Having finished Clash of Kings yesterday, I'm pretty excited to start Storm of Swords today.
So far the story is divided into three stories: The East across the Narrow Sea. That tale was really interesting in Game of Thrones, but was mostly just basic setup mode in Clash of Kings. Then there's the Others coming to the Wall story. That story started off the series in Game of Thrones, making me believe (falsely) that this was what the series would mainly be about. But it was all setup in Game of Thrones, and all setup in Clash of Kings. And then there's the third story: the main story of Westeros. In Game of Thrones is was about Ned's Stark naivety. In Clash of Kings it was about the power vacuum and the four kings that tried to fill it. And what an amazing story that was. It was definitely the central thrust of Clash, and it was just so masterfully setup and told.
One thing that didn't mesh with my recollection of the series from 2001's reading of it is that I remembered Jaime Lannister playing a pretty big part. But in Game of Thrones he was hardly there, and in Clash of Kings he played an even smaller role. So what I was remembering must all be from Storm of Swords. What's also interesting is that with the physical books I read, I didn't realize how much larger the third book is compared to the 2nd. Clash of Kings was estimated to take 24 hours when I started reading it, but Storm of Swords is estimated at 36 hours. Which means it's quite a bit larger.
As large as these books are though, it's hard to believe that he can finish this epic tale in only 7 books, as originally planned. Even if you now make it 8, since book 4 had to be split into two books, I keep running into so many threads in Clash of Kings which indicate something will happen way down the line. And at some points these three stories have to come together. But just Westeros is such a complex story as told in Clash and Storms, it's hard to believe how he's going to weave the other two stories into it at some point.
We shall see.
At present, I'm just really happy I decided to re-read these books. This is masterful storytelling.