This is the third book in George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Fire and Ice series. Here you can find my reviews for the first two: A Game of Thrones and A Clash of Kings. I haven’t hated the series, but I also haven’t been hugely fond of it. The second book felt like a definitive step up from the first… but the third one isn’t exactly an improvement.
This book is about a thousand pages long (no exaggeration) so you’re stuck with it for the long haul if you decide to start reading. But, to its credit, there are some interesting events that occur throughout the book which help to pass the time by. Even non-Game of Thrones fans have probably heard about the infamous “Red Wedding” and it’s in this book in which it occurs. It was pretty surprising – though I wasn’t all that moved by it because I didn’t feel enormously invested in the characters it happened to. I’d say there are a lot of characters in this book who I’m mostly indifferent to.
Nonetheless, that’s not true of everybody. I still enjoyed Tyrion Lannister, who tries to change things in this horrible world for the greater good. His storyline continued to interest me – particularly the way in which he crossed paths with Sansa Stark. This book also gives us chapters from the perspective of Jamie Lannister – someone who I really disliked at first, but who slowly seemed to become more likeable as he seemed to come to realise the corruption of his world. For most of his story, he is escorted by Brienne of Tarth, a female knight. Really irritatingly, the book is full of endless references to her being very “ugly” and it seems that George R. R. Martin is keen for his readers to know whether or not a woman is conventionally attractive as he goes on about it all the time. However, I did actually quite like Brienne as she was one of the few actually likeable characters in the whole thing.
Other things I enjoyed included adding Samwell Tarly as a perspective character. He was always a nice, sensitive character and I appreciated him getting more focus. His personality type is quite rare in this world. Arya Stark also continued to be an interesting and likeable character, making her way around the hostile world as a scrappy young girl.
However, positives aside, this was still a very flawed book. He continues to write all of his female characters in a leery, creepy sort of way and I found myself shaking my head in disappointment at it countless times. We get a lot of insight into the backstories of the characters in this book, which can be interesting, but often felt pretty forced – with characters just randomly recounting a long story from their past every now and then and it happens quite a few times too. Some of them felt a little needlessly detailed too – which is a good comment on the book overall. There’s so much detail on clothes, food, rooms and all kinds of other things. If a strict editor looked through it, I reckon a couple hundred pages could have been trimmed.
Overall, I don’t think this was an improvement over the second book. In fact, I’d say it was just a little bit worse, mainly because it was several hundred pages longer and there was more of it for me to get through. Some interesting developments for sure, but, boy, is it a slog.