3) A Storm of Swords: Blood and Gold, by George RR Martin
I've been rereading the Song of Ice and Fire books over the last year (A Game of Thrones, A Clash of Kings) because they are just so enjoyable, and sooner or later (I hope) grrm will finish the fifth part of it, and I want to have the events of the first four still fairly fresh in my mind when that happens, and I know I rushed through reading them first time round so that not enough will have stuck in my mind.
The third part, A Storm of Swords, is the most challenging one of the four so far published because it is so long. In the UK paperback printing it was done as two separate volumes (in French translation, apparently, as four) each of which is over 600 pages, though a fair chunk at the end is supporting matter rather than real plot. When I first got the books in 2001 I had to wait several months between volumes, which rather blunts the impact; the cut-off point between the two halves doesn't really make sense dramatically, and you are then trying to pick up several conversations at once.
Rereading the whole thing as a block, a few things struck me. The first is that disastrous weddings are a huge part of the set-up and pay-off. There are several of these - three obviously, the horrific Red Wedding scene, and the two King's Landing weddings featuring Tyrion and Joffrey; but two more subtly off-stage, Robb Stark's near the beginning and the fake Arya Stark's near the end. The more interesting relationships that we see are the irregular one between Jon Snow and the wildling girl Ygritte, and the unconsummated one between the real Arya Stark and her unlikely protector. And the even more interesting relationships are the ones we don't see, that happened fifteen or twenty years before the main action, which we only hear about by dim reflection: who really were Jon Snow's parents? What really happened between the Tully sisters and Littlefinger?
(On top of that we have Daenerys continuing her educational march to queendom across a different continent, which is also good reading though one wonders how on earth it will eventually be united with the rest of the plot.)
Tyrion, the dwarf aristocrat, is one of the most sympathetic characters, but as with the second volume the one scene that didn't work for me on re-reading involved him. He is enabled to take a monstrous revenge on those who have wronged him essentially by the action of the eunuch spymaster Varys; it seemed to me out of character for Varys not to have planned to be able to prevent Tyrion from doing it. (And certainly not in his character to allow Tyrion to go ahead.) Still, it is dramatically very satisfying; as is the culmination of the Jon Snow plot in this part of the overall story.
OK, back to A Feast for Crows soon. And I do hope it's not too long before we get to clutch copies of A Dance with Dragons in our hands.