A Dance with Dragons by George R. R. Martin – Member Review by Niles Jacobsen


A Dance with Dragons (A Song of Ice and Fire #5) by George R. R. Martin

Spoilers ahead!

In the aftermath of a colossal battle, the future of the Seven Kingdoms hangs in the balance — beset by newly emerging threats from every direction. In the east, Daenerys Targaryen, the last scion of House Targaryen, rules with her three dragons as queen of a city built on dust and death. But Daenerys has thousands of enemies, and many have set out to find her. As they gather, one young man embarks upon his own quest for the queen, with an entirely different goal in mind.

Fleeing from Westeros with a price on his head, Tyrion Lannister, too, is making his way to Daenerys. But his newest allies in this quest are not the rag-tag band they seem, and at their heart lies one who could undo Daenerys’s claim to Westeros forever.

Meanwhile, to the north lies the mammoth Wall of ice and stone — a structure only as strong as those guarding it. There, Jon Snow, 998th Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch, will face his greatest challenge. For he has powerful foes not only within the Watch but also beyond, in the land of the creatures of ice.

From all corners, bitter conflicts reignite, intimate betrayals are perpetrated, and a grand cast of outlaws and priests, soldiers and skinchangers, nobles and slaves, will face seemingly insurmountable obstacles. Some will fail, others will grow in the strength of darkness. But in a time of rising restlessness, the tides of destiny and politics will lead inevitably to the greatest dance of all. 

A Dance with Dragons is George R.R. Martin’s fifth installment in the Song of Ice and Fire saga. This is a massive tome, as were the other four offerings, and further develops the world and characters previously introduced. Martin posed a question to his readers: would you rather hear half the story of all the characters, or the whole story of half the characters? The latter choice won, so this book was meant to run somewhat concurrently with the fourth book, A Feast for Crows.
If you are this far into the series, then you are probably familiar with the basic plot lines. If you have not read the other four books, I would urge you to do so, otherwise you will be totally lost. In fact, I have read the other four and still feel lost at times. The book is formatted the same as previously with the chapters titled with character names, and thus the chapter mainly concerns the happenings of that person. One problem I have is that there are just so many characters. Granted only the major characters have chapter headings, but sometimes I have a hard time remembering a minor character who was introduced in a previous book. That is one of the problems I have with these books.
Another problem I have is that Martin is extremely long winded. A description that could be handled with a sentence or two takes an entire paragraph. Here is one example from page 842:
“They hung upon the walls, before her and behind her, high and low, everywhere she looked, everywhere she turned. She saw old faces and young faces, pale faces and dark faces, smooth faces and wrinkled faces, freckled faces and scarred faces, handsome faces and homely faces, men and women, boys and girls, even babes, smiling faces, frowning faces, faces full of greed and rage and lust, bald faces and faces bristling with hair.”
And that is just one example. In my opinion, 1000+ pages was overkill. Some have accused J.R.R. Tolkien of the same thing (perhaps something about the ‘R.R.’ ?). But hey, Martin is an accomplished author and I am not. No one can say they didn’t get their money’s worth, that’s for certain.
Some character story lines just do not resonate with me. It seemed that in A Feast for Crows that was a common occurrence. As an aside, I felt book 4 was the weakest of the lot, and if I hadn’t already purchased book 5, I may have stopped reading the series. However I am glad I didn’t. Jon Snow, Tyrion and Cerci Lannister, Daenerys Targaryen, Stannis Baratheon, Ramsay Bolton, and Theon Greyjoy are just some of the characters followed. The last 100 pages or so were the most exciting, and there were some interesting plot twists involving Jon, Cerci, and Daenerys to name a few.
This was a decent read and I will probably purchase the next instalment in the series, whenever it may become available. One of the reasons I like this series is that it seems no character is totally good or totally evil, and they continue to surprise. The first book in the series, A Game of Thrones, is still the best in my opinion, but this still ranks near the top. I am rounding up and giving this 4-stars.
Have you read the series? What do you think of it?

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