct or mythological. All of the Rangers are killed except a single survivor who flees south and is later executed by Eddard Stark for desertion.
Jon Snow, the bastard son of Eddard Stark, is inspired by his uncle, Benjen Stark, to join the Night's Watch, but becomes disillusioned when he discovers that it is little more than a penal colony meant to keep "wildlings" (human tribesmen in relative anarchy north of the Wall) in check. At the Wall, Jon unites the recruits against their harsh instructor, and protects the 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, but instead is made a steward to the leader of the Watch, Lord Commander Jeor Mormont, who sees command potential in Jon. Meanwhile Benjen, who had led a small party of Rangers beyond the Wall, fails to return. Nearly six months later after Benjen's disappearance, the dead bodies of two of the Rangers from his party are recovered beyond the Wall; their corpses soon re-animate as wights, which kill six men and threaten Mormont, who is saved by Jon.
When word of his father's execution reaches Jon, he attempts to join his half-brother Robb against the Lannisters, but is prevented by his comrades and persuaded by Mormont to remain loyal to the Watch. Mormont then declares his intention to find Benjen — dead or alive — and to investigate the disappearance of many wildlings and the dark rumors surrounding "the King-Beyond-the-Wall," a deserter from the Night's Watch known as Mance Rayder.
In the East
In Pentos, a city-state of Essos, a continent to the east of Westeros, Viserys Targaryen, son of the king overthrown by Robert Baratheon, betroths his sister Daenerys to Khal Drogo, a warlord of the nomadic Dothraki, in exchange for use of Drogo's army to reclaim the throne of Westeros. Illyrio, a wealthy merchant who has been supporting the penniless Targaryens and brokered the marriage, gives Daenerys three petrified dragon eggs as a wedding gift. Jorah Mormont, a knight exiled from Westeros, joins Viserys as an adviser. Initially terrified of her powerful new husband and his alien people, Daenerys eventually settles into her place as Drogo's queen. When Drogo shows little interest in conquering Westeros, Viserys tries to browbeat his sister into coercing Drogo, but the previously tractable Daenerys refuses. When a frustrated and imperious Viserys publicly threatens the pregnant Daenerys, Drogo executes him. Viserys wanted "a gold crown" in return for Dany, and he got just that, when Drogo killed him by pouring molten gold on Viserys's head. As the last Targaryen, Daenerys takes up her brother's quest to reclaim the throne.
An assassin seeking King Robert's favor attempts to poison Daenerys and her unborn child, and a vengeful Drogo agrees to help her conquer Westeros. While sacking villages to fund the invasion, Drogo is wounded, and Daenerys commands a captive folk healer to save him. Drogo does not believe in the folk healer, so he does not listen to her instruction. When he is beyond saving, the healer, angered by the Dothraki raids, sacrifices Daenerys' unborn child to power the spell which she promised would save Drogo's life, which restores Drogo's health but leaves him in a vegetative state. Most of the Dothraki army departs to follow a new leader. Daenerys smothers Drogo with a pillow, and orders the healer tied to Drogo's funeral pyre. She places her three dragon eggs on the pyre, enters it herself, and emerges unscathed with three newly hatched dragons suckling at her breasts. The few remaining Dothraki and Jorah Mormont, awe-struck, swear allegiance to her.
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, illegitimate son of Eddard Stark.
- Tyrion Lannister, a dwarf, brother of the twins Queen Cersei and 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 viewpoint characters are added while others are 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.
- "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.