The third book of the Song of Ice and Fire series, A Storm of Swords continues events in Westeros, and holds nothing back. Ned Stark’s murder in A Game of Thrones proved that no character is safe, but Swords takes that ideal to the next level, removing no less than six major characters from the story, some in rapid succession, leaving the reader’s head spinning.

Not only do deaths abound in A Storm of Swords, but major and surprising events take place at every turn. The book’s pace is relatively lazy during the first half of the novel, but once the first of those major deaths mentioned earlier occurs, the second-half of the book turns into a rapid page-turner that leaves no stone unturned.

The story picks up almost immediately after events of A Clash of Kings. With Winterfell burned, one would think that the Starks’ could imagine life no more cruel, but they would be wrong, as readers will learn by the end of Swords. It would be easy to spoil events by revealing who lives or dies, but it would ruin the surprise of the story.

The most intriguing portions of Swords have to deal with the politics and betrayal that the reader will mostly likely never see coming. Littlefinger, largely absent, becomes an even more enigmatic player when his role in events is revealed. Clearly, he is a character that has been vastly under-estimated.

Events in Westeros are far more important to the story this time around, and the plight of Daenerys takes a backseat to what’s happening on the other side of the Narrow Sea. Still, there are some truly surprising scenes involving Daenerys and her faithful servants, some of which turn out to be less faithful than she’d been led to believe.

With the twists and turns, deaths, and surprising events in A Storm of Swords, it’s easily not only the longest of the series, but by far the most superb. Martin has a special skill for storytelling, and for making us care about his characters–and not just the good ones.

– Reviewed by Bradley K. Brown