This is another BofM selection, one I must say I have been waiting for. I love the TV series. The hard part about this book is that it follows the series so closely that there was no real new information discovered from my read. I wish I had read this before watching the show, much to my husband's dismay I am now stalling on watching the latest season until I read all the published books.
This is an epic novel, encompassing so many characters and so much land, the really hard part about this series is that no one is safe, Martin will kill off a character at a whim, and because I know from the series who dies, it made it hard for me to connect with the characters in book, especially if I know they die, and if I don't know, I don't want to get to attached because who knows when he will kill them off, as I said no one is safe, main character, supporting character they all are up for grabs when death comes calling. Fortunes change with the winds, and the story line has no set course. It is what I both love and despise about the series, it keeps me guessing and on the edge of my chair.
In this first book we are introduced to the Starks, the Lords of the North and their home Winterfell. Lord Ned Stark and his wife Catelyn, their children are Robb, Sansa, Arya, Bandon (Bran) and Rickon. Ned has a bastard son Jon Snow, although personally I don't think he is Ned's son, I think he is Ned's nephew the son of his sister Lyanna and Rhaegar Targaryen, but it hasn't been revealed if I am right or not. Each of the Stark children have a Direwolf as a pet, Direwolves are the house symbol, and have not been seen in the world for a long time, their apperance is a sign that all is not right in the world.
The Starks are visited by Ned's good friend Robert Baratheon and his family, wife Cersie, and children Joffrey, Myrcella, and Tommen. Along with Cersie's twin brother Jamie Lannister, a guard of the King. The Hand of the King has died and Robert wants Ned to come south to fill the position, Ned doesn't want to got but at Catelyn's urging he takes the job and the result is a dead king, a land in chaos and more dead characters than I care to count.
I found this fun image on pinterest, each flag is a death in the book. See I'm not exaggerating.
Anyways, Bran falls off a roof, or more accuratly he was pushed, so Catelyn and the boys stay behind as Ned and the girls head south with the King. There is trouble along the way, the kings family is corrupt and dangerous. Jon being a bastard son is not welcome in the South and chooses to join the Black brotherhood on the wall rather than remain in Winterfell without Ned's protection from Catelyn. The Wall is a gigantic 700 foot wall that separates the 7 kingdoms from the free lands, where those who do not obey the king live. The Wildlings are separate tribes that are not united like the 7 kingdoms, and supposedly there are monsters on the other side of the wall. The Black Brotherhood's duty is to guard the wall and those that are on the southern side of it, they have no loyalty to kings, only to the brotherhood and he wall. They take no wives and have no children, it used to be an honor to be a Black Brother, but now it has become a place to send criminals and other undesirables, such as bastard sons.