Every A Song of Ice and Fire fan has their favorite novel. Are you an A Storm of Swords purist? An A Feast for Crows apologist? Without further ado, see how your Game of Thrones book rankings compare with ours.
Beware: Spoilers are coming!
5. A Dance with Dragons (2011)
Besides the exciting cliffhanger, A Dance with Dragons is a slow-moving novel with very little payoff. Fan favorites are back after their long absence since the third novel, but their character arcs (or lack thereof) frustrate. Tyrion is demoted to being a travel vlogger, Daenerys endlessly grapples with an unrelenting Meereen, and Jon struggles with leadership at the Wall. The issue in the arcs is not the lack of action; the pacing is what makes them dull. The ever-expanding cast of POV characters bloats the distance between each storyline’s chapters to over a hundred pages, robbing the chapters of any momentum they might have otherwise built. Most readers agree that the book improves upon a second reading, but the pacing is still painfully slow. When The Winds of Winter is released (oh, you sweet summer child), perhaps A Dance with Dragons will rise in our esteem as a fantastic setup to a wonderful sixth installment of Game of Thrones. Until then, we just have to accept it for what it is.
Though not a raging disappointment, A Dance with Dragons promises much with its 1,200-page length but underdelivers, feeling more like an overgrown setup begging for a heavy edit than a chronicle in its own right.
4. A Feast for Crows (2005)
In the eyes of many A Song of Ice and Fire fans, it is sacrilegious to think that A Feast for Crows has anything to offer besides bitter disappointment and broken dreams. While the pacing downshift from A Storm of Swords is understandably frustrating for fans of explosive, sword-clashing conflict, A Feast for Crows stillhas a lot to offer. The best quality of the novel is by far is its character work. Focusing on Jaime, Cersei, and Brienne, we get to explore the characters both as individuals and as parts of the love triangle that develops. Further, the inside of Cersei’s mind is a fascinating place to explore. By upgrading her to a POV character, George R. R. Martin both demystifies Cersei and twists her into a million contradictions. While similar to A Dance with Dragons with the quiet character-focus, A Feast for Crows has a sense of momentum that its sister novel lacks, likely stemming from its emphasis a smaller number of POV characters.
For readers who love action and don’t particularly care about the King’s Landing characters, A Feast for Crows is a slog. For those who read George R. R. Martin for his character work, it is perhaps his best work.
3. A Clash of Kings (1998)
Though A Song of Ice and Fire is obviously not a trilogy, the first three books do, in some ways, act like one, especially when considering the drastic shift between the writing style of the first three books to the latest two releases. Stuck between a strong opening novel and a lauded third novel with huge plot twists, A Clash of Kings ends up as a bit of an overlooked middle child. By no means a bad novel, it does a lot of things right. Mired in the consequences of the Lannisters’ rash actions, the novel paints a believable image of an electric, dangerous Westeros as hopeful contenders vie for the throne, ending in the gripping depiction of the Battle of the Blackwater.
While not a standout novel, A Clash of Kings is a strong entry into the series, effective in its task of setting up the significant events of the third novel.
2. A Game of Thrones (1996)
A revolutionary novel for the fantasy genre, A Game of Thrones remains a juggernaut. With effective world-building, a strong sense of plot, and a shocking ending that upends every cherished notion that fantasy readers once held, the novel holds up as an enjoyable read. While the first few hundred pages are a slow grind, the plot is strong and compelling once it picks up. The novel lays a lot of important groundwork for the rest of the series, though many of the most important details don’t become noticeable until rereading it, a fantastic incentive to go back and enjoy the novel for a second (or third, or fourth) time.
Utterly enjoyable, A Game of Thrones earns its place as one of the most popular fantasy books of all time.
1. A Storm of Swords (2000)
The number one spot on our list is going to A Storm of Swords, the long-lauded fan favorite. A thrilling conclusion to much of the rising action of the first two books, A Storm of Swords is a fast-paced and thoughtfully done novel. George R. R. Martin comes back strong with his willingness to kill his darlings, raising stakes and ending plotlines in unbelievable, heart wrenching, but ultimately satisfying ways. Imaginative and well balanced, the novel holds mass appeal for both action and character lovers.
With its fast pacing and exciting plot, A Storm of Swords is the most well rounded and effectively executed novel of the series.
Agree with our choices? Hate our rankings with the fiery passion of a thousand suns? Let us know your thoughts in the comments!