(review originally posted on my livejournal account: http://intoyourlungs.livejournal.com/16120.html)
SO, just a few days ago I reviewed A Clash of Kings, which I read a few weeks ago. When I finished ACoK, I actually wasn't at home (I was out of town) and therefor couldn't read what I had initially planned to read (which I can't remember what that was *anyway*), and since I was visiting the boyfriend (who I've been borrowing these books off of) I decided to go ahead and just read A Storm of Swords instead of waiting another month or two.
Guys, reading these books back-to-back was HARD. I feel like I get nothing done because this seriously took me almost two weeks to read (but it was a very busy two weeks, which may account for why it took that long.) BUT, that doesn't mean that this book was not good because that is so, SO far from the truth. This book was awesome, and I can see why so many people see it as the best in the series. Remember how in my review of ACoK I kind of complain that yes, while I *liked* the book well enough, it felt like not a whole lot happened despite it's obnoxious length? This book is the total opposite. A LOT happens in this installment in the series and totally warrants the ridiculous length.
SPOILERS AHEAD! Like, a lot of spoilers.
Ahhh, so where to start? Like I said, a lot of stuff happens in this book. Mostly weddings, people being douchebags (which happens in every book, so no surprises there) and LOTS of characters die. I mean, an obscene amount of fairly major characters die. Some of them weren't as surprising as I thought they might be though.
See, before I read this book, friends and other people I know who have read it kept mentioning that an absolutely game-changing event happens in the novel: The Red Wedding. When I jumped into this book, I was so ANTSY to figure out what the deal with it was and how it was going to play out and just exactly WHAT it was going to be. Before I read the novel and after I finished ACoK, I figured it was called The *Red* Wedding because it had something to do with Melisandre, because she's been dubbed the red priestess. Well, it does have a lot to do with her, but she's not as directly involved in it as I thought she was. Then, I figured it was called The Red Wedding because a ton of people die, and well, blood is red. That was also correct, but that's fairly obvious anyway. The fun part is trying to figure out WHOSE wedding is going to be The Red Wedding, because like I mentioned above, there are a lot of weddings in this book.
I was completely convinced at first that Joffrey's wedding to Margaery would be the one; not only do the Tyrells bring a whole whack of soldiers and big houses to the wedding, but they also want a blood debt to be paid. So when Joffrey's wedding WASN'T the Red Wedding, you'd think I would have been surprised by whose it ended up being.
The thing was, I wasn't -- not really. It was Robb, but I was *expecting* him to die, so it wasn't that shocking when it happened at his uncle Lord Edmure's wedding to the Frey family.
I do see how Robb's death, and the death of his army is a game-changer in the series. I mean, they were the only "good" army left fighting for the throne. What I don't see is how it was that surprising. Just chapters before, we see Stannis and Melisandre burn those three leeches and say Balon Greyjoy, Joffrey's and Robb's names. The duo had successfully killed Renly with their weird voodoo magic at this point, and we see other instances in the novel where this Lord of Light and its followers use this magic successfully (such as Lord Dondarrion for example). So I was just *waiting* for Robb to die -- I knew it was coming and I know Martin has absolutely no scruples about killing major characters. Remember when Ned looked like he was going to be a main character for the entire series and then he got his head loped off? Not to mention that we KNOW that Lord Frey is a huge prick.
I mean, the whole event did surprise me a little -- I was just expecting more out of this Red Wedding that everyone kept talking about. And like I said, I was just waiting for Robb to die, so when the fiasco started happening during the wedding, I knew he was going to be killed. It also didn't help that I already knew Catelyn lived somehow. I'm sure *that* might have surprised me a little more, but I accidentally spoiled that for myself.
With that said, it wasn't very surprising when Joffrey died either. I was so glad when he did though.
The deaths that DID surprise me were two at the end of the novel. When Tyrion put that quarrel through Tywin's guts, I was I grinning like a maniac -- that dude was such a JERK (but many characters in this series are jerks). And Littlefinger pushing Lysa Aryn through the Moon Door was also hilarious and had my jaw hanging open. Oh how it was awesome though. And the revelations in that scene were awesome too. We finally find out who killed Jon Aryn and it kind of bowled me over. Seriously, Littlefinger is an ASS (re: so many characters in this series are jerks.)
And how can I write this review without mentioning Jaime and Brienne? I knew going into this book that Jaime was a book of view character, and I knew from several reviewers and people I know that Jaime was supposed to become a likable character. I was skeptical of that after hating him so much in the previous two installments, but it was true: the guy becomes likable. I wouldn't go as far as to say he's a hero, but he does do a lot of heroic things (such as saving Brienne from Harrenhal -- that scene had me really moved, especially when he tells one of the guards something along the lines of: "She's not wench. Her name is Brienne of Tarth.") Brienne was also a fairly cool character. She's stubborn as hell, but the lady can hold her own, even if she is an example of "man with boobs". Martin turns that trope on its head though, in that he makes Brienne ugly, instead of the smoking hot babe that usually occupies that trope.
And I can't forget to mention Dany. Her chapters are MUCH more interesting in this installment. In ACoK she doesn't do a whole lot, but this time around, she kicks ass. She gets herself an army and starts doing some raiding and making her move on Westeros, though she isn't quite there yet by the end of the novel. It still demonstrated how her road to reclaiming the throne won't be easy, but takes out the tedium of this that was present in ACoK. Finding out about the whereabouts of Barristan Selmy was awesome too, but I was a little sad to Jorah Mormont leave (though he was getting kind of grating at this point with his hypocritical over-protection of Dany.)
The coming of the Others is also getting kind of eerie, and is slowly making its way to the forefront of the plot. I'm interested to see what direction it'll take in future novels.
There's so much more I could talk about, such as Jon's story arc and how I like how it played out, or how I found Arya's metamorphosis from mostly-innocent young tomboy, to a hardened and cynical child absolutely heart-breaking; or how much I want to shake some sense into Sansa and tell her that her world will NEVER be one of her stupid songs, but want to hug her at the same time because her story is equally heartbreaking; or how I wish Tyrion could just catch a break, because despite his sometimes selfish motives, he's really a kind character and one I constantly root for. But I think this review is long enough, so I'll leave those thoughts at that.
Final Verdict: As mentioned above, SO much more happens in this installment than in A Clash of Kings. A ton of people die, some good guys, some bad guys, big things happen and the ending of the novel will have your jaw hanging open at the some of the major revelations that are made. The Red Wedding, the big event in the novel that had me waiting on tenterhooks, wasn't quite as shocking as I thought it would be, but that doesn't diminish the quality of the novel in the slightest -- I think I just heard too much about it and my expectations for it were a little too high. We get awesome character development out of Jaime, and reading his POV chapters were some of my favorite parts of the novel, as well as his unorthodox relationship with Brienne (who I also really liked.)
Despite my love for this series though, I'm going to take a bit of a break from it before diving into A Feast For Crows. These books are LONG, and to be honest, they're kind of mentally draining, what with all this getting attached to good characters and then have to read about them dying horrible deaths. Don't get me wrong, I LOVE this series and have every intention of buying them all (in hardcover to boot), but they're not a series I can read back-to-back-to-back. Some people can, but I'm not one of them.