Book #03

A Storm of Swords I: Steel and Snow by George R.R. Martin

Winter approaches Westeros like an angry beast.

The Seven Kingdoms are divided by revolt and blood feud. In the northern wastes, a horde of hungry, savage people steeped in the dark magic of the wilderness is poised to invade the Kingdom of the North where Robb Stark wears his new-forged crown. And Robb's defences are ranged against the South, the land of the cunning and cruel Lannisters, who have his young sisters in their power.
Throughout Westeros, the war for the Iron Throne rages more fiercely than ever, but if the wall is breached, no king will live to claim it. 

It’s becoming increasingly difficult for me to review these books; reading them back to back is giving me the impression that I’m just reading one long, big-ass book, and I struggle to differentiate between volumes. Starting the next novel immediately after I read the last word of its predecessor won’t help either, but this behaviour cannot be helped in a tale as deeply addictive as Martin’s.

This volume is a lot less exciting than the first two. There’s a serious decrease in violence, betrayal, shock value, and chapter cliffhangers. Yet, there’s some serious groundwork being laid here; foreshadowing is quite potent, the symbols are slowly emerging from the fog, and my tiny brain is finally starting to comprehend ties and allegiances. I’m by no means saying it’s dull, but it’s far more of a ponderous, reflective, and woolly instalment than an overly active one (but only in comparison to what we’ve already been given). We are advancing into something terrible, I can tell.

Again, I’m finding myself being led down a path of loving the characters I am not supposed to love, and becoming tired of those we are to view as heroes. The introduction of chapters from Jaime Lannister’s perspective were a welcome addition for me; I’m unsure why I have grown to like this misogynistic, self-assured prick of a man, yet I do. In contrast, our beloved Starks are becoming dull to me – Catelyn and Bran in particular for their constant whining (on this theme, I’ll throw Samwell into the same category), and Jon for his insistent self-deprecation. Am I just someone who is drawn and attracted to confidence, sharp tongues, and sadism? Probably. I’m hopeful book four will introduce another perspective for me to devour – someone nasty would be nice.

An important plot mover here is, regardless of the many kings (self-crowned or otherwise) staking their claim on Westeros, two other bands of players are descending on the Seven Kingdoms. The King-Beyond-the-Wall scales his ice perimeter, hell-bent on taking Castle Black, whilst the Mother of Dragons comes ever closer to her wildest desire of crossing the sea, avenging the deaths of her family, and taking what rightfully belongs to her, with dragons as a fearsome added bonus. The Westeros kings’ planning of battles and attacks on each other rang futile for me as danger creeps upon the kingdoms in the form of north and east. It was delicious, and I’m looking forward to seeing how both groups will behave in book four.

Martin has been slowly twisting supernatural elements into the tale, and these are something I completely relish. That Westeros wasn’t a place of fantasy until we reach this point is important; Martin is creating extra tension and uncertainty in introducing shapeshifters, birthing shadow demons, and lords coming back from the dead. I have no doubt more unnatural entities will crawl out from somewhere, and I am living for it.

Another utter triumph from Martin. Swords out for Blood and Gold.