Fantasy flourishes in ‘Game of Thrones’

“Game of Thrones” begins with a beheading. From there, it goes to an intimate conversation between man and wife, then switches to an exiled princess and her demanding brother, then back to the lord of a castle as his king arrives. “Game of Thrones” by George R. R. Martin is a story of loyalty and betrayal, of honor and ambition. It is the story of the Seven Kingdoms, a place where seasons can last years or decades, and the people’s fate is inexplicably tied to the land. At the heart of the story are the Starks, a family known for being as harsh as the land they live on. They are the Lords of the North, ever ready for the onslaught of winter. Through their eyes, the mystery of a hidden power struggle is played out, as ever-present war draws closer and closer to the recently liberated Seven Kingdoms. In tangent to the Stark’s story is Tyrion Lannister, the younger brother of the queen and son of the richest man in the kingdom, who is cursed with being a dwarf. Clever and unyielding, Tyrion is an incidental pawn in the lethal game of thrones played around him. Yet another side of the story, parallel to those of the Starks and Lannisters, is that of the children of the overthrown king, who survive in a land across the sea. As chaos swirls in the Seven Kingdoms, the children plot their revenge on the lords that took their country from them. Epic fantasy, while entertaining, can quickly become tedious. Often the books are too long, the characters too formal and the premises outlandish and over-used. This is not the case, however, with “Game of Thrones.” While “Game of Thrones” is prolific, the style in which the story is presented makes up for any lost time reading. The multiple viewpoints are well-woven, and Martin does an excellent job at keeping the reader completely enthralled with several storylines and continuous action. Despite the plethora of characters, all of them are well-defined, developed and reasonable. The reader is helpless as Martin plucks heartstrings and twists words. Better yet, it is a story more about human nature and war than it is about magic. Undercurrents of supernatural forces dance at the corners of the story, spurring the reader on, instead of stealing the spotlight from the central characters. With an ending that leaves you wanting more, “Game of Thrones” is fantasy at its finest.