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    A STORM OF SWORDS by George R. R. Martin

    Spectrum, Bantam Books, November 2000

    A STORM OF SWORDS continues George R. R. Martin's popular fantasy series (begun with the powerful GAME OF THRONES and the exciting A CLASH OF KINGS). The revolution that began at the end of GAME OF THRONES continues, but the central authorities and the Lannisters seem to have the upper hand. Robb Stark has never been defeated in battle but continues to lose momentum politically. Stannis Baratheon has killed his brother but has been defeated by the Lannisters and now barely hangs on in his remote island. Tywin Lannister has taken a much more active role reining in both his daughter, the Queen Mother; Joffrey, the young king; and Tyrion the Imp.

    Martin chooses to narrate the story from a number of character viewpoints with characters scattered around the seven kingdoms. Primary viewpoint characters include members of the Stark family (Sansa, still a captive in King's Landing; Arya, fleeing from King's Landing who takes up with the Hound; Bran, the injured boy who seeks a teacher to free his shape-changing gift; Lady Catelyn, their mother; and Jon Snow, Eddard Stark's bastard son, now a member of the black watch); Jaime and Tyrion Lannister; Davos, the 'Onion Knight' of Stannis Baratheon; Samwell, a member of the black watch and friend to Jon; and Daenerys, the Targaryen pretender and dragon-lord. With the vast size of this novel (over 900 pages plus appendices in the hardback edition), Martin manages this approach, leaving the reader hanging on a number of plot hooks.

    In A STORM OF SWORDS, Martin continues his approach of killing off major characters, a tactic that adds to the emotional charge of the novel. Matters outside of the seven kingdoms also become increasingly important. North of the wall, the free people are restive, building their forces for an assault on the Wall and the depleted Black Watch. Daenerys has gradually transformed herself from a helpless female and symbol to a complex character who drives those around her rather rather than taking direction from them. Indeed, Martin uses A STORM OF SWORDS to develop emotional complexity into several important characters including Jaime Lannister who has previously been fairly one dimensional. In contrast, the Stark family, who were the powerful drivers of THE GAME OF THRONES seem to have lost dimension.

    Martin's writing style is highly approachable and compelling. Although the size of this novel will intimidate some readers, it is hard to put down and can be read fairly quickly. Readers who have not read the earlier novels in this series should probably do so. A STORM OF SWORDS does not stand especially well on its own. Fans of the series will not want to miss this one. The world landscape is completely transformed over the period of this novel.

    See more reviews of novels by George R. R. Martin.

    Four Stars

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