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Publisher's Summary

In a time long forgotten, a preternatural event threw the seasons off balance. In a land where summers can last decades and winters a lifetime, trouble is brewing. As the cold returns, sinister forces are massing beyond the protective wall of the kingdom of Winterfell. To the south, the king's powers are failing, with his most trusted advisor mysteriously dead and enemies emerging from the throne's shadow. At the center of the conflict, the Starks of Winterfell hold the key: a reluctant Lord Eddard is summoned to serve as the king's new Hand, an appointment that threatens to sunder both family and kingdom. In this land of extremes, plots and counterplots, soldiers and sorcerers, each side fights to win the deadliest of conflicts: the game of thrones.

©1996 George R.R. Martin, (P)2003 Books On Tape, Inc., published in arrangement with Random House Audio Group,a division of Random House, Inc.

Critic Reviews

  • Locus Award, 1997

"Martin's trophy case is already stuffed with major prizes...He's probably going to have to add another shelf, at least." (Publishers Weekly)
"The first volume in Martin's first fantasy saga combines intrigue, action, romance, and mystery in a family saga." (Booklist)
"Grabs hold and won't let go. It's brilliant." (Robert Jordan)
"This novel is an absorbing combination of the mythic, the sweepingly historical, and the intensely personal." (Chicago Sun-Times)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings


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  • DCinMI
  • Fairview, MI
  • 09-12-13

Review of First 5 Books

I understand that there are to be 7 books in this series, but as of this writing there are only 5. I listened to them all, one right after the other, so it is difficult for me to review them separately. Besides, I think anyone new to the series should know what they're getting into right up front. However, there are no spoilers here.

I'm going to use the word "read" instead of "listen" because it's all the same to me and "read" is shorter.

My sons, both of them "men grown," have been nagging me for at least two years to read these books. Recently, they both accosted me about it from different parts of the country on my birthday, so I grudgingly agreed to try the first book. I have now read them all, as I said. My sons have been disinherited several times during the reading process. They had better hope that the last two books come out before I die.

I have read a number of reviews comparing Martin to Tolkien. This might be true if Tolkien had been a warped, sadistic bastard who enjoyed tormenting his readers. During the course of reading these books, I have called Martin everything but a good guy. Lucifer, Beelzebub, and Spawn of Satan top the list, along with accompanying adjectives. But I read all the books and am biting my nails waiting for the next one. True to his nature, however, Martin is making no promises about when that will be. Judging from the spacing of these first 5 books, I may have no fingers left by the time book 6 hits the presses. (This would help me relate better to some of his characters, I guess.)

So, for those of you who have not yet begun this series: If you are very squeamish, you'd better not start. There is a lot of torture, violence, explicit sex, and explicit violent sex. Even worse, there's some really bad language.

It is set in a world that seems to be based on Medieval England, but is not England nor any other place on this earth. The number of characters and story lines that are converging on each other seems daunting at first glance, but I was surprised at how easily I could keep the major ones straight in my head.

There are some characters that you will love and others that you will love to hate, and still others that you will hate to love. Some of them you will hate and then come to love or pity, and the other way around, too. Some of them, mostly Tyrion Lannister, are very witty and humorous no matter what the situation, so that provides a little relief sometimes. Some of them you will forget about entirely, as a whole book might go by before they pop up again.

If you like to feel safe and secure when reading a book, this series is not for you. Nothing is sacred, no one is safe. Bad things happen to good people, and vice versa. If I had been reading a paper book, I would have a lot of holes in my walls from repeatedly throwing the books against them. However, reading them has given me plenty of practice climbing the walls. (Unfortunately, as a woman, I would still not be able to become a Black Brother.) No one is happy in any of the seven kingdoms. The only joy comes from vengeance or, more rarely, justice. I hate books like that! But I read all the books and am biting my nails waiting for the next one.

I have given the series 5 stars because I could not stop reading once I had started, no matter how angry it made me. I would never have read these books if my sons had not hounded me into it. But wait--no--I have no sons. That was that other woman who lived before she embarked on the torturous journey that is Game of Thrones.

1,096 of 1,171 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Brent
  • 02-17-04

A fantastic tale!

I read a lot of fantasy and sci-fi, and I can promise you that this series of books is among the best.

This tale takes place in a land known as the "Seven Kingdoms." However, these kingdoms are actually ruled by a single King with various Lords under him. The history of these kingdoms is expertly blended into the plot, so that you effortlessly become emersed into the world. I can't overstate the skill with which the author draws the reader into his world. It feels as if this land, with its people, traditions and history is as real as our own.

Magic does exist in this world, but it is rare. It is used to color the plot, not to dominate it. There are hints of other races, but varieties of humans are all we encounter. There is some profanity, but it's fairly rare and in context. There is some sexual content. I wouldn't recommend this book for children.

Large sections of the plot revolve around the "palace intrigue" of the King, his family and the Lords. This is a book about the nobles of this realm and, as the title suggests, the high stake games they play for power. The characters in the book are deep, colorful and simply splendid. Their lives have a depth to them that few authors accomplish. I confess that, when not reading the book, I actually thought about them during the day and laid awake wondering about them at night. In the audio version, the narrator does a wonderful job of giving voice to these vivid characters.

The plot has numerous twists and turns. Sometimes I think the author intentionally speculates about what the reader would expect in the plot of a fantasy novel, and then does something completely different. I gave up trying to predict what would happen, and decided to just enjoy the ride. However, there is an overall "master" plot that is slowly unveiled in this and subsequent books.

If you enjoy fantasy, this is a must read. Even if you usually don't like fantasy, you may very enjoy this one.

313 of 352 people found this review helpful

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  • Kristie
  • SAVAGE, MN, United States
  • 05-09-13

Terrible editing, though...

Great story and fantastic narration. I have nothing to add on that front.

About the quality, however...once an hour a sentence repeated itself. I'm assuming they recorded from a CD where the last sentence of a disc is repeated as the first sentence of the next disc. Also, the last 40 minutes of Audible's Part 3 were repeated at the beginning of Part 4. Not at all on par with Audible's usual quality...surprising and disappointing that they would let one of their best sellers go out in this condition.

319 of 359 people found this review helpful

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  • Performance
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Why oh why was this guy chosen for the narrator?

Love, love, looooooove this series but good lord-this guy's terrible. I don't understand all the people that like his performance?! His range is horrible. He uses ever so slight variations on the same 2 voices over and over, sometimes inconsistently changing his voice for various parts. His only saving grace, for me, is I recognize he has a nice voice but he would have been better off not trying to change his voice at all and just doing straight reading. Michael Kramer would have been brilliant narrating this series.

154 of 174 people found this review helpful

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Good Story - didn't care for the reader

Is there anything you would change about this book?

The reader made listening very difficult.

What didn’t you like about Roy Dotrice’s performance?

Although I understand that there are many characters, and the timeperiod lends itself to "gruff" characters, I didn't like listening to the gruff and harsh voice of some of the characters. It was a difficult listen for me personally.

41 of 46 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Simply Outstanding.

Wow. George R. R. Martin has renewed my faith in the Fantasy genre. I enjoyed this book so much I was pulling my hair out waiting for the month to end so I could download the next 2 books in the series. The writing is excellent. The dialogue is wonderful. The setting is dark, intriguing and original. The narrator, an experienced actor, is exceptional and he easily allowed me to immerse myself in the story. The only thing that I fear would turn people off from this book is the intense violence and certain taboo situations--but such things are expected in a more gritty, realistic medieval setting. So if you prefer your fantasy novels rated PG, than A Game Of Thrones is not for you. Also, those of you who expect all of their fantasy novels to end with shiny, happy people holding hands can just stop reading now and find another book. R.R. Martin isn't afraid to kill characters. So if you're not already squeamish by what I've said above, then read this book. You'll laugh, you'll cry, you'll shake your fists into the air and seethe with rage. I have found my new favorite fantasy author, and his name is George R. R. Martin.

167 of 192 people found this review helpful

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Narrator ruins this epic fantasy

What did you like best about A Game of Thrones? What did you like least?

I love this series. I've read it already but decided to go through it again, but this time through audible.

How could the performance have been better?

In a story that is built off the richness and complexity of characters, it behooves the narrator to familiarize himself with the names, ages, and personalities of at least the main cast. This guy consistently misreads names, puts on an idiotic oaf voice for large and fierce characters, narrates a teenage boy's dialogue in the voice of an old man, and makes practically every other make character out in the same gruff voice. Completely ruins the diversity and dynamics of this great sory.
Further, after 30+ hours of him, I can say his prose and tone at times are just odd. They confuse the meaning of the passages and are littered with random pauses and abrupt continuations. It's like an actor breaking the fourth wall. His performance really jars you out of the story and is completely distracting.

Any additional comments?

It's a crime this guy goes on to narrate several more books in this series. I hope he improves, he's just awful.

103 of 119 people found this review helpful

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Pure rage has led me to write this review

Is there anything you would change about this book?

Would I change anything about the book itself? No. Well, the long lists of names of Garwen, son of Grabain etc, which are a bit Lord of the Rings-like, and there is a good chance that you will never see those characters again. But I logged on in order to write a review of the performance, not the book.

Who was your favorite character and why?

Tyrion, because of his indefatigable wit

How did the narrator detract from the book?

In almost every possible way. Roy Dotrice has a lovely reading voice, a proper actorrrr in the old-school British sense. But throughout the series (I am now listening to the fourth book), he cannot read a name the same way twice, sometimes even changing it from one minute to another. For example Brienne, who he decides from the beginning to pronounce "Bra-eene", became "Bri-enne" for a few sweet moments in the fourth book, alternating back and forth to his first wrongly-pronounced choice. Targaryen, a pretty important surname, is mostly Tregaryen, sometimes Tergaryen, or whatever comes to hand first. Joffrey is Jeffrey quite often, Catelyn is Kate-lyn or Kat-lyn, Gilly becomes Jilly, and so on. I mean, did anyone in the publisher ever listen to this? For $40 per book, you would expect at least a perfunctory listen by a semi-conscious editor. And as he so often changed pronounciations from one book to another, did he even know that he was reading books from a series?And that's even before I start talking about the voices or accents. Now, Mr Dotrice was not a young man when he read these books, so he always sounds reasonably mature, so there was never any need to actually put on an old person's voice, when reading the parts of 30yr olds or 40yr olds, was there, really. He makes young fresh knights sound like old retired army colonels, any non-aristrocratic woman sound like a toothless old hag, and a huge amount of the 'ordinary' people incredibly stupid. Gendry is meant to be an un-educated guy, not a clinically thick one. It's so painful listening to his dim-witted voice for Gendry, or the completely constipated interpretation of Tywin Lannister, unable to get through a sentence without huffing and puffing every 4 words, that I wanted to skip through the chapters they were in.Lastly - accents. Roy Dotrice showed an astonishing lack of knowledge of some pretty simple premises - that Cersei, Jaime and Tyrion Lannister were all children of Tywin, for example, and were brought up by him in the same place. I know this is a fictional universe and our accents do not apply, so when I say that Tyrion Lannister had a Welsh accent, Cersei spoke Received Pronounciation, and Jaime was another constipated toff, I am just trying to say that 3 siblings had very different accents, when you would think they had the same. I liked to think that maybe Dotrice had realised his mistake in book 2, as he switches Jaime's to a bit more Welsh, but it's still Tyrion and Jaime in the Welsh camp vs Cersei and Tywin in the English. And as I have just noticed that Arya has been changed to Irish in the fourth book, it seems he picks accents and voices at random as yet another character turns up, and it's luck of the draw if he will remember which combination he used if he comes across them again.There are some other howling errors of inflexion and pentameter, where he must have realised that he read it wrong, but neither he nor anyone thought to get him to press rewind and try the sentence again. I listen to a lot of Radio 4, so am spoiled by the excellent voice actors who are clearly well directed and edited, so perhaps I am a little picky. But we are paying good money (or credits), not listening to a free radio service, and we are trying to be transported to a land of make-belief through our willing suspension of disbelief, so having these glaring and irritating errors bringing us back to this world of apathy, laziness and lack of pride in a job done, is like a slap (or many, in this case) in the face.I would dearly love to have a decent voice actor do all these again; someone who might actually quickly peruse the books beforehand and make notes of who is related to whom and where they come from, and perhaps even note their own pronounciations. Dotrice is/was allegedly friends with the author which is absolutely astounding - yet another person who didn't call him up on his mistakes! I know it's not just me bemoaning this. Anyone listening to these with a modicum of attention would notice it within minutes.

Did A Game of Thrones inspire you to do anything?

Waste lots of my time researching it, rather than working or studying.

Any additional comments?


23 of 26 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • John
  • Smyrna, GA, USA
  • 08-27-09

I beg to differ...

Just wandered over here and the reviews currently sitting on the page paint a picture of people who, with all due respect, have interesting tastes.

Roy Dotrice is a brilliant reader who ranks up there with Jim Dale. I say this because every character has his or her own distinct voice and there's 14,712 of them, so that's impressive. The only problem I will tell you up front is that in Book 3, one character changes voices and it's a bit disconcerting. Beyond that, he's amazing.

For people who think this is too long and is slow to get started, I admit it took me until the bit at the inn (that description will make sense) and then I was hooked. And if you prefer things that aren't, well, epic, then yes, this isn't your book.

It's frankly brilliant. And the best put-together fantasy world I've read since Tolkien. If you are a patient reader/listener who loves epic fantasy, a twisty plot, and don't mind not having any idea how big a story is actually happening (not at first anyway), then you'll dig the heck out of it. If that's not for you, then look elsewhere.

Just felt compelled to say something.

361 of 421 people found this review helpful

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  • Megan
  • Arlington, TX, United States
  • 06-21-13

Love the Book, Hate the Narrator

Would you recommend this book to a friend? Why or why not?

I've listened to over 50 audiobooks at this point, and this is the first time I have ever had such a negative experience with a narrator. Horrible! The voices are not even remotely aligned with the age or personality of the characters. A 15 year old sounds like a shaking voiced 80 year old. Just awful. So disappointed. So, no I wouldn't recommend the audiobook to anyone, especially people who are sensitive to bad narrators. But i've powered through and am on book 4 at this point- purely because I love the series that much.

What didn’t you like about Roy Dotrice’s performance?

Everything. I am praying that with the renewed interest in this series, they will redo the audiobooks. Tyrion Lannister is the absolute worst though. I almost can't listen to it, it's so grating and annoying.

127 of 148 people found this review helpful

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  • Graeme
  • 07-20-17

Narration is everything

I've been told by everyone I know that this is an amazing story and couldn't wait to hear it. That said I think I will buy the Kindle version as I simply cannot get past the narration production. I've been too spoiled by outstanding Audible books to slog through here. I'm sure I will be hooked once I have read it myself...