My rating: 5 of 5 stars
This book is a classic of high fantasy literature. I was moved to buy this book, and the other three books in this series, by watching the HBO series upon which it is based. (Yes, I know, there is a fifth book out now. I will probably buy it when I’m done with these.) I am very glad I did.
In this first book of the Song of Fire and Ice series we meet all the major factions in the coming succession war in the Seven Kingdoms. The Starks are the lords of Winterfell who command the entire northern half of the realm. The Lannisters, the wealthiest, and most devious, of the great houses. The Baratheons, who hold the Iron Throne as the book opens, now must defend their claim. Meanwhile, beyond The Wall, a great barrier of ice built by the First Men to keep the terrors of Winter at bay, the Others are stirring once again. Also, across the narrow sea the last remaining heir of the Targaryons, deposed ruling house of the Seven Kingdoms, marshals the Dothraki barbarians in a bid to regain what was taken from them by the usurper Baratheons.
There can be no doubt, Mr. Martin is a master of his genre. His characters are memorable and readily identifiable. His descriptive world building passages are particularly effective and evocative. The battle scenes are entirely convincing. (I most enjoyed witnessing the fog of war through Tyrion’s eyes.)
One thing I did find rather unique about this book was the very low key nature of the magical elements. There were no super powerful wizards/sorceresses, no flashy spells and little by way of fantastical creatures. There were hints of more to come, but that was all, just hints. This is not necessarily a bad thing. It simply sets this series apart from many others in the Fantasy genre. I have a feeling, though, that as things ramp up in the next few books, there will be more magical happenings.