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A Storm of Swords is the third book in the ever popular series, A Game of Thrones by George RR Martin. The book is split into two halves, which I think was a smart move as it allows the author to continue to focus in detail on the lives of his characters in this fantasy novel, but allows the pace to work a bit better than it did for me in his second book in the series.
We continue in a familiar format - the story is told a chapter at a time from the viewpoint of different main characters in the novel so you get to understand not only how a character thinks, but also how they are seen by others around them. This can be interesting as even the most despisable charcters have some redeeming qualities when you see them from a different view point.
This novel is a bit hard to peg - there is a note at the start of it that some events run parallel to some of the events of book 2. Understandable as there are so many characters that you just cannot cover what everyone is experiencing and containing it within one book. I do think perhaps though that some of the more character driven plot would have been better in book two, and moving some of the more heavy going battle scenes into book three. This would have made book two a bit of an easier read I think, and helped it have a bit more reader appeal for me.
It is nice in this book to get back to some of the characters that have been languishing in book two - Jaime Lannister being a prime example. Instead of wasting in a jail cell, we see him released as a hostage in the hope of Catelyn Stark being reunited with her daughters.
Seeing Jaime interact with Brienne of Tarth, his escort, we get to see a totally different side to him. It's interesting to see this character being a bit vulnerable and losing some of his swagger as his life changes.
I also like the fact that we see a bit less of Sansa being a simpering girl and start to open her eyes a little. While I can never see me fully warming to this character, she does start to grow up a bit. I much prefer seeing chapters that feature her sister Arya, a very gritty character who is determined to take control of her own destiny.
Daenarys Stormborn also seemed to not be part of much of the action in book two, but now she is focussing on amassing an army. You can see that she is growing from a child into a strong woman.
Most interesting for me is seeing what fate has in store for Jon Snow. Believed to be a traitor, he is acting under cover to assess the danger to the North from a group of Wildlings - free men who live without any rule. While he is in a very dangerous position you wonder how it can possibly turn out.
The magical element to this book does not really entice me so much, but I do like when the Stark children can use their minds to share a body with their direwolves that accompany them. I can't wait to see how this special relationship pans out in future books.
I have tried to deliberately keep this review vague in terms of plot points because I know a lot of people are fans of the TV show and books. I personally hate it when there are big plot spoilers within reviews, and my own enjoyment has been spoiled by seeing spoilers on the internet.
This book is a fairly integral part of this series to me, and as usual Martin's writing is engaging and I was kept engaged throughout the book. There is a strong sense of threat upon the realm, and a real power struggle in the South is stopping anyone being prepared for it. It leads to you constantly wanting to read just one more chapter to find out just what will happen as no character is 'safe' at any point in the story.
I came to 'A Song of Ice and Fire', like many other people, by initially seeing the series on television. I think by the time I was on episode two/series one, I was hooked and wanted much more very quickly so bought the first book, 'A Game of Thrones', then the second 'A Clash of Kings' and then this one: 'A Storm of Swords', 1) 'Steel and Snow'. Martin's books are so crammed with characters and events he divides some of them into two parts. The second part of 'A Storm of Swords' is 'Blood and Gold'. In his prologue he tells the reader that in the two books, the events taking place in them are happening concurrently albeit miles and miles apart.
The title, 'Steel and Snow', suggests swords and winter. Indeed. Robb Stark is out fighting in the North, his forces now away from Winterfell, which proves extremely costly. Arya continues to survive incognito in the company of Hot Pie and Gendry, disguised as a lad. There is a shock marriage of Stark and Lannister. Joffrey remains the character we all love to hate. Jamie is sent back to Casterly Rock as captive to Brienne, but not all goes well with dire consequence. Sansa, hostage to the Lannisters, continues her ordeal at the hands of Joffrey. Daenerys learns of Ser Jorah's affections.
To say more would be to ruin the read and the sudden twists Martin is so adept at throwing in. I suppose a fair question would be for some to ask if one would be able to take up 'Steel and Snow' maybe having seen the two series on television. In my opinion I would advise against this as events would not marry up well. There is so much material in Martin's books that much content is cut/combined/altered I feel the transition would be unsatisfactory. I would rate this book 4 out of 5 stars, my criticism being too many characters are given too much material.