Monday, April 21, 2014

Book review: A Storm of Swords by George R. R. Martin

And I’ve finally caught up to Season 3 of HBO’s series and, according to the showrunners, informed most of what’s going to happen in Season 4. Who gleefully anticipated the Purple Wedding, y’all? THIS GAL! There are possibly spoilers in the rest of the review, though I’ve tried not to refer to anything too specific.

Without a doubt, A Storm of Swords was my favorite so far of the ASOIAF series. Where, in the past, I frequently felt torn away from my favorite characters to return to others I cared less about, here I was engaged with nearly all of them (sorry, Bran, I can tell you’re very important to GRRM for whatever reason, but I like your sisters a lot better) and perceived a great deal more cohesiveness with regard to how all of the character POVs together advanced the whole narrative. When I reviewed A Clash of Kings awhile back and noted its dreary pace and how I felt the POVs fragmented the story rather than completing a full picture, a commenter/fellow reader here assured me that I’d find this book more enjoyable. Indeed, the slow building pace here ratcheted up tension and didn’t feel dull and dragging, and the different characters separated by leagues and kingdoms still seemed to be breathing the same breath and circling each others’ destinies slowly ever closer.

I love the development of Arya and Sansa. Everyone took to Arya from early on in A Game of Thrones, since it’s kind of easy to love a tomboyish girl who prefers swords to silk and bucks gender norms in a VERY normative society. Fans have been less kind to Sansa, who remains every bit the lady, even in the face of appalling adversity and horrendous treatment by her “guardians” in King’s Landing. For some, it seems, for having the gall to act feminine, Sansa deserves what she gets. This attitude disgusts me, and I hope, almost for more than anyone, that Sansa’s careful self-preservation while observing and digesting the politics at the Landing eventually leads her to a position where she can seek righteous retribution. I say that knowing that Martin doesn’t seem to have anything kindly in store for any of his characters, at least this far, but it remains a hope-against-hope that Sansa gets hers in the end. Less-than-positive comments: as much as I love Dany as a character, I am becoming increasingly uncomfortable with her white savior narrative. It’s not that she’s not good and not trying to do good, but this is just such a common trope and she’s so white and the perpetrators are so brown that it’s becoming very glaring, weird, squicky thing.

Overall, though, I re-iterate that this was the strongest in the series so far. There are absolute, harsh consequences and shocking sequences that occur here that kept this exciting as a standalone entry, but it also deftly laid groundwork for the upcoming novels and ensured that readers would be chomping at the bit to continue the saga. As for myself, I began the fourth book immediately after finishing this one — I was that hooked.

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