[Spoilers for Game of Thrones the HBO series and the books by George R.R. Martin ahead]
A Storm of Swords #2 is, according to me, the fastest paced, most richly detailed medieval fantasy fiction I have read (including the likes of Lord of the Rings, the Inheritance series and even the next part of this very series, A Feast for Crows).
The Red Wedding
In its opening chapters, Robb Stark seeks to right the wrong he did to Walder Frey when he broke his oath to marry into his family. An occasion of celebration is turned into a Stark massacre as Walder Frey reveals how he won’t let anybody play him for a fool, be as it may the King in the North. What comes to be known as the Red Wedding did not break my heart so much because I had been expecting it (having been exposed to spoilers galore online) but the descriptions of its aftermath did. Catelyn Stark being unclothed and thrown into the waters; the direwolf Grey Wind’s head being sewn on Robb’s body. Gross, grim, sickening details but that is what Westeros is famous for!
The Hound is bringing Arya to the Twins while the massacre occurs within its castle walls. At the last minute, he sees sense enough to turn back and for some reason, saves Arya and takes her with him again. Its easy to realise that he is not all bad, given that Arya was ready to fling everything away in order to go inside and find her mother; save her if possible (that girl is like lightning)
At King’s Landing
In those last moments before her throne is slit, Catelyn shows how she does not deserve to be the most hated Stark anymore. And if you’re thinking I am going to transfer that title to Sansa now, well you’re wrong. Sansa is married to Tryion and playing the part of the dutiful wife. Despite news of her mother and brother’s cruel deaths at the hands of the Freys and under the orders of Lord Tywin Lannister, Sansa continues to put on a brave front; putting up with Joffrey’s mocking and gently turning away from Tyrion’s attempts to comfort her. She chooses, instead, to pray.
Joffrey’s wedding to Margaery is upon us however, and unlike the sad affair Tyrion and Sansa had to get through, this union of Baratheon (Lannister!) and Tyrell is going to be a joyous occasion with seventy-seven courses being served through dinner. The dining description struck me as being written with the same sense of jest and teasing as Harry Potter feasts. Tyrion gets madly drunk and afterwards humiliated by a pantomime involving dwarfs where Joffrey is quick to jab him with cruel jokes.
However the wedding end takes a twist because Joffrey is poisoned and Cersie is quick to raise blame against her dwarf brother and his wife. While Tyrion is too slow to realise what’s going on, Sansa makes her escape. She hadn’t known about the plan for Joffrey to die but she finds Littlefinger waiting for her on a ship off the coast.
Meanwhile Tyrion is on trial against his own nephew and suddenly yet venomously, the whole court turns against him. The house of Dorne comes into focus when its prince agrees to champion Tyrion but dies in the process.
Tyrion does, however, have some friends in court and he makes his escape on the eve of his execution. As he is leaving, he comes across his father’s chambers and in a BIG yaay moment, he takes his revenge by killing the cruel man who was never truly a father to him. I was cheering Tyrion to the skies as he made off with his vengeance complete.
Sansa meanwhile, is taken to her mother’s sister’s house at the Eyrie. Eyrie is a strange, wicked place cold, cruel and godless but Sansa needs to keep her identity hidden because there is a price over her head, thanks to Cersie. And the lady of the house Lady Lysa, is possessive, fierce and out of her wits. She accuses Sansa of trying to steal stealing Petyr from her, as Catelyn had once done. Let’s just say she ends up falling a long way down.
Jaime, meanwhile, is back at King’s Landing. His maiming has changed him and you can almost start to love him until you remember; why did you hate him again? Oh yeah. Bran.
But wheras Jaime’s character is all shades of grey, Cersie is the epitome of evil, With Joffrey dead, his younger innocent brother Tommem inherits the throne.
At and Beyond the Wall
Jon Snow is fighting a fierce battle against the free people. Samwell Tarly has reached the wall, helped by a mysterious cloaked figure. So has Brandon Stark and the Reeds. As their paths cross each other, Sam and Brandon come in contact but Sam promises not to tell Jon Snow about his brother’s journey. I am excited about where Brandon’s character is headed.
Just when all seems lost for Jon Snow however, Stannis Baratheon and his fleet arrive to save the day. But at the same time they bring a number of complications for the newly crowned Lord Snow of the wall.
Daenerys has captured the slave cities of Meereen, Astapor and Yunkai but her hold is weak and she struggles to keep her talons firmly planted. Having freed the slaves, she turns inwards to sort out her captains and facess betrayal at every corner.
My personal belief is that these characters beyond the wall are building the momentum that will sweep away the Lannisters. Be it Brandon Stark or Jon Snow, Daenerys Targeryn or Arya Stark, their revenge is in the air and let the sweet Rains of Castamere fall.
Chillingly, as the book ends, we see a withered Catelyn has survived the Red Wedding and is back with steely vengeance in her heart. This time, she will show no mercy and the wolves shall rise with her.
Last laugh: Jaime suffering from Stockholm syndrome. Just so cute this is. Haha.