A DANCE WITH DRAGONS by George R.R. Martin

It took me about two weeks to read all 960 pages of A DANCE WITH DRAGONS, not a bad accomplishment to my mind. Admittedly, I haven’t had a terrible lot to do at work lately, so I’ve been able to devote a lot of time to this book, but I’m also quite glad that I had the time to really delve into this one. It’s George R.R. Martin. It deserves the time and attention.

The book came out July 6, but I didn’t get around to reading it for a couple weeks because I was still completing A STORM OF SWORDS and A FEAST FOR CROWS. A STORM OF SWORDS reminded me of everything I love about the series as several of the plot threads brought us to brand new tragedies and twists. But A FEAST FOR CROWS was a much more difficult book for Martin to write, as evidenced by the years it took him to write it, and now that I’ve read A DANCE WITH DRAGONS, it’s pretty clear why. A FEAST FOR CROWS and A DANCE WITH DRAGONS are basically one book. Almost all the plot threads from A FEAST FOR CROWS continue in this one, and I was surprised by how quickly the two books merged. About halfway through A DANCE WITH DRAGONS, we’re already picking up with characters from A FEAST FOR CROWS.

A FEAST FOR CROWS suffered from being without Jon Snow or Tyrion Lannister or Arya Stark, and A DANCE FOR DRAGONS got off to a good start by quickly reintroducing them. The conclusion to Jon’s plot thread knocked me on my ass, and is the primary reason why I’m already looking forward to the other book. Arya’s new situation holds promise, as does Daenerys’ position. At the same time, there’s a lot of political maneuvering that takes up the majority of the book, and at times it seems like too much. The entire plotline involving Quentyn Martell doesn’t seem to have had any point whatsoever, and a lot of the story seems to be in a holding pattern. To me, the story works best when it focuses on the Starks, but by this point in the story, they’re scattered across the map and Jon seems to be the only one still controlling his destiny. We haven’t seen Catelyn since A STORM OF SWORDS, Arya is in hiding, Sansa is under Littlefinger’s control, Bran is learning to be a greenseer (in hiding) and we have no idea where Rickon is. The last two books have now had to spend a lot of time away from them to explain what’s happening everywhere else as pieces continue to be moved around the chess board. Or cyvasse board, if you will.

My favorite parts of the book included Theon’s scenes and Jon Snow’s. Arya’s storyline is intriguing, while Tyrion’s an enjoyable character to be around. The epilogue reminded that Varys is very much involved in everything we’ve been reading about. Daenerys’ storyline didn’t especially grab me, though I did like Barriston’s POV. Quentyn Martell’s story seemed to be a dead end, and I’m not sure what to make of Victarion. When I bought the book, I never would have thought that the most gripping POV would be Theon’s.

I think from here on out, Martin is going to start trimming the storylines and we’re going to start moving toward a conclusion. It feels like we’ve now had back-to-back books that are primarily setting the scene, and pretty soon this series is going to explode into action.

At least, that’s what I’m hoping. There are three books left, and winter is coming.

(Next up: GHOST STORY by Jim Butcher)