If the first book was all set up, this book was for kicking back in your comfy chair, putting your feet up and settling in for the long haul. There were a lot of repeating motifs and themes throughout this book and the various storylines, but Martin never uses them in quite the same way. It makes it a little predictable but then also allows for speculation, you know, just in case Martin is lulling the reader into a false sense of ... not security, because that'll never happen, but a false sense of knowing what's coming next.
Some might find these books slow and too long, but I love well-written stories that I can sink my teeth into. The world-building is top notch, the characters are all complex and way too real. Yes, it can be dire and I just want things to go well for the good guys for once, but our good guys are even better for the struggles they are constantly overcoming. It took me a long time to understand or like Sansa, but she's one of my favorites now and she shines in every chapter she's in here. Jon and Sam also remain my favorites and I will stare daggers at anyone who tries to hurt them. Hell, I even like Tyrion now.
Theon though needs to die so many horrible deaths. Actually, there are several people I'd love to see die horribly. So like I did with the previous book, here are my top five Worst Ever characters for this book. And the spoilers are seriously spoilery - I'm talking ALL the plot twists and big reveals. I am not holding anything back. Do NOT click on the spoilers if you don't want to know things. This is your final warning.
Honorable Mention: Allar Deem
He willingly and happily kills a newborn baby and her mother on Cersei's orders, when Cersei starts to "clean up" all of Robert's baseborn children.
Fifth Place: King Joffrey Baratheon - Hey look at that, he made the list again, but he's moved down from first place, because he's just not quite as horrible as the rest.
He tortures animals, he brags about killing his own citizens when they ask for food because they're starving, he shows zero interest or compassion in anyone, and uses Sansa as a punching bag - literally. He even tortures her in court by stripping her down to the waste and demeans her at every turn. It's only because he got preoccupied with the war that his "attentions" didn't continue.
Fourth Place: Ser Gregor Clegane - Also making his second appearance on this list. Go figure.
He and the men in his command ride around, gathering up anyone they feel like "questioning" for information on Robb's movements and then torture them and kill them and string them up for predators. They even torment an innkeeper, raping his daughter, just because. There's no doubt tons of other torture and rape we're never told about. You can lump pretty much everyone in Tywin's guard into this one.
Third Place: Craster over the Wall
And I thought he'd get first place when we first met him. I mean, he's the king of incest, marrying his daughters, and he's possibly guilty of infanticide as well since he sacrifices his sons to the Others. It's unclear what Mance and the Others do to the baby boys, if they raise them and turn them, or eat them, or what, but I doubt it's anything good.
Second Place: Roose Bolton
He makes Weese look like a big cuddly puppy. Not that I'm upset he fed Ser Amory to a bear, but he also punished the women in Harrenhal who were being raped by Gregor and Amory's men by subjecting putting them in pillories to be raped whenever some guy decides they want to "use" them. He also conspires with the Freys to turncloak on Robb.
First Place: Theon Greyjoy and Reke - It's a tie!
Reke - as in Ramsay "Bolton" Snow, Roose's bastard son who is too crazy for even Roose, who is pretty darn crazy himself. Ramsay kills his own servant, disguising himself as said servant and then goes around reeking havoc everywhere he goes. And this is after he forces Lady Hornwood to marry him so he can claim ownership of her lands, and then imprisons her in her own home until she gets so hungry she chews off her own fingers and dies! Then he betrays Theon and sacks Winterfell, killing everyone within and burning it to the ground.
Theon - Ugh! and Double UGH!! He's a misogynist bastard who uses women like they're places to stick his dick, and that's just the least of his crimes. He is a spineless, entitled whine baby who doesn't think he needs to earn his place in his father's court. He wishy-washies his way through this book, trying and failing extremely ineffectively to do the "right" thing - so what if he needs to kill or sacrifice a few people along the way. Why can't everyone see what a great guy he is? He overtakes Winterfell and is surprised when everyone there hates him for it. When Bran and Rickon disappear and he can't find them, he kills two innocent children (and the prompting of Ramsay-in-disguise-as-Reke) and disguises their corpses so he can pretend they're Bran and Rickon rather than admit defeat. He then uses little Beth as a hostage when Rodrik and his men come to take Winterfell back. Yeah, he's scum and I hope he dies soon if he isn't dead already.
So that's my list. Who's on yours?