George R. R. Martin, A Storm of Swords, Part Two: Blood and Gold: Book Three of A Song of Ice and Fire (London: Harper Voyager, 2011), 607pp
Whilst the Song of Ice and Fire books of course have their own pre-existing following, I imagine that many people now deciding to read this book will do so due to the success of the television series Game of Thrones, as I did. Therefore, I will not provide an ordinary review but try to give my impressions of the book as someone who had already been exposed to the television adaptation. Consequently, there may be spoilers for those who haven't seen the show.
Part Two of A Storm of Swords is a new and strange experience for me: the first of George R. R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire books that I have read before its contents have been adapted onto screen. The fourth season of the HBO series Game of Thrones kicks off next year, and so for the first time I have read one of the books without prior knowledge of how it would develop. Thankfully, I adored the book; the plot twists and changes were new and shocking to me, and I can't wait to see how they pan out on screen. The Tyrion Lannister and Jon Snow storylines are particularly exciting (I just know Peter Dinklage is going to nail it), with Daenerys not far behind, and the new character of Oberyn Martell will no doubt prove to be memorable. Oberyn's character arc demonstrates that if Martin insists on killing off a lot of good characters (A Storm of Swords, Part Two certainly has the highest number of major-character deaths so far), he is at least replacing them with other good ones. Coldhands, if he is indeed depicted in the show, will also be an intriguing and enigmatic addition, whilst the book's epilogue, along with the final scenes with Tyrion and Arya, open up a lot of possibilities. Some plot points are resolved satisfyingly (who provided the knife that was used in the attempt on Bran's life, for example) while others are teasingly dangled before us (who Jon Snow's mother was).
One thing I was disappointed about was the Theon Greyjoy plotline - or rather, the lack of it. There are no Theon chapters and the Second Greyjoy Rebellion is covered only in other characters' second-hand remarks (despite there being a few important developments on Pyke). There is also less going on with both Bran and Arya, though they both have their moments. But by and large the story remains as thrilling as ever. My review for this book has been shorter than the previous ones, as I don't want to inadvertently give away any spoilers, and a lot of the best things about the book cannot be adequately discussed without doing so. Even if they could, there's so many fascinating things going on in these pages that I'd have to write a lengthy tome just to address even half of them. The series remains easy to read and a real page-turner, and I just know that by the time I finish A Feast for Crows and the two volumes of A Dance with Dragons, I will be jonesing for more and more. These books really are something special. Oh, and Littlefinger is one magnificent bastard.