Tuesday, December 8, 2015

A Storm of Swords Book Review

by The Wanderer

Author: George R. R. Martin
Publisher: Bantam
Genre: Epic Fantasy
Series: A Song of Ice and Fire Book Three
Pages: 924

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The Lord of the Rings may be the series that is the father of modern fantasy, but A Song of Ice and Fire is the series that is preparing the genre's future.  The well developed characters in this series begin to get even more complex and ambiguous in this third installment. Martin leaves his readers with many questions and ambiguities in the previous two books of this series, and this volume seems to not only continue the trend but also ups the stakes and consequences of the decisions made by all of the characters.

If there were one word to describe this book I think it would have to be traumatizing, and I’ve never used that word to ever describe a book.  The drama, tension, and suspense of this series increases tenfold, a feat many thought would be impossible after A Game of Thrones, but once again the author proves the world wrong.  In my less than humble opinion, A Storm of Swords is the single greatest volume from a fantasy series written thus far.

The War of the Five Kings continues and is the dominate storyline in this book.  Stannis and his army, having been defeated, returns to Dragonstone where he and Melisandre begin to re-plan his next move to secure the kingdoms he believes are rightfully his.  Robb Stark has lost Winterfell and most of the north to the Greyjoys, yet he has still not been defeated on the field.  However, the new alliance between The Lannister’s, the Tyrell’s, and the Martel’s has now made Joffrey the strongest and most powerful of the Kings who are claiming the throne.

In Kings Landing Tywin Lannister is now Hand of the King, and he begins to bring order to the capitol, while ending the war started by Joffrey. Tyrion, having lost his power, has now become a pawn to his fathers will.  Joffrey plans on taking Margaery Tyrell as a wife to secure the Lannister’s relationship with the Tyrell’s. This frees Sansa Stark from her previous marriage commitment to Joffrey, but she still remains a Lannister prisoner.

Meanwhile outside the primary storyline, Jon Snow is now a captive of the Wildlings and must face the difficult decision of joining their ranks or staying true to the Nights Watch.  Bran and the Reeds begin their search for the mysterious Three Eyed Crow that has been haunting Bran’s dreams.  Arya and her friends from Harrenhall begin to head to Riverrun to seek sanctuary from the war and so that she can reunite with Catelyn and Robb.  Daenarys Targaryen leaves Qarth and continues to build her wealth and swell her numbers so that she can reclaim the Iron Throne.

A Storm of Swords begins at a much faster pace than its predecessors.  The prologue of this book sets the pace for the rest of the story, and it does not disappoint.

A Song of Ice and Fire tends to give one character more narration time than the others, and A Storm of Swords is no different.  Eddard is the most read about character in A Game of Thrones and Tyrion is the most read about character in A Clash of Kings, and Arya Stark becomes the most read about character in A Storm of Swords.  Jon, Daenarys, and Tyrion, though, also get a lot of chapters.

Two new narrators join the story for this book and they are Samwell Tarly and Jaime Lannister.
 Samwell Tarly makes a solid narrator, but Jaime Lannister is a reader’s wet dream of a character.  He, arguably, has one of the greatest narration sequences in the entire series and he provides some insight into some of the most asked questions at this point in the book… Why did he kill Aerys?  Why did he join the Kingsguard?

Arya and Sansa Stark are two of the great standouts in this book, and their characters grow much more complicated morally and emotionally as this book progresses.  Sansa and Arya are polar opposites of one one another, and this allows a lot of thematic and philosophical contrast to occur in the series.  However, since Ned’s death, far to many people criticize Sansa by saying she couldn’t last a day in Arya’s shoes, which is true.  However,  if Arya spent a day in Sansa’s shoes she certainly wouldn’t be alive either.

Robb and Catelyn, who were largely absent from the second book, are also given more book time and their characters sanity and will to succeed is continuously tested throughout the story.  Telling Robb’s perspective of the story through the eyes of Catelyn is a nice way to contrast Robb with Jon Snow as both characters are telling coming of age stories.  Catelyn also gives readers the perspective of seeing a war through the eyes of a mother.

As I said in the introduction of this review, this book is traumatizing.  It’s very emotional, cold, brutal, triumphant, and sorrowful.  A Storm of Swords contains virtually all forms of human emotion within its story, and it contrasts them and engages the reader with them in a brilliantly tender and heart felt manner.  A Song of Ice and Fire can provide shocking and unexpected moments, but more often then not, readers get moments they expect to happen, but the expected moments end up happening in ways and at times when they are least expected.  A Storm of Swords amplifies the storytelling of A Song of Ice and Fire and puts it on a level that most readers would not have thought was possible for a fantasy book.

Score: 10

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