The books in this series just keep getting better and better! As always, when writing a review of a book that is part of a longer series, I'm going to find it difficult to say too much without edging into the territory of the spoiler, so I'll try and keep this short and sweet. However, if you haven't yet reached this part of the series, you might want to skip this review as it will reveal things you don't already know.
This instalment picks up exactly where the last one left off, mainly because the two 'A Storm of Swords' books were originally published as one larger volume.
Robb Stark is the King in the North but he has yet to deal with Lord Walder Frey, whom he slighted by choosing a bride for love rather than marrying the Frey daughter he had bound himself to back when the war was just beginning. Arya Stark is desperately trying to find her way home to her family but keeps finding herself in all manor of trouble, while her sister Sansa is still at the mercy of the Lannister's after being forced to marry Tyrion Lannister aka the Imp. Meanwhile Bran Stark is searching for the three eyed crow beyond the wall and his half brother Jon Snow is busy infiltrating the Wildlings as they attempt to breach the wall and make their way into the seven kingdoms.
Daenarys, on the other hand is busy building her army and liberating slaves as she makes her slow journey through the slave trading cities, always with invasion of Westeros at the front of her mind. Stannis Baratheon is busy with Melisandre, concocting ways of winning this war and poor Samwell Tarly is making his way across the frozen waste with Gilly and her newborn baby, desperately hoping to make it back to the Wall in time. And Jaime Lannister, that golden haired hero has found himself freed of the burden of his fighting hand and is going to have to re-build his life once he returns to King's Landing.
And then there's Joffrey, the character we all love to hate. He's still acting the petulant child with too much power and not enough restraint. His Grandfather, the Hand of the King is busy trying to reign him in but for how long can he hold him back. Can he stop him from becoming the next 'Mad king'?
The events of this novel are perhaps the most gruesome so far. There are deaths galore - many of which you will not have seen coming and will probably make you rant and rage at the book. This book is full of shocks and surprise twists and I think it's probably the best so far. I feel like it's definitely sent the series spinning off in a direction completely different to the one I had previously envisaged. I'm excited to get cracking with the next instalment and can't wait to see what evil little plot bombs Mr Martin comes up with next. But please, don't kill off anymore of my favourite characters. I don't think I could bear much more.