Having just missed one hundred books in the first year of The Book Challenge, in 2010, I made the full tonne. Still reading, but without the challenge, take a look at the reviews for the books that I have read this year.

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Book 32 - A Dance With Dragons

Book - A Dance With Dragons
Author - George RR Martin
Year - 2011
Genre - Fantasy
Pages - 959
Series - A Song of Ice and Fire

Here it is.  The book that I have been waiting for for the past six years for.  The continuation of my favourite series ever.  The book that - after eleven years - will catch us up on some of the cliffhangers that we were left with at the end of the third book.  The book that I have spent countless hours scouring the internet for theories or updates on.  And this summer it finally arrived.

Rather than just devour it in one go, I wanted to savour it a little, and as such spread the reading out over a few weeks - holidays and a show also colluded to lengthen this out.  My verdict is that this is a brilliant book, and I will give you an early glimpse of the numbers at the bottom of the page by saying that it is definitely a 10/10 book.  Martin's writing is immense and it was so good to get back to Tyrion and Jon and the like who the entire fanbase has been hankering after for so long.  The most important thing is however, that I really enjoyed reading it.  The whole way through I actively enjoyed sitting down to get some read time in, and hot off the heels of a manic reread to be ready for this one, that was massively appreciated.

But - and I am sure that you realised that there would be a but - I am still somewhat disappointed.  I know that that might seem a contradiction to a book that I loved, and have given a perfect score to, but my disappointment stems from the incredibly high standards by which I hold this series.  Let me explain my problem.

When A Feast for Crows came out, it received a fair bit of criticism from many of those who had been waiting so long for it.  It was a bridge book.  Sitting in the middle of the series, its main purpose was to get us from the early parts of the book to the endgame.  To me, it draws many parallels to Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.  Both were eagerly anticipated, took far longer to write than we thought they would, and were ultimately disappointing to their respective fanbases as they were bridging the story.  However, with the Harry Potter books, Rowling took the series straight back to form with Half Blood Prince.  Martin however, had to split his bridge book, which leads us to Dance - the second half of the bridge.

Quite frankly, not enough happens.  Too many of our cliffhangers are not properly resolved, and new ones added, so that eleven years after the literary peak of the series so far, we seem to be not much further on than we were.  Martin has learned his lesson, and the intrigue is kept better here than before - especially by the incredible number of 'reveals' of characters who we thought were one person but turned out to be another - but there is no avoiding the bridgelike nature of the book.  It is all setting us up for the end of the series, but is not quite the blockbuster that we all hoped for.

The next bit will be a bit more spoilerish, so if you haven't caught up to date with the series to the end of this book (what have you been doing with your life if not!) then don't read this paragraph.  The big problem is Dany.  Her chapters - usually so brilliant in the other books - are genuinely dull in points, and there is so many of them that they are unavoidable in their relentlessness.  I know that they will be setting her up for greater things, but she was much better as an all powerful rampaging queen, than a slightly lost and inept city ruler.  It speaks volumes that her best chapter - and probably my favourite in the book - is when she leaves the city behind.  Tyrion suffers from the same problem as Harry Potter does in the aforementioned Order of the Phoenix - he becomes moody and not as nice as usual, thereby taking away some of his charm as the character that is seen as a monster in the books, but we as the reader understand is probably a far better person than any other in the series.  He rectifies this as the book goes on, but at the start it is a little disappointing.  Jon has a similar complex, as he blocks himself off and becomes less of the likable character he was, although his chapters are some of the best in the book.  Bran's are even better, and the only problem is that there are not enough of them.  Theon's are painful to read - no matter how brilliant they are - and seem to have sparked quite the debate online as to whether he is liked or not.  I have warmed to the Greyjoys - particularly Asha - and enjoyed their chapters, although I would like to know where we are going with them now as it doesn't seem much more advanced than before.  I like having Melissandre as a POV, and wish there was more of her - the same goes for Davos.  Arya was probably my favourite point of view character in the first three books, and whilst I still enjoy all of her chapters, I can't help but feel that she will be better once she is back in with everyone else in Westeros.  Jaime and Cersei probably didn't need to be in this book in my eyes, and could have waited for the next - ditto Aero's little chapter.  And finally, I liked having a Barristan POV.  He is a great character and one that I have been keen to hear from the whole series.

Spoilers over.  In summary, this is a brilliant book that series fans will definitely enjoy, although may feel a little let down by if they have been waiting six/eleven years for it.  Those who are just starting now, or start in the future will love it to pieces though.

Oh, and read.  These.  Books.

10/10

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