Since it was first published in 1996, A Game of Thrones has been one of my favorite books, and the start to one of my most-anticipated series ever. With each new volume of A Song of Ice and Fire, I find myself excited, and anxious to return to the world of Westeros that author George R.R. Martin has created.

When the HBO series Game of Thrones started in 2011, I found myself interested in re-reading the Ice and Fire saga for two reasons: It had been well over a decade since I’d first read it, and many of the specifics of the story had been lost to me over time; The second, and most importantly is the impending publication of the fifth book in the series, A Dance With Dragons, due out in July. It has been six long years since the last time I delved into the lands of Westeros, so found a refresher necessary.

I’ve since learned that catching up on the Ice and Fire saga is no simple task. With over 3,000 pages making up the series so far, A Game of Thrones was just a small leap into the series. But alas, I did read Thrones again, and here are my thoughts:

The seat of Winterfell is harsh and cold, with little ornamentation or fanfare. Fortunately, the same can’t be said of author George R.R. Martin, who does an amazing job of bringing this fictional world to life. The reader is immediately drawn in, with descriptions of evil tidings taking place beyond the Wall. And what a Wall it is! An ingenious setting, the Wall actually becomes a character in itself, imposing and inhospitable. Martin makes the reader actually feel bad for the men of the Night’s Watch, as they have this enormous weight standing over their heads; they surely must feel as if the world stands on their shoulders.

Though the novel is long, it never feels tedious or bogged down. The use of so many viewpoint characters helps to keep readers interested, and the plot flowing along nicely. Indeed, with so many characters, it would typically be difficult to keep up with them all, but Martin miraculously prevents this from happening. Where so many authors fail in introducing new characters, Martin shines brilliantly. The story truly revolves around the four main houses: Stark, Lannister, Baratheon, and Targaryen. Hundreds of other houses are introduced, and play their role, but Martin keeps them in their place, as required, and the novel excels because of it.

Memorable characters, landscapes, and events fill A Game of Thrones from beginning to end, and though this is a series based in a mythical kingdom, in a world where summers last years, and winters a lifetime, there is little that is unbelievable; it’s a book about real people, with real ambitions, and political scheming, as those with power vie for even more. So much of history is made up of stories like this that the events in the book are not only believable, but plausible as well.

Upon reading through a second time, I actually found the novel more entertaining that the first read-through (or at least I believe so, the first having been more than a decade ago.)  The story is eminently enjoyable and enthralling, ending with a bang. I can’t recommend A Game of Thrones highly enough, and thoroughly look forward to reading through the other books of the series for a second time.

– Reviewed by Bradley K. Brown