I finally started making progress on this again last summer. After having to take a month or so off for some work-related reading, I got back to it again a few weeks ago and have poured through it since. Here are my comments on goodreads.
A Storm of Swords continues many of the strong points of that carried the prior two novels in the Song of Ice and Fire series. There continue to be deep, fascinating characters from prior novels that often seem in well over their heads in this violent, dangerous world at war. Each chapter tells the story from the perspective of different characters, each with their own voice and motivations. The story remains unpredictable, and the events of this book are nothing short of realm-shaking. As fans will point out, no character is ever truly safe. Nevertheless, Martin managed to set this tone--and, indeed, allow some critical characters to perish--without making it seem forced or intentional, and there was really only one time when I felt like I was being teased.
That all said, there is one pretty substantial way that this book departs from prior novels: magic is real. In books 1 & 2, despite references to magic, I generally found it easy to dismiss this as character superstition or mysticism. It was never obvious to me that something that ventured into the true, overt supernatural must be part of the world. But with book 3, there can really be no doubt. While all may not be as magical as it seems, some form of divine-inspired magic seems a certainty. When people talk about how good writers show the reader, and don't tell the reader, this is exactly what they're talking about: Martin allows us to discover this on our own, at our own pace. I imagine that I was one of the last to believe.
I'm glad that I finally came back into the fold. While there are a few books I want to read before I start up once again, A Feast for Crows is calling me...and a Dance with Dragons beyond that.