In my quest to get caught up with the “A Song of Ice and Fire” series before season four of Game of Thrones starts (April 6 – mark your calendars!), I powered through book three in a little over a week. I’d enjoyed book one thoroughly, and liked book two, but book three? Holy direwolves, this book is amazing. For those of you who haven’t yet read the books, I’ll be sure to keep this review spoiler free.
I found I enjoyed this book so much not just because of the quick pace of events, but because what happened really helped develop the characters. I don’t think that it was just plot device after plot device; each bit that moved the plot forward also increased my understanding of the characters – their motivation, their personality, and how some of them may have been too easily thrust into the good and evil roles. To me, some things had been pretty clear through the first two books, but the knowledge gained throughout book three makes me really reevaluate a lot of it.
One area I really appreciated in this book was the writing of the female characters. Cersei isn’t just some plotting manipulator; she’s a mother who is trying to sort out how to deal with this child who is now her king. Sansa isn’t just a simple, sweet girl who is doing her duty; she’s growing up more and more, recognizing the complexities of the world she inhabits. Arya, who has been a favorite character of mine since the beginning (not exactly an original position, I know), grows as well, and I’m intrigued by what will happen next with her. And Daenyers – her maturity and cunning is staggering.
And the men are complex, too. They aren’t just warriors or lords; they have complicated feelings. I am annoyed that Mr. Martin didn’t decide to flip things around a bit in his world – making it a patriarchy seems a bit too easy – but working within the world he has created, I think he’s done a very good job of examining masculinity and femininity and how these people work with what they have to get where they want and what they want.
And to that end, I remain endlessly impressed with this world Mr. Martin has created. I thought I had forty pages left to read, but forgot about the list of houses and the family members he kindly includes at the end of each book. The characters, the histories of the houses and the kingdoms, the religions and customs – it’s amazing to think that this has all come from one man’s mind. I can’t wait to start the next book to see what comes next.