The third book in the A Song of Ice and Fire series, it is as excellent as the first two books. As this was published in 2002, that comes as news to no one, but I am eagerly finishing the series. I have been borrowing the books from a friend, and am planning to try and read A Feast for Crows more slowly, as he has yet to get his copy of A Dance with Dragons. I hope my patience and restraint holds out.
A Storm of Swords is exciting, fast paced and as filled with jaw-dropping surprises as the first book. I had not liked the second as much as the first, but I appreciate it more having finished A Storm of Swords, because of how the plot points set up in the second pay off in this book. Events move along so quickly, it is sometimes hard to get a sense of how much time is actually passing, but there is still that same sense of foreboding and inevitability to the story, even though so much happens that is unexpected. The contenders in the game of thrones crash, the plight of the smallfolk in the realm (and of the slaves across the Narrow Sea) is desperate, and Littlefinger’s hand begins to be revealed. So many different plotlines, disconnected by time and space but still paralleling each other; it is very complex, and Martin seems to have a very tight control of his story.
Martin continues to develop his characters, giving greater insight into those who earlier seemed to be callous villains, most notably Jaime Lannister. He also continues to kill off key characters to move the story along, including, for the first time (that I can recall) a POV character. The women in the story continue to be complex and strong, acting to advance their own agendas within the constraints placed on women in this world. The exception to this is Sansa Stark, I think – she remains an unwitting pawn in plots beyond her comprehension, but seems to be maturing and becoming more aware. I have read somewhere that she symbolizes romantic ideals in the realm, and she seems to be slowly relinquishing her dreams as the realm continues to fall apart. Jon, Bran, Tyrion, Daenerys, and Arya continue to develop even as their paths seemingly diverge ever further. I hesitate to say more for fear of spoiling the story, as it seems I am not the only one a decade late to the party.