Customer Review

14 of 18 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A Dance with Drudgery, 15 Nov 2011
This review is from: A Song of Ice and Fire (5) - A Dance With Dragons: Book 5 (Kindle Edition)
The FIRST book was just so promising, wasn't it? The characters flew off the page.

The SECOND book was the same.

The THIRD book, part 1 and 2, amounted to something better than either of the first two books. It was basically the same, but became furiously exciting by the end.

The FOURTH book was where it went wrong. Very little happened and all the focus was on the characters we cared least about, with a few brief but notable exceptions. It was a huge disappointment.

This FIFTH book isn't as bad as the fourth. Neither is it as good as the three before that.

+ It's better than the fourth because we get to see some of our favourite characters again.

- It's worse, because Daenerys has become annoying. Tyrion has become less funny and less admirable. Jon doesn't seem to be doing an awful lot.

+ It's better because the writing is better than in the fourth book. It's less tedious and slightly more focused, especially near the start and end of the book.

- Yet it's worse because nothing new is happening with the writing. The banner men, the far-too-many new characters, the violence, the sexual violence, the aggressive way they all talk to one another, the distrust, the dull Stannis with his irritating sorceress, are all plodded out before us again and again.

+ But it's better because Theon is particularly creepy, Arya's storyline really takes off and Bran has some interesting experiences.

- Yet it still fails. This is the largest problem: it's confined to the storyline of the previous book. It runs parallel with much of that book, so there's no leaps forward in the lives of the characters. Think about it: if Daenerys had started flying dragons during the timescale of the fourth book, we'd have been reading about sailors gossiping about her flying dragons in the fourth book. Nothing dramatic can happen. No seismic shifts in the characters lives which confound our expectations can possibly occur.

As such, this book is a bore. It's really let down by the ending where the cliffhangers are anything but. There's no twists. Just things you vaguely expected would happen sooner or later.

Yet there is hope for the next book. It seems clear that Martin realised this book was going to be as badly received as the last one and, although he couldn't save it from the fate he sealed when he decided to separate out the characters, there is real evidence that he's tried to make this more interesting and more exciting and a little different and, toward the end, we can see that things are progressing.

Which is a huge relief.

This could have been the series-killer, but instead I have high hopes for the next book.

- - -

Since it'll probably be years before the next novel, unless HBO give him a kick up the backside, here's some parting thoughts:

I can't help feeling that Eddard Stark is the main character in this series and he shouldn't have died.
This whole series should have been his characteristic honesty and pride facing off against Tywin's treachery. But it isn't.

To make up for it, Martin needs to refocus the book by concentrating on the remaining Starks, and weave in a bit of Tyrion for light relief and Daenerys for that much-needed fantasy-injection when necessary. The other characters are, however interesting they may be, ultimately just secondary. I don't care about the right-hand-man of the second-uncle of the brother of the ward of the sister of the person we only met in the last chapter who lives on some island or other. We just don't need to know about them, their first kiss, their first fight, their failed marriage and the way they tie their shoelaces, and the ten people standing next to them at any given moment.

Furthermore, we do need more fantasy: the next book needs wights, Others, undead (think Catelyn), fire-sorcery and dragons by the plenty. We also need a 'game of thrones' again - real political intrigue, not just openly-warring factions.

The mix of characters in the first book was perfect, these people need to meet up and interact again. Plus, when they're in the same place, each chapter progresses the story instead of running parallel with other chapters - which will really drive the plot forward. Strewing them all over the world means each story can only progress at a snail's pace. Once you read this last book, JUST IMAGINE if Tyrion had met up with Daenerys after two or three chapters. Martin could have run that storyline (which would have been truly interesting) at a quick pace... jumping between the two narrators but following the same exciting storyline of whatever they got up to together. That's the kind of thing that needs to start happening.

We could also do with some twists and revelations that aren't so completely obvious. Remember when we first discovered it was ______ who'd tried to have Bran stabbed? Or that it was, unbelievably, ____ who poisoned Jon Arryn, and the unexpected reason for that? We need a little sprinkling of that magic again.

That's my ha'penny worth, anyway.
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Showing 1-2 of 2 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 4 Dec 2011 16:54:10 GMT
'I don't care about the right-hand-man of the second-uncle of the brother of the ward of the sister of the person we only met in the last chapter who lives on some island or other. We just don't need to know about them, their first kiss, their first fight, their failed marriage and the way they tie their shoelaces, and the ten people standing next to them at any given moment. '

= Best summary ever!!

In reply to an earlier post on 17 Oct 2012 10:45:15 BDT
Absolutely - I also find it very hard to care about any of the major characters because they are such a spiritless bunch that the only fascination lies in seeing what horrors await them next - and hoping that this time its terminal!
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