THE SECOND VOLUME of 'A Song of Ice And Fire' tells the world as much about the extraordinary mind and imagination of George R R Martin, as it does his ability to gift his fans with an unforgettable and extraordinary bedtime story. Whilst book one (A Game of Thrones) did not end on a particularly massive cliffhanger, there is no way for a reader to get that far and not continue onto book 2. And whilst it possesses and displays the same writing style from AGOT, it must be said that the second book's pace only starts to pick up as you pass the half way mark. Once again there is no great beauty in the writing, no heart stopping prose for the reader to stumble over in awe. Westeros, we have come to see, is mainly a violent, cold, and (ahem) stark place to find yourself in. But that shouldn't surprise anyone by now. Winter is coming. The genius of ASOIAF lies in the way the fable is presented to the reader. It almost feels like you are reading several (inter-related) books at once. And of course, that is precisely the point. Which also goes a long way to explain why it takes Mr Martin so long to write and release each volume. The story is just so darn *complex*. A new set of characters are introduced in the prologue, but you may end up forgetting all about them until you hit page 300, when they reappear. The dreaded GRRM-character-chop has not raised its ugly head since the awesome finale to AGOT. I like twists and turns in a plot almost as much as the next book worm, but readers may well feel justified in booking into anger management classes after seeing them killed off in typical Westeros fashion after 1400 pages of dedication and friendship making. The book's dominant characters are still my favourites, but I have come to adore my adopted daughter Arya after witnessing her endless supplies of courage, determination and bravery in the face of unstoppable evil. But most characters continue to develop. Even Tyrion Lannister - the bad guy we all love to hate - is starting to show signs of compassion and sympathy for another. But the story's main player will find himself seriously played if he is not careful!!! I can't say much more about this awesome reading experience without giving away spoilers. All you really need to do is finish book one. Then read the blurb from ACOK. The rest is a no brainer. Reviews are useless. Resistance is futile. Westeros is right here. Come inside where it's nice and warm. Shut the door, though. I don't want to catch a cold. Winter is coming.