Being adapted into one of the most successful TV shows ever, George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire book series is surely a masterpiece in fantasy-fiction genre. In this post, we will do a quick review of the book series as well as providing you with a guide about how to read the Game of Thrones books in order.
Game of Thrones Books: An Immersive Experience in An Exquisite World of Fantasy
It’s easy to lose yourself in these highly immersive books thanks to their long and complicated storylines. According to George R. R. Martin, there are seven books in the series, of which five are already out. The TV show only covered the books until season 5.
Each book will keep you engaged even if you are familiar with the plot due to the HBO show. Because of its limited format, Game of Thrones had to cut out a significant portion of the plot, characters, subplot and other details. There is far more engaging content that never made it from page to screen.
One good trait of the books is that they tell the story from the perspective of numerous characters, frequently switching viewpoints from chapter to chapter. One moment you’re following Sansa in King’s Landing, only to suddenly switch to Jon Snow at the Wall in the next chapter. This almost always guarantees that the plot stays gripping for readers for many pages to come.
Before we proceed with the review, here is the list of Game of Thrones books in order with their synopses.
A Game of Thrones (1996)
The first novel in the series titled A Song of Ice and Fire introduces you to the fictional lands of Westeros and Essos. Here, you will meet some of the main characters in the series as the author sets the stage for the other books to follow.
The overall plot of A Game of Thrones features three distinct storylines running side by side.
The book begins by taking you into the Sevens Kingdoms of Westeros. It is a land where summers tend to span decades, whereas winter can last forever. Eddard ‘Ned’ Stark, Lord of Winterfell dies, leaving behind three sons, two daughters, and an illegitimate son, Jon Snow.
Meanwhile, King Robert Baratheon, along with his wife Queen Cersei and son, Prince Joffrey ride to the north to take the place of the deceased Lord.
On the other hand, we are introduced to members of the fallen House Targaryen where the exiled Prince Viserys, conspires to win over the wild tribe of the Dothraki by marrying off his thirteen-year-old sister, Daenerys, to Khal Drogo.
As the three storylines eventually intertwine, an epic drama featuring intense bloodshed, inhumane acts, beastly creatures, and a ton of action begins.
A Clash of Kings (1998)
In A Clash of Kings, the civil war that started in Westeros in the previous book has escalated to a point where it comes to be known as the ‘War of the Five Kings.’
The surviving sons of Lord Stark are fighting for dominance while his daughter, Arya has fled from King’s Landing. Her sister, Sansa, is held in captivity by the Lannisters.
Elsewhere in the fictional world of A Games of Thrones, a group of men including Jon Snow is on a different mission. They are investigating and trying to ward off the dangers posed by the ‘Others’ who are supernatural beings in the northernmost Westeros. However, Daenerys is determined to claim the throne that she believes rightfully belongs to her.
A Storm of Swords (2000)
Not meant for the faint-hearted, A Storm of Swords follows the events after Tywin Lannister, father to Cersei, proves victorious at the battle of the Blackwater.
The title refers to the ongoing wars in Westeros – a land gripped by fear, violence, and ever-increasing terror.
While Lannister is celebrating his triumph, Stannis Baratheon sulks over his defeat in Dragonstone. R’hllor, the priestess, suggests that in order to rise again, Baratheron must throw into fire his ward on King Robert’s son as sacrificial protection.
Will he act on the priestess’s suggestion? What will be the consequences of his decision? With fire-breathing dragons at her side, what will Daenerys do next in her quest to claim the throne?
Find out the answers in A Storm of Swords.
A Feast for Crows (2005)
One by one, the four false kings have now been killed in battle. But you would be naïve to think that it would automatically bring the War of the Five Kings to an end.
There’s still resentment between the standing parties, although most of them are slowly realizing that there’s no point in continuing the fight. As the title suggests, Westeros has become a ‘feast for crows’, and these crows feast upon the dead bodies, regardless of whether it was a poor soldier or the mighty king himself.
Where will the story go from here on? The battle might be drawing to a close, but rest assured that there still plenty of action, gore, and violence yet to come.
A Dance with Dragons (2011)
The fifth novel in the installment tells what happening across the Narrow Sea and in the Free Cities, as well in the Seven Kingdoms at large.
The title alludes to the fight between half-siblings, Aegon Targaryen II and Rhaenyra. Though the two have been contending for succession to the throne for quite a long time, their brawl takes an unexpected turn when they are joined by another contestant – Daenerys, with her three deadly dragons.
This quest for the throne quickly transforms into a ‘dance with dragons’ as others look for opportunities to either overpower the Mother of the Dragon, or gain her trust and loyalty.
A Targaryen History Books
Fire & Blood: 300 Years Before A Game of Thrones (2018)
Fire & Blood is based on the thrilling history behind the Game of Thrones saga. It takes you into the ancient House Targaryen, so you can better interpret the real motives of the characters in the main books.
As the title suggests, the book is set three hundred years prior to the events discussed in the A Song of Ice and Fire series.
Whether you want a complete Games of Thrones experience, or aren’t ready to come back to the real world just yet, this book is a must-read.
Game of Thrones Collection
A Knight of Seven Kingdoms (2015)
A Knight of Seven Kingdoms refers to the illustrated version of the Tales of Dunk and Egg.
It is a collection of three novellas that are set about a century before the main novels. Here are the names of those books:
- The Hedge Knight (first published in 1998)
- The Sworn Sword (first published in 2003)
- The Mystery Knight (first published in 2010)
All these short novels are based on the adventures of the Lord Commander, Ser Duncan or ‘Dunk’ and King Aegon V known as ‘Egg.’
Game of Thrones Graphic Novels
The Game of Thrones Graphic Novel is just another way to fall in love with this amazing series. It is written by Daniel Abraham, and illustrated by Tommy Patterson. The graphic novel is divided into four volumes.
A Game of Thrones – Volume 1 (2012)
This graphic novel covers chapters 1 to 6 of A Game of Thrones.
A Game of Thrones – Volume 2 (2013)
This graphic novel covers chapters 7 to 12 of A Game of Thrones.
A Game of Thrones – Volume 3 (2014)
This graphic novel covers chapters 13 to 18 of A Game of Thrones.
A Game of Thrones – Volume 4 (2015)
This graphic novel covers chapters 19 to 24 of A Game of Thrones.
Game of Thrones Non-Fiction Books
The Art of George R.R. Martin’s a Song of Ice and Fire (2005)
This book is a collection of incredible artworks inspired by George R.R. Martin’s bestselling series. It includes sketches of various characters as well as popular locations. If you haven’t’ watched the HBO TV series based on A Song of Ice and Fire, this book is a great way to bring the fantasy to life.
The Lands of Ice and Fire (2012)
The Lands of Ice and Fire consists of twelve colorful and well-detailed maps that will facilitate you in keeping up with the action in the books.
The Wit & Wisdom of Tyrion Lannister (2013)
As the name suggests, the book contains wicked one-liners (along with illustrations) originally said by Tyrion Lannister, the witty Imp of Casterly Rock.
The World of Ice and Fire (2014)
The World of Ice and Fire is based on the history of Westeros. With more than 300 pages featuring captivating images (including family trees, maps, and more), this companion book is perfect for everyone, regardless of their exposure to the world of fantasy created by R.R Martin.
The Official A Game of Thrones Coloring Book (2015)
Do you love snuggling on a sofa with a cup of hot cocoa and a coloring book?
If yes, then this book is just for you. The official coloring book of A Game of Thrones offers you more than forty exclusive illustrations that you paint or color on your own to bring the characters and settings to life.
Brace for Impact: There is Rape, Torture, Incest, and Murder in A Song of Ice and Fire
A Song of Ice and Fire is based on violence, torture, and rape (to name just a few vices) – and GRRM doesn’t include them purely for the shock value, everything is carefully tied into the storyline. The books are not meant for the squeamish or those who are sensitive to depictions of domestic violence and rape. Violence shapes the world of Westeros and touches the lives of almost all the characters in the series.
More importantly, rape is used as a tool to start wars and manipulate politics. In response to critics’ arguments for the pervasive nature of sexual violence in his books, George R.R. Martin stated that he wanted to stay as true as possible to the corruption and inhumanity shown by our ancestors throughout history.
Warning: You Might Need a Dictionary
To help you in your adventure, you might have to use a Game of Thrones dictionary to be able to decode some difficult terms and Old English words that are frequently used throughout the books.
How Long Does It Take To Read the Game of Thrones Books?
It will take you roughly 77 hours to read the finished books. This means if you spend 2 hours 40 minutes per day, you should be able to finish the series in 30 days.
Stay on Top of the Mind-Boggling Details
The sheer depth and detail in Westeros is staggering. There are almost 550 distinct geographical locations, from rivers and isles, to inns and castles, to mountains and kingdoms, moors and desserts, cities and keeps – least to say will find yourself scratching your head in confusion every now and then.
This is where 12 highly detailed maps of Westeros and The Known World come in. You can download the free maps on your iOS or Android devices and fully zoom in on important locations based on their names.
These books demand your attention and won’t hold your hand to tell stories. For instance, the characters would discuss royal lineages and ancient kings, popular rumors, famous battles, and popular folklore prevalent in Westeros.
Sometimes the books refer to sigils and shields to describe armies when different Houses are mentioned. Your challenge as a reader is to make out the sheer scale and volume of the information, how it expands, adapts, and is actively shaped by the various characters and their perspectives within the story itself.
A Song of Ice and Fire ardently tries to confuse the reader by constantly shifting elements rapidly, putting the onus on the reader to piece together all the pieces into one cohesive narrative. The information in the novels is, quite simply, fragmented.
The ambiguous nature of historical events, subjective experience of characters, and their malleable nature creates a lively environment that requires the reader to stay o their toes.
For starters, there are at least two thousand characters in A Song of Ice and Fire, and by the time the next two books hit the shelves, there will be close to over 3200 characters. These characters span over four hundred distinct families, each with their own crests and sigils.
To keep track of the sheer detail, you may need to use the official companion app for the series, “A World of Ice and Fire” to check out character descriptions. If you don’t know who someone is, simply whip up your smartphone and catch an un-spoilered version of their description. This certainly beats having to visit the Wiki pages of the series because they often contain spoilers in the very first line of text!
Game of Thrones Prequel Novellas: Should I Read Them?
Besides the main books, George R.R. Martin has written several novellas which claim to serve as a precursor to the series, however they are not important to the main series and, for the most part, can be avoided completely.
The novellas don’t contain crucial information that already isn’t in the books. In fact, if you read the novellas first, they will spoil the books. If you read the novellas second, you may end up getting bored.
Game of Thrones Books vs the TV Show: Which One is Better?
Many fans of the books argue that the TV adaptation is a watered down version of the novels. They believe that the show failed to capture the true essence of the world of Westeros and never stayed faithful to the books.
For instance, the white walkers are a lot more interesting and mysterious in the novels because we still don’t know their true origins. In other words, if you want the puritanical Game of Thrones experience, don’t miss out on the novels.
On a side note, I know for a fact that some interesting characters and plot twists that exist in the book were left out in the TV show. So, it would be my personal recommendation as well to read the book series.
Hope you liked the short review we did on A Song of Ice and Fire series and the reading guide/list of Game of Thrones books in order. Check out our books section from the top menu for reviews of other book series you might be interested in!