(Click the book cover to see on Goodreads)
Genre: Adult, Fantasy
Title: A Storm of Swords
Author: George R. R. Martin
Length: 1177 pages
Publication: 2011 by Bantam Books
Of the five contenders for power, one is dead, another in disfavor, and still the wars rage, alliances are made and broken. Joffrey sits on the Iron Throne, the uneasy ruler of the Seven Kingdoms. His most bitter rival, Lord Stannis, stands defeated and disgraced, victim of the sorceress who holds him in her evil thrall. Young Robb still rules the North from the fortress of Riverrun. Meanwhile, making her way across a blood-drenched continent is the exiled queen, Daenerys, mistress of the only three dragons left in the world. And as opposing forces maneuver for the final showdown, an army of barbaric wildlings arrives from the outermost limits of civilization, accompanied by a horde of mystical Others – a supernatural army of the living dead whose animated corpses are unstoppable. As the future of the land hangs in the balance, no one will rest until the Seven Kingdoms have exploded in a veritable storm of swords….
‘A Storm of Swords’ is written in third person limited with multiple point of views, in the same style as ‘A Game of Thrones’ and ‘A Clash of Kings’. However, two new characters’ POVs are added from book two and one is taken away. The slight change in characters offers more important insight to the reader because of what the new character is undergoing during the course of the novel.
Pacing: The pacing of this third novel in the series was much faster than the second novel. Each of the characters are in the middle of some action or another with obvious forward movement for the plot, adding to the pace. Yet, there are slow points in the novel that focus more on intrigue rather than action to keep the pace balanced.
World: The world is exquisite. Each and every detail is explained explicitly, but also vibrantly. Thus, it’s easy to envision, and disappear into, the world of Westeros and the outlying lands. Also, every aspect of life is described fully. There are multiple religions, multiple ranks and professions, multiple lifestyles, multiple traditions. It’s not an enclosed world. People are influenced and changed by the other varying lives and people around them, which deepens the reality of the world.
Writing: The writing style is concise. Crisp, clear, and eloquent. Yet, sometimes more than enough, such as in the cases of listing off multiple lesser lords whom will never play a big enough role to remember, or immaculately describing the meal courses or clothing items. Such grandiose descriptions, while enhancing the world-building, become tedious to read.
Non-Spoilered Plot: The blood battles may be done, but the treachery has only begun. Plots and schemes rain down across Westeros in the North and the South and even in the East across the sea as the number of players in the game of thrones dwindles and the survivors pull ranks. Yet, without distractions on the battlefields, truths become known. It’s only a matter of time before loyalties are tested, boundaries are crossed, and people are pushed too far.
Character(s): The book follows Arya Stark, Bran Stark, Catelyn Stark, Sansa Stark, Tyrion Lannister, Samwell Tarly, Daenerys Targaryen, Jon Snow, Davos Seaworth, and Jaime Lannister. From these points of view, the reader sees more of the plotting and scheming of the novel while leaving out the viewpoints of the big players. Such a combination offers insight, but also many shocks and surprises. These came as surprises for the characters as well, offering them their authenticity. While some of the characters are still annoying, childish, naive, or vain, each one is realistic in their execution of their bad personality traits.
Plot: The plot of the novel is quite similar to that of ‘A Clash of Kings’ where multiple people are vying for the throne. Yet the action has died down. Unlike the bloody battles of the previous novel, the characters have chosen more tactful, still brutal means of obtaining their goals. One of the greatest examples of this is Tywin’s hand in the Red Wedding during which Robb Stark and many of the Northern Lords are murdered. Or perhaps the mysterious way in which Balon Greyjoy plummets to his death or King Joffrey is poisoned at his own wedding feast. Even the wildlings have their secret plans of sneaking over the wall to the take the Night’s Watch by surprise.
Thankfully for them, Jon Snow’s infiltration gives him the opportunity to warn the Night’s Watch. With such information, they are able to run down the surprise attack and hold the wall against the advancing army of wildlings from the North. Though, their numbers are small and their resources smaller. It’s only with the help of Stannis Baratheon that the Night’s Watch is able to rid the wildling attack for good… or at least for a while.
Unfortunately, Stannis’s reasons for defending the wall aren’t nearly as selfless as he claims: ‘a king’s duty to protect the realm’. He’s actually looking for support from Jon, for which he will make him Lord of Winterfell, and the land of The Gift, which he wishes to use for himself and his troops. All of this is Stannis’s attempt to fight for the throne again. If only his intentions had been pure, then maybe he would be likable. Of course, he wouldn’t have helped the Night’s Watch at all if it hadn’t been for Davos Seaworth reminding him of his duty. Is this why King’s have counselors? To remind them to care about more than just themselves and their power?
The only character not plotting behind everyone’s back happens to be Daenerys Targaryen. Instead, she slays her way through city after city to free the slaves and build herself an army to take back with her to the Seven Kingdoms. Though, her men are holding enough secrets for her what with Jorah Morment selling her every move to Varys before he fell in love with her and Arstan Whitebeard, who’s actually Sir Barristan Selmy. It seems metaphorical swords of deceit are the weapon of choice in ‘A Storm of Swords’ instead of an actual sword.
Laced within all the treachery and lies are the other characters who care little for the throne, but are swept up in the game nonetheless: i.e. Jaime Lannister. He fights for his sister, his father, his son, his brother, but never once claimed he had a right to the throne. He fought for family, not power. Yet, he has his hand chopped off anyway because of the numerous people he’s killed in his attempts to be filial.
Sansa Stark is another perfect example of this: a prisoner, a traitor’s daughter/sister, a ploy. She has no real power to do anything, leaving her the biggest pawn and most helpless character in all of Westeros. Even more helpless than Bran who can’t walk. Sadly, even when Sansa does manage to make it out of King’s Landing and the clutches of the Lannisters, she’s swept away by Littlefinger and forced to play his game, whatever that may be as he marries and quickly murders Lysa Arryn.
Of course there is Bran, still shrouded in mystery as he seeks out the Crow in the North. While childish and having little impact on the rest of the plots, Bran’s story is one of the most interesting because it really delves into the magical part of Westeros. Not only can he share consciousness with his wolf, he can share it with other animals and even people. And there is a sense that something is much bigger about Bran, that he will play a larger role to come once he masters his power.
With all the intrigue, treachery, backstabbing, hidden secrets, and endless mystery, this book was a whirlwind of information while leaving the reader wanting more. With that being said, I leave my rating of this novel, ‘A Storm of Swords’, at four stars.
Have you read ‘A Storm of Swords’ by George R. R. Martin? What did you think of it?