Five years after my first reading, and inspired by the popularity of the television show, I’ve decided to revisit George R. R. Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire series. Follow along for the thoughts, connections, and new insights that come from reading a story the second time around. Catch up with the first installments here and here. Newcomers take note: MAJOR spoilers ahead.
Number of Narrators: 12
Number of Narrators Who Die a Horrible Death: 3
Number of Times the Phrase “Game of Thrones” is Uttered: 2
Number of Food Items Described: 77
Finally moving beyond material yet covered by the television show, A Storm of Swords is absolutely my favourite installment of the series, a sentiment echoed by Salon.com’s Andrew Leonard when he called it “the last truly satisfying installment in the series” in 2011. Plenty of adventure, action, tragedy, and more importantly, great arcs leading to some of the most earth-shattering events in the series yet.
In many ways, this book belongs to Jon Snow. His arc takes him not only from boy to man, with his doomed but enlightening romance with Ygritte, but from undercover wilding to Lord Commander of the whole damn wall – and his validation, when he’s chosen for the post by his brothers after proving himself in battle, is incredibly satisfying.
Arya, on the other hand, has already had her day in A Clash of Kings, and her story is getting tired. She’s free, she’s caught, she’s free, she’s caught by someone else, she rides around on a lot of horses, kills a few more people, and then thank the old gods and the new, she finally gets on a boat and goes somewhere – at the very end of the novel. I hear that Martin’s original intention was to skip the narrative ahead by five years somewhere around this point – and I’m starting to wish that he had. We know Arya’s headed for greatness, and following the path that Jaqen H’ghar laid out for her. I don’t need to hear all about Arya’s training to come – just bring her back as the kickass Faceless Person she’s being groomed to be, and she can summarize it for us later. Or am I just being hasty?
Sansa, who upon this rereading has been a much more tolerable character in many respects, gets married off to the Imp in this volume – and it just seems a bit pointless. They never connected, never had any interactions of significance, and I can only assume that this means their legal status will come into play in a later novel. Technically, Sansa is still heir to Winterfell… right? Or would that be Bran? And when will the mysteriously absent Rickon come into play?
My absolute favourite relationship in the entire world of Westeros gets developed in this book – Jaime and Brienne, the Kingslayer and the “wench.” When I say I love it, it’s not because I’m clasping my hands, waiting for a great romance to happen – I just adore the slow and steady development of trust and respect between the unlikely pair, and I think they have the potential to become the most badass, do-gooding dynamic duo the series will ever see. I’m sure one or both of them will perish in some dreadful, disappointing way, but I’m kind of hoping they get to team up and kick some serious ass first.
And of course, the death we’ve all been waiting for takes place in this books – you know I’m talking about King Joffrey the Evil Teenaged Snotrag, and it’s been a long time coming. But before we can celebrate, we’re assaulted by the infamous Red Wedding, an event that doesn’t come out of nowhere but is shocking in its ferocity, unfairness, and how quickly it changes the game. Three kings die in this book – but I don’t think any first-time readers would have expected one of them to be Robb Stark.
Suddenly, it’s anyone’s game.