With this third hit in a row, I think it’s appropriate to call the Song of Fire and Ice series a phenomenon. Just when you think things can’t get any better, Martin turns out another gem. Judging from the previews for the next book, A Feast for Crows, things are bound to get even more exciting. I can only hope that this series doesn’t turn into a certain other series that started out promising then bogged down completely so that by the time the tenth book rolls around, readers are forced to stomp their feet in angry frustration.
Elements that make the first two book great are all here: tightly crafted narratives, convincing and memorable characters, realistic dialogues, exotic locales, and intriguing plots. Martin continues to make bold strokes which are completely unexpected. He introduces the point-of-view of Jaime Lannister for the first time. The Kingslayer turns out to be a far more complex character than his reputation thus far may indicate. More than ever before, readers will be completely unsure whom to root for. Martin goes on to eliminate a major character who had appeared certain to survive the series. This may come as a complete shock to many, even to those who have come to expect the unexpected. It would be wise not to become too attached to any character. Nonetheless, I must admit to having grown rather fond of little Arya and her nightly litany of the villains on her “hitlist” (Joffrey, the Tickler, the Hound, Ralf the Sweetling, etc.)
In the aftermaths of the Battle of the Blackwater, the field of contenders for the throne is narrowed considerably. Stannis retreats to Dragonstone to lick his wounds, while the Lannisters form new alliances and are stronger than ever. Now firmly ensconced on the Iron Throne, Joffrey rules with unbridled cruelty, and only Tyrion dares to stand up to him. In the north, Robb is beset on all sides and the future looks even bleaker for the Starks. Bran is gradually gaining awareness of his shapeshifting ability in his journey to the north in search of the three-eyed crow. Arya faces many perils on her wanderings, but is getting closer to home. Sansa is more miserable than ever, but is becoming stronger and wiser. Jon makes a fateful decision that would ultimately gain him great esteem, but leave him with a broken heart. In the east, Daenerys is building a formidable army; when her dragons become fully grown, she would become invincible indeed. Samwell Tarly gets his fair share of space, though he’s one of the few characters who don’t appear to have much impact, yet.
The story has grown more complex and the setting has become richer than ever. Martin has gotten a real mess on his hand, and whatever the outcome of the series, it would be phenomenal. The only complaint anyone could have against the series is the wait between installments. But if the first three books are any indication, it is well worth it.
Originally posted March 20, 2003 on Amazon.com