A Storm of Swords

What !?! You haven't read George R. R. Martin's A Storm of Swords!?! I figure that many newbies will be shocked to learn that such is the case. The funny thing is that I bought the novel when it was originally published in hardcover. Yeah, way back in 2000. . . If you wish to discover how I was able to show such self-control, read my reviews of both A Game of Thrones and A Clash of Kings. And if you must blame someone for my shortcoming, then blame GRRM. I certainly do!;-)

The hype surrounding A Storm of Swords has reached such a degree that I felt it was well nigh impossible for the book to live up to such high expectations. Hence, though I was aware that the novel would be good, I expected to feel a certain sense of disappointement as well. Oddly enough, regardless of the unbelievably lofty expectations, A Storm of Swords more than lives up to the hype. Astonishingly so, to be honest. The third volume of A Song of Ice and Fire elevates the series to a level which is seldom attained. It is indeed one of the best fantasy novels I have ever read.

What is probably the most remarkable feature of this book is that, although it weighs in at 973 pages in hardback, there is not a single dull moment throughout. Martin plotted and paced this one close to perfection. Unlike Jordan, who bored and aggravated us countless times with sequences showcasing the endless bickering of Elayne, Aviendha and Nynaeve, or Erikson with those Mhybe chapters, in A Storm of Swords GRRM keeps his writing tight and the rhythm crisp. In and of itself, considering the length of the book, that's incredible. Time flies by, and it feels as though you're reading a 300-page thriller.

Another facet which differentiates Martin from his peers is the structure of the series. GRRM's multiple-character POV format precludes him from producing something as vast in scope as The Wheel of Time or The Malazan Book of the Fallen, even though ASOIAF is a far-reaching saga. And yet, it gives the reader a more intimate look at what is occurring, allowing us a delve more profoundly into each character and thus experiencing their motivations with more depth, which in turn gives us the opportunity to a undergo a more "genuine" reading experience. At times it feels as though you're right there. And in the end, that's something that no other fantasy author can provide -- at least not at this level.

Needless to say, there are more twists and turns in A Storm of Swords than in most fantasy series. This volume moves the story forward much more than the previous two put together. It will be interesting to see how the repercussions will reverberate in the subsequent ASOIAF installments.

Though the plotting and politicking remain two of my favorite aspects of the series, the characterization is the facet which makes A Song of Ice and Fire what it is. My favorite characters -- Jon, Tyrion and Arya -- somehow managed to survive yet another book. No small feat, considering the body count in this one! I was surprised by how easily GRRM was able to make us root for characters that used to be the "bad guys," such as Jaime and the Hound.

I felt that the epilogue was particularly anti-climactic, until I discovered who the cloaked figure turned out to be. What a way to leave the readers hanging. . .

The American Tolkien -- or so has George R. R. Martin been dubbed. I think not. . . No disrespect, but J. R. R. Tolkien never wrote anything this good.

The final verdict: 10/10
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23 commentaires:

Adam Whitehead said...

Congratulations, Pat. Better late than never! Interesting to see what your take on AFFC is since you don't have to wait five years for it...

cedunkley said...

I'm taking my time with Martin's epic story. In 2007 I read the 1st two books and am about 1/3 through A Storm Of Swords.

This series clearly stands above anything else being published (and there are some really good books out there). I agree that characterization is what puts this at the top of the pile of current fantasy.

I usually jump around between a few different series at the same time anyway, and that has helped me take my time here. I'm hoping that I won't be ready to start Feast until Dance is set to finally be published.

Rob Diana said...

Well said. I believe GRRM is "underrated" currently. ASOIAF is beyond anything we have seen in the scifi/fantasy world, but he is not given quite that much respect. Now, if you read Feast too soon you too will have a long and agonizing wait.

Dliwir said...

I couldn't agree more. It really is one of the best fantasy books out there.

AFFC is a really good book too, but I think because of the "character split" it fails to reach the level of A Storm of Swords.

The wait after AFFC has been long, and will be a bit longer still. The new Jon sample chapter on Martin's website isn't helping either..

Vol said...

Don't feel too bad. I am halfway through A Clash of Kings, and although I don't agree with Rob that GRRM is underrated, I will state I think he's at the top of the SF/F list of best authors, along with Hobb

Larry said...

While I'll agree it's one of the best examples of the epic fantasy form, I disagree with those stating it's one of the best of all-time in any fantasy-related field. Then again, people have different preferences, but I found Gene Wolfe's The Book of the New Sun series to be more engaging and well-written, especially on a re-read. SOIAF doesn't hold that level of re-readability for me. But it certainly is a very strong work in progress.

Scott Marlowe said...

Sorry, just not a big Martin fan. I read A Game of Thrones and the subsequent book in the series and, well, while I liked the first book, the second book was just a waste. Nothing happens. I also don't really go for the vulgarity. Porn has its place; I just don't like it in my fantasy. He's absolutely a great writer. It's the content I find lacking. Tolkien? Oh, please. Don't even try to make that comparison.

Anonymous said...

China Mieville said it best on Tolkein:
"Tolkien is the wen on the arse of fantasy literature. His oeuvre is massive and contagious - you can't ignore it, so don't even try. The best you can do is consciously try to lance the boil. And there's a lot to dislike - his cod-Wagnerian pomposity, his boys-own-adventure glorying in war, his small-minded and reactionary love for hierarchical status-quos, his belief in absolute morality that blurs moral and political complexity. Tolkien's cliches - elves 'n' dwarfs 'n' magic rings - have spread like viruses. He wrote that the function of fantasy was 'consolation', thereby making it an article of policy that a fantasy writer should mollycoddle the reader."

Talavar said...

I think I can say without arguement, that China Mieville, however much I like his novels, is a pompous douchebag.

Storm of Swords might very well be the best GRRM novel published thus far. Is it very good? Yes. Is it better than Tolkien? No. But really Pat, how can you be a fan and not have read it until this late date?

Ron said...

The comparison to Tolkien is bizarre. It would be like saying that someone today is a better playwright than Sophocles. You cannot compare anyone to the man who essentially founded the genre. That said, I would place Erikson, Martin, and Hobb at the top of the genre today.

Larry said...

Poor E.R. Eddison. His The Worm Ouroboros, which was released in the 1920s and which Tolkien noted there were certain elements that he used, isn't even being considered? Not to mention the poor writers, poets, and bards of the previous 5 millenia, as they too influenced Tolkien and many other writers of the fantastic. That being said, Tolkien was very influential on mid-to-late 20th century epic fantasy writing, but critics such as Miéville, influenced by other fantasy traditions (one of the more recent ones being Mervyn Peake and his Gormenghast novels), do have a point. Not a pleasant one and one that could have been reworded to be more polite, but a point nonetheless.

thornofcamorr said...

Just because Tolkien borrowed from other things, doesn't make those other things as good or better than Tolkien by default.

Anonymous said...

The tolkein comparison is ridiculous.
And 10/10? Your a kiss ass pat.

smsc said...

Hear, Hear!! Couldn't have said it better!!

Anonymous said...

Oh, yes, now I can say what I thought of GRRM: bleh...

Actually, the first book was okay, but it just went downhill from there. So many depressing things happening and so many "surprise" twists makes it all meaningless and, again, just bleh.

Well-written...for anyone with the vocabulary of a 10-year old.

If he's the best fantasy writer ever, then I pity the fantasy genre.

Patrick said...

Well, it all come down to a question of taste, of course.

Personally, Tolkien never did it for me. I acknowledge that none of us would be here if it weren't for the man, and he has my profound respect for what he has accomplished.

A Storm of Swords is hands down better than anything Tolkien has ever written -- in this house. Though I understand how many readers can dislike GRRM, ASoS had everything -- and I mean everything -- I'm looking for in a book. And from where I'm sitting, only a handful of fantasy books I've read in the last 22 years are as good as ASoS.

But again, that's just me...:-)

Cecrow said...

Good on you for always standing up for what you like; that's why we read you, Pat! :)

I don't think ASOS is going to be genre-changing/establishing like LOTR was, but I love the no-sacred-cows approach that opens this type of novel wide open. I can see how people looking for escapism would be put off by the tragic aspects, but like GRRM says if you know anybody can die in any chapter, you're on the edge of your seat in every scene. Either GRRM doesn't know the meaning of "deux ex machina" or he utterly despises the concept, and this reader appreciates it.

I read in an early interview that this style was inspired by Tad Williams' "Memory, Sorrow and Thorn"; there's some resemblance, but Martin does it even better.

Anonymous said...

AFfC was a let-down imho. Nowhere near as good as the first three books. ASoS is the best so far, i agree.
And GRRM underrated?! lol... I definitely do not agree.

I have to say that i like Erikson even better than GRRM, though. I would put him on the top of the pile ;)

ChiBlade said...

ASoS really does deserve that 10/10 you gave it.

I've read through ASoIaF up to ASoS. Of the many fantasy novels I've read I can count the number of them that were as good as ASoS on one hand.

And GRRM underrated? I depends where you ask, but in the fantasy community the guy is definitely not!

And the comparison to Tolkien... It doesn't work. Tolkien is the father of a genre. And however groundbreaking ASoIaF is, its still derivative of the one guy who took all the tropes of fantasy and combined them into a cohesive genre in a single work of outstanding fiction. Its like comparing Tennessee Williams to Shakespeare.

Anonymous said...

I agree with a ten on ten rating for this book. aSoS is at the top when it comes to pace and plotting. Things keep happening, and not randomly at all.
The problem, though, is that aSoS is a once only read for me. I've tried re-reading it, but with the element of surprise gone, the book leaves me cold.
Still, a great book that deserves to be at the top of the epic fantasy tree.

Jason M. Adams said...

The American Tolkien -- or so has George R. R. Martin been dubbed. I think not. . . No disrespect, but J. R. R. Tolkien never wrote anything this good.

You just became my favorite fantasy blogger.

Anonymous said...

Pat, I'd be interested to know what books you've read over the last 22 years you consider equal or better ASoS.

Anonymous said...

Here and there I see people bashing G.R.R.M's "prose" or "vocabulary". Sure it is an aspect of writing, but is it the most important one in a global world? As someone whose language is not English,I doubt it. A lot of people around the world reads tranlations of they look at other stuff in literature, the story, the craft, characters, emotions, exploraiton of humans..and Martin suceeds there. A lot.

ASoS is the best fanatsy book I have ever read, I'd give it 11/10 as I very much doubt I will ever see any book coming close to the satiftifaction it gives in my lifetime.