George R.R. Martin,
Song of Ice & Fire #3:
A Storm of Swords

(Spectra, 2003)

This is a stunning masterpiece!

A Storm of Swords is the third book in George R.R. Martin's masterful Song of Ice & Fire series. When I started reading it, I was operating under the assumption this was the conclusion of the series, which had once been advertised as a trilogy. Now, I understand the series is planned as a seven-book project. No matter which book in the series A Storm of Swords is, it is stunning. All of the magic of the first book, A Game of Thrones, is here, but the tone is darker. Comparing A Storm of Swords to A Game of Thrones is like comparing The Empire Strikes Back to Star Wars: A New Hope.

In this episode of the series, the fighting amongst the Kingdoms of Westeros intensifies and the death-toll mounts. This is a brutal story, with no mercy shown to anyone by anyone. The reader better be prepared for that, as no character is safe. You will likely end up yelling, "No! Not him (or her)!" at least once.

Why do I like this book?

1) The technique of rotating viewpoints is used to perfection. It lets the reader see situations and characters from inside and out, and from different viewpoints, resulting in a fuller, richer understanding of everything. It also allows the otherwise-unthinkable option of an apparently crucial main character dying.

2) The writing and editing are flawless. I remember no logical contradictions, no editing errors and no slow spots. It's a huge book, but it moves well. I've read smaller books that had more lapses.

3) Some of the characters continue the transformations from what they were in the first book. There is no longer any doubt the characters are developing and evolving. Some of the transformations are stunning (no, I won't give them away). Also, after starting with a huge cast of main or possible-main characters, the cast is slowly but steadily narrowing, and the reader can easily see huge culminating confrontations on the horizon.

4) Possibly because of the shifting-viewpoint technique mentioned above, the author is able to create a plot that is extremely complex and intricate, but still coherent.

This series is not for impatient readers. For moderately patient readers, wait for the series to be finished in five years or so, and then set aside a major piece of reading time and do the whole series. For die-hard fans, grab them when they're released and gobble them up. Whatever your approach, you won't be disappointed.

by Chris McCallister
2 June 2007

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