Sunday, July 10, 2011

George R. R. Martin - A Dance With Dragons (Book Review)

At first, I meant to wait and publish this review on 12th of July, but then a bunch of reviews got released a few days ago and I changed my mind. :) Keep in mind that I’m a huge fan of ASOIAF series; I tried my best to write a non-biased review, but reviewing books you like is always hard. This review does NOT include any significant spoilers for ADWD, but it does include some references to previous volumes.

I was one of the lucky few who got their books from – in my case, though, it was also through kindness of Adz, who was actually the one who pre-ordered the books and was generous enough to send me one of her two copies. Thanks again! You can imagine how thrilled I was when the book arrived, and I began reading it immediately, but by the time I finally put it down, my excitement had somewhat waned. Why?

Well, the first thing is that A Dance with Dragons is, as Wert aptly described it, sprawling. It takes place on many different locations of The Seven Kingdoms and The Free Cities that are sometimes a whole continent apart. Before, we mostly followed events that took place in The Seven Kingdoms, with Dany and later Arya being the only POVS in The Free Cities. This time around, The Free Cities are in the centre of it all, but plenty of POVs still remain scattered throughout The Seven Kingdoms – and each is telling their own story. This can sometimes make the story seem a bit too diffused; the reader has to follow both the politics of The Free Cities and the events in The Seven Kingdoms, which are not in the best of states after the events of A Feast for Crows.

Jumping to and fro between POVs doesn’t help the reader any. In the first half of the book, the POVs are mostly Tyrion, Jon and Daenerys, which makes the plot very easy to follow even though it’s as complex as always. In the other half of the book, though, the POVs grow considerably more numerous and incredibly fragmented, with plenty of characters only appearing in one or two chapters. The plot is thus much harder to follow and the flow of the story is interrupted, but on the other hand, this fragmentation also brings some insight into the events that transpire in The Seven Kingdoms. Still, it all left me a bit confused, if very much curious as to what will happen next.

A Dance with Dragons will not answer most of the questions you’ve had ever since you’ve read A Feast for Crows or even A Storm of Swords; it will rather give you plenty more things to wonder about. In the second half of the book, we reach the final events of A Feast for Crows and see some of the familiar faces again, but to my great disappointment, most of POVs from A Feast for Crows only appear briefly and in some cases not at all.

What probably irked me most about A Dance with Dragons was that many characters previously thought dead or missing appear again. Even though they are mostly minor characters, this took some edge off my constant worry over who will get killed next. A Dance with Dragons has its share of shocking events, but they left me skeptical – after all, I’ve just been shown that not everything happened the way I thought it did, so who says it’s any different this time around? Who says those characters will not return in The Winds of Winter? The problem is that I like to worry about who will die next – it means that I actually care about the characters and this emotional investment is an important part of my reading experience. So while I do not believe that all of the characters presumed dead or missing will stay this way in the next two installments, I sure hope that most of them will.

So, was A Dance with Dragons worth the wait? I honestly can’t give a definite answer to that question. It’s definitely a wonderful and complex book that did not disappoint me, but on the other hand, it could hardly live up to the expectations I’ve had of it after all these years. The style is often not as flowing as I’d like it to be, there is still some repetition of certain phrases – ‘words are wind’ especially seems to be everyone’s new favourite saying – and, much like A Feast for Crows, A Dance with Dragons seems to suffer from being one of the middle books of the series, as the events that transpire in it are mostly just setting the stage for the grand finale. Still, I can’t say anything but ‘kudos’ to Martin – despite the complexity of the book he holds the reins of the plot firmly in his hands.

And so begins our wait again. Is The Winds of Winter out yet?



I hate hate hate hate IE so much aaaarghhhhh >:(


Ludwig Van said...

4.5 of 5 after a damning review like this? Are you kidding me?

Thrinidir said...

I didn't realise it's a "damning review". Maybe the score is a tad high considering all the flaws Trin was exposing and how "little" praise she gave, but still, doesn't it reassure you that the book is that good, even if it has noticeable shortcomings? And Trin is a fan and warned that her expectations were sky-high. It's only natural to feel a bit disappointed if the book doesn't reach the levels of say A Storm of Swords, so she took it a notch down.

On the other hand, did you dislike the review or just the fact that the score differs from the vibe of the content? I think the review itself quite lucid and informing.

Trin said...

Yeah, I am kidding you.

*shrugs* Not sure what kind of answer do you want when you put a question that way.

When I read, review and rate a book I've never heard of before, my rating starts at 3, because this equals my expectations of it. When I review a book that is a long-awaited sequel to my absolutely favourite fantasy series, my rating starts at 5, because I expect only the best of it. 4,5 is a very low grade if you consider that the first three books in the series would get an absolute 5/5.

As for 'a damning review', I really think I did not come across quite as harsh - I think you missed the DID NOT DISAPPOINT ME bit. The mistakes I pointed out were literally everything that bothered me, which is actually quite an achievement for such a huge book.

Kyla said...

I have to say, the 4.5 out of 5 did confuse me a bit, but I was confused already by the fact that you had lead off with the fact that you LOVED the book but only mentioned complaints. Now, I don't mean to be too bossy (which, of course, I am), but could you possibly mention a few good points interspersed with all the complaints? Because I've never read any of the previous books and was basing my looking into this series off of this review alone. So, to be honest, just hearing the negative points doesn't really help me that much, not if the overall book was fantastic despite the shortcomings.

Do you know what I mean? Couldn't you end with something about how even though those things bugged you, the overall book blew you away in its fun and exciting twists or something?

Anyway, sorry to nitpick. I loved this review, despite all my complaining, and will look into these soon as the last in the series comes out. I hate not being able to read the story all the way through.

So, thanks for taking the time to write the review and share your viewpoint! I really appreciate it! Have a great day!

Trin said...

As I said, it's hard to review books I like, especially if they're a part of a series. I can't truthfully say Martin's prose or characterisation blew me away, because (based on what I've seen in books 1-4) I expected them to be great and was not surprised by their quality. What really excited me, as a fan, were some certain parts of the plot - but I can't really mention them because they're all spoilers. If it helps you any, just imagine that everything I didn't mention was absolutely brilliant and these are the only downsides.

But just to correct you a bit - I said that I was a huge fan of the series, while I never said that I loved ADWD itself. Also, well, I think I actually did end the review on a positive note - the book did not disappoint me, kudos to Martin, etc. - exactly to point out that no, the book was not actually bad, far from it. Now, I wonder whether this was not positive enough, or did you just skim over the last paragraph, or both :)


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