Well, here goes. The land is still divided. Several kings each claim their own portion in the south lands, Winterfell has been burned, Joffrey the sadistic puppet boy-king still holds the central seat although plenty of vying factions try to control what happens there regardless of who's supposed to be ruling. Denarys is travelling overland from across the sea through her own maze of war and betrayals to try and reclaim her birthright. In the far north, the real threat looms- hordes of barbarians are attacking the Wall that defends the lower kingdoms, and the diminshed numbers of the Night's Watch are hard-pressed to turn them back. But the Wildlings themselves are fleeing an even greater evil that might overrun all, a doom of which the southern squabbling kings are woefully ignorant (they've been warned, but scoff at the very idea). I keep thinking that the dragons have returned just in time, because what else better to fight frozen demons than creatures breathing fire? I'll just have to wait and see, though, but I suspect that's where this is all going...
And why is there not more about the dragons? they and the direwolves are very interesting to me, but they always take a back seat to what the humans in these books are doing.
I continued to amuse myself by comparing the book to the tv series, although here that will end, as the final fifty pages or so of this book moved beyond the last episode of the third season. There were several major changes, like who Robb's bride was and where she went with him, but not any great shift in plot or character. I still felt for most of the same characters, becoming even more interested in the fates of Tyrion and Sansa, particularly. I was shocked at a few revelations; one of my favorite characters turned out to be a planted informer, betraying the very person he swore to protect- I actually jumped in my seat and shouted aloud at the book when I read that! And the author certainly has no qualms about killing off major characters, let's just say that without further spoilers. Some of those took me by surprise, too. I though I might be weary of this series by the end of this book; it's been slow reading. But the way characters speak to each other explains a great deal of the history of this invented world to me, so that certain things begin to make more sense, certain characters become even more sympathetic, motives are revealed, cause-and-effect more intricately linked, and I am even more invested. Well done.
(These books would certainly get rated one notch higher by me except that I'm not completely enthralled by them. It's a darn good read, and I'm interested in many of the characters, but it splits a bit too much between the eight or nine or ten -never really counted- points of view the chapters alternate around. So I haven't quite fallen in love with it yet, and not sure if I'll ever read the books again after this. I won't really know that until I've completed the entire series, I think. But a three is a good rating, from me! A very solid recommendation).
Rating: 3/5 ....... 1,173 pages, 2000
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