Book Review: A Storm of Swords’ Charged Questions

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Though A Storm of Swords, where finally some of the unanswered queries of A Game of Thrones are answered, is the longest book of George R. R. Martin’s that I’ve yet read, I feel like this book more than it predecessors in A Song of Ice and Fire, A Game of Thrones and A Clash of Kings, was missing important scenes.  Martin would show me what had happened somewhere then have someone explain it after the fact.  I’m not sure if I appreciate this tactic.  While it’s nice to be surprised, the questions like “What did you say to get him to agree to this?” go unanswered.

But none characters were caught in limbo, biding their time.  We have crossed the bridge (A Clash of Kings) to the new board—and the game has gotten deadlier.

The teams in this game are almost constantly evolving.  My list of the major teams and players consists of at least six different remaining claims to a throne in Westeros, with a vigilante group that will only cause carnage, a wild card who might greatly improve the chances of another team, and a would-be-king that is in training and cannot rejoin the game till he has leveled up.  Some of these characters I enjoy and I respect the majority of them for being fully formed, but I think that it’s the intrigue and world-building that holds me enthralled.  There is a definite element of whodunit, though perhaps because I am beginning to understand Martin’s style, I was able to guess more of the major events and “turns” of this book than I have been of others.

I finally believe that Martin will kill everyone I love—and I hope that will prevent me from establishing any more attachments, but it’s not looking good on that score.  I have a new ship and though they’re separated for now, I’m holding on.  Maybe they can be reunited when this is over—except for all those pesky vows of celibacy (why is it that the best ships in this series involve the supposed-to-be-celibate?).

My growing belief that the one monotheistic religion in the book worships a deity whose powers seem very sinister makes me somewhat uncomfortable.  I cannot decide if Martin is intending to imply anything about the Abrahamic God with R’hllor.  The preaching of R’hllor’s followers seems somewhat Christian at times—till Melisandre births a demon shadow.  Parallels between those who worship R’hllor and Christians certainly exist; they both follow religions from the East, monotheistic with a good/light versus evil/dark theology, and both burn the occasional “pagan” church or nonbeliever (ignoring the darker deeds of our past won’t erase them).  I am currently taking this series as one written from the Druidic perspective.  Westeros becomes a place where all English history and legends can exist at once:  The War of the Roses coexists with Robin Hood and the coming of Christians to the shores of England, and these “Christians” are inflamed with this deadly fervor of the Crusaders.  Westeros’ legends include parallels to Greek and Roman myths.

I am willing to continue, taking this as a work of fantasy and assigning the misdeeds of R’hllor and his followers to the characters themselves while accepting that Martin may be asking me to examine the history of Christianity.

****

Martin, George R. R.  Song of Fire and Ice, Book Three: A Storm of Swords.  New York: Bantam-Random, 2000.

This review is not endorsed by George R. R. Martin, Bantam Books, or Random House, Inc.  It is an independent, honest review by a reader.

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5 responses »

  1. I read on westeros.org that the religion of the Lord of Light is roughly based on Zoroastrianism, more specifically the worship of fire. And the religion in ASoIaF is a dualistic faith, we just don’t really hear of the “God whose name should not be spoken.” I think it is interesting to see what GRRM is trying to say with this religion, which is trying to take over and gain power, as Stannis only seen his claim to the throne possible in an alignment with Melisandre and her god. Of course I’m only on the last few pages of Clash of Kings but I had to do an essay on Game of Thrones and I chose to talk about religion, so this heavy emphasis on religious beliefs as motivation in characters was something very interesting. Also, the idea of faith grows as a more prominent concept as the books go on, which could maybe say something about the future of religion… I don’t know just some speculations I was thinking about. Can’t wait to read Storm of Swords, though! I can’t wait to cry over the lovely event that happens in the middle of the book, and I’m especially anticipating how they will translate it to the TV series medium.
    Have a nice day!

    • I have done the research that you have, Alejandro. Thanks for weighing in! I was talking to a friend about this post on another site and she suggested that the dichotomy of the Lord of Light and He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named is a square peg in a round hole for the people of Westeros whose world is so full of shades of gray rather than a strict moral code. I like this angle as it allows for deeper insight into Westeros itself, but as I pointed out to this friend, the Lord of Light seems to be gaining a fair few followers in Westeros. I wondered if the people of Westeros are seeking a more simplistic religion than their Seven gods or Seven aspects of one god. I’m still digesting all of this, but all this points again to keeping on with my journey through Martin’s country despite the misgivings I may have felt.

      Enjoy Storm of Swords. Bring a box of tissues.

  2. Also, this same friend reminded me that the Lord of Light’s is not the only monotheistic religion in Martin’s world. As far as we are aware, the Lamb People’s religion is monotheistic and some of the other religions of the Eastern islands may be monotheistic too. The Lord of Light’s is the only monotheistic religion to yet have a footing in Westeros.

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