Author: George R.R. Martin
First Published: 2000
Page Count: 1128
Film/ TV Adaptation: Yes*
Rating: 5/5 Stars
Note: Book 3 of A Song of Ice and Fire series
*Best Book of 2011 on Without a Book
Over 1000 pages of quality storytelling await anyone brave enough to pick up the third installment in Martin’s celebrated series.
*Glimpse into the point of view of some more characters *Completely unpredictable plot
*Second half of the book outshines the first half
“The best we can hope for is to die with swords in our hands.” Defeat is a bitter pill to swallow but it is one that the characters in Martin’s third book A Storm of Swords all must taste. Much of Westeros is unrecognizable as a result of the battles that have been waged in this tumultuous time. Every faction has had losses and it begs the question, who is really winning this game of thrones? But it is the personal struggles of individual characters and their families that gives this book its punch. When a battlefield, where rules of war are clearly drawn, is a safer place then one’s own bed, it becomes clear that the true enemies are not necessarily bearing a sword and shield.
While it was exciting to move through this book from new points of view from well-known characters from the first two books, it was the twists and turns within the plot that earn this book its five stars. As most people do when watching films or reading books, I try to predict how the story is going to end and where Martin is going to take us on this journey. However, that is virtually impossible in Martin’s books, and especially A Storm of Swords. I found myself blown away time after time and it all stems from the fact that in this book, no character is safe no matter where they are. It seems that Martin picks the most unlikely settings for some of the biggest scenes in the book that leave the reader wary of any location that might foster cheer or the feeling of safety. By the end of the book, it’s hard not to become suspicious of every character to the point of paranoia. But such knowledge still cannont emotionally defend the reader from scenes that rip out your very heart and pound it to a pulp.
Even with scene after scene of heart stopping twists and turns, the one problem with this third book is that you have to get past most of the first half of the book to get to the real action. The beginning does have enough of a story that keeps the reader going but once you get to a certain point in the book, you realize the first half of the book doesn’t hold a candle to the second half. Leaving all the action for the second half of the book can be an effective way to create a world shattering finale but it also makes reading this tome a bit more of a struggle compared to the other books. I realize fantasy books usually push the 1000 page mark often but as someone who is reading these books simultaneously one after the next, it can be tough to push forward. And with endings like the one in A Storm of Swords the reader really has no choice but to read the next book so that they can satisfy their curiosity about how their favorite characters are faring.
In the end, though, if a writer can make every chapter exciting I’m willing to work through any size book. And though this series has made me cry out in anger more often than cheer for joy, it says something if an author can make a reader care so completely for his characters and so easily become caught up in his world. I look forward to the next book with a mixture of fear and excitement.
*TV Adaptation: (Game of Thrones Season 3 HBO 2013)