You Are What You Read

Reviews of books as I read them. This is basically a (web)log of books I've read.

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Location: Lawrenceville, Georgia, United States

I am a DBA/database analyst by day, full time father on evenings and weekends.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

A Storm of Swords

A Storm of Swords is the third book in George R. R. Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire series. The story follows the characters from the previous two books and adds some new ones. The first chapter is from the point of view of Jaime Lannister, the kingslayer and kings guardsman who is a captive of the lady knight Brienne. Brienne has been charged by Lady Catelyn with taking Jaime to King’s Landing to exchange him for her daughters, but Jaime doesn’t make it easy on her. Despite Jaime’s needling of Brienne, a more human side of him emerges. In flashbacks we see his decision to kill King Aerys and the forces that shaped him. Through the course of the book he comes to appear more honorable, even returning to rescue Brienne rather than leave her to the men who released him.

One of the themes running through the book is the constant changing of fortunes. Jaime is a clear example, going from captive at the beginning of the story to captain of the kings guard at the end. It’s also true of Jon Snow. Jon is one of the black cloaks guarding the wall, or as the wildlings call them, the crows. Jon has to prove himself to the wildlings and convince them that he has turned against the black cloaks, but he faces many who do not trust him. The wildling girl Ygritte takes his side, going so far as to seduce him to show the others that he is one of them. But when they cross the wall to threaten the north of the kingdom, Jon escapes to warn his brothers at the wall. But even when he helps fight off thousands of wildlings with only a few men, he finds that the lords who arrive to help do not trust him either. Over and over he is forced to prove himself.

Much of the plot revolves around the events in King’s Landing and in particular the young King Joffrey. Sansa Stark is still there though she is out of favor and seeking a way to escape. Tywin Lannister, the head of House Lannister and Joffrey’s grandfather, and the effective ruler of the kingdom, orders his son Tyrion to marry Sansa and secure a claim to House Stark. Tyrion, the imp, dutifully obeys his father but can’t bring himself to consummate the marriage. Instead he continues to see his concubine Shea. He knows that no matter how kind is he to Sansa she will always hate him as a Lannister. Tywin is his usual sarcastic and resourceful self. He has also suffered a reversal, with his father taking over as Hand of the king. He is put in charge of the treasury but discovers it is a thankless and untenable task.

There are many times when a character’s fate takes a reversal from the beginning of a chapter to the end. This is most evident with Arya Stark. The book starts with her trying to reach her mother Lady Catelyn. She is with her friend Gendry, but they part ways, and every time she thinks she’s getting closer she finds herself further away. A scene where the Hound catches up with her is one of the most chilling.

The only story line that doesn’t see a reversal of fortune directly is that of Daenarys, the queen in exile. She uses her dragons, her wits, and her loyal servants to amass power and make her way back to Westeros where she intends to conquer the kingdom and rule again. Though there is one reversal when she discovers the truth of a prophesy that says she will be betrayed three times.

This is the best book of the series so far. There are so many plot twists and reversals that it’s hard to remember where things started. There are new characters and forces introduced. The Others, the ghostly undead who terrorize the north, make their way towards the wall. A mystical knight who supposedly can’t be killed roams the western part of the kingdom and makes trouble for the king. King Stannis and his witch use dark magic to see the future. There are plots and more plots. And we learn about the characters’ motivations and backgrounds, making the new ones and old ones more human. It is definitely a fun read. A

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