“A Game of Thrones” is the first novel in the “A Song of Ice and Fire” series by the American writer George Martin. The genre is epic fantasy with elements of horror. The work was first published in 1996 by the Bantam Spectra publishing house. The novel takes place in a fictional universe. In the center of the work there are three main storylines — the events that preceded the beginning of the dynastic wars for power over the continent of Westeros, which resembles Europe during the High Middle Ages; the impending threat of the invasion of savage tribes and the demonic race of Others; and the journey of the deposed king’s daughter in her quest to reclaim the Iron Throne. The story is told from the third person, alternately from the point of view of different characters.
The author began work on the novel in 1991, at that time planning the cycle as a trilogy. George R.R. Martin, who tends to write large-scale texts, decided to create a large-scale epic fantasy in the spirit of “The Lord of the Rings”, based on historical books and shifting the emphasis from magic to realism. He gave a special place in “Game of Thrones” to heraldry, chivalry, description of feasts and clothes. The book was inspired by real historical events, and the heroes of the cycle had prototypes among European nobles. One of the main ideas of the book is the idea that death is the inevitable truth of all life.
The novel received universal acclaim from critics. It won the 1997 Locus Award for Best Fantasy Novel and was nominated the same year for a Nebula Award and a World Fantasy Award (WFA). The short story Dragon’s Blood, which includes chapters from the Daenerys Targaryen novel, won the 1997 Hugo Award for Best Short Story. Fifteen years after its publication, the novel reached number one on The New York Times bestseller list. Reviewers positively perceived the bold violation of the classic canons of the genre and the destruction of literary stereotypes, the development of characters and an exciting plot. In total, over a million copies of the book have been sold. The novel was screened as part of the first season of the TV series “Game of Thrones”.
The universe of the book
The cycle takes place in a fictional world. The main events of the book are focused on the continent of Westeros, which in terms of economy, culture and social arrangement resembles Europe of the High Middle Ages, and partly on the eastern continent called Essos, which is distinguished by its ethnic and geographical diversity. The most influential families of Westeros are called the Great Houses. About three hundred years before the events of Game of Thrones, the Targaryen dynasty, using three dragons, conquered all the lands of Westeros from the Wall to the southern shores of Dorne and created a single empire. The Targaryen family originates from ancient Valyria. Aegon married his sisters and this tradition was often followed in their line. The dynasty began to fade after the death of the last dragons. Aerys II’s madness spawned a rebellion that proved successful.
The Baratheon family is believed to be descended from a side branch of the Targaryens. After the Storm King was overthrown, they became lords of Storm’s Edge. Black and strong, the Baratheons remained loyal to the ruling dynasty for a long time. The reason for the conflict was Robert Baratheon’s beloved Lyanna Stark, who was kidnapped by Rhaegar Targaryen, the son of Aerys II. Robert, being the leader of the rebellion, ascended the throne of the Seven Kingdoms after the victory, but became a worthless ruler. The fair-haired Lannisters were the richest house of all the Great Houses. They rule the Westlands, and their stronghold is Casterla’s Rock. The head of the family is Lord Tywin. His eldest son Jaime, serving in Aerys’s guard, killed the former king, earning him the nickname “Kingslayer”.
The Starks are the unchanging lords of the North, whose line has not been interrupted for thousands of years. According to legend, their ancestor Brandon the Builder built the Wall. Dmytro Zlotnytskyi, a reviewer of “World of Fantasy”, writes: “They are cold like the lands they rule, hard like the walls of their ancestral castle Winterfell, and dangerous like the direwolves that flaunt on their banners.” The Starks differ from the other Great Houses in that they worship the Old Gods. It is the representatives of this family that are most widely represented in the plot of the work. The Starks can also conditionally be called positive characters in the book. The Arrens, the Guardians of the East, are one of the oldest families. Before the arrival of the Targaryens, they were kings of Hill and Vale. House Tully is located south of the Isthmus, in the central part of Westeros. Their Riveran Castle at the junction of the Trident’s three rivers allows them to control trade in the region. The Great Houses also include the Tyrells of Highgarden, who also received their lands from the Targaryen conquerors, the Martells of Dorne, who joined the Targaryen state voluntarily, and the Greyjoys, a warlike people from the Iron Islands.
The world of the Seven Kingdoms is a world of knights and assassins, tournaments and battles, heroes and lycads, intrigues and adventures, eternal cold and eternal summer. A world in which magic has disappeared and the last dragon died long ago.
The world, the unity of which rests on the power of the king – Robert Baratheon, who seized the throne, taking it from the Targaryen dynasty of Valyria, which ruled Westeros for almost three hundred years. However, a powerful warrior often turns out to be a weak king. After the mysterious death of his right-hand man (right hand of the king) – Jon Arren, Robert appoints his faithful friend – Eddard Stark – the ruler of the North to this post. Stark is forced to go to the capital – King’s Landing, leaving Winterfell (Eternal Winter) to his fourteen-year-old son Robb.
“Thanks” to the machinations of his own entourage, with which his wife, Queen Cersei Baratheon (Lannister), Robert dies while hunting, and a violent conflict breaks out in the country: the Starks, as the closest allies of the king, oppose the Lannisters – the Guardians of the West, who do not hide their plans for a free throne. The two brothers of the fallen king, Stannis and Renly, also have their own ambitions for the throne.
Playing the game of thrones, the lords of Westoros forget about the existence of Targaryen descendants across the ocean – Viserys Targaryen and his sister Daenerys, who miraculously escaped after Robert’s victory and are now burning with a thirst for revenge.
…Engrossed in civil war, people do not pay attention to the events unfolding in the far North, beyond the Wall, where the non-humans are gradually gaining strength. Besides, as the slogan of the Starks says – “Winter is near…”
Lord of Winterfell and Warden of the North Eddard (Ned) Stark executes Gared, a deserter from the Night’s Watch. Returning with the sons Robb and Bran Stark, the bastard Jon Snow and the pet Theon Greyjoy, they find six wolf cubs – four males and two females, matching the number and gender of Lord Stark’s children – and decide to take them for themselves. King Robert Baratheon arrives in Winterfell with his wife and children. Robert and Ned, being old friends, had in the past rebelled against Aerys II the Mad, overthrowing the ruling Targaryen dynasty. The king offers Ned, known for his honesty and incorruptibility, the position of the king’s right-hand man. Ned’s predecessor, Jon Arren, died under mysterious circumstances. Robert also promises to betroth his son Joffrey to Sansa Stark, Ned’s eldest daughter. On the day of the hunt, Ned’s son Bran climbs the old tower and becomes an accidental witness to the incest of Queen Cersei and her brother Jaime Lannister, for which he throws him off the tower. Bran survives, but his legs are paralyzed. At the same time, the boy does not remember the events that preceded the fall, so it is believed that Bran fell from the tower by accident.
Eddard Stark accepts Robert’s offer and takes his daughters to King’s Landing, the capital of Westeros. His wife Catelyn is left with their sons, an unconscious Bran, Rickon, and Robb. The latter becomes the governor of Winterfell at the time of his father’s departure. Jon Snow goes north, to the Wall, to become, like Ned Stark’s brother Benjen, a brother of the Night’s Watch, which he has long dreamed of. Bran is assassinated, but the direwolf saves both him and Catelyn. After coming to his senses, Bran gives him the name Leto. In his dreams, he saw the heart of the White Waste, far to the North, and the approach of winter. Since the assassin’s dagger was made of Valyrian steel, Catelyn heads to Havanna to find out who it belonged to. Petyr Baelish, known as Littlefinger, her old suitor, reports that it is the work of Tyrion Lannister, the queen’s brother. Enlisting the support of knights from the allied houses, Catelyn captures the dwarf and takes him to Lysa Arren, her sister, in the Eagle’s Nest, a mountain fortress in the East. Tyrion denies the charge of attempting to kill Bran and demands a trial by duel. His honor is protected by the mercenary Bronn, who deftly defeats the clumsy knight in heavy armor. Tyrion and Bronn are reluctantly let go and they leave the Nest.
Arriving in King’s Landing, Ned Stark finds himself in the thick of court conspiracies and intrigues. Gradually, Ned finds out that Prince Joffrey, Princess Myrcella and Prince Tommen were born by Queen Cersei not from her husband, but from her own brother Jaime. Robert has no legal heirs, because all his children were born out of wedlock. During a secret conversation with Cersei, Ned says that he knows about her connection with Jaime and suggests that she run away with the children. Instead, she tricks her cousin Lancel, Robert’s squire, into making him drink while hunting a boar. Lord Tywin Lannister, Cersei and Jaime’s father, sends Gregor Clegane and his troops to plunder the Riverlands with a secret order to lure Stark and take him prisoner in exchange for Tyrion. In response to the complaints of the river lords, Ned sentences Gregor Clegane to death in absentia and sends a squad led by Beric Dondarrion to carry out the execution.
As a result of Cersei’s machinations, Robert is mortally wounded in a fight with boars. Ned doesn’t have time to tell him the results of his investigation. The King signs a will appointing Joffrey as heir and Eddard as Lord Protector, then dies. Renly Baratheon, the king’s younger brother, suggests a coup at night and capture Robert’s children, but Eddard rejects the idea. In the throne room, Cersei tears up the will and declares Joffrey the king, herself his regent, and Eddard Stark the traitor. The guard of the city of the Golden Cloaks, together with the Lannister men, kill Stark’s men and arrange a massacre in the tower of the Hand. Ned is thrown into a dungeon, and Sansa is taken under house arrest. Aria, Ned’s youngest daughter, manages to escape from the castle and hide in the city. Joffrey is crowned King of Westeros. Ned agrees to join the brothers of the Night’s Watch in exchange for Sansa’s safety, but Joffrey orders his head beheaded. Ser Ilyn Payne carries out the sentence on the steps of the Great Sept of Baelor. Aria watches this happen, but Night’s Watch recruit Yoren picks her up and promises to bring her home.
After learning of the massacre in King’s Landing and the impending civil war for the throne, Eddard’s eldest son Robb Stark gathers an army and heads south. Bran, who has come to his senses, is appointed governor of Winterfell, and Maester Luwin and Ser Rodrik Cassel are his regents. Tyrion’s illegal arrest aggravates relations in the state – between the Lannisters on the one hand and the Starks and Tully on the other. Troops begin to assemble in Riverrun and Casterly Crook. To carry out military operations, Robb agrees to an alliance with the House of Frey. He defeats Jaime Lannister’s forces at the Battle of Whispering Wood and captures him, and later lifts the siege of Riverrun, Tully’s stronghold. After Robb renounces his alliance with Robert’s brothers, Renly and Stannis, who each have their own claim to the throne, the Lords of the North and the Trident declare him King in the North.
At the northern border of the kingdom is the Wall, a huge barrier of ice and stone seven hundred feet high, on which the brothers of the Night’s Watch serve. They swore to devote themselves forever to their cause, to renounce their titles and family, to have no wives and children, and to defend the Wall until the end of their days. In fact, the brotherhood protects the Seven Kingdoms from the northern tribes of savages, an anarchic community that lives by its own laws in the Enchanted Forest north of the Wall. In the prologue, three brothers of the Night’s Watch – Ser Waymar Royce, Gared and Will – pursue the wild beyond the Wall, but encounter the Others and two of them die. Gared escapes and crosses the Wall, but is caught and Eddard Stark executes him for desertion.
Jon Snow, Lord Stark’s bastard, arrives at the Wall. He unites the new recruits against the strict master of hand-to-hand combat and protects the cowardly but good-natured Samvel Tarly – a new recruit who was disliked by the other brothers because of his obesity. There are three classes of brothers in the Watch – builders who repair the Wall and castles of the Watch, stewards who organize the life of the Watch, and scouts who perform various tasks behind the Wall. Jon, due to his combat skills, hopes to become a scout, but is assigned to the stewards of the Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch, Jeor Mormont. Sam, thanks to Jon’s efforts, becomes a steward and assistant to Maester Aeymon, who maintains the library and the ravens.
Jon’s uncle Benjen Stark went missing over six months ago, setting out to find those brothers who died in the prologue. John and his wolf Ghost find two dead men from Benjen’s pack. They are brought to the Black Castle, but at night they come to life. One of them tries to kill Mormont, but John destroys him with fire. When John learns of his father’s death, he wants to desert to help Robb on his campaign, but his friends persuade him to return. In the morning, Mormont asks Snow to keep his oath and informs him of plans to go to the North with a large force to find Benjen, dead or alive, and to find out what Mance Raider, “The King Beyond the Wall” is up to, the leader of the Wild and a fugitive brother of the Night’s Watch.
Across the Narrow Sea, on the continent of Essos, live the rescued Targaryens, twenty-year-old Viserys and his thirteen-year-old sister Daenerys (Dany). After long wanderings from one city to another, until the beginning of the book, they are in Pentos, one of the Free Cities, with the rich master Illyrio . Hoping to gain a large army and restore the dynasty’s power over Westeros, Viserys marries his sister to Khal Drogo, a nomadic Dothraki leader of the most powerful of the khalasar (tribes) in Essos. At the wedding, among other gifts, Daenerys receives three bejeweled dragon eggs. Joining the khalasar is Targaryen companion Jorah Mormont, a fugitive Lord of Bear Island from the north of Westeros. Daenerys becomes pregnant by Khal Drogo, her future child is predicted a great fate. But Viserys cannot get his demands met. In Veyes Dothraki, the capital of all Dothraki, he goes so far as to directly threaten the Khal and his wife, demanding a coronation. Then Drogo melts the gold and pours it on Viserys, which kills him.
Later, the merchant makes an attempt on Dany – he gives her a barrel of poisoned wine. But his deception is exposed thanks to Jorah. During a southern campaign in the lands of the Lhazarians, or “lamb people”, Daenerys rescues a healer. In this raid, Drogo is seriously wounded and near death. The healer promises to save Drogo, saying that life will have to be paid for by death. Daenerys agrees, Drogo does not die, but remains in a vegetative state. Due to the performed ritual, an unborn child dies in Dan. Khalasar breaks up into many small groups. Only a small group of loyal men remain with Dany, including Jorah. Daenerys burns Drogo and the healer in a funeral pyre, then enters the fire herself. When the flames die down, the khalasar discovers Dani alive, surrounded by three dragons hatched from the eggs given to her.