25 August 2012

Book 16 of 2012

16) A Storm of Swords (A Song of Ice and Fire #3) by George R. R. Martin
Having finished this Saturday morning, I have now exhausted my George R. R. Martin reserves, as I bought the first three books of the series when I saw the initial commercial for the HBO show's first season. The knowledge that too few of the characters I really like appear in volume four probably means that me and A Song of Ice and Fire are on a break until the third season begins next April. But that's okay because these books take a long time to read, and it'll be nice to devote myself to something else besides medieval political intrigue, weird incest, sword-fighting, and fire-breathing dragons.

The third book of the series focuses on four concurrent stories, beginning by overlapping with the ending of the second book so the reader can experience what happened in the various areas of Westeros while the Battle of Blackwater took place. Martin really delivers on a number of levels, the least of which are the character perspectives he chooses to utilize this time around: Catelyn, Bran, Arya and Sansa Stark, Jon Snow, Tyrion Lannister, Davos Seaworth and Daenerys Targaryen all return while Jaime Lannister and Samwell Tarly also get near-narrator duties, which makes all the difference. Martin's clever use of perspective illustrates how well he knows the characters and how important it is to keep track of who knows what about everyone else. Plus, Martin devotes more time to the characters I enjoy and less to the ones I'm not nearly as into while managing to push the latter into the former camp by the time this edition ends.

By far, this is my favorite of the series to date. The first book involved a great deal of table-setting and benefitted from reading along as the first season progressed. The second book, in hindsight, is solid, but ultimately just that, because it serves as a long-winded continuation of the first by establishing even more characters and fewer things happening than befits the length of the story. The third book really hits a sweet spot. Each character is endearing and each of them has fascinating, often times devastating, things happen to them that serves to shape, mold and change them.

The first book deals with the compromises power necessitates, while the second is about keeping the perception of power despite the difficulty in doing so. Book three continually asks question, "How does one survive when said power is stripped away?" Several characters find themselves forced to deal with a new playing field when they no longer hold the power they once did, and the ramifications are very enticing.

Most rumors I've read say that this book will be divided into two seasons of the show, and anything less would really do a disservice to the story. So much happens along the way, and there's a huge moment just past the halfway point that would serve as the ultimate season finale cliffhanger that I'll be utterly gobsmacked if it doesn't happen that way. And the ending of the book would also be another awesome reveal for season four. The possibilities for how great this show can be are endless, and I suspect that's when I'll start the series again because the visual stimulation the show provides adds to the desire to experience the world Martin offers.

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