A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that A Song of Fire and Ice -- adapted for the popular and very mature TV series Game of Thrones -- is a seven-volume fantasy saga by George R.R. Martin, of which only the first five volumes have been published as of April 2016. Set in a magical version of the Middle Ages, it chronicles the exploits of the Stark, Baratheon, Lannister, and Targaryen families as they struggle for power in a deadly civil war. Violence percolates through nearly every scene, including sword fights, beheadings, rapes, wolf attacks, death by molten gold, and more. Sexual content includes an incestuous relationship between a brother and a sister, the marriage of an older man to a teen girl, and a prince's love affair with a courtesan. The language is predictably rough, ranging from "hell" and "damn" to "f--k" and "c--t." If the books were rated as movies are, they would receive a "hard R."
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What's the story?
After his predecessor is murdered, Eddard Stark reluctantly agrees to serve as "the Hand" to his good friend, King Robert Baratheon. His honorable decision has far-reaching consequences for his family. After King Robert dies, the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros are plunged into civil war, thanks to the plotting of the Lannisters, and the Stark children and their mother are scattered in all directions. Each must find a new way to survive in a rapidly changing world, even as magic grows stronger, a new peril approaches the Wall that protects the kingdoms, and the threat of the ultimate weapon -- tame dragons -- grows in the East.
Is it any good?
There have been many fantasy sagas published in the last half century, but few can boast the scope, depth, and attention to detail of A SONG OF FIRE AND ICE. George R. R. Martin is a master plotter, moving his huge cast of characters from one harrowing situation to the next and keeping readers anxious and surprised again and again. Some of the first five volumes work better than others (A Feast for Crows leaves many readers disappointed), but all add new elements that only increase the complex richness of the narrative.
This book series is certainly not for sensitive readers. The language is rough, the violence is brutal, and the sexual content sometimes veers into the perverse (including brother-sister incest). But readers with the maturity to handle adult material will be amply rewarded. Martin is a serious storyteller of the first order, and A Song of Fire and Ice is his masterwork.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about why fantasy sagas have become so popular in books, in movies, and on TV. What aspects of them appeal most to readers and viewers?
Why do some writers choose to include profanity in their dialogue and descriptions? Does it add a sense of realism to emotionally charged situations?
What role does violence play in the story? Would some of the characters be better off if they had not resorted to violence so quickly?
- Author: George R.R. Martin
- Genre: Fantasy
- Topics: Magic and Fantasy, Adventures, Brothers and Sisters, Monsters, Ghosts, and Vampires
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Bantam Books
- Publication date: March 30, 1996
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 15 - 18
- Number of pages: 835
- Available on: Paperback, Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
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