Time to dig out A Storm of Swords, we're deep in the endgame now as we open up to the seventieth (!) chapter, and, as I've said a gazillion times before, this book is just astounding, riveting, deep yet light, and so full of twists and turns I still feel it in my gut when I think of, say, the Red Wedding, or Oberyn Martell's failure, or Sansa Stark being whisked away in the night, or Joffrey clawing at his throat as he drops to the ground during his own wedding...so many iconic scenes and images in the series come from A Storm of Swords. And there are so many of them, the list goes on and on. How about Jaime being unhanded? The maiden in the bear pit? The epilogue? There's only one other series that can dish up equally powerful imagery/scenery (in my personal opinion!) and that is Steven Erikson's The Malazan Book of the Fallen. In Martin's books, the scenes become powerful because we are so invested in the characters - in Erikson's works, the scenes often resonate because of the vivid descriptions or because the ideas presented are haunting or epic - he's stuck a few images in my head that just don't leave; the whole ending of the second book in his series, Deadhouse Gates, lingers still; the priest of flies in the same book's prologue likewise. There's something grand and majestic yet darkly disturbing about Erikson's prose that makes him stand out in the crowd of fantasy authors. Oh, look, I've wandered off again. My mind is partially tuned in to the Malazan world these days because I'm reading Assail, of course. I've got about 40% left of it, and I am trying to slow down and savor it (even though Ian C. Esslemont's prose is nothing like Erikson's, it's almost like having R.A. Salvatore write in the Westeros setting - well, okay, it's not that terrifyingly bad; it's just that where Erikson really explores and experiments with the genre and with language in general, Esslemont writes what feels more linear, safer stories that, because they are more simplistic, don't ring as true as Malazan works). ENOUGH ALREADY. Jon Snow is waiting for his ninth turn in the spotlight. He actually has twelve chapters in this book, yet when I think of A Storm of Swords, I seldom think of his part. Is that weird?
Day and night the axes rang.
So opens the ninth Jon Snow chapter, and I immediately have an image in my mind of Jon sitting in his office in a frozen tower accepting all those calls from the axes. Of course, Martin wants to tell us that the Night's Watch is fighting and working, like, a lot, further emphasized when Jon can't remember when last he slept. He's been busy - as have the wildlings on the other side of the Wall, who are basically taking down the forest with saws and sledgehammers, in preparation of attack.