Don’t get attached to anyone now, they might die.
A Storm Of Swords by George R.R. Martin.
The deaths start here. Bizarre, yet brilliant, storyline.
This time, I’ll defer to the book itself to give you a brief, yet safely spoilerfree, version of the book:
Of the five contenders for power, one is dead, another in disfavor, and still the wars rage as violently as ever, as alliances are made and broken. Joffrey, of House Lannister, sits on the Iron Throne, the uneasy ruler of the land of the Seven Kingdoms. His most bitter rival, Lord Stannis, stands defeated and disgraced, the victim of the jealous sorceress who holds him in her evil thrall. But young Robb, of House Stark, still rules the North from the fortress of Riverrun. Robb plots against his despised Lannister enemies, even as they hold his sister hostage at King’s Landing, the seat of the Iron Throne. 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…
But as opposing forces maneuver for the final titanic showdown, an army of barbaric wildlings arrives from the outermost line of civilization. In their vanguard is 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…
Whoa. That sounds amazing. Amazingly, it is.
I personally think that this book is the best of the three I’ve read. None of the first two books delivered more promise than this. While A Clash Of Kings lived up to the promise that it’s predecessor delivered, this book takes the standards to a whole new level.
This book has an expanded storyline. The story ventures into new territories, and the characters we see aren’t just characters in a book, they become a part of your world. And they die. They die deaths that are so horrible, you might wonder if things can ever escalate more. I’m hoping they will.
Talking about deaths, let us see about the characters. This book develops the complexity of each character, and with really good timing. I’m not going to reflect on the Starks, Snow and Davos. Still, I’ll say this. Davos’ narrative is different from the rest. I’ll not spoil that part for you. Jaime’s character, by the end of the book, is the not the arrogant, cocksure man. He is something more, and we see that when he talks to Tyrion. And Tyrion, what can we say? He is just amazing. He is the one character I hope won’t die anytime soon, because then, I’ll probably be devasted. But the most shocking character development in this book, for me, is Littlefinger. In the second book, he was show a cunning, plotting and an opportunistic man and in this book, we see to what extent he can go to achieve what he wants. And that was terribly impressive, because he takes down someone I didn’t appreciate from the start.
I would like to write about the epilogue. The epilogue is something that cements the story, yet leaves scope for many, many questions. There is something in it that sent chills down my spine, probably because it is one of the coldest parts of the book, and yet shows us something that can be called humane. I’m pretty sure what shook me was the demeanour of the silent person at the end of it. That’s it. I’ll say no more about it.
The writing. There’s this scene which will be etched in my mind forever. Melisandre, the priestess, talks to Davos, trying to understand his thoughts. This scene, for me, is proof of the skill that GRRM has.
“The war,” she affirmed. “There are two, Onion Knight. Not seven, not one, not a hundred or a thousand. Two! Do you think I crossed half the world to put yet another vain king on yet another empty throne? The war has been waged since time began, and before it is done, all men must choose where they stand. On one side is R’hllor, the Lord of Light, the Heart of Fire, the God of Flame and Shadow. Against him stands the Great Other whose name may not be spoken, the Lord of Darkness, the Soul of Ice, the God of Night and Terror. Ours is not a choice between Baratheon and Lannister, between Greyjoy and Stark. It is death we choose, or life. Darkness, or light.” She clasped the bars of his cell with her slender white hands. The great ruby at her throat seemed to pulse with its own radiance. “So tell me, Ser Davos Seaworth, and tell me truly – does your heart burn with the shining light of R’hllor? Or is it black and cold and full of worms?” She reached through the bars and laid three fingers upon his breast, as if to feel the truth of him through flesh and wool and leather.
“My heart,” Davos said slowly, “is full of doubts.”
On a lighter note, this book has some lessons for all of us. The most important one: Do not attend weddings in the A Song Of Ice And Fire world. It will not end well. If you do go, then never mind the wedding and never mind the songs but know your host, know your food, and your friends and enemies.