StormIt’s that time of year, Game of THRONES, my friends.  Are you geeking out?   I am.  Hard. Core.  I resisted this show for two whole seasons, but in the end, pre-baby ‘bed rest’ boredom, plus my inner fantasy fan (ok, OUTER fantasy fan) won the day.  And as if often the case, once I committed my whole heart, after binge-watching two seasons (and frankly, switching cable carriers to get HBO at a great deal for Season 3), I made my way to the books.

I’m happy to admit that A Clash of Kings was the first book I read on my Kindle. While I’m still not in love with the technology, it did save me lugging around an enormous book while also lugging around an equally enormous newborn.  But we’re not here to talk about A Game of Thrones, or A Clash of Kings.  That’s SO last season(s). We are here to talk about A Storm of Swords.

I’ve decided that all authors with R.R. as their middle initials have a pathological fear of brevity.  They enjoy describing, in exhaustingly minute detail, everything everyone is wearing, eating, smelling, seeing and riding.  Lots of time is spent discussing sigils and scabbards and mottos (oh my!).  Like Mr. R.R. Tolkien, Martin takes the scenic, slow-as-a-goat-path (sometimes an actual goat path) route around his fictitious world.  Like an old man reminiscing about his youth to his grandkids.  It’s not bad, you get to see all the main tourist attractions – some of them more than once (Harrenhal, I’m talking to you!).  We know the climate and topography of each landscape intimately, as well as every breakfast, lunch and dinner.  And unlike some other books, we actually get to see our characters piss and shit (repeatedly) and, of course, have sex.  But not nearly as much as in the show.  But that, dear readers, is my only criticism.  Wow, I feel lighter.  Now let’s move on to the fun stuff (SPOILERS GALORE AHEAD!!!!!)

Ok, seriously, I’m going to give away a whole lot of stuff here folks. For real. Stop if you don’t want to know.  People die.  Lots of them.  I’m naming names.  Still with me?  First off, what I love about the first three books is that Mr. R.R. Martin is not afraid to kill off anyone.  I mean, seriously, Eddard Stark in Book One?  That takes balls.  I love it.  I’m still reeling.  And he doesn’t stop there.  A Storm of Swords is just that – people are dying left and right (and behind and before).  A second Stark falls (you’re still here?  I’m not kidding!).  Then his mother dies (or DOES she?).  The irony is that she dies thinking all of her children are dead, but in reality they are all alive except the one she sees killed (ok, it’s Robb!).  Incidentally I’ve decided that direwolves are wasted on all those Stark kids.  Except Arya, (as an important aside:  please for the love of all that is holy and good, someone tell me if they reunite in Books 5 or 6 or 7. I almost can’t stand it).

The death toll doesn’t stop there.  It’s hard to be a Lannister in Book 3 – especially if you are Joff or Lord Tywin (he doesn’t shit gold apparently, what a great line!).  Lysa Arryn, you bat-shit crazy broad, I’ll miss you.  A whole lot more die too, but I won’t bore you with the list.  If only his editor had slashed the pages the way the author slashes his characters, his books might not be 1,000 pages long (seriously, my only criticism).  This dude brings casual back to casualty.  Let’s not forget, this IS war.

My other favorite thing about this series, but particular this book,  is that although the bad guys in this story are really really bad, the good guys are pretty awful too.  I’m not sure who to root for:  Robb, the punk pretending to be a man (too late for that now I guess)?   Daenerys, soft-hearted and steel-willed, who saves an army of eunochs, but mutilates their slave owners?  Stone cold and utterly boring Stannis, who is led around by his misguided pride and a demon-birthing red head? Or Tyrion.  OH Tyrion.   I have to say I was a little in love with him until his masterpiece of patricide. I’m more than a little sad he’s not in Book 4.  Where is he?   I was just recovering from that moral ambiguity, and then the author flips us back around again.  In another beautiful moment he makes us like Jaime – that’s right, the Kingslayer.  Almost enough to forget that whole sister thing.  And Brienne, where have you BEEN all my life.  I’m pretty sure it’s not a healthy thing that I identify all over the place with the horse-faced girl who fights like a knight.

This book opens up a literal sea of possibilities for the rest of the story.  Our heroes are scattered to the winds.  But they keep bumping into one another. Bran meeting Sam, for instance.  Another amazing moment. Or Summer saving Jon.

I’m hoping in my heart of hearts that Arya comes back from Braavos to steal the Iron Throne from them all.  Which reminds me, the moment when she takes Needle back?  One of the best literary moments of my life.  I had to stop myself from literally cheering out loud.  A storm of swords indeed, now that she has one back in her hand.  I can’t wait to see what she does with it.