on 21 April 2012
After what seems like an ice age the paperback versions of the next volume of the Ice and fire saga (Volume 5) finally makes it to the book shelves, split into two parts "Dreams & Dust" followed by "After the Feast", both of a size to give even Stephen King an inferiority complex. Surely there are enough pages in these two books to bring this saga to a satisfying conclusion. Not a chance. Volume 6 is likely to be out in 2015 whilst the final volume (please God) threatens to follow some time after that, assuming that GRRM hasn't died of old age before then.
Any new reader, tempted by the HBO TV series, to jump ahead and start here forget it, you won't have a clue as to half of what is going on. These books are for only for those of us who have read through the entire series, and even then if it was some time since you last read the previous books you might want to re-read them before starting with Dreams & Dust.
The books may have the majesty and unstoppable power of a glacier but unfortunately the story progresses with the speed of a glacier as well almost to the point that it becomes an endurance to continue. Fortunately GRRM's writing style keeps you reading even when you feel that the story is going nowhere.
It sometimes seems that not a single slave or simple spear carrier can be mentioned without GRRM developing them into a fully fleshed out character, with their own story arc, usually before having them come to gruesome end or dissappear possibly never to be mentioned again.
This is all very well but there are already dozens of characters already living and dying in the world he has created that we, the reader, have previously grown to care for- love/hate cheer on/boo. Volume 4 (A feast for Crows) suffered much the same, placing half the stablished characters in limbo so that the story arcs of the other main characters could in theory be advanced, but it kept getting sidetracked with new characters and Dreams & Dust repeats the trick but this time with those main characters who were mostly left out last time. So Brienne left about to hang at the end of Volume 4 is ignored and instead we get much more Tyrion (admittedly an interesting character and always a bonus).
As I've said, this would probably work if more plot-lines didn't keep being added to the mix. It also is confusing that a greater part of Dreams & Dust covers the same time line as volume 4 but with the action viewed from different perspectives. So there is a strong sense of treading water until GRRM has got all his characters just where he wants them. (And we the reader have to like it or lump it).
Volume 2 "After the Feast" does start to pick up the pace a bit and you finally start to get a sense that the main story arcs will eventually have a convergence, even if it is clearly still some way off.
Worth getting if you've read all the others but I've got the feeling that GRRM is only just holding it all together.
And what on earth has happened to Rickon Stark?
This book picks up less where a Feast For Crows left off, but more where A Storm of Swords left off. It and Crows are sort of in parallel, and this book follows the more interesting characters. I really did lose interest during Feast For Crows, but this one picks up what's happening to Tyrion, Jon, Dany.
The answer, unfortunately, is 'not much. Because in the 704 pages of the text, hardly anything happens. There is a lot of talking, some sailing, a bit of torture, some sharpening of swords. Winter is still coming, we are still afraid of the Others, we are still waiting for Danearys to cross the sea with her dragons, we are still waiting for someone to take on the Lannisters.
The main problem I have with the series is that Martin gets more and more long winded. What he needs most is a strong editor who can, basically, chop the books in half and just get things moving again.
I do still want to see what happens, but it gets harder to stick with each book.
And if his publisher, by some chance, reads this: it matters to you - I have stopped buying them and am now borrowing from the library. If you can get get Mr Martin down to 350-400 pages a book, it might just pick up again
on 26 March 2012
Well, after years of waiting, Dance with Dragons came out and did not fail to disappoint. The writing's been getting slower and slower on Martin's end, and the quality of the story is getting worse and worse. Feast for Crows already felt average compared to the 3 previous books, but we were all willing to accept that because we thought the book was a pedestal for Dance with Dragons to dazzle us with its pure might. Needless to say, it was a complete disappointment as Dance with Dragons is the most uneventful book in the series. Basically, nothing happens. The status quo doesn't change, characters seem to stay exactly where they are, the plot lines barely evolve (Tyrion wasn't entertaining. How is that even remotely possible? Tyrion's dialogue alone could make the first 3 books worth reading, well, lemme tell you what, not in this one). Martin is pulling a Robert Jordan on us, dragging on his series while the quality of the writing and story worsens periodically. Dance with Dragons is Song of Ice and Fire's equivalent to Wheel of Time's Path of Daggers (thankfully not quite a Crossroads of Twilight). Yes, for those of you who know that it means, it is that bad. Considering that I thought of Song of Fire and Ice would go down in history as one of the greatest fantasy epics ever written, I'm starting to have doubts now. Martin better pull a hell of sixth book to get his story back on track. He didn't ruin anything with this book as he barely added or removed anything, so there is still hope. But at the rate Martin's writing, I'll probably be worrying about putting my kids through college by the time he's done (and I don't even have kids yet).
on 28 June 2013
The word that comes to mind for this book is "rich". The descriptions of continents, worlds and their history are vivid and fascinating - it's almost like a travel documentary to an exotic land. The characters are lifelike and realistic, and the plot has the subtle twists and hidden clues that are the trademark of ASOIAF. Some of the scenes are so powerful and engrossing that you will be spellbound. George Martin truly is a master at work.
Some people have criticised the book for not moving the plot forward much and spending too long on characters and description. That's the reaction of a drug addict impatiently waiting for the ecstasy at the end. I was never bored, was frequently engrossed, and while ADWD doesn't quite hit you over and over with plot twists in the way of ASOS it is still better than 99% of literature these days.
on 27 April 2012
I love this series, but after growing old waiting for this book, I was disappointed to find that it was not worth the wait or the ageing process.. Nothing happens. Danny sits around and doesn't even bother setting off for Westeros. Tyrion sets off to find Danny and doesn't get there. And if I can word this without too many spoilers .... after crafty old Doran Martell has plotted away and bided his time for so many years, his master plan comes to absolutely nothing and the reader is left wondering why she even bothered to read about it when it never went anywhere. And perhaps most disappointingly of all, for a book entitled "A Dance with Dragons" there was really not much in the way of dragons, dancing or otherwise. And this applies to dragons in the literal sense as well as the Targaryen sense. Sigh. I am already calculating how old I'll be when the next book comes out, and it is not a good thought. I have a very serious concern that Mr Martin will never actually finish this series, especially if any further books he manages to produce move as slowly as this one. I am surprised and disappointed to report that, as I neared the end of the book, I flipped forward a few times to se how much I had to get through before I could read something else. Not something that has happened to me so far in this previously superb series.
For me it doesn’t matter if I am reading one of these books for the first time, re-reading a previous one, or having not touched one for about a year come back to the story, as I am soon once again immersed in this world fully realised by George R R Martin. With believable characters, and situations that show similarities with history, these books make an enjoyable romp. Although coming under the fantasy heading what I really enjoy is that although there is a bit of magic here, and some dragons, these books have more akin to historical novels, even more so as the author was influenced by such books and periods of history as the Thirty Years War, and other incidents in Europe.
In some ways this book does start off running parallel with the previous novel, ‘A Feast for Crows’ as it covers some of the same timeframe, but giving us what has happened to other characters that were not covered within that book. This also moves on past that so we are once again taken forward in a traditional chronological order.
It is definitely getting colder on the other side of the Wall, and Jon Snow knows that it is only a matter of time when the unknown from beyond will try to cover the rest of Westeros, but he has hard decisions to make, which will not please some as he has to do the best he can to protect the realm. Daenerys has hard decisions to make herself, across the sea. She may have started off conquering but she is increasingly meeting resistance, most especially because she has outlawed slavery, something others have been making money out of for years. There is certainly a resistance from other rulers, wishing she would either die or go and try to conquer Westeros and leave them in peace, to carry on making money.
I always like to catch up with Tyrion as he is just one of those characters you can’t help but liking, and we also here manage at last to catch up with Brandon Stark and his group of survivors, who are now beyond the Wall.
With treachery, violence, treason and double crosses, as well as deception this book has it all, with a story that keeps you hooked from beginning to end. If you have read all the books up to this so far, then at the present time there is only the second volume to go of this book ‘A Dance With Dragons 2: After the Feast’, as we are still all eagerly awaiting the eventual finishing and publication of the next novel.
on 26 August 2015
Dreams and Dust is the 6th book (or 5th book: part 1, depending your how much or a puritan you are) of the Song of Ice and Fire series by the awesome George R.R. Martin. The story is a very lengthy book, counting in at a respectful 624 pages. The format is the same as the rest of the series, using the point of view perspective and bouncing between protagonists. The key characters followed in this novel are Jon Snow (I had to check and there is no “H”) , Daenerys “the Rastafarian” Targaryen and Tyrion Lannister. You also see a large chunk of Theon’s tale, which makes a good change of pace through the book, as well as limited chapters with other characters (including 3 chapters of Bran Stark’s story which goes beyond the current position in the TV series. Spoilers!)
The events told in this novel run simultaneous with those told in A Feast for Crows, with the proceedings taking place following A Storm of Swords, two books back. Confused? Don’t be. It doesn’t really make much difference to the narrative of the book as you are following different characters, who you missed from Feast and are eager to catch up with. It’s just good to be with them again and you only come across small interactions with the stories in Feast which keeps confusion to a minimum. With comparison to the timeframe of the TV series, some of the characters are behind, some are ahead and some are completely off piste. This makes for an interesting read as I was always in different states of suspense and it kept me on my heels.
Jon is still up at the wall, his tale full of enmity, diplomacy and lots of cold references. It’s easy to see how Jon has becomes a well-loved character, full of courage and intelligence. You do wonder where he gained his leadership and diplomatic skills but you tend to buy into the “being the son of a lord” reason and tend to ignore it.
Tyrion’s chapters make up a classical journey adventure, starting on his escape by boat following the events at the end of Storm and you follow him as he travels across the breadths of Essos. He meets a raft of new characters (and some old ones) and has to use all of his wit and intelligence just to stay alive!.
Deanerys is still in Meereen and she has to deal with the politics of ruling. She is learning the abilities of leadership (on a much grander scale than Jon) and is starting to appreciate the frailties of loyalty and how life and death is dangerous when placed into anyones hands. Especially hers. A minor snag is that the book is very light on the dragon front. I can only presume George found writing about them either difficult or boring. Judging by his writing ability, I would guess the latter.
Good points? Well, as with all the books i have read of GRRM’s, his writing is full of texture and interesting twists and turns. He leaves you hanging for more after each chapter and ensures to engage the reader with every paragraph. The characters are rich, the plot is deep and narrative is easy to follow.
Bad points? Sometimes the texture I complimented above can over stretch itself and become long-winded. There are lots of long paragraphs which can take its toll on my attention span. True I was reading the novel late at night, but I think it would still tax me at a respectful hour. This goes with the chapters too. Very long. To be fair to GRRM, there is a lot of information to show us but it doesn’t help keep me engaged. This is however only a personal preference and does not negate the enjoyability of the story. I also found the book, for the most part, a filler piece. Lots of interesting events happen, and there are a few key scenes for the series, but most of the chapters seemed to not go anywhere. Seeing as this is part one of two, I hope for an agreeable conclusion for the most part in After the Feast.
To sum up, a good book, written well and full of interesting characters. Only to be read following the previous 6 books otherwise you would be completely lost. Not for the fainthearted as it is a long story, and doesn’t have a concrete ending, but if you love the TV show then this is book (and the rest of the series) is definitely to be read.
on 21 March 2014
This review is going to be copied to all the Ice and Fire books up to 2014, so it's not worth reading my other reviews of G. R. R. Martin's Thrones saga.
First, this review concerns the separate volumes of Ice and Fire as published for the Kindle. Several years ago I owned the pulp versions, but gave them to a friend on a permanent loan. As far as I can remember there are no differences between Kindle and hard copy versions, though the maps are virtually useless on the Kindle. I bought the Kindle versions by way of a refresher prior to watching the three seasons of the HBO DVD versions. I don't have access to the Sky Atlantic channel. Also, now, my hands struggle to handle the considerable bulk of the printed books.
There's no chance of your finding any spoilers here, the scope of the saga cannot be covered in one review, and I can't be bothered to write separate reviews for each volume.
Long, long story short: this is a magnificent telling of a gripping tale, and it isn't over yet. Yes, Mr. Martin waffles for a significant portion of each volume, but it's easy to spot the onset and speed read through until the bedrock of the story is found again. The scope of Martin's imagination is staggering, and the characters and storyline weave together like a fine Tweed.
I have thoroughly enjoyed these books twice now, and yes I am a fan.
on 1 May 2012
George Martin doesn't really write novels, he channels history from some other weird world that exists somewhere inside his head. Anyone who reads history knows it's messy, unpredictable and often the good guys don't actually exist and even if they do they often lose! All this I have accepted since I reached the end of book 1 in a state of shock and trauma! So I won't complain about the plot, I won't complain about some of the deaths and I won't even complain about the absence of some of the lead characters (or their decidely bit part appearences)
No the huge frustration for me was the long build ups in tension and drama followed by complete anti-climax! The number of times we reached a moment of real drama only for Martin to close off the chapter and dump us somewhere else in his world where sod all was happening only to bring us back 150 pages later when it was all over. The worst example of this (if you will excuse a small spoiler) was the confrontation between Stannis and Roose Bolton. A battle that crawled towards a conclusion, then changed it's mind, then disappeared and then finally happened when we were not looking though we were told of it's outcome through a letter!!! A letter?!! Ahhhh!!!!! How frustratinhg is that I do not buy heroic fantasy full of heavily armoured characters with names like 'Bloodbeard', Eric Anvil-breaker and the Tattered Price, all armed too the teeth only for them never to come to blows!
I couldn't help but be suspicious that Martin is now writing story that can portrayed easily on the small screen as we have seen in the, it has to be said, excellent TV series which concentrates on the drama but avoids full pitch battles for budgetry reasons. Well I don't want to read a book with a small budget!
It's such a shame because characters I really care about just seem to drip from the end of Martin's pen whereas other authors can write 600 pages full of faceless no-ones with the personality of a slug, but the colour charaters here are carrying an awful lot of text with precious little actual plot to go round. It's like the start of book one was the big bang and Martin is now desperately trying to describe all the universe as it expands outwards at the speed of light and spreading himself too thin in the process. There are now so many people in this story in all honesty I have forgotten who half of them are and so don't really care what happens to them.
And yet...and yet I know when in presumeably the next 10 years or so the next volume comes out I shall have to go out and buy it to know what does actually happen but please George do make something happen and let some it of it be actual battle!
on 6 February 2013
The plot is decent. Martin introduces a few new characters in this book. We see more of the Free Cities and the Wall in this book. The best part is definitely Tyrion's escape and subsequent journey. However, the pace of the book is very slow. There is a lot of dialogue but the story doesn't really move forward.
I liked it since I hope that the series continues for a long time. With the story moving forward at this glacial a pace, I am assured that there will a few more books before the series comes to its conclusion.
Overall, a decent book for fans of the series but not Martin's best work.