Jun 5, 2012

[Books] A Storm of Swords

With the second season of the HBO TV series having wrapped up this week, it seems almost timely that I also finally finished reading that rather epic-ly long A Storm of Swords. I totally get why some markets opted to split this massive book into 2 and even 3 separate titles given just how long it runs and how much action takes place. But man, it was totally worth the read indeed.

As I progress through the books while the TV series also continues on, I can't help but wonder how they'll manage to adapt each book into another season of the show. And this is especially true for this rather thick addition to any George R. R. Martin bookshelf - it'll take at least two seasons (at least!) to capture all the plot points contained here. At least that's my working theory.

And this book would certainly deserve the added screen time. Seriously, one would be hard-pressed not to enjoy this particular addition to the overall narrative given the many twists and turns that the plot takes. This title probably stands out for the number of character arcs that finally reach a point of general fulfillment while still giving us more questions to ponder over for future titles.


Synopsis: A Storm of Swords is the third book in George R. R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire series of books. After it's debut in August 2000, the book went on to win the 2001 Locus Award and the 2002 Geffen Award for Best Novel. It was also nominated for the 2001 Nebula Award for Best Novel and the Hugo Award as well.

Coat of Arms of the House of Lannister
Coat of Arms of the House of Lannister (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The War of the Five Kings rages on in the Seven Kingdoms and a clear victor is not immediately in sight. The Lannisters have just managed to repel the forces of Stannis Baratheon, largely thanks to the strategies of Tyrion Lannister and the timely arrival his father Tywin Lannister with the support of House Tyrell and House Martell. But now Tyrion has been largely forgotten with most of his power stripped from him and with his sister Cersei continues to gather power onto herself.

Robb Stark, the King in the North, continues to attempt to secure the Riverlands, although his own home of Winterfell has fallen to the forces of Balon Greyjoy . But now the alliance with the Freys is in jeopardy given he has decided to break off his bethrothal to an unnamed Frey daughter and has instead taken the young Jeyne Westerling as his wife. His mother on the other hand has orchestrated the release of Jaime Lannister to the care of Brienne of Tarth in the hopes that returning him to Casterly Rock would result in the return of her daughters Sansa and Arya.

But Arya is largely on her own apart from the mixed company of Gendry and Hot Pie as she tries to find her way home. Sansa remains a hostage at King's Landing. Bran continues to have strange dreams of a three-eyed crow as he journeys north with Jojen and Meera Reed. Jon Snow, the bastard sun, is forced to pretend to be a Wildling beyond the Wall. And Daenyrys Targaryen continues her quest to find a way to build an army to take back to Westeros and retake the crown her family lost.

Now where do I begin to review this book properly? At roughly 1000 pages (depending on the version you have), the book covers a LOT of ground and thus there's a lot to factor in.

First, I'll admit that the initial pacing took some getting used to, especially with new interactions like the chapters following Jaime and Brienne and the weirder ones where we follow Samwell Tarly around. But once you get into the rhythm of the book and get a better feel for the characters, things really start to pick up and make a lot more sense.

And with so many characters to follow around, it may seem a tad overwhelming to keep up with all the stories and remember precisely who is who. I don't blame folks for creating all these companion wikis and even dedicated iOS apps just to make it easier to research and reference. But as long as you pay attention and read without too many distractions, I assure you that you'll be able to manage.

And at the end of the day, just remember that Martin has a notorious habit of not leaving any one character absolutely safe, so expect the ranks of named individuals start to diminish as the book reaches its conclusion. And man, the blood really does flow rather freely before the book comes to an end.

I'll admit that my favorite storylines continue to involve Tyrion and Arya Stark. But over time I also developed a quirky appreciation for the Jaime-Brienne tandem and of course there's the life-or-death struggle of Jon Snow beyond the Wall. I think this is officially the book that helped me better appreciate the segments of the story involving the Wall and the Night's Watch and of course the threat presented by the Wildlings of Mance Rayder and the Others.

Some might balk at the sheer length of this book, but I again reassure you that it's worth the journey. The story had to be this long since it takes a while to maneuver all the different players in the right places. But once the board is truly set, the action comes hard and fast and doesn't let up from chapter to chapter until you reach the chilling epilogue.

A Storm of Swords is definitely my favorite book in the series and one that really had me reeling to keep up with the many revelations that link all the way back to the very first novel in the series. And with at least 4 more books projected after this one, I can only wonder what else this mad writer has in store for us all.





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