A Storm of Swords by George R. R. Martin
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Cannonball Read IV: A Storm of Swords by George R. R. Martin

By Sassafrass Green | Book Reviews | August 9, 2012 | Comments ()


A Song of Ice and Fire is a very engaging and engrossing experience. Each book builds on the last one and creates a story with a mythology, culture and lexicon so well-defined that it's actually exciting. It seems daunting at first; who can remember the names for a hundred different characters, but once you hit your stride, you'll never want to turn back. The books are very plot-sensitive, so if you're still reading A Game of Thrones or A Clash of Kings, just skip everything below this paragraph. A Storm of Swords is so explosive and delicious, I would hate to ruin anything for you. [Hear that, folks? Spoiler Alert! -- mswas]

The story picks up shortly after the events of Clash. Stannis' army was repelled from King's Landing by the joint forces of Tywin and the Tyrells and the War of Five Kings seems to be simmering down (at least momentarily). The Kings are all still in play, but they're generally minding their own business. However, things are far from peaceful. Westeros is a powder-keg and no one is happy. Tyrion wakes from his injuries and finds the court taken over by his father Lord Tywin, the new Hand of the King. Sansa is still kept prisoner and holds desperately to the dubious plans of Ser Dontos. Robb's gone and married the daughter of a minor house (instead of a Frey girl like he promised) so now the Freys are angry. Arya just wants to see her mother, but is more or less captive of Dondarion's Brotherhood. Jon's infiltrating the Wildlings and feeling conflicted about it and Bran is traveling to the wall and the mysterious Three-Eyed Crow with Jojen and Meera.

That's a lot going on, I know, but as always, Martin deftly juggles the various plot-lines so smoothly that you scarcely notice how much the book jumps around. Out of all the books so far, Storm has the most seamless weaving of plot-threads with uses of dramatic irony and it establishes a terrific feeling of tension. It's similar to riding a roller-coaster; you feel yourself being pulled up and up and up and once you drop down, things go insane. There were times when I was reading that my jaw literally dropped. I usually pride myself on having a general sense of where a story is going, but this book genuinely shocked me.

As for the plot-lines, they're generally stellar across the board. Jaime's was among my favorites what with his extremely satisfying character arc. And yes, his incestuous love for Cersei is gross, but I was touched by how truly he cares for her. Dany's chapters were somewhat repetitive, but it cemented her transformation from the meek, abused creature she was in Game into the epic, dragon-fire wielding badass that she becomes. Jon's plot-line, as it has been in the past books, was the weak link for me. There was some improvement, sure, but his stories never thrill me because I know he'll inevitably succeed. It was interesting to see him twist in the wind with his loyalties to the Wall and his love for Ygritte, but it all just seemed like a part of the bigger Jon Snow Can't Lose story-line. He suffers more in this book if only because it makes stabs at giving him genuine flaws (aside from being humble and too good at his job), but I get the feeling he's Martin's favorite character and will therefore always come out on top. I hope this isn't the case in the later books because that disappoints me. Martin has made no bones about the fact that anyone can fall and even the heroes of the story have glaring flaws.

All that aside, I can't wait to read the next book. Storm had so many big upsets that I'm so excited to see where it goes and to take a dive back into this gorgeously well-developed world.

This review is part of the volunteer Cannonball Read IV. Read all about it, and find more of Sassafrass Green's reviews on the group blog.

(Note: Any revenue generated from purchases made through the amazon.com affiliate links
in this review will be donated in entirety to the American Cancer Society.)

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Comments Are Welcome, Bigots and Trolls Are Not

  • Palaeologos

    For a while I considered this a tie with "Clash of Kings", but in retrospect it has edged into the definite best of the set. It's perhaps too good; the next two books feel like Martin is constantly playing catch-up to that one, and not quite making it.

  • Mark

    "You raped her. You murdered her. You killed her children.
    I will hear you say it. She was Elia of Dorne."

  • joe

    Stop reading now! The beginning of #4 is where he begins meandering. Save yourself!

  • winged chorus

    I don't feel he's meandering as much as maneuvering everybody into place for a big bloody culmination.

    @manting:disqus or anybody else: what new character in Dance? I'm having a brain lank and can't remember who that is.

  • frank247

    Instead of going back and reading all the books, I'm gonna use these reviews as my crib sheet from now on.

    Nice summary, and an excellent discussion in the comments.

    Keep up the good work, people!

  • Captain_Tuttle

    I've just started re-reading the whole series. I'm only in the first few chapters of GoT, and already I'm seeing a crap ton of foreshadowing.

  • Fredo

    Without a doubt the best book of the series (so far). Helps that it's the biggest. So a lot happens.

    That said, it's the "Empire Strikes Back" of the series. The heroes lose badly. The bad guys win. And even when the heroes survived, you don't get the sense that things have improved for them.

    I am intrigued as to how they're going to make it work for the series: you've got a number of major sequences (2 battles, 1 march, 2 weddings, 1 trial) which require lots of extras and CGI. Even splitting the book into 2 seasons will only help giving breathing room.

  • I LOVE this one. I think it's my favorite of the series. Everything happens! Everyone makes really terrible decisions! Close calls! Death and horror everywhere!

    Looooove. I'm re-reading it right now and I'm so excited.

  • manting

    jon is definitely the son of R and L. The tower of Joy? L in a "bed of blood and roses." "Promise me Ned." She made Ned promise to keep the secret because she knew robert would want to kill the baby. Also why would the Kingsguard be guarding her otherwise? There's literally dozens of hints covering this in the books and the HBO series gives some new hints as well. When Jon is heading to the wall and he asks about his mother Ned tells him he has "stark blood." He doesnt say he's his son. The three heads of the Dragon are Jon, Dany, and the sucky new character from Dance who literally came out of no where.
    Sandor Clegane is not dead by the way

  • Anne Lucchesi

    I have been on a straight run through this series (before they were due back at the library) and this book was where I finally had to take a break. I am maybe 3/4 of the way through and after the Red Wedding I just needed a breather. Thanks for this, I was just getting so worn out with the killing of so many characters I like and now I need to get reading again! So excited!

  • John W

    Great book.

  • "Jon Snow can't lose" Just wait until you read the end of Dance of Dragons.

  • ExUSA

    Re-read the prologue to A Dance With Dragons, it's all there.


    Plus, the Red Lady can give the kiss of life...

  • BendinIntheWind


    Telling people to reread the prologue to the next book implies that everyone here has, in fact, read the next book. This post is clearly for people who are making their way through the series for the first time. If someone here was pissed about another commenter mentioning the Red Wedding, that's their own fault (since this is obviously a post to be read after you've finished "A Storm of Swords"). But please don't spoil future books for the rest of us.

  • TheGreatUnstainer

    You bastard.

  • Guest

    Best book of the bunch, at least as far as I'm concerned. The ups and downs! I shouted in fury a couple of times, and cheered a couple of times. SO satisfying.

  • ExUSA

    No mention of possibly the most gut wrenching thing to happen in the entire series thus far-The Red Wedding? That was a truly painful chapter to read, but made the epilogue more satisfying, because the Freys are gettin' got.

    Also, I feel like Martin has to portray Jon in a fairly good Pollyanna-esque light because I think it will be revealed that he is the legitimate heir to the secret marriage between Rhaegar and Lyanna (the promise Lyanna made Ned keep was Jon's birth). He is the protagonist of the entire series, so he can't get his hands too dirty.

    Definitely the best book in the series (so far). A Feast for Crows and Dance With Dragons are not nearly as satisfying to read. I have high hopes for the next one.

    One more thing, Cold Hands. Benjen Stark or no? I'm hoping yes, if only because they made such a big deal about Benjen in the first two books, that it would feel unsatisfying to never know what happened to him.

  • Guest

    Can you speak more to this rumour of Jon being a product of a *marriage* between Rhaegar and Lyanna? How does R's wife Elia Martell fit into this scheme? (Did Lyanna die before Elia became queen?) I've heard this one (or rather that Jon's a product of an affair/rape between R and L), and the Jon-as-Robert's-bastard one, but I haven't delved into them and might be missing a piece.

  • MikeRoorda

    My understanding of the theory wasn't that Rhaegar and Lyanna were actually married, but that Jon Snow was Rhaegar's secret bastard BY Lyanna. In order to keep anyone from finding out that a Targaryen has been sired in the Kingdom, Ed Stark agrees to lie and say that the boy is HIS bastard instead of Rhaegar's. The lie is cemented as truth when all the rest of the Targaryens are murdered by Robert and the Starks during the uprising. The theory goes that the end game will include Jon Snow/Targaryen and Dany getting married and her rising as the rightful Queen of the Realm with he as her king. Then, the Targaryen's return to power is complete. It would also help to explain the series title "A Song of Fire and Ice" as Snow can clearly be seen as "Ice" and Dany as "Fire."

  • ExUSA

    I vaguely remember that Lyanna was protected by the Kingsguard, whereas Elia was not, which begs the question why would Rhaegar let his wife and children be more exposed than his captive?

    Edited to ad, didn't the Targaryens practice bigamy? So Jon in theory, would have been a legitimate heir.

  • Guest

    Like Mike, I don't remember any mention of the bigamy thing (incest yes, that I remember). Hm. That would definitely be the missing piece, if that were the case.

    Re. the Kingsguard thing, I didn't catch that, myself, but Rhaegar certainly loved or lusted after Lyanna more than Elia--was obsessed with her--so that makes sense whether there's an extra heir in the mix or not. Those Targaryens weren't logical, after all (see: Mad King A), so I can buy R protecting Lyanna more than his legitimate children and heirs, in a fit of Targaryen-itis.

    It's all so fascinating any way you slice it.

  • MikeRoorda

    Huh. I didn't remember the Kingsguard portion of the story OR catch the bigamy portion of the argument in the books. However you slice the issue, it would be an amazing turn for the story to take and, I think, would serve to tie the whole mess together in some form of satisfying coherence at the end.

  • ExUSA

    I'll be honest, I googled this after I wrote the initial comment, and the whole theory is laid out here, only much better than I can cover: http://www.westeros.org/Citade...

    Martin indicated the bigamy thing in a fan forum, but I think Dany alludes to it in some of her chapters as well.
    "Was Aegon the Dragon married with Rhaenys and Visenya at the same time?

  • Guest

    Aegon and his sisters...flying their big-ass trio of dragons. Now I remember.

  • Guest

    That's my understanding, too.

  • KatSings

    "I get the feeling he’s Martin’s favorite character and will therefore always come out on top"

    You're so pretty. ::pats head::

    That aside, this is a lovely review, and one I agree with on the whole. I'm re-reading this right now (just shy of finishing it) and I think it's my favorite of the series thus far.

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