Customer Reviews: A Storm of Swords: A Song of Ice and Fire, Book 3
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on October 2, 2000
Wow, does Martin play for keeps! By the third book in a six book series, you would think that you had the basic plotlines of the story mapped out, and that you could predict most of the major events. Not with A Storm of Swords. Amazing plot twists, fantastic character development, superb dialogue, and a story that moves. This is no unending saga where the story barely progresses from volume to volume. Major characters die, and others act in ways that are completely unexpected but always make sense. So much action is crammed into 900+ pages that I was emotionally drained upon finally finishing -- and reaching the shattering epilogue.
This series is not for the feint of heart. The good guys don't always win, and the bad guys don't always lose. One particular scene involves a series of horrific murders that are so well-written that the action seems to move in slow motion. I had to put down the book for a few minutes just to absorb what I had just read, and I know that I am not the only one to have had that reaction. Those are the moments you hope for when reading -- when the story grabs hold and sucks you in. Fortunately, its not all grim. Seeds of hope and hints of better things to come are there, and there are rousing moments when I couldn't stop the smile from spreading over my face. I've been reading fantasy for 22 years and this is unsurpassed. Get it, read it.
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on April 17, 2001
First off, I'm a heavy duty fan of GRRM. I've read over a 100 different fantasy authors in my time (started at 12; I'm now 32). Took about 5 years off from the genre b/c I felt it was all getting too formulaic and cliched. Typical archetype character who turns out to be the missing heir or boy wonder who saves the world against the Dark Lord.
So, when I came back to fantasy at the end of 1999, I read the usual: Goodkind, Jordan, etc. and then someone told me about GRRM and man, that was the kicker!
Here are the reasons to choose GRRM. I've also listed the reasons not to choose him to make it fair b/c I know their are certain personalities who won't like this series:
(1) YOU ARE TIRED OF FORMULAIC FANTASY: good lad beats the dark lord against impossible odds; boy is the epitome of good; he and all his friends never die even though they go through great dangers . . . the good and noble king; the beautiful princess who falls in love with the commoner boy even though their stations are drastically different . . . the dark lord is very evil and almost one sided at times . . . you get the idea. After reading this over and over, it gets old.
(2) YOU ARE TIRED OF ALL THE HEROES STAYING ALIVE EVEN THOUGH THEY ARE UNDER CONSTANT DANGER: this gets even worse where the author kills a main hero off but that person comes back later in the story. Or, a hero does die but magic brings him back.
This sometimes carries to minor characters where even they may not die, but most fantasy authors like to kill them off to show that some risked the adventure and perished.
(4) YOU LOVE SERIOUS INTRIGUE WITHOUT STUPID OPPONENTS: lots of layering; lots of intrigue; lots of clever players in the game of thrones. Unlike other fantasy novels, one side, usually the villain, is stupid or not too bright.
(5) YOU ARE INTERESTED IN BIASED OPINIONS AND DIFFERENT TRUTHS: GRRM has set this up where each chapter has the title of one character and the whole chapter is through their viewpoint. Interesting tidbit is that you get their perception of events or truths. But, if you pay attention, someone else will mention a different angle of truth in the story that we rarely see in other novels. Lastly and most importantly, GRRM doesn't try to tell us which person is right in their perception. He purposelly leaves it vague so that we are kept guessing.
(6) LEGENDS: some of the most interesting characters are those who are long gone or dead. We never get the entire story but only bits and pieces; something that other fantasy authors could learn from to heighten suspense. Additionally, b/c the points of views are not congruent, we sometimes get different opinions.
(7) WORDPLAY: if you're big on metaphors and description, GRRM is your guy. Almost flawless flow.
(8) LOTS OF CONFLICT: all types, too; not just fighting but between characters through threats and intrigue.
(9) MULTILAYERED PLOTTING; SUB PLOTS GALORE: each character has their own separate storyline; especially as the story continues and everyone gets scattered. This is one of the reasons why each novel is between 700-900 pages.
(10) SUPERLATIVE VARIED CHARACTERS: not the typical archetypes that we are used to in most fantasy; some are gritty; few are totally evil or good; GRRM does a great job of changing our opinions of characters as the series progress. This is especially true of Jaime in book three.
(11) REALISTIC MEDIEVAL DIALOGUE: not to the point that we can't understand it but well done.
(12) HEAPS OF SYMOBLISM AND PROPHECY: if you're big on that.
(13) EXCELLENT MYSTERIES: very hard to figure out the culprits; GRRM must have read a lot of mystery novels.
(14) RICHLY TEXTURED FEMALE CHARACTERS: best male author on female characters I have read; realistic on how women think, too.
(15) LOW MAGIC WORLD: magic is low key; not over the top so heroes can't get out of jams with it.
(1) YOU LIKE YOUR MAIN CHARACTERS: GRRM does a good job of creating more likeable characters after a few die. But, if that isn't your style, you shouldn't be reading it. He kills off several, not just one, so be warned.
(2) DO NOT CARE FOR GRITTY GRAY CHARACTERS: if you like more white and gray characters, this may unsettle you. I suggest Feist or Goodkind or Dragonlance if you want a more straight forward story with strong archetypes.
(3) MULTIPLE POINTS OF VIEWS TURN YOU OFF: if you prefer that the POVS only go to a few characters, this might be confusing for you.
(4) SWEARING, SEX: there's a lot of it in this book just as there is in real life. If you have delicate ears, this book may upset you.
(5) YOU DEMAND CLOSURE AT THE END OF EVERY BOOK: this isn't the case for all stories in the series. Some are still going on; some have been resolved; others have been created and are moving on.
(6) IF YOU WANT A TARGET OR SOMEONE TO BLAME: this can be done to some extent but not as much. This is b/c he doesn't try to make anyone necessarily good or evil.
(7) ARCHETYPES: some readers like archetypal characters because it's comfortable; we like the good young hero (sort of like Pug in Feist's THE RIFTWAR SAGA); it's familiar and we sometimes like to pretend we're this upcoming, great hero. You wont' get much of this in GRRM with the exception of one or two characters. There really aren't any super heroes compared to all the other characters as it's more grittier and no one is shooting fireballs every milisecond or carrying around some super powerful sword.
(8) LENGTH: you don't want to get into a long fantasy epic series. In that case, look for shorters works as this is biiig.
(9) PATRIARCHY: men are most of the main characters with lots of power (one female exception). While this is realistic of the medieval era, some readers may not prefer this if they want more girl power, so to speak.
By the way, if you don't want to commit to a big book until you know the author better, check out his short story, THE HEDGE KNIGHT, in LEGENDS.
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on May 4, 2002
1) This is, BY FAR, the best fantasy I have ever read. Ever. Better than Donaldson, Jordan, Goodkind, Brooks, better than everyone.
2)This is, BY FAR, the best characterization I've ever come across in the fantasy genre. Never in my life have I at so many different times over the course of the three books written been so amazed (Daenerys from the fire, obtaining the Unsullied, choosing between the {better?} of two betrayels) stunned (Catelyn, Ser Barristan Selmy) grief-stricken (from deaths of beloved characters, of course only to realize by the end of the next chapter there are so many fantastic characters left). And of course these are just a few examples, there are so many more but don't want to mention at the risk of spoiling new readers.
Yes -- amazed, stunned, saddened. I spontaneously and literally yelled, gasped, cried, and cheered while reading these books. Never have I been so emotionally invested in such a large cast of characters. Memories of these books bring forth emotion in me even now, a month after I read this, his latest book.
3)Fabulously intricate plotting. I find it interesting that a common thread in the slightly more negative reviews of this book find Martin a bit ponderous -- that there's so much writing with not alot of action. This couldn't be further from the truth!
Yes, this is high, epic, cruel fantasy of the tallest order. Yes, this is a tall read for younger readers, or those weaned on Jordan, Goodkind, Brooks, etc. But there literally isn't a SINGLE CHAPTER in any of his books where some part of the plot isn't advanced in some way -- spanning over 2000 pages of hardcover text. That's how good the writing is.
4)Deftly understated magic. I remember reading the first book thinking to myself, 'where's the magic? isn't this supposed to be fantasy?' And I kept reading, still finding almost no magic. The only real magic from the first book I can remember bookends the first book. I will never forget the birth of the Unburnt at the very end of the first novel. I'm gasping right now as I recall it. Such a POWERFUL moment. And there was some magic there. And the fact that my senses hadn't been already been dulled by the overdone, contrived use of magic found in so many other fantasy novels allowed me to feel the real impact of what Dany accomplished at the end of that first novel. Magic means so much more in these novels because at least over these the first three books, there is so little to be found.
5)Spectacular dialogue. This is the best dialogue I've ever read. Razorsharp wit, acid tongues, stoic nobility, prideful revenge, hungry vengeance, soul-baring sadness, and so many other wonderful emotions conveyed by superior dialogue. If this review weren't so long, I'd quote a few passages. I just remember reading some of those Lannister exchanges saying to myself 'you go! oh yeah! perfect!" I remember laughing out loud at some of the things said, not so much because they were humorous (although some of them were) but because so often the pointed words exchanged felt more like the point of a rapier twisting through the ribcage into the recipient's heart. It's just that good. So consistently good.
6)Anyone remember Thomas Covenant? One of the great anti-heroes in fantasy. You rooted for him and hated him. You knew he was the good guy, but you were never quite comfortable enough with who he was to cheer him on without reservation.
Well, many characters like him, not just one, populate Martin's books. As soon as you think you've found the bad guy, you begin to root for him as well. And you wonder, as you go from chapter to chapter, how you can find yourself rooting for almost every character in the book? Well, that's just one of the many great things about Martin's books. Practically every character is an anti-heroe and how a book can be so riveting with (at this point) no clear villain is a testimonial for the great characterization in these books.
People, I'm not kidding. This is the best out there. If Martin pulls off this series it will far and away be the best epic fantasy ever written. It already is, I'm just praying it's sustained. Yes, it's better than Tolkien, but only in the way that The Godfather was better than the old great silent pictures of the early 20th century. I regard Tolkien's work with great reverance, and it's wonderful to see the foundations of the fantasy genre brought to the big screen, but Martin is taking the genre to new heights. He truly is.
For me, I knew at least the first book was special early on. If you can... sense something... if yours eyes open just a bit, if your curiosity is peaked... if you're thinking 'hmmm'.... as the first chapter closes with the discovery of the Direwolves, then you'll be tasting just a hint of the wonderment Martin's books can give you.
Just try not to be too sad when you've finished and realize there may not be anything this good for a long, long time to come.
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on October 1, 2000
This series has evolved into a soap opera---a damn good one, but a melodrama nonetheless. Almost every chapter is a cliffhanger, and the ending is geared to keep you hanging in suspense while you wait for the next installment. Shifting and twisting from one character and plot thread to the next, many pass each other like ships in the night, and just when you think they might meet and provide some resolution, they sheer away again, following their own separate adventure, only the general upheaval of the book's background holding the multiple storylines together. This is not a series that appears anywhere near a conclusion, and with the author's ability to continuously create and weave together more and more credible subplots, don't expect an ending to this series any time soon: after all, as the text admits, Daenerys' dragons are years away from being able to be ridden.
The title for this installment is not as apt as the previous: no battle occurs equal to the Blackwater, nor do the many opponents---ironmen, wildlings, Targaryen, Baratheon, Stark, or Lannister, let alone the Others---ever come together to meet in a single climatic battle, as the title might imply. Instead, the political conspiracy, betrayal and murder of the previous two books continues to dominate the tale, liberally leavened with slaughter and skirmishes. Players come and go, the plots multiply and thicken, and even what is expected often takes an unanticipated turn. And it is the profusion and complexity of Martin's intrigues that arguably sets this series apart from the other prominent fat fantasists, Terry Goodkind and Robert Jordan. They as well depend upon a profundancy of subplots and scheming to extend and carry their stories, but Martin arguably does it more tightly and with greater relish.
One might detect a note of criticism in my preceding comments. There is a suspicion that this nine hundred odd page volume could easily have been reduced by a couple hundred pages. Many of the subplots and episodes in this book appear to exist for their own sake, contributing little to advance the overall storyline---There is a noticeable shift of tempo between the first and second half of the book. And at times the author's obvious manipulation of the reader's interest becomes wearisome and frustrating. However, there is little question as to the author's ability to spin a story, juggling so many without once losing control, and for most, I suspect, the plethora of plots and intrigues---even the repetitive cliffhangers---will prove appealing. Martin writes with a vividness of detail and characterization that never pauses, and has created a diverse cast of characters in which one feels invested. And the author could never be faulted for his imagery or a lack of imagination. Certainly one of the best books of the year.
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on January 21, 2001
George R.R. Martin is certainly one of the most skilled writers in the genre today, and "A Storm of Swords" unfailingly continues to uphold the rigorous standard he set for himself in "A Game of Thrones". The enormous cast of complex characters, combined with complicated intrigue and a riveting plot make the book almost impossible to put down.
The world of the Seven Kingdoms is richly detailed, but more impressive is Martin's facility to create an atmosphere through detail. From the way he writes, it would seem that he knows what every tankard in every inn looks like, and what every one of the thousands of warriors, knights, and aristocrats is wearing down to the last buckle, even if these details are not always included. In short, Martin clearly knows his world inside-out, and thus is able to convey even more than is usual an atmosphere of reality in a fantasy world. He also excels in scene-painting, and every sensual nuance comes alive--sometimes, in violent scenes, more than one might like.
Another feature that sets Martin apart is his unpredictability. Even the most jaded reader will be surprised by something in the plot, which hurtles along in a speeding fury, killing nearly everyone in its path. There are no indestructible characters, which is rare for any genre.
Martin is also unique in that there is very little good and evil; even the Lannisters, who were pure evil in the beginning, are starting to morph into more complex characters. The reverse is also true, and most of the sympathetic or neutral characters reveal traits that are downright nasty. Nice people don't last long in Martin's world, as Eddard was first to learn; and sometimes the cruelty of even the most sympathetic characters can be jarring.
As for the characters themselves, Tyrion is just amazing. 'Nuff said.
However, I am disturbed by all the comparisons to Tolkien, as well as the widespread assertion that there is no fantasy out there better or on a level with this. Martin's approach, which is to develop multiple threads and follow each (for the most part) separately, has the upside in that it contributes to the overall complexity of the story. However, this approach also has a very distinctive downside, which is that character development and the reader's emotional involvement with the characters must take a permanent back seat. This plot is so immense, so sprawling, that ultimately it leaves no opportunity for the reader to become deeply absorbed in it--there are too many things which require the reader's attention for this to be possible. Each plotline skims the surface of an idea and a character's development, but because of the limited time slot is not able to explore them in greater depth.
For example, Jon's plotline in "A Game of Thrones", when he was making friends and enemies in Castle Black, was vaguely reminiscent of "Ender's Game" in the challenges that were presented to the character. Unfortunately, because Martin had so many other threads to take care of, most of the development in this thread went on behind the scenes: in one chapter Jon would be on bad terms with most of the boys. Then the plot switches away from him, and by the time it returns, Jon has managed to adjust and make some friends. The transition occurred while we were following Dany and Eddard--and while we certainly wanted to know about them, the fact that this major transition happened without us automatically means that Jon has become more distant from the reader than he otherwise might have been.
There is nothing wrong with this approach to the genre; it is a certain style that appeals more to some and less to others. Its main advantage is that it gives Martin a huge canvas upon which to use the many colors in his palette, an opportunity to create an endless array of dramatic events and atmospheric settings. But the disadvantage cannot be ignored, which is that although the broad and complex storyline is "a mile wide", it is also "an inch deep".
Another thing which makes this different from most fantasies is the absence of a sense of the magical, of quests and the inevitable destiny of some few great ones. This is a tale that is mainly of political intrigue and war. As such, it bears almost no resemblance to epic fantasy, and shares closer ties with military fantasy. Thus there is very little sense in comparing this work to Tolkien's, for there is very little resemblance beyond the fact that they share the same bookshelf. It is also ridiculous to say that it is better than various epic fantasies, because the strengths of Martin's work are the weaknesses in most epic fantasy--and vice versa. Both have valuable elements to impart to the reader, and both should be considered separately.
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on July 11, 2005
I've read through some of the other reviews of the first three books of this series and I think it time to address a few of the most commonly cited complaints.

First: the sex. Yes, there is a lot of graphic sexuality in these novels. But, you know, there's a lot more warfare, fighting, murder and mutilation. These books are about warfare and political intrigue. If you're bound to be offended by anything graphically described, then these are not the novels for you as the pages are rife with blood and gore. Sex, in comparison, is kind of a friendly diversion even if it is described in terms devoid of romance and rose petals. If, on the other hand, you are offended by sexuality but not by graphic violence, then there are more pressing questions for you to consider than which fantasy novel to read.

Second: character deaths. Yes, there are a lot of character deaths. Too many? Not enough? Hmm... I'd say just about right. It keeps things healthy, to have cared-for characters die every so often: it keeps you on your toes. Also, given the aforementioned subject matter, war and intrigue, it simply wouldn't make sense not to have death now and again. Finally, there are so many characters and so many plots running around that death is a nice way of keeping things rather more in hand. I do have a complaint regarding the character deaths, however, which I will come to soon.

Third: the gray morality. Yes, the characters are round and multi-faceted. Everyone has virtues, everyone has flaws. (Well, okay, I'd be hard-pressed to find the virtues in some of them, like Gregor or Joff, but still...) But, you know, that doesn't mean that the characters can't be seen as heroic or villainous. Just because Hitler loved animals and was a vegetarian (which is true) doesn't mean he didn't have some rather defining characteristics. C'mon-you know who the heroes and who the villains are. And, while our opinions do sometimes change (Jaime's character, for instance, starts to change over the course of this book), the reason that they do so is not because there is no morality present, but precisely because there is. But here, I again have my own complaint, which I shall deal with presently.

Having dealt with the gripes of others, it's now time for me to develop my own. My problem with Martin's morality is that he makes it appear that, roughly, good = stupid. If there were a hard and fast rule in his world, it would seem to be that being an honorable person will certainly lead to pain, humiliation and death. Often, the problems that the more heroic characters encounter are of their own devise, and it usually comes from blindly trusting and acting honorably to the more villainous characters. And so, Ned warns Cersei of his discovery instead of immediately taking action. Robb releases Theon to his home. Rodik refuses to attack on Winterfell until too late, trusting in his enemy's honor (despite knowing his enemy to have none). Catelyn releases Jaime. Renly and Stannis refuse to attack King's Landing, again until too late. Loras pledges himself to Joffrey instead of striking him down. Cate and company trust Frey. Sansa trusts, well, everyone she shouldn't. Time after time, the heroes have the ability and the opportunity to win the day, and time after time they drop the ball and allow villainy to succeed. It has been said that all it takes for evil to win is for good men to do nothing. In this series, good men often surpass doing nothing by doing extremely stupid things to the advantage of the evil. And this is not to mention Tyrion, who is a heroic character completely enthralled to his villainous family and keeping them alive and kicking more than any other. The villains in this series would have no hope of winning at all if it were not for the active interference (sometimes unwitting), in their favor, of the heroes. It's like reading a big, adult Series of Unfortunate Events populated by several Mr. Poes who continually place orphans in Olaf's hands and refuse to hear their warnings (much like Ned dismissed Arya's warnings, just prior to his being arrested/decapitated). And that is a little frustrating, the difference being that this frustration is primarily what Snicket intends-I am less sure as to Martin's intention.

My second gripe, concerning characters deaths, as promised, is that: the deaths don't always seem to be part of some master plan. Sometimes, the deaths just feel kind of tacked on, either for shock or for "realism." And, actually, this is part of a greater concern, the apparent lack of a master plan. As a for instance, way back in book one, you remember how Sansa's wolf, Lady was killed, and how that felt significant? As though, eventually, it would somehow matter that Sansa didn't have her wolf with her? Well... Sansa hasn't really gone through anything better or worse than any of the other Starks, and she's much more alive than some, including one who kept his wolf all the way to the end. It rather seems that Lady's death wasn't particularly significant. And that's the way a lot of the events feel including, sadly, character deaths. Again, this could be viewed as "realistic." But I prefer it when realism is subordinated to drama-when fictional events seem to have form and shape and direction as opposed to the chaos and borderline randomness of the real world. When a character dies, I want there to be a compelling reason for the death, being as it is such an inherently compelling event. Martin sometimes seems to kill his characters out of a sort of whimsy.

My third and final gripe remains roughly the same as it was with the first two books and is, in a nutshell, this: too damned long. Forget the page count; Martin's writing is good enough to read for ten thousand pages, I mean that he's taking too long to get to the point. This third installment of the series ends in a quick succession of highpoints. It's meant to build interest and steam going into the fourth, which it does (frustratingly so, given the time between releases). But most of the third book, like most of the second and the first before it, are build up. Three thousand pages of build up are simply not welcome, and certainly not in the face of a projected three thousand to come. There was even a point, somewhere near page 600 of this book, where I started to question my investment. After all, do I have any assurance that the next book, or the book after, will offer any satisfaction? How long will I have to wait, exactly, for any sort of a sense of closure on anything? How good is Martin's heart? His cholesterol count? Blood sugar? I suppose, on the bright side, that this series helps a person develop their patience and endurance. But, I'll tell you, couple this with my doubts of Martin's having a master plan, and you have a potential nightmare in the making. Is it still possible that he does have a direction in mind, and that book six will end up with all of the strings neatly tied in a satisfactory bow? Yes-that's still possible. But the hope dwindles with every passing page.

In the end, I will continue. Onwards to book four, I say, and quick about it. Frankly, I may have invested too much to turn back, now, no matter what happens. But I'm punishing Martin with one star less on this novel than I'd awarded the previous two. The book has the same quality as the others in the series, and the last fifty pages or so are rather exhilarating (and the scene with Sansa building the castle in the snow is just awesome-the kind of thing Martin must have had planned for a long time), but the slight problems become large over time, sort of like Malcolm's explanation of fractals and chaos theory in Jurassic Park, or something. Unabated, these problems will choke him all the way down to a single star by series end. I only pray it doesn't come to that.
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on November 4, 2000
Gods be good, where do I start. It says a lot about a book when you skip writing class to read it. It says a lot when you can laugh out loud on one page, and come as close to crying as you have since the first time you saw Home Alone (Come on, guys. Give me a break. I was nine.) on the next. This book was utterly phenomenal. Old villains are seen in a new light, and old heroes as well. You keep turning the pages and turning the pages. Martin's style is neither sparse nor long-winded, and the story is really no longer than it has to be. By the end of the story, you have an idea of what the plot of the series is about.\ The fact that Martin kills major characters almost at a whim (though we all know it's not) just serves to help you empathize. It's hard to fear for a character in jeopardy in a book where you know they'll never die. On the other hand, when your favorites can die suddenly, every time they're in the slightest bit of trouble, you can't help but feel a sense of terror every time they're even on the page. One particular scene is so perfectly written that you can see what's coming, but you can't stop reading, and it all seems to go in slow motion, to the point where I was actually shouting "No!" in my head, in slow motion, really deep like I was actually in the scene. This man's a genius, the sort who makes aspiring writers like me think "Why bother. I can't even approach this." I only have a few fears. One, that I won't live the next year to read the next. Two, that by the time he finishes the fourth book, EVERYBODY will be dead. Three, that the series will end when it's supposed to, leaving me unable to get any more fixes. And four, that the series will peter out and keep going on and on and on and on until a six book series winds up going at least twelve. We've all seen that, haven't we? If I had to sum up George R.R. Martin's work in three words, it could only be these: "Buy this. Now."
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on December 29, 2000
Aii, where to start. So much has been said already here.
Two magnificent instalments, and then STORM OF SWORDS, eagerly, oh so eagerly awaited. And this third volume initially lulled me into a false type of security so immense that I sure won't forget it. The first half & something moves along rather placidly, relying more on character & plot build-up than real fireworks. GRRM taking a breather from the general "character slaughter" ? Well, nasty tongues may call the first chapters somewhat Jordan-esque, building up to...something (?), but certainly interspersed with some brilliant scenes & interludes (e.g. Sansa's interrogation by the Tyrell family, Jon Snow's adventures beyond the wall, anything about Daenerys, etc.), but so what...- until certain parties join for a hastily arranged wedding feast to correct wrongs done out of impulse by some of the protagonists...and all hell breaks loose...and the final 350 pages that follow are simply a brutal, no-holds-conventional-rule-breaking-watershed in modern fantasy - no more, no less - all the way up to a last page of an epilogue that may be the eeriest, most mindboggling final lines ever written in a fantasy epic.
You want details ? Buy the darn book !
But kidding aside, why the so-called watershed ? Well, here we have to return to the Grandmaster Himself who defined the rules of high fantasy for decades to come: JRR Tolkien. Basically, he established a manicheistic system as the basic tenet for the genre (good is good, bad is bad; roles & morals of given individuals are clearly defined). While Tolkien was a brilliant writer, he unfortunately forced the genre into a rather limited straightjacket of characterization, which - even more unfortunately - was gobbled up like ambrosia by the D&D crowd - anybody for Forgotten Realms, R.A. Salvatore and friends ? - turning Modern Fantasy into a McDonalds-like affair. The best, recent attempts in this field to escape the pattern were Donaldson, Eddings, Jordan & Goodkind, but ultimately they succumbed to the major rule of the game: manicheism combined with emotional repetiveness of the characters ! ...which is nice & comforting in a genre that is conservative in nature - but ultimately boring if you are in for the kicks in the Internet-Age (especially in a case like R. Jordan, that seems afraid to take his series to a cathartic conclusion and keeps meandering around the bushes...).
Over the last 25 years, I only see two authors (and yeah, damn, I've read quite a few of them in the genre) that have made serious attempts to break this straightjacket: First, Gene Wolfe with his early-Eighties-series "Book of the New Sun" - in spite of widespread literary acclaim at the time, this epic seems to have been condemned to oblivion for the simple reason of its incredible lyrical density - it is a "tough" read - too tough for the conventional human fantasy-consumer. If you can get a hold of it, get it - it'll turn your fantasy-world upside down !
And the second author - of course - is George RR Martin - literally an iconoclast who is rewriting the rules of the genre, blowing Tolkien's unchangeable law of manicheism into deepest outer space, with a lightness of pen and pencil unseen in decades in this genre.
Should we be surprised ? Ladies, gentlemen, especially the Jordan-ites - whether you like it or not: GRRM has been around as a SF-borderline-to-fantasy-writer for almost 30 years, winning his first of three Hugo-Awards in 1975 (!), being renowned as an excellent stylist ever since. It is humbling, almost humiliating and indicative about the current state of fantasy literature that an old master of sci-fi take a short "vacation" from his mainstay business to show hotshots like Jordan, Goodkind, Feist, T. Williams & x-amount of others how to go about to redefine the rules of the genre.
And I must confess - I am looking forward to the next GRRM-volume - and not the next, repetitive R. Jordan dissertation on Rand, Nynaeve, etc.
The genre is changing...because it must.
Hang in...and soar with the real deagon - GRRM.
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on October 8, 2000
The cliche would be to say that words can't express how great this book is, but that, of course, is false. For words DO express how great it is - George R. R. Martin's words, though, not mine.
A Storm of Swords is the third, and the best (so far), of the Epic Fantasy series A Song of Ice anf Fire. In a time when half the world is writing Epic Fantasy, George R. R. Martin is the only one who is doing it as it should be done.
A Storm of Swords' pace is like that of a snowball, it start small and slow, and accelerates. The book's beginning is a masterful art of wieving threads together, and about a third way into is you start to shadder because you're in the most incredible rollar costar imaginable, and it won't let you off until the very ending, and you'll be left suffering until a Dance with Dragons will be out in 2002 - but that's true for all of us Martin fans.
A Storm of Swords shows Martin's loathing of happy endings and black/white characters - Martin's world is so realistic it hurts. The morality gets much more complicated, as we get indights into a character we thought was a villain, and see his actions completely differently.
The twists are very logical, but completely surprising. For each development predicted by the fans, three weren't. Some questions are answered, but more are asked, and through the entire story, the Stark words can be heard: "Winter is Coming"
After A Clash of Kings, I thought Martin wrote a story that was practically impossible to top. But he has, and now all I can do is to count the days until A DANCE WITH DRAGONS
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on July 6, 2001
After finishing The Wheel of Time series, I went searching on the Internet for another fantasy/sci-fi series, and came across A Song of Ice and Fire.
Simply put, "A Song of Ice and Fire" is the best fantasy series I've ever read. When I purchased the first book, I was leery of more Jordan-clone books. However, this series couldn't be more different than Jordan's work and still remain in the realm of fantasy.
Of course, there are a few common elements between Jordan and Martin, but using the word "fantasy" to describe Martin's work is inaccurate. Martin writes reality. If you're looking for a series where the characters are always perfect, where the protagonists always win at sometimes ridiculous odds, and most importantly where you always have a "good feeling" at the end of each book, type "The Dragon Reborn" in that search box above. Martin's books are real. In the real medieval world, people killed each other sometimes for no reason at all, unexpected events could and did occur, there were no clear good guys, and the noblest people didn't always win. In The Wheel of Time, one major protagonist dies in the entire series. In just the third book of A Song of Ice and Fire alone, at least three are killed ("Or were they actually killed?", you ask yourself), some of whom even serve as Martin's points of view!
Of course, I couldn't miss the reviews that were posted on the page for "A Game of Thrones" bashing Martin's work for various reasons. I became leery when I read those reviews hinting at excessive profanity and violence. Whoever wrote such a thing should be thrown into a "black cell" in King's Landing - there is nothing excessive about the violent scenes in A Song of Ice and Fire. I did not come across one instance where violence, profanity, or sexual content was used in an inapproriate manner, nor do these themes dominate the book. When Martin is trying to show how cruel some characters can be, he does so appropriately, but not excessively. He also omits extreme language and violence that would only degrade his purpose. If you still think that these elements could have been omitted completely, think of how this novel would go over if Tyrion yelled, "Oh, darn. That knight almost shashed my head off. My goodness, I could have been injured."
Others criticize Martin's lack of magic in the series. One reviewer commented that magic hardly appears overtly at all in this series. I say "overtly" because there are many instances where a magical event occurs and the reader is informed of it secondhand. I was fully content with Martin's magicless world for the first few hundred pages of the series, and then I heard the first mention of the Lord of Light. I was ready to curse Martin for ruining such a realistic, well-thought-out realm by including magic. As it turns out, however, magic is there in the background and adds to the story, while not overpowering everything like it does in The Wheel of Time. The lack of magic keeps the reader interested when something magical occurs, while the opposite occurs in The Wheel of Time: I found myself skipping Mat's chapters. It was almost as if he was unimportant because he could not wield the Power like most of the other characters in that book.
Finally, both Martin's and Jordan's novels look to turn into an epic series when they are complete. However, while Jordan extends his novels pointlessly because he's not sure what to write, Martin extends his novels because he is exactly sure what to write - he has so many plot twists and important information to include that it couldn't be contained in a thinner book.
In conclusion, if you're struggling to finish the last few drawn-out installments of The Wheel of Time, then give it up and read A Song of Ice and Fire. If you're tired of the fluff that's included in many series today to perpetuate them for eternity so the author can make more money, then read A Song of Ice and Fire. But if you're new to the genre, then avoid A Song of Ice and Fire at all costs, because when you've experienced the best, there's nowhere to go but down.
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