It has been SIX LONG YEARS since George R.R. Martin last released a book in his Song Of Ice And Fire Sequence. That's a pretty long wait.
So was "A Dance with Dragons: A Song of Ice and Fire: Book Five" worth the wait? Well... yes and no. It returns to much-beloved characters like Tyrion, Bran and Daenarys and slowly moves us toward the complex, treacherous endgame of Westeros' power struggles. But it's also very slow-moving, and sometimes it feels like events are happening too slowly.
After killing his father, Tyrion flees his native land and ends up adrift in another, dependent on others for safety and shelter. So instead, he forges a new destiny for himself. Meanwhile, Bran is en route to the Wall, only to run into wargs and discover new facets of his mysterious skinchanging power.
The new Night Watch commander Jon Snow finds himself facing an incoming horde of wildlings, as well as the presence of grouchy King Stannis and his bloodthirsty priestess Melisandre. Jon is determined to keep doing what he thinks is right, but his steadfastness may also be his undoing.
Having conquered the city of Meereen, Daenarys starts learning the ropes of queenship there, as well as caring for her three rapidly-growing dragons. Of course, she soon discovers that it's a lot harder than it sounds, as she becomes enmeshed in a deadly tangle of love, treason, ambition and bloody murder.
It's honestly hard to sum up a George R.R. Martin's books without giving away far too much, or going into countless detailed subplots. However, this book is very slow moving, and there isn't a lot of forward momentum until the last several chapters. It feels like Martin is arranging his vast chessboard for a the final clash, but it's going to be slow moving until he's done.
However, even a Martin book moving forward slowly is a striking experience. He embroiders this bloodspattered tapestry with vivid prose ("he fluttered like a burning leaf, a moth caught in a candle flame"), sex, and quite a bit of gruesome violence handled very casually (when a man is beheaded, someone asks, "Can I have his boots?").
The only very flawed scene that springs to mind is Daenarys' final scene, which is so melodramatic as to be almost silly. And yes, it ends on a multiple cliffhanger. Prepare to scream in frustration.
As for the vast cast of flawed, intriguing characters, Martin only handles some of them -- we see more of Bran's burgeoning powers, Jon's bleak, frustrating life as a commander, the determined Tyrion afloat without his family's influence, and Daenarys' quiet nature at war with her "dragon's blood."
Well, he touches on some of the other characters -- such as Cersei -- but mostly focuses on those four. And without revealing too much, yet another much-loved character seems to have bitten the proverbial dust.
"A Dance of Dragons" dances too slowly, but it's still a deeply absorbing read -- and it feels like George R.R. Martin is arranging the grand finale. Let's hope the next book doesn't take six years.
on June 19, 2013
Before reading the latest instalment in this series, I consulted many of the online reviews and was decidedly apprehensive as I started Dance with Dragons. Now that I have finished it, I have to agree with the negative reviews, at least in general terms. Some have claimed that Martin has lost the thread of his series, which I find preposterous since that presumes he has no agency over his creation. I, however, believe that he has become enamoured with his world creation, characterisation and descriptive prose, all of which remain unparalleled in this field. Unfortunately, he has emphasised these qualities over writing action sequences and this is dragging down the series.
Consider Dany's storyline. In Book Three she conquers three cities as she builds her army and moves towards Westeros. Her character development is shown through her conquests, thus merging action with characterisation. In ADWD she spends the majority of her time governing one city awaiting an invasion from Yunkai. This takes up her entire storyline with the invasion only coming as the novel ends. It would be as if the Battle for Kings Landing, which consumed the entire second book, never actually happened until the third book. Jon's storyline also saw no real resolution. His storyline concerns negotiating a truce between the wildlings and the Black Brothers but readers will have to wait until the next volume to see how it is finally resolved.
Furthermore, Martin is now focusing on the lower noble houses, and it is rather difficult to get excited over the conflict between the Manderlys and Boltons after reading about the titanic struggle between the Starks and Lannisters for three books. Similarly, the introduction of a whole host of new characters has not elicited a tremendous amount of excitement since none of them equal the original cast in character.
As such, if you are committed to the series then continue reading. But be prepared for limited action, an introduction of a whole new cast and extensive description with absolutely no resolution of storylines.
on July 16, 2011
I waited six years for progress and answers and all I got was more cliff hangers.
Because George knows the only way we will wait another 6 years is if he resolves as little as possible.
When I neared the end of the book I had such high hopes. So many threads were converging, it would clearly end in an amazing climax.
But it didn't.
I am sure this book will get some good reviews. It has some pleasant chapters and was enjoyable to read, but that is simply because I and many others have waited so long, that we would be happy with anything new.
But this is no book to re-read.
For every surprise, there is a hundred pages of tedium.
The book meanders about, and feels like George wrote simply for the sake of writing. It was all build up and no release, and that's bloody unacceptable after six years of waiting.
I know there will be fans of the book, those who angrily defend it, and I really wish I was one of them. But instead of sliding this book onto my bookshelf, well satisfied, I simply want to throw it out a window.
I really couldn't be anymore disappointed.
on July 30, 2011
I enjoyed reading Martin's latest novel, but even 100 pages into it I began to feel a growing dread that this was not going to be a book to equal A STORM OF SWORDS. The narrative pace crept when it should have galloped. Over-long passages were devoted to what people ate for breakfast, local scenery or history. Ever more viewpoint characters were introduced, meaning that less time was available to advance the story of existing characters.
All of this detail is great fodder for ancillary projects: compendiums, encyclopedias, tie-in games, etc. But a rousing story it does not make.
There are some great touches. In particular, in the Reek chapters, Martin does for Theon Greyjoy what he had previously done for other anti-heroes like Jaime Lannister, giving him a powerful, personal story. The paranormal content rises significantly, but remains consistent with what has gone before and does not overwhelm the story. The dragons are depicted very well as creatures of fire and fury. Davos has some entertaining adventures.
There are too many viewpoints. The problem seems to be that Martin has maneuvered almost all of the "primary" characters into some form of prison, or slavery (Theon, Cersei, Tyrion, Aisha, Davos, the dragons), or into figurative bondage (bound by duty, destiny, or oath as in the case of Dani, Bran, Jon, Arya, etc.). No one has room to maneuver. Everyone is stuck. While this gives A Dance with Dragons a certain thematic unity ("escape!") it doesn't help that Martin is in no hurry to set things up. At any one time at least half the cast is either in prison, visiting someone in prison. What's worse, when they aren't in prison, they spend most of their times stuck aboard ships or boats on the way to a destiny that always seems just out of reach, beset by storms, pirates, slavers, and other traditional perils. The mark of a good character is the decisions he must make. Individuals bound by chains or oaths or duty have little no room to weigh these choices. Eventually, circumstances or decision DO break some of these bonds but it's a long time coming. It's a mark of the strength of Theon's chapter that despite his circumstances - worse than that of most other characters - he makes choices.
With almost all of the main characters so constrained, Martin has two choices: get someone them out of trouble STAT, or add new characters who aren't constrained to move the plot along. Unfortunately, he chooses the latter, with the predictable result that even less time is spent on anyone we care about, and more time is spent introducing new faces who serve mainly as spoilers to kick the plot along. In doing so, the addition of one character, a lost heir, seems to come completely out of left field, with the unfortunately consequence of weakening the apparent important of one of the series' core characters.
So as to not end of a negative note, however, one element I did like was the introduction of some new villains. A SONG OF ICE AND FIRE has been hard on its heroes but even harder on its villains, with many of the more memorable antagonists either disposed of or (to some extent) reformed or made understandable (e.g. Jaime, Littlefinger), while the "white walkers" - the wights - remain an oddly impersonal menace. Both Ramsay Snow and Victarion Greyjoy get some extra development here, making the latter especially more credible as a future antagonist. Cersei also has potential to emerge back on stage, though perhaps more as a catspaw than an actual opponent.
I really like the Game of Thrones series (both the books and the TV series), however that said, this is one book too many and realistically it should have been stopped after the first three books. I am reminded of The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant (Ill Earth Trilogy) that morphed from a trilogy into something that seemed never to end - a good idea carried too far. The Fringe was great because it began with a clear arc and it finished before the series was exhausted. In this book, I almost get the sense that R.R. Martin knows that he has a cash cow and he wants to milk it a bit more. The book is reasonable but at some point there has to be an end and it should have been before this book. So overall not bad, but we did not need it.
on August 19, 2015
Did he write this one? It took him so long to write the 5th book! I had such a difficult time to finish this book. There were some good parts in the beginning. I even thought it was exciting (the first 30%). But things changed. It was like somebody else stepped in to write the middle section while GRRM was busy with the TV series or on vacation. I found it a bit boring. Too many long descriptions and details, too many names... . I did stop reading this book several times. Finally I have finished. The last 200 pages were more exciting. Definitely not the best of the series. But, still, I can't wait for the 6th book (hopefully it will be published before the season 6 of the TV series begin).
on January 28, 2013
My only consolation is that I started the series after this came out. I can't even imagine waiting 10 years for "A Feast For Crows" and "A Dance With Dragons".
A Dance With Dragons was a chore to read, even more so than Feast. By the last quarter, I found myself sighing, grunting, and skimming pages in frustration. It is beautifully written, but gets a 1 star because of the following:
GRRM is a brilliant man. He knows what he is doing, which either makes the last 2 books in this series a work of incredibly isolated ambition, or a flagrant show of dishonesty. Creating such fantastic cliffhangers, then barely addressing them over the course of the following 10 years/2 books/2000 pages/$30-$50 is an intentional move, no matter which way you slice it. It's not something "we don't get" or "different than we expected". It's manipulative, not unlike reality TV. Whatever the motives (getting us to buy the next volume, stalling for time), it's a little stinky. Plus, the author's apparent refusal to take this criticism seriously doesn't bode well for the rest of the series.
Onto the actual book : There is an incredible amount of filler, and too many concurrent storylines that go nowhere. The overlapping Feast For Crows timeline stunt was cheap, but cheaper still was not to use the rest of that timeline to tie up loose ends. We keep reading, hoping for a closure that never comes. He has completely shied away from what made the first 3 books so great. Gripping characters and fast moving action, all set inside a fascinating, lively, ruthless world. I thought A Feast For Crows was just him taking a breather, but turns out he's lost it for good. What a monumental fall from grace.
With that said, my main gripe with the series as a whole is this :
GRRM has a way of introducing fantastic characters and, if not killing them off altogether, assassinating the particular attachment we have to them, while not giving us anything in return. He just suddenly amputates whatever excitement we have for their stories. Every arc is always somehow..stunted. Why do this? It's unrewarding and exhausting. Jaime Lannister, touted as one of the most dangerous men ever with a sword, gets his sword hand chopped off. ok...so now what? Bran, the ultimate climber with the ultimate secret, has his legs broken, and loses his memory. Ok...now what? Khal Drogo, strong, leader of the Dothraki, UNDEFEATED SINCE FOREVER!! dies, his army scattered...ok. Robb Stark, king of the north, symbol of love and justice!! murdered, his army scattered...King Stannis, harsh, but fair, leading an army with the amazing powers of the FIRE GOD...freezes to death, his army scattered. ok. Brienne, devotes her life to Catelyn Stark, dies at the hands of Catelyn Stark...ok. Dany, waker of dragons, conqueror of the eastern lands to make her way into Westeros, is now afraid of dragons, and refuses to go to Westeros....ok..? Cersei, insidious, proud, beautiful, intelligent...is now foolish, childish, humiliated, weak and ugly...her relationship with Jaime, once a pivotal characteristic of the Lannisters' strength and moral bankruptcy, is now in shambles...ok, but where to now? Littlefinger, the most scheming of them all, and arguably the most efficient player in this game of thrones....was sent to rule the only neutral Kingdom in the realm. ok then. And Jon Snow...I don't even want to try to understand this one.
The list goes on and on...He pushes us away from every character that matters, but never calls us back. We keep finding our footing only to hit a brick wall. That + all those new characters and twice as many cliffhangers...It's just not fun anymore :( It's an abusive test of a reader's patience, excitement and goodwill.
Let's just pray Tyrion won't have his tongue torn out in the next book, shall we?
on February 25, 2015
Cannot wait for the next book. GM doesn't necessarily give the reader what they want, and that is the most intriguing part. You never know where this story will take you.
Quick Review (TL;DR)
These books are great. Expansive well described settings and extremely complex and detailed characters. You'll find yourself loving character you hated in a previous books and feeling compassion for psychopathic torturers.
Nothing happens the way you think it'll happen and no one you want to live lives. Everyone dies except for the ones you expect to.
I would highly recommend reading this series as long as you don't mind waiting 1-2 decades as the following books are released.
--If you want to support a story you enjoy and get the entire series at the same time you should buy this. --
All my life I've been waiting for something like this story. Every time I watched a movie where the good guy had some kind of distress or trouble and the bad guy seemed ahead, I still always knew who would win. As I am sure you all did. (granted this applies more to shows/movies than to books)
Every time a fairy tale ending occurred with the action hero walking into the sunset with his girl, I got tired. Every. Single. Time.
Good guy wins, bad guy loses/gets away and everyone is happily ever after. Sure there are some exceptions, but not really. Either everyone dies at the end or some other trope occurs. But the bad guy never wins over. Not at the end. Like some horribly boring, predictable formula.
This is the show I've been waiting for. Everything you think will happen doesn't happen. Or it does and then does a complete 180. No predictability at all. I absolutely love it.
You hate the character who paralyzes kids and then you grow to like them and empathize with their flaws as they grow into their character.
Your [favourite] characters die and others live, but you never know which or how they'll do it. Your most hated character become your most loved characters and then they also die. Or maybe not. Maybe they become hated again.
This is the story after the happily ever after. The story of the brave warrior who becomes king but is unable to rule, he doesn't know how. Of course he doesn't, he's a boy who knows how to fight, why would he be equipped to rule a kingdom?
This is the story after the king marries a famous beauty.
They're not happy 20 years later, they resent each other and each grows to hate the other more and more. The king drinks and has his way with whore while the queen does the same with her brother.
They are human. They do not live happily ever after. The nice honourable man dies, children die, the scheming betrayer lives. In fact he thrives.
This is the story for those who want to know what happens after the "... and they lived happily ever after". Love, loss, anger, hatred, life and death. No linear storyline with predictable outcomes. No more of that.
If any of that sounds appealing to you then read the books, watch the show, immerse yourself in this world and watch what happens when people have to go through life with real problems and real consequences.
on December 8, 2011
6 years for a book that does nothing but advance the plot far enough to add cliff hangers for the next book, which probably won't be released until 2018. Enough talk about what they eat, what the fashion choice of the local nobles is and for love of all that's good I don't care where whores go!