At nearly 1,000 pages, George R.R. Martin’s A Storm of Swords—the third installment in his A Song of Ice and Fire series—is one of his most eventful and most lauded. Martin’s unpredictable medieval world is rendered with unflinching brutality: the so-called Red Wedding and the Purple Wedding, both turning points for his series, unfold here. And the characters, which he spent thousands of pages painstakingly developing in the first two novels, take flight: Jon Snow finds forbidden love, Danaerys Targaryen unleashes her powers of fire, and Robb and Catelyn Stark scheme and sacrifice. The breadth of Martin’s vision comes fully into focus in A Storm of Swords, as does his continued willingness to upset expectations. If the first book in the series set the precedent for killing off beloved characters, then A Storm of Swords is where Martin makes it clear no one is safe. These are the scenes that became show-stopping centerpieces in HBO’s Game of Thrones series, and continue to indicate the high-water mark for shocking plot twists. Martin, a frequent subject of controversy, may not be pushing the field toward equity or more inclusive storytelling. But his groundbreaking series remains an important source of inspiration for writers like Marlon James. —Raisa Bruner

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