Year of Publication: 1996
Number of Pages: 837 pages
Genre: Epic fantasy
This book is the first in the successful fantasy series "A Song of Fire and Ice" (the others being A Clash of Kings (1998), A Storm of Swords (2000), A Feast for Crows (2005) and A Dance with Dragons (2011) with two more volumes planned). The novel is set in a medieval world on the continent of Westeros where seasons can last for decades. When Lord Eddard Stark, master of the northern stronghold of Winterfell, is offered the post of Hand of the King he is deeply suspicious but reluctantly accepts. The King is Stark's oldest friend, but the queen is a member of the Lannister clan, Stark's oldest and bitterest enemies. Arriving at court, Stark and his family discover that treachery is rife. The previous Hand dies under very suspicious circumstances, and Stark is determined to find out what happened and to avoid a similar fate. However with enemies and intrigues on all sides, he soon finds himself playing a deadly game. Meanwhile, far across the sea, the son and daughter of the previous king, and rightful heirs to the throne, are raising a large and fierce army to reclaim their birthright.
The book is a really exciting fantasy novel. Despite references to dragons and other monsters, magic and fantastic beasts are notable by their absence. It also takes away much of the romance and glamour from the fantasy genre. In this world, life is tough, violent and frequently short. It is very violent and quite sexual, although there is very little of romantic chivalry here. The book is well written and, despite it's prodigious length it always keeps the attention. It follows a very large cast of characters and is written in a series of short chapters (about 10 to 20 pages) each focussing on a particular character's storyline. It is a fantastically complex and intricate novel mixing action, adventure and intrigue in an impressively well-developed imaginary world, peopled with some memorable characters.
The book has recently been adapted as a TV series for HBO.