A Storm of Swords is excellent. There really is no other way to describe it.
When I picture George RR Martin at work, I see a writing cave (literally) with a map of the Seven Kingdoms on the rocky wall in front of him. He uses pins to mark each character’s location and after each chapter he has to reset the map because they are almost all constantly on the move. When he kills a character, their pin is moved to the deceased wall which is growing more crowded with each page he writes. On the wall behind him, he has maps of the major family trees. He uses a red marker to line through each character he kills and then circles the new “king” from that family in gold. It is sufficient to say that he used his red and gold markers several times in ASOS. The red marker is, in fact, probably out of ink.
The race to the Iron Throne is at high speed and Martin treats us to many revelations, heartbreaks and surprises in this installment.
So, why did I only give A Storm of Swords 4-stars?
There were several sections with pacing issues. From 40%-60%, it is very slow with random bursts of major occurrences. The final 40% of the story is extremely fast paced and even rushed in a few spots. It seemed that Martin had mapped out the story and knew that he needed to get these plot points into play so they were introduced in a way that didn’t flow with his normal writing patterns.
Lastly, and this isn’t Martin’s fault but just a fact of life, I was spoiled by the TV show. I’ve never watched GOT on HBO but I’m online a decent amount which means that I see things. I can’t get angry about the spoilers because I’ve always argued that once a book, movie or TV show is released, it’s up to ME to avoid spoilers and not up to those who’ve already seen or read it to keep their mouth shut. (A little common courtesy is nice with ‘spoiler alerts’ but after a while even those aren’t really fair to ask for.)
There are two major events – one more heartbreaking than the other – that I already knew about before I reached those pages. Because one was so heartbreaking, I didn’t want to read it. In my head until I saw the words with my own eyes it wouldn’t be true. Because of this, ASOS sat on my nightstand for close to 10 months. I would pick it up and read a page or two and then put it aside. Last week I finally decided that it was time to bite the bullet, rip the band-aid and take my medicine. I knew that if I got through THAT scene then I would finish the rest of the book in record time.
And, I did. Broken heart and all.