Book # 3 in the A Song of Ice and Fire series, released 8/8/2000
I own a print copy of this book
Of the five contenders for power, one is dead, another in disfavor, and still the wars rage as alliances are made and broken. Joffrey sits on the Iron Throne, the uneasy ruler of of the Seven Kingdoms. His most bitter rival, Lord Stannis, stands defeated and disgraced, victim of the sorceress who holds him in her thrall. Young Robb still rules the North from the fortress of Riverrun. Meanwhile, making her way across a blood-drenched continent is the exiled queen, Daenerys, mistress of the only three dragons still left in the world. And as opposing forces maneuver for the final showdown, an army of barbaric wildlings arrives from the outermost limits of civilization, accompanied by a horde of mythical Others—a supernatural army of the living dead whose animated corpses are unstoppable. As the future of the land hangs in the balance, no one will rest until the Seven Kingdoms have exploded in a veritable storm of swords…
Oy. Is it over yet. No? Maybe five more to go (only two published)… That’s it I’m taking a break. I am not sure how to rate this book, my feelings are so mixed. While I did finish it, and there were many moments that I savored, there were many more that I loathed. It almost ended up in the wood stove. I’m not kidding, the book was almost kindling. I am going to hold off picking stars until I finish the review and see how I feel once I sort everything out.
Lets explore what I enjoyed, while trying to keep it spoiler free. The characters are what keep me turning the pages in this book. They continue to be richly written and are still developing often changing how I feel about them. Well there are some I still want dead, looking at you Cersei, but some surprised me in how I no longer hated them so much. This book introduced some new narrators, Jamie’s voice playing a key part in this book and I enjoyed being in Sam’s head. Jamie ended up being one of the players I have had a change of hearts over. Like in real life often the more you get to know someone the more sympathetic to their cause you become. Still knock of the incest already, its gross. I was delighted in this book to see some ‘bad’ guys got their dues. One of the main characters who met his demise got off far too easily in my opinion. He should have lost his head after being skinned alive and dragged through the streets. That is the ending I wanted for him. Still dead is dead, and I was surprised how little his family mourned for him. I did see his death coming, but one other death at the very end was a total surprise and delight. I was also thrilled with who got to bring about their end. Near the end there is some major developments around the wall. These parts are slowly becoming some of my favorite scenes and I look forward to seeing what happens there in future books. I also desperately want more Daenerys time. She and Tyrion are my absolute favs in this series. Dany is becoming quite the kick-ass heroine and I love how she is written. Tyrion has such honor, or as much as a Lannister can have, yet so little respect.
Now, what didn’t work for me or more apt to say what frustrated me to no end. The length of the bloody book. 1128 pages in the paperback I read. Way too many pages. No more will I read something this long in print. Books over 600 pages will now be read in e-format. I kept dropping the damn book and losing my place near the end. Another problem for me was that the book was very, very slow pacing wise. A lot of stuff could have been condensed or left out. Hell if you cut out all the excess description of food, clothing and who is who and related to whom of characters that do nothing but stand there in a scene you could save 200-300 pages I think. Another thing that frustrated me in this book is just when you think there is going to be some justice or a happy turn of events for a character, nope, Martin is setting them up to be stomped on or kill them. So many good characters lost their lives in this book, of course a few (very few) evil ones did too, but the balance is way off.
Over all this is still a good series, even though I often find myself more frustrated than anything with how the story unfolds. I still want to read more, but it is such a heavy work of fiction that I need to step away for a while. There is plenty of time, two more books are printed and who knows when he will get publish the remaining two or three. Still these are not easy reads and you can never get comfortable or presume to know what will happen next. I was surprised with how much information he gave us at the end. I almost needed to reread because he-did-not-just-tell-us-that-did-he moments were plentiful. I still think there is plenty he could leave out and still have a great story, but this is his way I guess. When you visit his website you see that for much of his writing he enjoys using many words. You do get used to it, but sometimes when you are stuck on a horse back for days in the rain you just want to get to the heart of the action.
I am still torn on how I feel, three or four stars…. I think four it is. Even thought I might not have liked the story much at times, I still was consumed by it. If I didn’t care I wouldn’t have gotten so upset. I am invested in this series now. I have gone too far to turn back now and will see this one to the end. I care about this world and want to see justice for all its inhabitants, not just the Stark family. After some time off I will pick this one up again and see where Martin take us next. I know it will be somewhere unexpected.