Yes, I have come late to this series, for no other reason than I have a lot of books on my TBR list, and just haven’t gotten to it before now. This is high fantasy at its best, and compares to anything you can name at the top of the genre.
Based on the War of the Roses and the Hundred Years War, A Game of Thrones concerns the ongoing battle for the Iron Throne of Westeros. Two major families, echoing the Yorks and Lancasters of history, are marshaling their forces to win the throne for their side. Meanwhile, the exiled daughter of the former king is preparing her own bid for the throne. As backdrop to the political tensions, the years long summer is ending and winter is coming. A winter that will also last for years, and bring otherworldly invaders from the far North. There are hints of an ancient evil behind the rise of these Others.
The world building is large in scope, yet doesn’t get too overwhelming once you get oriented in the land. The terrains are varied, from the far North with its almost constant winter cold, to seaports, expansive grass plains, and nearly impenetrable mountain fortresses. The cities, manors, and other inhabited places have an authentic feel, and detail is often impressive.
The real power here is in the characters. Even the secondary players are dimensional and real. There are a few who border on stereotype (good and honorable, or evil and dark), but even these have some edges and depth. Most of the major characters are believable, well-drawn, and will make you either love them or hate them. Some are hard to read, just as some people in real life are. Some turn out to be surprises, and are not what they first seem. The cast is large (and, as I understand it, gets even larger as the story moves on), but individuals are distinct enough that it isn’t hard to keep them straight.
I will add a caution here that this is a story for mature audiences. It is often brutal and bloody, and not much is spared in these scenes. Favorite characters die, often brutally, unlike many fantasies where the heroes may face threats, but always seem to escape. Not here. There is strong sexual content, also, and, while this is not a steamy romance, the sex is not glossed over, either.
A Game of Thrones is a good start to what seems to be a very rich and satisfying series.