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A Storm of Swords (A Song of Ice and Fire, Book 3) Hardcover – October 31, 2000
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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
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.
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GRRM delivers a RARE series - a sophisticatedly written series - it is both mature and complex at every level, and manages to do so without tedium, but quite the opposite. I've found myself hardly able to bear moving to each successive chapter to follow a separate storyline or character due to the gripping story in the one I was reading. But as I switched gears to the next "nugget" in this grandly woven tale, I found myself equally enthralled by THAT storyline.
As far as the cast of characters - it is vast. And character development is sophisticated. You have a vast range of personalities, motivations, biases, vices, scheming, hurts, etc. You watch upon a stage where the marionette has directed their interplay so intricately it is a believable plotline that echoes real life as action and schemes between characters collide. And as time moves forward in the story you experience those characters exult in victory, seethe with hatred, quail in defeat, rage in frustrated schemes, and hope against hope. Not only that - but they grow with their experiences. Their motivations can at times be complex scheming or simple earthy passion (whether that be angry violence or lust or daydreaming). The stage is set with a great cast as well - both men and women each with their subtleties and unique persona. Not every woman is a damsel, just as not every man is a hero - which is fantastic.
As far as the politicking - it is multilayered. You have Lords and Kings vying for position, status, power, peace, justice, or vengeance. This through marriages, treaty, war, subterfuge, assassination, etc. You have the character level politicking where personal vices come into play whether that be noble or ignoble - rooted in either their sense of duty, selfishness, naiveté, or other. Its just so varied and rarely formulaic or repeatable.
I can't necessarily say there are plot twists in the traditional sense of the word (where one can almost feel the author shout 'got ya! - didn't see THAT coming eh?' to the dumbfounded reader). The machinations of each character in this vast stage - competing and colliding with one another's - and that ends up speaking for itself. The reader may cheer or curse depending on a particular turn of events, but that has more to do with the efforts of one party or another succeeding against all others. It's a dose of near-reality. Plans win and fail - and there isn't an overarching "blessed" subset of characters. It is extremely refreshing and entirely spellbinding.
As far as action, magic, and monsters. There is very little compared to what one would expect in the scifi fantasy paperback novels. There are clashes and contests. There are strange creatures and powers, yes. But this isn't your summer 80s Schwarzenegger/Stallone action flick. This is a sophisticated story that has such content in its proper place and not gratuitously. There is fighting but it's not center piece as a simpleton's hack and slash hero-save-princess-defeat-demonprince novel. Nor is this series meager on action. There is plenty - yes there's fighting, but there's also violence, there's action-y physical feats, there's sex. Sometimes it can be raw brutality, exposing the crueler and despicable side found in humanity (torture, rape, etc). GRRM doesn't have wizards bouncing around making things blow up like "Tim the Enchanter" nor do we have some wondrous creature at every turn. The reader will find that yes - magic and monsters do come on stage, but it's not the centerpiece, obviously.
The good vs evil hero's saga akin to Tolkien is great. One will find store shelves littered with lesser versions of that, and in much simpler format. GRRM is on an entirely different track - where multilayered politicking vies against the striving of characters good and bad. Wars, fights, loves, plots, etc - all go into a great tumbler. The protagonists (assumedly so because of their nobler aspirations) don't necessarily win. Plenty of characters whom the reader may come to empathize with may be frustrated (even killed). It's part of the reason why the series is so exciting to read - you are never assured of how things will turn out.
As for myself - I am an eclectic reader. I've enjoyed writings from Hawthorne, Nordic sagas, Homer's Iliad, Shakespeare, Cervantez (Don Quixote), Jane Austin, Dickens, Tolkien, Chaucer, Vonnegut, Alexander Dumas, Michael Moorcock, Victor Hugo, to LRHubbard, etc.
If you've enjoyed any of the authors as such listed above, TRY this series. I believe you will be pleasantly surprised. It is very well written.
Revelations abound as plans come to fruition; requiring readers to reevaluate characters and events from the beginning.
The book also continues the stories of Jon Snow and Daenerys Targaryen, but while they represent a solid quarter of the book’s chapters, it’s in the politics of the Lannister, Stark, and Baratheon that this book shines; skillfully using Arya and Davos to continue demonstrating how the choices of great lords often fall upon the common folk like ruinous storms. The story never lets audiences forget the horror of war, and the reality that even the victor pays a heavy price.
This is the longest book so far in the series, with 74 chapters and 10 distinct perspectives. For many characters their story is told on the road, encountering new characters with each chapter. There are little touches of humor from time to time, but like its predecessors, Storm of Swords is a grim book, where amoral schemers often receive the richest rewards.
+Strong plot, with rich twists
+Strong ideas, with 10 perspectives
+Touches of humor
Most series have a way of deteriorating as they move along. This one, into the third novel at least, does the opposite -- it gets better and better as the characters mature and become even more nuanced. This third novel is superb. RJB.
Martin uses several point of view characters to tell the “Storm of Swords.” There’s Tyrion, smart and clever, yet a dwarf who is the butt of his nephew’s cruel jabs. There’s Robb, the King of the North, who must win the Frey’s favor or lose all he has gained. Jon, on the Wall, must find out information on the Wildlings and the Others, using all of his cunning to survive. Jamie must not only use his sword, but his wits to make it back to King’s Landing. Arya escapes the city only to find herself a captive and pawn to various outlaws who would use her as a hostage for their benefit. Stannis must prove himself a king, so he travels to the Wall, hoping to save it. Then there’s Daenrys, who learns how to use her swords to conquer, but she must learn to rule before returning to Westros.
Every story involves violence, sword play, and cunning. As the realm loses its tenuous grip on the various kingdoms, secrets are revealed, proving a precursor to the upcoming battle between ice (the others) and fire (the dragons).
The characters are honest, real, and interesting. There’s good and bad and even some in between – like the “Hound,” Sandor Clegane. Everyone has a distinct motivation to do what they do, even if unknown to the reader. I’m always wondering what is driving a character.
A “Storm of Swords” grows the story, looks deeper into the players, and takes the reader on an adventure of a lifetime!