Ned Stark resents being granted the title of King’s Hand, but has little choice other than to accept. He must leave his northern stronghold, and his family is scattered. Furthermore, he discovers that the previous Hand was murdered and he launches an investigation to find out why. But, he is surrounded by people who are serving themselves instead of the kingdom.
One of the first rules of writing I learned was to not be afraid of letting your characters do bad things or of letting bad things happen to your characters. George R.R. Martin has taken that lesson to heart. A Game of Thrones was the first book to truly surprise me, and it did so with alarming frequency. Not only do the good guys not always win, they don’t always survive. It’s also difficult to tell who exactly the good guys are, because (with a couple of exceptions), the characters are complex, no one being entirely good or entirely bad. I couldn’t put it down. Really. I bought the four-book bundle, intending to read only the first book and then continued through the first four, immediately bought the fifth and devoured that as well. Never has a series kept me so enthralled for so long.
I was bothered by the misogyny inherent in the world created by Martin. Women have no power in this society. Yes, I realize this world is based on medieval Europe, which was male dominated. However, this is fantasy fiction. Martin could have created any type of power structure he wanted, and he chose to subjugate the females. However, he does redeem himself by writing strong, intelligent women (again, with a couple of exceptions).