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