Author George R. R. Martin
Things You Might Like
- Finally revisiting Westeros after a few years
- Martin’s intuitive grasp on how we can all be bastards to each other
- The return of Tyrion Lannister
- Getting a renewed sense of profound connection with a group of characters
Things You Might Not Like
- Not a lot of battles
- The tugging cry at the back of your mind of ‘When will this end?’
- Apparently all the character schtup the same way
The fifth installment to the already-sprawling series is a blast to read, but mainly if you’re into political intrigue and character arcs.
4 out of 5 Black Dragons
The fifth installment of George R. R. Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire saga, A Dance with Dragons (aDwD), came out in July.
This was big news because of a few reasons:
- It had been five years since the fourth book, A Feast for Crows, came out.
- The previous book left a whole, whole lot open in terms of cliffhangers and fates of characters.
- HBO’s miniseries adaptation of the first book, which I covered a while bag, came out and was—I believe—widely applauded. (Though our very own ESPF decried it as
wrist exercise for geeks,his opinion should be ignored. He hates fun.)
I was psyched. I went on a series binge—something I rarely do—entailing reading at least 100 pages a night of the books leading up to A Dance with Dragons. If you’re familiar with the series–even if that means just having watched the HBO adaptation–then you’re aware that Martin has no qualms about offing protagonists.
Of course, he has no qualms about offing anyone. Seriously, the body count in book three, A Storm of Swords, alone is—well, it’s like this:
I won’t say much, because I hate when I read a review and Important Things are ruined for me, so the only bit I will say is that the books leading up to aDwD are very much in the vein of A Game of Thrones (aGoT), and the reader will not be disappointed by any of the events. Shocked, yes. Feel fanboy rage? Yes. But not disappointed.
So, instead, I’m going to utilize this space and talk about the criticism I’ve read of A Dance with Dragons already.
See, the main event in the series so far—and this doesn’t quite count as a spoiler since aGoT ends with this cliffhanger—is the war in Westeros. Well, it wouldn’t make much sense for a series so concerned with decapitations, dismemberments, and throat slittings to have a never-ending war, would it?
So, starting with A Feast for Crows and leading into A Dance with Dragons, we have the war grinding to a halt as the remaining heads of families and Houses try to figure out whether they’ve actually won or not.
A good amount of the criticism I’ve read—both in-review and in the comments sections of various websites—have to do with readers feeling that they’ve been cheated of some blood and gore, and that books four and five don’t provide plot development.
Whelp, not all plot development must come at the point of a sword. While yes, every red-blooded male enjoys a nice good war, this series would be relegated to the realm of pulp if it were nothing but battle scenes strung together by characters’ trips to brothels.
And while there are many brothels in the series—not arguing that at all—there’s oh so much more to it than that. The political strife, back-biting, and bastard-being continues throughout the series, and especially into A Feast for Crows and A Dance with Dragons
See, the way Martin set it up is that books four and five started out as one, single book. However, as time progressed, the author realized that the one novel needed to be split into two books. Makes sense. A Dance with Dragons is almost ridiculously long—just imagine that 900+ pages increased by another 400.
Lots of room to work with, yeah? Well, there’s an explanation: Martin has drastically expanded the scope of A Song of Ice and Fire. Whereas A Game of Thrones was set solely in Westeros, a region very similar to England in the Middle Ages, the series begins dashing around the world, so there’s a whole lot of world-building that needs to be done.
So nu. The criticism.
It seems to be that Martin repeats himself, and, in the words of the article linked above, everyone has sex the same way.
Well, I guess. Sure. I was more focused on the political parts than the nudey-bits, but that’s generally because I am an emotionless shell of a human being, subsisting on no feelings but envy, hatred, and the desire to be drunk.
But seriously. In my opinion, the attachment to characters outweighs the fact that they all schtup in the same way. (Admittedly, it is ridiculous seeing the words
Oh OH OHrepeated ad infinitum every sex scene. Martin, you might be better off skipping them in the future.)
See, in the words of a certain individual named Kyle Shade,
Game of Thrones is Twilight for guys.
Is the prose sometimes not-Pulitzer-winning? Well, yeah. But you don’t see Philip Roth going around writing about dragons. (And he shouldn’t. The world does not need to see a dragon with mother issues.) And it’s nowhere near the atrociousness of Twilight’s writing. Seriously. Twilight might as well be Engrish compared to Martin.
Overall, you read this series, you get a very fun, very engrossing (and very bloody) read. A Dance with Dragons may drag at parts, and you’ll inevitably be disappointed that certain characters, like [redacted] don’t get a lot of time on the page, but it’s all a part of that whole, very real, authorial imperative of leaving your audience hanging as much as possible.
Side note: A week has passed since I’ve written that last paragraph, and I’ve forgotten what I wanted to say to close this review.
Rent, Buy, or Pirate? Rent the series from your local library, but buy A Dance With Dragons from Amazon now! [NOTE: Bullet Reviews does not condone piracy. If you pirate, may R’hllor’s flames consume you.]
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