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Customer Review

on 15 June 2011
The second in Martin's A Song of Ice & Fire series and sequel to A Game of Thrones, this is a mammoth book. It may only have 700-odd pages, but the text is small and it feels much longer. I don't want to go into to many details of the plot in case it spoils it for anyone. Suffice to say, the title is very accurate. Picking up where the first book left off, the Seven Kingdoms are once again divided, with multiple lords laying claim to the Iron Throne. We are finally introduced to Robert Baratheon's other brother, Stannis, who has succumbed to the persuasions of the Lord of Light, and Melisandre - the Red Woman - is using dark magic to turn events his way. There is much politicking, power-struggling, intrigue, murder, sex, violence and emotion. As is the style of these books, Martin continues to tell the story from multiple points-of-view, with each chapter devoted to a character, leaving them on mini-cliffhangers before returning to them several chapters later. Some of the characters return from the first novel, some are new. Some stories are resolved, others left hanging for the next book.

In some ways, I don't feel this one was as successful as A Game of Thrones or as awesome as the third book, A Storm of Swords. I can't quite put my finger on why - perhaps it is just that bit too long, too sprawling, too epic for its own good. Perhaps there are just too many paragraphs full of inconsequential character names, or pages describing the food at a banquet (at times it reads like a flippin' menu).

Anyway, it's still a great read, and the twists and turns are many. It's most definitely for grown-ups. The characterisation is fantastic, the action brutal and - if you're anything like me - you'll feel like cheering every time certain characters names appear at the start of a chapter. I just prefer the books that came before and after.
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