Thursday, April 4, 2013

A Storm of Swords by George R R Martin

A Storm of Swords by George R R Martin is the third book in the Song of Ice and Fire series which I am only reading because I am impatient for the next season of Game of Thrones to begin.  I swore I wouldn’t do this to myself—read an as yet unfinished series of novels—but then I started watching the show, and I was hooked enough to want to read the next season’s book before the season aired.

And as if knowing that there are two more books not yet published, apparently HBO has decided to break book 3 into two seasons so Storm of Swords will fill both seasons 3 and 4.


But good call on HBOs part because holy cow a lot happens in this book.  If you’ve seen the previews then you know who survived the second book/season.  I am trying to avoid spoilers in this review and if you haven’t watched the show and you are waiting for the remaining books to be published before reading any of them, stop reading this review now.  There’s only so much I can do to protect you from spoilers.  It’s okay.  This review will be here when you have finished reading the third book.  I promise.

Seriously, stop now and I pinky swear promise.

Okay.  Now that I have that out of the way, back to my review.

Holy cow, a lot happens in this book!  Just when you think someone may be safe, they aren’t.  Just when you think things can’t get any worse, they do.  Time and time again, what I expect to happen doesn’t.  I honestly expected Joffrey to rape someone in particular but he doesn’t.  I’m glad he doesn’t, frankly.  Still, what does happen to him isn’t as gratifying as I would have liked. 

I really want him to suffer suffer suffer.

Let’s face it—he’s a hateful character and the worst thing that could happen to him would still be too mild because you really want horrible things to happen to him.  Really, really horrible things.

They don’t. 

Moving on.

I know a lot of people don’t like Danearys but she’s really coming into her own.  She is becoming a stronger leader with every turn of the page.  Her story line, however, is fairly dull.  It has to be, if you think about it. Her character’s motivation is narrow—reclaim the throne.  She’s slowly moving towards Westeros to accomplish this.  And her dragons are getting bigger but are not yet big enough for her to ride.  So she just keeps inching along, becoming a stronger woman, a stronger ruler, a stronger character. 

There are other characters who likewise grow on you as their story lines nearly converge.  Arya nearly meets up with Brienne and Jaime but that doesn’t quite happen.  Disappointing, to say the least because the relationship between the Jaime and his escort is delightful and I want to know that Arya has someone looking out for her who has her best interests at heart.  Brienne is rather one dimensional as a character but her interaction with Jaime is fun to read.  He becomes more interesting, albeit not too layered in his purpose.

The most intriguing story lines remain with Tyrion at the center.  Sansa continues to be a bit foolish, a product of her society, constantly romanticizing things in spite of how ugly reality can be.  Shae is mostly "off-stage" with Tyrion desperately trying to protect her even as his father constantly manipulates everything and everyone around him.  Tyrion is not always clever enough to stay a step ahead, however, and his situation spirals into so much suffering.  I was scared for him.    

How scared?  Well, I broke one of my cardinal rules and I skipped ahead to skim one of his last chapters to make sure that he would be okay.  Seriously.  I never ever do that.  But I simply couldn’t bear the not knowing.

And you know what?  That part of the third book won’t even make it to the third season.  Most of the third season will probably be focused on Jon and his being assimilated by the Wildlings.  He and Bran nearly cross paths but that doesn’t happen.  Interestingly, Samwell comes into his own as a character and some other minor characters come along for the ride.  I kinda love that because you don't really expect him to become pivotal.

There there's Arya.  She is so young, and so scared, and I adore her.  I adore everything about her and her story.  Her sister occasionally frustrates me and I worry over her but Arya doesn’t usually make me worry because she has a survivor's instinct even if it means doing things that are anathema to her role as the daughter of a king and queen.

One of the things that especially interested me in this book is the role of the direwolves.  Arya is separated from her wolf, having sent her away to save her life while Sansa’s was killed. Both girls are removed from their home, their loved ones, and isolated by circumstance.  Jon, Bran, and Robb have their wolves but things happen and the connection between master and direwolf is evident most blatantly in Bran’s experiences while serving as a metaphor for the other two.  (Rickon doesn’t make much of an appearance at all and I can only assume he will be more involved in the story in the next book.)

While reading these books, pay attention to the direwolves.  I anticipate Arya's will return to her eventually.

The use of dramatic irony anchors much of the story.  Because the reader knows things the characters do not—like Arya is alive and Jon Snow is not a traitor to the Night’s Watch—I found myself drawn more deeply than I think I would have been otherwise.  With so many different plot lines occurring at the same time, often overlapping one another, it can become confusing and when reading a story line that is less compelling than another, there is a temptation to skip ahead.  (Yes, I know I already confessed to having done precisely this but I only skimmed, then went back and read the chapters leading up to the later one before reading it from beginning to end.  I may skip and skim but I don’t skimp.)  However, Martin is a master at keeping these various threads so tightly woven that skipping even one chapter is simply not an option.  Even a less stimulating part of the story proves to be meaningful in other parts of the novel. 

I’m pretty sure, given the previews and the story arch, where season 3 of Game of Thrones will end.  It makes perfect sense that they would choose to spread this one book over 2 seasons. I can’t imagine what they would cut to make it fit into one. I can’t even imagine what they could cut.  I only wish I didn’t have to wait two more years to read the next book.  But I shall because I can resist that temptation so long as the entire set of books has not been published.  I don’t know how well I’ll resist the temptation after the seven books are published.  I can’t make any promises at that point and I’m pretty much guessing that, regardless of where the television show is in the books, I’ll be blissfully speeding through however many books remain at that time.


  1. I'm also all for getting Arya and her direwolf back together! And you are right, I think that Joffrey's murder is really not enough for him. But somehow I already miss him, as he made me really HATE him. And who will I hate now? I'm not sure. Sercei will become a new POV in the next book, if I'm not mistaken, so no chance for her becoming the most hated one.

    1. I'm counting on Arya and her direwolf being reunited, obviously. After all, given what Chekhov says, how could Martin not bring them together again? And I didn't think about the POV being a part of how much we sympathize with a character. You're right. Joffrey is never a POV character so he is harder to understand leaving no room for sympathy. Interesting. I hadn't noticed that but what a brilliant observation!

    2. I noticed it only in this book myself, when Jaime became a POV. Before he was presented as a vain kingslayer, but in this book we get to know his feelings and this caused me to sympathise with him. Who knows, maybe if Joffrey was a POV, we'd know something more, but it's hard for me to invent some pardon for all the atrocities he's done.

    3. Jaime definitely makes more sense in the third book, although he remains a somewhat narrow character. He loves his sister. He kills very well. He broke his vow to protect one king effectively putting his family one giant step closer to the throne. But his relationship with Brienne helped me to see something else in him and when he lost his hand he definitely lost some of that vanity he carried all too well. His character definitely seems to be at a turning point or heading towards one in book three so I would expect something truly surprising from him in book four. I am worried about Tyrion's future, for obvious reasons, but think he's shrewd enough to get through whatever is coming. I mean, besides winter.


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