Many books in my book queue are waiting to be read, and a common theme among them is they’re all part of a series, trilogy or saga. Each Sunday, I’ll share a book from a series. You can read along with me, or add the books to your own reading list. This week, I read “A Storm of Swords,” the third book in the Song of Ice and Fire series by George R.R. Martin.
At more than 1,200 pages, “A Storm of Swords” wasn’t easy to finish in a week. Its lengthiness, detail and scope is right up there with the Lord of the Rings trilogy, “Les Miserables” and “Anna Karenina,” as I mentioned last week. I noticed a few references from modern-day pop culture, too. But I’ll get to those later. If you haven’t read the series yet, I’d highly recommend it. If you’re concerned about spoilers, don’t read this review.
In “Storm of Swords,” I could see the characters evolving, as opposed to being established and explored in the first two books. Those that remained stagnant and stuck in their ways met untimely deaths.
I won’t spoil it too much, but George R.R. Martin took the liberty of killing off several major characters within the last 20 chapters or so. It was a pretty gutsy move, and it made things look pretty hopeless for “the good guys” as well as “the bad guys.” He even killed someone off and brought them back from the dead, soap-opera style.
I’m wondering what characters he’ll be introducing in the fourth book because there aren’t very many characters left. I felt like I was reading a Dickens novel. In true “Song of Ice and Fire” fashion, I grew to care for some of the villains — and some of the heroes weren’t as heroic as I first thought. Martin made me feel sorry for Jaime Lannister, but not too sorry. He was still mostly a jerk, but I saw him as the character who developed the most.
Tyrion Lannister remains my favorite character by far, but he turns into a bit of a pawn after taking an axe to the face in “A Clash of Kings.” His father Tywin weds him to Sansa Stark, a bland, adolescent fluffball of a character. Tyrion spends most of the book moping around King’s Landing and I spent most of the book hoping Sansa would evolve more, but she’s pretty mopey too. She could be interesting if she were stronger.
Daenerys grows stronger as she hangs out in the east. She chills with her dragons and conquers a couple cities, only to find ruling isn’t as easy as she thought it would be. She’s torn between taking advice from her advisers and following her own heart. Sometimes taking the advice would have been a better choice, but Daenerys is cognizant of catering too much to political interests. And almost everyone wants her dragons. I was hoping a romance would blossom between her and Ser Jorah, but that doesn’t quite work out.
I noticed some strange parallels to pop culture — or it could just be that there are no original storylines and character archetypes anymore. In “A Clash of Kings,” when Bran and Rickon (two of the Stark children) are split up and go separate ways, it reminded me of the end of “Star Wars Episode 3: Revenge of the Sith” when Luke and Leia are separated so the Imperials can’t find them. In “A Storm of Swords,” Daenerys employs an army of ruthless, unfeeling eunuchs called The Unsullied. They wear the same uniform and follow orders without question or emotional interference. They sounded kind of like Stormtroopers to me. Daenerys’ tone and poise reminds me of Queen Amidala from Episode 1. Maybe I just have Star Wars on the brain, but there are uncanny parallels between some of the main characters from “A Song of Ice and Fire” and the themes from Star Wars. It’s a weird parallel, I know.
Martin also employed some crazy cliffhanger plot twists at the end of chapters. It reminded me of episodes of “Lost,” where, as soon as a major, jarring event happens, the scenes change to something else. I later learned that Martin is a big “Lost” fan in this article from the New Yorker, published before the fifth book, “A Dance with Dragons,” was released. Apparently he, along with many other “Lost” fans were really disappointed about the final episode, so much so that he makes a conscious effort to tie up any loose ends in his own work and answer any and all questions readers might have. He ties up several characters’ lives in “Storm of Swords” before ruthlessly killing them.
A particularly irritating plot device Martin continues is the constant use of catch phrases and repetition. “Winter is coming,” “A Lannister always pays his debts,” “You know nothing, Jon Snow” and “The night is dark and full of terrors” are almost like inside jokes among Martin’s fan base.
So where do we stand going into “A Feast for Crows?”
-Tyrion is looking for Tysha, a woman he loved and married once. We first hear the “Where do whores go?” theme from him.
-Sansa is stuck at the Eyrie with Littlefinger, someone whose self-interest rivals Tyrion’s, but with a hint more evil.
-Daenerys is trying to hang on to her dragons and the cities she’s conquering.
-Bran is dreaming about being a wolf
-Jon was named Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch.
Can’t wait to see what happens in the fourth book, “A Feast for Crows.”