Posted in books, Fantasy, films & DVD, Television

Game of Thrones by George R.R.Martin

imageThis weekThe Telegraph newspaper in association with WHSmith newsagents is offering readers A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin, newly released in paperback for £2.99 (instead of £8.99) between Thursday, April 3 and Wednesday, April 9. So seeing as I enjoy reading good fantasy epics like Shannara and Tolkien’s Middle Earth saga, I would really like to read it, I am also considering getting the DVDs too. Readers can also obtain the book by bringing in one of the printed vouchers published in the paper on Thursday, April 3 or Saturday, April 5. A Game of Thrones is the first book in the A Song of Ice and Fire series that has been adapted for television and developed a large following. The new TV series starts on Monday, April 7.

A Game of Thrones is an epic tale of intrigue, romance, sorcery, betrayal, victory adventure and terror  by George R.R. Martin set in a world of dragons, ‘white walkers,’ direwolves and spell-forged steel in the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros, and is the first volume in George R. R. Martin’s epic cycle of novels which includes A Clash of Kings and A Storm of Swords.Already hailed as a classic, George R. R. Martin’s stunning series is destined to stand as one of the great achievements of imaginative fiction. Set in Kingdom where the summers can last decades and winters a lifetime, The cold is threatening to return, and in the frozen wastes to the north of Winterfell, sinister and supernatural forces are massing At the center of the conflict lie the Starks of Winterfell. King Robert Baratheon goes to visit Eddard Stark The Lord of Winterfell following the mysterious death of Jonn Arryn ( the highest advisor to the king) and asks him to become the new adviser to the king, King Eddard agrees and also promises to investigate Arryn’s death. Lysa Arryn, Catelyn’s sister and Lord Arryn’s widow, had suggested in a secret message to her sister that Arryn may have been the victim of poison and political intrigue at the hands of King Robert’s wife, Queen Cersei, and her powerful family of House Lannister. Meanwhile Eddard’s young son Bran Stark witnesses Cersei in bed with Jaime Lannister, and is almost killed, Luckily Bran survives but While recovering an assassin attempts to murder him, but is saved by Bran’s direwolf. Catelyn (Lord Winterfell’s wife) realizes her husband faces danger so she travels incognito by ship to warn him, leaving the eldest son Robb Stark to rule as the Lord of Winterfell.  Bran remains at Winterfell along with his older brother Robb and younger brother Rickon.

Meanwhile, Lord Eddard travels to King’s Landing, the capital, taking with him his daughters 11-year-old Sansa who is betrothed to King Robert’s 12-year-old son Joffrey, the heir apparent and 9 year old Arya. In King’s Landing Joffrey takes Sansa out for a picnic, while the tomboyish Arya plays with her friend, the son of a butcher, Mycah, angering Joffrey who confronts Mycah, so Arya and her dire wolf defend Mycah injuring Joffrey’s arm. Joffrey demands justice, claiming that Mycah and the direwolf attacked him unprovoked. Arya tells the true events while Sansa refuses to side with either her betrothed or her sister. King Robert wants to forget the incident, attributing it to childish games, but Queen Cersei demands justice. Joffrey’s guard, Sandor Clegane, is sent out to find and kill Mycah, and Cersei decrees that Sansa’s innocent direwolf must be killed in place of Arya’s.

At King’s Landing, Eddard rules Westeros, as Robert devotes his time to sensual pleasures and has little interest in governance. Eddard discovers that the king has let the royal treasury grow dangerously in debt, largely to the Lannisters. Ned meets the King’s closest advisors: Lord Varys, an enigmatic eunuch; Grand Maester Pycelle, an elderly scholar; and Petyr Baelish, known as Littlefinger, a scheming petty lord who has become Treasurer to the King. It is he who always manages to find money for the king’s pleasures, always increasing debts. As a child, Littlefinger lived in Catelyn Stark’s home of Riverrun, where he fell in love with her, and challenged her betrothed to a duel to win her (which he lost). Upon Catelyn’s arrival in King’s Landing, she is brought to a secret meeting with Petyr Baelish. He identifies Tyrion Lannister, the dwarf brother of Cersei and Jaime, as the owner of the dagger used in the attempt on Bran’s life. While traveling back to Winterfell, Catelyn encounters Tyrion, returning from the Wall, and takes him captive. She takes him to the remote Eyrie, where her sister, Lady Lysa Arryn, rules as Lady of the Vale. Lysa blames the Lannisters for Jon’s death and is eager to execute Tyrion, but he demands trial by combat. In retaliation for Tyrion’s abduction, Tyrion’s father, Lord Tywin Lannister, wages war. He is soon joined by Jaime, who angrily confronts Eddard in King’s Landing, killing a number of his men and crippling Eddard before he flees the city.

Eddard learns, as the murdered Jon Arryn had learned before him, that Robert’s legal heirs are in fact Jaime Lannister’s children by his sister. He confronts Cersei and offers her a chance to escape before he tells Robert the truth, but Robert is mortally injured in a hunt and Eddard cannot bear to tell Robert the reality about his supposed children as he lies on his deathbed. As Robert lies dying, his youngest brother Renly suggests to Eddard that they should use their combined household guardsmen to detain Cersei and her children and take control of the throne during the night, before the Lannisters can act. Eddard refuses, deeming such a deed dishonorable. Renly flees Kings Landing with the loyal House Baratheon guards instead. Eddard recruits Littlefinger to have the city guards arrest and charge Cersei, but is betrayed by him, resulting in Eddard’s arrest, the death of all of his men, and Sansa’s capture. The Lannisters attempt to capture Arya as well, but she flees the castle after her fencing master, Syrio Forel, the ex-First Sword of Braavos, intervenes.

With Eddard imprisoned, Cersei and Jaime’s eldest son, Joffrey, is crowned as Robert’s heir and King of the Seven Kingdoms. Eddard is persuaded by Varys to confess to treason, and to swear fealty to Joffrey as the trueborn King, in exchange for Sansa’s life and his own, as Varys has arranged with Cersei to have Eddard sent to join the Night’s Watch rather than be executed. Eddard then makes a public confession, but Joffrey orders his execution despite his council’s and his mother’s advice to spare him. Lord Eddard is then beheaded in full view of his daughter Sansa, but Arya is spared from seeing the event by Yoren of the Night’s Watch who turns her away from the beheading and then removes Arya from King’s Landing, with the intention of delivering her to Winterfell on his journey north to the Wall with his new recruits. As news of Eddard’s arrest spreads across the Seven Kingdoms, a civil war erupts. Robb, now Lord of Winterfell, masses an army of northmen and marches south, joining with Catelyn to rescue his father and sisters in King’s Landing, but upon learning of Eddard’s death, goes instead to the Riverlands to raise support from his maternal grandfather, Lord Hoster Tully. To reach Riverrun, he agrees to a marriage pact with House Frey. At Riverrun, Jaime Lannister is currently laying siege, while holding Lord Hoster’s heir and Catelyn’s brother, Edmure Tully, as hostage. Upon hearing of Robb’s march, Lord Tywin also advances his army to meet Robb’s. In a bold move, Robb covertly detaches his cavalry towards Riverrun, while his infantry, under Lord Roose Bolton, engages Tywin’s army. Tywin, joined by the now-liberated Tyrion, who has massed his own army of mountain clansmen, defeats Bolton’s host, only to discover too late that they were a decoy.

Robb’s forces then take Jaime’s army by surprise during the night, capturing Jaime himself after setting a trap for the reckless knight. Jaime’s host is scattered and Edmure Tully is liberated, joining the houses of the Riverlands to Robb’s army. During “The Battle of the Whispering Wood” Jaime slays two of Lord Rickard Karstark’s sons. Realising they are now outnumbered in enemy territory, and since Ned’s execution has made negotiation with Robb Stark impossible, Tywin pulls his armies back to the castle of Harrenhal to regroup, while sending Tyrion to King’s Landing to act as Hand of the King in his stead, ordering Tyrion to rein in Joffrey’s excesses and stop the young king from making further idiotic decisions. While Lord Stannis Baratheon is the next rightful heir to the Iron Throne, Lord Renly Baratheon of Storm’s End—the youngest brother of King Robert and Lord Stannis—campaigns for the Iron Throne, and wins the support of House Tyrell by wedding Lord Mace Tyrell’s daughter, Margaery Tyrell. Declaring himself king, Renly masses all the strength of Storm’s End and Highgarden, a host of 100,000, and begins his march on King’s Landing. After extended discussion, the House Stark bannermen and the House Tully bannermen proclaim Robb “King in the North”, a title that had been long abandoned after the last King in the North swore fealty to the Iron Throne of House Targaryen some 300 years earlier.

The Prologue of the novel introduces the Wall, an ancient 700-foot-high (200 m), 300-mile-long (480 km) barrier of ice, stone and ancient magic, shielding the Seven Kingdoms from the North, which is a Northern wilderness full of dangerous men and creatures. The Wall is manned by the order of the Night’s Watch. Men of the Night’s Watch swear an oath to serve on the Wall for life, foregoing marriage, titles, property and children, and they wear clothing dyed only in black. In the lawless lands North of the Wall, a small patrol of Rangers from the Night’s Watch encounter the Others, an ancient and evil race of beings thought to be long extinct and mythological. All the Rangers are killed except a single survivor (who flees south, becoming the deserter whom Ned executes at the beginning of the Stark’s story). Jon Snow, the bastard son of Lord Eddard, who is despised by Catelyn, is inspired by his uncle, Benjen Stark, the First Ranger of the Night’s Watch, to “take the black” and go to the Wall to join the Night’s Watch. Jon travels north to the Wall with the Queen’s brother, Tyrion Lannister, and other members of the Night’s Watch. He becomes disillusioned when he discovers that it is little more than a penal colony meant to keep “wildlings” (human tribesmen who live in relative anarchy north of the Wall) in check.

At the Wall, Jon unites the recruits against their harsh instructor, and protects 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. Instead he is assigned as steward to the Lord Commander of the Watch, Jeor Mormont, nicknamed “the Old Bear” due to being the former Lord of Bear Island. He is at first angered that he has not been made a ranger, but then Samwell points out that Lord Mormont is most likely keeping Jon close to groom him for command, which lifts his spirits. He arranges for his friend Samwell Tarly to be made steward to elderly Maester Aemon, one of the last of the deposed ruling family. Meanwhile, Benjen Stark leads a small party of Rangers on patrol beyond the Wall but fails to return. Nearly six months later, the dead bodies of two of the Rangers from Benjen’s party are recovered from beyond the Wall, and their corpses re-animate as wights in the night. Undeterred by sword wounds, the wights kill six men while Jon and his direwolf, Ghost, save Lord Commander Mormont by destroying one of the wights with fire. For saving his life, Mormont presents Jon with the Valyrian-steel bastard sword “Longclaw”, an heirloom of the Lord Commander’s House Mormont. Lord Mormont has replaced the existing bear pommel with a pommel in the shape of a white direwolf’s head, representing both House Stark and Jon’s albino dire-wolf

When word of his father’s execution reaches Jon, he attempts to desert the Night’s Watch and join his half-brother Robb in war against the Lannisters. His friends among the Night’s Watch catch up to Jon before he gets too far from the Wall and persuade him to return. Mormont convinces Jon that his place is with his new brothers, and that the war for the throne does not compare to the evil that winter is set to bring down upon them from the North. With Jon’s loyalty secured, Mormont declares his intention to lead a massive ranging north of the Wall, to find Benjen Stark—dead or alive—as well as to investigate the disappearance of many wildlings and the dark rumors circling the King-Beyond-the-Wall, a deserter from the Night’s Watch known as Mance Rayder.

Across the sea in the Free City of Pentos, 21-year-old Viserys Targaryen lives in exile with his 13-year-old sister Daenerys. He is the son and only surviving male heir of Aerys II of house Targaryen, “the Mad King”, who was overthrown by Robert Baratheon during the War of the Usurper, 14 years earlier. The Targaryens had ruled Westeros as dragon-lords for 290 years, but their dragons and power are gone. Viserys negotiates a marriage contract and betroths his sister to Khal Drogo, a warlord of the nomadic Dothraki horse warriors, in exchange for use of Drogo’s army to reclaim the Westeros Iron Throne for House Targaryen. The wealthy merchant, Magister Illyrio, who has been hosting Viserys and Daenerys, gives a wedding gift to Daenerys of three petrified dragon eggs. A knight exiled from Westeros, Ser Jorah Mormont (son of Jeor Mormont, Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch), joins Viserys as an advisor. Unexpectedly, Daenerys, who had previously been cowed and fearful under the bullying command of her older brother, finds trust and love with her barbaric husband; she conceives “the Stallion who will mount the world”, a child who is prophesied to unite and rule the Dothraki and will lead them to conquer the entire world.

When Drogo shows little interest in conquering Westeros, the temperamental Viserys initially tries to browbeat his sister into coercing Drogo, but Daenerys, emboldened by her position as the Khal’s wife, begins to stand up for herself and refuses to be bullied by her brother any longer. Initially, Drogo endures Viserys and punishes his outbursts with public humiliation. But when Viserys publicly threatens the pregnant Daenerys, Drogo executes him by pouring a pot of molten gold on his head, ironically giving him the “golden crown” he had been promised in return for Daenerys. As the last Targaryen, Daenerys takes up her brother’s quest to reclaim the Iron Throne of Westeros. An assassin seeking King Robert’s favor unsuccessfully attempts to poison Daenerys and her unborn child. Enraged, Drogo agrees to invade Westeros to seek revenge. While sacking villages to fund the invasion, Drogo is wounded. The wound festers and Daenerys commands a captive maegi to use forbidden blood magic to save him; the treacherous maegi sacrifices Daenerys’ unborn child to power the spell, which reclaims Drogo’s life but leaves him in a vegetative state; she had caused Drogo’s wound to fester, as well. As the Dothraki horde departs to follow a new leader, Daenerys takes pity on her once-proud husband and smothers him. Eager for revenge, she orders the maegi tied to Drogo’s funeral pyre and places her three dragon eggs on the pyre with Drogo. Daenerys then walks into the flames. Instead of perishing, she emerges unscathed and with three newly hatched dragons draped around her and nursing at her breasts. As a true Targaryen, the flame has not harmed her, and Daenerys believes the triple sacrifice of her baby, her husband, and the maegi has enabled the dragon eggs to hatch. The few remaining Dothraki and Ser Jorah swear their allegiance to her as The Mother of Dragons.