(NOTE: This will be a spoiler-free review.)
So, I have reached the end of the latest installment in A Song of Ice and Fire.
A Dance With Dragons is monstrous. Simply monstrous. I read the ebook version (guess it goes to show you that if you really want to read a book, you’ll still pay the “hardcover” early release price no matter what your principles are… ahem) which weighed in at a whopping four bloody megabytes. That’s 4000KB. If you’ve never looked closely, most ebooks weigh in at less than 1/8 of that.
I’m not ashamed to say that I am a fan of Mr. Martin’s work. I discovered them only after the 4th book was published, when I literally picked up the first one in my local Barnes & Noble, straight off the shelf, and thought “huh… this looks long. Maybe it will keep me entertained for a while.”
In case you missed the previous mention, I read fast. Like, really fast. Like, so fast that I polished off this 4000KB ebook in a matter of 2 1/2 days, and that wasn’t even reading non-stop.
Suffice to say that once I picked up A Game of Thrones and read it through, I was pretty well hooked.
As for Dance, despite the long lag time between it and its predecessor, Crows, it feels as though no time at all has elapsed. Martin’s prose is identical to his other works; highly polished at most points, with the occasional highlight of awkwardness and as close to zero romance (in all senses of the word) as possible. Most of the awkwardness comes at times when the reader is meant to feel awkward, so it works, just as it always has. It feels as though Crows and Dance could have been written simultaneously – which, of course, they partially were.
We at last get to see the points of view from the characters we missed in Crows: Jon Snow at the Wall, Daenerys in the east and Tyrion, most precisely. Each of them has several revelations throughout Dance, and important ones at that. However, for the vast length of the book, it doesn’t really feel like we’ve advanced all that much farther in the story by the end. I think these books are so long in part because they seem to move at the pace of life itself – glacially. I think there’s a fair amount of ground covered in this narrative that didn’t need to be, personally. It does all tie together fairly well toward the end, but during the middle at times it felt as if certain characters were being led around simply to give them more words in their chapters rather than for a driving plot purpose. It does not drag as much as Crows did at times, mostly because the POV characters are more interesting than the ones in the previous installment, but it does have times where it drags.
Despite this minor flaw, however – if you’ve liked Martin’s previous works, this one will not disappoint. If you didn’t like his earlier stuff, you won’t like this one either. This book is not going to cause anyone to change sides. For me, it did not take me out of my firm position in Martin’s camp, and ready to patiently wait for Book 6 of the series to arrive in the same solid, readable, and brilliantly casted and developed fantasy world that I’ve come to think may be simply the best example of world-building since Tolkien. He’s just that good, folks.
A Dance With Dragons is not perfect (I don’t think any work at this length could be perfect!), but it’s damn, damn good. 4 1/2 stars out of 5.