Just a quick note on books. I love reading books, but I’ll be honest – they aren’t quite as sexy as movies. Unlike most movies, books can take days, weeks, or even months to finish. They are (especially for this series) a huge time investment. I think this is why finding a great book is so exciting – you devote a huge chunk of your time to a story and it pays you back many times over. While good books give you an exciting plot or interesting characters, great books provide you with an insight on social and cultural issues relevant to the times that you can read over and over again. Needless to say, I freaking love books.
CAUTION – THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS!!!
Now back to the review. I never really got into the TV series, but decided to pick up the first book when I was looking for something to read this past summer, mainly because the front cover looked kind of cool. Three months, five books, and 4000 pages later, I was frantically searching forums to figure out when the next book would be released.
George R.R. Martin’s insanely detailed story is gripping and absolutely unpredictable. To give a little bit of an overview of the whole story, Martin’s story takes place in a type of medieval, feudal setting and starts out in the land of Westeros, a kingdom that is recently recovering from war. Though Martin tends to focus on a few main characters, each chapter of a Song of Ice and Fire is told from one character’s viewpoint.
The story begins by focusing on multiple members of the Stark family: the father, Eddard (Ned) Stark; the mother, Catherine Stark; their children Rob, Sansa, Arya, Bran, and Rickon; and Ned’s bastard son, Jon. The story also stays with many other main characters, such as Tyrion Lannister, the witty prince who happens to be a dwarf, and Daenerys Targaryen, the exiled descendant of a former royal family. To discuss the rest of the characters that are involved in Martin’s book would be a book in itself (I’m not joking, he even has an appendix at the end of each of his books with the family lineages of the families in the books). The insane detail of the story that follows these characters in Westeros (and beyond) as they deal with political struggles, war, adventure, magic, dragons, and death (lots and lots of death) make it difficult to put down any of the books.
The books are long and, due to such detail, might seem as though they would get boring, but Martin is able to make sure the story always stays exciting. Each characters story is extremely intricate and personal to that character, yet all of these stories are interconnected in the struggle for power in Martin’s world. While most science fiction stories seem to get caught up in some outlandish magic and mystic powers, Martin approaches the subject of magic with quite a bit of historic realism. His stories are focused more on character and plot development and not wrapped up in the magical side of science fiction.
Instead of giving a detailed review of each of the books, which might take quite a while, I decided to rank the five books that have been released from Martin’s “worst” book (though I don’t really think there is a bad one) to his best. Again, DO NOT READ THIS IF YOU WANT TO READ THE BOOKS. It will make you really sad if you do.
5. A Feast for Crows
In A Feast for Crows, the fourth book in the series, Martin took a leap by trying to take the focus off of the more popular characters and instead focused on characters like Cersei and Jaime Lannister, Brienne, and Sam. This is still a great book, but somebody has to be last. I’m not sure if my reason for not liking this is because of the absence of some of the most exciting storylines and favored characters or because the book started immediately after some pretty action-packed events in Storm of Swords. Maybe it was just the hangover from the shocking turn of events in Storm of Swords, but the whole book seemed like the story was just runover that Martin wasn’t able to fit into Dance with Dragons (the book that followed this one). This book also led to some confusion when I started Dance with Dragons, as the events in Feast are happening at the same time as Dance with Dragons.
Despite the weird timeline and the slow storyline development, it was interesting to see the focus on the minor characters. One reason Martin’s series is great is his ability to make every character different but still interesting. We learn a lot about Brienne, the manly warrior lady, and her struggle to maintain her oath to Catelyn. Arya Stark’s story takes an odd turn when she joins the ranks of the Faceless Men, a religious sect of trained assassins. Sansa Stark (posing as Littelfinger’s bastard daughter Alayne Stone) is holed up in the Vale with Littlefinger, as he tries to maintain power there and she attempts to care for sickly Robert Arryn. Sam travels to Oldtown, to study up on the ways of the archmaesters before returning to the Wall and to inform the leaders there of the revelation about Daenerys. The book also gave great insight into the deceitful mind of Cersei Lannister, who is still the character everyone loves to hate, even moreso after this book.
The most interesting parts of this book were the transformation of Jaime Lannister and the plot developments in the Iron Islands and in Dorne. In Storm of Swords, the reader starts to sympathize with Jaime, as he starts to change based on his experiences with Brienne outside of King’s Landing. But here, with quite a few chapters devoted to Jaime’s POV, the reader really starts to see Jaime change from a radical warrior into a fairly level-headed peacemaker as he starts to question the leaders of the kingdom, especially his sister Cersei. The Iron Islands start to become relevant to the story, with the seemingly corrupt and ungodly Euron Crow’s Eye being elected to lead the Iron Islands to seize Daenerys’ dragons in an attempt to rise to power. Meanwhile, Victarion, Euron’s brother plots to screw up Euron’s plan. Though Dorne has been relatively quiet in the storyline of Westeros so far, they start to become yet another big player in the attempt to rule Westeros, as Prince Doran Martell plans to make alliances to seize some power in King’s Landing.
Though the book brought up some interesting storylines that had been neglected in previous books, the book just felt like Martin’s way of keeping his readers occupied while he finalized Dance with Dragons. Even though this was probabl yhis worst book of the five, it was still a good book. It certainly doesn’t help its case when it is sandwiched between and overshadowed by the two best books in the series.
4. A Clash of Kings
The next four books are all great books and are pretty close in comparison to one another. A Clash of Kings is the second book in the series (and the second season of the TV series) and follows A Game of Thrones (the first book).
Clash picks up right after Game of Thrones ends, with the Seven Kingdoms in full-fledged civil war. Three different men make claims to the throne – Stannis Baratheon, Renly Baratheon, and the demon-child that is Joffrey Baratheon – after former king Robert Baratheon dies. King Joffrey has the whole of King’s Landing supporting him, Renly has the support of the powerful Tyrells who host a very large army, and Stannis has a relatively small support from the lords of the Narrow Sea, but he also has the powerful priestess Melisandre. Melisandre is able to use her power to kill Renly, which causes Renly’s whole army to scatter, and strengthens the power of Stannis.
Meanwhile, Tyrion Lannister takes over as the King’s Hand in King’s Landing, and proves to be an extremely good politician among some of the best crooks in Westeros. Tyrion seizes on the opportunity given to him with Renly’s death and gets the support of the Tyrell army by marrying the Tyrell’s daughter to King Joffrey, and he gets the support of the Martells, a powerful family from Dorne, by marrying the Martell’s son to Joffrey’s sister Myrcella.
Though Robb Stark has many victories against the Lannister forces, the people from the Iron Islands sneak in and capture a few northern territories, including Theon capturing Winterfell. Theon takes Bran and Rickon captive at Winterfell, but luckily they are able to escape. Before Winterfell is again taken over from Theon, Theon fakes Bran and Rickon’s deaths. While Bran is away, he has strange dreams, which his companions believe is an indication that he has some rare powers. Catelyn, Bran and Rickon’s mother, is devastated by the news of the boys’ alleged death, but the group she is with manages to capture Jaime Lannister and hold him hostage.
On the Wall, John and a member of the Night’s Watch travel further north of the Wall to try and find some lost rangers. On the way, John is forced to kill his companion and join the wildlings in order to find out Mance Rayder’s plan to raid the wall with a huge army of wildlings.
In the East away from Westeros, Daenerys and her three newborn dragons struggle to survive. After the death of her husband, the Dothraki army breaks off into factionsm and very few of them stay with her. With her few followers and, of course, Jorah Mormount, stumble through the wasteland until they are lucky enough to travel to the trading city of Qarth. She eventually tries to seek the alliance of the powerful warlock clan of Qarth by going to the House of the Undying. During this, the warlock clan tries to kill her and take her dragons, but her dragons finally show some toughness and burn down the House of the Undying. Daenerys tries to flee the city, but at the port an assassin tries to kill her. Luckily a couple of strangers come to her rescue, and she agrees to travel with them to the Free Cities.
While the storylines of these characters are pretty exciting and advance moreso than in Feast, one of the last scenes of the book really set this one apart from Feast – the Battle of Blackwater Bay. Stannis launches a full-out attack on King’s Landing and proves a lot more successful than the leaders of King’s Landing thought. Luckily, thanks to the preparation of Tyrion, the naval attack is held off by a huge chain trapping the naval forces in while the King’s forces launch wildfire onto the ships. Still, some of Stannis’ troops are able to reach land. Tyrion bravely rallies troops and thwarts off the attack before they reach the inside of King’s Landing, but during this skirmish, Tyrion is betrayed by one of the Kingsguard – later determined by Tyrion to be an assassination attempt set up by his sister. Though Tyrion is almost killed, his page comes in at the last moment to save him. At the end of the battle, Stannis only escapes with a few ships.
With big battle scene in a book, like the Battle of Blackwater Bay here, it is sometimes difficult to get a full picture in your head of the scope and action of the battle. But Martin covers it fantastically and makes the reader feel like they are right in the middle of the battle. To be honest, I thought Martin did a better job of describing it in the book than the TV series did in portraying it. In this book, the reader is confronted with a little bit of magic, like Melisandre, the warlocks of Qarth, and the use of widlfire, for the first time. The overemphasis of magic in most science fiction is usually what pushes me away from the genre, but Martin adds plenty of realism into it to keep the reader engaged.
3. A Game of Thrones
A Game of Thrones, the first book in the series, set the stage for the rest of these books. Most everyone who is reading this or interested at all in the series knows that the good guys don’t always win in Martin’s world. While most of these heroic tales involve the knight in shining armor rising to glory and crushing the bad guys, Martin lets his readers know pretty early on that that’s not how it’s going to be here.
The book focuses mainly on the Stark family, who happen to stumble on a litter of direwolf pups, six in all. Each of the six Stark children, even the bastard son Jon, gets a pup. The family seems to think this is a good omen, considering the Stark house symbol is a direwolf. The direwolves continue to play large roles in these children’s lives throughout the entire series.
King Robert Baratheon and his host, including Queen Cersei, her twin brother and master swordsman Jaime Lannister, and Tyrion Lannister, their dwarf brother. Robert asks Ned to be Hand of the King after the former Hand died. He agrees to take the office and heads to King’s Landing along with his daughters Sansa and Arya. Meanwhile, Bran falls while climbing on one of the buildings and is paralyzed from the waist down and Jon Snow decides to travel north to join the Night’s Watch on the Wall.
Ned’s decision to travel South to Kings Landing to serve as King’s Hand sets in motion a dramatic storyline shift. Just as Ned leaves, his wife Catelyn receives word that the Lannisters (the Queen’s rich and powerful family) had the last Hand killed, and Ned decides to investigate the matter while he is in King’s Landing.
Back in Winterfell, someone makes an attempt to assassinate Bran while he is still trying to recover from his injury. His direwolf saves his life, and Catelyn believes that Tyrion tried to have her son murdered. Catelyn happens to run into Tyrion on her travels and takes Tyrion captive, but Tyrion is able to win his freedom thanks to a mercenary named Bronn.
Ned investigates the past Hand’s death and learns that the past Hand and King Robert’s brother, Stannis, discovered that the King’s three children were actually Jaime’s children by incest with his sister Cersei. Ned tries to out Cersei, and gives her the choice to flee from King’s Landing, but right about this time, King Robert, one of Ned’s only friends and allies in King’s Landing, suffers a fatal wound while hunting. Ned tries to move against Robert’s son Joffrey, who is now king, but is betrayed and taken into custody. Ned agrees to confess to treason and be forced to join the Night’s Watch in exchange for Joffrey’s promise he not harm his daughters. But when Ned comes in front of the King to confess, Joffrey has Ned beheaded. Sansa is taken into custody and Arya flees with the help of a recruiter for the Night’s Watch. This sparks a civil war in Westeros. Robb Stark is declared the King of the North, and both Renly and Stannis Baratheon make claims to the throne and build up their own armies.
Once Jon Snow reaches the Wall on the Northside of Westeros, he discovers it’s not quite as glorious as the stories he had heard. Jon learns that the Watch does not have nearly enough manpower to adequately protect the kingdom from wildlings and the legendary Others, who are rumored to be on the rise once again. Jon also learns that a former member of the Night’s Watch, Mance Rayder is amassing an army of wildlings to raid the Wall. Jon becomes assistant to the Lord Commander of the Watch, who after a near fatal encounter with a wight, decides to lead a group north to test Mance Rayder’s strength.
Daenerys, a runaway girl from the former royal family – the Targaryens, marries Khal Drogo, a leader of a huge nomadic clan called the Dothraki. Her brother Viserys sold her to Khal Drogo in hopes of getting the assitance of the Dothraki army in taking back the crown in Westeros. Daenerys soon becomes pregnant, as the group travels with Jorah Mormount, a knight exiled from Westeros. When Viserys insults Drogo, Drogo kills him and Daenerys vows to claim the iron throne in the Seven Kingdoms as her own now. When Drogo is fatally injured in a raid, in traditional fashion, Daenerys has his body burned on a pyre. But Daenerys decides to go inside the fire with her three dragon eggs, which up to this point were just thought to be valuable decoration. When the embers from the pyre die down, Daenerys remains, and three dragons emerge from the eggs.
Obviously this book is huge in setting up the storylines for each character, which remain throughout most of the series – Jon goes to the Wall, Daenerys travels with her famed dragons in the East, Arya becomes a runaway, and Westeros is again thrown into a turbulent civil war. What makes this book great is the precedent it set for the remaining series. Martin makes Ned Stark’s character become one of the reader’s favorites by portraying him as a man of honor – one of the few truly good men in the book. Then in a horrific scene, he has Ned’s head chopped off. It’s definitely not a scene that the reader feels coming on and was unpredictable – a theme that continues through the rest of the series.
2. A Dance with Dragons
These next two books’ rankings could have been swapped and would be fine. The only reason I could think to put Storm of Swords ahead of Dance was the timeline. After reading Feast (the fourth book), I was a little confused when the major characters stories had not progressed since the third book. The events that happened in Feast had not occurred yet in Dance, which took a little away from this book. But what made this book so great is the dramatic shift in the storyline. In this book a lot more than others, many of the separate characters storylines start to come together, and the reader starts to see the role that each character will play in the future.
If you have made it this far into the review and nothing has really been spoiled for you yet, STOP NOW!! Because some BIG stuff happens in both Dance and in Storm of Swords that the TV series hasn’t covered yet.
Dance is the fifth book and most recent release in the series. This one, as well as Feast, picks up where Storm of Swords left off. Jon is now Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch, and threats from the North by both wildlings and the Others. Stannis is also pressuring Jon to give him some lands that belong to the Watch so that he can offer them to loyal supporters. Wildlings occupy the Wall, after Jon unites them to join in the Watch’s feared battle against the Others. Stannis moves against the Boltons, who have set up base at Winterfell with the remaining northmen that aren’t with Stannis. But a terrible winter continues to batter the troops and reduce their forces, and it’s rumored that Stannis’ forces have been defeated and Stannis has been killed.
Meanwhile, Davos, a friend and strong supporter of Stannis’ cause, travels in hopes of bringing other lords to support Stannis. Davos gets the support of Lord Manderly, who plots with Davos to rise against the Freys due to the events of the Red Wedding. Manderly and their supporters agree to serve Stannis’ cause, but only if Davos can retrieve Rickon Stark from the island of Skagos. Asha is taken captive by Stannis and Theon, now known as Reek, is released by Ramsay Bolton after he tortures Theon. Ramsay is married to a girl pretending to be Arya, but Theon recognizes her as Jeyne Poole, a former friend of Sansa’s. Theon convinces her to flee, and she does so joining Stannis’ party.
One of the most exciting parts of this book is the advancement of Daenerys’ storyline and the events in the East, where most of this book is focused. Daeny is now the Queen of Meereen, but a rebel group called the Sons of the Harpy continue to kill groups of her party and the surrounding areas plot to wage war against her. She can’t control one of her dragons, who roam the land killing whatever they please. A lot of the people from Westeros now have heard of her dragons and her conquests in the East, and many rush to join her party and hopefully her eventual triumphant return to Westeros.
Tyrion has fled the Seven Kingdoms and travels to Pentos to meet Daeny. A young boy on the ship with Tyrion turns out to be Aegon Targaryen, the son of the former Prince Rhaegar, and everyone in Westeros believes Aegon to be dead. Tyrion is kidnapped by Jorah Mormount in hopes that Jorah can take him to Daeny to get back in favor with her. But Tyrion, Jorah, and a dwarf girl with the group is captured and sold at a slave trade in Meereen. Eventually, Tyrion sneaks to a camp of mercenaries, where he pledges his sword to them for Daeny’s cause.
Doran Martell’s son, Quentyn, travels to the East in hopes of marrying Daeny. However, Quentyn arrives to meet Daeny a little too late, as she is preparing to marry Hizdahr zo Loraq in hopes the marriage will stop the murders by the Sons of the Harpy. Quentyn still tries to win her over by taming her dragon, but is unable to do so. The dragons burn Quentyn and he ends up dying from the wounds.
Prince Aegon and his party is broken up from Tyrion after his kidnapping, and they hire a mercenary group, the Golden Company. Though Aegon wants to marry Daeny too, he knows he must have something to offer her if he stands a chance to. He proposes that he and the Golden Company attacking Westeros to establish a post that Daeny could support. The group captures Griffin’s Roost, and the next target is Storm’s End.
Arya Stark continues to advance in her training for the Gods of Black and White. Jaime Lannister travels to Raventree Hall and forces the last bannerman for Robb Stark to surrender. Brienne arrives at Jaime’s camp claiming she found one of the Stark girls, but she knows this to be false and simply wants to lead him to what remains of Catelyn Stark. Cersei Lannister remains captive by the Great Sept and confesses to incest with Lancel. Cersie is eventually released to visit her son, but must walk back to the Keep naked while commoners harass her.
After Daeny marries Hizdahr to stop the killings of her men, she locks two of her dragons away, but cannot contain Drogon, the biggest of the dragons. She allows the fighting pits to reopen, hoping it will boost the moral of the city, on her wedding night. Drogon is attracted by all the killing in the fighting pits and swoops down to join in on the killing. Daeny jumps in with him and flies away on his back. Barristan Selmy, a former member of the Kingsguard who has joined Deany’s cause, quickly suspects Hizdahr of plotting to kill Daeny to take power for himself. Selmy organizes a coup to seize power from Hizdahr and try to negotiate a peace. But Selmy’s plans to negotiate peace fail, and the war begins. Meanwhile, Daeny is taken by Drogon to the south, and she tries to return to Meereen on foot. The last we here of Daeny is when she encounters Khal Jhaqo and his khalasar.
Back on the Wall, after Jon Snow receives word that Stannis has fallen and Bolton threatens to take down the Night’s Watch, Jon asks both wildlings on brothers of the Watch to join him in the fight against Bolton. Many members of the Night’s Watch don’t like Jon’s decision to take initiative to go after the Boltons. At the end of Jon’s chapter, Bowen Marsh and other brothers of the Night’s Watch, while in tears, repeatedly stab Jon for what they think is the good of the Watch.
Th epilogue also reveals a lot, as Kevan Lannister, one of the last few of the Lannister family to still have power in the Red Keep, receives word that a white raven has flown in from the Citadel to report that a winter was now upon them. When he gets to Maester Pycelle’s chambers, he finds Pycelle dead. Varys then assassinate Kevan as well, claiming that his death will open the way for Aegon to assume the throne.
This book really signified a change in Martin’s storyline, and things seemed to finally be headed towards some type of a conclusion since storylines seem to be coming together – like Tyrion and Daeny. Dance feels like it was a huge buildup to the final two books, as now the kingdom seems like it is ripe for takeover, but leaves the door open for many to claim it. Threats are starting to develop from everywhere – the Iron Isles, both Daeny and Aegon from the East, and even the Others from the North as the Wall seems as weak and disheveled as ever.
This book has actually gotten a lot of criticism from readers, and I’m really not sure why. Maybe some are tired of holding on and are ready for some type of conclusion to the story, maybe they’re pissed about their favorite characters slowly dying off with nothing to show for it, but I really think this was one of the best books in the series. Somehow Martin finds ways to keep thickening the plot and keeping the reader on his toes. He is still as just as unpredictable as when he killed of Ned Stark in Game of Thrones and I’ll be one of the first in line when Winds of Winter is released.
1. A Storm of Swords
Ahh, Storm of Swords, the third book in this great series. The TV series is going to tackle this book for the next two seasons of the series, and each episode is going to be action-packed. While Martin has delivered on the intricate plot and developed characters in each of his books, he really packs a lot of major events into this book. There were a couple points in the book where I had to stop reading because the story had taken such a sharp turn. The reader can get so invested into these characters he has taken so long to develop that when their story takes an unexpected twist, it can be a tough pill to swallow. The book actually won a couple of awards and was nominated for one of the most prestigious awards in science fiction, but it lost to Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. If the TV series follows the book, every episode is going to be great.
In the Seven Kingdoms, Brienne escorts Jaime back to King’s Landing after he was released by Catelyn in a trade for her daughters. The two are captured and Jaime’s hand is chopped off, a huge deal for a guy considered to be one of the best swordsmen in Westeros. Jaime still manages to save Brienne’s life, and they are eventually freed to continue their journey to King’s Landing.
Robb Stark continues to rack up victories against Lannister forces. However, Robb marries a girl by the name of Jeyne Westerling, even though he had already promised to marry a Frey in order to secure an alliance with them. Though he has angered the Freys by reneging on his promise to marry one of the daughters, he knows the only way to follow through with his battle plan is to win their support again. Meanwhile, Arya Stark runs into a group of men from the Brotherhoos Without Banners, who is led by a priest of R’hllor that is able to revive his comrade using his powers. Arya tries to escape these men but is captured by Sandor Clegan (the Hound), who decides to take her back to her family.
Davos returns to Stannis and vows to kill Melisandre, but he is taken captive befor ehe can do so. Davos is eventually released and agrees to serve as Stannis’ Hand. Meanwhile in King’s Landing, they are celebrating their successful defense against Stannis’ forces. Joffrey agrees to marry Margaery Tyrell, but Sansa is forced to marry Tyrion. The Tyrell forces win another big victory against the Stark forces, and Balon Greyjoy of the Iron Isles tries to form an alliance with Tywin Lannister, who quickly turns it down.
When Robb tries to win the Freys back over, one of the most memorable scenes takes place – the Red Wedding. Frey agrees to forgive Robb, but only if one of the Tullys marries one of his grand-daughters. After the wedding, a huge feast takes place, but the feast soon turns ugly. The musicians whip out crossbows and open fire into Robb Stark’s party. In the madness, Catelyn takes one of the Frey grandsons hostage and threatens to kill him if any harm comes to Robb. One of Frey’s men brutally murders Robb, and Catelyn’s throat is slit as well. Arya nearly runs right into the chaos, but the Hound takes her away, and she eventually escapes to Braavos. Again, Martin kills off two of the favorite characters suddenly, but the most memorable part is how he does it. Martin certainly doesn’t shy away from gory details in the series, but the Red Wedding goes above and beyond. This scene will be hard to watch when the TV series gets to it.
Littlefinger heads toward the Vale in hopes to marry Lady Arryn so she will support Joffrey. When word of Euron Greyjoy and Robb Stark’s death reaches King’s Landing, Joffrey is ecstatic. Joffrey soon gets married to Margaery, but at the feast Joffrey, who is extremely drunk and insulting Tyrion, starts choking. Joffrey dies from suffocation, and Tyrion suspects someone poisoned him but the blame for his death is turned on Tyrion. While Tyrion is arrested and put on trial, Sansa, whose hairnet was used to hide the poison that killed Joffrey, escapes from King’s Landing and is taken to the Vale by Littlefinger. Littlefinger tells Sansa that he was responsible for Joffrey’s death.
Jaime and Brienne eventually reach King’s Landing after Joffrey’s death, and the Tyrells blame Brienne for Renly’s death. Jaime is named Lord Commander of the Kingsguard, even without one of his hands, and refuses his father’s offer to name him heir to Casterly Rock, one of the richest lands in Westeros.
Tyrion goes to trial and decides to risk it all, choosing Oberyn Martell as his champion. Oberyn must fight Gregor Clegane, the Mountain, the same man who killed and raped his sister. This scene is another point where I had to put the book down after reading this, as this scene is another powerful moment in Martin’s series. Oberyn, though seemingly outmatched, apparently gets the best of the Mountain. Before Oberyn could finish him off, the Mountain grabs Oberyn and smashes his face in. Oberyn’s defeat seals Tyrion’s fate, but Tyrion is able to escape the dungeon with the help of Jaime and Varys. On his way out, Jaime tells Tyrion of some of the secrets that his father Tywin had kept from him. Tyrion feels betrayed and murders his own father with a crossbow before fleeing King’s Landing for the East.
Jaime reveals the real reason he murdered the old king to Brienne and frees her so she can find Arya and Sansa. In the Vale, Lysa Arryn almost kills Sansa, but Littlefinger saves her life by throwing Lysa out the moon door. North of the Wall, the Night’s Watch battle Others for the first time in 8,000 years. Once the Watch regroups at Craster’s Keep, a few brothers kill the Lord Commander, but Sam is able to escape and head back to the Wall, with the help of a strange figure named Coldhands. Jon Snow finally confronts Mance Rayder, who is convinced that Jon has actually betrayed the Watch. Jon learns the Others are driving the wildlings towards the Wall and is dispatched on a mission to help the wildlings cross over the Wall and open it from the inside so the wildlings can attack. Jon is able to escape and warn Castle Black of the impending attack. Jon is forced to lead what few members of the Watch remain in successfully defending the Wall from the wildlings.
Bran, accompanied by Jojen and Meera Reed, run into Sam on their trip North. Coldhands takes them north of the Wall, while Sam heads back to Castle Black. In yet another great scene in this book, tens of thousands of wildlings assault the Wall, and Jon is forced to defend the Wall again. When Jon is forced to parlay with Mance, he learns that Mance has found the Horn of Winter, which is rumored to bring down the Wall with one blow. Out of nowhere, Stannis’ forces come to the Watch’s aid, breaking up the wildling forces and taking Mance captive. Stannis decides to build his kingdom in the North, and Jon is elected Lord Commander of the Watch.
In the East, Daeny travels to Slaver’s Bay and buys the services of the Unsullied, the feared eunuch army. Daeny then kills the slave lords of Astapor with the Unsullied and her dragons and sets the slaves free. Daeny finds out that Jorah Mormount has been selling info about her to King’s Landing and that Arstan Whitebeard is actually Barristan Selmy, the former member of the Kingsguard. Selmy wants to support her cause and she allows him to stay, but banished Mormont. Daeny conquers Meereen and decides to rule there and become a queen in preparation for conquering Westeros.
The Red Wedding, Joffrey and Tywin’s death, an attack on the Wall, and Daeny’s conquests on Slaver’s Bay make this book the best in the series. This book was the longest in Martin’s series but did not feel like at all, since something huge was always happening.
Wow, I forgot how much material was in the books. So, if you made it this far, thanks for hanging in there. I actually left out quite a bit of the plot, but I simply can’t cover it all without writing a full book about it. The twists and turns in Martin’s series makes it difficult to put down, regardless of the length. It’s tough to invest so much into these characters and to see many of them suffer the fate that they do. But I think it’s just Martin’s way of showing that no matter how honorable, rich, powerful, or smart the character may be, to survive in Martin’s world, they must be able to play the game of thrones.
If you’re looking for a good read, go pick up the books and tune in to the show on HBO. It’s definitely worth your time.