A Storm of Swords
is the novel that should be viewed as the making of A Song of Ice and Fire
. The first novel A Game of Thrones
is interesting if hardly ground breaking or fantastical and the second novel plods along in a state of tedium, leaving one to question whether fame and the requirement of creating a sequel left George R.R. Martin scrambling to write a poor follow up. Yet he seems to have rectified these errors in this fantastic third instalment. Yes, there are still notable flaws within the novel and, as with the highly rated Kingkiller Chronicles
the question of whether this series can adequately resolve itself into a conclusion.
The previous two novels particularly reveal to an observant reader that Martin, like many fantasy authors writing in the genre currently, hardly possesses the greatest control of prose. He varies between modern slang and curse words while also utilising older archaic language terms, creating a world that oddly merges the modern and the medieval into a kind of interesting patchwork. At the same time Martin, perhaps due to his long decorated screen-writing career, has the tendency to move between showing his world for the reader and a procedural narrative technique of telling the reader what is happening.
Yet, where other fantasy authors on occasion hamper the storytelling with their prose Martin for the most part does not follow the same pursuit. Instead his prose remains rather solid and blandly workman like which appeals to some though perhaps it would be more interesting if he were to feature greater periods of flowing poetry, yet perhaps this is beyond him as an author. It is this language use that one must suspect leaves him to be considered as one of the greatest fantasy authors currently, since it leaves his work as one which is remarkably accessible in comparison to other fantasies. Yet at the same time it reveals that there is a lack when compared to the flowing beauty of a Mervyn Peake or an E.R.R Eddison.
One could perhaps note that the series appears to be about the rise of magic in terms of the fantasy. Where in the previous two novels the magic was particularly rare and in fact rarely appeared, in this novel there was plenty of magic and magical creatures. In fact, the characters hint that magic is returning to the world again within this very book, as if it was previously something lost. One must credit Martin, however, for making his magic magical with the Giants, Others, dragons, kraken, manticore, shapechangers, resurrections and witches populating his world.
One thing that must be noted about this series is that it appears Martin relies upon emotional manipulation strongly in order to sell his novel to his readers. Regardless of what one thinks of Martin this point appears relevant to any reader. Those who fall for particular characters (those earmarked as heroes by the language and themes of the novel) are those who tend to love the novels. Jon Snow, Tyrion, Bran, Arya and Sam seem in particular to be key 'heroes' while Cersei, Tywin and their associates such as Lord Tyrell are key 'villains'. Then there are others such as Jaime who stand as more ambiguous characters, torn between the morals of the world, linked to the obscure religions of the old gods, and the
Again in this novel sexuality and violence take a front seat. If one were to check the frequency of words such as blood, gore, maidehead (or maidenhood), virgin, nipple, breast, manhood etc. it would be likely that a large percentage of the text would be taken up with such references. Of course that leaves the reader to make the conclusion as to whether George R.R. Martin is a sexist pervert or whether he has made a world in which these things play a large part because of the historical basis for his novels. Or again whether he plays out this blood and gore angle for other reasons - for creating drama in a soap opera style perhaps.
However one thing must be said, that far too often - though thankfully not so often in this novel - Martin draws attention to the act of sexual intercourse or to a particular act of violence without making them relevant and crucial to his text. It is the way in which these elements are focused upon (rather than the inclusion) that leaves one to consider these elements as 'author pets'. Or rather that the author loved the idea of putting such elements in his novel that he did not consider whether they needed
to be in the novel.
It also seems interesting to consider that in regards to sexuality most of the women in his novel are either: children, prostitutes or act like prostitutes. Though some consider Cersei a strong female character the way she acts towards men and toward Jaime weaken any integrity she possesses as a character. Further Dany as a character often lacks substance or true character development (though one could question whether Martin is aiming to reveal her immaturity through this). And again, one could conclude that these choices for female characters are linked to the nature of the world Martin creates rather than to the author and his feelings towards women.
It seems inevitable that any great fantasy epic draws comparisons between Tolkien. However George R.R. Martin has created more of an anti-Tolkien work in his novels than anything. His novels take the Tolkienesque notion of heroic fantasy and merge it with gritty dark fantasy to create an epic fantasy removed from any sense of fairytale and in which anyone (except the pet characters of the author) could potentially die. To some this appeals, to others it does not. However it would be advised (if the first novel appealed to the reader in any regard) to continue on at least to this third novel before making a verdict in regards to the series.