Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin
kindle book purchased from Amazon.com
Description from Goodreads:
Long ago, in a time forgotten, a preternatural event threw the seasons out of balance. The cold is returning, and in the frozen wastes to the north of Winterfell, sinister forces are massing beyond the kingdom's protective wall. To the south, the King's powers are failing, and his enemies are emerging from the shadows of the throne. At the center of the conflict lie the Starks of Winterfell, a family as harsh and unyielding as the frozen land they were born to. Now Lord Eddard Stark is reluctantly summoned to serve as the King's new Hand, an appointment that threatens to sunder not only his family but also the kingdom itself. A heroic fantasy of lords and ladies, soldiers and sorcerers, assassins and evildoers who come together in a time of grim omens. The first volume in George Martin's series
I can't believe I hadn't read this series before. I started watching the HBO series and, naturally, I decided that I had to read the book before I got too far into the television series. The endings for the episode were killing me and I just couldn't wait. While there were some changes from the book to the series, I thought most of the changes were fine and some were necessary, like making some of the characters significantly older than they were in the book.
This being the first book of the series, there is a lot of time spent in introducing the characters, their families, lineages, kingdoms, etc. There is so much information thrown at the reader, but it is never boring. I loved the world that Martin has created here. It feels very medieval and even though this series is what I would call epic fantasy, it feels very gritty and real - not fairytale-like.
Most of the characters seem pretty real too --- no one is all good or all bad. Having said that, there are a couple of really great bad guys that are so fun to dislike (read hate). At least in the first book, Jon Snow and Eddard Stark seem to be the best of the "good guys", but this could change with later books.
One of my only issues with the book is the way that most of the females are portrayed. They are property to have children on or just there for men to take their pleasure. Granted, this idea of women goes along with a medieval mindset, but I still have issues with it. Arya and her mother Catelyn Stark are exceptions to this -- they are both smart and strong willed and don't seem to be as subservient as so many of the other females. Cersei Lannister is also a smart woman, but she is just awful.
I really enjoyed the story and I am reading the second book in the series, A Clash of Kings. I would highly recommend this book for mature readers.