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A Storm of Swords: A Song of Ice and Fire: Book Three Paperback – Illustrated, May 28, 2002
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“I always expect the best from George R. R. Martin, and he always delivers.”—Robert Jordan
From the Inside Flap
A Storm of Swords
Of the five contenders for power, one is dead, another in disfavor, and still the wars rage as violently as ever, as alliances are made and broken. Joffrey, of House Lannister, sits on the Iron Throne, the uneasy ruler of the land of the Seven Kingdoms. His most bitter rival, Lord Stannis, stands defeated and disgraced, the victim of the jealous sorceress who holds him in her evil thrall. But young Robb, of House Stark, still rules the North from the fortress of Riverrun. Robb plots against his despised Lannister enemies, even as they hold his sister hostage at King's Landing, the seat of the Iron Throne. Meanwhile, making her way across a blood-drenched continent is the exiled queen, Daenerys, mistress of the only three dragons still left in the world....
But as opposing forces maneuver for the final titanic showdown, an army of barbaric wildlings arrives from the outermost line of civilization. In their vanguard is a horde of mythical Others--a supernatural army of the living dead whose animated corpses are unstoppable. As the future of the land hangs in the balance, no one will rest until the Seven Kingdoms have exploded in a veritable storm of swords. . .
- Publisher : Bantam (May 28, 2002)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 1008 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0553381709
- ISBN-13 : 978-0553381702
- Item Weight : 2.1 pounds
- Dimensions : 6.02 x 1.72 x 9.16 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #29,492 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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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.
It wouldn't be possible to adequately sum up everything that happens in this book in an appropriately succinct manner, so I'll just give a brief, bare-bones overview. Westeros is still caught up in the war raging for the Iron Throne. With five claimants competing to rule the Seven Kingdoms, it doesn't look like there's an end in sight for the violence and destruction. Things are also brewing in the North, where the Wildlings beyond are organizing an attack to break through the Wall, overwhelm the severely undermanned Night's Watch, and invade. Meanwhile, in the East, Daenerys continues to amass resources to aid in her plans to attack for the Throne. She moves through the cities of Slaver's Bay, gaining support and exercising her growing authority as both the Khaleesi and the Mother of Dragons.
I'll start by addressing perhaps the most obvious characteristic of "A Storm of Swords:" it's huge. Granted, if you downloaded it for your Kindle like I did, the monstrous size of the novel might not be as immediately striking, but you'll undoubtedly notice pretty quickly that it's over a thousand pages long. Books this long tend to be one of two things: unnecessarily descriptive with plenty of filler to pad out the pages or complex with an intricately layered story that fills the pages with content. I'm pleased to say that this book is definitely the latter of the two possibilities. It would perhaps be feared that the middle book of a lengthy series, especially one with a humongous page count, would be repetitive and full of fluff and padding, serving only to lengthen the series and sell more books. Again, that simply isn't the case with "A Storm of Swords." The plot doesn't stall at all; in fact, every chapter moves the story forward and works to develop the overall plot. The story is exciting with so many power players devising and implementing their own schemes as well as the war raging over the Iron Throne. Martin has a lot to say about his world, which makes for a fascinating story and guarantees that none of the thousand-and-some-odd pages are boring. With the pace being consistent throughout the novel, you'll be flipping through pages with the desperate need to know what happens next to your favourite character or faction. For the first time I can recall, I finished a thousand plus page novel thinking that it wasn't long enough! Martin's story is so enthralling, unique, and captivating that you'll want more than even a book this long can offer.
I'll also note that the story is far from predictable. I've mostly given up trying to guess what will happen because the actual events typically far exceed my predictions. I'll probably end up mentioning this in every "Song of Ice and Fire" review, but I ended up taking a bit of a break from fantasy due to being frustrated with the same plots and tired clichés that seemed to crop up in every book. Martin has actually managed to write not only a unique fantasy novel, but a series that stands above many others simply because he strays from the commonly tread path. Pretty much anything can happen to anyone; good characters aren't given immunity and bad characters aren't doomed to death (and really, calling characters good and bad isn't completely accurate since most are various shades of grey). The plot twists and turns like crazy, but it's handled deftly and the author clearly knows where he's going, putting the reader an exciting ride and a gamut of emotions. And just when you think you've got it figured out, something comes up that throws your predictions out the window. It's a nice change from being able to guess everything before it happens, as tends to be the case with other books in the genre.
It's well established by this point that Martin doesn't shy away from the violence of war...and "A Storm of Swords" practically has blood dripping from its pages. With the war for the Iron Throne in full swing, the death count in this book is high. The horrors of battle are portrayed in all their gritty glory; these aren't nice people and they don't do nice things. As I've mentioned in other reviews, neither the violence nor the sex present comes off as gratuitous (for the most part), but instead works to flesh out Martin's world and reinforce the concept that no one is safe. Yes, this is the book with the Red Wedding. There are a couple weddings that take place, so it's not immediately obvious which one will be THE wedding if you haven't already been informed. And yes, some well-loved characters meet their end in this bloodbath, families betray one another, alliances change...all the jazz that one can expect from such an event. There are also other grisly surprises that determine the fate of some, well, not as well-loved characters. In the East, Daenerys is faced with the brutality of slavery and the effects of anarchy as she conquers the Slave Cities, and it's not pretty. If you were bothered by the dark content of the two previous books, you probably shouldn't read this one because the author has really upped his game in that aspect. Personally, I'm of the opinion that the grittiness adds authenticity to the world, but I've always preferred a darker, more realistic setting.
While I usually don't find the sex and violence in these books to be gratuitous, there is one instance of it that I'll have to complain about; and weirdly enough, it's probably one of the more "normal" sexual relationships we see in the book: Jon and Ygritte. I totally get the significance of Jon breaking his vows with Ygritte, both in terms of his background as a bastard and as a member of the Night's Watch, and I enjoyed seeing him struggle with his conflicting emotions on the matter. However, I got a little tired of reading about them getting it on in detail multiple times every night. Sure, a few times is fine to give us an idea of Jon's situation, but the frequency came off as really unnecessary. Of all the gruesome things one could complain about in this novels, that's what stuck out to me as being gratuitous and over the top...who'd have thought?
The characters just get better and better with each book. That's not to say they necessarily become better people (in the brutal world of Westeros, that almost never seems to happen), but they definitely grow and become more intriguing with each installment. With so many storylines and characters, it would be easy to shove a couple off to the side, but, again, Martin seems to have this under control and every character is more than adequately fleshed out. The changing point of view in each chapter works well because it ensures that every story and every character continues to move forward. Each chapter, and therefore each point of view, is in some way significant; I never finished a chapter wondering what the point of it was or what it added to the story. The characters continue to be portrayed in shades of grey, each one unique and changing and none of them fall into the typical archetypes. You'll be frustrated with some and cheer on others and, as I mentioned earlier, some well-loved characters (and some that we love to hate) meet their ends in "A Storm of Swords." You never know what the characters are going to throw at you (or at each other, as the case often is) or who's going to make it out alive...and in a book as brutal as this one, that certainly adds a level of suspense and excitement.
"A Storm of Swords" adds Jaime as a point of view character, and he quickly became one of my personal favourites, especially with Tyrion's viewpoint also being maintained throughout the book to provide a different Lannister perspective. Jaime is an incredibly nuanced character and begins to undergo a lot of change in this novel, and much like Tyrion, he walks the line between protagonist and antagonist, never really being one or the other. With his background and unique perspective, I hope we see Jaime as a point of view character (and, indeed, that he survives whatever the next books throw at him) in future books.
This is also the book where certain characters began to stand out to me as being just plain annoying and, surprisingly, boring. As I've mentioned in my other reviews, "A Song of Ice and Fire" is so great partially because different characters will resonate differently with each reader, so your favourite character may be someone else's least favourite. As I was reading this book, I found that the character that tended to make me groan aloud when I started a chapter and saw his name was Bran. That's not to say he's a poorly written character; he just doesn't really appeal to me. Perhaps it's because there are so many other plot lines to focus on, but I found him and his story to be a tad boring. I don't doubt that he and his quest will be significant since he's one of the few characters that encounters magic (a rarity in this world), but his position as the wise, future-seeing, up-and-coming mage just doesn't interest me personally.
Despite my couple complaints (which are really more personal in nature than anything necessarily "wrong" with the book), "A Storm of Swords" is a solid entry in the series. It takes the themes and plots from the first two books and builds upon them to create a novel that is better, darker, and more intriguing than the first two. The plot is still steadily moving forward, building momentum and adding layers of story with each book. With the cast being as massive as it is and the number of storylines being many, I find myself wondering how Martin will tie everything together. He's proven to be a capable writer so far, so I'm sure he'll figure it out. At any rate, this monstrous book is one Hell of a good read. Five stars!
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
Top reviews from other countries
On balance, because of some of the boring fluff and other frustrations which mar the story a bit I'm going to give this 4 rather than 5 stars, but I do think this is a great book. The author has taken on the task of describing a World War in fantasy form. It is epic, fascinating, and ultimately rewarding.
The book has started splitting from the tv series in these books whereas the first is almost identical. It's good to see some changes and other characters. The most impressive thing is that the author can write books of such staggering size whilst keeping the stories so riveting and the characters so interesting. I've read other books in similar format, where one persons story is so much more exciting you want to skip other people's chapters to get back to it - but that's not the case here. There also isn't an overwhelming number of people - the next book 4 is the first point this storey starts sagging. If you love book one, then get this and you will not be disappointed. You'll then perhaps need to gather yourself for book 4, and I can't comment on book 5 as I'm slogging my way through book 4 at the mo :). I think I can only compare this series to Robert Jordan Wheel of Time series because of the size and fantasy - but as enjoyable as Robert Jordan is - this series is much more impressively written.