(Cover picture courtesy of Goodreads.)
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.
After loving the first four books, I’ll admit that I really wanted to love A Dance with Dragons. I really, really tried. But it was such slow-going. It took me over a month to finish this book which should be a warning sign right there.
The problem, I think, at this point in the series is a little something called character bloat. There are too many characters. There are so many different houses and players entering into the war for Westeros that it’s simply become ridiculous. I can hardly keep track of them all and I’m not bragging when I say I have a good memory when it comes to books. Some points of view could have been cut from the book entirely. Did Quentyn Martell really have to have his say? Arya’s story barely went anywhere.
If it was just a slow plot I could handle it but it feels like the characters are going in totally different directions. Daenerys is an indecisive, idealistic moron compared to the strong, sure young woman she was in previous books. Jon Snow keeps swinging between rigidly sticking to his oath as a man of the Night’s Watch and totally violating it by siding with a king. Tyrion…well I don’t know what to think of him anymore. It’s okay that characters change and explore themselves. That’s what makes a story good! But it’s not okay that they randomly go in a whole different direction with pretty much zero explanation.
Despite all this, when I actually sat down to read A Dance with Dragons I didn’t mind it all that much. Some parts were pretty darn good. Although George R. R. Martin lost some of the things that made his series great in the beginning (his ability to kill off main characters ruthlessly, for one) he still has that amazing world-building. We learn so much about Westeros and the rest of Martin’s world that it almost makes up for everything else. The history of all Seven Kingdoms and the impact on people and other places was fascinating. I loved learning more about the world’s history! It added more depth to Martin’s world.
Yes, I will read The Winds of Winter when it finally does get published. Will I be looking forward to it as much as I did this book? Probably not. I’m just hoping that the next book will be better and that we’ll go back to that magical spark George R. R. Martin had in A Game of Thrones.
I give this book 3/5 stars.