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A Dance With Dragons by George R. R. Martin

A Dance With Dragons by George R. R. Martin
4.5
Book Name: A Dance With Dragons
Author: George R. R. Martin
Publisher(s): Voyager Books (UK) & Bantam Spectra (USA)
Formatt: Hardback / Paperback / Auido Book / eBook
Genre(s): Epic Fantasy
Release Date: July 12, 2011

It would be fair to say that A Dance With Dragons has been highly-anticipated. One of those unfortunate hazards of such an epic series, combined with a lengthy period between novels, is that expectations are often high. While novels don’t necessarily suffer the same levels of hype as movies, television or video games, I believe they also receive a much higher level of scrutiny.

Does A Dance With Dragons live up to the expectations of fans? I can’t speak for anyone but myself, so with that caveat: yes, it does. Whether it will meet yours is highly dependent on what those expectations might be.

A Dance With Dragons is a lot of things; tense, engaging, at times harrowing and heart-breaking. There are also quite a few things that Dance isn’t; short, simple, joyful or action-packed. Dance sits directly in the center of Martin’s epic series, and the middle is always the hardest. Martin himself has acknowledged that he’s perhaps thrown too many balls in the air, but that he refuses to let any of them hit the ground.

Dance makes an excellent counterpoint for its predecessor, A Feast For Crows. These two books, more so than any in the series thus far, are about statecraft and the different sorts of leaders. Westeros is still in disarray, the great Houses still feuding with each other. Many have been lost, many more suffering great tragedies.

The fifth entry in A Song of Ice and Fire cannot be simplified to one key theme, but there are certainly recurring notions. The strongest is the dangers of trying to help everyone, being stretched too thin. Betrayal is there as well, though that is a key theme to the series as a whole. The uncontrollable and unfathomable nature of magic is a constant, be they ancient fire gods, frozen wights or savage dragons. As one of the character’s comments in a previous book, “Magic is a sword without a hilt.”

Martin takes his time here, giving the spotlight to old favorites as well as unexpected surprises. He does not rush, but this should be no surprise. Though this is one of the shorter entries in the series at 956 pages in hardcover (not counting maps, acknowledgements, title page or appendices), no one has ever accused George R. R. Martin of being concise. The stories being told are less about the actions of our characters and more about response, reaction and decision. Dealing with the ramifications of their choices and trying to figure out how to move forward.

Martin’s prose is in top-form as always, and I found it engaging even through some of the drier sections. His ability to convey the interior life of his characters is phenomenal, with each point-of-view having a distinct palette and purpose. A short way past the halfway mark we see a return of a few perspectives from Feast, as Martin begins to set the stage for a climax.

Like the four books that precede it, A Dance With Dragons ends at the edge of a precipice, with characters in turmoil and even life-threatening peril, but this should come as no surprise to fans of the series. Martin, with the conclusion of this book, prepares for the monumental task of gathering his plot threads, weaving them into cohesion. Though I was left wanting more, and not always in the best way, I have faith that he has a plan and am willing to let him take his time in getting there.

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3 Comments

  1. I. Can’t. WAIT to read it! But then again, I shouldn’t be in any rush–I mean, as soon as I read it, I’ll just have to wait how-many-years for the next one… 🙂 Thanks for reviewing it!

    Amy

  2. Avatar Khaldun says:

    Even as a teenager whenever I got one of these books I basically didn’t do anything else until I was done (besides sleep, eat, and occasionally go to the bathroom). Can’t wait to get my hands on this one (just finishing The Red Wolf Conspiracy first).

  3. Avatar Jay says:

    I can’t wait to get to this book! I’m only part-way through the series, but it’s one of the rare fantasy series that keeps going strong over time instead of dying a slow, awkward death from book to book. Thanks for the review! I’m stoked!

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