Friday, August 9, 2013

A Storm of Swords by George R.R. Martin

A Storm of Swords (A Song of Ice and Fire #3)  
A Storm of Swords (ASOS) is the third book in George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire Series. A Game of Thrones (AGOT) introduced the rich world of the Seven Kingdoms, Westeros, and those battling for the iron throne.  The story stalled a bit in A Clash of Kings (ACOK) but eventually picked during the last third of the story.  In ASOS the story grabbed hold of me and never let go.  There were revelations and surprises I didn't see coming.  I can see why so many people consider ASOS the best entry in the series.

Rather than relying on one main character or an omniscient narrator, Martin tells the story of the battle for the throne through multiple characters.  In ASOS there are point-of-view chapters from Jon Snow, Arya Stark, Sansa Stark, Bran Stark, Catelyn Stark, Samwell Tarly, Davos Seaworth (the Onion Knight), Jaime Lannister, Tyrion Lannister, and Daenerys Targaryen.  Arya, Jon, and Tyrion have been favorites of mine since AGOT because... 
  • Arya because she is a girl who, after constantly being told who she is and should become, stood up and said no, that's not me.  This is who I am. She learns how to use a sword even though it isn't considered lady like.  She is smart and brave, reminding herself that "fear cuts deeper than swords" when she gets scared.  When things start to go sideways for her family in AGOT, she doesn't wait for someone to rescue her.  Arya rescues herself.  This isn't to say that she doesn't get help, she does, but she doesn't sit back waiting for others to fix everything for her.  I would a read a book just about Arya.
  • Jon because despite growing up with a stepmother (Catelyn) who was never shy about letting him know about how much she despised him (not because of anything he did, but simply because he existed), and despite growing up with everything he could ever want right before his eyes but out of his reach due to his parentage, Jon is a good guy.  He's loyal, brave, and defends those weaker than him against bullies.  Unlike most Jon is capable of seeing things from the point of view of others and even seeing the good in those that would be his enemies.  Jon's bravery and sense of right and wrong is as evident as ever in ASOS.
  • Tyrion because he's smart and funny.  He's a dwarf, a "crime" he remarks at one point, that he has been made to pay for his entire life.  Like Arya, Tyrion doesn't let other people's view of him decide who he is.  Without the physical strength or beauty of his older siblings Cersei and Jamie, Tyrion instead relies on his wit and brains to carry him through.  He is no pushover, but is capable of being kind, even to those who are unkind to him.
In addition to my favorite characters, I enjoyed Sansa's and Jaimie's chapters.  Though Sansa has never been a favorite character, I suppose she  is meant to represent the fairytale version of a world with kings and queens, pretty princesses and gallant knights, all attired in beautiful clothes.  Unfortunately for Sansa, she doesn't live in fairytale land.  Her king turns out to be a teenage terror and the knights are not so quick to rescue a damsel in distress.  So far Sansa has largely been a pawn in the game of thrones, manipulated by friends and foes alike.  Still, I'm hopeful that Sansa is growing and changing.

It was interesting to learn about Jaimie and his past.  For years he has been involved in an incestuous affair with his twin sister Cersei.  Of all the Lannisters, Jaimie is perhaps the most loyal.  He defies a king to save his father, pushes a child out of window to protect his sister (and their shared secret), and unlike father or sister, respects and cares for his little brother Tyrion.  Not that I'm entirely sympathetic towards him, but he isn't quite the monster he has been made out to be in AGOT and ACOK.  It will be interesting to see how he changes now that he is, shall we say, less than the man he use to be.

There also chapters with Daenery's point of view.  For me, this is becoming a weakness of the series.  After three books her story still seems unconnected to the rest of the story, so much so that whenever I get to one of her chapters it feels like I'm reading a separate book - a good book, but still a separate book.

The one question I have about this series is, where is all this going?  What's the endgame here?  In reading this I was reminded of another long series, Lord of the Rings.  In that series the reader knows that the goal is to get rid of the ring.  Things happen a long the way that distract the main characters, but ultimately it's all about the ring.  With the Song of Ice and Fire series, I'm not clear on the endgame here.  I suppose the general the goal is for peace to be restored, but that's kind of vague. And so with each book, I keep asking where is this all going?

The next book in the series is A Feast for Crows.  I'm anxious to see what happens next for my favorite characters, but can't imagine picking up another thousand page book for awhile.  My next book will be shorter.

In case it isn't clear, I would definitely recommend this, though it would be best to start the series from the beginning.  I haven't yet decided if ASOS or AGOT is the best book (ACOK isn't even a contender), but both are definitely worth the month or so it takes to read them.

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