Review: A Storm of Swords, George RR Martin
Of the five contenders for power, one is dead, another in disfavor, and still the wars rage as violently as ever, as alliances are made and broken. Joffrey, of House Lannister, sits on the Iron Throne, the uneasy ruler of the land of the Seven Kingdoms. His most bitter rival, Lord Stannis, stands defeated and disgraced, the victim of the jealous sorceress who holds him in her evil thrall. But young Robb, of House Stark, still rules the North from the fortress of Riverrun. Robb plots against his despised Lannister enemies, even as they hold his sister hostage at King’s Landing, the seat of the Iron Throne. Meanwhile, making her way across a blood-drenched continent is the exiled queen, Daenerys, mistress of the only three dragons still left in the world.
But as opposing forces maneuver for the final titanic showdown, an army of barbaric wildlings arrives from the outermost line of civilization. In their vanguard is a horde of mythical Others—a supernatural army of the living dead whose animated corpses are unstoppable. As the future of the land hangs in the balance, no one will rest until the Seven Kingdoms have exploded in a veritable storm of swords…
Series: A Song of Ice and Fire #3 (of 7, 5 published so far)
Genre: High Fantasy
Published: Bantam Books, 2000
Please note: This review is for book 3 in the A Song of Ice and Fire series. I’ve tried to avoid spoilers for the earlier books but don’t say I didn’t warn you!
Where to begin with such an epic tale? I’m not even going to try to summarise the plot. There are several storylines, all intertwined, some converging, others diverging. Let’s just say that the Lannisters are in control, Stannis is still plotting with his Red lady, Jon is north of the wall and Robb is winning all the battles but losing ground rapidly.
If you haven’t read the first two books in this series then you need to know that this story is told from a rather bewildering number of points of view – no less than ten different characters in this particular book. The great thing about so many different people telling the story is that a very detailed picture is built up of events all over the world, as they are happening. Occasionally the narrative jumps forward or back in time to cover events happening simultaneously. It sounds a bit overwhelming and at times, it is, but this structure gives an incredible depth to the story. Unfortunately, at times it also means that things get bogged down in the detail.
A Storm of Swords contains less of the gory murder, rape and torture that I disliked in the earlier books, and instead contains rather a lot more character growth. Even though there is a lot of manoeuvring in the first half of the book, there is still enough action in each chapter to make for very compelling reading. At about the two-thirds mark, all hell breaks loose and the rest of the book is one bombshell after another – with about 200 pages remaining I found I couldn’t put it down!
Another thing I really liked about this book over the previous ones was that some of the “baddies” actually got what was coming to them! No spoilers, but if you’ve read it you know who I’m talking about, right?!
It’s important to try not to get too attached to any of GRRM’s characters – you just never know when they might meet a nasty end. That said, I still have my favourite characters – Tyrion and Daenerys, plus I have a soft spot for Jon Snow, although after this book I’m starting to like Jaime more and more.
This story continues to get bigger and more complex at every turn – everyone has their ambitions and most will stop at nothing to get whatever it is they’re after. Knights, kings, war around every corner, magic, dragons, zombies, alchemy, kick-arse heroines and honourable as well as nasty men, this series has pretty much everything except elves. It’s still very dark and heavy going at times, but there are plenty of light-hearted moments sprinkled throughout.
Season 3 of the HBO series is coming very soon and it will be interesting to see what changes they make to this storyline and how much gratuitous sex they can include. In the meantime, I heartily recommend this book, it’s my favourite of the series so far!
Warnings: Graphic violence including towards children.
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