I didn’t consume this book in the same manner as the first one in the series. It was on an e-reader instead of paperback, so that possibly had something to do with it; it wasn’t staring up at me from my nightstand, begging to be finished so it could take its rightful place on the bookshelf.
As the title suggests, this book in the series focuses on the fights between Stannis Baratheon, Renly Baratheon, Robb Stark and Joffrey Baratheon (Lannister). Joffrey continues to be a little shit, Renly makes a brief appearance before taking his leave thanks to a creepy death fog baby, Stannis gets all eaten up by some wildfire (well, his troops at least), and Robb wins some battles and loses some he isn’t even fighting (sorry Winterfell). Theon is also a shit, although one can sort of understand how he came to be shit. I have little sympathy for him, but I can imagine a world where he wouldn’t make such piss-poor decisions. Tyrion, as Hand of the King, makes some great decisions, plays and nearly beats Cersei at her own game, and is rewarded with a missing nose.
The women continue to be complex but also frustratingly bound by duties. Cersei is a fascinating character, and one whose perspective is not readily shared, so she’s also a bit of a mystery. When she loses it, it’s interesting. Sansa and Arya are going about their own adventures, both devastating in their own ways. And Daenerys remains in search of ships, braving some pretty rough going to find people who may help (or may not). Jon is also still beyond the wall, Bran and Rickon are doing … things, and Catelyn believes they are dead.
Much like last time, I found myself speed-reading the chapters focused on Arya and Tyrion. I was less interested in most of the rest, although the chapters providing the perspectives on the Blackwater Battle were difficult to put down. The chapters from Bran and Jon’s perspectives were especially boring to me (I just don’t find the beyond the wall stuff that interesting right now; silly political infighting is so much more my speed) and even Martin’s great writing couldn’t keep me interested if anything remotely shiny or pretty were nearby to distract me.
One thing that was sort of fun was seeing things that didn’t show up until the third season of the TV show. Because I’m still catching up to that, my images are colored by what I’ve seen on HBO; I’m looking forward to book three because I know there are things in there that have not yet made it on screen. As for a recommendation – yes. Of course. Read it if you like the TV show. Read it if you don’t like the TV show. Just read it.