Book review: A Dance with Dragons

A Dance with DragonsA Dance with Dragons by George R.R. Martin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Five down, two more to go. Well, assuming they’re ever finished, that is. But it does feel pretty good to have reached this point – that’s a lot of dragons, noseless dwarves and creepy sex scenes to go through. But it must be testament to the strength of the story that I’m still here … and a walk-up start for six and seven when they arrive.

The same criticisms I had for A Feast for Crows apply to this one. It’s still pretty obviously half-and-a-bit-more of one text too long for publication on its own, and the absence (or much-reduced presence) of the characters who drove the previous book sometimes leaves the reader with a feeling of isolation or amnesia. It’s easy to lose track of what’s happening where when certain people don’t turn up for a thousand pages or so.

Again, GRRM needs an editor. There’s the usual problem of repetition here: I don’t know whether it’s thought to be effective in reiterating aspects of characters’ behaviours, but it seems more to make the reader wonder if Martin has misplaced his thesaurus. It meanders too with a bunch of the Greyjoy and Meereen material, for some reason. And it seems a lot of the book is an excuse to find another way to mention pus-filled death or vaginas. (Not that I’m averse to the idea of either – they just seemed to come up a lot in this episode.)

On the plus side, I felt this book – though it still suffers a surplus of padding and runs on with histories when it should be moving the story – was a little more finely honed than the others in the series. There’s some more selective editing with regard to character fate – you’re often left hanging as to whether someone is alive or dead, and certain characters’ movements in and out of the flow left me actively wondering what had happened to them – something I hadn’t really remembered feeling in other volumes.

There’s a feeling of much more travel in A Dance with Dragons. More ground is covered, though the going is often boggy. The questing nature of the previous book remains, and there’s a bit more fleshing-out of certain areas; as much as Meereen was worried – dog/bonelike – I did feel as if I knew more about the city from these pages than previously.

And now I wait, along with everyone else. Though it took eighteen narrators and ended with an epilogue that lacked the punch of Lady Stoneheart, a fair bit of momentum has built up and I’m hoping it will be maintained through the home stretch.

My Goodreads profile is here.

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