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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.
A Storm of Swords. Part 1. Steel and Snow. George RR Martin
Why read this one?
For me it was a necessity after reading the first two novels in this epic by Martin. The books have been adapted into a show and having seen the first series that was what sparked my interest in the books. I felt aided by having seen the show before reading the books as there are many characters to remember but feel that if I had not had that advantage I would still have been fine.
After one of the longest summers, one that stretched over many years, winter is coming. If you are a member of the Stark clan then you will know that term well. While men elevate themselves to the status of King; and fight over the coveted Iron throne at Kings Landing, the 'others' are advancing. Flakes of snow can mean only one thing during the winter months - death for anything that has warm blood coursing through its veins. Joffrey sits the Iron throne, though not comfortably and not well. Plenty line up to sack him as they play the game of thrones. What of the wall that protects the realm from the 'others'? Who knows and who cares? Winter is coming.....
Continue the game....
It was with great dismay that I caught up with my favourite character Tyrion. He of the Lannister clan but who has a conscience and compassion. I was thoroughly enjoying his clever battle plans which were presented with flair and intelligence. This half man (dwarf) is so appealing when allowed free rein. As the chapters are by each character (which I like very much) I am tempted to flick forward and see when the next dose of cleverness and entertainment will come. To find him demoted and held back was disappointing and a bit of a blow to be honest. I have no doubt the little man will bounce back and I know it makes better reading to have obstacles placed in his way to happiness. All the same it was great to be in his company again and enjoy his one liners and back chat. His father I find most unpleasant and self-centred, though I admire Martin for making him this way and can see parallels with history in his nature and philosophy. Just when I think that I have seen the worst from this man - who is now Hand to King Joffrey - he surprises me with another nasty scheme to get his family of Lannisters where he wants them to be. As he dislikes and mistreats Tyrion that makes me wince at the thought of him. This being the third book in the series it is good to see the meat on this man's bones flesh out - I see him for who he is and I know he has suffered in the past with the loss of his wife when Tyrion was born. All the same I don't like him.
An interesting thing happened during this prose. Very unexpected and a clever bit of plotting by Martin as it has me intrigued. Jaime Lannister (Kingslayer) has endeared himself to me! Really! He still has his swagger and selfish nature - alongside vanity and greed - but I got to know a lot more about him during his transfer from the Starks back on route to Kings Landing. He actually became protective of a female Knight who was escorting him and not because of her looks. Is he actually finding some compassion deep inside that attractive exterior? This appealed but some revelations and honesty about his history proved all the more illuminating and that is when I began to care about him and have some empathy. I also now feel sympathy for him. What a turnaround as he was one of the most disliked, arrogant characters that I had encountered to date - well done Martin!
Of Cersei Lannister I cannot say the same. This woman may be beautiful on the outside but she hides it well if beauty resides within her. Once again her nature and cruelty is believable of a Queen Regent living in a time such as this. It has to be every man/woman for themselves and this lady can plot with the best of them. Martin has done a great job developing Cersei as she has all the vulnerabilities of a lover and mother, sister and daughter but at the same time she is a lioness who will protect what is hers by any means necessary. Up to now she has done nothing at all to endear herself to me and I don't care about her - that doesn't mean that I don't want her in the prose as without her it would be lacking big time.
I was elated at the outcome of a long build up to Danaerys Stormborn's challenges in this book. The last novel left me unsatisfied in respect to this character as I didn't get to see much of what was happening with her or her three dragons. Baby dragons. The last dragons. All thought that they were long gone never to return. I feel many surprises coming for the Kings who battle for the Iron throne. Danaerys once again feels like a firm favourite as I like her morals, choices and compassion. She may only be a young girl, who possesses wisdom beyond her years, but folk would do well not to do her wrong or any other wrong in her company - she is a born protector and will punish with ferocity those who are cruel to man or beast. She is fleshing out nicely and appeals very much - she is a female who can handle herself and knows what she wants - she intends to get it and I will watch with interest.
Mellisandre. New blood this one and one to watch. Initially I thought her bad through and through and wanted King Stannis to have nothing to do with her and her magic. Since then I have learned more about her and her God. As her God is the God of light and she seems to know much about the 'others' I am thinking that her purpose is much bigger than thrones or power - her purpose may well be for good to prevail over evil and ultimately - survival. Her inclusion irritated me a little initially but I am now glad to see her play a part.
Wolves still roam and larger dire wolves are among them. Dreams link the great dire wolves to their human counterpart and this is becoming very interesting. It's developing slowly but I think that wise as this is to be savoured and enjoyed. John Snow now rides with the wildings - a nasty bunch of rebels who have little in way of appeal. One or two I can empathise with and even half like but I just want John and his wolf away from them. All the time he spends with them I am on red alert - at any moment he could be murdered as many distrust and dislike him. It is interesting to see how his loyalties to the black brothers who protect the wall are tested in this situation. I like that he gets to develop a relationship with a girl but wonder all the time (as he does) if his feelings are real or just the game that he now has to play till he can escape...if he can escape. A dangerous game indeed this one.
The prose jumps around from one location to another as all the characters are in different parts of the kingdom, even on a different continent. This makes for vivid and exciting stimulation of the senses as you go from the freezing climes of the wall and beyond to the moderate temperatures in Kings Landing - even I know what is coming if a flake of snow falls nearby.
I felt sorry for Sansa Stark during the prose, it's difficult not to as she struggles to make the best out of horrible situations at King's Landing - she doesn't irritate me as much as she used to do with her simplistic view on life and after some harsh lessons she now sees things differently. Arya, as ever, is a battler. Even when this girl thinks she is beaten she will find some courage and battle on again - she is entirely different to her sister and I like that. I have always liked Arya and follow her with great interest. Even though Robb Stark is the King in the North I still don't feel like I know who he is or what he really wants. He hasn't got the same fleshing out treatment as John Snow (his bastard brother) but in time I'm sure he will. For now he is a background figure who takes less priority in my list of interests. His mother Catelyn Stark is one that I try my best to like and empathise with but it's so difficult. If she would stop interfering then maybe there would be hope, I do sympathise with her and can see her actions would be believable of a grieving woman but still - I wish she wouldn't. Her name at the top of a chapter doesn't fill me with joy.
I like the pace in this book and felt like something was always happening, I always wanted to find out more and the pages turned fast and often. Martin keeps you in the loop and reminds you appropriately which means that you don't have to worry about remembering everything and everyone. I felt like there was a purposeful plot line that finishing in a very satisfying finale leading the way for part two of this book.
Sourcing and Price....
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www.amazon.co.uk £3.86 in paperback and £2.99 Kindle
If you have read the first two books in this epic tale then it's an easy yes. You will delight in being reacquainted with your favourites and as the chapters are all done via characters it's a treat when your favourites name appears. Having finished the book I can see how clever Martin has been with a variety of plots running alongside. Danaery's will thrill you when you reach the outcome of her challenges, whilst others amble along nicely dabbling in a bit of treachery here and there. It's great to gain further insight into the characters and get to know them better - some may well surprise you and you too may end up liking Jaime Lannister! Well, just a little. It's vivid and feels almost real - go ahead and enjoy the game.
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© dawnymarie 2013