The book: A Storm of Swords, by George R.R. Martin
The edition: Bantam Books paperback, HBO tie-in edition, 1178 pages with character map appendixes, (plus chapter 1 of A Feast for Crows, but I didn’t read that). Most editions divide this book in 2 volumes, but this one, while thin-paged, is still perfectly readable (and it cost me exactly half of the comparable 2-volume set)
The story: where the war in Westeros continues, but new mysteries arise and we get to know more characters. (Really, without spoilers for either book 1&2, or this, how could I say more?)
My experience with the book & my thoughts: I’ve been putting off this review for quite some time now, because I’m having a hard time writing it. You see, if I get started, I can pile things upon things that I don’t like, things that made me want to throw it out of the window, things that made me wonder why so many people spend so much time praising the series and discussing it on so many forums (which, really, I still don’t get). But you know what? In the end, I am enjoying the series. It is quite a ride. And this is the best book so far.
So I’ll start with the good part. This is the book where the story really gets underway. I know there was a lot happening in the first two books, but basically A Game of Thrones felt like a huge preamble and A Clash of Kings was a bleak, war-only thing. It’s only here that you can start to see plots unravel, things move, characters become alive. And magic, this is the first book that features magic enough to be an epic fantasy, as well as songs. What’s more, characters are much more rounded, and you see (at least in part) their motives, their weaknesses, their humanity even.
But: all in all it feels “puffed up”, artificially expanded to make more money from it. Like, you could tell the same story in just one book, cutting off unnecessary complications (think Arya’s wandering back and forth) and verbose fillings (I have already mentioned in previous books the endless clothing descriptions) that are of no use whatsoever. To me, it seems written for TV, with each chapter ending in a cliffhanger because you have to keep the reader reading, and when I could not take one cliffhanger more and I was ready to throw the book away, there would come a chapter without one, but then it was something like the Red Wedding, with enough tension and emotion poured in anyway. It feels it is written on a whim, without a real overarching plan, and when I see whole forums full of theories about where the story will go, I feel like laughing, because these people are just feeding ever new ideas to the author… except maybe not, there are just a couple of minimal details that keep me hanging on the smallest hope that there be a real and good ending and a sense to the whole series…
Language & writing: there are songs! 🙂 What’s an epic fantasy without songs? And while they are not “epic” they are still well written (and listen to this guy’s creation!). On the other hand, at times I felt that the author had just learned a new word and used it again and again — can’t remember which words exactly, but it looked as though they were used in clusters.
Links to better understand this book: first of all, a warning: if you look up anything about these books, you will be sure to read spoilers, or at least theories passed on as spoilers. Also, the appendixes are actually all you need. If you want to brave spoilers, feel free to browse the Tower of the Hand website.
Random thought: I saw this picture+quote in the signature of a poster in one ASOIAF-related forum (which I can’t find anymore) and thought it genius. For those of you who have not read A Game of Thrones, it will not mean anything, but it isn’t a spoiler (and you’ll get it once you read that scene):
“The things I do for love!”
Isn’t it just spot-on?