Sunday, December 4, 2011

A Storm of Swords, revisited

The first time I read this book in 20 hours. The second time took me about a month, because I sequestered the book and only read it at the gym while bicycling.

More stuff happens. Mr. Martin makes A Storm of Swords as interesting as the earlier books, although in retrospect there is a lot of wandering back and forth through the riverlands, during which nothing happens. We keep having Arya chapters even though she's not threatened or learning anything new; we have only few Bran/Rickon chapters even though they are experiencing really cool storylines and events. Daenerys' story is suddenly more about politics than about myth-fulfilling dragons, much to my disappointment. As if in response to the criticism I highlighted last time, one boy in this book is threatened with rape. (Oh thanks, the numbers are even now!)

Apparently realizing that he has killed, or is killing now, or is planning to kill, all of the likeable characters, Mr. Martin attacks the task of taking an unlikeable character (Jaime, the incestuous oathbreaking kingslayer who pushed a 7-year-old boy out a window!) and tries to retro-justify his actions so that he's actually just extremely misunderstood. As you might imagine, this is difficult. I do not think it works, although I can see that he wants us (readers) to start liking or maybe sympathising with Jaime. After all -- look! -- Jaime is standing up to Tywin, who is really really evil. And by the time book 4 rolls around, Jaime will be the most pleasant character still alive! Please like him, ok? He is trying to correct injustices! He got a hand amputated so now he understands suffering!

Also noticeable on this read-through: this book suddenly delves into the musical culture of Westeros, with people quoting and singing all over the place. Certain songs are clearly of political/cultural importance, because they are sung everywhere... but were not mentioned in the first two books. Hah. It's as if someone pointed out to Mr. Martin that his world was missing this huge facet of culture, and so he had a post-it over his writing table that said: SING SONGS. Everyone's singing, and paying musicians, and composing, and humming to themselves left and right.

This post's theme word is coffle, "a line of animals or slaves driven along together." The coffle of readers shuffled into the bookstore to buy book n+1 of the series.

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