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Review Revisited: George R. R. Martin – A Storm of Swords

July 29, 2011

Re-read. A Storm of Swords by George R. R. Martin (2000)
A Song of Ice and Fire, Book 3

Read my review of book:
1. A Game of Thrones
2. A Clash of Kings

Length: 1180 pages
Genre: Fantasy

Originally Read: 27 June 2006
Re-Read Finished: 19 July 2011

Where did it come from? My “fantasy favorites” shelf; originally purchased from Amazon.
Why do I have it? The first time I read them, I ordered books 2 & 3 about halfway through book 1.

Kings continue to
squabble, but something dark is
building in the North.

Summary: While Robb Stark and his Northmen begin to realize that there is more to winning a kingship than simply winning battles, their prisoner Jamie Lannister has been released by Catelyn Stark, in the care of the woman knight Brienne, to return to King’s Landing to be traded for Catelyn’s daughters. Unfortunately, Arya Stark is sill roaming lost in the riverlands, although she’s soon taken by bands of brigands to be ransomed back to her mother. Sansa is still trying to determine her place in court, now that she is no longer to marry King Joffrey. Tyrion Lannister recovers from the battle of the Blackwater only to find that his father has come to court, claiming what little influence Tyrion had managed to accumulate for himself. King Stannis continues to plot with the Red Woman and her foreign magics. The men of the Night’s Watch are still beyond the wall, facing threats from within as well as without, while Jon Snow must pretend to be a turncloak and ride with the wildlings, seeking information about their plans. Bran Stark heads north towards the Wall in search of the three-eyed crow, and across seas and continents, Danerys Targaryen is still trying to raise an army with which she can retake Westeros, but all she can find are slaves, not soldiers.

(I realize that that’s not so much a plot summary as a listing of where all of the main characters are at the beginning of the book, but give me a break: this is a huge book with a lot going on.)

Original Review: Still good, although I’m starting to get a bit tired of this series (not enough to stop me from devouring this book, but just a little tired). It might be the fact that I’ve read 2000+ pages of it without a break, but the constant plotting and scheming and ten million characters and the chapter-ending without explaining anything and the low-level misogyny is just starting to wear a little thin. Still, he’s a good writer, enough to get me emotionally involved, to the point where I actually had to put the book down and not read it for 24 hours because a plot turn upset me so badly.

Thoughts on a Re-read: I enjoyed this book quite a bit more the second time around, actually. I think that’s mostly due to the fact that the first time I read A Clash of Kings and A Storm of Swords straight through, with no break in between. This time around, I read a few books in between, and read this book more slowly, taking days off to read something else before going back to it. That slower pace did mean that I lost some of the details from page 100 by the time I’d reached page 1100, but it also meant that the little niggling things that bothered me the first time around didn’t have the chance to get so overwhelming. I’m not sure what exactly I was on about when I said “low-level misogyny”; yes, it’s a world where women are conisdered good only for bedding, politically advantageous marriages, and bearing sons, and yes, there are a lot of characters – even characters I like – that refer to women in some pretty crude and derogatory terms (for all that I don’t normally mind swearing, I do not like the c-word, and it gets tossed around a little freely for my tastes). But on the other hand, Martin’s world has its share of awesome, strong, independent female characters, and it’s hard to get my knickers in a too much of a twist over any misogyny when Danerys kicks more ass than most of the male characters put together.

My terribly leaky memory also meant that a lot of the plot was a surprise this time around, as well. If you’d asked me six months ago what happened in this book, I would have been able to come up with 1) the Red Wedding, 2) the very end of Tyrion’s arc, 3) the very very end of Arya’s arc, 4) the very very very end of Jon Snow’s arc, and surprisingly (given how much nobody likes Sansa), most of Sansa’s arc. Other than that, though, it was all more-or-less like new. I was particularly surprised by how much I liked Jaime by the end of this book. I remembered that his character develops some interesting shades of grey over the course of the series, but I had thought it wasn’t until A Feast For Crows, so I was surprised to find that every time I was cheering for a character, if it wasn’t Danerys, it was Jaime. The more we get his perspective on his backstory, the more he becomes an interesting contrast to his brother Tyrion: both of them are trying to do right as best they can (albeit “right” according to their own self-interested moral code), and neither of them ever quite gets the credit they deserve… and I think it rankles both of them equally. It’s fascinating, and it really caught my attention and my sympathies this time around. (Even on a re-read, though, I still can’t keep all of the minor characters straight, particularly the roughly six million bands of soldiers/mercenaries/outlaws/rebels roaming around the Harrenhal/Riverlands area, which is where this book spends a lot of its time.)

And then there’s the Red Wedding. Part of why I took this book slowly this time was that I knew it was coming, and didn’t want to get to it. I’d never read anything that upset me as badly as that scene did the first time around, and this time, every little bit of foreshadowing – and there’s a lot – just broke my heart all over again. But when I finally did get to it, it turned out not to be nearly as horrible the second time around. Still horrible, of course, but forewarned is forearmed, I guess.

One last thought: one nice thing about reading them more slowly this time around is that instead of being burnt out, at the end of the third book, instead I’m eager to dive into A Feast for Crows and re-immerse myself in Martin’s world. 4.5 out of 5 stars.

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First Line: The day was grey and bitter cold, and the dogs would not take the scent.

Vocab: (see the whole list)

  • p. 537: ““Too many of my men ride rounseys, drays, and mules against foes mounted on coursers and destriers.” – A common hackney horse; a nag.

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12 Comments leave one →
  1. July 29, 2011 4:25 pm

    The Red Wedding took me completely by surprise, too—I felt shellshocked by it. But ultimately I really respect Martin for doing that and making it clear that this sort of thing happens.

    I’m saving A Feast for Crows and A Dance with Dragons for some lean fantasy periods, although I dearly want to tear through them immediately.

    • August 1, 2011 10:30 am

      Omni – I can’t think of a single other thing I’ve read that has viscerally affected me the way the Red Wedding did the first time around. I literally had to put the book down, and leave the room and go take a walk because I was so… overwhelmed, I guess.

      And I understand saving the later books for a dry spell, but I don’t think I could do it… Martin’s world is so complex and my memory is so leaky that I’d lose half of the important details in the intervening time. :)

  2. July 29, 2011 4:46 pm

    I like Sansa. I DO. I LIKE HER. Not nobody likes her because I like her, and she’s going to save the day and then I’m going to be able to say I told you so to everyone I’ve ever talked to about Game of Thrones, except for Amy from Just Book Reading and Sharry from Always Dreaming, because they agree with me already.

    You were right, though, about terrible things happening to my favorite characters and nobody ever dying that I want to die. The other thing is that when somebody does die that I wanted to die (there’s a major character death I wanted, in this book), there’s always someone just as horrible nearby to take that person’s place.

    On the other hand, I do think there is a low-level misogyny, or at least there is that thing that I dislike (Joss Whedon does it too, in the seventh season of Buffy and the whole of Dollhouse) of emphasizing how terrible rape is by talking about it A LOT but never in any serious way. Just having all the bad guys spend all their time raping women and cutting off their nipples.

    • August 1, 2011 10:37 am

      Jenny – I actually don’t hate Sansa, and especially by the end of this book, she’s gone a long way to redeeming herself. I just wish she’d stop being so painfully, willfully naive.

      Also, it’s good to hear that I wasn’t totally imagining the misogyny, and you explain what I was referring too much better than I did. It’s the next book, I think, where someone refers to a character needing to be “raped for her own good”, and while I’m sure I’ll have more to say on the subject when I get around to writing that post, it’s one of those things that yes, as an author, you can put that in the mouth of a character without believing it yourself, but it still makes me look at things a bit askance.

  3. July 30, 2011 12:14 am

    Jenny another person that likes Sansa here. You’re not alone, the Sansaites just don’t advertise the fact, because along with Cat she seems to be the most hated character. I recently reread Storm in preparation for Dance (I don’t actually care what other people think, I thought it was a pretty decent middle book for a series like this) and although I’ve enjoyed all the books on a level nothing else approaches Storm for mine.

    • August 1, 2011 10:39 am

      Elfy – I think Game of Thrones is still my favorite, just because it feels the most cohesive (since it’s focused so closely on the Starks), but I think I liked ASoS just a smidgy bit better than ACoK, although I can’t quite articulate *why*.

    • August 3, 2011 7:36 pm

      I do hate Cat though. So I’m not completely out of step with all the other Martin fans. :p

      • August 4, 2011 2:58 pm

        Jenny – Heh, and on the other hand, I *don’t* hate Cat. She’s annoying at times but I didn’t mind her much at all this time around.

  4. July 31, 2011 8:00 pm

    I really don’t think this series is for me, but my son loves it.

    • August 1, 2011 10:40 am

      Kathy – Yeah, I think 4000+ pages of medieval fantasy is probably a bit much for a non-fantasy fan. :)

  5. January 24, 2012 7:09 pm

    (lagging way behind the pack) I thought I couldn’t be more stunned than after the Red Wedding – and then I read the epilogue!! I honestly can’t begin to imagine what is going to happen next, but I can’t wait to find out. And I don’t hate Sansa or Cat – I just hated Joffrey, so this book was great for me. =)

    • February 23, 2012 3:26 pm

      I’ve come to hate Sansa less over time, but she’s just so willfully naive and so much one of THOSE girls…

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