We’re now into the meat of this sprawling fantasy saga. The book opens with the recovery of Eddard Stark, appointed the King’s Hand, a post intended to combine counsel and protection, but despite being an old friend, the King prefers to plot his own course. The problem is not eased by court politics. The Stark family has no time for the equally influential Lannisters, and the Queen is from that family. Matters are further complicated by Eddard’s wife Catelyn holding another Lannister hostage. The cultivated Tywin understands the situation, while resolutely not guilty of the plotting for power endemic to his family, an innocence not believed by Catelyn.

Those used to A Game of Thrones from the TV show will find much here not seen on the screen, as the adaptation is of the original novel on which the series was based. Adaptor Daniel Abraham is able to include far more in the way of detail, and includes the flashback sequences that forged both the cast and their society.

Midway through the book there’s a demise that shifts the entire political scenario, tipping it in one direction, leaving other parties dangerously exposed. Elsewhere, a problem of adapting a novel of such density spread over several locales again emerges. Key player Daenerys Targaryen was barely seen until the conclusion of the previous book, and she’s once again forgotten until the midway point here. We see the staff of the Night’s Watch on the Wall far more frequently, as proof of sinister creatures is now explicit.

Artist Tommy Patterson, possibly for reasons of speed, is resorting more frequently to supplying his cast in cartoon style, but sporadically delivers some fine designs, such as his depiction of Aegon’s iron throne, constructed from the swords of enemies surrendered.

It’s taken some considerable while to move the cast where they need to be, but in this book the tension and intrigue steps up, and there’s barely a scene change that doesn’t tease. George R. R, Martin plots very deeply and diligently, and for those who already know what’s to come there’s a pleasure in seeing how well it’s set up. For those not familiar with the plot in any other form, this book concludes on quite the cliffhanger, to be picked up in volume four.