The further you get into this series by George R R Martin, the wider and wider the story arcs seem to become. Each chapter is told from a different character’s perspective – and because Martin is not afraid to kill off his major characters, there are often new perspectives in each book.
In this book, Jaime Lannister becomes a narrator, trailing his attempt to return to his beloved sister in Kings Landing. However, a dismemberment will make him have to re-evaluate his entire sense of self. Some quite interesting stuff – that is sure to continue resonating through the next few books as he reaches home and interacts with characters who knew him before.
The structure will irritate some, while it excites me because it allows for the story to be told between characters who are literally thousands of miles away from each other. Central to this are the Stark family – father is dead and the mother and 6 children (one bastard-born) are separated by the war and circumstance. In the last novel it was reported that the youngest, Bran and Rickon were dead, but only the reader knows that this is untrue. For Catelyn Stark, it is more grief and death. Robb Stark is still King in the North, but a hurried marriage threatens the alliance of Lords around him. Sansa is still captive in Kings Landing, and while spared from marriage to the young monster King Joffrey, she is instead married off to the dwarf Tyrion Lannister. And while Tyrion is a reader’s favourite, his physical deformities are a source of great dread for her. But Tyrion promises Sansa he will not consummate the marriage without her consent. Adventurous Arya is still trying to make her way to her mother, and is consistently captured and recaptured by various parties who seek to claim her ransom. Wily as ever, Arya survives it all.
Bastard-born Jon has infiltrated the wildling army in the North, coming to march on the while. And while he falls for the wildling woman Ygritte who saved his life and vouched for him to the King-Beyond-the –Wall, he cannot abide the idea of any kind of harm or betrayal of his brothers. Aided by Bran working through his direwolf Summer, Jon is able to leave the wildlings and make his way to the wall. While he has to kill a few, he cannot abide killing Ygritte. She is likely to haunt him for some time yet.
This is the only story arc that appears to have any kind of resolution. Daenerys collects an army across the sea, and makes the first steps to abolish slavery – a move that proves her mettle as a leader and will draw the love and following of those she encounters.
The story continues in Part Two of this book. Oddly I ripped through this one quite quickly, which only happens when I become completely engrossed in it.