Title: A Dance with Dragons
Author: George R. R. Martin
Page Count/Review Word Count: 1025
This is the most recent instalment in the epic A Song of Ice and Fire series, covering Martin’s take on the events that roughly correspond with season five of the show, if you’re a fan of that.
As such, we get to see how the War of the Five Kings continues to develop, with Stannis marching south from the Wall and the Bastard of Bolton rising up against him, whilst King Tommen maintains an uneasy peace in King’s Landing. The queens are at war with each other – both Margaery Tyrell and Cersei Lannister – and they’re both being held, pending trial, for a number of accusations.
One of the things that I liked about this book was that it had more of a focus on Jon Snow and the events that were taking place in the north. Daenerys is featured heavily here too, although I’ve started to get bored of her story line. I’m still waiting for it to tie in with everything else – throughout this book, it feels as though you’re reading two different, disconnected stories. Still, I trust Martin’s overall vision – it’s not the first time that something has felt disconnected, only for it all to come together in a later book.
I was left with mixed feelings after finishing this – on the one hand, it felt like an accomplishment, but on the other hand it means that I’ve read every Game of Thrones book that’s on the market. I need to wait for Martin to finish the next one, and he’s notorious for taking a long time to get them finished. It’s been about five years or so since this one was released, and so he’s about due to release another one, but I won’t be holding my breath. The release date has already been pushed back a bunch of times, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it gets pushed back again.
Here, there’s a lot of stuff happening, and it’s interesting to see the different ways in which people work together. For example, Jon Snow forms an uneasy alliance with Stannis Baratheon, despite the fact that the night’s watch isn’t supposed to take sides. Unfortunately, the night’s watch needs all of the help they can get – they’re short on men and short on food, and they’re short on the gold that they need to get more of them. Luckily, Stannis can help.
Stannis himself marches south against the Bastard of Bolton, but he and his men get caught in the snow as winter approaches. In fact, in this book, the winter officially arrives, marking the start of what could be a long and bloody season for the denizens of Westeros. Perhaps that’s why Daenerys is taking her sweet time over on the other side of the world, freeing slaves and trying (and somewhat failing) to be a queen.
Now, I’m not going to go into what each of the characters are doing here, because that would take forever. What I will say is that it’s all change here, and there’s a lot of character development going on – there’s also a fair amount of death, too. If you have a favourite character then now is a good time to cross your fingers for them, because they might not make it to the end.
It’s also interesting to note how much this book differs from season five of the television show, the corresponding series in the TV adaptation. Now, it’s not necessarily because of anything in particular, and it’s not really this book’s fault – it’s just that, as the seasons come and go, more and more tiny tweaks are made, little deviations from the book that end up making a huge difference later on. It’s only likely to be a problem if you’re a serious fan of the TV show – for me, it didn’t really matter too much, but then I made the decision to read the books before I watched the series.
By the time that I finished this book, the TV series was ahead of the books, and even though I’ve been trying to avoid spoilers, I haven’t always been successful. I already knew about the fates of a couple of characters, which made it annoying to read about the decisions they were making – I wanted to shout at them, to tell them to change their minds and to do something different, but unfortunately, that’s not how it works.
Overall, then, I’d definitely recommend A Dance with Dragons, but I would also strongly recommend reading the books in order. And it doesn’t really matter whether you watch the TV series before you read the books or not, although I suspect it’s easier for you to read the books first because then you don’t know what’s coming and that’ll keep you turning the pages.
One other thing to mention about this book is the fact that there are two different versions of it – you can either pick up the combined edition, which is what I did, or you can get a version of it where it’s split into two. The combined edition that I own is the thickest book in the series, but that’s because one of the other books was split into two. That split seemed to make sense in the earlier book, but I’m not sure how successful it would be if you split this book into two – it feels like a whole, and I certainly didn’t want to put it down until it was finished.
I still feel like the first book in the series was the strongest, but perhaps that was because it was all so new to me. Now, I tend to find that each of the books start to drag, especially when you find yourself reading chapters about characters that you’re not particularly interested in. You’ll read them anyway, because that’s what you’re supposed to do, but if you’re anything like me then you’ll occasionally find that you wish you were turning the pages faster. But it’s a small price to pay.