All five A Song of Ice and Fire books, ranked worst to best

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Image: Game of Thrones/HBO
Image: Game of Thrones/HBO /

1. A Storm of Swords (Book 3, 2000)

A Storm of Swords is the book where everything great about this series comes together. It’s epic and sprawling, but not so much that it slows down the story. A Storm of Swords is a long book, but it’s a fast read because it features so many entertaining plot twists and memorable scenes, including:

  • Jaime Lannister gets his hand chopped off, tells his side of the story about what happened the day the Mad King died, and fights a bear with Brienne of Tarth.
  • The wildlings attack the Wall. After the battle is over, Jon Snow holds a dying Ygritte in his arms. Later, he is elected the new Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch.
  • Bran Stark finds a secret passage under the Wall and sets off to find the Three-Eyed Raven.
  • Arya Stark leaves the Hound for dead and sets off for Braavos.
  • After three books of being awful, Joffrey Baratheon finally dies, poisoned at his own wedding. Tyrion is blamed, suffers through a kangaroo court, gets a champion to represent him in a trial by combat, and kills his own father Tywin after his brother Jaime sets him free from prison.
  • Daenerys is on a roll in this book. She frees the slave cities of Astapor, Yunkai and Meereen, gaining followers each time.
  • In the most famous twist from the series, Robb and Catelyn die at the Red Wedding along with the bulk of the Stark army.

If A Feast for Crows is a book where not enough happens, A Storm of Swords is a book where everything happens. The pacing is lightning fast, but we don’t lose any of Martin’s signature deep detail. We learn new things about the characters we know — Jaime Lannister in particular comes out the other side of this book as basically a brand new character — and meet new fan favorites like Oberyn Martell and Olenna Tyrell. This book has no brake. It accelerates under open skies on clear roads for nearly a thousand pages, and leaves us just as it turns a corner on a brand new stretch.

A Storm of Swords works as well as it does because it’s build on top of A Game of Thrones and A Clash of Kings; a lot of what is set up in those two books is paid off here. But Martin deserves credit for executing on it brilliantly. And unlike in Feast or Dance, everything fits comfortably within the confines of this one book. A Storm of Swords is part of a series, but it also stands on its own.

With a couple new books of set-up under his belt, maybe The Winds of Winter will reach the heights of A Storm of Swords. If Martin wants to see where Winds falls on this list, all he has to do is finish writing it…

Next. All 15 Targaryens from Game of Thrones and House of the Dragon, ranked worst to best. dark

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