Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Book Review: A Storm of Swords

Season 3 of HBO’s Game of Thrones premiers on March 31st, so it’s about time for another review of a book from George R.R. Martin’s epic series A Song of Ice and Fire. As I’ve mentioned before, I started reading A Song of Ice and Fire shortly before the HBO series first premiered, so I arrived a little late to the GRRM party. I just finished A Storm of Swords, which is the subject of Season 3 of Game of Thrones, though I believe it may only cover the first half of the book. In any event, my review of the novel follows this image of the book’s cover.

A Storm of Swords is as well-written as the first two books in George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire, but this one left me feeling unsettled after finishing it. The story picks up immediately where A Clash of Kings ended. Robb Stark remains the King of the North, but his decision to marry another woman threatens to undo his alliance with the Freys. Catelyn is so concerned about her daughters that she’s willing to ransom the Kingslayer for their safe return (this development introduces Jamie Lannister as a viewpoint character for the first time). Sansa remains Cersei’s hostage, while Arya has escaped from Harrenhal, hoping to find her way back to Robb. Meanwhile, Jon is with the wildlings beyond the Wall, Daenerys and her dragons are still far away in the east, Tyrion lies in bed recovering from the attack on his life, and his ruthless father becomes the Hand of the King.

Even more than in the prior two novels, nothing works out the way you’d expect in A Storm of Swords. I counted no less than four major plot twists, and there’s a shocking body count as far a major characters are concerned. Martin is almost fiendish with the turmoil he put his characters through, and every time you think a character is safe or making some progress toward his or her goals, Martin changes the game, often in brutal and unexpected ways. I believe this is what left me so unsettled. One twist near the middle of the story was so jaw dropping that I never felt the same about the book the rest of the way. Of course, this is one of Martin’s gifts: creating characters that the reader truly cares about. And when something awful happens to some of them, I found myself more emotionally drained than I ever expected with this novel. Still, I was unable to put this book down, and the more harrowing events became, the more I kept reading, sleep be damned.

The brightest storyline belongs to Daenerys. Martin has handled her character arc from the first novel to this one brilliantly, and she is fast becoming my favorite character in this series. I didn’t think I’d root for a Targaryen to rule Westeros, but I am now – at least until Martin throws yet another unexpected twist into this tale, which might change my perspective entirely. I highly recommend A Storm of Swords, but be prepared to be taken for a rather harrowing ride.

I am really looking forward to Season 3 of Game of Thrones. Season 2 is out on DVD and Blueray if you need to catch up before March 31st. And if you have thoughts on Season 3 or A Storm of Swords, post a comment and let me know!


Catherine Peace said...

I haven't gotten through A Clash of Kings yet, but now I'm anxious to get to Storm of Swords. Great review!

Joseph Finley said...

Cate, thanks for the comment! The only thing keeping me from starting A Feast for Crows right now is my overly-long list of other books to read. I hope you're enjoying A Clash of Kings!