A Storm of Swords
Book 3 in George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire


Published by:

ISBN: 1-59606-052-2 (all editions)
Edition size: 448 numbered52 lettered
MSRP: $260.00$405.00

George R.R. Martin's A Storm of Swords is book 3 in his epic fantasy series A Song of Ice and Fire. It has achieved something of a legendary status because of its commercial success. Even the best fantasy work usually can't compete with the cheapest tawdry romance novel or murder mystery.

Unfortunately, the limited editions of this series have been plagued by a multitude of problems. The first two books, A Game of Thrones and A Clash of Kings, were published by oft-reviled Meisha Merlin. Thrones wasn't published until two years after its target date. When it finally streeted, Jeffrey Jones' artwork wasn't warmly received, as his style was felt inappropriate for a fantasy novel. Kings was also published two years late and under a cloud of controversy. First off, Meisha was very poor in its record-keeping and did not adequately track those who had purchased Thrones. As such, when Kings was finally released, a frightening number of Thrones owners were not informed and offered purchase rights. This resulted in a terrible number of "broken" sets. Secondly, John Howe had to almost sue to get his original art pieces back and several of his illustrations appeared to've suffered damage under Meisha's "care". And finally, the limitation page for Kings referenced Thrones instead - a massive typographical error that went undetected until already in the hands of book owners.

It was with a huge sigh of relief that Meisha surrendered the license to Subterranean Press. SubPress already had a rich publishing background and it was felt that they would pick up Meisha's fumble and score a touchdown with Swords. The impressive work of Charles Vess would be featured and, most surprisingly, the edition would be split into two volumes, as it was felt a single tome would be too unwieldy to read and the manufacturing would be problematic.

Because of these enhancements, the MSRP rose from $250 (Meisha) to $260 for the numbered version and from $350 to $405 for the lettered. The lettered sold-out immediately.

Unfortunately, SubPress made a number of questionable calls on their play, too. There's a veritable laundry list of things "wrong" with Swords. Some by unwitting omission, some by circumstance, but others by design.

UPDATE - Bill Schafer, head of Subterranean Press, has addressed each of these points. His responses are in green and appear largely unedited. My comments are in cyan.

Omitted text highlighted in red.
Note illustration's position.
..... .....

(click on each for high-rez pics)

To add insult to injury, the differences between the numbered and much-higher-priced lettered edition are very minor, consisting of:

As a plus, to offset the lack of embedded ribbon bookmarks, SubPress did produce a run of six attractive heavy-paper-stock bookmarks, two of which are signed by Martin and Vess respectively. These were given to both numbered and lettered owners.

Bill Schafer has publicly stated that there was an "overwhelmingly positive" response to Swords. However, after a fierce series of exchanges on www.westeros.org, Mr. Schafer conceded that, for the next book (A Feast for Crows), he would restore the stamping on the slipcase. Unfortunately, after consulting with Martin himself, the possibility of a traycase for lettered purchasers was vetoed, with SubPress again citing cost and production delay concerns.

Without the traycase, there is a considerable amount of doubt whether or not the lettered edition is worth the asking price. SubPress has not been forthcoming about any additional real value-added elements that will be included with the lettered version of Crows, other than the POSSIBILITY of a color slipcase stamp with a different design from the numbered (see the aforementioned response to this from Bill).

Was the move to Subterranean Press worth it? So far, the jury's out. For all of Meisha's faults, it appears as if they provided their customers - especially lettered purchasers - more frills; delays, editorial gaffes, and artist inappropriateness and abuse notwithstanding. SubPress' greatest claim-to-fame with Swords was breaking it up into two physical volumes, which some have questioned the wisdom of (it's only a few pages longer than Thrones and Kings). The change in trim size has also created many head-scratchers.

The following are pictures of the lettered edition. Please note that the frame for the bookmarks was commissioned by me and did NOT come standard with this edition.

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