A Storm of Swords: Steel and Snow by George R.R. Martin Review 4/5

Overall Impression: An entertaining read full of emotional, political and bloody battles.A Storm of Swords Steel and Snow

(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
Originality: 5/5
Entertainment: 4/5
Character Development: 4/5
Would I recommend this book? Yes!

Overall: 4/5

Image Sources:
Book Cover.

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18 thoughts on “A Storm of Swords: Steel and Snow by George R.R. Martin Review 4/5

  1. All the books after the first one have kind of merged into one now, and I seem to have forgotten large chunks as well – I keep seeing discussions where I have no idea what is being talked about… for instance I really can’t recall who Olenna is. Was she the one who became friendly with Sansa for a while?

    I pretty much agree with what you say here to be honest. The Bran stuff is guff and so is most of the Daenerys storyline.

    Arya and Tyrion are just plain brill, and I hope they end up marrying.

    • I’m no surprised! There are so many details and plots to keep straight that it’s difficult to remember what happened when. It’s hard to remember the names of people as well! Yes, Olenna is the one who befriends Sansa to ask her questions about Joffery because of Margery.

      Yay for agreeing! Glad I wasn’t the only one getting frustrated with Bran. Daenerys storyline isn’t bothering me yet, but I have a feeling it will in the future because of it dragging on.

      Hahaa, that’s such a great pairing idea, I hadn’t thought of that!

      So are you up to date with George R.R. Martin’s books now waiting for him to finish writing the next ones?

  2. I am so glad you are enjoying this series. It is one of my top 5 series of all time, and I can’t wait for book 6!! Did I tell you that there is an autographed copy of A Game of Thrones on its way to me in the mail right now? I can hardly contain my excitement!!

    • Me too! I was worried that because I loved the TV series so much it might hamper my enjoyment of the books, but it hasn’t at all. Some things the books do better while other things the TV show does better. 🙂 You must be itching in your seat for book six, I can only imagine! SUCH A LONG WAIT.

      NO YOU DID NOT TELL ME YOU HAVE AN AUTOGRAPHED COPY COMING. THAT IS SO AWESOME. Where did you order it from?

      • I was reading Martin’s blog one night, and he often refers to a fantasy theatre called the Jean Cocteau Cinema in Santa Fe, New Mexico. In this particular blog post he was talking about some authors who had dropped by the theatre and signed some books. I think they were books that Martin had co-authored. It gave a link to a website where you could buy the signed books. So, I clicked on it and found that they also sell all of Martin’s books, autographed. I was kind of curious as to what the connection was here, so I looked up the theatre and found that after years of ownership changes and financial problems, Martin actually bought the theatre. It is located in Santa Fe where he currently lives.

        Anyway, you know me and autographed books :), so I clicked on the first book in the series thinking that even though I own all the books, I would love to have even one of them autographed. However, the website said that international shipping had been temporarily suspended. I emailed them and asked them to let me know if they ever start shipping internationally again because I would give anything to have something autographed by George R.R. Martin :). Well, I got an email right back asking me for my address so they could calculate shipping costs!!! And it’s on its way to me now. Can you believe it? I mean the chance of ever meeting him are slim to nil because he doesn’t do that many book signings except at really big events, so I thought this would be the next best thing. I think it might become my most prized book!

      • NO WAY. That’s so cool! And it makes you sound like a proper little detective for finding it out too, LOL. That’s so great that he helped out the theatre after his success. 🙂

        Hehee, yes I do! Having an autographed George R.R. Martin book would be so awesome, and it’s amazing that the website managed to work something out for you so that you could get it. How nice was that?! It’s such a shame that he does so few signings, having said that, he kind of looks like and intimidating guy, so if I actually managed to meet him I would probably go mute, LOL.

        I hope your book arrives soon!

  3. The whole GoT things has passed me by. I keep seeing the guys name with the middle initials…and thinking of pirates. 🙂

    Just one question: At any point, does someone name a sword? It’s a deal-breaker for me if they do that…I mean, it’s a *sword*, you know? 🙂

    • This is a great sadness, Tony. IT’S SO GOOD. I’m sure you would enjoy it if you got into it. Unless maybe your not a fan of high fantasy? Then I would definitely understand!

      Hahaa! Point taken. Well, there is one character that names their sword ‘needle’, but she’s only supposed to be something silly like 10 and all the other characters basically tell her how stupid she is for doing it, so I would say that doesn’t really count. 🙂

      • I don’t think I *have* ever read any high fantasy…what would low fantasy be like as a contrast is my first question? I’d more likely read that just to be ornery. 🙂

        Good to know the naming-of-swords is minimal!

      • High fantasy is basically anything set in a purely magical, alternative world with lots of intricate detail about how the world functions, it tends to be what you would associate with being a serious ‘epic’ with long journeys, a big bad evil person, a tortured, possibly doomed romance, battles etc. So things like the Lord of the Rings, A Game of Thrones or my fave books by Trudi Canavan. Low fantasy in contrast tend to be books that are set in the real world but have fantastical element, like Twilight of Harry Potter, The Chronicles of Narnia, etc. If that makes sense!

        Haha for sure. 🙂

  4. Ahh, I should have put the whole ‘I’M OBSESSED WITH THE TV SHOW’ thing here instead. Anyway yes, I’m obsessed. Haven’t read any of the books and haven’t quite finished season 4, so I skipped through most of this review for fear of reading a spoiler, but I think it’s largely everything that I’ve already watched.

    I need to talk Game of Thrones with you. Like properly nerd out.

    • Hahaa, no worries!

      Do you think you will read the books? I can’t believe you got through the series so quickly, BINGING WATCHING SERIES IS THE BEST. So extactic you’ve got on the GoT train and can’t wait to chat about it with you! Question: favourite characters?!?!????

      • I CAN’T BELIEVE IT’S TAKEN ME A MONTH TO RESPOND.

        I’d like to think I’d read the books at some point, probably once the TV series is over and done with. Are they worth it?

        Favourite characters you ask?! I’m the ultimate kiss of death. Hmm OK…cliche but I do like Jon Snow. Samwell Tarly!! Actually in love with that actor. He’s Mancunian and apparently people see him around town all the time. I need to venture into the city centre more often, ooft.

        Tyrion, standard. Arya, standard (I want her on the throne). I did like Daenerys up until relatively recently when she’s started to annoy me a bit. Stannis. Podrick! Sir Davos! Quite like Brienne.

        What have we learnt from this comment? Basically, I like most of them. You’ve read all the books so far haven’t you? So you know what happens?!

      • DON’T WORRY I HAD FORGOTTEN THAT I WAS EVEN WAITING FOR A REPLY. 😉

        Ohh I love the books! But so far they do stick VERY closely to the TV show so you don’t get much insider info that you didn’t already know. One thing I do find interesting is that in the series some characters I love I dislike in the books and vice versa. Also, the show does manage to add some depth to characters that don’t have as much to them in the books…and vice versa. Overall I just feel by reading them I have a more rounded experience of the characters. 🙂

        You see, I’m in the minority and don’t like Jon much in the show but love him in the books and the same with Arya! I like Dany and Tyrion in both, and in the show I really love the Lannisters in a weird I love to hate them way!

        Nooo, I’m way behind on the books! I was trying to catch up in time for the TV series but I failed, so I have no idea what is going to happen next. In the book Westeros I’m only half way through season 3.

  5. Your review makes me excited to get started on these books. I’m up to date with the TV show, but I’d like to see these characters on the written page. Ygritte sounds great. She’s ballsy, tough and pretty funny on the TV show too, and very direct.

    • Yay, so glad it made you feel that way! 🙂 I’m up to date with the TV show too, can’t wait to see what chaos will ensue in season five. Ygritte is just as awesome in the books as she is in the TV series, Rose Leslie does a brilliant job of portraying her!

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