A review by earlc
A Storm of Swords, by George R.R. Martin

adventurous dark tense medium-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? A mix
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? Yes
  • Diverse cast of characters? It's complicated
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? Yes


I think I was disposed to not take this book seriously when I started, because it had been five years since I read A Clash of Kings and the television series turned out to be such a catastrophe. I was never a big fan of the show, thinking it fun to see the characters on screen at most and a disappointing adaptation at worst, and even though I knew the books were better I walked into this one with low expectations. To say I was pleasantly surprised would be an understatement. This was a pretty fantastic book, and though it's been a while since I read the previous two I'm inclined to say A Storm of Swords is the best one thus far. It's been a while since I finished it so I won't have a cohesive or comprehensive review, but here are my lingering thoughts. 
It's a testament to Martin's characterization that I needed no refresher on who each of the main characters were and what they were up to; many of the minor characters (the Reeds, Gendry and Hotpie, Dolorous Ed, etc.) were also warmly remembered. There are a lot of great characters introduced in this book, like Mance, Missandei, and Oberyn, and we get to know others, like Sam and Jamie, better. No character feels redundant, each character is unique, a tremendous achievement with a cast this size. Every single viewpoint character grew and changed in really interesting ways, and Tyrion, Jaime, and Jon's internal struggles were among the most engaging and complex I've read in a fantasy book. Jon's relationship with Ygritte was especially heartrending, and Jamie's with Brienne surprisingly touching. Reading this book proved that "spoilers" are an exaggerated threat to one's enjoyment of a work. I knew (almost) all of the major twists going into this book, and each still surprised, thrilled, and horrified me.
Spoiler The revelation that Lysa had killed Jon Arryn (the root of all of the Stark's problems in this series) at Littlefinger's request was a genuine surprise, as well as Littlefinger's murder of Lysa, but it was just as impactful as the Red and Purple Weddings, as well as Oberyn's duel, which I already knew about.

Some minor criticisms: I thought Daenerys' chapters were good on their own (along with the world beyond the wall, Essos is fascinates me), but they broke up the flow of the novel. All of the other characters' chapters, to varying degrees, have some impact on another's; Daenerys is in her own story. I normally enjoy Arya's chapters, but she spent a lot of time wandering around the Riverlands and Reach with the Brotherhood, which wasn't always as engaging (Bran's chapters sometimes threatened to be long travelogues, but Myra's telling of the Crannogman's journey was pretty gripping); conversely, her journeys with the Hound felt cut short. Likewise, I thought Davos (one of my all-time favorite characters) didn't get enough attention, and I was surprised when he didn't get his own chapter at the end.
Nevertheless, this is high fantasy done so right. Definitely looking forward to the next two books, though I think I'll take a little more of a vacation; these books are a project.
Listened to the audiobook narrated by Roy Dotrice. 

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