A Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin
Oh, boy. I don't even know where to begin describing this book or how I felt about it. It's very impressive in many ways, has so much going on and is seriously disturbing.
Martin has done some of the most amazing world building I've ever read. The myths and legends and the day to day lives of the people in this, the first of his series of stories, are so real and complete, that you almost feel like it could be more history than fantasy.
There are no plot holes, there are no lost threads. Every one of the many stories, goes on and intersects with, or retreats from any one or all of the others. While, I guess, the author gets to use plenty of devices to move his story forward, none of them felt gimmicky, which is often a possibility, especially in fantasy books.
I've been writing possible summaries and then deleting them for ages, trying to find a way to discuss this book. I just don't know how. I wasn't even sure I would read these books. I did watch the very first episode of the HBO series. It ended with a tiny boy who liked to climb being thrown from a tower by the queen and her brother who, after having sex, hash out some political intrigue and machinations, realize he's seen and possibly overheard them and without any thought, attempt to kill him. It was horrible, that poor little boy lying among the rocks. I didn't know then, but he did survive, thankfully. I just couldn't bring myself to go back and watch any more of that. Now that I've read the book, I guess I might see if I can find the show online and at least watch the first season, since it corresponds to what I've already read.
The story is intricate and well written. It's also really hard on little kids. Somehow, within the course of the book, there are so many children in harm's way, or ruling in castles, or fighting for their lives, or leading battles, or ordering executions. It's very intense.
If you are looking for a well written fantasy series, set in a very realistic world, filled with an incredible variety of characters fighting to rule, you can't go wrong here. While I didn't jump to the next book in the series, I will absolutely be returning to see what happens next for all the people I left behind in Game of Thrones.