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32 of 40 people found the following review helpful
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.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon June 24, 2014
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.
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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).
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on March 3, 2014
Haven't read this 5th book yet but I'm sure it will be hard to put down once I get to it!
Just want to note to others that this is not the same size as the mass market paperback ones... this one is much larger and doesn't match my box set :( Minor detail though it also means that it's much more annoying to read this book on the go.
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on July 4, 2013
Hated book 4 and thought Martin had written himself into a corner with it. It took much of book 5 to sort out book 4's mess. With the delay in publishing I had lost so many threads and often couldn't remember who characters were. I hope book 6 redeems everything. Please publish fairly quickly. Please.
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on January 18, 2012
Warning: Review Contains 'Spoilers'

The 5th installment of the Song of Fire and Ice series is long. It is long not so much due to the roughly 1000 pages that make up A Dance With Dragons, but because it is long in description, in plodding storylines, and in bringing the reader to the end of the book, which is arguably not too much farther than where they started and could have been accomplished with much less text. Martin does begin with a footnote that rather than a straight sequel to A Feast For Crows in a chronological sense, it is rather a book intended to run in parallel to A Feast For Crows (at least the first 75% of the book) in an effort to presumably keep the storylines of the 2 books and the characters they focus on moving forward at a more brisk and engaging pace. Unfortunately I found the result to be anything but.

The numerous long-winded (and in my opinion gratuitous) descriptions of, for example, the history of Meereen's cobblestone construction or the detailed description of the Shield Hall at Castle Black (39 shields are described) do not enrich the story or setting but moreover distracts and slows down the pace.

The numerous detailed subplots also serve to draw out the saga, almost to the point where one gets the feeling that after Crows Martin originally intended perhaps 1 final book and then for whatever reason suddenly decided to extend the series by 3 more books. New characters are introduced (Aegon and the Golden Company, Quentyn Martell, Victarion to an extent), some of them out of thin air, to create further complexity (or confusion) to the plot lines. This hinders the progress of the storyline overall and certain core elements/characters (The Others, Arya, Sansa, the War for the Crown itself) get little or no treatment while many seem simply stuck in their respective situations. Daenerys seems to be stuck for the better part of forever in Meereen (presumably so Martin could allow the dragons to fully grow). Arya seems to be stuck in Braavos getting her 'mystical education' with entire chapters dedicated to describing her role in selling clams and mussels to passerbys. Tyrion seems to be stuck in bondage of some sort for at least half of the book. Additionally, other plotlines that were previously started (Dondarion's band of resurrectors, Sam's voyage to Oldtown, Euron Greyjoy's raiding) make no showing in this book.

Another personal issue I have is the wave of deaths to some of the most engaging characters (my opinion). I realize and appreciate this is somewhat of a hallmark of Martin's storytelling and it does give the characters a greater sense of immediacy since anyone could die at any moment, but when these characters are not replaced by equally engaging characters then it serves to dilute the reader experience. The deaths of Ned Stark, Robb Stark, Jon Snow (presumably), and even the laming of Jamie Lannister have lessened the 'cheer factor' to a sizeable extent, and therefore the engagement factor.

Overall, much of A Dance With Dragons suffers from the symptoms that many lengthy fantasy series (Jordan's Wheel of Time, Erikson's Malazan Book of the Fallen, etc) suffer from in their later books ' a general dilution of quality or 'richness per page'. That said, Dragons still remains a must read for fans of the series and many of Martin's writing qualities remain on offer. Although the reader gets the impression this book was quite a labored effort to create and lacks from sufficient editing, by its ending many of the pieces are in place for an explosive finish. Hopefully we won't have to wait another 6 years to find out.
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8 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on December 30, 2012
Haven't yet finished it but know that I won't be getting the following books any time soon; so that sort of takes the fun out of reading it. I wish the author would be more attentive to his readers and finish the series. I find it very hard to keep track of the characters when you have to wait so long for the next book. I read the 4 first books in one swoop; I'm afraid the author might lose some of his followers by delaying too much.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on October 29, 2012
This book is not a direct sequel to the last book but goes along the same plot time. This annoyed me. Why not make a special edition that blends the two books. There are a lot of new characters. After the 2nd season on T.V. The differences in the show and the books make me wonder if the show will be anything like this book. I am fighting to stay interested in the story but its moving to slow, i want to skip chapters just to get fulfillment out of this story and find out what happens to more interesting characters.
When is it going to be winter? Get on with Plot
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on February 3, 2014
I'm not clear from reading this book if Martin intends to abandon these beloved characters to our imaginations ... Perhaps he's grown tired of the theme?
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on December 6, 2013
In the beginning, it is very slow going I find. And then it gets interesting again. I find tha Danny's story is very repetitious, Over all it's Ok.
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