Thursday, June 02, 2011

BOOK REVIEW: George R.R. Martin's A Storm of Swords

Which book in the epic fantasy series A Song of Ice and Fire written by George R.R. Martin is the best? Many would argue that the third entry in the series, A Storm of Swords, is the most likely candidate. There is no question that it is the largest of the four books published to date; in fact, in England it was published in two volumes (Steel and Snow and Blood and Gold).

At  A Storm of Swords has 822 reviews, with an average of 4.50365 (90.07%) with 76.6% of reviews selecting the top 5 star review. The book preceding A Storm of Swords is A Clash of Kings and it has a slightly higher average review of 4.50857 (90.17%) but they are less numerous (700) and has a lower percentage of 5-star reviews (71.6%). The first book in the series, A Game of Thronesis the most well-known, naturally, since it was published first. It has by far the most number of reviews, 1,840 with an average of 4.38587 with 71% being 5-star reviews. The fourth book, A Feast for Crows, is the least popular book of the series so far and most harshly reviewed (an average score of 3.206557 based on 915 reviews). The fifth, A Dance with Dragons, will be released on July 12, 2011.

I would generally agree with the crowd at that A Storm of Swords is the best book of the first four in the A Song of Ice and Fire series that I have read so far.

The book's impact is not just based on it's length, though, as in most things, size does matter. There are so many important, stunning and horrifying plot twists which affect the characters we have grown to love and hate that several times I had to re-read sections of the book because I was reading so quickly to find out what was going to happen I realized I had missed an important event that had happened.

In this third book in the series the story that began in A Game of Thrones has progressed in surprising directions. It is almost impossible to review this volume without giving away important plot developments which a first-time reader should really experience unspoiled. I can say that the structure of the book follows the form of the previous entries in the series, with point-of-view chapters from various characters following one another seamlessly to reveal the overall storyline. There are POV chapters from Lannisters (Jaime, Tyrion and Cersei), Starks (Catelyn, Sansa, Arya and Bran) and their associates (Daavos Seaworth, Samwell Tarly, Jon Snow). Daenerys Targaeryen also returns and makes progress towards establishing herself as a true Queen of Westeros far away in the East.

The main storylines (internecine political conflict in King's Landing, Jon's foray beyond The Wall to learn the truth about the wildlings, Daenerys' quest for an Army and a crown, the impact of the War of Five Kings on Westeros' citizens as experienced by several of our main characters) are told with expert deftness and intriguing suspense. You literally do not know who will survive or perish, even if they have a chapter named after them (hint!).

Some say that Martin is trying to dethrone J.R.R. Tolkien as the universally acknowledged king of fantasy, and it may be true. Others say that Martin may actually have higher aims such as joining Shakespeare in the canon of literature. I'll leave it up to future readers to decide, but the decision of whether or not to invest the time and energy to read these books should be an easy one for anyone who delights in the pleasure of fiction itself.

Author: George R.R. Martin
Length: 1008 pages.
Publisher: Bantam.
Date: May 28, 2002.

OVERALL GRADE: A+/A (4.167/4.0).


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