A Song of Ice and Fire – George R.R. Martin
The story of A Song of Ice and Fire takes place in a fictional world where seasons may last for years. Centuries before the events of the first novel (see backstory), the Seven Kingdoms on the continent Westeros were united under several generations of theTargaryen dynasty, who wielded the invincible power of fire-breathing dragons until their apparent extinction. The last Targaryen king was killed in a rebellion of feudal lords thirteen years before the first novel and young Robert Baratheon assumed power over the Iron Throne. With winter approaching, the books now follow three stories that are divided by geography and participants. All events are told from the perspective of viewpoint characters.
The main story chronicles a many-sided power struggle for the Iron Throne of Westeros, after King Robert’s death in the first book,A Game of Thrones. Robert’s son Joffrey immediately claims the Iron Throne with the support of his mother’s powerful family, the immensely wealthy House Lannister. When Lord Eddard Stark, King Robert’s ”Hand” (chief advisor), is killed after finding out Joffrey and his siblings were in fact not sired by Robert, Robert’s brothers Stannis and Renly individually lay claim on the throne. Meanwhile, several regions of Westeros seek to return to self-rule: Eddard Stark’s eldest son Robb is proclaimed King in the North, while Balon Greyjoy re-establishes an independent Kingdom in his region, the Iron Islands. This so-called War of the Five Kings is in full progress by the middle of the second book, A Clash of Kings, with more people gradually joining the struggle for power.
The second story takes place on the northern border of Westeros, where an enormous wall of ice, constructed over thousands of years, defends Westeros from the Others, creatures believed to be mythical at the start of the series and with ancient powers. The sentinels of the Wall, the Sworn Brotherhood of the Night’s Watch, spend most of their time dealing with the human wildlings living beyond the Wall, when the first Others appear in A Game of Thrones. The Night’s Watch story is told primarily through the eyes of Jon Snow, alleged bastard son of Eddard Stark, as he rises through the ranks of the Watch and learns the true nature of the threat from the north. By the end of the third volume, A Storm of Swords, this story becomes entangled with the civil war to the south when Stannis, survivor of the original five self-proclaimed kings, has moved to the Wall to protect the realm from the threat of invasion and simultaneously win the favor of the northern strongholds. In the fifth book, A Dance with Dragons, Joffrey’s younger brother Tommen holds the Iron Throne, with his mother and later his uncle serving as his regents as the first snowflakes reach their regal domicile at King’s Landing.
The third story is set on a huge eastern continent named Essos and follows the adventures of Daenerys Targaryen, another claimant to the Iron Throne as the last known scion of House Targaryen. Her story is isolated from the others until more POV characters join her in A Dance with Dragons. Living in exile on Essos, Daenerys’s adventures show her growing ability as she rises from a pauper sold into a dynastic marriage to a barbarian warlord, to a powerful and canny ruler. Her rise is aided by the birth of three dragons, creatures thought long extinct, from fossilized dragon eggs given to her as wedding gifts. Because her family standard is the dragon, these creatures are of symbolic value before they have grown big enough to be of tactical use for her goal of reclaiming the Iron Throne.