Saturday, November 1, 2014

A Storm of Swords Review

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One thing that people usually notice about a book right away is how long is. However, I got the first four books in a pack digitally, so I had no idea that A Storm of Swords is a whole third longer than the previous two books. Fortunately, the book does not slow down in the middle the way A Clash of Kings did. The momentum was maintained mainly through major character deaths, some false character deaths (making the reader think someone died when they did not), and an ever-increasing sense of the bigger picture and more impressive feats of magic. Martin still leaves enough time between each cool use of magic that each one is surprising and delightful. Kind of like how the Force seemed so much cooler in the original trilogy, before we had tons of Jedi running around using the Force willy-nilly.

I believe that this marks a turning point in the series when the conflicts that were focused on before no longer seem as important, and the real threat is revealed. It was also a turning point for many characters; some became more courteous, some discovered bravery, some became accustomed to killing, and many accepted their destiny and made difficult life decisions against the will of those who were trying to influence them. I finished the book with a wildly different opinion of most of the perspective characters than I started the book with. As someone who enjoys character development more than anything else in storytelling, I appreciate this.

In the past the multiple perspective characters served the purpose of allowing the reader to know what was happening in different parts of the world. For the most part there was one perspective character per location. A Storm of Swords changes that by moving characters around and sometimes showing the same events from different perspectives. The first few times perspective characters came near each other I giggled to myself because they often had no idea how close they were to each other. Over time however it became the norm.

After reading three of George RR Martin's books in a row I have become quite accustomed to his writing style. For one thing, it has become quite obvious that he loves building one expectation for a situation and then completely changing the outcome at the last second. As a result, whenever a character I care about seems to be in dire peril I relax because I know they will probably get out of it unscathed. On the other hand, if things have been going well for someone for a while, I start to get tense because I know it will not last long. I have also noticed several phrases that Martin uses a lot. The one that really started to bug me was "half a hundred". Whenever there were a large (but not overwhelming) number of countable objects, someone would remark or think to themselves that "there must be half a hundred of them."

One running joke that I found odd was the song "The Bear and the Maiden Fair." I do not remember anybody mentioning the song in either of the previous books, but suddenly everyone seems to know it. Any time someone sings, there is about a 50% chance that it will be "The Bear and the Maiden Fair." It was funny, but I don't understand how it goes from nothing to #1 pop song in Westeros when they don't have mass media.

Despite its length, A Storm of Swords is my favorite book so far in A Song of Ice and Fire. Because of its length though I think I need to take a break from the series to get caught up on Star Wars novels. Shouldn't take long.