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It Was a Dark and Stormy Sword - The Book of the Celestial Cow

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September 19th, 2012

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10:57 pm - It Was a Dark and Stormy Sword
For all you A Song of Ice and Fire fans who have been waiting for me to get through A Game of Thrones and A Clash of Kings so I could get to this book: the time has come.

A Storm of Swords, by George R.R. Martin, is the most-hyped book in the series. Every fan of the series waits for a new reader to get to this book. You are not prepared, they say. You are never prepared.

They were right.

Although a lot of the hype surrounding this book concerns one particular scene—which is one of the most gutting, viscerally distressing scenes I have ever read—to reduce it all to that scene would do it a great injustice. In truth, this book contains a multitude of mind-melting plot twists and revelations, many of them paying off plots or character development from the first book. The world George R.R. Martin has created is so engrossing that it is immensely rewarding when you discover something or someone from a thousand pages ago is suddenly relevant. And, as always, he doesn't do things for shock value: nearly every terrible event in the series can be traced back to a bad decision or mistake a character made. Despite the inevitability of certain events, there are surprises at every turn, some badass and some just bad.

But this series isn't just about drowning in WTFery: it's about characters. And this book makes it clear that there really are two major stories going on. The adults are busy fighting over Westeros, and the children are busy growing up. The characters of the younger generation all have coming-of-age stories, but they're all different and varied. Bran is getting in touch with his inner warg. Arya is developing into a fearsome fighter. Jon must find his place in the world beyond the Wall. Robb is learning what it takes to be a powerful king, and Dany is learning what it takes to be a powerful queen. Sansa is seeing the world for the terrible place it is. And Joffrey? Fuck Joffrey. Meanwhile, Catelyn, Davos, and Tyrion are simply doing what they think is best, even if the people they're advising don't agree. And let's welcome Samwell motherfucking Tarly to the fold, shall we? He's the Neville Longbottom of this series. And then there's Jaime, who is one of the most surprising characters I've ever encountered, as I went from hating him in the first two books to falling madly in love with him in this book. I looked forward to his chapters more than anyone else's—even Arya's, although she remains my favorite character—because he was so entertaining.

All of these plots and characters are handled masterfully by GRRM, who continues to play with perspective and truth, introducing me to the concept of third-person unreliable narrators. He knows just how to manipulate the reader without making the reader feel manipulated. The result is a book that constantly left my mouth agape or my soul destroyed. Screams of joy and screams of agony are equally likely.

The last book felt like a transitional book because it was transitioning to this. There's so much payoff here, but there are also plenty of huge game-changing moments that open up the story to go in new directions, as there are still four massive books to go!
Current Mood: draineddrained
Current Music: Nirvana - Sifting (2009 Remastered Version)

(7 memoirs | Describe me as "inscrutable")


[User Picture]
Date:September 20th, 2012 03:06 pm (UTC)
Oh, man, I still remember coming to the end of ASoS and discovering (this was 2002) that there were NO MORE BOOKS and it was literally like slamming into a brick wall--that was the kind of adrenaline rush occasioned by that book. ;)
[User Picture]
Date:September 20th, 2012 04:55 pm (UTC)
I was always randomly thinking about that when I was reading these books: "Oh gawd, what if I were reading them as they came out and I had to wait five years for the resolution of [whatever unfinished plot point]?" And of course the ones that GRRM doesn't address immediately would leave people waiting eleven years -- I honestly think I would have given up on the series.
[User Picture]
Date:September 21st, 2012 10:54 pm (UTC)
I also read the first three books (since that's all there were) in 2002. And I certainly haven't given up on the series at all, but I will say that having to wait so long for the next book, and then having to wait yet again...well, it did drain my enthusiasm somewhat. I mean, I was really really eager for more when I finished A Storm of Swords, but I have a difficult time maintaining that level of excitement and eagerness for a long time (plus I have a terrible terrible memory for plot) so by the time the next book actually came out I wasn't half as eager. To the point that I had no trouble waiting for it to come out in paperback before I even bothered buying it.

It also didn't help that I wasn't a big fan of A Feast for Crows, so then I was even less eager for the next book. I think if I'd been able to go straight from SoS to FfC to DwD I would have been more enthusiastic.

This all makes me sound a lot more negative on the series than I intend to sound. My feelings are actually very positive, but I do think being able to read them all straight through (er...not that it's over yet) is an advantage. If it weren't for the fact that it's now a hit TV show, so people are talking about it all over the place, I'd recommend to interested people that they wait until the whole series is finished before they start reading.

Edited at 2012-09-21 10:55 pm (UTC)
[User Picture]
Date:September 21st, 2012 11:16 pm (UTC)
I was going to wait! But then there was a TV show and everyone was talking about it. So. Like you said.
[User Picture]
Date:September 22nd, 2012 02:25 am (UTC)
This is definitely one of GRRM's greatest strengths: third-person unreliable narrators

And you are so lucky that you get to read books 4 and 5 right away! You might want to check this recommended reading order out: http://boiledleather.com/post/25902554148/a-new-reader-friendly-combined-reading-order-for-a (no spoilers there). It might alleviate some of the frustrations I remember feeling when Feast lacked so many good characters.
[User Picture]
Date:September 22nd, 2012 06:13 am (UTC)
This is easily one of my favourite books in all the world, and I think it was just as much of an adventure following you through it as it was reading it for the first time myself. Thanks for ride. I'm very much looking forward to AFFC.
[User Picture]
Date:October 2nd, 2012 04:11 pm (UTC)
This is a wonderful book - so many "Meh?!" characters were transformed for me in this book into favourites that I feel like it is the highlight of the series so far.

And Joffrey? Fuck Joffrey.
Best. Quote. Ever.

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