Game of Thrones Summary

George R.R. Martin

Game of Thrones

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Game of Thrones Summary

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A Game of Thrones is the first novel in George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire fantasy series. The book was published in 1996 to much critical acclaim. It won the Locus Award for fantasy literature in 1997 and reached first place on The New York Times bestseller list in 2011. The novel, along with the other books in the series, have been adapted into a popular HBO television series.

The novel contains three main storylines, and the seventy-three chapters are narrated from the point of view of different characters. The first storyline takes place on the continent of Westeros, home to the Seven Kingdoms. Ned Stark executes a deserter from the Night’s Watch, a patrol of mostly condemned criminals who are responsible for guarding the ancient Wall of Ice that separates Westeros from the northern wilderness. Ned has a wife, Catelyn, and six children – three legitimate sons named Robb, Bran, and Rickon, two legitimate daughters named Sansa and Arya, and a bastard son named Jon Snow. The family adopts a litter of direwolf puppies as the direwolf is the symbol of the House of Stark. The litter consists of three male puppies, two female puppies, and an albino runt – representing Ned’s six children.

Ned learns that Jon Arryn, his brother-in-law and the advisor to King Robert Baratheon, has died. King Robert, who was Ned’s childhood friend, comes to Ned’s home in the castle of Winterfell to offer him a position as his new advisor. Although Ned agrees to take the job, he is reluctant due to rumors that Arryn was poisoned by the Lannister family. Ned’s son Bran accidentally discovers Cersei Lannister, Robert’s wife and the queen of Westeros, having an affair with her twin brother Jaime. To hide his incest with Cersei, Jaime throws Bran off a tower. He survives, but is permanently disabled and has no memory of what happened to him.

Ned’s daughter Sansa is engaged to Joffrey Baratheon, the eldest son of Cersei and Robert and the next in line to the throne. At King’s Landing, the capital of Westeros where the King and his family resides, the Starks discover that Tyrion Lannister, Cersei and Jaime’s brother, owns a dagger that they suspect belongs to Bran’s attacker. Catelyn arrests Tyrion after running into him on the road and brings him to Vale, where Lysa Arryn, Jon’s widow and Catelyn’s sister, lives. However, Tyrion wins his freedom through trial by combat. Tyrion’s father, Tywin Lannister, orders an invasion of Catelyn’s homeland, the Riverlands, in retaliation for his son’s capture.

On his way home from King’s Landing, Ned runs into Jaime Lannister, who demands Tyrion’s release. In the ensuing battle, Ned is injured when his horse falls on top of him. Ned investigates Jon Arryn’s death and eventually discovers that Cersei is having an affair with Jaime, and that Jaime is the biological father of Joffrey and his siblings. He realizes that Cersei had Arryn killed to hide her relationship with her brother. After Ned confronts Cersei, she has Robert killed in a hunting accident so that Joffrey may inherit the throne. Although Ned, who has been made the King’s lord-regent in his will, tries to get Robert’s brother Stannis installed on the throne instead, he is arrested and executed while Joffrey is crowned king.

Sansa is imprisoned after Ned’s arrest, but Arya manages to escape with the help of her fencing instructor. When Robb hears about his father’s death, he asks his maternal grandfather, Hoster Tully, to help him wage war against the Lannisters. With the assistance of the Tullys, Robb manages to defeat an army led by Jaime Lannister and take him prisoner. As Tyrion’s troops are forced to retreat south, Robb becomes known by those loyal to him as the King of the North.

The other two major storylines in the novel take place at the Wall and in Essos, a continent to the east of Westeros. Jon Snow, Ned’s bastard son, decides to join the Night’s Watch upon the suggestion of his uncle, Ned’s brother Benjen. Jon hopes to become a Ranger, a military member of the Night’s Watch, but instead is made steward and successor to Jeor Mormont, the Lord Commander of the Watch. Benjen leads a small group of Rangers into the wilderness north of the Wall, a dangerous place inhabited by human wildlings and supernatural creatures called Others. The group does not return for months, and the dead bodies of two of the Rangers are discovered. The Rangers, who were killed by Others, reanimate as wights and attack the Night’s Watch. Jon vows to find his missing uncle. After hearing about his father’s execution, Jon wants to join his brother Robb in battle against the Lannisters but is convinced to stay loyal to the Night’s Watch.

Meanwhile, in Essos, Viserys Targaryen offers the hand of his sister, Daenerys, in marriage to the warlord Khal Drogo in exchange for Drogo’s help in invading Westeros. Viserys is the son of the former King of Westeros, who was overthrown many years ago by Robert Baratheon, and desires to take back the throne from the Baratheon family. Daenerys receives three dragon eggs as a marriage gift. After marrying Daenerys, however, Drogo goes back on his deal with Viserys and refuses to let him use his army to invade Westeros. Viserys tries to bully his sister into forcing Drogo to keep his end of the bargain; in retaliation, Drogo pours molten gold on his head, killing him.

When an assassin working for King Robert tries to kill a pregnant Daenerys and her unborn child, Drogo decides to attack Westeros after all. He is wounded while raiding villages for supplies. Daenerys orders a healer that Drogo had captured to cure him, but in defiance, the healer casts a spell that kills Daenerys’s child and leaves Drogo in a coma. Enraged, Daenerys smothers Drogo with a pillow and orders the healer to be burned to death on her husband’s funeral pyre. She places her three dragon eggs on the burning pyre, enters it, and comes out unharmed with three baby dragons suckling at her breasts. Jorah Mormont, the son of the Night’s Watch commander Jeor Mormont, was Viserys’s advisor and is now loyal to Daenerys.

Recurring themes in A Game of Thrones include good, evil, loyalty, betrayal, power, warfare, family, and duty. The characters of the novel must often choose between two opposing forces, such as a desire for power and their moral principles, or a sense of duty to their kingdom and the need to protect those that they love. The novel also introduces readers to the fantastical world that Martin created and the social hierarchies and complex family relationships that comprise it. Martin shows that many aspects of this world – such as its social class divisions, marriages of convenience, strict gender roles, and penal institutions – are very similar to those found in real societies.