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August 17th, 2018

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So ... you've probably heard of this book, which has garnered some moderate success from an otherwise unknown author by the name of George R. R. Martin. Long-winded fantasy? Who does that anymore?

My wife and I were planning two long trips this summer, so we headed to the library to find an audio book that wouldn't make the dog howl like a direwolf. We were somewhat taken aback by Game of Thrones, an audiobook roughly as thick as the U.S. tax code. It was on 28 disks.

Twenty-eight.

Winter is coming. Maybe they could get some heated cushions for that uncomfortable iron throne.

Over a two week period we were on the road for roughly 26 hours of driving, and we still had to renew it from the library for another few weeks.

Game of Thrones opens with an execution, and believe me when I saw that's far from the only death to come along. The story follows nine viewpoint characters on a world where summers can last decades but winter hits hard, where dragons once flew, and where a giant, centuries old ice wall protects the continent of Westeros from the supernatural dangers of the north.

Most of the story revolves around the Stark family, led by Lord Eddard "Ned" Stark. After a long war, Ned's best friend Robert has become king of an assemblage of former nations, and now wants the reluctant Ned to be the King's Hand--basically the guy who does all of his dirty work. The honorable and dutiful Ned--you won't find a lot of characters like that here, outside of the Stark family--packs up and dives into the politics of an increasingly divided kingdom.

What could possibly go wrong? In Martin's world, pretty much everything. Tragedy, misunderstandings, treachery, and accidents ensue, as various characters give and take allegiance while others plot for power and ... well, pretty much just power. Despite Ned's desire to just go home, he finds himself entangled in events that will bring war to their world, even while winter nears and evil from north of the wall approaches. Meanwhile, the former royal family of the kingdom plots to take back what they consider theirs.

Sound complicated? It is. You can find dozens of maps online, just to show people where all the lands and cities are, and character trees to make interrelationships a little more clear. There's also plenty of nastiness, from graphic violence to child endangerment to incest. It's dark, detailed, and horribly addictive.

Emily and I were still catching our breaths when she took the audiobook back to the library. She returned with a new book, this time on good old fashioned paper, and I later determined it was five times as long as my first published novel.

Also useful in knocking out burglars.

Yep. Second book in the series, A Clash of Kings. We haven't seen the TV series, but my biggest warning about the world of A Song of Ice and Fire (which is the name of the entire book series) is that you should maybe schedule some vacation days before you start reading.

HBO covered this book in seasons three through twelve.

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