I first need to say that I'm currently backpacking through Europe (and will be for the next 3 months!) and am writing this from Milan - where I just spent way too much money on clothes. So for a while my reading will be very light and my updates less frequent ... I'm sure you'll deal.
I think this may be the best of the aSoIaF books so far, but it is also the first one I have read while not simultaneously watching the HBO series, which I am sure had something to do with it ... you know, not actually having plot spoilers. As usual some characters/viewpoints are more engaging than others. One of my favourites was Daenerys as her story finally picks up from trawling through the desert into opening up a can of whoop-ass ... unfortunately she is still kind of on the back burner of this book and we're only treated to a voice choice chapters.
The real action is over in ye olde Westeros where political machinations are as common as kittens are cute. Especially towards the end of the book it becomes a little mind boggling to comprehend who is now allying with whom, and who is being a treacherous mofo. And then there are some to-ing and fro-ing like a good tennis match.
One thing is certain and that is certainly sucks to be a Stark, or in fact, anyone related to them ... or anyone who knows them ... or has glimpsed one once. George obviously has no conscience or pity when it comes to these guys ... seriously when will it end ... will someone please think of the children!
For the majority of the book Catelyn still remained one of my favourite characters - she has such a strong and unique personality that really shines through in her narrative. Towards the end it did become a little repetitive with the woe, but I think I'll forgive her, she's been through a lot.
Many deaths abound, some unexpected and one so incredibly satisfying I began vocalising my approval like a fan at a football game. One event and two deaths in the final quarter of the book was incredibly shocking and emotional for me, I had to put the book down. But then I had to pick it back up because I was on a 14-hour train ride across France and had nothing else to do.
Jaime was an incredibly welcome addition as a point-of-view character and the insights into his version of past events including the overthrow of the Targaryens was very interesting indeed. Martin is incredibly adept at conveying the motivations of each character and not only does it add yet another level of complexity to the characters and story, but it makes everything ring so true.
Tyrion is enjoyable as always, although is so downtrodden and depressed in this book that it becomes a little frustrating and lacks some of his earlier appeal. His version of events and train of thoughts during Joffrey's wedding was quite humourous however and provided some great laugh out loud moments.
Considering the length of this book (it's longer than the entire LotR trilogy!) it didn't actually feel that long for me or drag at any point. Which is absolutely fantastic really, because I've committed to this series now and it better not ever be less than divine.
Taking a short break to read a review a book sent to me, and then onto A Feast for Crows ... although Europe may keep me too busy to get through it any faster than a snail's pace.