Title: A Storm of Swords: Blood and Gold
Author: George R. R. Martin
Page Count/Review Word Count: 642
Blood and Gold is the second instalment of A Storm of Swords, the third book in the A Song of Ice and Fire series which you might know better as the series that Game of Thrones, the TV series, is based on. That makes this technically the fourth book, and so far I’ve been able to read them in order and to stay ahead from the series, although the first episode of the sixth season aired the day before I finished the book. I’ve been holding back on watching it, because I prefer to imagine the characters in my head before I witness them on the screen.
This book is probably my least favourite book so far in the series, although I still gave it an 8/10 which is above my general rating for a professional quality book. It also features a lot of key plot elements, including the Red Wedding, which I’d already heard about before I even started on the books. Luckily, I didn’t know the specifics, and so when it did happen, I got to experience it for the first time – it is a pretty big deal, but it felt over-hyped when I got to it.
Here, you get to watch character development in action – in particular, Jon Snow and Samwell Tarly of the Nights Watch grow even more three-dimensional, and we can start to see them coming into their own. Stannis Baratheon also made a couple of decisions which impressed me, and which simultaneously changed my opinion of his character whilst reinforcing who he was all along.
But there are also a couple of lazier elements to the plots – one of the problems that I have with George R. R. Martin is that he seems to keep on killing people off and then bringing them back to life again. Done well, this can create a decent twist in the story – however, when it keeps on happening over and over again, it jerks you out of the story every time someone else dies. Instead of accepting it as a part of a story, you start to question whether the author’s telling the truth, and that makes you unsuspend your disbelief and leave Westeros for the next couple dozen of pages, until you have the death independently confirmed elsewhere.
Still, I read this across the space of eight days – I wouldn’t have been able to read it that quickly if I didn’t enjoy it, and I’m still showing no signs of slowing down. There are two more books for me to read until I’m up-to-date with the author’s latest releases, but he’s due to release another one pretty soon – either way, once I’m up-to-date with the books, I’ll be able to watch the series just like everyone else.
One good thing about Martin’s work is the level of detail that sits behind it – in this book, even more new characters are added, and several minor ones become more major. With each additional book in the series, you get to see another layer of the complexity – some of the story lines in this book were set in motion in A Game of Thrones, right back at the very start of the series. Considering the timespan of the books’ releases, you start to see how much planning must have gone into it – he’s tying up loose ends here that he introduced ten years earlier, and there are still other elements of Martin’s epic that are on-going even now.
Overall, then, whilst this isn’t my favourite book in the series, it’s still well worth reading if you’ve made it this far. And keep your eyes peeled for a couple of high profile deaths.