A Storm of Swords by George R.R. Martin
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
An absolutely merciless and brilliant masterwork.
This was unbelievably amazing. A Storm of Swords could actually be the height of George R. R. Martin’s writing career. I know I haven’t read A Feast for Crows, A Dance with Dragons, or the extra books of the series yet. But realistically speaking, it would be bloody difficult for Martin to top what he has achieved in this book.
Picture: A Storm of Swords by Marc Simonetti
I’ll try to make this review shorter than usual, and I won’t be talking about the story at all to avoid spoilers. Seriously, you have to experience this for yourself. If you miraculously haven’t watched the TV series yet, A Storm of Swords encompassed seasons 3 and 4 of the TV series. I have known the main twists and turns of this volume due to watching the TV show first, but somehow this incredible novel was still able to fully capture my attention. It brings me to this point once again: I can’t even imagine how much I’ll love this traumatizing book IF I’ve read it without having watched the TV series adaptation.
“Old stories are like old friends, she used to say. You have to visit them from time to time.”
This, of course, doesn’t mean that you should skip the TV series. Up to season 4, the TV series adaptation remains mostly loyal to the original material. Sure it’s not like the scene by scene adaptation portrayed in the first season anymore, but I do honestly think that there were some moments that the TV series did even better than the book, and vice versa. I totally loved what I’ve read so far in A Song of Ice and Fire; this novel, in particular, is currently my favorite within the series, and that’s saying a lot. From my experience reading the series, Martin’s prose during his battle scenes were great, but I personally feel there are other grimdark fantasy authors—like Joe Abercrombie, Jeff Salyards, and Steven Erikson—that writes superior battle scenes compared to Martin’s. The battle scenes were one factor where the TV show excelled. Also, I will never stop praising Peter Dinklage’s acting performance as Tyrion Lannister. I found that the acting exhibited by Peter Dinklage and many other actors/actresses in the TV show did sufficient justice to the superb characterizations that Martin gave to the characters of the series.
“Rhaegar fought valiantly, Rhaegar fought nobly, Rhaegar fought honorably. And Rhaegar died.”
The main reasons why I loved reading the series is not because of the battle scenes, but for the terrific characterizations, intricate world-building, how Martin deftly set up each scene, and most of all, the immense strength in the unpredictability of the storyline; all proven clearly within this book. The myriad pivotal events that occurred in this single installment were simply insane and unforgettable. The Red Wedding, for example, is one of the most traumatizing events to ever transpired in a fantasy novel for me; it has pretty much become a standard of comparison for believable brutality and shocking scale in speculative fiction. “It wasn’t as crazy as The Red Wedding,” or “It was more traumatizing than The Red Wedding.” You probably have read or heard these phrases on reviews or on social media often—lately more so due to the super exposure caused by the TV shows; let me assure you that they’re there for many valid reasons.
“It all goes back and back,” Tyrion thought, “to our mothers and fathers and theirs before them. We are puppets dancing on the strings of those who came before us, and one day our own children will take up our strings and dance in our steads.”
At 414k words—it took me about 23 hours to read—in total, A Storm of Swords has become the third biggest novel I’ve read so far after The Stand by Stephen King and Oathbringer by Brandon Sanderson. It’s truly astounding that there were close to zero dull moments in a novel this massive; I didn’t really enjoy Bran’s storyline, but his appearances here were relatively small. Excluding Bran’s story, I was completely immersed, and I was in love with every page I read. Martin sang a song of violence, grief, and treachery with spellbinding impacts; the writing was thoroughly engaging, filled with a plethora of memorable passages, and the phrases were cleverly structured to be evocative.
“The greatest fools are ofttimes more clever than the men who laugh at them.”
Excluding the fame he gets from the TV series adaptation, if you’re ever in need of evident proofs on why George R. R. Martin has become one of the most legendary fantasy authors of our time, A Storm of Swords is the answer. The series indeed remains unfinished to this day, and there’s a chance it might not ever be finished, but I utterly believe that the series is worth your time despite that. The first three books—especially this one—in A Song of Ice and Fire provided an exceptional reading experience that epic fantasy readers should gain. I unquestionably loved A Storm of Swords. I’m giving this tome a full 5 stars rating, and I’m extremely confident it would’ve earned one of those ultra-rare 6 out of 5 stars rating from me if I’ve read it without watching the TV series adaptation first. This is truly a phenomenal magnum opus. Do yourself a favor. Read it, simple as that.
You can order the book from: Book Depository (Free shipping)