I've enjoyed each of the two earlier Game of Thrones books. This third novel, however, stands above them both in quality and enjoyment. True, we still have much the same pattern given the reader: 10 narrators (Sansa, Arya, Davos, Jaime, Jon, Tyrion, Bran, Daenarys, Catelyn, and Samwell), plottings and betrayal galore, a cast of several dozen characters to keep track of, a thousand pages to work through, etc. But in this book, Martin delivers several satisfying and unforgettable pairings-up that truly capture the reader's imagination and heart. Of these, my favorites are the Arya/Sansor, Jon/Ygrette, and Jaime/Brienne relationships, all yielding wonderful interactions and moments that help drive the plot forward better than any book before. Martin has also gotten better at writing his subplot vignettes in a way that leaves them at suspenseful moments, as might a soap opera. This also help to propel the reader through this very long book. True, there are some elements to the story that still drag: Catelyn's story lacks interest until its sudden ending, Samwell's story is an interesting addition, though his character seemed more winning outside of his own thoughts. Jaime Lannister is the most welcome new voice in the saga, and the reader will find him much more interesting and likeable than he might dare expect based on Sir Jaime's earlier infamous exploits. We can't help falling for these shameless cads! Everyone's favorite character, Tyrion, finds himself in muddy waters in this book, and his story is no longer the one you will most want to catch up with. Thank God Jon's tale has improved: the story at the Wall was one of the most ponderous aspects of A Clash of Kings. In all, this is a high water mark in the series. I look forward to seeing if the next book can top it.
I've enjoyed listening to Roy Dotrice narrate these books, but feel his comfort with Martin's work really blossoms with this one. He does a great job, and i was sad to hear that he was replaced for books four and five. Someone has big shoes to fill.