This book made me want to throw it against the wall in anger and disbelief. It made me root for the death of a child (and then despise myself), love a hated character, cry angry tears, and bite my nails because of all the suspense. **Pictograhically, all of the above was happening to me.**I did not throw the book across the room. Instead, I put it aside and stared at the wall for a few minutes in grief and disbelief. If you read this, you know which part I am talking about *SOBBING* Then I picked it up again, because at that point I was so hooked that nothing could have stopped me. (I also MAY HAVE cut my neurobiology class to finish it. I know, I'm bad, very very bad.) Ah, you guys... Look at you, all innocent, before this book rips into you...A Storm of Swords is, in my opinion, an undisputed high point of the series so far. It expanded the story in delightful, wonderful ways. It gave it a truly epic feel. It delivered the cruel punch in the gut with the Red Wedding (excuse me as I go and cry myself to sleep) and reinforced the axiom that nobody is safe in the world GRRM created. (*) * It was heartbreaking, gut-wrenching, and unexpected. But it was necessary, even if just to remind how cruel and brutal this world is, and how little choices can have huge consequences. I loved this book because of the amount of promise it brought to the series. It brought our characters to the brink of greatness, put them in the positions that were surely going to change the course of this entire story. Examples: Jon and Dany. It was amazing to see how these two very young characters grew and developed due to all the battles, losses, and betrayals that they suffered. Both of them at the end of this story carry such potential for the future of this series. Having read book 5, I think that so much of it was unfortunately wasted. Ah, our favorite despicable Lannisters... Look at you BEFORE all the hell broke loose for you. Does it make you feel any sympathy for the Starks now? No? I thought so.The character complexity parallels the story complexity - both are done masterfully. The characters feel alive and real. They are interesting and fascinating, and fluctuate between likable and despicable in a not too predictable fashion (*). The previously unseen connections between characters and events are mind-blowing. And seeing the select few skillfully manipulating so many others is unsettling. * Let me use Jaime and Tyrion as my examples here: Jaime became one of my favorites: understanding where he's coming from and seeing him humbled by his experience changed him from a monster to a deeply flawed but ultimately sympathetic man. (What he did to Bran was terrible - but child's play in comparison of all the other mindf***ery GRRM gives us in this book. What he does with his sister - gross, but they are competent and consenting adults, and it's not my place to judge them). Tyrion, on the other hand... What he did to Shae reminded me that darkness can live inside everyone, even our favorite Imp. Tywin, however - I did not give a crap about him (pun intended!), but Shae...Not cool. -------------------------------------------------------------------------Don't get me wrong. I gush about it, but this book is far from perfect. Just like its sequels (and predecessors) it suffers from overload of descriptions and repetitions, gratuitous bodily functions and banquets. Some storylines already begin to drag (Arya, for instance). But most of the faults were easily overshadowed by the great characterization, masterful story, and wonderfully built suspense. This is what I felt was unfortunately missing from the books that followed, and what I hope they return to eventually. 5 stars from my (many moons ago) yet-not-jaded self that happily gobbled up this delicious brain candy.