A Dance with Dragons by George R. R. Martin

A Dance with Dragons by George R. R. Martin(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.

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  1. patricksponaugle

    Hey, great review.

    I liked it better than you did, I believe, but I completely respect your opinion. It’s certainly not a Storm of Swords. It’s very set-uppy.

    But I did love me that Quentyn Martell storyline. I don’t even know if I can explain why. I was just enamored with anything Dornish since Prince Doran turned out to be the smartest man in Westeros with the long long view. I enjoyed the story of poor, hapless, homely, unsure Quentyn hoping to impress the Dragon Queen. In some ways, I had a lot of emotion invested unconsciously in the young dornishman.

    Best regards, thanks for the excellent review. I’ll check out your previous ones for A Song of Ice and Fire.

    • Carrie Slager

      Your love of the Quentyn Martell storyline is sort of like my love of Sansa’s storyline. To someone who used to be an innocent, naive girl it’s easy to see a lot of myself in her as her illusions about the world are slowly broken. Some people hate her because she’s a lady, but she’s really just the product of her upbringing. So while although I didn’t like Quentyn Martell, I completely understand your interest.

      And thank you! Not to advertise more than I already do, but if you’re checking out the older reviews I’d also advise reading Why Girls Hate Game of Thrones—A Rebuttal. It’s my defense of the TV show as well as the books. 🙂

      • patricksponaugle

        I think Sansa goes under-appreciated as well, her strongest attribute is her adaptability. I’m counting on her to surprise the readers (and Littlefinger) who have underestimated her.

        I’ll definitely be reading your rebuttal, and your other GoT articles.

        Thanks for the feedback!

  2. Phillip McCollum

    This was a good review, Carrie. I felt pretty much the same way. Learning that Martin meant for “A Feast for Crows” and “A Dance with Dragons” to be a single book, I think the story would have had more cohesion. But Martin really could have cut out quite a bit, I’m sure. I’ll guess we’ll really know when he reaches the final book.

    • Carrie Slager

      Thanks Phillip! In some ways I wish he had combined the two stories for a little more cohesion, but then there’d be even more characters so maybe it was the right choice in a way. Who knows? As you said, the final book will tell.

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