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on 7 October 2011
Oh dear. Seven years for that?

This has become a very frustrating series. Having put into place a great plot, great setting, great characters you would have though the scene was set for Martin, undeniably a brilliant prose writer with a genius for twists, to really bring the bacon home. There were so many great plot arcs you could imagine coming up, Tyrion joining forces with Dany, dragons defending the Wall etc etc. None of these happen in this book and I don't think they ever will at the speed things are progressing. Not in our lifetimes anyway, and unless the Others send Martin back as a wight that means never.

OK, the good side:
The first couple of chapters are good. Building up to to the good stuff (you think). But then it keeps building up.. then drifting.. meandering.. snoring..
Its still very well written. One of the few authors who can make place description, characterization, dialogue and back story really come alive. But you still need a plot.
The Theon Greyjoy redemption. Probably the highlight of the book - which is also a reflection of its paucity frankly.
Thats it.

The bad stuff:

The title. You read that and thought "great, the dragons are coming to Westeros and they're going to fry Cersei's ass". Nope. Actual dragons barely figure in this book. Maybe he means Targaryens [sp?] ..

STOP KILLING YOUR BEST CHARACTERS, GEORGE! Ok, it was clever the first time back in GOT. Then a bit shocking that he did it again (Red Wedding etc). Now stop. Why waste hundreds of pages on building up a really good character than you know and root for and then just bump them off. Not even in some climactic showdown. The problem is you just stop caring about the characters after a while, because you know they're going to get it. I read that people liked Arya's story in this book (I don't by the way - kinda boring IMHO). Well don't get too excited. Cause come the next one, she's toast. Look at her surname. Remember the Stark Words: "We Are Toast".

The plot. Just like the last book, there isn't one really. Its just plate-spinning some of the characters plus a few new ones.
The biggest plot surprise is arrival of new Targaryens - I won't say how - and frankly its corny. Think Bobby Ewing in the shower.

If you go to writing school they teach you to plot out the book upfront, etc. I used to think it was cool that Martin clearly didn't do that. He was unpredictable but still turning out great stuff. Now I know why they teach that. Stuff needs to actually happen. You'd think in 1000 odd pages that something would. Call me old fashioned but at least some plot threads do actually need to be arcs not random meandering.

There are too many characters and odd bits of plot threads. That is partly why the book is so slow. Get rid of most - but NOT the good ones! Keep those and speed them up. So many characters are introduced and much time spent on them so that you think will become important to the plot. They almost never do. Brienne, Gendry, Ser Loras, The Hound, Quentyn Martell, Asha, Sam etc , its a very long list over the course of five large books. Quite a lot of them he doesn't even bother to bump off, they just disappear from the story.

Victarion Greyjoy. This typifies the book. He starts off in his boat. By the end he's still in his boat, maybe 30 miles further on. Exciting huh.

Tyrion. Where the book starts to go wrong is when Tyrion meets Jorah Mormont. The thrust of the book is just lost then.
Cue yet another pointless meandering journey, where just when you think they might get somewhere meaningful, your hopes are dashed again. We've seen it with Arya (three books and counting so far spent trying to get back to Winterfell), Brienne (two books and counting spent trying to find Arya), Bran (well at least he finally got somewhere, I though he was going to end up at the North Pole).

Jaime. Blink and you missed it.

Davos. As per Jaime, which is a shame cause it was looking quite interesting. See you in 2020, Davos!

Stannis. All I can say is I hope Ramsay Snow's letter was true.

Jon Snow. A note arrives "theres been a big battle and this is what happened". Aaargh! We plodded through all that and when we get to the big battle at the end we get a 2 line summary! Remember that epic battle at Kings Landing chapter. Not here. I think the publishers told Martin to "just get it out there".

Dany. Please, just leave Meereen.
But who cares anyway? she's probably toast. Literally if Drogon has anything to do with it.

Sadly, Martin needs to put this series out its misery. which is a shame because it was brilliant. I vote that everyone (inc. dragons, the Others, R'hllor, Rickon, Pretty Pig etc) converges on The Wall for a massive punch up, or at least a snowball fight.
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on 9 August 2011
If A Feast for Crows had me worried, then A Dance with Dragons justifies those concerns. Quite simply, it is my belief that the last two books have been a classic example of the publisher asking Martin to drag out the story as much as possible, in the hope of financial gain. If, however, Martin intended to write seven books before the publishers got their greedy hands into the mix, then I feel embarrassed for him.

The reason being that this book requires an awful lot of effort to finish. Gone are the gripping action scenarios, devious plots that had you biting fingernails in anticipation, and most importantly, the lack of feeling for any of the characters.

I could count the fingers on one hand how many times swords were drawn, whether in single combat or in an actual battle scene. Even when something was about to happen, the chapter ended, and the next time you read about it, its told from the lips of a character following the event, which takes away all the gripping anticipation that made us so fond of Martin's earlier books.

Of the plots, there are few and far between. Of those few which held out some promise, Martin writes a chapter or two about it and then no more. Of the characters and plots he chose to concentrate on....well to put it simply, they're boring, pointless, and predictable. Some of my favourite characters got little to no mention whilst others have become remarkably silly and annoying overnight. Others are assigned tasks halfway through the book, only to be unheard of again.

All of which leads to my last point which is that there is no feeling for the characters anymore. How many of us rushed out to buy A Clash of Kings, thinking that surely Ned Stark couldn't be dead and it was all some act. Why did you do that? Because you actually cared about the character. When Robb gets killed at the Red Wedding, did you not hate the Freys? Why, because Martin is a great writer and has a way of making you love and hate characters. Does he achieve the same in this book - not really. Quite frankly, I no longer care who lives and who dies, simply because I'm sick of reading about the characters thoughts and frustrations, yet those same characters don't do anything about it.

To sum up, and this is coming from a huge fan (but one that doesnt think the sun shines out of certain parts of Martin), this book is the worst of the lot. It will leave you frustrated and annoyed, especially if you've waited years to get your hands on it. Martin is a great writer, but the last two books suggest he has lost his way, and he'll have to pull off something remarkable with the next one, if this isn't to go the same way as a certain Wheel of Time series.
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on 10 June 2014
The quality of writing is just as excellent as any of the other books in the series, but it follows the trend of each book after the third becoming longer and slower than the last. There is excessive detail on trivial scenes like the appearance of a barge and river Tyrion is on lasting pages on end. It would be forgivable to make the book over 1,000 pages long if a lot happened in it, but the important plot events could have been fitted into a book half or a quarter of the length without losing anything. Perhaps Martin is losing any self-discipline on chapter and book length due to his success as a writer. Personally I feel publishers should be giving him some word limits and deadlines.
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on 29 July 2012
Books 1 & 2 rock. So does the TV series (based on Books 1 & 2). Book 3 is probably the best in the series so far.

However, Book 4 is a let-down and again, Book 5 is in line with its predecessor.

I found myself skipping through large chunks of the book about characters that I'm not interested in, and some of the more likeable characters of the first set (in particular Arya) have lost their sparkle.

In the first couple of books, the chapters were titled "Eddard", "Tyrion" etc. By the 4th book, it seems half the cast are operating under false names or just a general title ("Some bloke from the king's guard" (ok, perhaps I exaggerate a little), "Damphair" and the like). While some of these characters are conveniently placed for a bird's-eye view of plot events, they themselves aren't that interesting.

I'm also surprised that the demise of certain characters was done completely off-camera! However, I'm nevertheless impressed that his ability to kill off key individuals remains undiminished.

I'm still intrigued to read the next book or few, but I hope George RR Martin regains his lustre and focuses more on Westeros.
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on 6 February 2015
No spoilers here... there's really nothing to spoil.

It baffles me how Martin could write such a long book about nothing. The series started really strongly, but after the second book, it got steadily worse.

This is the most tedious of the series by far. By the end of the last book, I was ready to give up on it, but after investing so much time in the series I felt I had to see it through. Kind of like forcing yourself to finish the pint-too-many that ruins your night... and most of the day after.


The story meanders. The plot is largely non-existent. Martin repeats the same lines and phrases over and over. The characters you like (who aren't dead) are neglected.

It feels like almost every chapter introduces a new voice - usually belonging to a secondary character who shouldn't really have a view-point at all, but must now, because Martin has killed off all the most interesting characters.

90% of the book consists of people standing around telling each other the plot, and the only good bits are right at the end, when Martin lazily injects a handful of cliff hangers, so that we'll all rush out and pre-order the next book in 2037 when he finally gets round to finishing it. Assuming he doesn't die of coronary heart disease in the meantime.

Martin either doesn't know where he's going with this, or is making so much money from it that he's trying to stretch it out over a few more volumes.

Or maybe he's just bored with it.

I know I am.

Lets hope he calls it a day and gives us a merciful 200 page finale in which Bran possesses Dani's black dragon, then s***s napalm over everyone in the seven kingdoms.
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on 6 July 2012
I was a huge fan of the ealrier books but by book 4 I was finding it hard to keep my eyes open! So many threads and characters, a switch in format, contstant doom and gloom, death and gratuitus sex scenes have made me feel more like a character than a reader!
The character lines I would like to follow are usually his thinnest and less frequently revisited. The glimmer of hope he gives us for the more popular characters get snatched away and we are left bereft! Maybe this is a concious decision and an element of his style but it is making me feel exhausted and depressed!!!! Where is the magic??? Dragons hardly ever happen in this book yet they feature in his title. His style which once held me transfixed and unable to put the books down is now losing its appeal and becoming tiresome. I will complete the book just to make sure my judgement is backed up with the full facts ... but I will not be purchasing any future titles.
Sad ... but what should have been a trilogy has been over stretched!
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on 7 July 2012
So many people have accurately (and with great sarcasm) described what happens or, rather, doesn't in the series that I won't repeat it, I just want to add my verdict to the overall score. It's a shame that the book trundles along without story arc and with too many side-stories and side-characters... it reminded me of the "middling middle" two or so Wheel of Time books which I found really painful to get through. I will say that I still enjoyed GRRM's writing and style, (most of) the individual chapters are beautifully executed and Tyrion's sarcasm is wonderful. This is what makes it a 3 for me and still an overall enjoyable read (if one that left me slightly depressed knowing the next one, hopefully with more excitement, may be 6 years down the line). I do hope (like with the Wheel of Time series) that ASOIAF will come back to greatness with the last two books (or more, given how many open threads there still are), and I do hope that GRRM will be able to finish the series.
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on 20 July 2011
After the excellence of the first three books, I felt let down by A Feast for Crows. Now I feel even more let down by Dance with Dragons. After six years and a 1000 pages there is just one sentence that sums it up i.e. 'nothing relevant happened'. The plot hardly moved forward at all. The pace of the story dragged. Introduction to a host of new, one-dimensional, boring characters and irrelevant sub-plots. The main characters' development was awful, for example, I absolutely hated the direction GRRM has taken with Daenerys and her dragons. Jon's POVs end on a ridiculous and unbelievable cliffhanger, Tyrion's storyline I could only shake my head and sigh over, Arya didn't move at all, Bran didn't move at all, Jaime, Cersei, Brienne, Davos - they all remained rather stagnant.

No, GRRM, this is the last time I buy the hardcover for sure. In fact, I'll rather borrow Winds of Winter from a friend or the library before I decide to buy it. And I will definitely not be holding my breath for the next instalment as I did with this one.

Yup, yet another great fantasy author has caught the seemingly incurable "RJWoT" [Robert Jordan, Wheel of Time] virus.

As for some reviewers here who consider even this installment of GRRM's as "head and shoulders above the rest" in the genre, I beg to differ. I thought so too after the first three books, but no more. Read Branden Sanderson's "Mistborn" trilogy or Greg Keyes' "Kingdoms of Throne and Bone" quadrilogy or Peter F Hamilton's "Void" trilogy, for fantastic stories, excellent writing, great world building and character development and most of all, a tightly woven ending. GRRM is most definitely NOT the "American Tolkien".
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on 3 September 2011
This book isn't the worst novel I've ever read, but it is the most disappointing. I'll start with the mild spoiler that all the reviews say, which is that I can't spoil the story because there isn't one. Dragons continues the middle act of Ice and Fire in the same style that the previous book used. So, instead of mounting up problems for the main characters, the narrative crawls along aimlessly and the one thousand pages are devoted to describing meals, costumes, landscapes, flora, fauna, random thoughts, minor characters, chatter, and the weather.

Like with the previous books, this book is character based, but unlike with the first three in which the characters drove an absorbing plot, Dragons is just about characters. And they do nothing other than observe passively while thinking about how great it'd be if someone were to film what they can see and make miniature collectibles out of everyone they meet and computer games out of the scenery they pass. Which would be bad enough, except the characters act differently than the way they've acted before. Jon is Up North worrying about the ice zombies beyond the wall, but he does nothing about it. Dany is Down South ignoring her dragons while she tries to get into a slimy new character's pants. And Tyrion is going from Up North to Down South while worrying about what he did in book three, a lot.

Worse, the bold moments that filled the narrative previously have been replaced with nervous cop-outs that feel as if the writer was giving himself an easy ride. I won't spell them out, but whenever something decisive is close to happening, it fizzles away. Characters get killed, but then we find out they're still alive. Characters get clapped in irons, but their captors release them. Characters act brutally, but they were only acting. Characters face a problem, but they ignore it. If the early books had been written in this style, then with a single bound Eddard would have avoided the chopping block, the Red Wedding would have ended with a jolly sing-song, and Tyrion would have invented the Heimlich manoeuvre at Joffrey's wedding. Most annoyingly for me, it's likely that all the insoluble problems will be resolved with magic. Previously I had loved reading about a fantasy world without boy wizards and swords of power and ancient races of elven lords. But all those unreal solutions are slipping into the story to stop anyone having to make tough decisions. Admittedly there's a few compelling sections such as the return of the bit-part, in all ways, Theon, who went missing presumed chopped to bits 3,000 pages ago. But a handful of mildly interesting events isn't good enough in a book that's pushing half a million words.

I should say something positive as I wanted to enjoy this book and I tried to accept the story on its own terms. The best I can manage is that Martin can still write a well-constructed chapter. They all start with an arresting image, then they fill you in on the back story, develop with introspection and dialogue, and end on a cliff-hanger. But sadly, they have no tension. Suspense was one of the many things that made the early books unmissable. A typical Tyrion chapter would start with the dwarf about to have his head chopped off. He'd talk his way out of that only to be thrown in a dungeon without food or water where he'd be offered a way out, but only if he completes an impossible task in which he's sure to be killed. And so it'd go on with everyone always in danger and with the suspense unbearable because anyone can get the chop.

In Dragons a typical chapter starts with Jon worrying that the stores are running low on toilet paper. He bumps into the storeman who gives him an inventory of every item in the store, and the chapter ends with the cliff-hanging revelation that they might get short of sausages in three years. This ennui and lack of anything that I reckon most readers find entertaining only goes to highlight the annoying writing style that didn't matter before when the story was compelling in which 20 words (and often 200) are used when 10 would do, and when 10 would be more effective. For example, I longed for someone to just once have a sumptuous feast or a frugal meal rather than having to read about every item in every course of every meal. If the characters ate off-screen and did something interesting instead, rather than breaking their fast every chapter, this book would be 50 pages shorter.

I could say more to make the pain in my arms seem worthwhile after supporting this monster for so long while hoping it'd lead somewhere, but I hate writing a negative review, especially about a series that I once adored, so I'll give up. I still hope that the author or an editor or a tv producer accepts that this once great story has gone astray and drags it back on course. There's still time. Although I'll need plenty of convincing before I return to Westeros again.
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Once again I have been transported back to George RR Martin’s beautifully realised world. As with all the other books this is a treat to read, and takes us up to as far as we can go with the story, whilst we eagerly await the next novel. What I love about these books is that although you have dragons and a few other fantastical elements these are more akin with historical novels as the main inspiration behind this series does come from the history of our own country and Europe throughout the centuries.

As we meet up with characters that we know quite well, we also find out what has been happening with Arys Stark, the real one, as well as the fake one. With shocks and surprises coming at us in this book we are left to wonder what else will happen before this series eventually finishes. Will Daenerys ever make it to the Seven Kingdoms, or even hold onto the power that she has already gained? And has Cersei still got plans and an agenda up her sleeve?

With those plotting to gain power and fortune there are others playing for the grand prize, the Iron Throne itself. But winter is coming, it is getting markedly colder and with the Iron Bank wanting returns on the monies it has loaned out we are all reminded that all the battles and wars going on cost money, and at the end of the day there has to be a reckoning in coin as well as blood.

Martin gives us a world that we can all grasp hold of and understand, as it is so familiar with ours in so many ways, which means that we get a greater depth and understanding of not what only happens here but has happened in the past in our very real world, with machinations, treachery, power brokering and religion.
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