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[Warning: Here be spoilers. Also, dragons.]

I never thought I'd reach the last page of a book that weighs as much as a newborn baby and immediately exclaim, "Wait, that's it?" Yet that's exactly what I found myself doing late last night, when I finally finished A Game of Thrones. I had heard that George R. R. Martin is notorious for leaving plot strands dangling, sometimes even for the length of an entire book. Still, I was hoping that the conclusion of Thrones would be a little more, well, conclusive. I guess now I've got no choice but to beg, borrow, or steal a copy of A Clash of Kings as soon as possible. Well played, Martin. Well played.

But even though I was left wanting more, I thoroughly enjoyed the last third of A Game of Thrones. That's mainly because several of the book's final plot twists took me completely by surprise — I never thought, for instance, that Eddard would actually get beheaded. The guy's being played by Boromir in the HBO adaptation, for Pete's sake; knowing that, I figured that Lord Stark would continue to be a main character throughout the series. (Though maybe if I had thought a little longer about Boromir's fate, I wouldn't have been so shocked when Ned didn't get a last-minute reprieve.) Evidently, Martin's got a Whedon-esque willingness to bump off any one of his characters — in the rough and tumble realm of Westeros, nobody's safe. And as unnerving as this death was, I appreciated its value as a catalyst for the events of the next book. It was also a nice touch that Eddard began the book by decapitating a traitor and ended it with his own head on the chopping block for the same reason. In terms of poetic justice, though, nothing can beat the incredibility of Viserys' crowning.

I was also more affected than I thought I'd be by the decline and fall of Khal Drogo. As I said last week, Dany's journey has been one of the arcs I've enjoyed most — and Drogo, obviously, was a big part of it. I've got to give Martin credit for making him neither an utterly bloodthirsty barbarian nor a boringly noble savage; instead, Drogo always fell somewhere between those two extremes. I wonder if he would have lived if he hadn't removed Mirri Maz Duur's lambskin bandage… or if the witchy woman actually sped along his death on purpose, even before she raised spirits to turn him into a vegetable. And speaking of that — everyone else also got really mad at Daenerys for not guessing what would happen once she asked the maegi for help, right? When Mirri promised that Dany wouldn't have to die to save Drogo, I wanted to yell, "Clearly that means your unborn baby's going to get snuffed out instead! Don't you know how these things work?" Hopefully her new dragon-babies will soften the blow of losing both her husband and her scaly demon spawn. (Dragons can drink human milk: Good to know! Does that make humans the cows of dragons?)

Though my mind did wander during a few battle scenes and military tribunals — describe a banquet for 15 pages and I'll be rapt; describe dudes getting injured by different weapons for 15 pages, and not so much — I thought the Robb/Catelyn sections, on the whole, were done well. It's nice to learn that Catelyn is actually a brilliant strategist; moments like those demonstrate how this story does have interesting, well-rounded female characters, despite what a "Song of Ice and Fire" neophyte might assume. And while we're on the subject of Stark ladies: As I move into Book 2, I think I'm most looking forward to learning what happens to Sansa and Arya. Sansa's fate at the end of Thrones felt especially heartbreaking. Would she be in this situation if Lady were still alive?

Oh, and speaking of Lady, where's Nymeria? And how, exactly, does one go about seceding from the union to found a new kingdom? Not to mention Tyrion's journey to King's Landing, and Jon's journey into the Haunted Forest, and Arya's journey to somewhere, and… sigh. Looks like I'll be making a trip to the bookstore sooner rather than later. As it turns out, the biggest problem I had with Game of Thrones is that it ended. Now you can count me among the people who are hoping that Martin has it in him to actually continue the series (and maybe, one day, finish it).

If you also just finished reading A Game of Thrones, what did you think? Will you continue with the series, or was one peek at George R. R. Martin's world enough for you? And if you've read the novels already, what do you remember wondering most as you finished Book 1?

It's been a blast reading with you all. Happy Throning!

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Game of Thrones

HBO's epic fantasy drama based on George R.R. Martin's novel series A Song of Ice and Fire.

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