I just finished Martin’s fifth installment in the series of A Song of Ice and Fire, A Dance with Dragons. You may remember my discontent with the previous book in the series, A Feast for Crows. A brief reminder – the two mentioned novels were split geographically and by characters instead of chronologically, so all the character notably missing for the fourth novel were in the fifth. Again, I wasn’t a fan on this split, and I really thought it detracted from the read. In A Dance with Dragons, Martin first brings us up to speed with the missing characters, and then continues with his epic series as a whole.
A Dance of Dragons was a better read than A Feast for Crows, but comes nowhere near the greatness of the second and third book in the series. In this volume, Martin recaps the time period after the third book from the perspectives of the characters who were omitted from the fourth book. He then briefly touches on all characters before ending on a couple cliffhangers. A couple very important characters are introduced in this book, characters that change the whole landscape of the battles engulfing the Seven Kingdoms at this time. More plots are hatched, more treasons committed, more heavy action – and yes, more significant characters killed off with a brutal indifference. Fan favorites such as Tyrion Lannister, Daenaerys Targaryen and Jon Snow see plenty of action. There aren’t any major battles fought, but all the action points to some heavy fighting soon to come. He ends with cliffhangers for all three of the characters, particularly Jon Snow (that isn’t a spoiler, right??), leaving plenty of speculation for fans. It’s a fun read by all means; still, I won’t say it matched the brilliance of the first three books in the series.
Martin hasn’t given a release date for the next book in the series, The Winds of Winter, as he doesn’t want to upset fans by not meeting an optimistic release date. Still, I certainly can’t wait for the book, and I’m sure all the fans of the series are looking forward to it as well. The fourth season of the popular tv show Game of Thrones begins in a couple months (picking up about three quarters of the way through the third book), so I hope Martin releases The Winds of Winter sooner than later.
The pros and cons of this book are much the same that they were for all the other books in the series. Instead of repeating all of them, I’ll just highlight a couple that interest me. As for the book’s strong points, I continue to marvel over how Martin manages such intricate plots and subplots; it goes without saying that the amount of detail in the books are beyond amazing. It really makes for some incredibly fun reads, and a unique set of books that are a joy to read. The only weakness I’ll highlight is how some of the characters continue to have (really) boring chapters. I’ve been subtle about this so far, but to all the fans out there, how do you get through Brandon Stark’s chapters, I must know. I cringe whenever I have to read one of his chapters, it’s just so boring. Still, such is life, and it makes the book a relatable read.
My big issue with the previous novel was that it felt empty with half the characters missing. I felt this to a lesser degree in A Dance with Dragons, as the presence of almost all the fan favorites made up for the missing characters in this read. It would have felt more complete with all the characters, but it still wasn’t too bad. The plot is unpredictable as ever, and some of the paths the characters take are really surprising. There are a lot of unexpected twists and turns that make this read quite enjoyable, and whets the reader’s appetite for the forthcoming novels in the series.
A Dance with Dragons is a definite improvement from the disappointment that was the fourth book, but it still doesn’t rise to the glory of the first three books in the series. I feel like this was a novel where Martin was setting up a lot of prerequisites for some impending action; I truly hope that we see this action soon in The Winds of Winter. Fans of the books will enjoy A Dance with Dragons for simply helping us forget the memory of A Feast for Crows, but also because it sees the return of almost all the fan favorites of the series. It’s a fun read that left me anxious for more, and I’m sure fans will feel the same way. I’m rating A Dance with Dragons a 9.0/10; its quality was similar to the first book, but A Game of Thrones had a slight advantage by introducing us to the realm that we’ve come to love. I’m eagerly looking forward to the release of the next book!