(To read my review of the previous book in the A Song of Ice and Fire series, A Clash of Kings click here.)
This book was all kinds of awesome. George R. R. Martin, you’ve done it again!
For those who don’t know, the UK version of A Storm of Swords is split into two parts (I know, annoying right?) so I kind of feel weird reviewing a book when I’ve only read half of the originally intended material, like I might not be judging it fairly because it cut off before its intended finale. Having said that, I enjoyed book 3 part 1 immensely, and now I can’t wait to dive into part two!
Please note: For those of you that haven’t read the previous books, this review will contain spoilers about plots and characters from those books. However, this review will not contain any spoilers for A Storm of Swords: Steel and Snow.
Blood runs truer than oaths.
The Seven Kingdoms are divided by revolt and blood feud as winter approaches like an angry beast. In the northern wastes a horde of hungry, savage people steeped in the dark magic of the wilderness is poised to invade the Kingdom of the North where Robb Stark wears his new-forged crown. And Robb’s defenses are ranged against the South, the land of the cunning and cruel Lannisters, who have his young sisters in their power.
Throughout Westeros the war for the Iron Throne rages more fiercely than ever, but if the Wall is breached, no king will live to claim it.
Oh George R. R. Martin, you really do have a way with words and storytelling. A Storm of Swords part 1, like Martin’s other novels, grabbed me from the very beginning and kept hold of no matter how much I struggled and wiggled because I had other responsibilities other than reading! Everything is so fast paced and witty that you can’t help but smirk every few pages when a character delivers a line with such sass and style. The battles are thrilling, the politics is fascinating and the characters get more and more complex with each installment. It’s strange in a way, because Martin’s style is quite simple and to the point and he doesn’t try to be particularly insightful, but every so often you come across a real gem of a quote that has all the more impact because of that. I’m still in awe of how detailed the author has made the world of Westeros, so many characters and plots and cultures and religions to keep straight, it’s amazing how he juggles them and with such style!
There’s a lot of interesting plot progress in this installment that had me almost tearing the pages desperate to know what was going to happen next. There’s Robb struggle to fill his new role as leader, torn by his duty to protect and defend his land as well as abiding his mother’s wishes and his own heart. John Snow’s strife over his identity as he tries to fit in with the Wildlings beyond the wall to find out what they are planning and warn the Watch of impending attacks. Arya and Bran make long perilous journeys that have the potential to change their lives forever and Sansa continues to keep her head afloat in treacherous Lannisters waters making a few allies along the way. Daenerys makes progress by trying to build an army of men and dragons. Finally, the Kingslayer Jamie is held prisoner, which strips back everything that has come to define him, his dignity and his reputation for being undefeated. There’s also a lot of budding romances in this installment which I found really enjoyable. Maybe it’s the girly side of me but I really do think believable romances aid in character development because they make you root and care for individuals in the story more, which in this case, causes torment when you know the likelihood of everyone surviving and living happily ever after is pretty unlikely in George R.R. Martin land!
My main critique of the plot, however, is that it feels like the stage setup before the show, there’s a lot of exciting things going on but none of it leads to a big finish where everything comes together in a satisfying way. Plots aren’t resolved and that’s quite frustrating. The book just stops as if it has been cut off – and of course, it has. It’s been split into part 1 and part 2. ANNOYING. It does interrupt the flow and leaves you feeling as if there is something missing. However, I can’t blame this fault on the author because I doubt he ever intended or predicted that his book would be split into two! Yet, I can’t help but acknowledge it did affect my reading enjoyment because I wasn’t left with the same closure/feelings of fulfillment.
There are some great new characters given a spotlight in A Storm of Swords. Olenna Tyrell was a personal favourite, the quick-witted Queen of Thorns who boldly states her opinion despite the trouble it may get her in. She seems to be one of the most intelligent characters in the entire series so far which is even more satisfying when you see how often others underestimate her power and knowledge. The conversations between Olenna and other characters were some of my favourite scenes in the book and often left me with my jaw agape feeling all turned around, amazed by how quickly she managed to manipulate others’ situations to her advantage. I also loved the introduction of Ygritte and how her storyline intertwined with Jon Snow’s struggle to understand his father’s past choices. The only way I can describe Ygritte is ballsy, she’s such a bold and daring character which made her really fun to read about, and I loved how she was so worldly in some ways but totally naïve in others. Then there’s Jamie, while not exactly a new character, this was the first time he was given his own point of view in the books and man, what a complicated, conflicted mess of a person he is! It was so interesting learning about the misconceptions surrounding his character, as well as his struggle between his selfish uncaring personality vs his pride and honour.
Then of course you have the old favourites, Tyrion, Jon, Arya, Daenerys, who are all as awesome as ever. The only character criticism I really have is that Bran’s chapters bored the hell out of me and every time I got to his point of view I found myself sighing and contemplating putting the book down. There was nothing about his storyline that was compelling this time around and he kept having brattish tantrums. Luckily, there were plenty of other interesting chapters surrounding his to make up for that!
Overall, A Storm of Swords Part 1 was a solid 4 star read, and having watched the TV show and being aware of what’s coming in part 2, I have a feeling if I was reading these two books as one this would probably get 5 stars. I would recommend this series to 16+ fans of high fantasy, political intrigue, and bloodthirsty complex characters.
Writing Style: 5/5
Character Development: 4/5
Would I recommend this book? Yes!