TITLE: A Song of Ice and Fire, Book Three: A Storm of Swords
AUTHOR: George R.R. Martin
I zipped through this one. Well, for me, reading a book that's around 1125 pages in paperback in just under six weeks, is zipping. :)
This book has it all. Action, adventure, mystery, suspense, the full range of emotions, deep characterization, slow burns and bright flares all. Secrets and deceptions, dating back to the first book, are revealed, while new ones come into being. It's been interesting seeing how the TV version has deviated from the written word, and now that I'm ahead of the show, it will be interesting to see how the written word is adapted.
It's really impossible to talk about this book without revealing to much of the previous volumes. Just to mention a character, for anyone who hasn't been reading or watching, will reveal who survived the earlier books. And I wouldn't want to spoil this for anyone. If you like epic adventure, this is for you, even if fantasy isn't your thing, because it isn't really mine, but it works so well here, completely woven into the narrative in a natural way. The magic elements are slowly returning to the realm and are not in-your-face obnoxious, but rather, are additional aspects that need to be considered by the characters as an ancient evil is about to return. Sure, there are dragons and direwolves, giants and skinchangers, and the mysterious, fearsome Others. But at its heart, this is about politics and religion, old gods vs new vs the God of Light, and how much people are willing to sacrifice for power, wealth, honor, and overcoming evil.
There are no heroes in these books. Just people, good ones and greedy ones, flawed, selfish, vain, honorable, naive, clever, too clever for their own good, self-righteous, and every other aspect of humanity. Fantasy and science fiction works best when it reflects us, and by giving us the point of view of the various factions, this series is turning a mirror on ourselves. There are things you get from reading the books that you can't really ascertain from the show: the motivations, fears, hopes of the people who inhabit this very realistic fantasy realm.