HarperVoyager: paperback published 2011: 554 pages
Fear cuts deeper than swords
The Starks are scattered. Robb Stark may be King in the North, but he must bend to the will of the old tyrant Walder Frey if he is to hold his crown. And while his younger sister, Arya, has escaped the clutches of the depraved Cersei Lannister and her son, the capricious boy-king Joffrey, Sansa Stark remains their captive, trapped in marriage with Joffrey’s deformed uncle, the embittered dwarf Tyrion. Meanwhile, across the ocean, Daenerys Stormborn, the last heir of the Dragon king, delivers death to the slave-trading cities of Astapor and Yunkai as she approaches Westeros with vengeance in her heart.
First off, whoever writes these blurbs needs to step away from the adjectives (“depraved”, “capricious” and “embittered” all in one sentence is a bit much). Second of all, do NOT blame me if you read a spoiler in this review because it’s basically getting impossible to write them without giving anything away…
George R.R Martin has a fantastic ability to kill people off. I mean, seriously. To be able to write a series on this scale is impressive enough, so inevitably he’s got to kill a few characters off because there simply isn’t enough room for them all – but he keeps going with these story arcs and then just cutting them short. If you haven’t read this book, there is one chapter that will make you sob like a child. I’m not exaggerating – Mummaloo was horrified when her daughter started booing her eyes out over a character in a book to the point that she couldn’t speak.
I knew there was a reason I loved these books, and I think the brutality of it is kind of part of it. It’s as close to reality as you could suppose – sometimes, heroes die. Sometimes, you quite like the bad guy because he gets all the best lines and actually he’s not that bad (*ahem* Jaime Lannister). This book begins simply enough – Daenerys is freeing lots of slaves, (woo, go Dany!). But by the end you’re emotionally exhausted. To shamelessly quote my own Twitter: “Dear George R.R Martin, please stop killing people off, I can’t take any more! Yours sincerely, Heartbroken of Hants”. So just to warn you, this book gets brutal.
There’s a lot of character growth too – lesser characters become more formidable and bigger characters are fleshed out with emotions you never thought they could have. We’re three books (four volumes) in by now, and I find myself starting to really invest in the characters – really root for them and get that heart-in-throat feeling when it starts to go wrong. You can’t stop reading, because you’ve got to make sure they’re okay… by the way, has anyone done the skipping ahead to check whose names are on future chapters to make sure they’re still alive yet? And does anyone else find the Red Priestess FREAKY!?
I’m pretty sure I’ve predicted Jon Snow’s story arc though. This doesn’t make it boring, it just makes me very proud of him. When it comes to awesomeness, he pretty much IS.
But it must be getting boring to hear me go on about how brilliant these books are, so I have one criticism – in the Epilogue, a character should NOT be there. Giving it away would give away the sobbing bit. But suffice to say, as lovely as it is to read about this character again, I’m not sure what good it will do in the long run.
But the books are still brilliant.
Next book: I am so exhausted by this one, that I am going for a change. A thin, light-hearted novellette, if you will – A Study in Scarlet by Arthur Conan Doyle.