You may also know book 3 of GoT as “The One That’s just getting to be on TV.”
I cannot wait.
I won’t lie to you, dear readers, I kind of changed my strategy with book 3. After Books 1 and 2, I posted steady and concise reviews for each book.
But then I got the GoT Bundle for my Kindle App… which I then put on all my devices.
So I sort of read ALL THE REST in one fell swoop. Thankfully, it’s kind of easy to distinguish between books 3, 4, and 5 in my memory, just due to the narrative structure. More on that in my review of Books 4 and 5.
A Storm of Swords
Wherein Everyone Dies. (Kidding!) Actually, what I found is that Storm of Swords, or SoS, really ties together and builds upon a lot of great arcs that were building in books 1 and 2.
Essentially, SoS takes all of your favorite characters and makes sh** hit the fan for them. Everyone’s plans go awry, every major character becomes a fish out of water in some way. Some get what they’ve always wanted, some fight uphill battles, some are betrayed, and some die.
Fleshing Out Secondary Characters
My favorite arcs throughout this novel are still Jon Snow and Arya, with Bran as a definite third. You know what, I’ll even throw in Samwell Tarly.
However, the third novel finds a novel way to make Sansa interesting. Even if she herself is still a very limited character, she’s learned a lot from ‘Clash of Kings,’ and she gives us the closest perspective to Peter Baelysh (who is an incredible character IMHO).
As for Catelyn Stark, if you love her or hate her, she has a fascinating arc in this book, which introduces us to such wonderful characters as Brienne of Tarth, who will become an amazing foil for the Twins Lannister. Without giving away too much, let us simply say that Freys are dicks. That’s all. In fact, that’s huge. That’s kind of the one big moral point of the book.
Speaking of Lannisters, we see Tyrion kind of out of his element in this one, which is great. Tyrion is Martin’s mouthpiece, as far as I’ve deduced, and really takes on an interesting arc after his shining hour in Clash of Kings. Basically, no-one likes Tyrion. Everyone picks on Tyrion. It stinks to be a dwarf in a court ruled by your own jerk family. And, as ever, the Lannisters seem to get more and more powerful while still being ABSOLUTE JERKS.
One great side character with which Tyrion becomes enmeshed is Varys, the Spider. Like Baelysh, he’s one of the most interesting characters that doesn’t get a first person POV.
Tyrion’s perspective also gives us some insight to The Mountain that Rides (Gregor Clegane) and the Red Viper of Dorne, amongst others. We still learn to really really hate Joffrey, entertain a playful dislike of Cersei, and despise but respect the crap out of Tywin. That guy runs Westeros like it’s Casterly Rock, if you know what I’m sayin’.
The Brothers Clegane both get some excellent examination in this book, and we start to get more and more influences from the greater world of the narrative.
While we’ve seen many sides to the Hound in the first three books, we get to see the Mountain through both Tyrion’s eyes (as mentioned above) and through the eyes of Arya. This gives us a Mountain-at-Court and a Mountain-at-large perspective. That said, much of the Mountain is still defined outside of the man, through the actions and reactions of others.
Sam and Jon send us North. Martin likes to expand his narrative boundaries, so he just full on sends his boys beyond the Wall in this one, to a world of Wildlings and walking dead. The rangers are ragged, weak, and made of mixed men. To be fair, so are the wildlings, just… there’s a lot more of them, and the north is their home. But Winter is coming, and the wildlings are heading to the wall, led by a great secondary character by the name of Mance Rayder.
Looking back on the third book, I kind of forget what’s happened with Daenerys, just because her arc continues so smoothly through books 3, 4, and 5. SHE IS MUAD DIB.
Basically. That said, she’s still very much in her own world in Book 3, where, as previously mentioned, things hit fans at high velocities (but mostly in Westeros).
Overall, Book 3 takes the general arc of the Lannisters being on top and watches what they do with that power in the faces of enemies that just won’t stay defeated. Jon and Arya round out our world view by covering the Wall and all the little areas in between things, respectively.
Compelling Characters without Goals:
A note. Arya Stark is such a compelling character in that she literally has no real goal, no definite place she wants to be, no real nemesis, but by God, Martin gives her some of his best writing. She basically covers some of the largest geographic scope without having any definite accomplishments and is still the characters whose chapters I enjoy reading the most.
A Different Take on Characters
Whereas I feel that most fantasy literature focuses on the moral imperative of its characters, I feel like Martin really examines more closely the strategic elements thereof. I like this approach because it lets Martin play with living, dying, succeeding and failing not in terms of who is the ‘best person’ but who is the most likely to survive, and in what context. It also allows Martin the freedom to dangle the lives of the characters on their own choices, versus what ‘should’ happen in a properly moral setting.
This means that even the most morally reprehensible characters still act as interesting characters because whether or not they are wholly evil, they’re still players in the Game of Thrones. It also means that characters deal with real-world incentives with their environments, and that street smarts and knowledge come in handy far more often than ideals.
Without spoiling everything, I will say that SoS was an excellent build on Books 1 and 2. It ties together and expands all the arcs that were built up previously, has a strong pace, and is possibly my favorite book of the five book ser