I just mentioned the word humble in the title to lure you in. So, now that you’re here let’s get this review started.
Talking of course about the third (or third and fourth) novel in the Song of Ice and Fire saga by George R. R. Martin. Let’s keep this shit real: by now I am addicted to this series like Whitney Houston to crack. Only with more positive side effects.
I guess I read the UK paperback issue, cause I read two books: A Storm of Swords – Steel and Snow and A Storm of Swords – Blood and Gold. Which tells us that the thing is long and which of course makes us giggle a little, cause heehee, we’re in on it, right? Steel and Snow, that’s like Jon SNOW on the wall (arms and all) and Blood and Gold, if that’s not referring to the Lannisters, to what else, asketh I. It is the third instalment in the series (my reviews of no. 1 HERE and of no. 2 HERE) and was published in 2000. I’ve already confessed my addiction to the saga, but nonetheless there is stuff that I liked and some that I didn’t, so keeping with trahdishion I give you a rundown of Minuses and Pluses with a little Could-Be-Both in between.
The whole “Jon Snow is a turncloak” and the ensuing election of a new commander of the Night’s Watch left me all a little underwhelmed. Granted, it wasn’t horrible, but it was a tad too obvious and Janos Slynt in combo with Alliser Thorne was just too bad a villain to be taken as a serious threat. So Jon Snow is Commander of the Night’s Watch now? How will that tie in with him being the son of Rhaegar and Lyanna and supposed future king…oops, just wondering about some theories there. Unfortunately he became a bit of an asshole, which is sad, cause he was a favorite character before.
Oh, the fuck with the whole Lord of Light business. R’hllor sucks, that’s what it is. As a god and kinda as a storyline. His whole Christian god yet not Christian god shenanigans get on my nerves and Melisandre better start bringing some kickass bad or she’ll be the blandest mysterious women all in red in the history of gods who set swords on fire. Can somebody just shoot her and make her go away?
I’m being a bit unfair with Melisandre here, cause my real issue lies with R’hllor and the potential storylines I see coming with him/her/it. But then again, Melisandre’s character is basically nothing but a spokesperson for team R’hllor, so there.
To my non-joy there is also the whole Dondarrion/Thoros fraction praising his ass and we don’t even wanna go into Lady Stoneheart territory.
The whole Greyjoy family, well maybe for the exception of Asha, sucks, at least IMHO. I get it, we are supposed to get an insight into their plotting and we need a setup for Crow’s Eye and the havoc he is about to wreak upon Westeros and its political system, but – and I can’t even explain why – I just don’t like to read about them, least of all about the Drowned God and this whole bullshit. I remember being really pumped about the whole religious systems co-existing in Westeros in the beginning, with the Seven and the Old Gods, but now all we get is some Norse myth in masks and pseudo-Christianity and the fun of reading about religious underpinnings is gone. Can the Old Gods please make an appearance? Like, let all the weirwoods cry blood?
Handling of the wildlings
In my last review I bitched and moaned about how I didn’t wanna read about the wildlings cause I expected what, well, actually happened. That’s us being told that they’re all actually human and have their own sorrows and their own honor and alla that which is blurgh, cause: really? I could’ve told you three years ago. Having said that making them all just fodder for a mandatory epic battle that turns out to kinda not be so epic feels like betraying them and what they actually could have been and the threat they could have posed to the Seven Kingdoms. Now that they are gone as a storyline I kinda miss them, but most of all because of the potential they actually had as such.
You know what, Littlefinger used to be such an entertaining and interesting character. And now he is just a vile manipulator that schemes his way into positions, Lysa Arryn’s bed and poor Sansa’s life and innocence. Argh, he really is the scrupulous fuck he always claimed to be and it ain’t half as much fun as thinking he might just be saying it and actually be an awesome kid.
She sucks more from a meta-point-of-view in that she feels so totally like a constructed character that is there to serve a purpose that it makes it hard for me to believe her actions, words and supposed motivations. Also, despite the Eyrie probably being a really pretty place, all the shit taking place there since book one continues to cement its status as most dreadful places of them all in the Seven Kingdoms, complete with a caricature of a female ruler, which is really just a little pathetic.
What leaves me neither hot nor cold is once again Dany. Her storyline isn’t actually bad, the whole Unsullied business and freeing slaves all over the east (not to mention glimpsing at those ancient cities) is pretty neat, but then there is the whole “was Rhaegar really the greatest man in all of history I wonder” business mixed with the “Oh no, Ser Jorah betrayed me, and you too Ser Barristan whose name I just learned, but I forgive you” and the “cute, my dragons are like kittens, they hiss and fly and kill, heehee, cute” thing. Ermh, I don’t know, it’s all not terrible but it is also not great and reads rather like some teenage girl-grows-up-to-be-a-princess thing which, well, aren’t there other options?
But since we all know that by the end of this saga Daenerys is going to rule the entire world, let’s see if coming plot-twists will make her journey a tad more interesting.
Admittedly, I wasn’t an Ygritte fan at first, but damn, girl grew on me fast. Her practical down-to-earth-ness and her keeping it real all the time with anyone made me give her my reading heart and also admittedly her tragic death kinda cemented that status.
You know nothing, Jon Snow. Nuff said.
What a shocker, we get to read Jaime’s POV. And even more of a shocker: it is actually really kinda awesome. Cause of course he’s an asshole-ish prick, but hearing about his motivations and learning about his outer and inner journey made me really appreciate him as a character. Plus of course, his totally seeing what goes wrong with his twin-sister and her attempts of keeping the peace.
I am also really really fond of him losing his hand and what it does to him in terms of finding the inner human being again. Not even mentioning the potential love-story unfolding here.
And how heart-wrenching is it that he lied to Tyrion all these years and finally admits it – only being lied to in return (and setting up some major future conflict here). Poor Lannisters, they just don’t know how to.
Speaking of potential love-stories unfolding: How incredibly gorgeous is Brienne of Tarth as a character? Not only is she righteous and honest and dutiful, but girl is so out of the box for everyone and goes against anything that the Westerosi belive in that it chokes me with tears, because she is Samwell-Tarly-level of awesome in being the ugly duckling that is really just the mightiest of them swans in all of birds on water history. Can somebody please give her a little kiss on the cheek from me? Kthanx.
He ruled ever since, right? Everyone loves Tyrion and everyone should, cause he survives and he saves Joffrey’s reign (though he hates his guts), he is the most awesome unwanted husband anyone could ever have (Sansa, be grateful), he treats his favorite whore nicely (and she is being a dick in return) and ta-dah: he finally kills the super-villain that is his father and does away with his stuck-up-ness and frees us from the one on team evil that can actually hold it together and make evil work.
Wonder where he is and when he’ll show up. Miss you, Ty, come back soon, please.
Arya and Sandor Clegane
Awww, the Hound, good old houndy Hound, how we always kinda knew you had a heart of gold and now that you’re with Arya who is cool in all the right ways (despite having to learn a lot and grow a lot and endure a lot and a lot of a lot else) you show all your true colors and we would all really like to hang out with you more and learn how to be such a scapegoat with a heart of gold. I’m kinda sorry that their time together was so short.
Yeah, Daenarys, blah, but the unsullied, I mean, man. Man. M. A. N.
That is one rough existence right there. Wouldn’t wanna be in their shoes. Kill your puppy dog? Kill a baby? Castration? No wonder that don’t sound like the most appealing job description ever. So they become the greatest killing machine consistent of thousands but what makes them really awesome is the moment they go all like: we’ve hated this existence for like ever, we just didn’t let y’all know and kill the slave-masters and support Dany and her slave-freeing shenanigans. I mean, awww, man, fucking: AWWWW! Touched my heart right there.
We cannot not mention him. From staying true to the Watch to freeing Gilly, meeting and helping Bran and ultimately of course him killing one of the Others, Samwell continues to be the favorite overweight clumsy young man in all of ASOIAF.
The Red Wedding
This book tries to bring some epic moments, but if there ever was one in this very instalment, it would of course be the Red Wedding that takes home the price. There we all were believing the Frey’s to forgive Robb and then – BAM – they not only kill him, but most of his host and unbelievably also Catelyn. And even though we are all well aware of Martin’s tendency to kill off major characters I have to confess that Catelyn’s death really was a blow (while Robb’s was anticipated, really) and left me with a few moments of disbelief. Now we know that there is a twist to Cat’s death, but let’s wait with judging that one.
Other than that, the whole set-up of the Red Wedding: super-neat. From both Martin on the meta-level and the Frey’s and Lannister’s on the in-the-story-level. Thumbs up for the chill, dudes.
So, I conclude this lil review here, knowing full well that I left a lot (like really a super lot: Davos, Sansa, Bran, Oberyn Martell) out and that, if you don’t know the novel, you have no fucking idea what I am talking about here. If you made it to this sentence nonetheless, kudos to you! What I hope you got from this rather eclectic review (note to self: review shortly after reading the book, not long after it, having already started subsequent novels) is that I really really really enjoyed the ride and can totally recommend you take it as well.
Winter is coming (now also officially here in Frankfurt, Germany. Thank you, the Starks).