Book Review: A Dance with Dragons / Author: George R. R. Martin / Publisher: Harper Voyager / Release Date: Out Now
As a long time fan of Fantasy novels, George R. R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire series was known to me only as "That massive fantasy series where it takes four years for the author to bring the next bloody book out". As a result, it wasn't until the rather successful HBO television series that I started to become interested in the novels that inspired the series, and when the latest book turned up for review I jumped at the chance. Of course there was only one problem with my enthusiasm. I hadn't read the preceding four books.
A month later, I emerged from my man cave, unshaven, bleary eyed and muttering to myself in ye olde English about turncloaks, honour and faceless ones. Then I realised that I had to try and condense the five or six thousand pages that I'd just read into something approaching a coherent review. So bear with me if I start to ramble.
By the time I'd finished book three in the series, I felt that the vast majority of the major plot points had been sorted out. There were a few loose ends floating around and a couple of characters whose fates needed to be clarified, but for the most part I'd been loving the books right up until the end of A Storm of Swords. Then A Feast for Crows arrived and it almost killed the series for me. All of a sudden, I was reading a thousand page novel that ignored almost all of the characters who were interesting and introduced a whole lot of other ones that I didn't really care about. It contained almost nothing about Jon Snow, Danaerys, Bran or Tyrion. A cardinal sin as far as I was concerned. It felt like padding and if I'd been sat around for four years waiting for that instalment then I probably would have walked away from the series in disgust.
Fortunately, A Dance with Dragon's gets right back to the main event. In other words, its focus is primarily on the characters mentioned above, although the first part does run in parallel with A Feast for Crows, which means that you read about things happening that were mentioned in the previous book, although not always in the way that you expect. In the second part, the plot actually moves forward and you can start to see where things are going to end up.
As a story, I really can't complain too much. The writing is tight, the pacing is good, the plot clever and intricate, and the characters are brilliantly written. It's everything that A Feast for Crows should have been, and it managed to rekindle my interest in the series.
However, by the end of the book, we are still nowhere near the end of the story. Dany and her Dragon's are no nearer Westeros than they were at the end of book three. The Other's haven't assaulted the wall, and a good few more plot threads have been kicked off. I'm not entirely sure how I feel about that. On one hand, I'm loving the characters and the vast scope of this series. On the other hand, I'm sort of wishing that he'd just get on with it.
At the end of the day, if you've read this far then you owe it to yourself to carry on, especially if you felt upset by the last book. Martin get's things back on track, kicks things up a notch and throws a few unexpected surprises into the mix.
I'm just hoping that as a result of the TV series, the next book will materialise some time before 2016.