This is the third novel in GRRM’s “Song of Ice and Fire” series. Chronologically it continues, and in some cases, overlaps the second novel, A CLASH OF KINGS. The main characters are Sansa, Jon, Arya, Catlyn Stark, Jamie and Tyrell Lannister, Davos the onion knight, Samwell Tarly and Daenerys Targaryan. Some people might be slightly dismayed at the choice of Characters. I for one, don’t particularly care for the Davos storyline, and would rather have had more of Arya and Dany, but you don’t get to pick.
I was told by a random stranger this weekend, who saw the book cover, that this is the best one. It is good. I read this 1100 page novel in a weekend, and I don’t often do that. It was good enough that I decided more than once to forgo desperately needed sleep just to read a few more chapters. Some of these characters are ones I really enjoy, and I want to hear more about their stories. I’m keen to read the fourth book as soon as I finish the ones I have from the library.
I would say this book is an improvement over the previous one because I didn’t feel quite so much of the excessive name-glut that I felt with CLASH OF KINGS. Maybe I’m getting used to it, or maybe it’s because there wasn’t quite as much on-the-scene battle coverage. I still feel somewhat confused as to who all the people who held Harrenhal are, and which people defeated Theon in the last book, and who exactly those banners work for, but I’m starting to figure it out a little better. I must say that the appendix of names in the back doesn’t help me at all. It might help if it were alphabetized, but not when it’s by house.
As with many books, the strengths of these books are also their weaknesses. It’s great that there are a lot of characters, all with their own agendas, but it sucks that there are so many characters I have a hard time keeping them straight. It’s great that Martin is able to keep so many plotlines going simultaneously, but it’s frustrating to have to read about the characters with the less interesting plot lines just to get to the part I’m more interested in.
The greatest strength, and the greatest weakness of this series is the cliffhanger endings. Cliffhanger endings do keep the reader interested. Cliffhanger endings are what kept me reading past bedtime. But sometimes the lack of resolution irritates me. If person A has a goal at the beginning of the book, such as “meet person B” then the author should let them have met person B by the end of the book. Epic is nice, but I think any novel should have plotlines that end by the last page. Tension is great, but after a while you just want some resolution. Foreplay is great, but eventually you want to…okay, you get the picture.
I think the chapter endings are sometimes unnecessarily secretive, withholding information just to keep the reader in the dark for suspense reasons. For example, in one chapter, Arya sees a significant person hanging in a crow cage, and the chapter ends without revealing this person’s identity. Okay, fine. When we came to the next chapter involving Arya, they said who this person was. But later on, one of the Davos chapters ends with him showing the king a significant message which has been delivered by raven. I’d been primed to think that it was a big reveal cliffhanger that he’d tell us about later, but the next chapter didn’t say. It wasn’t until I finished the entire novel that I went “hey…WAIT! that must have been the message he read earlier in the chapter!” Why not just mention that? Does every chapter have to end with a secret?
I am interested enough to keep reading the series, but I hope that he doesn’t go the Robert Jordan route and start introducing more characters. I’m about at my max name-remembering-capacity with this book.