A Storm of Swords (A Song of Ice and Fire, #3)

A Storm of Swords (A Song of Ice and Fire, #3) - George R.R. Martin Seven hells. All right, I admit, this one took me longer to get through than the previous two, and you know why? I was so damn scared to read it. I had heard ominous whispers of the third book. People shushing each other in chat rooms and on blogs lest they spoil this great book. I’m not going to spoil anything. So, as for the past two, I’ll focus on characters over plot because it’s so difficult to relay this plot to you without inevitably spoiling something, and because I remained so beautifully unspoilt, I would wish the same fate on you as well. But be forewarned, it is just as bad as you’ve heard. People I know that have read this basically told me straight up ‘if you can keep yourself from becoming attached to the characters, then do’ but, you know me. I love every single black hearted soul, both bastard and true born. If the character is one of the narrators, I probably love them, and even if they aren’t I’ll probably love them… (yes, even characters like Viserys and Theon. That is an argument for another day. If you’d like me to write an essay on why I like Theon Grayjoy and Viserys Targaryen, then by all means I will, but not today). In this third book in what has become in my heart one of the greatest series’ I have ever read, things are just falling to pieces, plain and simple. Things are falling apart for Robb Stark - King in the North, and for Stannis, and for Tyrion and for Jaime Lannister (who gets his own chapters in this book. If you were a sworn Lannister opposer before, this may sway your opinion of the Kingslayer). GrrM takes you on an absolute roller coaster ride of emotions, however cliche that statement is, it is totally true with this. There are chapters where you think to yourself, ‘hey, things are going pretty well’ and then something will happen that will literally send all your dreams crashing to the floor. Now, I know what you’re thinking, why would anyone want to put themselves through that? Why read a book where at every page turn you wonder if a character you’ve become emotionally invested in is going to die? Well, the answer is simple. These books are bloody freaking brilliant. Pardon my saying so. I am honestly in awe of these books, as a fantasy writer myself I really haven’t stumbled upon books of these calibre in years. GrrM is hailed as The American Tolkein and even though I’m a bit of a Tolkein-est, I have to say I agree. Not only is the world building mind blowingly in depth (and it becomes deeper with every book) the depth of the characters themselves is stunning. Yes, he kills more characters than J.K. Rowling. However, this isn’t children’s fiction and the realism that these books hold is spectacular, especially for a fantasy. I’ve called these political fantasies from the beginning, and that’s essentially what they are, but the fantasy element is coming through more and more as the series progresses. Wether it be Danaerys’ dragons, or the wights and Others from across the wall, or even Melisandre and her Lord of Light. We’re starting to see the mystic and the magic of Westeros, not just the political factions and court games. At times, though, these books hold the realism that you would expect from a historical fantasy (which, I guess it can be argued that they have a lot of those elements as well) it’s just all so vivid. You believe in Westeros, you believe in these characters. You’re rightly traumatised when dreadful and unspeakable things happen to them. Yet, even as your favourites fall (as mine does in this book. Alas, I will not speak of who, but my favourite character did get the fatal blow. Although I sensed it would happen - even saw it coming - I was totally blindsided. There are reasons this book is spoken of in hushed whispers by only those who have already survived it.) you are pressed to move on and continue because you just have to know how it ends. Now, some say enough is enough and drop the series’ spouting that it’s misogynistic and, well, a bit masochistic. What it is not is misogynistic. Catelyn Stark, Arya and Sansa Stark, Brienne of Tarth, Danaerys Targaryen - Mother of Dragons, Cersei Lannister, Asha (though she does not make an appearance in this book), and Ygritte the Wilding. None of these women are weak. Catelyn has watched her beloved family fall and can do nothing except support her son, but damned if she’s not going to make her own decisions. Arya spends the entire book running around with a band of outlaws not unlike Robin Hood’s band (except with darker intentions, obviously). I must admit that Arya’s character ARC was one of my absolute favourites in this book. The spunky girl will always be a fighter as she fought her way out of one sticky situation after another. Sansa is trapped in the game of court and even though she is the most allowing, shall I say, of the list - as she hides behind her courtesies - she still holds strength when faced against Joffrey (who is actually one of the most vile characters ever created) Brienne is one of my favourites. She’s anything but pretty, but she’s strong, she’s stubborn, she’s loyal, and she wields a sword better than most men. Cersei is the Queen Bitch who we all love to hate but if she doesn’t have an iron will I don’t know who does. And then of course dear Dany who spends the entire book leading an ARMY. Badass does not begin to describe her. These women live in a world that is ruled by men. Because these books hold their beautiful realism. Did women get much respect in the medieval times? Why, no, no they didn’t. Which is exactly why they have to fight for it in Westeros. And fight for it they do. They don’t always get much when the chapters are from male points of view, but that’s the thing of it, we the readers know just how strong these woman truly are. That’s the beauty of it all. That’s also why GrrM himself said that if his books were misogynistic, then why was it that most of those in line at book signings were female? Seriously, I could break that claim on Danaerys Targaryen alone. Who becomes just more spectacular as the series goes on. Mother of dragons and all that. Anyway, in this book the character narrators remain nearly the same as the previous book. Except this time we get Jaime Lannister. I admit, I groaned a bit when I saw that. How could these chapters be any good at all? But, if your opinion of Jaime isn’t swayed by the end of this book, then you are set in stone because he is… not as he is pictured in the last few books. I actually came to really love his characters. In the last book we saw Tyrion’s brilliance (ok, we do in this one too, but the last one even more so) this time we get to see Jaime. I think that’s what I adore about these books so much. We see all sides. There is a character narrator for every side of the battle. Davos on Stannis’ side. Jaime and Tyrion Lannister and Sansa Stark in King’s Landing. Jon Snow and Samwell Tarly at the wall. Arya Stark being passed around all across the country. Catelyn Stark with Robb and the North. And Dany with her people across the sea. Everyone has their side shown. There is no right side in this war. You get to see all the sides of the story. Because of that, I think, is why you end up enjoying so many of the characters that you would never grow to love if you never heard the story from their voices or their points of view. This is only the third book in the series. Supposedly there will be seven, but somewhere along the line I heard GrrM say it may be eight and that he’s not even sure. With that said, stick this out to the end with me. I can’t imagine it getting any better from here, but it sure as the seven hells will be a ride. That’s what I ask for in a fantasy, I don’t need any happy endings or fairy tale romances. While those are fun and have their place, I do love a good gritty war fantasy. The battles in this book make me just drool (ok. That’s gross. I admit. But as someone who realised the other day that her books were centered around battles… I like to read what I write) I mean, battle scenes are hard to pull off. There’s so much that is going on at one time and the field of vision for one person narrows as they concentrate on survival. But GrrM is so brilliant at capturing the essence of the battle and portraying it so vividly in your head. It’s a beautiful, this man’s writing. At times, it’s course, at other times it’s poetic. All in all it’s captivating, breathtaking. I have never found myself gasping at or talking to a book so much before. I mean, I was literally blindsides by the plot twists in this book. There were some that I called beforehand and I was totally dumbfounded when I got to them. There are scenes in this book so harrowing that I do not look forward to them being translated onto the screen for the tv show. I mean, this book is brilliant. I don’t think I would be able to rank them in order of preference yet (that would have to wait until I’ve gotten through all the books currently out) but this one might have been better than the second. Although the second was definitely less harrowing than this one. This was wrench your heart and soul and stomp them into tiny little bits kind of bad. And, oh, how I enjoyed every minute of it. But then, I’m a fan of things never being ok. What’s the fun if everyone lives? Now, granted, I could never kill characters the way that GrrM does, but man, I appreciate the fact that he does it. It’s got to be unimaginably painful for the author to kill characters in the ways that he does, but man, it makes for a brilliant story. 10/10 stars. But you probably saw that coming. I am just knocked senseless with how good these books truly are. They have eternal spots on my favourites shelf and I look forward to reading them over and over. Now onto A Feast for Crows! :)