After a hard-core 4 weeks, I have finished the third installment of George R. R. Martin’s epic Song of Fire and Ice series, making me, I’m fairly sure, caught up with the Game of Thrones TV show.  On the same day, Michel finished the first book, and we were able to finally start watching the show.  While the jury is still out on the show for me, A Storm of Swords is a worthy entry into the series.

Obviously, I can’t really tell you what’s going on in this book if you are not a fan of the series or the show.  But suffice to say that my favorite characters are still kicking and my least favorites are still causing infuriating trouble.  Tyrion is his charming cheeky self, despite losing some of his power; Jon is kicking butts and taking names up in the north; and Arya is her usual badass self as she continues on her way to find Robb and Catelyn.  Sansa maintains her status quo, being neither irritating nor interesting; Catelyn is fine; and Daenerys continues to be absolutely no threat to Westeros at all.  A few new characters join the narrative cast, most interestingly Jaime Lannister.  Clearly the intent is to rehab or clarify his image, and I’m not entirely sure how I feel about that.  Martin seems to have had more noble intentions for Jaime than initially thought, but is there room in the pantheon of great anti-heroes for another Lannister, particularly one who is not nearly as compelling as Tyrion?  

Another addition is Davos, Stannis Baratheon’s right-hand man, and he is quickly making his way onto my list of favorites.  He is the real moral center in a company of characters all claiming that title, from rigid Stannis to mysterious (and possibly deluded?) Melisandre.  Certainly Davos is the most interesting of these characters, a smuggler pardoned and raised high in Stannis’ court but whose loyalty to Stannis and opposition of almost everyone around him both show true moral fortitude and increasingly put his life in danger.  He is a highly complex character, and I’m looking forward to seeing where his story goes.

One of my main issues in this book, though, is that many of the characters seem to have become stupid since the second book.  Admittedly the second book is more of a chore to read than the third one, but only a few characters made blatantly stupid decisions.  In the third, it seems to have become an epidemic, making the reading experience a bit frustrating in places.  Perhaps it is the curse of being a (mostly) omniscient reader, but it is highly irritating when characters make moronic decisions when I know a clearly better option.  I think it was more than just knowing so much more than the characters, this time, though.  It honestly just feels like lazy writing, as if Martin decided it was easier to just move the plot along rather than strive for character consistency and growth.

That being said, the plot twists are well-set up.  Very few of the surprises are super shocking after the initial reveal, but they are incredibly well earned and felt immensely satisfying, at least to this reader.  It was a pleasure to feel the first shock of a surprise and then realize that Martin had been subtly setting that twist up the entire time.  There are two genuine, out-of-nowhere surprises at the end of the book, though, still earned but truly and completely shocking for me.  It is quite the hook with which to end the book!

This third installment continues the world building and complex story of the first two books admirably.  While not as strong as the first, it certainly moves more quickly and is more engaging than the second, leaving the reader ready for the fourth (and oft-reported best) book.  Overall, I was pleased with the improvements in A Storm of Swords, and, after a reasonable break, am looking forward to continuing the series!