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A Storm of Swords (HBO Tie-in Edition): A Song of Ice and Fire: Book Three Mass Market Paperback – March 26, 2013
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Is George R.R. Martin for real? Can a fantasy epic actually get better with each new installment? Fans of the genre have glumly come to expect go-nowhere sequels from other authors, so we're entitled to pinch ourselves over Martin's tightly crafted Song of Ice and Fire series. The reports are all true: this series is the real deal, and Martin deserves his crown as the rightful king of the epic. A Game of Thrones got things off to a rock-solid start, A Clash of Kings only exceeded expectations, but it's the Storm of Swords hat trick that cements Martin's rep as the most praiseworthy fantasy author to come along since that other R.R.
Like the first two books, A Storm of Swords could coast on the fundamentals: deftly detailed characters, convincing voices and dialogue, a robust back-story, and a satisfyingly unpredictable plot. But it's Martin's consistently bold choices that set the series apart. Every character is fair game for the headman's axe (sometimes literally), and not only do the good guys regularly lose out to the bad guys, you're never exactly sure who you should be cheering for in the first place.
Storm is full of admirable intricacies. Events that you thought Martin was setting up solidly for the first two books are exposed as complex feints; the field quickly narrows after the Battle of the Blackwater and once again, anything goes. Robb tries desperately to hold the North together, Jon returns from the wildling lands with a torn heart, Bran continues his quest for the three-eyed crow beyond the Wall, Catelyn struggles to save her fragile family, Arya becomes ever more wolflike in her wanderings, Daenerys comes into her own, and Joffrey's cruel rule from King's Landing continues, making even his fellow Lannisters uneasy. Martin tests all the major characters in A Storm of Swords: some fail the trial, while others--like Martin himself--seem to only get stronger. --Paul Hughes --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
From Publishers Weekly
The third volume of the high fantasy saga that began with A Game of Thrones and continued in A Clash of Kings is one of the more rewarding examples of gigantism in contemporary fantasy. As Martin's richly imagined world slides closer to its 10-year winter, both the weather and the warfare worsen. In the north, King Joffrey of House Lannister sits uneasily on the Iron Throne. With the aid of a peasant wench, Jaime Lannister, the Kingslayer, escapes from jail in Riverrun. Jaime goes to the other youthful ruler, Robb Stark, to secure the release of Joffrey's prisoners, Robb's sisters Arya and Sansa Stark. Meanwhile, in the south, Queen Daenarys tries to assert her claim to the various thrones with an army of eunuchs, but discovers that she must choose between conquering more and ruling well what she has already taken. The complexity of characters such as Daenarys, Arya and the Kingslayer will keep readers turning even the vast number of pages contained in this volume, for the author, like Tolkien or Jordan, makes us care about their fates. Those two fantasy greats are also evoked by Martin's ability to convey such sensual experiences as the heat of wildfire, the chill of ice, the smell of the sea and the sheer gargantuan indigestibility of the medieval banquet at its most excessive. Perhaps this saga doesn't go as far beyond the previous bounds of high fantasy as some claim, but for most readers it certainly goes far enough to command their attention. (Nov.)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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Martin has a style that's uniquely his own. He will bore you with content when it comes to a meal, but wow you when he's describing an ice wall or a battle. For all that his editor chooses not to chop, the man can really create a character, and give it life in such a bold, new, creative way!
Read at your own risk, or watch the HBO series (though the series differs from the books), but beware! The subject matter isn't what I'd call pleasant all the time, or comfortable. It is, however, an interesting literary addition to modern novelizations.
However, there is a major danger sign. Point of view is becoming a weakness rather than a strength. The strength of multiple points of view is that the author can explore the same plot line through the perspective of multiple characters, adding or omitting information as needed to create tension. The weakness is that each new point of view character may launch his or her own subplot. It is in this second direction that I see the series progressing. The number of point-of-view characters seems to be expanding as the series goes along (I'm purposely restraining myself from looking ahead so that I won't see if I am correct or wrong in my guesses), and with some of these new characters, we are seeing new subplots and the creation of a whole new list of character names to memorize--a choice that invariably leads to uneven story development. Some of the storylines, such as Sansa's and Arya's, tend to go nowhere as a result. Some storylines, such as the fate of Theon Greyjoy and Rickon Stark, are completely ignored. Strange gaps in others, such as the omission of Samwell and Gilly's meeting with Coldhands, or Daenerys's capture of Meereen, develop as the narrative tries to bring itself back up to speed. These expansions and inconsistencies in the storytelling, if not curbed now, may lead to problems in the future books.
It's also disappointing that the characters seem to have have missed an obvious clue to one of the mysteries threaded through the story: the ongoing subplot of the attempted murder of Bran Stark in book 1. Why is it that no one has thought to tie Littlefinger to the attempt when it was his knife that the assassin used? No one believes any longer in Littlefinger's initial defense that the knife had passed to Tyrion Lannister, yet instead of suspecting the owner of the knife, Jaime, for example, actually entertains the idea that Joffrey, his nephew, may have been behind the attempt.
I am looking forward to book 4 to see how the storylines continue.
There IS a great deal of death and violence which some may find troubling. Of course, no amount of words can shock and disturb quite like the TV series, with its special effects depictions of beheadings, burning at the stake and flayings, but Martin's written descriptions still do a great job of leaving one horrified. Perhaps the most horrifying thing is knowing that everything depicted has happened in the real world and still does in some places.
To be sure, comparisons could be drawn (and are drawn) to Tolkien, but the difference is in the existentialism of a song of ice and fire: the characters are real humans, not flawless heroes, and some of them stumble through life until the next thing happens to them - they remind you of someone you actually know, not just someone you wish could be real. Because of this, when the magical events happen, they seem far more miraculous than in the world of Lord of the rings, where such events are almost commonplace or expected.
The betrayals are bigger and more bitter. The revenge, sweeter. The tragedy, far more devastating; the battles more bloody and more personal than the first two books. The past is further examined through some well- placed storytelling that actually reads like a Tolkien tale - until the tale is done. And get ready to see the world through some familiar yet unfamiliar eyes.