Game Of Thrones 101

April 21, 2014


Game of Thrones is a television show based off the series of fantasy novels written by George R. R. Martin collectively called A Song of Fire and Ice. Martin wrote the first book in this series, A Game of Thrones, in 1996 after having spent a career working in television.

Though he had some success writing on shows like The Twilight Zone, Martin had become frustrated with the limits of television as a medium. His imagination tended towards the epic and he often found that there simply wasn’t the budget to do on television what he wanted to do on the page.

Partly in response to this, when he set about writing a novel he self-consciously made it as large and expansive as he could.

A Game of Thrones takes place in a fictional medieval world, on a continent called Westeros, in a kingdom known as the Seven Kingdoms.

The story has an enormously large number of characters who interact against a backdrop of history and war and clashing armies.

Though it takes place inside a fantasy setting, the events of A Song of Fire and Ice are loosely based upon the real life Wars of the Roses that occurred in medieval England during the 15th century. This basis in real life fact has given the books an unusual gritty edge in a fantasy book world that is more often based upon classical mythology and ancient legend.

A Game of Thrones was not an immediate hit as a book, but slowly grew an audience through the advocacy of independent booksellers and passionate fans. Word of mouth proved vital to the success of the series, as members of its fandom often took it upon themselves to promote the book among their friends and advocate for its placement in stores they frequented.

Today, the books that make up A Song of Fire and Ice have sold more than 15 million copies and have been translated into more than twenty different languages worldwide. Before he wrote A Game of Thrones, George R. R. Martin had already been heavily invested in the world of fantasy fiction and this carried over into his involvement with his fanbase.

Martin had been attending fan conventions since he was in college and much of his social life already came from the people he had met there. Once he became an author himself he made it a part of his day to day activities to attend conventions and to interact with fans through his blog and website. His unusually close involvement with his fanbase perhaps partly explains its more active character.


Each of the chapters of the books in A Song of Fire and Ice is told in the third person perspective and from the point of view a different major character.

A Game of Thrones initially had eight major characters who each narrated the events in a different way.

By the time of the fourth book, A Feast for Crows, however, that number had grown to seventeen. Each of these characters is located in a different part of the Seven Kingdoms and is involved in a different complex set of plot developments.

Martin has confessed that he often has difficulty keeping the overall framework of his novels straight in his head and that he has had to check and recheck to keep his chronology correct. There are already over a thousand different named characters in A Song of Fire and Ice and the series is not yet complete. This is in keeping with the epic scope that Martin first intended when he wrote A Game of Thrones.

Most of the major characters in A Song of Fire and Ice are drawn from one of the several aristocratic families who are each competing for dominance over the Seven Kingdoms and its throne. The situations that these characters find themselves in are often confusing and lack any moral clarity or clear delineation of who the reader should consider a ‘good guy’ or a ‘bad guy’.

From early on, when he wrote A Game of Thrones, Martin had made it clear to the reader that the characters in his novels were not safe and that he was perfectly willing to kill one off before the start of the next book. This sense of real danger for the characters has added to the excitement of the books for fans who also appreciate the realistic nature of the political struggles being portrayed.

Though more concerned with purely human matters than most fantasy novels, A Game of Thrones and other books in A Song of Fire and Ice do include some elements of magic and traditional fantasy. Beyond the power struggles in A Song of Fire and Ice there is the threat of the Others, who live beyond an impenetrable wall of ice in the northern part of the world.

Though Martin has not yet fully revealed the nature of the Others, they appear to have supernatural powers such as the ability to turn victims who they murder into zombies that do their bidding. In addition to this supernatural threat, there is the additional danger that Daenerys Targaryen, the exiled daughter of the former king, will return to reclaim the Seven Kingdoms using the dragons that her ancestors originally fought with to become kings.


The television adaptation of the novels, Game of Thrones, was first put into development by HBO in 2007. Due to the success of the books, HBO decided that it was worth taking the risk to give the show the budget to appropriately match Martin’s epic vision.

Since Martin had first left television as a writer it had become customary for networks such as HBO to gamble and invest heavily in television shows as if they were feature films.

Television audiences had also become more accustomed to long form serial dramas where story arcs are explored that can take multiple seasons to be resolved.

The first episode of Game of Thrones aired on April of 2011, with a budget of somewhere between 5 and 10 million dollars. The total budget for the first season is estimated to be somewhere between 50 to 60 million dollars. Game of Thrones received an additional 15 percent increase in its budget for the second season in order to accommodate even more epic battle scenes.

Game of Thrones has received an enthusiastic response from original fans of the series and new viewers alike. The show is widely considered to be HBO’s most prized production since the airing of The Sopranos. Finally, Martin has seen his vision realized both on the page and on the screen.

Also, in July of 2011, Martin finally released the long awaited fifth book in the series A Dance With Dragons after six years of writing. Martin had originally only intended to write three books in the series, but as he now often says, quoting J. R. R. Tolkien, “the tale grew in the telling.” There are now a projected seven books in A Tale of Ice and Fire, with two more yet to be written.

The popularity of A Song of Fire and Ice has continued to grow since its first release. Now with the success of Game of Thrones on television as well, there is little doubt that Martin will go down as one of the more successful fantasy writers of all time. With A Game of Thrones and his other novels Martin has added something new and unique to the fantasy fiction world. You would be remiss if you passed up the opportunity to see what that something is all about for yourself.