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A Storm of Swords: Part 1 Steel and Snow by George R R Martin

Winter approaches Westeros like an angry beast.

The Seven Kingdoms are divided by revolt and blood feud. In the northern wastes, a horde of hungry, savage people steeped in the dark magic of the wilderness is poised to invade the Kingdom of the North where Robb Stark wears his new-forged crown. And Robb’s defences are ranged against the South, the land of the cunning and cruel Lannisters, who have his younger sisters in their power.

Throughout Westeros, the war for the Iron Throne rages more fiercely than ever, but if the Wall is breached, no king will live to claim it.

Someone of you may have spotted that I started reading this gargantuan series just before the first season of the television adaption aired here in the UK. So far I’ve managed to stick to this routine. Book two was read last year and I’ve been waiting patiently for another year to pass before I could immerse myself in the lands of Westeros once again.

The War of the Five Kings continues and everywhere violence, treachery and political power-plays abound. Martin really likes to make his characters suffer doesn’t he? No one is safe from their creator’s steely gaze. Arya Stark, Davos Seaworth, Jamie Lannister, Samwell Tarly and Jon Snow, to name just a few, all have a pretty miserable time of it. I’ll avoid spoilers but it always impresses me when any author can make me feel sorry for a character who I originally found very difficult to like (I’m looking at you Sansa Stark!).

The Imp continues to remain a firm favourite of mine, and I suspect many others as well. I particularly enjoyed the verbal sparring between him and his father, Tywin. As before, I’m enthralled with Tyrion and his devious mind. I have started to notice something else though. The further along I get, the less and less able I am to separate out the written characters with their television counterparts. I just can’t read the books any more without picturing the actors who play them. Peter Dinklage is Tyrion, Charles Dance is Tywin, Iain Glen is Ser Jorah Mormont and so the list goes on.

As I’ve come to expect with A Song of Ice and Fire, there is an almost mind-bending HUGENESS to proceedings. A Storm of Swords is so big in fact that it’s been split in two. Such massiveness is not without some issues. At times it does feel like things are moving at a near glacial pace. It’s ok, I’ve made my peace with that. To be honest, I suppose it’s sort of what I want from my EPIC fantasy. I want a sense of stonkingly enormous scope, but at the same time I do want to be able to appreciate how it affects the life of the little guy (no direct reference to the Tyrion intended there… ok, perhaps just a bit). Martin obviously has a lot he wants to share with his readership and there is no denying that he does just that.

One of the drawbacks of reading the books at this pace is that avoiding spoilers is nigh on impossible. People are bound to talk, and the joys of social media has meant that on more than one occasion I’ve found myself starting at a computer screen going “oh so XXXX dies do they?”. Needless to say, I don’t blame anyone but myself. Off course people want to talk about Martin’s work. They feel the need to speculate about where things are going next or lament the loss of a character that meant something to them. The more of this series I read, the more I come to realise that I’m becoming part of a global spanning fraternity. You’ll be able to spot us at book conventions, wearing garments proudly emblazoned with the slogan “I survived A Storm of Swords and all I got was this lousy shirt”.

Season Three begins on 1st April in the UK. Once again, after luxuriating in the depths of Martin’s mighty tomes (that didn’t sound nearly as filthy in my head) I find that I can hardly wait. Please also remember to tune in again next year for A Storm of Swords Part II. As long as Martin keeps churning them out, I’m going to keep reading them. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again I’m in this for the long haul.

Steel and Snow

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