Monday, August 8, 2011

A Dance With Dragons

Never fear, dear reader, I've not forgotten about the blog but, rather, have been attending to more important things in real life (like earning a Ph.D.).  As it happens, it takes one of the biggest publishing events in geekdom to draw me out of my silence.  So, without further ado:

[Don't worry, I'm not going to include any real spoilers in the review.]

Unless you've been living under a rock lately, you probably know about George R.R. Martin's epic fantasy series, A Song of Ice and Fire (ASOIAF).  The HBO series based on the first novel in the series, A Game of Thrones, has been hugely successful and drawn people to ASOIAF that I otherwise would never have expected to show any interest.  My Goodreads and Facebook feeds have lit up in recent weeks with people talking about ASOIAF.  We're talking females who I went to high school here, for goodness sakes.  The powers of HBO are truly mind boggling.

Well, A Dance With Dragons is the fifth novel in ASOIAF.  It has been in the works for six, count 'em, SIX years.  Everyone (read:  geeks on the internet) was getting a bit worried about GRRM's ability to pull this one off after his long delay.  Also, he is not exactly a young man (or a particularly healthy-looking man for that matter), so this break was (is?) possibly threatening the completion of the series (let's not forget the tragic death of Robert Jordan).  Well, I'm happy to say that GRRM's latest novel is a solid effort; GRRM has lost none of his flair with the quill.

So:  Is there action? Adventure? Intrigue? Violence? Sex?  Fire-breathing dragons?  The answer to all these is, happily, YES!  Do we meet up with our favorite characters so cruelly abandoned in A Feast for Crows?  Yes!  Are there any events that are going to rock the foundations of ASOIAF?  I guess so (note the lack of enthusiasm; see below).

So what gives?  Why the 3.5 hamster rating?  While the novel has all these things and more, you will be forced to meander with each character across Westeros and the Free Cities many times over in between encounters of substance.  No form of transportation has been left out:  wagon, river boat, horse, sea galleon, and, most importantly, good ol' feet.  A Dance With Dragons cries out for a good editor--I could cut several hundred pages out of the book without raising a sweat and there would more than ample room to tell the same story.

This brings me to my biggest problem with the novel.  Simply put:  the novel spectacularly fails to push the main plot forward.  Characters are shuttled around the world, some things happen, but the threads of main plot are coming together so achingly slowly (or in several cases not at all), at this rate it is going to take at least 15 more books to reach some semblance of a conclusion to all this.

All this being said, the novel is a good read, certainly better than A Feast for Crows.  I look forward with great anticipation to the next book in the series, so I guess on that account, A Dance With Dragons is a spectacular success!

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