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 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.
on 2 May 2012
Despite a lot of negative amazon reviews I still found myself reading this book long into the night - the intrigues, places and characters still pull you into a world that is fantastical yet totally believable.
BUT...as with A feast for crows I found the split storylines (events in Kings Landing and Westeros covered in Book 4 and parallel events in Essos/the North in Book 5) unbelievably frustrating- what on earth posessed GRRM to pursue this? The reader is constantly trying to remember the events of Book 4 and how they fit into A dance with dragons. I found that I cared less what happened to Danaerys etc. because I had not read about them for so long, and I wanted to know what was happening in Kings Landing- but to no avail.
Worth buying, but in my opinion this series is no longer the great fantasy epic that it could have been.
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 20 June 2012
Yes, I know I'm not the first to say that the book disappointed me. It was too long and nothing new happened. Tyrion and Dany, my favorite characters ever since the first book, were unrecognisable: flat, uninteresting, frankly boring. No character development at all, either for those two or any of the others. The new POVs introduced added nothing more than pages to the story. The plot itself didn't seem to move an inch. Maybe, if I had not had to wait such a long time between books, I would have been less disappointed. But to have to wait for years only to realise that I must wait for I don't know how many more for the next book, well, that feels like a downright betrayal.
Let's hope that Mr Martin reads our comments and will take some of them to heart in writing the next book. It's OK to rest comfortably on your laurels, knowing that your readers are hooked by the quality of the first books and are dying to find out what happened to their favorite heroes, but it is quite another to make them feel cheated of their money and their time, because sooner or later they'll decide to visit the nearest library rather than their bookstore, and then where will Mr Martin and his publishers be?
on 9 June 2012
Thankfully, I've only been reading this series of books for a few years, which gives me a chance of still being alive when it's finished. If it's finished. As other reviewers are saying, the author is getting on a bit now and if he continues to write at such a slow pace he'll probably go the way of Robert Jordan and die before he finishes the final book.
The shame of this all is that the first books were awesome. The TV series is great, too, and bound to boost book sales. But I'm loathe to recommend those books to anyone as there's no sense that they'll ever get a conclusion. Even the TV series seems doomed, really: as great as it is, they can't release a series a year and actually deliver a conclusion - just five or six years of build up, then a "to be continued..." (in 10 years). It's like stopping a season of 24 half way, then making us wait for Keifer Sutherland's unborn son to grow up so he can star in the second half.
Back to this book: I got it in hardback as the complete volume and gasped at the weight of it - so much so, that I bought it on Kindle too so I could actually read the thing. It was a bit of a plodder. I still like the characters, I still like the richness of the world, but I'm finding it hard to connect with the newcomers and really just want to find out what happens to the people I've got to know through the last few years of reading. As a writer myself, I can appreciate that it takes time to write books - particularly if you're not on it everyday (and Martin has published other books, consulted on the TV series and probably had a life, too). But this doesn't feel like 6 years of real, loving effort. More like a bit of self-indulgence, or maybe a chore - like the pretty average job I make of mowing our lawn, but then I'm not pretending to be a master gardener and I haven't made buckets of cash from cutting grass.
The REAL scary bit is that I bet I buy the next one. And, as much as I don't want to wait for it, I'd hate Martin to do a rush job of it. All this effort deserves a truly storming ending.
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 4 August 2016
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