Review: A Dance with Dragons by George R.R. Martin

Book info:
Format: pdf, e-book
Genre: fantasy
Target audience: adults

Synopsis or something like that:

It is he fifth volume of A Song of Ice and Fire, the fantasy epic series which has been made very popular nowadays. If you have read the previous four parts you know that summarizing the fifth would be close to impossible; if you haven’t read any of them, well, just let me tell you no summary an no TV series can prepare you for the complexity of those books. In fact the plot is so convoluted as to defy synopsis. Really even the work of Tolkien pales in comparison. What can be said…winter is coming and the seven Kingdoms are hardly prepared for it because they plot and prepare for a war – every ruler wants to assure the Iron Throne, currently occupied by a child, Tommen Baratheon, will fall into the hands of their man or woman.

Coat of Arms of the House of Lannister
Coat of Arms of the House of Lannister (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

What I liked:

Just several chapters, really; and if I described them in more detail I would spoil you horribly. As usual, I am giving you the choice: highlight and read if you want to or skip if you prefer not to be spoiled:

          Finally we know for sure Brienne is alive but we still aren’t told how and why – she meets with Jaime and informs him that Sandor has Sansa under his care.  Now I wonder…how would Petyr Baelish, lord Littlefinger, react if he knew? Does he know? Is he still among living? 
          Arya is progressing on the path of Braavos Faceless Men (assassins trained in the Temple of Black and White).  Now we are told that she was made blind on purpose and then that  process is reverted. She is also shown how to change her face and sent as an apprentice on her first mission. Go Arya, GO!
         Cersei was humiliated for her sins: she was shaved bald and led, naked, through the King’s Landing. Still she is alive. Ok, great, I can’t wait for her meeting Tyrion again.
         Tyrion was first sold as a slave and then joined the Golden Company of sellswords and other scum. He will have an interesting life for sure but he is one of the best characters around so small wonder. If only it took him less time….

What I didn’t like:

General remarks, spoiler-free:

estandarte ficticio
 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This story is becoming so huge, so convoluted, so Byzantine that it is really difficult to keep your interest, especially that different parts have been published several years apart. I really struggled reading this one – too many inner monologues, too many info dumps, too much info about secondary characters who were hardly germane to the story. It seems the author, after a tremendously good start, tripped over his own pen. Ok, I understand, it is more likely than not THE story of his life and he did plan it as a panorama rather than a portrait or a simple landscape but really he went over the top with the number of sub-plots, different trivial descriptions of this custom or that and all those strange names of strange foreign people I hardly remembered or recognized at all. What’s more the author started to repeat different plot devices – sometimes I felt as if I breathed recycled air; officially everything is fine but your nose recognizes the same particles and starts to itch…

More particular remarks, highlight to read as they include serious spoilers;

         The death (?) of Jon Snow was a horrible scene; still maybe he survived; rings a bell?
         I’ve had enough of Cersei in the previous books and here she got three more chapters or so; really unfair, I would prefer more Arya/Tyrion chapters
         Sometimes the narration was so slow that almost sleep-inducing (e.g. the journey of Tyrion to Mereen or the whinnying of Theon aka Reek)
         Danny was reduced to a goody-goody Snow White who cannot determine her priorities because she is too occupied bedding Daario; her inner dragon had to go into a coma; her little flying adventure on a big, bad, black Drogon made me despise her even more;
         Too many witches/priestesses/prophetesses/greenseers/whiteseers etc. around, too many different prophesies. Boring.
Final verdict:
It took me almost a month to get through this book. I didn’t want to start reading and I forced myself to finish it. Some chapters were worth the effort but most of them I found too long and boring and let me tell you I was never bored by the previous novels. In my humble opinion a determined editor should have cut out at least half of the material, making the story more compact and edgy. Will I continue reading? Yes, some characters are worth it. Still it seems the series is deteriorating and it is a bit sad.
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