Evil Geek Book Report – Game of Thrones: A Storm of Swords
Hey now, to all you Evil Geeks out there, it’s about time for another Evil Geek Book Review! Today we’re getting back to Izzy Vassilakis Eden’s ongoing review of the Game of Thrones series. I said I’d be dropping these weekly buuuuuttttt with the holiday and all C-Mart got a little too distracted and turkey tranquilized to get last weeks post up, so I apologize for leaving everyone hanging. We’re finally back and going strong this week though! We’re skipping a book in the series, not because Izzy didn’t do one for A Clash of Kings, she did, but it turned into an epic, steamy love letter to that dreamy Night’s Watchmen from the North, Jon Snow.
We’re forging ahead though! Onward to the next tome in the series, A Storm of Swords. Be forewarned, spoilers ahead! I myself haven’t read the books, but I’m a huge fan of the TV show. I’m soooooo tempted to read on, but I don’t want to ruin it for myself later. I’m torn! You, loyal readers, must endeavor on without me. I’ll be fine, I know a Lannister who owes me a favor. Thanks again to Izzy for letting us post her awesome reviews!
The night I finished A Storm of Swords, I had to make dinner. (After THAT, I had to make dinner.) Chopping the onions and wishing my knife was made of Valyrian steel, I naturally thought of Ser Davos and how much I liked the boring, plodding, yet oddly adept at plotting Onion Knight. I ruminated. I tried to think Deep Thoughts, but all I could come up with was: Ugh, my heart. (Onion tears.)
Martin brought it with this one. I thought I was balls-deep in Westeros before, but I was so wrong.
When the battered, torn, and wrinkled pages of A Clash of Kings were finally snapped shut and the still-buttery-smooth A Storm of Swords was reached for, I remember thinking “after the Blackwater, I’m pretty sure this guy got his titles wrong.” After all, my most vivid impression of the second volume had been the meticulous, often tedious yet awe-inspiring details of war, to the point where I had to glaze over some paragraphs because I am a delicate flower.
A few chapters into the third volume, that opinion still held. Eventually though, something happened. This something happened to many of you, judging from the reviews below. Somewhere after the halfway point, THIS SHIT GOT CRAZY. Loyalties turned on a dime, favorites were slaughtered left and right, and confusion ruled. That title glared at me, sticking its tongue out. A Storm of Fucking Swords, indeed.
I can’t even – there are so many things I thought were masterful, with the added confusion of actually beginning to agree with some of the detractors yet not caring…how do I write about this? Just go for it, Iz.
The new viewpoints – they add dimension and backstory to one-time villains and peripheral characters alike, as well as confusion and newly shaky loyalties. Martin can be so good yet so bad with characterization. He’s definitely better with the males, and he usually nails their “inner voice.” Italics serve the man well. Yet there’s always a weird lapse, a dearth of depth (for lack of a better phrase). For example, while I was transfixed with Jaime’s pining over Cersei, his hilarious quips and sort-of-right? moral code (the Sawyer to Ned’s Jack Shephard), we are deprived of the why. Why does he love Cersei? We only see the nasty side of her. Martin even shows us how she abuses Jaime, her “other half,” yet still…all he wants is Cersei. You have to hand it to the man, he made me root for incest.
As for Sam, we are treated to this somewhat loveable oaf’s account of what the hell’s going on beyond the wall. And it’s not great. I don’t want to go there. (That’s all I got for Sam).
Lots of ladies hate this series because they find it directly opposes their feminist beliefs. I don’t really have a problem with this, because my belief system is mainly comprised of worshiping books. So whatever. But when you are stingy and unimaginative when writing about the girls, I will balk. So, Martin does this thing where he writes the best female characters like…men. I am still developing my thoughts on this, so apologies if it seems raw. In my opinion, the best of the bunch (Arya, Dany, Ygritte) are written sympathetically, and with a male voice; i.e. a voice that eerily mimics his male characters. When he strays from this tactic, it can feel forced – as if he has a list of positive female attributes on the obviously epic Excel spreadsheet he uses to keep track of everything, and ticks them off one by one. I am NOT saying that the traits that make us like these characters (smarts, leadership, hotheadedness) can’t be embodied by females, no way, I just get the sense that he can’t get inside the heads of his women, more or less. The more traditionally feminine Sansa and Catelyn are written as wooden, hyper-emotional, and always making mistakes. He tries with Catelyn to make a three-dimensional, salt-of-the-earth, strong woman, I’ll give him that, but he falls juuuuuuuust short. And I’m pretty sure Sansa is somewhere on the Spectrum. The most polarizing example is probably Dany; she is meek and deferential in the beginning, and comes into her own as we move along as she assumes the traditionally male leadership role. I think he is more successful with her. (I also believe he’s creating his own fantasy woman, but that’s neither here nor there.)
It’s just not his strong suit.
LITERARY DEVICES: REPETITION
This series is chock full of cheese. However, Martin has his reasons. Just when I thought I would go on a slapping spree if I read “my name is Brienne” one more time, there’s a little moment where Jaime says “my name is Jaime,” and you’re like, I see what you did there. Ygritte, STFU with your “you know nothing, Jon Snow.” Then, as she dies, and Jon is telling her she won’t…that final “you know nothing, Jon Snow” is….waaaaaah. I see what you did there, George RR Martin. You know something.
And Arya’s sweet little bedtime prayer: “Weese. Dunsen, Chiswyck, Polliver, Raff the Sweetling. The Tickler and the Hound. Ser Gregor, Ser Armory, Ser Ilyn, Ser Meryn, King Joffrey, Queen Cersei.” Names are checked off as we move along…
I definitely felt like I was slogging through some bits of the first two books, even though I enjoyed them immensely. The same could be said for parts of the first half of Swords. Though once I reached that magical two-thirds point, it was a free-for-all. The chapters got shorter, the action got intense. I had to check myself, slow down; I didn’t want to plow through just so I could know what happens. (It was hard.) Because it happens so rarely. That feeling. The only thing I can compare it to, and I know it’s hyperbolic, but: the heady rush of the beginning of a relationship. It’s endorphins; it’s mind-sex. It’s a perfect storm of being SO involved at the perfect time. It’s rushing, falling down a well. Shivers. Oh, it’s so good.
I would finish a chapter and get pissed that the next one was so far from what had just happened. Then I would get super into the next chapter and the cycle would repeat itself. And so on.
For a while, I was annoyed at how I would often find myself backtracking and rereading, placing all the blame on the author, when I finally figured out that I have nothing to complain about. Martin is pretty careful about his dainty and laser-precise use of foreshadowing. I would read a paragraph and wonder if I had missed something in the previous one, so I would go back and investigate, usually to no avail. (It was really a lesson in patience for me.) The 200th time I did this, I threw up my hands and just went with it. We will understand the significance of the Tourney at Harrenhal in due time, just like how we are only now learning about the Mad King’s madness, and Ned Stark’s loves and losses. We will know why Jaime loves Cersei when we are meant to know. What the fuck is going on in the Iron Islands? Where is Theon? Be patient, it will unravel. I actually love slowly learning about the history of these characters. It’s like when my grandmother used to steal all my Halloween candy and distribute it one torturous/rapturous Milky Way at a time. And so on.
Honestly, I am gearing up for a 20-pager, so I’ll just stop here with some random thoughts. We have jobs, George RR Martin, don’t you understand that?! Release us from this sweet captivity. Just kidding. Don’t do that, never that.
-God, how much more emotional torture can we take?
-Jon & Ygritte. The battle with the wildlings. Martin loves Jon, you can tell. If Clash was Tyrion’s book, this one was totally Jon’s.
-I thought I was going to have an actual heart attack after the Red Wedding at the Twins.
-Jeor Mormont’s death was treated rather unceremoniously, but that one hit me pretty hard. I loved the Old Bear and the way he died was so disgraceful. Also the Greatjon 🙁
-Fucking Roose Bolton. And fucking Janos Slynt.
-Fucking Tywin Lannister! I kind of respect that guy, but I also totally hate him. What a nice undignified end. I suspect Martin wrote it that way just so Tyrion could utter that one golden line.
-Loved the theory about how the gods flip a coin whenever a Targaryen is born.
-Get Dany to Westeros already! Please don’t have her sleep with that weird guy.
-I also love Dany’s fury. Mother of Dragons! This is what I’m talking about with the obvious stuff. It’s heavy-handed but it works. But get Jorah back.
-Ser Barristan is a badass.
-Who are you rooting for?
I said I would take a break from the series, but A Feast for Crows is sitting right there.
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