By the Light of the Moon (By Eve Vamvas AKA my mum, she gave permission full credit to her)


Claire opened her eyes as the moon’s cool light eased over the tent.   She lay still, the narrow frame of the camp bed enclosing her like a box.

            It was quiet now that woke her.  She could hear the dusty air catching the back of her throat and the tiny knots of fabric in the canvas under her tighten and loosen as her chest rose and fell.  She listened to the breathing of the other medics in the tent.  The Dutch girl’s deep, meditative rhythm and the German’s light snore from lying on her back all night, too tall and wide to move between the narrow poles of the army issue bed.  The other beds lay empty, stripped for the volunteers due at changeover in three weeks.  Claire could imagine their new rucksacks, the pockets and zippers dirty and ripped, the bedrolls kneaded flat, and the packets of cigarettes and confectionery battered and spoilt from the trip.  They would bring newspapers and letters from home she wouldn’t read.  All Claire longed for was a bar of scented soap.  A white box with a pencil sketch of lavender on the front, the raised gold letters of ‘Crabtree &Evelyn’ running along it, an item so simple that the thought of it in her hands, first the box and its sheen, the crisp white tissue paper fastened with a sticker, the soft smooth curve of the soap itself, absolutely new, the warmth of her fingers enough to release the smell, made her light headed.      

Claire swung her legs over the bed and half stood, bowed under the tent’s roof.  She slipped her jacket on over her scrubs and shuffled out of the tent. 

Even as her feet fell on the useless earth, she expected to see grass and mud, trees and a cow looking at her over a hedge, or hear the sound of clear water rushing over a mossed stream bed.  Claire lifted her eyes to see what she could still hardly believe was in front of her now. 

Seventy thousand people at the last count, marooned in a dustbowl on the edge of a desert, barely surviving under tarpaulin squares tethered to empty crates and oil drums.  Claire could make out some detail in the first row ahead of her, a broken suitcase, tyres, a ripped sheet hung on the chain link fence encircling the medics’ compound.  But she knew that the camp spread half a mile deep beyond where she and the other volunteers worked in the hospital.  The Big Top, so called because of the white, sand blasted bunting looped around five bell tents to signify surrender, Claire supposed, but which made just as good targets.  They were down to antiseptic, dressings and basic pain relief – Claire had taken a similarly equipped first aid kit to Glastonbury for the weekend - rationed to the most injured and ill to the point of virtual impotence. 

By this time of night everyone was too exhausted, malnourished or despairing to move and the camp was silent.  Smog rose over the dark horizon, a dense, seasoned cloud of burnt refuse lifting up and away in the night wind.  From behind it shone the moon, flat and hard and cold, the same moon no matter where or to whom it appeared.  Claire took some comfort in this.  Here was the same moon she’d seen sliced by helicopter blades when flying into the camp; the same moon she watched from the beach on Santorini, lying in the warm tide full of beer; the same moon that had lit the wings of the angel mobile hanging over her childhood bed.  It was the same moon, seen by the same person but from a different angle in another place on the planet.  This time would become another memory, relevant only to Claire, like the photo of her new born in her father’s arms, held up next to the television alongside the image of Neil Armstrong taking his step for mankind over the moon’s rubbled surface.    

Claire stood, the dust stinging her eyes and drying her lungs, remembering the six month fitness regime she slogged through as part of the recruitment test to come to the camp.  Taking up smoking and putting on weight would have been better preparation; her chest hurt and she was thin.  She had quickly found that with no talk of food, without the rituals of shopping and preparation, she forgot to get hungry.  She was living on powdered shakes and multivitamins, knocked back as the sun came up and the guards opened the gates.  If she waited beyond then, she couldn’t stomach even that.  More refugees always came, heads down if they were still standing, watched by film crews and counted and registered by NGO’s.  A lot of the ones that crawled in died within hours, as if the relief of making it to safety was the final blow.     

Claire stretched her hands above her and then dropped them down to her feet, feeling the stiffness in her legs and back.  She bounced there gently, letting the weight of her head pull her down so that her hair brushed over the toes of her boots.  She straightened and was reaching up to the moon again when she felt him watching her.   

“Fuller.”  The Chief Medic was sitting against the supplies shed, his elbows on his knees.       

“Anderson,” she nodded. 

It was weeks since they’d been on first name terms, at her induction in Geneva.  Claire first saw Daniel Anderson in the hotel foyer, standing apart from the other team leaders, studying a vine that twisted out of an enormous blue and white china pot, up a wire frame and across a trellis suspended from the ceiling.  The light from the window pushed through the thick upturned leaves on to his tanned face.  Claire saw him in profile, the dark eyebrow and lashes, a slight shine across his forehead and cheek, and a band of white skin above his collar where his hair had been cut too short.  He stood easy, comfortable, not moving when the others came forward to introduce themselves to the new recruits.  When Dan finally turned, his hands in his pockets, Claire was standing in front of him with two glasses of sparkling wine. 

“Sweet,” he said.   

Claire bristled.

“I meant the wine.”  He looked straight at her and Claire knew that she would be on his camp.       

Dan had no ego about being a doctor, in sharp contrast to just about every man she had ever met at medical school or in practice since, and she found him even more appealing as a result.  That week she listened to him talking about their camp, how it worked, how many people they treated, issues arising from malnutrition, compromised hygiene and sanitation.  Dan talked without drama or the affected compassion that she was also used to seeing in her profession.  There was no nauseating talk about ‘doing the right thing’.   

Watching him speak she wondered, often, how he would be alone with her, not assessing infection rates but unbuttoning her blouse and running his fingers under the lace edge of her bra.  And Claire wanted to see how his face looked when he wasn’t thinking about the camp or her, when he was asleep after.  That week in Geneva she thought there would be plenty of time to find these things out about Dan and so had declined his invitation for a drink the night before leaving the hotel.  But within three days of arriving at the camp, she understood what he already knew.  Undiluted misery was no turn on.  When Dan put his arms around her then she had wanted nothing more than the warmth of another human body enclosing her, and she quickly learnt to do without even that.

            She walked over to him as he lit a cigarette. “Thought you’d given up, Anderson.” 

He shrugged his shoulders and looked past her, exhaling.  Claire’s shadow fell across him, the moonlight leaving his face in profile, but she could not match the feelings she had looking at him now with those she had on that first day in the hotel foyer.    

            “How’s the show?”  She nodded over at the Big Top.

            He drew on the cigarette, flinching as the ash blew into his face.  “There’s good news and bad news.” 

            “Good news?  I’m looking forward to that.”  Claire sat down a few feet away from him, tucking the lower half of her face into her t shirt so as not to breathe in so much rising dust.       

“Bad news first.”  He looked out over the camp, rolling the cigarette between his finger and thumb.  “Supplies are out.  All gone.  Cupboards are bare, Fuller.” 

  Claire had been expecting this, yet her insides still dropped with the shock of hearing him say it.  She attempted a joke.  “The Elastoplast isn’t gone too, boss?”  A blister plaster had been nailed in its box to a central tent post by some wag, under a chalked ‘In Case of Emergency’ notice. 

Anderson dropped his head on his knees.  After a while, Claire spoke.      

“What’s the good news?”  she said softly.  When he didn’t answer, she put her hand on his arm and shook him slightly.  “Dan?  The good news?” 

He put his arms over his head in the brace position.  “No more choices to be made, Claire.  That’s the good news.” 

So now all they could do was watch. 

Claire looked up through the pillows of smog and saw the moon, the same moon from wherever she saw it, barren and without atmosphere, a dust ball with a disproportionate effect on the earth below it.  Not here in the desert, its gravitational pull held no visible sway here with so little water to move.  Here, the moon was just a flashlight when there was enough wind to unveil it.

 Claire stood up and made the motion of brushing dirt from her trousers.  Dan held out his hand and she took it and pulled him roughly to his feet.  He looked old now, not wise and capable, just old and tired and profoundly depressing.  A tear ran down his face, cutting through the grit sticking to him like a snail trail over a weathered terracotta pot.  He clung on to her hand and pulled her to him, dropping his forehead against her shoulder.  His hair smelt of old sweat but that wasn’t what made her want to pull away.  It was his hot, wet breath misting her collarbone as he tried to supress the sobs that shook his body against hers, this weakness in him, that she thought would choke her.    

“It’s alright,” she managed to whisper.  “It’s alright.”  She didn’t smooth his hair or put her arms around him.   

“Don’t go down there tonight,” he said into her ear.  “There’s nothing you can do for them.  Stay with me.  Please.” 

She took him by the shoulders, her palms open and firm against the tops of his arms and pushed him upright and away from her.  “Don’t let the others see you like this.  Go back to your tent and wash up.” 

He jolted his head back as if she’d slapped him.  “You think that matters now?”  His voice got louder, “I don’t care what anyone thinks of me.”

Claire pushed him harder so that he stumbled back.  “You set the tone, Dr Anderson.”  Claire turned, striding out to get away from him, marching down behind the camp to the lime pit.          

            Balanced on the lip of the pit was a carport like structure made from strips of corrugated iron on stilts wrapped in barbed wire.  Patients with no relatives or ID were laid out here for the day, rolled into the open end nearest The Big Top, their faces exposed so that they might be identified before they were rolled out of the other end into the pit.  Claire came down here most nights to visit when the silence woke her.  She had stopped saying prayers, the words drying on her tongue, but sometimes she could hum a tune as she nodded to each of them. 

            She walked along slowly, looking at the faces lined up over the jumble of limbs and rags, treading carefully so as not to kick sand in their eyes.  In the moonlight their faces looked smooth, the pain and anguish gone.  Then she heard it; not quite a cry, more like a hiccup.  She stopped and waited.  It wasn’t unusual to hear gasps and creaks as organs liquefied and limbs set.  The wind scuffed sand over her boots and sent it clawing around her ankles.  She walked on, turning her face away from the wind to draw breath.  She heard it again, an unmistakeable mew and stopped to look around.  Dan wouldn’t dare follow her, she was sure of that, and no animals ever made it this far.  Claire checked herself, she was not humming or gasping, and knew in that moment that she wasn’t alone.  She dropped down on to her knees, suddenly afraid, and felt wet crawl through her scrubs.  She pushed her fingers into the dark circle around her and brought her hand up to her face, the bitter metallic smell of blood unmistakeable.  The cry came again, short but clear, and she pushed her hand through the barbed wire and felt something move in amongst the bodies.  Instinctively she snatched her hand back, slapping a hardened face as her sleeve snagged on the thorned wire and she lost her balance and fell back.  For several seconds she sat on the wet dirt and waited.    

            When it cried again, Claire was ready.  Pushing a hole in the barbed wire with the toe of her boot, she plunged her hands through the dark towards the noise and felt her fingers brush a slick of plastic. She wedged her elbows into the hole and leant in as far as she could, catching at the plastic and tugging it over the bodies until she could grab it and slip it through the gap.  The sounds had stopped.  She pulled frantically at what she now saw was a carrier bag, the knotted handles tightening as she scrabbled at it, knowing that she must be too late.   A cloud of smog passed over the moon and the cool, blue light shone directly on Claire’s hands as the carrier split open and the baby fell into her lap. 

            Face down, its back thick with vernix, Claire’s first impression was of a large, smooth stone still wet from a retreating tide.  She cupped it and turned it over in her hands.  It was warm, with hands and feet and a face, balled up and furious, open mouthed from its last attempt at breath.  The wind pulled the plastic bag loose and it twirled up and away on a wave of sand.  Claire drew the baby to her, opening her jacket to rest it against her chest the way she’d seen new mothers do, and the placenta rolled over her belly, through her legs and on to the ground.  The umbilical cord, fat and veined, jerked away with it and she saw the baby was a girl.    

            Cradling the baby’s head and bottom against her, Claire rocked slightly and looked up into the night sky.  The moon looked back down over the silence.  She remembered the picture of her new in her father’s arms, swaddled and safe, and how he loved telling the story of her being born moments before man first stepped on the moon.  He would tell her that it was an omen, that she could do anything, that she was destined to do something good for her fellow man.  He never said it would be a curse. 

            Trembling in the bloody dirt, the baby clamped to her, she wondered where she should leave it.  She couldn’t bring herself to put it back where its mother left it alive.  She waited, unable to make a decision, even to move.  Finally she shuffled on to her knees and stood up slowly, light headed, the jellied blood from the afterbirth rolling from her thighs and down her legs.  She brought the baby up to her face and rested her cheek against her head, breathing her in, nuzzling and kissing the child as if she were her own.   She thought she felt a twitch and then the small furred head bang against her cheek.   Sure it must be because she was shaking, Claire went to put the baby down on the ground and was immediately rewarded with a sharp cry of rage.  Snatching her back up, she saw that the baby’s eyes were open and focussing clearly on her face.  Claire kissed her swiftly, tucked her back into her jacket and started running away from the pit up to the Big Top, jumping over the sand peaks, her path clearly lit by the moon.            


Ned looked out into the British Sea, thinking of the last 10 years of his life. It had been relentless. A whirl-wind. He was one of the lucky ones. When October 25th 2033 came, he was visiting some old friends in the High-Lands of Scotland. On that day the greatest catastrophe ever happened. Yellow stone erupted with such force that the whole of the U.S was buried in a meter deep pile of ash. Then a that happened, the Amazon experienced the largest wild fire ever, although five hours later it was topped by the whole of the Siberian Forest burning. 16 tsunamis hit Oceania, Japan and South East Asia. An earth quakes quite literally off the Richter scale hit Central Asia, creating a 400-meter deep, 50-meter-wide crack spanning from Finland to India. More followed across South America, Africa, the middle east. Europe for the first day seemed to be intact, yet what came next was worse.

An ice melt. Over the next two weeks the sea level rose over 50 meters. It doesn’t seem a lot. Only 50 meters? It’s a lot. Goodbye southern Italy. Good bye most of Greece. Good bye Denmark, and most of Norway, Sweden and Finland. Good bye Iberia. Goodbye half of France and Germany. Good bye Ireland, 97% of Wales, 95% of England. Scotland though is mostly mountains. Safe high mountains. There were 6 million people left in Scotland. For seven years wars broke out as the Scottish fought for the limited space.

 Eventually Edinburgh united Scotland, creating the Democratic Union of The British Archipelago, or the DUBA. They started settling areas of Britain that weren’t under water, like the Lake District, which had united, but was falling apart and willing to join DUBA. After that they continued, taking Wales and founding the city of Snowdonia. They finished their great crusade in the year 2041. After this they researched other places where survivors would be. The Alps, Pyrenees, and Scandinavian Mountain ranges had large spaces for societies to form, not to mention places outside of Europe not totally ripped apart by the doom, like the Himalayas and Andes. DUBA found the New European Union.

Ned had thought about it for a long time, looking out from his office in Edinburgh. Now was the time for retribution. As Supreme Judge of the DUBA he was playing a huge role in the trial that had just begun. The leader of Scotland had decreed that every person who had made money from actively supporting or owning a company the destroyed the planet. The last one he had tried was 56, and had a 9% share in Shell. He was sentenced to death. Ned had no remorse. He had helped cause the deaths of billions. Ned walked back into the courtroom, ready for the next one.

 Dance with Dragons: Review



A Dance with Dragonsthe fifth volume of the A Song of Ice and Fire, at the same time that it is one of the more concise novels of the series, containing virtually only three main plots – which helps to move the narrative forward –, it also suffers from the remnants of the bad planning surrounding the previous book, A Feast of Crows.

With the separation of these last two volumes by the characters’ location in the world created by George R. R. Martin, A Dance with Dragons ends up with the stories that take place in two main locations: the North of Westeros, especially around the colossal wall of ice, focusing on the characters of Jon Snow and King Stannis; and the continent of Essos, with Queen Daenerys.

The stories of Daenerys and Jon share the same argument: the notion that being a good person does not necessarily mean having the ability to lead. Khaleesi knows she needs to prove that she is able to rule a city if she wants to conquer all of Westeros, and therefore remains in Meereen, where she discovers that the search for justice can poison one’s soul and, even more important, that notions of morality and ethics sometimes need to be severely twisted or neglected if one wants to remain in power. Meanwhile, the new Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch must at the same time deal with the growing supernatural threat of the White Walkers, with a gigantic army of wildlings, with betrayals and intrigues within his own organization, and with the more frequent demands of Stannis, Melisandre, and their small army.

There’s also the plot involving the imminent war for the control of the North. With Winterfell devastated and the Starks broken and scattered, the sinister House Bolton, whose main symbol is a flayed man, becomes the official “protector of the North”, thanks to the support of the Lannisters. However, to be able to consolidate its power it needs to extinguish Stannis.

The book initially switches between these stories, with some brief pauses for some minor subplots, such as Davos’ mission to get support for his King; the strange and psychedelic journey of Bran in search of three-eyed Crow; and the journey of everyone who is traveling to meet with Daenerys – like Tyrion and the innocent Prince of Dorne, Quentyn Martell.

Daenerys’ journey has the longest and most complex chapters of the book. Her rule in the city of Meereen can be considered her biggest test for the future legitimacy of her still remote conquest of Westeros. Holding a crown, Daenerys needs to stop the murder of her people by a local rebel group, contain an army of slave traders, a plague that is decimating most of the population, and her own dragons, which are becoming even more rebellious, violent and dangerous. Therefore, it doesn’t take long for the Queen to understand why it is said that conquering a city is easier than keeping it. And as for her training, her numerous, distinct, and not entirely trusted advisers are useful for exposing what choices she can make in each situation. The Queen is given the scheming Resnak, who offers more bureaucratic tactics of persuasion and diplomacy (Your majesty should marry to calm the slavemasters), the violent Skahaz with his bloody and brutal proposals, (Or maybe kill them all during your wedding), and the living reminder of her goal, the noble Barristan Selmy (Forget all this and go to Westeros). With these pillars exposing three possible choices to tackle every problem, the development of Daenerys becomes a character study, in which every decision contributes to forming her image to her people. Nevertheless, the narrative also shows the character’s inner conflicts, even with shades of sexual immaturity, to the point where she screams at her lover: “I am your queen and I command you to fuck me.” This helps to make her more palpable to the reader, by being a good counterpoint to the image of power and mercilessness that her dreadful dragons cast on her.

Jon Snow, on the other hand, surprises as the youngest Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch, being a wise, harsh and relentless leader. The novel develops him well, showing his responses to those who refuse to obey him, and contrasting them to his apparently amicable relation with the wildlings, in which the boy assumes the posture of “the enemy of my enemy is my friend”. Also noteworthy is his gradual affinity with King Stannis: by always giving objective, honest but respectful answers, Jon practically takes the place of Davos as the iron king’s advisor, and it is extremely gratifying to watch their relationship take on the outlines of friendship, and note that, in the background, one is usually rooting for the success of the other – a bond that is imperative to make Jon’s inconsequential action at the end sound plausible.

And finally, we have the plot that takes place in Winterfell, told mostly from the perspective of the Greyjoys. Theon finally goes back to having his own chapters since they had disappeared after the end of the second book, and here his point of view certainly doesn’t disappoint. With the purpose of transforming Ramsay Bolton in a villain even more unidimensionally evil than Joffrey and more brutal than Gregor Clegane, George R. R. Martin gives Theon a penalty even greater than one would imagine. Transformed into Ramsay’s pet, the once heir to the throne of the Iron Islands is tortured and humiliated constantly. Theon has the skin of his fingers skinned, and is hunted, beaten, burned, and even used to make Ramsay’s wife more “wet” to his Lord. With his identity and personality completely twisted (“Serve and obey and remember your name. Reek, Reek, it rhymes with meek”), Theon is responsible for developing the Bolton’s sick personality – Ramsay hunts women in the woods, rape and kill them, give their names to dogs, and even make a pair of boots with their skins – and reveal their plans and stratagems to the reader. Meanwhile, his sister, Asha Greyjoy, only serves to give the complete picture of the siege to Winterfell, since her point of view doesn’t add anything new to Stannis’ march to war.

However, even though these are the three main plots in the novel, Martin also gives Tyrion virtually the same amount of chapters to tell all his misadventures to get to Daenerys. The dwarf, after a sudden change of personality in the third book, goes back to his time of glory of A Clash of Kings, in which, even in completely unfavorable situations, he could turn things around thanks to his sharp tongue and endless wit. The only problem of his journey in this book, therefore, is its size, since Tyrion goes through all his pages just being thrown around the world while trying to survive a multitude of adversities, never getting anywhere. Even so, the character has his pride tested and is led to accept his nature without shame.

So, if the book had focused only on these main stories, with the slight pauses for Davos, Quentyn, and Bran, and completed them, A Dance with Dragons could certainly have been one of the best novels in the series. However, as life is an ocean of frustration, George R. R. Martin’s Ghost of Christmas Past has come back to haunt the book’s narrative and, as the author himself warns in a note at the beginning, the characters of A Feast for Crows return to complete the stories that should have been concluded in the previous novel.

Cersei, Jaime, Cat of the Canals, and Victarion all return to have chapters that should, in theory, end their arcs. Besides the obvious fact that these chapters should have been in the previous book, where they would not make this narrative come to a halt, they still share the same qualities and faults of before. While Cersei continues very well into her journey of self-destruction and insanity, the irrelevant story of Jaime ends with one of the most gratuitous hooks in the whole series. Cat, meanwhile, after approximately six extremely similar training chapters throughout two whole books, has her last one here almost end with the sentence “On the morrow you will go to Izembaro to begin your first apprenticeship,” which has the potential to get even the most benevolent reader frustrated. And Victarion continues as disposable as ever since he just keeps traveling to Essos. These chapters not only affect the pacing but also don’t belong together with them thematically.

To make matters worse, with the entire book preparing the events for the battle between Stannis and Roose Bolton, it is a bit disappointing that the whole event is postponed and doesn’t transpire at the end. Just imagine what A Clash of Kings would be without the battle of Blackwater or The Two Towers without the battle of Helm’s deep: they would be stories without their climaxes, without the parts that complete them and confer meaning to the whole thing. Now just add this to the fact that Jon Snow’s arc ends in a predictable anticlimax, and that Daenerys’ gets more and more convoluted as it gets close to the end, instead of marching to its conclusion, to fully realize that the novel gets completely lost halfway in, without knowing where to go and what stories to tell.

On the other hand, the prose appears to be a little more playful than in the previous books, having Theon, for example, rhyme his new name Reek with words that explain what he is feeling at the time, and the narrative also shows some versatility with the points of view, presenting the reader with Barristan Selmy and the Priestess Melisandre’s – although the latter doesn’t add much to the plot, besides hinting to Jon’s high purpose. At the other extreme, Martin continues to be ineffective in his ways of dramatizing the ever-greater exposition of his fantastical universe, as here he just reduces the character of Jorah Mormont’s to a boring tour guide.

A Dance with Dragons had great potential. With only three major plots, the book could have benefited from its more limited focus and substantially moved its storylines forward. And if the first half of the novel seems to fulfill that promise, the last one demonstrates once again that perhaps Martin has indeed lost control of his creation.

A Feast for Crows P.4 Of GOT Review


Crows will fight over a dead man's flesh, and kill each other for his eyes.

Bloodthirsty, treacherous and cunning, the Lannisters are in power on the Iron Throne in the name of the boy-king Tommen. The war in the Seven Kingdoms has burned itself out, but in its bitter aftermath new conflicts spark to life.

The Martells of Dorne and the Starks of Winterfell seek vengeance for their dead. Euron Crow's Eye, as black a pirate as ever raised a sail, returns from the smoking ruins of Valyria to claim the Iron Isles. From the icy north, where Others threaten the Wall, apprentice Maester Samwell Tarly brings a mysterious babe in arms to the Citadel.

Against a backdrop of incest and fratricide, alchemy and murder, victory will go to the men and women possessed of the coldest steel and the coldest hearts

I think I'm just gonna call the author Master Martin by now (A Storm Of Swords: Part 2 Blood And Gold)

"The Starks are scattered..."

A Storm of Swords, Part Two: Blood and Gold is epic! Part One builds, and builds, and builds, but Part Two? It explodes! So much happens that it's liable to send you insane after all the adrenaline and heavy breathing. This entry just pounds the reader with twist after twist, and thankfully, it's all smooth.

I mean, we have battles upon battles, both big and small; betrayals of the highest and most bloodiest order; strange friendships forming; and the world's hierarchy is once again thrown into chaos.

I think the best part for me has to be the unpredictability. Despite being up-to-date with the television adaption, I love being able to discern the differences between book and show. Up until now they've been minimal at best, fun to pick out, but not enough to shatter what I already know. Part Two: Blood and Gold, however, climaxes with an immense plot twist that is most definitely not on the small screen, and it has me spinning...

SPOILER WARNING (Should only be slight spoilers, but I won't take any chances. You've been warned.)

Synopsis (Not a copy from the book, but I always keep my interpretations close.)

Robb Stark, King in the North, has flown high, higher than anyone expected him to, but his fear of a fall looms like a vicious shadow.
Arya Stark is separated and stuck with someone she's considered an enemy for a long time, but despite her confusion, her future reeks of loneliness.
Sansa Stark yearns for the safety of home, but with her family scattered and Winterfell in ruins, she might just have to learn to play the game, or die trying.
The Starks are worlds apart, and no matter how hard they fight to reach one another, fate has other plans in store.
But with Daenerys's vast army approaching, Jon Snow's war in the North, and Tyrion's fight for survival, they may never see one another again...

Plot - 5/5 Stars

Simply: The plot is fearsome! Martin rules when it comes to capitalising on his wicked suspense, and the journey to the explosions is tantalising. With an epic fantasy like this, you have it all: Action and adventure; battles and betrayal; intricate webs that make up the threads of the story. The amount inside each of these novels is huge, but it all goes to building this full world that captures the imagination without even trying to.

And, God, the emotion... Most of you will know of the Red Wedding by now, and if you don't, I recommend reading the series just for that scene alone. The show's adaption sticks with me more because it was new and fresh, but Martin is no slouch, and reading the events of the bloodbath as they build and happen adds a new dimension of stress to my feels.

Oh, and please expect death, lots and lots of death.

The Red Wedding isn't the only huge event the novel has to offer, with a realm-defining war waging at the Wall, the Mother of Dragons gaining strength and Tyrion facing some very, very difficult personal matters. I just don't know how to hype this entry enough.

Pace - 5/5 Stars

More ferocious than Part One. The author is still building plots of course, but Part Two has some fantastic culminations that set a new tone and direction that I cannot wait to delve into.

Characters - 5/5 Stars

I love this cast! When there are multiple viewpoints it's almost always inevitable that there's one you roll your eyes at. But Martin has crafted characters that, even if you absolutely hate them, you're compelled on by their personality and story. It might be vast, but none of the players are watered down.

Part Two displays many definitive shifts. Our characters march forward only to be splintered and sent awry in the most devastating way possible. Everyone has some form of glory, but the downfall is hard, and only the strong will survive.

Writing - 5/5 Stars

I think I'm just going to call the author Master Martin from now on. The guy's talent cannot be reviewed, at least, I can't do it, not enough to do it justice.

Overall - 5/5 Stars

So this review is a little shorter today, I'm tired, majorly. This week has been a busy, busy week and will continue to be, but thankfully I'm managing to squeeze in some time for reading and reviewing. A Storm of Swords, Part Two: Blood and Gold is a novel that needs more than a simple star rating. So here's my simple review, and I'll be back at it soon as I can.

Hopefully I'll have some quality reviews in the future; I need to have a sit down and dissect a book again.

A Storm of Swords 1: Steel and Snow by George RR Martin (A Song of Ice and Fire: Book 3)


Blood runs truer than oaths
The Seven Kingdoms are divided by revolt and blood feud as winter approaches like an angry beast. In the northern wastes a horde of hungry, savage people steeped in the dark magic of the wilderness is poised to invade the Kingdom of the North where Robb Stark wears his new-forged crown. And Robb’s defences are ranged against the South, the land of the cunning and cruel Lannisters, who have his young sisters in their power. Throughout Westeros the war for the Iron Throne rages more fiercely than ever, but if the Wall is breached, no king will live to claim it.

The events in Storm of Swords overlap the ending of the second book, A Clash of Kings. I have to admit to not enjoying Clash of Kings overly, something I discovered placed me in a minority. Looking back I feel that I was a bit lazy when reading it, characters are thrown at you at a not inconsiderable rate of knots and you can either use the handy cast of characters at the beginning of the book to refresh your memory when you get lost or you can do what I did… carry on regardless hoping that everything will become clear in time. I was determined not to let this confusion happen again and to use the glossary, maps and personae dramatis to ensure that I knew what was going on, where it was going on and to whom it was happening. This effort was fully rewarded and I began to realise just why George RR Martin is held in such high esteem. In George RR Martin’s own words:

A Song of Ice and Fire is told through the eyes of characters who are sometimes hundreds or even thousands of miles apart from one another. Some chapters cover a day, some only an hour; others might span a fortnight, a month, half a year. With such a structure, the narrative cannot be strictly sequential, sometimes important things are happening simultaneously, a thousand leagues apart. In the case of the volume now in hand, the reader should realize that the opening chapters of A Storm of Swords do not follow the closing chapters of A Clash of Kings so much as overlap them. I open with a look at some of the things that were happening on the Fist of the First Men, at Riverrun, Harrenhal, and on the Trident while the Battle of the Blackwater was being fought at King’s Landing, and during its aftermath…

From: George RR Martin: A note on chronology

Who were the main characters? Where to start? After meeting up again with the Black Watch in the prologue we re-enter the lives of Catelyn, Arya, Tyrion, Sansa, Davos, Bran, Jon and many more. Martin creates fantastic characters, rich in detail and emotion; quite how he manages to avoid making mistakes and contradictions is beyond me. The characters are many and varied but rich in detail and realistic. George RR Martin strength is the way in which the characters evolve, both in terms of maturity and emotionally. The story is, once again written in Martin’s inimitable third person narrative with each chapter expertly concentrating on an individual lead character; the chapters carry the characters’ name so you’re appetite is whetted before the chapter has begun. This all goes together to create a very fast-paced and extremely enjoyable story, the chapter structure really works. There is, of course, always the risk that the flow of the story may be lost by continually switching the perspective between so many characters but Martin manages to avoid this by overlapping the individual storylines very cleverly. The land of Westeros is described in excellent detail, much of it war-ravaged and damaged and the author paints a rather desolate picture of a land being destroyed by civil war. The feelings and attitudes of the main characters are described in depth and each takes on a life of their own. A Song of Ice and Fire is a wonderful story with the author drawing inspiration from the annals of history. In a “normal” fantasy books the reader always knows whose side they are on and there is normally a huge gulf between the good and evil characters. This is, however, not the case with George RR Martin’s work, during the first two books most will have sided with the Stark’s and rooted for them. A Storm of Swords shows the Stark’s in a less favourable light and as the book progresses it is difficult to differentiate them from the supposed villains, the Lannisters. I guess one way of putting it into words would be “they are all as bad as each other”. My favourite moments in the book were the chapters that contained the highest “fantasy” element. The Others beyond the Wall, Daenerys and her dragons, Melisandre and her dark magic, Beric Dondarrion and his apparent immortality. These are the parts of that lift the book from a tale of political intrigue and battles and into the wonderful realm of fantasy.

"The war,” she affirmed. “There are two, Onion Knight. Not seven, not one, not a hundred or a thousand. Two! Do you think I crossed half the world to put yet another vain king on yet another empty throne? The war has been waged since time began, and before it is done, all men must choose where they stand. On one side is R’hllor, the Lord of Light, the Heart of Fire, the God of Flame and Shadow. Against him stands the Great Other whose name may not be spoken, the Lord of Darkness, the Soul of Ice, the God of Night and Terror. Ours is not a choice between Baratheon and Lannister, between Greyjoy and Stark. It is death we choose, or life. Darkness, or light.” She clasped the bars of his cell with her slender white hands. The great ruby at her throat seemed to pulse with its own radiance. “So tell me, Ser Davos Seaworth, and tell me truly – does your heart burn with the shining light of R’hllor? Or is it black and cold and full of worms?” She reached through the bars and laid three fingers upon his breast, as if to feel the truth of him through flesh and wool and leather.
“My heart,” Davos said slowly, “is full of doubts.”

A Clash Of Kings by George RR Martin (A Song of Ice and Fire: Book 2)


A Clash of Kings, book two of the A Song of Ice and Fire series, is the follow-up to George R. R. Martin’s A Game of Thrones.

Robert Baratheon and Eddard Stark are dead; the crown rests with King Joffrey but Robb Stark, Stannis Baratheon and Renly Baratheon all lay claim. The comet in the sky is seen as a sign of war and incest, fratricide and murder discolour the landscape.

Winter is coming and the undead and Others are beginning to stir. Into this, from across the sea, comes the daughter of the Dragon King to add her name to the list of pretenders to the throne.

Second in what is believed to be a planned seven book series, ‘A Clash of Kings’ continues George R. R. Martin’s epic ‘A Song of Ice and Fire.’ With the disastrous and literally heart breaking conclusion to its predecessor, this book only continues the strife raging across Westeros, providing a total lack of end in sight.

The Seven Kingdoms have been plunged heavily into civil war. Five are vying for contention and naming themselves king, with none abiding the others. Stories and alliances are fracturing alike, and the reader is helpless before the onslaught of new characters, new plot lines, and revelations and cliff-hangers that leave the mind reeling.

It is hard to fully explain the brilliance of a sequel like this in a review, without giving away its content. There is far too much going on that to even hint at some of it is to take away surprises that are part of the thrill of reading Martin’s work.

The characters allotted chapters is upped to nine, promoting one supporting character from book one to fully fledged lead, and introducing an entirely new character to introduce us to the inner workings of an entirely new plot thread.

Tyrion Lannister is once again one of the highlights of the book, providing a much needed breath of humour as well as an intelligence that is not hindered by personal greed, ambition or idiocy. This in no way means that any of the other characters are a chore to read, but rather act in ways that leave the reader entirely certain they deserve to be smacked upside the head with a shovel.

The sheer bastardry of some of the characters both introduced and returning is horrific at points. The loss encountered by some of the characters rends the heart, and the entire lack of instant communication between characters – so evident in other fantasy books, allowing for absolutely no miscommunications and misunderstandings – leaves you wishing just once that the author would provide a backdoor for you to whisper “it’s ok, she’s alive” to mum, sister or brother.

One of the story’s most tragic plot threads belongs to young Arya Stark. Nothing seems to go her way, almost to the point of absurdity. You are left at the end of each chapter pining for something good to happen to her. And even when a ray of light comes through, it is a dirty ray of light, tainted with worse news to come.

Arya, along with several other characters, provide the only hindrance to reading these books. I believe that it requires an understanding of human culture in medieval times, but it seems that the responsibilities of children aged between eight and eighteen are immense indeed. Marriage is commonplace in the early teens (soon after their first period), boys are kings before they’re allowed to drink (... you know what I mean) and young girls come to taking lives far too easily.

That is not to say it is unrealistic. More, it is a hard pill to swallow, with the knowledge that all of this was commonplace a thousand years ago and less. So once again, the only hindrance to the book is only in our inability as 21st Century humans to see beyond our own lives and into the lives of others less fortunate than us.

Martin is a genius, there seems to be no doubt about that. His gift with words and storytelling combine to craft a tale that will one day rival Tolkien’s as a fantasy tale for England. Make sure you are reading ‘A Song of Ice and Fire’ today.
Joshua S Hill

I knew before I read this book that it was very highly rated by a lot of people and it was with real anticipation that I read the first pages. However, I did not enjoy it as much as I'd hoped. The characters are good and storyline itself cannot be faulted but I felt that it was overly long and more than a bit confusing in places. There are a lot of characters to deal with and at times it was overwhelming, difficult in places to keep track with who is who and what their role in the story was.

His sister’s arms dug painfully into his arms. For a moment she stared incredulous, as if he had begun to gibber in an unknown tongue. “Stannis and Renly are fighting each other?” When he nodded, Cersei began to chuckle. “Gods be good,” she gasped, “I’m starting to believe that Robert was the clever one.”
Tyrion: A Clash of Kings

After reading authors of the calibre of Robin Hobb and Steven Erikson I would have to say that George R. R. Martin is not quite in the same league as a storyteller and that the characters are not as well formed or as deserving of the readers emotions.

He turned over the glass, and he did not know whether to laugh or cry. The gash was long and crooked, starting a hair under his left eye and ending on the right side of his jaw. Three quarters of his nose was gone, and a chunk of his lip. Someone had sown the torn flesh together with catgut, and their clumsy stitches were still in place across the seam of raw, red, half healed flesh. “Pretty,” he croaked, flinging the glass aside.
Tyrion: A Clash of Kings

The character driven chapter structure is a positive and it keeps the book well structured and at times fast paced. The book starts rather slowly but gains momentum towards the end, which always seemed rather too distant. This is a very good book but there are finer examples of the genre available. If you are looking for a tale that features more sword than sorcery and enjoy the nuances of epic battles then this will be just your cup of tea. If you have read Game of Thrones and want more of the same then this will not disappoint but unfortunately I was rather looking forward to finishing the book and not for all the right reasons. A good book but too long.

Game Of Thrones Book Review (SPOILERS)

“George R.R. Martin’s new novel, A Game of Thrones, is the first in an epic series about a land in which the seasons shift between periods of seemingly endless summer and seemingly endless winter. The story begins with the kingdom of Winterfell facing both external and internal dangers. Beyond her borders, the cold is returning, a dragon prince is scheming to win back his lost kingdom, and the eggs of supposedly long extinct dragons are beginning to hatch. Within Winterfell itself, war soon erupts when the king is murdered by a family grasping for unlawful power.

Many fans of sword-and-sorcery will enjoy the epic scope of this book, something of a change of pace for Martin, who has spent the last decade working for television and who has long been honored for his award-winning stories (e.g., ‘Sandkings’). Still, to my mind, this opening installment suffers from one-dimensional characters and less than memorable imagery.”

“George R.R. Martin’s A Game of Thrones—a 694-page novel that begins a seriesis in many ways a tale fit for a king. Its tapestry is satisfyingly rich and complex, weaving together dozens of characters, major and minor, in a wide spectrum of shades of hero and villain, all vivid and memorable. The settings are equally diverse and evocative. Martin writes as convincingly of tart juices oozing from an apple as of sleet on the side of a mountain, and his book is as much an adventure of the senses as it is of the mind. On the other hand, the thimble-full of living dead and the soupcon of dragons we’re served here add little to the story. Or, they may indeed be setting the groundwork for sequels—which seems clear at the end—but their presence in A Game of Thrones seems little more than frost and steam on the window.

“…this is an old story, but A Game of Thrones is so well played that, like a vibrant re-make of an old hit record, you can enjoy almost every beat of it. Indeed, Arthurian/Shakespearean clashes among great and lesser lineages, with all the opportunities they afford for exploration of such perennial themes as honor, loyalty, ambition, love in all its forms, are always welcome subjects for science fiction and fantasy. Such political and personal strìngs served as superb accompaniment to the science fiction in Dune, and they’re often heart-rending, always provocative and appealing, to behold here—though as a center-stage performance, not as background or foreground for fantasy which is barely there.


But the dragon thread has other problems. Published as a stand-alone novella in the July 2006 Asimov’s Magazine (‘Blood of the Dragon’), it follows the trials and exploits of the overthrown King’s two lineal descendants—a brother who is a claimant to the throne with no army, and his sister, whom the brother gives as a bride to a Ghenghis Khan-type character reigning with a vast army in this England’s version of Europe and Asia, in hopes of getting that army to cross the ‘narrow sea’ and reclaim the pretender`s throne. The descriptive passages are marvelous—you can smell the spice, and taste it in every cup of wine Martin renders—but the story as a whole is not special.

“These other threads show us two different daughters, a romantic and a tomboy, and how they fare in these less­-and-more than chivalrous times; a bastard and a ‘true-born’ hero and another son whose legs are paralyzed but whose mind soars; another family where one son is handsome and vicious and evil yet brave, and his brother—a dwarf, my favorite character in the novel—is conniving, yet so honorable that he pays his debt of gold to a cruel, stupid jailor whom the dwarf has talked into taking a message that will free him. Yes, I liked this dwarf so much that I truly felt glad when, after months of travail, he finally finds comfort in a prostitute’s arms. The book is so good at this, so real and effective in its complex characterizations, that I would vote it an award just for that, and the dragons be damned.”

Paul Levinson, Tangent Magazine, Fall 1996


“In a world where the approaching winter will last four decades, kings and queens, knights and renegades struggle for control of a throne. Some fight with sword and mace, others with magic and poison. Beyond the Wall to the north, meanwhile, the Others are preparing their army of the dead to march south as the warmth of summer drains from the land. After more than a decade devoted primarily to TV and screen work, Martin makes a triumphant return to high fantasy with this extraordinarily rich new novel, the first of a trilogy. Although conventional in form, the book stands out from similar work by Eddings, Brooks and others by virtue of its superbly developed characters, accomplished prose and sheer bloody-mindedness. Although the romance of chivalry is central to the culture of the Seven Kingdoms, and tournaments, derring-do and handsome knights abound, these trappings merely give cover to dangerous men and women who will stop at nothing to achieve their goals. When Lord Stark of Winterfell, an honest man, comes south to act as the King’s chief councilor, no amount of heroism or good intentions can keep the realm under control. It is fascinating to watch Martin’s characters mature and grow, particularly Stark’s children, who stand at the center of the book. Martin’s trophy case is already stuffed with major prizes, including Hugos, Nebulas, Locus Awards and a Bram Stoker. He’s probably going to have to add another shelf, at least.”

Publishers Weekly, July 29, 1996


“After a long silence, the author of the cult The Armageddon Rag (1983) returns with the first of a fantasy series entitled, insipidly enough, A Song of Ice and Fire. In the Seven Kingdoms, where the unpredictable seasons may last decades, three powerful families allied themselves in order to smash the ruling Targaryens and depose their Mad King, Aerys II. Robert Baratheon claimed the throne and took to wife Tywin Lannister’s daughter, Cersei; Ned Stark returned north to gloomy Winterfell with its massive, ancient Wall farther to the north that keeps wildings and unspeakable creatures from invading. Some years later, Robert, now drunk and grossly fat, asks Ned to come south and help him govern; reluctantly, since he mistrusts the treacherous Lannisters, Ned complies. Honorable Ned soon finds himself caught up in a whirl of plots, espionage, whispers, and double-dealing and learns to his horror that the royal heir, Joffrey, isn’t Robert’s son at all but, rather, the product of an incestuous union between the Queen and her brother Jaime—who murdered the Mad King and earned the infamous nickname Kingslayer. Ned attempts to bargain with Cersei and steels himself to tell Robert—but too late. Swiftly the Lannisters murder the King, consign Ned to a dungeon, and prepare to seize the throne, opposed only by the remaining Starks and Baratheons. On the mainland, meanwhile, the brutal and stupid Viserys Targaryen sells his sister Dany to a barbarian horse-warrior in return for a promise of armies to help him reconquer the Seven Kingdoms. A vast, rich saga, with splendid characters and an intricate plot flawlessly articulated against a backdrop of real depth and texture. Still, after 672 dense pages, were you expecting a satisfying resolution? You won’t get it: Be prepared for a lengthy series with an indefinitely deferred conclusion.”

Kirkus, July 1, 1996