Title: A Storm of Swords: Steel and Snow
Author: George R. R. Martin
Page Count/Review Word Count: 672
This book here is the first part of the third book in George R. R. Martin’s epic A Song of Ice and Fire series, and as such it comes about half way through the timeline of the books that he’s published at the time of writing. I’ve been reading through the series over the last couple of months, and each book has lived up to my expectations and left me looking forward to the next one.
This book follows on from where A Clash of Kings left off, and the action picks up pretty much straight away. It’s my understanding that this, and Blood and Gold (the second Storm of Swords book) both run concurrently, which means that the action in both books happens simultaneously. For me, I’m not sure how that’s likely to work, because it seemed to me as though every single character was accounted for here. That’s interesting, because I still have another 700 or so pages to go through before I move onto the next book, and I find it hard to see what else George R. R. Martin is going to be able to cram in here. But it’s a testament to his skill as a writer that I’m pretty sure he’s going to be able to manage it.
Now, I want to be careful about the plot, because I don’t want to give away any spoilers to anyone who hasn’t read the books or watched the show yet. That said, I can try to skirt around it. Take Jon Snow, for example – his moral character is tested to the limit, and he has to choose between his friends and the greater good. It’s a difficult choice for a young man to make, but by this point, Snow is no longer a child – he’s a man of the night’s watch.
There are plenty of other characters to catch up with, too – the Lannisters are up to their old tricks, and the Stark kids are scattered throughout Westeros. Daenyris hasn’t arrived on the mainland, but she is beginning to amass an army to take back what she sees as hers. Meanwhile, the wildlings are gathering and the Others are out in force, and so the realm itself is in a lot of danger.
The good thing about Martin is that his books are characterful and plot-driven at the same time – sure, there’s plenty of stuff happening, and a lot of action scenes for readers to get involved with, but the subtle interactions between the characters is just as important as the outcome of any battle. But as young Robb Stark proves – winning battles is one thing, but winning the war is something different altogether.
Now, the book before this was called ‘A Clash of Kings’, and the very first book was ‘A Game of Thrones‘. Here, both of those titles are still valid – it’s interesting to see how the series builds upon itself, and how the foundations that Martin laid in the beginning are further developed with each additional book in the series. I’ll be interested to see whether he’s able to do that in the second Storm of Swords book, which I can’t wait to get started on.
It’s a testament to the quality of Martin’s writing that even now, after reading three books and about 2,000 pages in the space of just over a month, I’m still keen to read more. I’m now about halfway through the series, and showing no signs of slowing down so far. That’s the mark of a good author – even with Tolkien, I started to flag after reading the first couple of books in the Lord of the Rings series. Despite the length of books like this one, Martin doesn’t have the same effect on me – I could read his words all day long, and sometimes I have done. Go read some!