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A Dance With Dragons is the fifth volume in George.R.R.Martin's A Song Of Ice And Fire series that has recently been adapted for HBO in the television series, Game Of Thrones. If you have not read preceeding installments or if your only knowledge of this series so far is the television show, then you probably shouldn't even attempt this latest installment as, by now, things are getting very complicated indeed and it is hard enough for us regular fans to keep up!
A Dance With Dragons is the second half really of A Feast Of Crows; that book was set entirely in the Southern half of Westeros, this book deals almost exclusively with events at the same time in the North. So here in this book, we get to see more of Jon Snow and his ongoing battle both against The Others that live beyond The Wall and against his own sworn Brothers of The Night Watch and catch up with Daenerys, the Mother Of Dragons as she continues her conquest in preperation for her assault against Westeros and her quest to eventually reclaim The Iron Throne.
There are good and bad points to this series. One of the bad things is that there is such a large cast of characters that this means that each successive volume seems to get larger and larger and more and more involved and complicated with this latest book weighing in at a hefty 1000 pages in hardback including Appendices! But this is also one of the main good things about this series too because if you ever find yourself in a chapter that is starting to drag and featuring characters you are less interested in, you always know that within a couple of pages or so you will be most likely returning to a part of the story you DO want to read!
Some have accused this ongoing fantasy epic of starting to go the same way as Robert Jordan's Wheel Of Time fantasy series with this latest installment, where often it would feel like very little was actually happening in some of the later novels and I can kind of see this as, looking back on Dance With Dragons, it is hard to put your finger at times on exactly what DOES happen as this is a book with A LOT of descriptive passages but which doesn't really seem to move the story on that much further. But there are a few major events that occur in this book that will have ramifications for the next volume out supposedly in 2014!
But one thing is certain is that it is getting increasingly harder to predict exactly where this series is headed and though it had at one stage looked as though many of the varying story arcs and plot threads were slowly coming together, with this book things happen that really throw the cat in amongst the pigeons for the inhabitants of George.R.R.Martin's world!
Will this series really only run to seven books as Martin has claimed? It is beginning to look doubtful but one thing is for sure; despite some of this books minor flaws, I for one are definitely going to be counting down the days until the next book is released.
And in the meantime, there is always the T.V show to keep me going at the very least......
A Dance with Dragons is the much delayed sixth book in the Of Fire and Ice series of written by American author George RR Martin. This book was released to be read alongside the previous novel, a feast for crows and is in the same time-frame as the previous novel. The scope and grandeur of Martins novels has created a huge array of plots, characters and his desire to write a grand overview following on from the third novel a clash of kings made for too long a book. So listening to editor's wishes he split the novel into two books, a feast for crows and dancing with dragons and published them separately. This fact and features in the novel has elicited criticism for flow of work and plot development but the two novels should really be read as one huge novel.
Of Fire and Ice
ADWD sits in the OFAI epic fantasy series, the novels cover the events in the land of Westeros and cover the endless intrigues and battles between the great houses of the land. The first novel begins with a simple event, some 15 years or so earlier the mad king Aerys Tregaron was murdered by the newest member of the kings guard a man named Jaime Lannister, the Tregarons are over-thrown and Robert Baratheon becomes king. Aerys son and daughter escape to the East and take three dragon eggs with them, they are now fugitives and are hunted by Roberts's men. Go forward 15 years and Robert is now married to Jaime's sister Cersei, Ed Stark his friend has become the Kings hand and the Lannisters have become the power behind the throne. Robert dies in a hunting accident, and the first act of Joffrey Roberts's son is to behead Ed Stark and the game of throne begins.
Tyrion - The pug, the dwarven brother of Jaime and Cersei, he is intelligent, funny, sarcastic and hedonistic. His is the main line in the story and we follow his journey from bumbling dwarven figure of fun to being the most wanted man in the country after he commits various atrocities against his own family.
Daenerys - The beautiful young daughter of Aerys, she has been living in the desert lands of the East and is often wanton, but is dedicated to returning to WEsteros and reclaiming the dragon throne from Robert and his successors.
Jon Snow - The land of Westeros in the extreme North is barricaded by a huge ice wall, the wall was built to stop the people from the frozen north entering Westeros but has become a barrier stopping creatures from beyond the mortal realm entering the land. The wall is manned by men of the Black watch (often called Crows) and Jon is the very young supreme commander.
Other significant characters - Jaime the kingslayer, Cersei, Ayla, Bran Ed Starks young children, Stannis Baratheon (Robert's younger brother), Tywin the onion knight, and the commanders of the Iron Fleet. All feature as major storylines describing the manoeuvrings between House Lannister, house Stark, house Baratheon and the movements of Daenerys and her dragons.
A dance with dragons
ADWD was published almost six years after the Feast for Crows and is part of the reason that it has received criticism because it is intended as a second half to accomplish that novel. So anyone reading A Feast for Crows had to wait six years to find out about certain events mentioned but not described in that book. So here we have a near 1000 page book which is predominantly focused on the events in the East with Daenerys and her attempts to raise a fleet to return to Westeros, Jon's struggles to keep the wall maintained against wildling aggression and Tyrion's movements through the land for which he is a sought after convict. There is little on the movements of Ayla, Bran, the onion knight, Jaime, Cersei and nothing about Catelyn Stark whose mysterious fate was left dangling as the very last chapter in the third book.
The book is a long and very ambitious one, each chapter is based on one character to the exclusion of all others and describes there events before moving onto the next character and describing their events. This use of chapter/character moves the story along sometimes rapidly and sometimes slowly and has no bearing on the events of the very next chapter, this mode of writing can be difficult and exasperating as with Harry Turtledoves work but here manages to leave the reader wanting more but also interesting in the story of the next character described. This novel has less major events in than the previous novels, there are no set battles or major fights but relies on intrigue and scheming to keep the reader interested.
The world of ADWD is firmly in the pre-gunpowder 100 years war era of European history so we have knights, honour, warships, sieges, swords, etc. The only real nod to fantasy is the nod to the dragons, a hard to grasp magical feeling rather than wizards and warlocks and the ethereal creatures behind the wall. The novel moves forward but slowly and after 500 pages the reader gets the feel that he's not really moved forward at all but with the entry of the dragons of the title the book moves forward and the final 3-400 pages are exciting and start to bring together some disparate storylines.
The overall sense with this book is one which was required to bring together all the many storylines which George RR Martin has described in his previous novels but is a bit lacking in true action. I suspect this novel will be the one heavily edited for screening on the current American TV series and will inevitably and rightly put together with a feast for crows. I enjoyed reading the book and afterwards was left with the desire to go right back to the start of the Feast for Crows and read the two in a linear manner but as that is approaching 2000 pages I might read something else first to give my brain a rest from dragons, knights, and the sexual undertones (George RR Martin clearly loves to shock in terms of describing violent and aggressive sexual situations, brutal killings and sometimes the two together).
Was the novel worth the 6 years wait? Well yes, it's still brilliant but I'm hoping that there won't be 6 years to the next and as George RR Martin isn't a young man we don't want to enter the Wheel of Time scenario where the author dies two books from the stated end of the series. This novel probably falls down on the lack of a major jump out of your seats chapter or finale, so here there is no beheading, Red Wedding or raising from the dead but a steady description of troubled times in a realm heading for disaster.