Of the five contenders for power, one is dead, another in disfavor, and still the wars rage as alliances are made and broken. Joffrey sits on the Iron Throne, the uneasy ruler of the Seven Kingdoms. His most bitter rival, Lord Stannis, stands defeated and disgraced, victim of the sorceress who holds him in her thrall. Young Robb still rules the North from the fortress of Riverrun. Meanwhile, making her way across a blood-drenched continent is the exiled queen, Daenerys, mistress of the only three dragons still left in the world. And as opposing forces manoeuver for the final showdown, an army of barbaric wildlings arrives from the outermost limits of civilization, accompanied by a horde of mythical Others—a supernatural army of the living dead whose animated corpses are unstoppable. As the future of the land hangs in the balance, no one will rest until the Seven Kingdoms have exploded in a veritable storm of swords...
Image and summary from Goodreads.com.
My review: A complex tale grows even more complex as war rages all across the seven kingdoms. Five men claim the title of king and mean to subdue the continent. Robb Stark makes sweeping victories on the battlefield, but disastrous decisions regarding his love life. What can you expect from a 17-year-old with raging hormones?
King Joffrey’s reign seems secure in King’s Landing as his forces deal with the threat of the four other self-proclaimed kings with ease. Politics are muddy at best, and everyone is down in the dirt ready to play. This book brings about two infamous weddings, one that has infamously outraged readers and another that tastes of sweet, sweet justice. (Sidenote: don’t have a wedding in Westeros.)
Queen Dany and her dragons continue their trek across the other continent, Essos. She is learning who she is as a ruler and has some seriously awesome moments. She detests slavery and frees the slaves in every city she passes through, but after seeing the havoc that can happen after overthrowing a government—even a terrible one—she settles into the next city after overthrowing its government to try her hand at governing herself.
In the north, a new threat emerges. As Jon Snow spends time spying on the wildlings, he begins to understand and respect them, even taking a wildling woman as lover for sometime. The Night’s Watch on the ranging north of the Wall have a skirmish with the zombie-like Others, introducing readers to the true threat of the series.
We see the plot shift from avenging Ned Stark to wanting nothing more than King’s Landing to go down in flames. The rank rule of the Lannisters seems impervious even though readers hope for a weak spot that any—ANY—of the opposing characters can exploit. Queen Dany has settled down to rule another land for the foreseeable future. Jon becomes more burdened by the demands at the Wall, even as he rises to power. And King Stannis is focused on aiding the realm against outside invaders. Even so, the game of thrones still has plenty of players. Our best hope might not be in a conqueror swooping in to save the day, but in the politicians of King’s Landing destroying the reign from within. As the Lannister family itself fractures, age-old alliances fall away and enterprising schemers might just have the opportunity to put a new king—or queen—on the Iron Throne.
In this book, we experience an absolute breaking of trust between reader and author. The idea that no character is safe is firmly cemented. No character—hero or villain—is too central to do away with. “Central” plots will just develop somewhere else. Heroes are cut down and villains become heroes. Knowing what outcome to root for is ambiguous at best. The backstories and characters are so gorgeously elaborate that, by this book, readers are rabidly invested in numerous fan theories and rereading the lengthy series for more clues and foreshadowing. Oh what fun it is to be a fan!
Rating: 5 stars
For the sensitive reader: These books are not for you.