Storm of Swords surpasses expectations. Review by Violet Kane

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Conventional wisdom flies out the window as this sequel actually tops both of its predecessors. At a point (book three) where more epic fantasy series have crested the hill and have begun their descent, Martin wows audiences with a book beyond reader imaginations.

Book three of Martin's Song of Ice and Fire series begins as many of the strongest contenders to the Iron Throne have been subdued. Some are dead, others humiliated in defeats, and King in the North Robb Stark has dug in at Riverrun, caught between Lannister forces to the south and his besieged castle to the north. But unbeknownst to Joffrey Lannister and his competitors, two forces threaten to render them irrelevant. In the south, Daenerys, bloodline claimant to the Iron Throne, is amassing an army of peculiar skill—and an empire. North of the wall, wildmen and (finally!) the undead Others—who were introduced in the opening of Game of Thrones—are growing increasingly bold, pressing further south toward the Wall, and Jon Snow is on the front line. Will the Lannisters be dethroned? Will Daenerys flood the shores of the Seven Kingdoms with her army? Will the Others lay waste to the lands across the Wall and put all this bickering to rest?

Not all of the reader's questions will be answered by the end of Storm of Swords, but in many ways, this book provides a trilogy-like ending for the books that have come before it. Certainly, we know by the recent success of Feast for Crows that the story continues. But Martin does provide many satisfying conclusions—even if they subsequently open even more conflicts. Fans, however, will not find themselves waiting endlessly for any conclusion. They will get quite a satisfying answer to several questions, including the question that sent most of the characters in action. Martin's characters have never been more fascinating; he shows fearlessness in challenging his characters as much as he challenges his readers' imaginations. Martin may be famous for killing off main characters, and this volume is no exception (wait until your see Martin's newest twist; he's not simply killing them now), but he also does not shy away from confronting his characters with other shattering losses—both mental and physical. Just as fans are fearing that perhaps Martin cannot deliver on the grand promises of this series, he brings us limited conclusions more satisfying and horrific than we could have guessed or expected.

G.R.R. Martin fans will be thoroughly pleased with this volume. I would say that it's the best so far. This book is not, however, a stand-alone. New readers would be wise to start with volume one, Game of Thrones, and move on to volume two, Clash of Kings, before attempting Storm of Swords.

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Violet "Violanthe" Kane is the Webmaster and Founder of ARWZ.com. She is an editor of ARWZ Literary Zine and is currently pursuing a Master's degree in Medieval studies.