A Storm of Swords by George R. R. Martin
I’ve spoken admiringly in the past of authors who have the guts to kill off beloved characters, but I think Martin may top them all. I never dreamed that I’d spend 3000 pages falling in love with an entire family, only to have half of them killed so needlessly. I had to put the book down for a while after the Red Wedding to recover myself. Losing those characters upset me so much that I didn’t mind when Martin went to some pretty extreme lengths to resurrect them, though usually those “gotcha!” explanations of chapters that only seemed to end in death would make me roll my eyes.
Daenerys’s plotline is always the most disconnected from the others, since she’s not even in Westeros, but in this novel it might have been my favorite. She is becoming such a bad ass, and growing into the queen with the strength and wisdom to unite the Seven Kingdoms again. That’s an ending I’m hoping for, anyway.
Tyrion is also a favorite character, and I liked watching his growth here again, especially the way he deals with his father’s abuse. He’s constantly disrespected merely because he’s a dwarf, by his family and by public opinion. The ending is heartbreaking for him, but he triumphs.
I was surprised to begin to hear from Jaime Lannister’s point of view in this novel, since he had always been a rather flat, villainous character up to this point. But once he began to fit in with the disabled characters that Martin seems so interested in, and his perspective began to grow accordingly, it made sense. I liked his interactions with Brienne of Tarth, and the way they both made each other see the world differently. She saw things in childishly stark black-and-white terms, and he complicated that for her, while he needed to learn to have faith in the possibility of keeping promises and upholding one’s honor. I almost wonder if there is the beginnings of a romance brewing here, but that still seems like a bit of a long shot.
Another fascinating thing in this novel is how mysteries from the first book are revealed, like who killed Jon Arryn and who sent the assassin to kill Bran Stark in his bed. Petyr Baelish is shaping up to be more of a power player than I could have previously dreamed. He’s a sicko, but smart as hell. When somebody asks a character why he did something unexpected, and his answer is basically, “to fuck with people,” then you’ve got a character who’s as unpredictable as he is ruthless, and you need a few of those for a book with as many surprises as this series has.
I found this book so engrossing, and it was difficult to step away from the story. I’m glad the books are so long because it means I get to enjoy them for a longer period of time.