In the third book of the A Song of Ice and Fire series, there is no book in the world that a person could be less prepared for. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read A Storm of Swords.
Let me go over my predictions for this book (and laugh and then sob viciously because of how wrong I was) before we get into the forty million things we need to talk about. Oh my god.
- Davos’s fate is left open at the end of the last novel. As much as I like him, I don’t think he’s going to last. My guess? He gets the prologue chapter and we see him die. I’m glad Davos is not dead. Bravo to GRRM for taking a character who had a somewhat limited role in A Clash of Kings and giving him such a rich, fascinating story. Oh, Onion Knight, be my savior. Davos has such a well-defined sense of honor and loyalty and I’m shocked he’s not dead yet. Everyone else who seems to possess just a modicum of decency in this series is generally murdered. These books are bleak, and the good side rarely, if ever, makes any headway. (To be fair, the characters can’t even really be split into a “good” and “bad” dichotomy anyway. BLESS YOU, MORAL AMBIGUITY.) Davos, after having lost sons and then ARRESTED after Blackwater, stands up to Stannis, laying out his beliefs out of both loyalty and honesty. AND STANNIS DOES NOT HAVE HIM KILLED. It’s such a bizarre thing for this book because this rarely happens. But I like the dynamic between Stannis and Davos, especially as Davos can see the strain that Melisandre is putting on the king. Oh, and I got this wrong.
- Arya, Gendry, and Hot Pie will be captured by someone working with the Lanniesters by the second chapter from her point-of-view. HAHAHAAHAHAHAAHA GOOD LORD. Not even close. Oh my god, the Brotherhood Without Banners. Host to some of the best and most shocking scenes in the whole goddamn book. THOROS. LORD BERIC. OH MY GOD THE TRIAL BY BATTLE. Oh my god, I love it. And then Arya and Sandor and oh christ, this goddamn book. I’ll get into that more later.
- Stannis didn’t survive the Battle of Blackwater Rush. CALLING IT. Wow, why did I think this? Stannis was too integral to the story to kill off. I’m surprised he’s still alive, but then again….oh god, THE WALL. I NEVER SAW IT COMING.
- Guess who else died in the interim? Shae. I know, it hurts, but GRRM seems to like making Tyrion suffer, so this would be like…the final nail in the coffee. Oh, I am just precious. Nope, not even close. TYRION’S FINAL CHAPTER, THOUGH. HOLY FUCKING SHIT. That may be the most surprising twist of the whole book. Again, I’ll get to this at-length in a bit.
- And I know it’s bad to make a prediction that hinges so strictly to another, but because of #4, I bet Tyrion finally breaks and betrays the Lannisters by the end of the book, taking Bronn with him. WELL. HOLY SHIT. I mean, he does do this, but not for the reason I listed here. And I have no idea if Bronn goes with him. I give myself a half a point for this one.
- Catelyn will finally kill Jaime by the end of the novel. Yes, I don’t think Jaime will escape. YEAH. NO. Catelyn returns Jaime to King’s Landing with Brienne escorting him, and WHAT THE FUCK. First of all: Brienne = pure love. I love her so dearly and I would be honored to have her as my knight. And honestly? I like Jaime. Kind of a lot? AND I CAN’T BELIEVE I AM SAYING THAT. The Kingslayer was so revolting in the first two books, and I was shocked that I began to look forward to his chapters. GRRM, WHAT ARE YOU DOING TO ME?
- Look, I don’t even know how to deal with Melisandre, but I bet she takes control of what Stannis leaves behind and becomes a new threat to the Iron Throne. Haha, nope. I’m really striking out on these predictions, too. Melisandre, I CANNOT FIGURE YOU OUT. Oh god.
- I think that last one is based on the title: A Storm of Swords. That seems like a reference to a chaotic battle of sorts, and I think all the parties who are claiming the throne will finally come to fight in ONE gigantic battle. Or something? Nope. But THE RED WEDDING. OH MY FUCKING GOD.
- Sansa will attempt to escape on Joffrey’s wedding day, and she will succeed. But GRRM can’t give us too much joy! We’ll find out Ser Dantos has another plan for her that puts her right back in peril. Okay….so technically this is true? The first half, at least, but…okay. I’ll give myself half a point for this one.
- We will get a chapter narrated by Rickon. Man, where the fuck is Rickon? He wasn’t in the book once!
- Bran will find a way to meet up with his mother by the end of the novel, who will realize that killing Jaime was a mistake because her sons are alive. (The Starks seem to make a lot of “noble” mistakes, so this is my guess.) Hahahaha, y’all seriously must think I am a goddamn fool at this point. I WILL NEVER GET ANYTHING RIGHT FOREVER. Ugh, he and Jon were SO CLOSE to seeing each other. I know it’s unrealistic at this point, but I want the remaining Starks to find one another so badly. It’s heartbreaking to me that the four remaining children and Jon are all separated. 🙁
- Unfortunately for anyone ever, I bet Theon did not die when Winterfell was under siege a second time. But just purely for my own joy, Robb kills Theon by the end of the book. I know it’s unrealistic, but it’s all I want from life right now. Damn it, only half right. No Theon death, but that’s because of the most horrifying scene ever.
- Jon. JON SNOW. my god. So he’s with the wildlings. I predict he has sex with Ygritte by the end of the book, and his big “moment” is that he is given the choice to kill one of his men to prove his loyalty or risk his life, so he follows Halfhand’s advice not to waver and kills someone from the Night’s Watch. OKAY. HALF RIGHT. Oh my god, Jon Snow, YOUR STORY IS AMAZING. You spend time with the wildlings, fall for Ygritte, then betray Mance and join the Night’s Watch, defend the Wall, get detained by Allister Thorne (I FUCKING HATE YOU), go back to the Wall, then become LORD COMMANDER. Look, I’m not going to lie: during the first siege by the wildlings, as they were creeping up the stairs, I thought Jon Snow would die in this book. After the last book and especially after the Red Wedding, it was clear that any of the main characters could die at this point, even more so than before. I thought this would be it for Jon, and I was so pleasantly surprised that this was not the case. I’m still suspicious of GRRM because…oh god, I like Jon Snow so much, and GRRM kills everything I love. IT’S TRUE.
- I think Robb’s going to die in this book. I HATE TYPING THAT but look the Starks just die all the time. So yeah. I DON’T WANT IT, but it’s going to happen. I wish I was wrong about this. Can I deduct a point out of pure misery?
- Samwell Tarly is going to kill for the first time in this book. SAM THE SLAYER! HOLY SHIT, AMAZING. JUST AMAZING.
- WE WILL GET A CHAPTER FROM ASHA GREYJOY’S PERSPECTIVE. oh please please please let this happen. Nope. Where was she? No Theon, No Asha, no Rickon. FOR NEARLY 1,200 PAGES.
- Loras Tyrell will align himself with Catelyn Stark. I DON’T EVEN THINK THIS MAKES ANY SENSE but there’s no way he’d go with the Lannisters, even if Margaery is wedding Joffrey. Hahahahaha, sweet summer child, I was unprepared. Brienne was the one to align with Catelyn Stark while Loras moped around because of his dead boyfriend. Also he is TOTALLY A YOUNGER VERSION OF JAIME.
- Littlefinger will be behind the attempt to get Sansa away from Joffrey because he’s gross. HOLY SHIT I ACTUALLY NAILED ONE COMPLETELY. And to specify, I meant that JOFFREY was gross, and that’s why Littlefinger was behind it. I mean…I am intrigued by Petyr, but he is kind of gross. ALSO: THE LAST CHAPTER OF THE BOOK. MY GOD.
- Like #16, I know this won’t happen, but I want a chapter from Varys’s point of view. PLEASE. JUST ONE. Please grant me this just once. JUST ONE CHAPTER, GRRM. PLEASE. #teamvarys and I don’t give a fuck.
- Edmure Tully dies. Nope. Taken prisoner by the Freys. Also, way to fuck everything up for Robb, you asshole.
- Hot Pie dies. Nope. Left behind. As was Gendry. 🙁
- We will see H’ghar in a new face. And it will be shown that it’s Syrio Forel. Or whomever he is. Nope. Unless it’s proven later.
- DAENARYS. Oh god, she’s going to Pentos. She’ll make it there and find out Illyrio tricked her into coming, and he’ll try to kill her to get the reward on her head, and HE WILL BE ROASTED ALIVE BY HER DRAGONS. NOPE. BECAUSE….okay. I am so conflicted by Daenarys! She is clearly a badass and I love that she is discovering just how much power she has. I love that she frees slaves wherever she goes. I love that GRRM also has the foresight to make it obvious that she is not necessarily the white savior she thinks she is, especially as the cities she emancipates aren’t not suddenly bastions of goodness and morality. She makes mistakes, but she learns to fix them. I am so excited to see what becomes of her remaining in Meereen. SO EXCITED.
- Westeros will learn that dragons exist. FUCK YES. Nope!
- One of the warlocks from the House of the Undying will also cross the narrow sea and to get revenge on the temple being burnt down by killing Jonah Mormont. I HATE EVEN TYPING THAT. NOPE. Oh my god, I wasn’t even fucking close. Oh my god, the Unsullied. And Astapor. And the 163 slaves. And BARRISTAN SELMY!!!!!!!!!!! oh my god this goddamn book.
Five out of twenty-five. Well, that’s a slight improvement from last time, right???
I haven’t even touched the surface of what this book has done to me. I got a lot of non-spoilery warnings about this book. It’s funny how so many people gave me pre-emptive hugs. People were concerned for my well-being. They gave me warnings that seemed to suggest I was about to do something foolish, like leaping off a building or going bungee jumping without training. It cannot be that bad, I thought. I’d survived some hellish shocks before, expected many more, and was properly prepared for the onslaught of death to come. It is a storm of swords and certainly many people would die, right?
The rather brilliant Neil Slorance (whose Tumblr rules, and whose shop is full of wonderful things you should buy) drew this cartoon, which I discovered when I was just barely through this monster of a book:
People told me there was a thing that happened in A Storm of Swords that was a million times worse than the death of Ned Stark, and I couldn’t believe it was possible. Why do I do this to myself? So in honor of this frighteningly accurate cartoon, and as a way to organize all of the things I need to talk about, y’all are getting a list.
Each and Every Moment That Made Mark Put Down A Storm of Swords and Walk Away From The Book Because This Is Just Too Much
- The three blows of the horn in the prologue. Meaning the Others have arrived. Yeah, you start your book this way? Well, I was never prepared.
- Okay, Samwell’s first chapter is fantastic enough, and I love the flashback device that GRRM uses to give us the information of what happened when the Others attacked the Fist of the First Men. So things were already pretty tense and real. And then Samwell kills an Other by using the dragonglass dagger and IT DISSOLVES. Yeah. I had to take a break after that.
- Tywin Lannister tells his son, Tyrion, that he must marry Sansa Stark. Yeah, I’m sorry, but WHAT THE FUCK???
- Vargo Hoat cuts off Jamie’s right hand. At this point, I was wondering what could possibly be worse than all of this.
- The display of obedience from the Unsullied. Not many things make me queasy, but good fucking god.
- Daenarys killing Kraznys and ordering her dragons to burn the slavers alive. Just….THIS IS LIKE BARELY A THIRD OF THE WAY THROUGH THE BOOK. By this point, A Storm of Swords has one of the most rapid blots of any book I have ever read.
- The mutiny at Craster’s Keep and Lord Commander Mormont’s death. It’s seriously too much. I LOVED MORMONT. And oh god, Samwell just sitting there with Mormont’s head in his lap. FUCK.
- Sandor Clegane and Lord Beric battle in single combat and Lord Beric dies and then IS BROUGHT BACK TO LIFE. WHAT THE FUCK.
- SAMWELL AND GILLY’S UNBELIEVABLE SCENE WITH THE WIGHT OF SMALL PAUL AND WHO THE FUCK WAS THAT MAN WITH COLD BLACK HANDS AND WHAT THE FUCK.
- The Red Wedding. I’m not good at figuring things out. I’ve just resolved myself to accepting this. Thinking back to the old woman’s dreams, Arya’s dreams, and the prophecy of Melisandre, this was unavoidable. And it still hit me so hard. My friend had just arrived in San Francisco, so I got her at the airport. I had read up to Arya’s chapter before it, anxious to see a reunion between Arya and her mother. We ordered Thai take-out that night and my roommate, my friend, and I were sitting around a coffee table in my living room when I got to this part. I sat there for a moment and was quite literally thinking to myself, “DON’T CRY. DON’T DO IT.” Then I put the book down and curled up and tried to fit under the table and I couldn’t and I just felt so completely numb and empty. This is a thousand times worse than Ned Stark’s death, worse than any twist in His Dark Materials, worse than every death in Harry Potter, and if anyone ever asks me what the least prepared I ever was for a fictional story, I will say the Red Wedding and I will not hesitate for one second. There is no preparation possible for this chapter.
- It hurts so much, she thought. Our children, Ned, all our sweet babes. Rickon, Bran, Arya, Sansa, Robb…Robb…please, Ned, please, make it stop, make it stop hurting…The white tears and the red ones ran together until her face was torn and tattered, the face that Ned had loved. Catelyn Stark raised her hands and watched the blood run down her long fingers, over her wrists, beneath the sleeves of her gown. Slow red worms crawled along her arms and under her clothes. It tickles. That made her laugh until she screamed. “Mad,” someone said, “she’s lost her wits,” and someone else said, “Make an end,” and a hand grabbed her scalp just as she’d done with Jinglebell, and she thought, No, don’t, don’t cut my hair, Ned loves my hair. Then the steel was at her throat, and its bite was red and cold.
- Brilliant writing, GRRM, despite that you broke my heart. And if I may take up #12 to say so, the writing all throughout A Storm of Swords is among the man’s best. And we’ll get to my other favorite section in a little while.
- I waited sixteen hours after the Red Wedding before I picked up A Storm of Swords. This was true devastation on my part. I’d come to love every Stark character so much, and GRRM had spread the entire family across Westeros. This was the first chance for any sort of reunion to take place, and it was stolen from us by the Freys. I, too, like many of you, was so furious and heartbroken that I did not want to read any further. And I didn’t for quite some time, much longer than I ever had in any book I had read that upset me. The next afternoon, I picked this book up again, read Arya’s chapter, which ended with her getting Sandor Clegane’s axe to her head. And I was like FUCK THIS I AM DONE. No, wait, let me use an emoticon to express how I felt about the end of this chapter: (╯°□°)╯︵ ┻━┻
- Ygritte dying in Jon Snow’s arms. Yeah, at this point, I was just internally begging GRRM to stop killing characters I liked. And then I realized this was pointless.
- The realization that Arstan is BARRISTAN SELMY. I had completely forgotten about him since A Game of Thrones and seriously had to take a couple minutes to calm down before I moved on in the book.
- Joffrey was the one who tried to kill Bran. At this point, I swear to you, all I wanted was the earth to swallow up that asshole forever. OH, FOR ONCE, MY PRAYERS WERE ANSWERED BECAUSE…
- JOFFREY IS POISONED AT HIS OWN FUCKING WEDDING. No lie, I was on BART when I got to his death and I CHEERED OUT LOUD and everyone stared at me and then I felt slightly embarrassed and then I thought FUCK THAT I HATE JOFFREY. Poor Margaery, though. 🙁
- Sansa goes through with escape and LORD PETYR IS THE ONE WHO ORGANIZED THE WHOLE THING. what the holy fuck.
- Prince Oberyn’s battle by combat against Gregor Clegane. “You raped her. You murdered her. You killed her children.” One of the most chilling scenes of the entire fucking series. Just unbelievable, and made even more shocking when GREGOR EVENTUALLY WINS AFTER CONFESSING WHAT HE’S DONE. oh my god.
- Daenarys banishes Ser Jorah Mormont. Yeah, I knew she was conflicted about his unwanted advances and it’s actually a good decision on her part–though one that will inevitably lead to some sort of backlash, since Jorah is far too proud of a person to take this. But STILL. Holy shit!
- STANNIS, BARATHEON. IN. THE. NORTH. OH MY GOD.
- VALAR DOHAERIS. What??? WHAT???? WHAT THE FUCK IS GOING ON. oh my god ARYA STABS THE TICKLER TO DEATH and what the fuck is that coin Jaqen gave her???
- Tyrion’s final chapter is perhaps the most mind-blowing moment of all of A Storm of Swords. The “bad” guys in this series do not seem to get their comeuppance, and the further I got in these books, the more certain I was that Tywin Lannister was invincible. I was happy that Varys and Jaime rescued Tyrion, though then immediately was heartbroken by the reveal that Tysha was not hired to shame the Lannister dwarf. Looking back, after all the shame heaped on Tyrion for the things he’d done for his family and the crown, it really was inevitable that Tyrion would turn against the Lannisters. I was ecstatic to find out how Varys knew so much of people’s private conversations (I WANT A HOUSE LIKE THAT), but simply expected that Tyrion would confront his father before escaping. Instead, he strangles Shae (NO WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU DOING BAD TYRION) AND THEN SHOOTS AN ARROW INTO HIS FATHER’S STOMACH. And how about that final line? Seems GRRM planned this the whole time, because Tywin Lanniester did not, in fact, shit gold.
- The Wall is Jon’s. Enough said.
- I mentioned before that the final paragraph of the Red Wedding chapter blew me away. It is a deeply distressing and disturbing bit of prose, but contrast that with Sansa building Winterfell in the snow outside the Eyrie. Heartbreaking, yes, as Sansa has to accept that she is the only living Stark alive. (OH GOD, THE STARKS HAVE NO IDEA WHAT IS GOING ON.) So she builds her home from memory in the bright snow that has fallen outside. It is a gorgeous and comforting memory for her, and also provides the first moment that I feel good about Petyr Baelish as well. Yeah and then WHAT THE FUCK. Everything is PURE CHAOS after this, though I do love the tiny moment where Sansa beheads Robert’s doll and places it on a stick on the wall of Winterfell. Is this foreshadowing for Sansa’s development in A Feast For Crows? I WOULD LIKE TO THINK SO. And then. AND THEN. Oh god, Lysa’s confrontation with Petyr and Sansa. Again, I believed that Sansa could die here at the end, as much as I didn’t want it, especially after Lysa reveals SHE POISONED HER OWN HUSBAND, JON ARRYN. WHAT THE FUCK!!!
- Petyr Baelish tosses Lysa out the Moon Door. You are kidding me. YOU ARE FUCKING KIDDING ME.
- The epilogue of A Storm of Swords is perhaps the only epilogue I have ever read that I find to be pretty much perfection. I’ve never really understood the need for them. Well, except for in Arrested Development, which saved some of the best jokes for an epilogue. But after the chaos and destruction of this novel, GRRM has one final surprise for us. Valar Morghulis. All men must die. And the epilogue shows us that there might just be some vengeance for the Stars. The Brotherhood Without Banners trick Merrett Frey into capture and bring forth a sole witness that he was involved in the Red Wedding: Catelyn Stark. Who was brought back from the dead. And still has the wounds she suffered from Raymund Frey and herself. And I cannot believe that this is how this book ends.
I missed a lot, I know. But this is a long, dense book, full of so many details, character arcs, and plot twists that it’s almost impossible to talk about everything. But I do want to say that reading A Storm of Swords was difficult, challenging, and immensely satisfying. This is fantastic literature that’s both gripping and thought-provoking. I have no clue where this can go after here. LIKE HALF THE CHARACTERS ARE DEAD. What the fuck?
We can discuss a lot of the stuff I missed in the comments, and I’ll post my predictions for A Feast For Crows later this week. (It won’t take place of an American Gods review, though. Two posts in one day!)
oh god WHAT DID I MISS.