Let’s take a break from Game of Thrones and go back to A Song of Ice and Fire, shall we?
The War of the Five Kings rages on, tearing the land of Westeros to shreds. Across the sea, Daenerys Targaryen begins to build her armies and gain a name for herself. To the north, the men of the Night’s Watch struggle against the building armies of both the undead and the wildlings, who threaten to tear down the Wall and enter the land. Westeros is caught in a storm of swords, and all our many characters are set to be caught inside.
For those who are more familiar with the show than the books: Storm of Swords is the source material for seasons three and four. There are plenty of narrative changes made in the adaptation, though, making this a different enough story from the show to still be surprising and engaging for those who started with it.
For example: when Jaime rescues Tyrion from his execution, it’s the first time the two have seen each other since the first book. In that scene, Jaime reveals a massive secret to his younger brother that tears their relationship apart and completely alters the course of Tyrion’s character arc. In this moment, Tyrion becomes the monster that everyone has always assumed he was. Meanwhile, in the show, the two share a brief word and part on good terms.
Which version is superior? Well, that’s up to you. Personally, I prefer the book version of these events. Especially considering how the show ended.
If only the books would ever end… (Please let that line age poorly.)
As per usual, the characters are a mixed bag here. Sansa, Catelyn, and Bran are as insufferable as ever (although Sansa’s plot gets better near the end, Catelyn’s final chapter is the iconic Red Wedding, and Bran is barely in this one). But most of it is very strong! This is the first time we get chapters from Jaime and Samwell’s perspectives, both of whom have some of the strongest chapters in the entire book!
Although it can get a bit repetitive at times. You don’t need to specify that Sam is sobbing every other paragraph, Martin. It’s Sam. We know that he’s sobbing.
(While that aspect of the scene is annoying, it also does a great job of showing you how difficult and slow each step he takes feels, which is cool, so… I’m fine with it. Mostly.)
A Song of Ice and Fire has always been one of the most immersive fantasy book series of all time and A Storm of Swords is no exception. George R.R. Martin provides an absolutely incredible amount of detail in each scene, from the tastes and smells of food in a feast to the small mannerisms of a character. The sheer level of detail here is absolutely insane!
It is a double-edged sword, though. On one hand, it’s incredibly immersive! On the other, it can get a little dull at times. Sometimes you don’t want to know every little detail about a meal or how Jon feels fucking Ygritte. Sometimes you just want the plot to get moving already! I get that Davos is eating grapes, can I see him meeting Stannis yet?!
Overall, this book is a fairly strong entry in the series. It’s easily the longest and it can be repetitive at times. But it’s still a highly enjoyable book, probably the best in the series so far.