By George R.R. Martin.
In the Seven Kingdoms it seems that everyone is a quarrelsome king of one sort or another these days. Joffrey thinks he’s High King; his uncle, Renly, quite forgetting primogeniture, claims to be king; his other uncle, Stannis, also claims to be king (which he is, but he seems to be in no hurry); Robb Stark is King of the Northlands (but barely features); and Daenerys suddenly thinks she ought to be Queen of the Seven Kingdoms as if she’s always wanted the job (but that’s what owning three dragons does to a girl).
Catelyn and Sansa continue to be a little dull; Arya continues her career as a ten-year-old homicidal maniac; Bran makes some new friends and suddenly his ability to possess his wolf’s body is all explained; Tyrion does what he can to run King’s Landing, but loses most of his nose in the course of Stannis’ attack and gets scant thanks afterwards; and Jon Snow ends up on the far side of the wall with 10,000 wildings after him.
Martin manages to sustain the pace reasonably well in this volume although there are one or two places where I lost patience with copious amounts of waffle.
There are two new main characters in the form of the ex-smuggler Davos, and Eddard Stark’s former ward, Theon Greyjoy, who finds himself neither fish nor fowl. The former, I think, is in over his head as the guv’nor’s right-hand man, and will probably end up in situations from which he only ever escapes by the skin of his teeth (until his luck finally runs out); the latter seems to be another Tyrion Lannister in that all he wants is for his dad to say, “Well done! I’m proud of you, son”, but he’ll keep getting kicked in the teeth.
There are also times when I think Martin had a page headed New characters, sat thinking for a few moments, and would then write Ser Ralph Roister-Doister – a pig-buggering bastard. In other words, there seems to be an excess of characters who are pig-buggering bastards as if the author thought, “Must have a different character. Can’t be like Aragorn or Gandalf or Elrond. What would be different? … I know, a pig-buggering bastard! No one’s ever thought of that before.”