TIME Magazine had it right when they dubbed George R. R. Martin the "American Tolkien" because his "A Song of Ice and Fire" series has the same world-building, complex characters, and engaging multiple plot themes as "The Lord of the Rings" series. I have loved Martin since I read his "Sandkings" novelette – what a statement about human beings and warfare! Martin also started the epic “Wild Cards” – another series designed and written by multiple authors with similarly amazing world-building, complex characters, and multiple plot lines, established almost like graphic novels with superheroes, villains, etc.
*****SPOILER ALERT *****
When I first read “A Game of Thrones,” I knew I was in for one hell of a ride. Martin did something that few authors are willing to do – he killed his main characters. After investing an entire novel in Ned Stark and his family, Martin dared to execute the King’s Hand, in front of his daughters no less. Every major character in the novel suffered some major upheaval or unpleasantry in the course of the book, and no one was unchanged at its end.
“A Game of Thrones” set the stage for the four novels that followed it, and Martin continued to add new major characters in every story. As characters died, new characters were introduced, and by the time readers reached “A Dance of Dragons,” there were so many characters, Martin could only focus on about half of them in that novel. Martin also is a master manipulator in the way that he concludes his novels – I could have killed him myself after the attack on Jon Snow in “A Dance of Dragons.” I suspect we will not see Snow at all in his next novel – I expect we will only discover his fate in the final scheduled book. What a wicked thing to do to your audience, but what a way to keep them hooked!
If you are willing to invest the time, emotional, and sheer physical investment of reading this huge story, read “A Game of Thrones.” Just try not to continue with the series after that initial venture. If you have watched any part of the HBO series and plan to continue watching, read the books. As amazing as the show is, the books are even better. If you choose not to read the books, please don’t be amazed or upset at episodes like the one that killed Ned Stark or the infamous Red Wedding – that is just the charm of living in George R. R. Martin’s world.