This being the third book in the A Song of Ice and Fire series, continues the epic fantasy saga of the people’s of Westeros and Essos, most of whom are either fighting to ascend the Iron Throne, defend it, or are just caught in the middle. The one exception being the Brothers of the Night’s Watch, defending the Wall in the North of the Seven Kingdoms, against the Wildlings and the more sinister The Others.
New alliances are formed, old ones broken as the five contenders for the Iron Throne continue their rivalry in the North and South. Meanwhile in the East on Essos, Daenerys Targaryen is busy gathering her forces, watching her three dragons grow, and preparing to stake her claim to the self-same throne. On the Wall, the Night’s watch venture beyond into the icy North to face the threat of the Wildlings and their leader Mance Rayder, but also come face to face with The Others, ghostly creatures that cannot be killed… easily.
While the Lannister’s, primarily Cersei, plot and scheme to keep the evil boy King Joffrey on the throne, Stannis Baratheon, brother to the recently deceased King Robert, also plots to ascend the throne with the help of Melisandre the Priestess whose use of sorcery disposes of Renly Baratheon, another contender for the Iron Throne.
Central to all these plots for the throne are the Starks. Robb Stark’s push for the Iron Throne ends with him being betrayed and murdered by the Frey’s in what becomes known as the Red Wedding. His sister Arya Stark meanwhile having escaped from King’s Landing and the Lannister’s, continues her journey to nowhere really, searching for a new home, with Winterfell the castle of the Starks being destroyed in the North.
This is the longest book in the series thus far and is just as intriguing as the others, perhaps more so. There are literally hundreds of major and minor characters dotted throughout the book. That makes for exceptional story-telling having to keep track of all them as the story is told through the eyes of the major characters.
However I feel that the chapters telling the story of Bran (Brandon Stark) could have been eliminated altogether, as they add very little to nothing to the overall saga. Bran’s adventures, if you can call them that, are a sort of distraction from the overall main events, as they have no link to them in any meaningful way.
The other gripe I have is with the length of detail Martin goes into describing the scions of the past, kings, knights and lords and other peripheral characters. The level of detail was unnecessary and just takes up page space.
Otherwise an excellent book. Really epic. I’m already well into Book 4, which is beginning to tie up some of the loose ends from Book 3.