A Game of Thrones is the first of seven planned novels in A Song of Ice and Fire, an epic fantasy series by American author George R.R. Martin. It was first published on 6 August 1996. The novel was nominated for the 1998 Nebula Award and the 1997 World Fantasy Award, and won the 1997 Locus Award. The novella Blood of the Dragon, comprising the Daenerys Targaryen chapters from the novel, won the 1997 Hugo Award for Best Novella.
The novel lends its name to several spin-off items based on the novels, including a trading card game, board game and roleplaying game.
A Game of Thrones is set in the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros, a land reminiscent of medieval Europe. In Westeros the seasons last for years, sometimes decades, at a time.
Fifteen years prior to the novel, the Seven Kingdoms were torn apart by a civil war, known alternately as 'Robert's Rebellion' and the 'War of the Usurper'. Prince Rhaegar Targaryen kidnapped Lyanna Stark, arousing the ire of her family and of her betrothed, Lord Robert Baratheon. The Mad King, Aerys II Targaryen, had Lyanna's father and eldest brother executed when they demanded her safe return. Her second brother, Eddard, joined his boyhood friend Robert Baratheon and Jon Arryn, with whom they had been fostered as children, in declaring war against the Targaryens, securing the allegiances of House Tully and House Arryn through a network of dynastic marriages (Lord Eddard to Catelyn Tully and Lord Jon Arryn to Lysa Tully). The powerful House Tyrell continued to support the King, but House Lannister and House Martell both dragged their feet due to insults against their houses by the King. The civil war climaxed with the Battle of the Trident, when Prince Rhaegar was killed by Robert Baratheon. The Lannisters finally agreed to support King Aerys, but then brutally turned against him, sacking the capital at King's Landing. Jaime Lannister of the Kingsguard executed King Aerys and House Lannister swore loyalty to Robert Baratheon. The Tyrells and remaining royalists surrendered and Robert Baratheon was declared King of the Seven Kingdoms. Unfortunately, during the war, Lyanna Stark had died, apparently of illness; Robert Baratheon instead married Cersei Lannister to cement the alliance. Despite Robert's victory, the Mad King's youngest son Viserys and youngest daughter Daenerys were taken to safety across the sea by loyal retainers. After the war House Martell chose a path of isolation, since Prince Doran's sister Elia (Prince Rhaegar's wife) and her young children had been killed by Lannister armsmen during the storming of the capital.
Six years later King Robert proved his resolve by defeating a rebellion by Lord Balon Greyjoy of the Iron Islands. Balon's two eldest sons were killed and his youngest son, Theon, was given to the care of Eddard Stark as a ward.
A Game of Thrones follows three principal storylines as they develop in tandem with one another. The novel begins in the year 298 AL (After Landing) and continues for many months, probably into the early months of 299 AL.
In the Seven KingdomsEdit
Eddard Stark, Lord of Winterfell and the North, attends the execution of a man of the Night's Watch who has betrayed his vows and fled from the Wall. His sons Robb and Bran, his bastard son Jon Snow, and his ward Theon Greyjoy all attend. After the beheading, Robb finds a dead direwolf (the symbol of House Stark), killed by the antlers of a stag (the symbol of House Baratheon), which had given birth to five pups before it died. Robb and his brothers ask to keep them and Eddard consents, on the condition that the children themselves take care of them, rather than leaving the matter to the servants of House Stark. There are five pups, one for each of Eddard's trueborn children: Robb names his Grey Wind and Bran names his Summer, whilst Eddard's daughters Sansa and Arya name theirs Lady and Nymeria respectively. Eddard's youngest, three-year-old Rickon, names his Shaggydog. Unexpectedly, Jon finds a sixth pup lying separately nearby: an albino runt with white fur and red eyes. Jon claims this one, Ghost, for himself.
King Robert Baratheon arrives at Winterfell with his court and many retainers, including his wife, Queen Cersei of House Lannister, and his children: Joffrey, Myrcella and Tommen. The queen's twin brother, Ser Jaime Lannister of the Kingsguard, and their younger brother, Tyrion the Imp (so named for his dwarfism), also accompany the group. Robert asks Eddard to become the new Hand of the King after the death of the previous office holder, Lord Jon Arryn. Eddard agrees and travels south with his daughters Sansa and Arya, leaving Catelyn, Robb, Bran (now in a coma after a grievous fall from a window) and Rickon at home. Jon Snow elects to travel north to the Wall to join the Night's Watch and is joined by Tyrion, who is eager to see the fabled construction for himself.
Catelyn Stark, receives a message from her sister Lysa Arryn (widow of the late Lord Jon Arryn) claiming that the Lannisters had Jon Arryn murdered. Eddard promises to investigate the matter whilst at the capital. After Eddard leaves for the south, an attempt is made on Bran's life, thwarted only by his direwolf Summer. Catelyn realises that Bran must have seen something and had been pushed from the window deliberately, and that the would-be murderers are trying to cover their tracks. Catelyn travels by sea to King's Landing and learns from her childhood friend Petyr 'Littlefinger' Baelish that the dagger used in the assassination attempt was last seen in the hands of Tyrion Lannister. Travelling north again, Catelyn and her retainers encounter Tyrion by chance in an inn (as he returns south from the Wall) and take him captive to the Eyrie, where Lady Lysa places him on trial. Unfortunately, Tyrion chooses trial by battle and his champion, a sellsword named Bronn, wins his freedom for him in the expectation of receiving a reward. Lysa releases Tyrion as promised, but puts him on the road with no guard, leaving him easy prey for the clans who prowl the foothills of the Mountains of the Moon. However, Tyrion wins the allegiance of the clans in return for the promise of great riches.
In the capital at King's Landing, Eddard investigates Jon's death and learns that Jon Arryn and King Robert's brother, Lord Stannis Baratheon, had discovered that King Robert's three children were actually the products of an incestuous liaison between Queen Cersei and her twin brother Jaime. Spurning the advice of Robert's youngest brother Renly to take Cersei into custody, Eddard instead offers Cersei the chance to flee. King Robert dies of a mishap whilst hunting and Cersei's eldest son Joffrey is proclaimed King before Eddard can pass the crown to Stannis, Robert's true heir. When Eddard moves against Joffrey, he is betrayed by Littlefinger. Eddard reluctantly agrees to sign a false confession of treason in return for Sansa and Arya's lives and the chance to go into exile on the Wall. Instead, Joffrey has Eddard brutally executed. Whilst Sansa is retained in custody, Arya manages to escape with the help of Yoren, a recruiting agent for the Night's Watch.
A civil war, later dubbed the War of the Five Kings, erupts. Robb Stark leads an army of northmen into the Riverlands to support Lord Hoster Tully, whose forces came under attack by Lord Tywin Lannister after Catelyn took Tyrion prisoner. Riverrun, the Tully stronghold, is besieged by an army under Jaime Lannister, whilst Lord Tywin holds a large army south of the River Trident to prevent Robb's advance. Unexpectedly, Robb wins the support of House Frey by agreeing to a dynastic marriage. This allows him to detach his cavalry and cross the Green Fork whilst his infantry carries on to the Trident under Lord Roose Bolton, one of Robb's more capable (but also ruthless) bannermen. Tywin, joined by the liberated Tyrion and his mountain clan irregulars, defeats the Stark footmen at the Trident before learning that Robb has outmaneuvered him. Shortly afterwards Robb's forces surprise and capture Jaime Lannister before smashing the Lannister army at the Whispering Wood outside Riverrun. In danger of being outflanked, Tywin falls back to the castle of Harrenhal and orders Tyrion to go to King's Landing and help give Joffrey better advice.
Lord Renly Baratheon flees south from King's Landing to Highgarden, stronghold of the powerful House Tyrell, and there is declared King of Westeros by acclamation, becoming the second of the war's five kings. Robb Stark becomes the third, when he is proclaimed the King in the North and by all the Stark and Tully bannermen present.
On the WallEdit
In the lands beyond the Wall, three men of the Night's Watch stumble across the massacred bodies of wildlings. Ser Waymar Royce is confronted by several creatures of ice, the fabled 'Others' of legend. He fights, but is killed. The second man, Will, investigates Royce's corpse only for it to come to life and strangle him. The third, Gared, is so terrified of what he sees that he flees south to the Wall and then beyond. He is arrested as a deserter and executed at Winterfell by Lord Eddard Stark.
Jon Snow chooses to join the Night's Watch after his father departs for King's Landing and travels north with his uncle Benjen Stark, the First Ranger of the Watch. At the Wall Jon finds that the Watch is beset with problems. A new King-Beyond-the-Wall has arisen in the northern lands to rally the wildlings to his banner. This man, Mance Rayder, was once a brother of the Watch before fleeing to join the wildlings. Jon also learns that the Watch is grievously under strength, mustering barely a thousand men to cover the three hundred miles of the Wall, and its manpower is now made up of murderers and criminals who chose the Wall over execution or imprisonment. Some time after Jon's arrival, Benjen vanishes whilst on a ranging beyond the Wall.
Jon and many of the other younger men are remorselessly bullied by the master-at-arms, Ser Alliser Thorne, but Jon concocts a plan for them to stand up to him. Jon wins the friendship of Samwell Tarly, a craven but intelligent boy from the Reach, and also that of Maester Aemon. Jon is startled to learn that Aemon is a member of House Targaryen, the grand-uncle of the now-deposed Mad King Aerys II, and the oldest man alive in Westeros.
The Lord Commander of the Watch, Jeor Mormont, is attacked by a corpse which suddenly comes back to life. Jon burns the wight, saving Mormont's life. Shaken, Mormont resolves to lead the Watch beyond the Wall in strength to test Mance Rayder's strength. Although news of his father's death causes Jon to doubt his calling, he decides his place is with the Watch.
In the EastEdit
In the Free City of Pentos, Magister Illyrio Mopatis and the exiled Prince Viserys Targaryen conspire to sell Viserys' thirteen-year-old sister Daenerys in marriage to Khal Drogo of the Dothraki. Drogo commands a clan of forty thousand mounted warriors whom Viserys plans to use to reclaim his homeland from the usurper Robert Baratheon. Among the wedding gifts are three stone dragon eggs from Ilyrio. Unexpectedly, Daenerys and Drogo find love as they journey east into the vast grasslands of the Dothraki sea, and Daenerys becomes pregnant with a son, to be named Rhaego after her dead brother. Ser Jorah Mormont, son of the Lord Commander of the Watch and a knight exiled from Westeros for dealing in slaves, joins Viserys' entourage as an advisor on the current state of the Seven Kingdoms.
Viserys becomes angry about how long he must wait before Drogo decides to invade Westeros and, in a drunken rage, insults Drogo grievously. Drogo decides to crown him with molten gold. Daenerys picks up her brother's quest to reclaim the Iron Throne, but Drogo remains reluctant to embark on an invasion across the seas. He relents when a Westerosi assassin, in the pay of King Robert, nearly kills Daenerys and their unborn child and swears vengeance. However, during a warm-up raid on the peaceful Lhazareen, Drogo takes a wound which festers. Daenerys loses both Drogo and her unborn son to the machinations of a Lhazareen witch, Mirri Maz Duur, and has her burned in a pyre along with her dragon eggs. Playing a hunch, The eggs hatch, and Daenerys Targaryen, the Stormborn, becomes mother to the first three dragons seen in the world for one hundred and sixty years.
Point of View CharactersEdit
All of the novels in the series use a system for the books where by each chapter concentrates on one character in a third person, limited point of view. Thus, the chapter list for each book would read something like: "Bran", "Eddard", "Catelyn", "Eddard", "Tyrion", "Catelyn" etc, with the story flipping back and forth between the main characters.
The tale of A Game of Thrones is told through the eyes of 8 POV characters and a one-off prologue POV.
- Prologue: Will, a man of the Night's Watch.
- 15 chapters: Eddard Stark, Warden of the North and Lord of Winterfell.
- 11 chapters: Catelyn Stark, of House Tully, wife of Eddard Stark.
- 6 chapters: Sansa Stark, eldest daughter of Eddard and Catelyn Stark.
- 5 chapters: Arya Stark, youngest daughter of Eddard and Catelyn Stark.
- 7 chapters: Bran Stark, middle of three sons of Eddard and Catelyn Stark.
- 9 chapters: Jon Snow, bastard son of Eddard Stark.
- 9 chapters: Tyrion Lannister, a dwarf, son of Tywin Lannister.
- 10 chapters: Daenerys Targaryen, youngest child of the Mad King.
Allusions/references to other worksEdit
One of Martin's earliest attempts at writing a fantasy story was 'Dark Gods of Kor-Yuban', which was never published. The two heroes of the short story are the exiled 'Prince R'hllor of Raugg' and his boisterous, swaggering companion 'Argilac the Arrogant'. In an abandoned sequel Argilac teams up with Barron, the Bloody Blade of the Dothrak Empire, to slay the winged demons who killed Barron's grandfather Barristan the Bold. Most of these names reoccur in A Game of Thrones: R'hllor is the red god worshipped in the east (although not specifically named until A Clash of Kings); Argilac the Arrogant was the last Storm King thrown down by the Targaryens; the Dothrak Empire became the Dothraki horse-riders of the eastern plains; and Barristan the Bold was recast as Ser Barristan Selmy of the Kingsguard. Martin covers the origin of these characters and names in his essay 'The Heirs of Turtle Castle' in Dreamsongs: A Retrospective.
The book is published in the USA by Bantam Books. The first edition, published in August 1996, had an embossed silver cover designed by Tom Hallman. A 1997 mass-market paperback followed with a new cover by Stephen Youll. A slightly revised edition of this cover was used for the 2002 hardcover reprinting.
In 2005 the covers for all the books were revamped and the cover was replaced by a stylised heraldic image of a direwolf to represent House Stark.
In 2000 Mesiha Merlin issued a limited edition fully illustrated by Jeffrey Jones.
The book is published in the UK by Voyager, an imprint of HarperCollins. The first edition had a cover designed by Jim Burns which was also used for a booklet containing the first several chapters of the book and sold separately (for 99p) as a preview several months before the hardcover was released. A mass-market paperback followed in 1998 with the same cover.
In 2003 the covers for all the books were revamped and the cover was replaced by an image of a dragon's skull, drawn by Larry Rostant.
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