Sunday, 26 October 2014

'A Storm of Swords' by George R.R. Martin (2000)

Synopsis: A Storm of Swords is the third book in George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire. The Seven Kingdoms of Westeros are still in the grip of a civil war and Joffrey Baratheon still sits on the Iron Throne. Catelyn Stark has released Jaime Lannister from captivity and he is now being escorted back to King's Landing by the female knight Brienne. Catelyn hopes that Jaime's freedom will secure the release of her daughters Sansa and Arya. Robb Stark is still waging war against the Lannisters but his kingdom has been lost to the Greyjoys. Robb will need to win back the support of Lord Walder Frey if he's to win back Winterfell. Arya Stark and her friends have escaped from Harrenhall and soon run into a band of outlaws called the Brotherhood Without Banners. After the Battle of Blackwater Bay, Davos Seaworth returns to Dragonstone. Davos blames Melisandre for Stannis Baratheon's defeat and the deaths of his sons. He tries to kill Melisandre and is then imprisoned for treason. In King's Landing, Tywin Lannister has taken over the position of the Hand. He soon arranges for Joffrey to marry Margaery Tyrell and for Sansa Stark to marry his son Tyrion. Neither Sansa or Tyrion are at all happy about this. Tyrion is also upset about the lack of appreciation for his role in saving King's Landing during the Battle of Blackwater and for the attempt on his life by one of Cersei's men. In the north, Bran Stark, his servant Hodor, and his friends Jojen and Meera Reed have escaped from Winterfell and are making their way to the Wall. Over the Wall, Samwell Tarly and the Night's Watch find themselves being attacked by the Others while Jon Snow has fallen in with the Wildlings and is now working undercover. In Essos, Daenerys Targaryren is still continuing in her mission to take the Iron Throne of her ancestors. Having been able to secure gold and a small number of ships, Dany travels to the cities of Slaver's Bay and considers whether to buy a vast slave army called the Unsullied. Instead Dany decides to free the slaves and to conquer the cities of the region.

A Storm of Swords is the book that Game of Thrones seasons three and four were based on and it's the overwhelming fan favourite out of the A Song of Ice and Fire series. I'm not sure if it would be my personal favourite though. I think my favourite in the series is still A Game of Thrones but I only like it slightly more than this one. That book contains plenty of backstory and historical information but it still manages to be a brisk and fast-paced read. I found all of the different storylines in that book extremely interesting and not once did it drag for me. Also, when you know of all the tragic things that will later happen to the Starks it's so nice to go back and revisit the scenes where they're all together and happy! And alive! :) I found the pacing in A Storm of Swords to be a bit too slow at the start and there were a couple of storylines that I struggled with. For example: I'm still not a fan of Davos and I found Arya's storyline quite draggy and repetitive in this one, which really surprised me because her storyline in A Clash of Kings was tied with Tyrion's as being my favourite. Her scenes with Jaqen H'ghar in that book are awesome and I'm really hoping that he'll come back into the series at some point.

These minor things aside, A Storm of Swords is still a brilliant book and I continue to be blown away by the world and characters that George R.R. Martin has created. This book is a true epic and a massive gamechanger novel. It expands the story in so many different ways and so much happens in it! Although I did find the book a bit slow-paced at the start, once it gets going it becomes a truly gripping read. There are so many thrilling and suspenseful scenes in this book, so many twists and turns. We get the Red Wedding, the Purple Wedding, Sansa's escape from King's Landing, the Battle at the Wall, Tyrion's trial, the Mountain vs the Red Viper, Dany's conquests of the Slaver's Bay cities, and Sansa's final chapter. The existing characters in the series change and develop so much in this book and we get some great new characters. I'm thinking of Oberyn Martell and Lady Olenna Tyrell, the Queen of Thorns.

I've decided not to comment on every single one of the character's storylines in these ASoIF reviews of mine, although maybe I'll do that at some point in the future when Martin eventually finishes his series. For now I'll just mention the POV characters that particularly grabbed my attention. In this book my absolute favourite POV characters were Jon Snow and Daenerys Targaryen. Their stories are full of action and drama, and they themselves get so many badass scenes and moments. I've become convinced that they're the major protagonists of A Song of Ice and Fire; that Jon represents the "ice" of the title and Dany the "fire". Jaime Lannister gets some terrific character development in this book as well. In A Game of Thrones Jaime seemed like a horrible person. He came across as cocky and smug and dreadfully immoral. But in this book Martin makes him a POV character and we get to understand Jaime more. We find out more about his backstory and how he views the world. We see him being humbled by the loss of his hand. On the inside, Jaime is actually a very different person to his father and sister. He really does have morals and a sense of honour. He has questionable morals and a complex sense of honour to be sure but, they're there! You can see that in his scenes with Brienne and during his final scene with Tyrion - which is so sad in the book :( I love a good redemption story and I really hope that Jaime finds his redemption by the end. Sansa's story becomes extremely gripping at the halfway point of this book as well, and I really enjoyed Bran and Tyrion's storylines.

Finishing A Storm of Swords was a bittersweet experience for me. From what I've gathered, no-one seems to think that the next two books in the ASoIaF are as good as the first three. I've heard that A Feast for Crows is a very Cersei heavy book, and that both A Feast for Crows and A Dance with Dragons are too slow-paced and introduce too many new characters. That's made me think that the series has peaked with A Storm of Swords which makes me sad, but I'm trying to ignore what I've heard about the next two books and go into them with an open mind.

Rating: 5/5

P.S. A Storm of Swords is a huge book, so huge in fact that in the UK its paperback edition has been split into two separate volumes: Steel and Snow and Blood and Gold. I'm not sure how I feel about this. It makes the book much easier to carry around of course but you do pay more for it.


Manette said...

My favourite storylines in Storm of Swords are Jon's (obviously, my favourite character!) and Davos. I really liked getting to see Dragonstone and Stannis' attitude towards the whole king crisis in the previous book, and the books are so full of ambitious and power-hungry characters that Davos makes quite a refreshing change. Not that I don't enjoy reading about all the scheming and back-stabbing :D Also, Jaime's character development IS really awesome, like I said in your Clash of Kings post.

It's been quite a while since I read Feast for Crows and Dance with Dragons, but I didn't find them as dragging and uninteresting as most of the reviews would suggest. Feast for Crows is Cersei-heavy and she is REALLY ANNOYING most of the time, but she also makes a heck of an interesting character! As the first three books only described her through the eyes of other characters, it was really quite exciting to get a view behind that b*tch mask of hers. Arya gets amazing stuff in both Feast and Dance, much better than what she got in Storm of Swords. I remember I liked Dance with Dragons very much, but I might be a bit biased because I jump with delight at every Jon Snow chapter and Dance with Dragons has lots of those. And Tyrion too. What happens to him during Storm of Swords really affects his character and he's quite a different person in Dance with Dragons... that's all I'll say ;) Though he's still awesome, no worries about that.

Hannah said...

I don't know why I can't warm to Davos. I know he's a good man but I still find his chapters kind of dull. You've reminded me of why I like Bran's chapters so much though! I've read so many reviews from people who say that they find Bran boring but I'm always really happy when I come across a Bran chapter! He's a sweet kid, I like the Reeds, and there's an innocence to Bran's chapters that I love and find extremely refreshing. There are a lot of enticing hints about the future of the series in his chapters too :)

Well, I'm feeling much more optimistic about A Feast for Crows and A Dance with Dragons now! I'm hoping to read AFfC fairly soon - I just need to take some books back to the library first - and I'm hoping to read ADwD either by the end of this year or at the beginning of the next. I want to have the whole series finished by the time I get to Game of Thrones season 5. My brother is so mad with me though. He doesn't like the idea of me reading ahead and knowing what's going to come up in the show when he has no idea. But if anything that spurs me on! :D