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on 25 February 2015
Like most reviewers I feel this is all getting too drawn out now and this book left me more frustrated then the others. Maybe I have made a mistake reading all 5 books , one after the other, so am now left with at least a years wait. This book had very little real action - more pieces of the story come into place but some of the chapters really plodded with little to add to the story. And why kill off key characters in such a random way? Why build a character so carefully with such a sense of purpose then suddenly kill them just, seemingly, for effect!..and how many times does Danny have to be 'reborn'? That said, I will, of course, buy book 6 as soon as it emerges!
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on 26 March 2018
Although this review is attached to the latest book in the “A Song of Ice and Fire” series (Volume 5 Book 2, “After the Feast”), I’m referring to all the books in the series, and to the TV series “Game of Thrones”.
I began reading Volume 1 of ASOIAF at the same time as I sat down to watch Season 1 of the TV series in the summer of 2017. Yes, about six years late for the TV series and over 20 years late for the books. Since then I’ve read all the books up to “After the Feast” and watched Seasons 1-6 of the TV series. I delayed reading “After the Feast” because I assumed it would tie in with Season 7 of the TV series, and I thought I would read and watch simultaneously. However, I soon realised that “After the Feast is still deep in Season 6, and as George RR Martin hasn’t yet published Volume 6 of ASOIAF, I have no idea what Season 7 of the TV series is based on, nor what Season 8 (due to air in 2018) will be based on. Season 1 followed Volume 1 fairly closely, if memory serves, but subsequently, the gap between the books and the TV series has gradually widened. It’s clear that to keep within budget and timescales the TV script writers have had to do a major pruning job as the books are far more complicated than the TV version. The former have more characters, more sub-plots and more background. That makes them in many ways more satisfying and entertaining than the TV series. On the other hand, the TV version has an economy and pace that the books sometimes lack. My biggest gripe about the books is that sometimes the detail seems unnecessary and slightly self-indulgent, e.g. descriptions of meals that add nothing to the plot and action. Also, the dialogue can be a bit clunky and an uneasy mixture of modern and faux mediaeval. When Jon Snow talks about “structural defects” in the Wall, you think why didn’t he just say “cracks”? On the other hand, the author very sensibly makes no attempt to replicate all the various languages that are spoken in this world, unlike the TV series which gets a bit silly when characters babble away in High Valyrian or Ghiscari and we get the subtitles in English. In the books we only get a couple of key (mystical) phrases and that’s quite enough. No point trying to out-Tolkien Tolkien.
However, the TV series is much tidier than the books, and the quest for simplification and the need to keep the stars in the limelight mean that the TV version is often more dramatic, e.g. the reunion between Jon Snow and Sansa Stark in the TV series is a brilliant adaptation of the equivalent incident in the books where Jon Snow hears that a young girl has been delivered to Castle Black and he thinks it might be Arya Stark, but instead he finds himself face to face with the daughter of a minor retainer of the Starks, a girl he hasn’t seen for ten years and barely recognises. It’s a bit of an anti-climax for Jon Snow and for the reader. Another example: in the TV series, after Tyrion Lannister flees from King’s Landing, he eventually reaches Meereen where he becomes a trusted adviser to Daenerys. In the books no such thing has happened by the end of “After the Feast”. Tyrion has joined a mercenary company in an army besieging Meereen, and his place as trusted adviser is filled by Barristan Selmy, who was killed off sometime earlier in the TV series, but is still clinging on to life in the books.
The whole thing is pure and very therapeutic escapism, but it’s also great fun to look for historical – and current – parallels. For example, although it’s been said that the English Wars of the Roses provided much of the inspiration for the books, there are other parallels, e.g. Roman history. I’m sure the name Lannister is taken from the Latin lanista, a gladiator trainer. The trial of Maergery Tyrell is clearly based on the fate of Anne Boleyn, and the parallel is all the more stark because HBO cast the actress who plays Maergery – Natalie Dormer – as Anne Boleyn in “The Tudors” a few years ago. The first bloke to admit to fornication with Maergery is a musician, obviously based on Mark Smeaton who confessed to committing adultery with Anne Boleyn. A contemporary parallel is the impact of religious fundamentalism on the politics of Westeros with the rise of the “sparrows” and the followers of the Lord of Light. Both sects are very mediaeval, and there are obvious parallels with the Reformation and the Inquisition, but also chillingly modern.
I could go on, but I won’t. I’ll just say that although I’m not that keen on fantasy novels and not a great watcher of TV, I found the books incredibly entertaining, and the TV series compulsive viewing.
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on 22 December 2014
The second half of the fifth book of A Song of Ice and Fire really does work as it's own book. Each chapter of the whole series really comes across as its own episode and they could easily be strung together in one long story or split between almost any one. Martin splits his novels at particularly shocking places though, and this follows that trend.

A reminder - this is the increasingly diverse story of a group of factions each trying to invade or defend a land mass from invasion, insurrection or supernatural attack. The characters who have survived this far are almost all ones that I enjoy spending time with, although because of the structure of the narrative at this point, there are some who go completely without mention.

One thing I did find with this volume though is that the chapters have become somewhat formulaic - or it's just that I've read enough now to recognise the formula. The chapter begins by updating us on a character's situation since the last 'episode' in which we saw them, then they make a plan for what to do next, attempt to execute it, and something goes horribly wrong. There's nothing intrinsically wrong with this structure, but the repetition meant that I started to expect it and try to predict the ending rather than just enjoy the ride.

Still a fantastic series though and I'm now desperately waiting for the next instalment - the first that I'll be able to read in hardback as soon as it's out, regardless of how long it is.
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on 14 July 2014
I have now read all the books in the series. I loved the first 3 but they do seem to be getting a bit 'unfocussed'. And I'm seriously disappointed that the main characters around which the early books were build have been killed off! There is no clear 'hero' or 'heroine' that you can get behind and who takes the stories forward for you. I enjoy all the characters but you just decide whether you like a character or not, if they're a goody or a baddie (!) and they are either written into obscurity or killed/murderd. I do find this frustrating. I loved Ned & Catelyn Stark, Rob, Jon Snow, Kevan Lannister even Tyrion! And am desperate for the Stark siblings to be reunited.

I am massively impressed that someone can continue such an intricate story for so long, over so many words but it does feel like the story has become a little disjointed and is losing its way a little.

Having said that I am equally frustrated at having to wait unti 2017 for the next instalment! These are the only books I have read for the last couple of months and find it difficult to work up any interest in anything else I currently have stored on my Kindle.

'Game of Thrones' is a marathon, one with it's ups and downs, fast pace and slow pace, but overall I love it :).

p.s. I have never watched any of the TV series - not sure if one would spoil the other.
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on 10 August 2015
This is the 7th book or 5th from the series a Song of Fire and Ice. The previous 2 books events happen in the same timeline, following specific characters in the individuals books. In After the Feast the stories and timelines come together again.

Jon Snow together with Stannis Baratheon is trying to unite the widlings with the seven kingdoms. With winter coming in fast and food being scarce, with proves to be challenge. As Stannis is short of friends in the seven kingdoms, he hopes the wildings and the north will join his cause in claiming the iron throne.

Cersei is imprisoned awaiting trial for a number of sins put to her name. As a result, rule in kings landing is unknown and Cersei seeks out her son Tommen. Her brother Tyrion remains in the east, captured after a viscious storm and sold into slavery.

There is an absence of large scale action in After the Feast and most of the story progress is instead focused on the individual characters. This still generates a lot of interest and leaves many of the characters in a state where you just can't wait to know what happens.

A wonderful series, though this is not one of the strongest books. However the author is taking his time to weave the complex, in depth story and it's well worth sitting through.
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on 20 November 2017
Phew, finally the end to this part in the epic has been reached. I found this tome hard going, and, at times, I was ready to throw the towel in and move on to the next installment - a fear that I may miss something vital was all that prevented me doing so. Far too much, needless by now, information on armour, weaponry, feasts, ballads, whoring and meandering travel!!! Too much description and too little action ... I really hope the next book has a faster pace and is less arduous to read...
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on 22 March 2015
George RR Martin is a master of the pen. His writings are wonderful. And I have so enjoyed all the books
to date. This last book (book 5 part 2) however is, in my humble opinion, is a mess. Martin seems to have lost the plot.
In fact, when we were hopefully drawing to some sort of closure in the saga, he adds more story lines which have been
left unresolved as well !! He has left his reader with almost all the stories suspended in mid action, on a cliff hanger.
Which would be okay-ish, if there was another book to follow on. But there isn't.
I know George RR Martin is a lot cleverer than me, but how the hell he is going to draw all the threads together in some future book, I do not know.
It would have been a challenge enough without adding new characters and plots in this last book.
Perhaps he doesn't intend to let us readers know how his 'continent' fares ultimately. If so, thanks, but no thanks.
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on 1 May 2014
Dance with Dragons parts one and two are pretty boring and some characters are ruined. Like other reviewers I totoally agree that the plot is fairly stagnant in these books and Martin spends too long dedicationg entire chapters to new charcters we know nothing about and are not invested in rather than digging deeper into the characters we've followed all along. Tyrion has a pretty boring time of it and ends up with a pig and really annoying girl, that's about it. Dany spends her time sitting on her arse shagging her slaves (sorry, servants) and wondering who to marry, it's not until the end of part 2 that something actually develops with her narrative. Jon spends most of his time brooding and eating but developments with the wildlings is quite interesting. I was surpised how much I came to like the red priestess too who has more depth too her than previously explored, though Martin still refuses to spend much time on her, instead he chooses to return to random charcters like Victarion or Quentyn, who do little to move the plotline forwards. Arya's spiritual journey is great but enough already, boring! Please get her back to Westeros! Cersei continues to be splendid character to follow but gets little attention in part 2. Overall, too little of the good stuff and too much of the drolle. Sort it out Martin before you ruin more chacacters and the whole damn thing.
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on 14 April 2015
This book continues the adventures of the people of Westeros, the good points is that it follows the far more interesting characters Tyrion, Theon, Jon Snow and Daenerys. The bad point is that the plot seems to have become stuck in the mud and makes little to no progress. There are no really unexpected plot twists here and no real character development, the minor characters seem to have been pushed to the fore but really aren't as interesting as the ones already killed off. Tyrion still hasn't reached Daenerys, who herself still hasn't reached westeros, worst of all the white walkers have not even been seen in three books. Hopefully the next book will finally kick things into gear because the author has only two books left to resolve everything and he still has massive amounts of plot points to conclude in a very short amount of time.
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on 5 May 2013
People will come to the books through the tv series, and there's nothing wrong with that, but there's an important thing to remember. This is part of a series that isn't done yet. Did Tolkein finish up before the Ring went into Mount Doom? Nope. Did Doyle allow Holmes to give up because of a particularly sticky bit of a conundrum? Ok, you get the idea. Martin's writing in this most recent book is as tight and intricate, the plotting as careful, the characters as interesting as in the first volume. Better in many cases, really, because they've growun through the series, until they are fully-fleshed beings.

This is an impressive thing, if you think about it. Many writers run out of ideas and start using the kitchen sink approach to their characters, or simply shove them over the Reichenbach falls in desperation. Martin's kept faith with the readers, and continually gives them his best, which is pretty darn good.

If you can't wait for the next book, take a deep breath, get out the knitting needles or that model of the Millenium Falcon made from toothpicks and get busy. You can ask for speed or you can ask for good.

Oh,yes. The book itself. I give it five stars for a lot of reasons, it's a cracking read and it's also very well-written. Not a lot of books I review will get that kind of reference. It's excellent, there are a lot of strands that are slowly being woven together, at pain to some and happiness for others although there's more pain than joy right now. No point in being specific for those who haven't read the book, but it's definitely worth the read. So, go on, get it open.
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