This is not normally a review blog. (I have reviewed some books on Amazon; though even there I’ve heard one needs to either be a reviewer or a writer. I think part of the fun of being a writer is having an informed opinion and enjoying [or not] fiction with a more critical viewpoint.)
That said, I’ve already mentioned Dance with Dragons in this space. Here there be spoilers, so if you haven’t read the book, then don’t read any more. (If you haven’t read the book, why are you wasting time on blogs? Just read it, already!) And Martin is a big influence for me, especially on Blades of the North, my contribution to The Roads to Baldairn Motte.
This is a book that fans have waited ten years for. Every character, every bit of foreshadowing, and every plot device has been discussed and re-discussed a million times.* So in that regard, there weren’t a lot of surprises.
Also, I thought more would happen. I thought Dany would do something. I thought that Tyrion would get somewhere. I thought that we would see the Others again.
She didn’t. He didn’t. We didn’t. Feast didn’t whet the appetite of many—it served more as an appetizer, Dance is more of a drive to the shoe store to pick up some tap shoes than a tango or waltz. But the table is set, the dance shoes are on. The next two (or, I think, three) books will be fairly monumental. And that’s exciting in its own right. And I for one don’t mind long books or long series—if I like something, I like more of it. Ask me if I want one beer or two beers and I’ll tell you right now the answer will always be two.**
I liked a lot about this book. The plot didn’t advance so much as organize. But the characterization was great for all the characters. Theon has long been a favorite of mine and his arc is great to see. Tyrion is going through some dark times, but he’s also learning how lucky he’s been. Even Princess Dany is bearable, mainly because her friends are fairly interesting. (She has become this series’ Rand al’Thor however; prevaricating when every one of her friends [and every reader] knows exactly what she should do and frequently tell her.) Jon Snow’s story was unexpected and I wonder if it was always the plan or if Martin got annoyed that everyone figured out the truth behind his parentage and eventual role.
If so, perhaps young Griff has become the new Jon Snow. I know that there have been suspicions about him for a long time, but I wasn’t expecting him to appear. His story was great. My single favorite part of the book was when he looked at everyone waiting, doing nothing, and just said “Screw you guys I’m going home.”
My second favorite part was the epilogue—I’ve always thought Varys was the ultimate puppetmaster and most fascinating character, so his appearance was a treat. I was surprised to see him in King’s Landing, though–I didn’t think he would have stuck around. I think there’s something big we’re missing about him. Is he a wizard? A Faceless man? Do we even know if he’s actually a eunuch?
Martin’s prose is, I think, better than ever. He still repeats his character’s catch phrases a bit too much, and suddenly “much and more” is the most repeated phrase in the world, but I was just relieved he stopped saying “nuncle” so much. There are complaints that the last two books have had too much traveling–I like travelogues, so no complaints for me.
Martin dedicated his book to his fans, and named several that have been active in his community. I’d like to extend the favor, and thank him for creating such a fascinating, vivid world.
*Probably an understatement rather than an exaggeration.
** This is, of course, assuming that the beer in question is a Mirrorpond or something equally delicious.