I came to A GAME OF THRONES because I read (and write) historical novels set during the Wars of the Roses, so I wanted to see what this writer of epic fantasy would do to the material. I was pleasantly surprised to find that George R. R. Martin (I’ll refer to him as GRRM) didn’t slavishly follow the historical events, making this a refreshing read.
Yes, I got that the Starks stand in for the Yorks (I guess Cateleyn is based on Lady Cecylee Neville, Duchess of York), and that the Lannisters stand in for the Lancasters. But everything has been mixed up, so that Robert Baratheon, who most resembles King Edward IV, is married to his greatest enemy Marguerite of Anjou (the Lancastrian Queen). Or perhaps Cersei Lannister is based upon his actual wife Elisabeth Woodville? Which makes Jaime Lannister what? Sir Anthony Woodville?
Anyway, you get the idea. It’s not easy to fit the actual history to this story, which gives GRRM a lot more freedom to develop his characters how he pleases.
For a book with the requisite plot twists and turns, it was a pleasant surprise to read such wonderfully poetic prose. Here is an example of what I mean. We are in Catelyn Stark’s head as she rides with her son and his army to cross the river at Riverrun:
“They crossed at evenfall as a horned moon floated upon the river. The double column wound its way though the gate of the eastern twin like a great steel snake, slithering across the courtyard into the keep and over the bridge, to issue forth once more from the second castle on the west bank. Catelyn rode at the head of the serpent, with her son and her uncle…”
Look at all those strong verbs: “crossed,” “floated,” “wound,” “slithering,” “issue forth,” “rode.” And how poetic the language is, with “evenfall” and “horned moon.” It is just enough to give a whiff of the Middle Ages without overdoing it. This long book, which I believe is about 700 pages (my iPad doesn’t tell me), kept me royally entertained for a week. If you have a boring plane journey ahead of you and this sort of thing grabs your attention, get it for your iPad. Five stars.