A Dance With Dragons by George R. R. Martin reviewed at SFSignal.com

My review of A Dance With Dragons by George R. R. Martin, the fifth book in the Song of Ice and Fire series, has been published at SFSignal.com.

An excerpt:

REVIEW SUMMARY:An extremely well written, well paced book, with excellent characterizations where, like many “bridge books”, not much forward movement on the plot is achieved…well-worth the the read.


BRIEF SYNOPSIS: The fifth book in the Song of Ice and Fire series parallels the previous novel, following characters Tyrion Lannister (running into hiding after killing his father), Jon Snow (after the fight with the wildlings, determining how to stop the undead “Others”), Daenerys Targaryen, Arya Stark and others as they deal with dragons, the Others, multiple kings, politics and the lead up to the final show down between Ice and Fire (hopefully not too many thousand pages away).

PROS: Continued awesomeness in the characterizations; the blending of the magical/fantasy aspects has them not overpowering the characters or the story; dragons and Daenerys; a few surprises (though, five books in, I almost put this aspect in the CONS list).
CONS: Unlike the first three books in the series but like many “bridge” books in the middle of a series, not a lot of forward plot movement; no summary at the beginning, and I’d rather rely on an author’s summary than random Wiki entries to refresh my old memory; one or two characters who seemed superfluous (Quentyn Martell???).
BOTTOM LINE: Though I kept wondering when a momentous event such as those that were in every chapter in the first three novels, I was a hundred pages on, and enjoying the prose. It’s GRRM, just read it!

George R.R. Martin’s fifth doorstop in the Song of Ice and Fire series, is, like its predecessors, extremely well written and full of fantastic and memorable characterizations. The fourth book, A Feast of Crows, runs in parallel for about the first 600 pages of A Dance With Dragons; but this new novel returns many of our favorite characters: Jon Snow, now Lord Commander of the Wall; Daenerys Targaryen, Queen of Meereen, freer of the slaves and stuck with her dragons, trying to determine how best to return to Westeros to vie for the Iron Throne; Arya Stark (though too briefly mentioned, IMHO), learning to be an assassin; Theon and Asha Greyjoy, sea warriors stuck on land, Theon tortured to become Reek, Asha trying to hold on to the castle at Deepwood Motte; and everyone’s favorite dwarf, Tyrion Lannister, running after killing his father and being smuggled out of town.

But this is the fifth book in what is rumored to be a seven book series. It is a bridge book; the characters grow, some change. But, unlike the first three books, where the plot pace was quick, wars were fought, main characters were killed off at a splendid pace…this novel explores the characters. Not much happens, except for one surprise I would not presume to reveal (small hint: it did lead me to a solid theory on who Jon Snow’s mother is).

My concern before investing my precious time in this 959 page hardback — I made the mistake of buying the hundred pound hardback to add to the similar first four novels causing a slight hernia carrying it on planes…should have bought the eBook — was that it would follow the path of Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time Series, which I stopped reading around the sixth or seventh book; those characters were slow to change and uninteresting, and new characters that were introduced five books in did not grab my attention. As Neil Gaiman so eloquently put it, GRRM is not my bitch…but I’m not his either. Reading a novel this large and a series that may go on another 2-3,000 pages is a large investment of time by a reader to an author.

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