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Book Series: Song of Ice and Fire Series by George RR Martin

This series is an exceptionally well-written, addictive, and brutal epic fantasy set in an imaginary world based on medieval England/ Europe. It is less of a fantasy and more of a political thriller – some say that it is loosely based on the War of the Roses in England in the years 1455-1485.

The first of the series (A Game of Thrones) was published in 1996 and the series has 5 books (often sold in 7 paperbacks) already published. The sixth and the seventh (whose titles are announced) will be eventually published. Each book of the series has been a bestseller and there are a huge number of fans waiting for the next two books.

The epic has also been converted into a HBO serial. Some video games, based on the series have also become very popular.

Here are the images of the covers of these books:Song of Ice and Fire Series Cover Images

The High-Level Story

The story is set in a fictional world, and most action takes place in two continents – Westros and Essos.

The back story (the background for the series): Seven Kingdoms in Westros have been united and ruled for several generations by the Targeryen dynasty (helped by fire-breathing dragons) –  the old kings of the seven kingdoms continue as vassals. Around fourteen years before the start of the series, the dynasty, ruled by a mad king (the dragons have all disappeared) is overthrown by the ‘usurper’ Robert Baratheon. King Robert maintains peace for a few years.

As the series starts, King Robert dies under mysterious circumstances. That starts mutiple rebellions. There are many claimants to the throne of the combined Seven Kingdoms – the brothers and the son of the dead king. Some of the vassals (descendents of earlier kings of the Seven Kingdoms) break away  from the combined entity and declare themselves as kings of their part of Westros. There are also members of the Targeryen dynasty (now living in exile in Essos) who start their journey to reclaim the throne. The result is a heady mix of chaos, treachery, brutality, intrigue, betrayal, honour, battles, duels, torture, magic, and constant political manoeuver. There is also a severe seven-year winter that is about to descend on Westros.

Broadly, the story is played out in three places:

  1. In the Seven kingdoms part of Westros. Here there are constant battles, and realignment between the various claimants, their supporters and independent kings
  2. At the Wall, in the northern most part of the Seven Kingdoms, where the Wall (guarded mainly by convicts who are exiled from the society) divides the Seven Kingdoms from the cold northern part of Westros – the part that is believed to be inhabited by wildlings, giants, whits, ‘children of the forest’, and a species known as ‘others’. The forthcoming winter is expected to make the people and species beyond the Wall move towards Wall to enter the Seven Kingdoms.
  3. In the continent of Essos, where the descendents of the Targeryen dynasty are attempting to raise an army and mobilize resources (including dragons) to reclaim the Seven Kingdoms that they believe rightfully belongs to them.

The series has reached volume 5 (in 7 paperback books). The story has spread itself in multiple directions.  There are two more volumes planned by the author. Let us hope he starts tying up some loose ends.

The Setting / World

In the Seven Kingdoms on the Westros continent, there is a King. Next to the King there are vassals (lords) who rule large parts of the Seven Kingdoms in the king’s name. These lords have other vassals under them (called bannermen). The titles are passed hereditarily with complex and conflicting rules (each conflicting rule has some precedence) which often lead to disputes (like – is the next in line the eldest son? or daughter? or the brother?). There are knights (addressed as ‘Ser’) who protect the king and each lord. The kingdom is run by a king’s council consisting of the Hand (like a prime minster), the Master of Coin (finance minister), the Master of Whispers (spy chief), etc.
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