A Storm of Swords by George R.R. Martin

13253102Fiction — print. Bantam Books, 2011. Originally published 2000. 1177 pgs. Borrowed from a friend.

This book, the third in Martin’s fantasy epic, covers all of the third season of “Game of Thrones” (including the infamous Red Wedding) and then delves into all new territory. Of the five contenders for the Iron Throne introduced in the second book, one is dead, another is near defeat, and the others continue to wage war, make and break alliances, and scheme within their own houses for more power and more prestige as they move closer and closer to the throne.

King Joffrey of House Lannister currently holds the throne thanks to his own brutality and the intelligence of his mother Cersei, Uncle Tyrion, and grandfather Tywin, but Robb of House Stark still rules the North and is mounting a campaign to defeat Joffrey, who holds his younger sister Sansa in King’s Landing. Beyond the Wall, a large group of wildlings are marching toward the Wall under Mance Rayder with only a small force of the Night’s Watch in their path — one of them being Jon Snow, who has to face the temptation of leaving the Night’s Watch — and, in the east, Daenerys Taragaryen is nurturing her dragons and trying to raise forces to retake the Iron Throne.

Winter is coming, warned the Stark words, and truly it had come for them with a vengence. But it is high summer for House Lannister. So why am I so bloody cold?” (pg. 794)

Of this three books I have read so far, this one is my favorite. I had wondered if my prior knowledge of the events given my familiarity with the television adaption would color my experience, but I was hooked by the detailing of each event even before I reached the point where I had no prior knowledge. I stayed up until three in the morning reading this book and then until two the next night in order to finish. It was that addictive, that much of an emotional roller coaster.

There are, of course, more narrators added to the mix in this novel — Ser Jaime Lannister the Kingslayer, Samwell Tarly of the Night’s Watch, a prologue by another brother of the Night’s Watch, and an epilogue by a member of the Frey family. The addition of Jaime Lannister was absolutely needed and my favorite new narrator of the bunch given how difficult it is to connect with and understand a man known as the “Kingslayer” who engages in an incestuous relationship with his twin sister. And I appreciated the opportunity to see the point of view for my three favorite characters — Jon Snow, Sansa Stark, and Tyrion Lannister.

“You’re mine,” she whispered. “Mine, as I’m yours. And if we die, we die. All men must die, Jon Snow. But first we’ll live.” (pg. 560)

But those of you familiar with the show know how much Martin loves to throw plot twist after plot twist and commit mass murder of his characters. The events of the Red Wedding are not the only shocking moments in this book, and I turned page after page with nervous anticipation and tears in my eyes. Both in the good way and the bad way because Martin will kill characters for what I can only imagine would be for a laugh because why, why, why, Martin? As the friend who recommended the books to me said, “he may actually survive via the energy released by sobbing fans”. But sometimes the heartbreaking, gut-wrenching experience of reading this book is actually what you need and I cannot wait to see how this book continues to live up to the label of “epic” I keep seeing attached to this series.

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