George R.R. Martin is the author of six titles in the A Song of Ice and Fire series: A Game of Thrones, A Clash of Kings, A Storm of Swords Part One: Steel and Snow, A Storm of Swords Part Two: Blood and Gold, A Feast for Crows and the long-awaited A Dance with Dragons. A Game of Thrones is now a major Sky Atlantic TV series from HBO, starring Sean Bean.
He has also written Fevre Dream, the ultimate science fiction horror novel, several collections of short stories and numerous scripts for television drama. He was also the co-author of SF adventure tale Hunter's Run. He lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
ADWD was a loooong time in the waiting, and since the previous book was a character-driven travelogue, it was generally believed that this would make up for it with plenty of action and plot resolution. Not so. This, like A Feast For Crows, is 1000 pages of scenic character study.
The characters travel about, and have immense conversations with other people. These conversations are fascinating, and you can see the characters develop (and not always for the best) as the book goes on. But action? Not that much. We have been invested with these amazing characters for 20 years now, so watching them develop is rewarding - but it seems to be at the expense of story momentum.
By the end, we're not much further along in plot than we were by the end of Book 3. But it's now starting to become apparent that GRRM's focus is on character first and foremost, and plot must fit in the small gaps whenever the character is allowed to plateau for awhile.
So the real standout storylines in this book are oddly, the ones with characters with the fewest chapters. Then, they have to be sharp, succinct, focused and dramatic. But the "Big Three" characters each get about a dozen chapters each, and as a result have bloated, fuzzy, rather impotent storylines, where they talk a lot and worry a good deal, and evolve or devolve as people, but don't get much further towards their respective goals.
A great many new characters are introduced, but oddly, are not detailed that well. An important new figure in Dany's storyline, Hizdahr, is sketched so vaguely that you never get a sense of him at all, and care even less. It seems GRRM is too fascinated by the Big Three to be much interested in the lesser roles.
GRRM's writing style can be visceral, beautiful, haunting, unforgettable. But his weakness is wandering away into asides that are full of description and backstory, and that tendancy seems to be getting much stronger with each passing book. His editor apparently reveres him too much to call a halt to the endless minutiae. Allowing for that, how he proposes to tie up all the myriad loose ends in two more books is beyond me. I can't see it happening. This feels at the moment like it may turn into a never-ending series.
I'm still a massive fan and would recommend the series as a whole - there are too many moments of beauty not to. But I may not be first in the queue next time, as I was for this one. I have re-adjusted my expectations somewhat.Read more ›
I am, I admit, new to A Song of Ice and Fire. I watched the fantastic series made by HBO and, as soon as the pilot ended, I picked up the books and fell in love. The first three volumes of this series, as any reader will know, are a tour de force of fantasy. A wonderfully realised world populated by fantastic characters that are loved and loathed to a high degree. An entanglement of plots is lightly touched by an unnerving thread of dark magic that lingers in the background to remind us that 'winter is coming'. I read the series, including the slower, less satisfactory 'A Feast for Crows' three times whilst waiting those couple of months for 'Dance'. Then this doorstop was in my hands and I read it eagerly, expecting a return to 'A Storm of Swords' quality.
I, like so many others, was vastly disappointed. This novel sees the return of the 'protagonists' of the epic: Jon Snow (who still knows nothing), Daenerys Targaryen (who has looked back and is now facing the wrong direction) and everyone's favourite sarcastic dwarf Tyrion Lannister. However, these three fan favourites accomplish precisely one act of significance between them, and that is a vastly annoying cliffhanger-a now overused hallmark of Martin's writing.
Jon Snow, stuck on the wall, is struggling to hold several factions together in the face of the approaching war with the Others in the long winter (which is supposedly still on its way, despite no evidence of it in this book). There are interesting parallels with Daenerys, who is trying to rule a city of people and customs that are not her own and who would gladly see her dead. Both of these young leaders struggle in their tasks. Jon grows into his position as a leader with satisfying, if not entirely realistic, maturity. His story arc is arguably the best of the three, but it ends in the most disgusting, hackneyed 'plot twist' I have ever seen. It WILL annoy the seven hells out of you.
Daenerys actually DEVOLVES as a character. The strong-minded young woman from 'A Storm of Swords' has lost her fire and dithers around doing nothing for the entire book. The effect is, of course, to show that the dragon queen has much to learn about ruling (though this does not dent her huge entitlement complex). However, this could have been shown in less than half of her chapters, with the rest devoted to some progression-whether meeting more of the legions of people sailing her way, or getting to Asshai, or reuniting with the Dothraki or...or...SOMETHING. Instead, she remains ineffectual throughout the whole book, proving to be the young (and hormonal) girl that she claims to be, despite previously being a competent leader in control of her own emotions. This 180 degree turn is exceptionally annoying, but this is not the biggest disservice done by Martin to his characters.
Tyrion Lannister, once the favourite of 90% of the fanbase, is reduced to wandering around asking where whores go, turtle-watching and playing chess. He is one of the many characters on his way to meet Daenerys, and this journey takes the entire book. And he still doesn't get there. His chapters, once full of intrigue, character development and humour, are a vapid travelogue-and not even a good one. Whilst he does develop (his interaction with Penny the dwarf is touching and exposes how good he did have it in Casterly Rock), he loses much of his charm and all of his humour. Bitterness is understandable in his position, but something about the way this bitterness is conveyed is unconvincing and unpalatable.
What about everyone else? Arya's scenes are entertaining as always, Bran's are interesting if sparse. Davos' chapters are among the most enjoyable due to his meeting one of the best characters yet introduced-Wyman Manderley (why are Martin's side characters always more interesting than his main ones?), Theon's are haunting and disturbing, and 'disturbing' is cranked up to eleven in this book. If rape, mutilation, bestiality, cannibalism, torture, voyeuristic humiliation, intense diarrhea and even more intense stupidity offends you, give this a miss. New point of view, Ser Barristan Selmy, is fantastic, and the only well-done viewpoint in Essos. Everyone else is largely dull and uninspired, and most people do nothing but travel around. One 'huge' reveal of a character that was supposed to be dead is flat and poorly executed. It produces a 'oh.' rather than a 'WOAH :O' Which leads me to my actual point:
This is a book with several plot arcs building up to several promising climaxes. None of these climaxes arrive. We miss out on two major battles, we see Brienne (who ended 'Feast' in a cliffhanger) for a couple of pages which answer no questions before she whisks off Jaime Lannister into ANOTHER cliffhanger, several people are STILL travelling to meet Daenerys having accomplished nothing, and several people may or may not be dead. It is as if Martin bought himself two prize racehorses, Cliffhanger and Playing Around With Character Deaths, shot both of them and proceeded to beat them with a typewriter. A long, largely dull mess of travelogues leads to no climax, no katharsis, nothing of anything. It was a vast disappointment with a few high points, and I didn't have to wait for six years for it. I feel sorry for those souls who had a long wait filled with bad PR and timewasting on the part of the author. I fell in and out of love with this series in remarkably quick time, and I will be recommending this book to no one. Is winter coming? It is not known.Read more ›
It's been quite the wait for the latest installment of G.R.R.Martin's (GRRM) A Song of Ice and fire series and during the wait there have been some very impressive new additions to the fantasy field (Abercrombie, Bakker, Lynch and Abraham). So I was interested to see whether the quality still holds up with the new competition. The first thing I have to say is that, yes it does. GRRM is still the master when it comes to his characterisation and world building and whenever he writes a key scene (and there are several) he will have you laughing, crying, dropping your jaw and cheering as it becomes etched in your memory.
So why is it missing a star? The book clocks in at almost 1000 pages and that's without taking into consideration that "A Feast for Crows" was the essentially the first "half" of this segment in the series. Despite all this room the book fails to reach any conclusions in practically every story strand. I wasn't expecting the whole series to wrap up but I do think the Meereen storyline at the very least should have reached some kind of conclusion. As it is the book ends leaving me with the feeling we still haven't had what feels like a story within a larger story. What makes this even more frustrating is that there are many chapters where not a lot really happens. I don't think so much time had to be spent on the fact Dany couldn't make a "good" decision and was obsessed with a new love interest. While Tyrion is always entertaining the majority of his chapters were like some hobbit version of the Odyssey. One character only ever got to travel throughout the whole book and Quentyn Martell could have appeared several chapters later without anything being lost. These things left me wondering why so much story was potentially wasted on them. In contrast characters like Bran, Davos, Cersei and Arya have very few chapters but they all contain moments of great importance for the characters and the overall plot. Basically I would have preferred that all the characters had been treated with a sharper editing knife as this may have made it possible to give the book a more satifying end.
Not to sound too negative though there are some brilliant moments in the book. The developments in the North and the story arc of "Reek" are the most complete in the book. "Reek's" chapters are particularly clever as there is a nice psychological arc in which even the chapter's titles play a part. Reek's chapters also highlight some of GRRM's strongest writing skills, which is writing about really horrible yet three dimensional antagonists. Jon's chapters are also very strong and his reaction to a similar scenario that Dany is facing makes for an interesting comparison. Bran's chapters introduce a whole new aspect to the story and gives GRRM a nifty new writing device that he uses in intersting ways in this book and I'm sure will develop further for the remainder of the series.
In conclusion, GRRM is still writing the premier fantasy series of the last couple of decades but ever since "A storm of swords", it feels like he has abandoned the idea of releasing books. This means that when/if the series ever concludes I'm sure I'll rate the whole thing highly. The problem is that it now feels like I'm receiving chunks of story every 5-10 years making it hard to give the latest book a perfect score. I'm also incredibly skeptical of the series wrapping up by book seven unless the remaing books become far more efficient, something which hasn't been witnessed in the last two books.Read more ›