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.
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.
Another turgid tome packed with anal minutiae re family trees and what people are wearing where the good characters are killed off and new ones introduced who you don't care about. (And then killed off) The story progresses like a snail with an anvil tied round its neck and I continually asked myself why I was reading it? There is I think more action in this than the previous Feast for Crows which I thought was dire.
Why you may ask have I continued reading these books given my negativity? Well it's because the first ones were so good, I keep hoping for the best and that the magic will return?
I think in reality though that its going to be a rare case of the TV people doing a better job than the author who seems to have ran out of puff.
I will read the Winds of Winter if it ever comes out, I just hope that the author gives us some resolution to at least some of the story lines he's created and rewards us for our patience.
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.
on 29 August 2011
1996 Found "A Game of Thrones" in a bookstore; thought let's try a fantasy for once... Wow, blown away; best book ever. Probably re-read it 5 or 6 times.
1998 After two years of waiting immediately got "A Clash of Kings". Almost as great as the first one. Multiple re-reads.
2000 Another two years later - the fantastic "A Storm of Swords" Brilliant. Multiple re-reads.
2005 Finally... "A Feast for Crows" comes around. Ah crap... No re-reads for this one. Expectations too high after the 5 year wait? No, the book was just worse than the 1st three. Looked like the first three were actually edited, by an professional editor, and this one wasn't. The decision to split the characters / story was a catastrophic one. The argument was that GRRM would rather tell the whole story for half the characters than half a story for all the characters. But wait a minute - was the whole story for this half set of characters actually told? No. Nothing was resolved.
2011 "A Dance of Dragons" is released. Do I still care? After 6 years of waiting; 11 years even for the story of the most interesting characters? Enough to read it obviously, but with low expectations. Nothing much happenend in aFfC, so nothing much of significance could be expected in aDwD, right?
This should have been the other half with the whole story for the rest of the characters. Alas... No resolutions; not even much progress. Especially Dany's character has almost been rendered useless. The whole story line is boring. Mereen and Essos are not interesting, Mereen never comes 'alive' like places in Westeros, all the Shazbok al Shaznak characters are bland and uninteresting, the Quentyn story ads NOTHING, Dany does NOTHING. And the other fan-favorites Jon and Tyrion also have a rather dissappoiting development.
I liked the stories of Davos and Theon (although they didn't really have any resolution either) but that's about it. I will not be anxiously awaiting the next book. After the 1st three brilliant books (released within a 4 year period), the two dissappointing followups (which took 11 years) made sure the series can never be the epic classic it set out to be. I used to recommend or give aGoT as present to all friends and family that like reading. Not anymore, because I know now I will be setting up people for a dissappointment. Looks like GRRM painted himself into a corner and didn't know anymore how to get out. And now it's too late, because he can't take back the last two books and I can't unread them.
Even GRRM's style has become worse. All these cliffhangers with every character dead (or not...) First it gets tiring, then annoying. Nobody is really dead, are they? Even an assumed dead prince shows up. I don't think this one was on the original story board when GRRM started his story 17 years ago. Just goes to show GRRM lost it or just doesn't care anymore.
"A bitch & three bastards" this is how GRRM describes the process of writing aDwD. The reading experience was likewise.
GRRM should have combined aFfC and aDwD and should have stripped them to one 1000 page book. This might have been a good one. A good editor should have been leading in this process. Too bad the last two books were not edited. Now I don't really care anymore; I never thought I would ever say this...
Edit 1/2013: I lowered my rating to 1 star - to counter all the obvious fake 5 star reviews Amazon allows to keep the average rating acceptable.
on 12 May 2013
Before I write my review I just want to tell you exactly what I had for breakfast, let you know the colour of my underpants and why I chose them, and give you, in detail, the history of my all family and friends. Not interested? Exactly.
After struggling through book 4 I had to leave it a good long time before starting book 5. For the first couple of hundred pages I remembered why I read these books in the first place, as the characters and the world they live in are so deep and rich, it's almost hard to believe it's a work of fiction. Then, after 1,000 pages of almost nothing at all happening, I remembered why I left the gap. A reader simply can't be expected to enjoy endless over description of food, clothes and towns, pages of back story on characters who have no role in the story, all the while almost nothing important to the plot happens. I'm also finding that I don't like the main characters who haven't been killed off - the iron born are dull, the Dornish don't seem to do anything other than squabble, and even Dany's character seems to have got lost. There's dragons, army's, skin changers, assassins, wizards and much more out there - it's past time they all started doing something
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.
on 12 July 2011
I'm beginning this "review"(although it is more accurately a letter of complaint) before I've finished the book. At this point I'm 62 chapters in, and 81% done, and I'm sick to death of it. I'm struggling to finish, and I never not finish books. The only book I ever didn't finish in disgust was the first Wraethlu book and this is nearly as bad as that. I don't ever remember waiting this long for a book and being so disappointed. Even the Deathly Hallows didn't disappoint me as much as this, and that--if you'll remember my horror at that book--is saying something.
I have now finished and while the book took a minor turn for the better it soon plummeted back into "disappointing."
The main problem to me is that it's bloated beyond control. I can't blame the editors for this, because I understand they had very little time to manage a monster of a book and it had already been cut down by about a third, apparently, but there's so much padding it suffocates under its own weight, like Lord Manderley falling asleep on his wife, or something.
Plus I would suspect that the editors worked on an arc, or a pov, and didn't see the book as a whole--but even if that was the case, there's no excuse for the repetition and rehashing Facts are repeated within the same POV - we are told a dozen (maybe two dozen) times how Tyrion killed his father and Shae, as if we'd forgotten, not only since reading the book where that happened, but since reading Tyrion's previous chapter. We are reminded, over and over and over and in fact, over, who is leal to Winterfell and who has turned their cloak and who are enemies--so many times that I just wanted to scream. Even Asha, who in previous books knows nothing of the grass-soft lords and their history, suddenly seems an expert and we are reminded YET AGAIN what the position is regarding the Karstarks.
Every time we see Davos (and as much as I like Davos as a character I was glad we didn't see him more than we did or I would have given up reading altogether) we are reminded over and over (and indeed, over) and over again that he had seven sons and he's lost four and about his fingers.and every single thing else we've ever learned about this insignificant character. It's not as if this fact is pigging relevant. Then, when we are invested with all this time with Davos, he's dropped and we don't see where he goes, who he's with, blah de blah de blah. He's a deus ex machina, simply there to show plot points as they move on.
So many chapters are not only rehashing, "as you know, Bob" narration and dialogue, but are entirely unnecessary. It seems that GRRM thought "well, x person has got to get to x place so I'd better show the journey." And the actual journeys are pointless.
Seriously. Tyrion's entire story of hundreds of pages could have started "Tyrion woke up and found he didn't like being a slave." Yes,there was one vital character he met on his travels, but his interaction with him was inconsequential and we did need the whole journey and the turtles. Ditto for Quentyn's journey. Ditto for Victarian's journey.
This is a classic example of his padding (in miniature)
"the sky above Meereen was the colour of corpse flesh, dull and white and heavy, a mass of unbroken cloud from horizon to horizon. The sun was hidden behind a wall of cloud. it would set unseen, as it had risen unseen that morning."
You see what I mean. We've had a literary description of the wall of cloud in teh sky, then for people who don't quite get it, we get "it's cloudy" Then for the complete thickos we are told what the consequence of this will be.
I am not judging the book on this one section, merely holding it up as a classic example of GRRM taking two or three ways to say the same thing. I have been tweeting over and over that "nothing has happened yet" and while that's not entirely true, it certainly felt like it--probably due to the over-weighted and bloated chapters that are nothing more than description and travelogue and internal (repetitious) dialogue and angsting and telling us crap we already know and listing everyone in the scene and every merchant and every turtle and every type of food and every mercenary
I have learned that - if you can take out a scene, or a chapter entirely and it makes no difference at all to the plot--then that scene is entirely irrelevant and should--must--be excised. Now, of course, I don't know GRRMS plan, it might be that there's a very good reason he left all the boring tripe in, but it didn't help to make this the kind of book that the first 3 were.
The problem with the chapters that are (probably) essential is everyone's so bloody PASSIVE. There's a reason Jon is, so that didn't bother me, but what the hell happened to Dany and Tyrion? Did they both have lobotomies somewhere between books 4 and 5? Dany has gone down with a case of Tonks-itis. (Tonks, from Harry Potter was a smart, feisty auror -that alone meant she was in the top 3percent of her class--who rocked in the fighting department.She was clever, witty and amusing. Then in later books she fell in lurve, lost her powers, became nothing more than a weepy clinging woman and consequently died. Even when we see Ghost!Remus later on, she's not with him.) And Dany has gone the same way. She won a Horse Lord's heart, and his followers, and thousands of poorfolk's hearts, then turns into nothing more than a girl in love led by men.
Love doesn't do well in this series,as a matter of course. Of course I know that the good side doesn't always win, but sheesh - sometimes they do. But there's no character here who falls in love who gets a fair deal. In fact, GRRM goes so far to list a whole heap of people who married for love and allthe appalling things that happened to them. (that's on top of the main characters who married for love and died horribly. Cat/Ned, Lysa, Dany/Drogo, Tyrion/Tysha and the others who loved without marriage and died horribly... Add to that the sudden homophobia from all corners,when it had been much more accepted before. No, love doesn't do well.
LISTs: What was the point of all the lists? Naming every hostage that came through the wall? All the irritating hostages at irritating Meereen (is there a point to Meereen?) All with too many Zs in their names.
There were (a paltry few) chapters I liked. Perhaps ten out of 70 PLUS. But they don't save this book which could have been cut in half and wouldn't have lost a thing.
I will not be buying the next one. I'll get it from the library.
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.
on 28 July 2011
Some years have passed since I dedicated my time to reading fantasy literature.
Here I was minding my own business when some tells me of this very exciting and refreshing series that have finally been adapted to television and it's even an HBO series. Somehow sceptical of getting anything decent due to my disappointment with the fantasy genre I decided to give it a try as my friend promised I would not regret it.
The result was pure addiction and soon my eyes had turned purple as lack of sleep seemed an easy bargain for indulging in this saga. Game of Thrones was astonishing, with a fast paced plot where most characters were relevant,spiced with realism and each chapter seemed to reveal some secret or turn in the plot that caused adrenaline-rushes. The quality was so good that while immersed in this alternative world I started getting attached to the characters, whatever fell upon them seemed to leave an impression on me as well. My only regret was not having started to read these sooner. In about a week and a half I had devoured the first three books.
Then I started reading A Feast for Crows...
For me it is not about the long descriptions, journeys, the small characters that seemed to die as soon as they appear or even Tyrion remembering the crossbow incident for the thousandth time, it the fact that while in previous books descriptions, minor characters and complex conversions always hold hint of what was going to happen, words were relevant and actions unpredictable. In both a Dance with Dragons and A Feast for Crows the author not only barely advances with the plot but constantly seems to build up for a climax that only remains as an expectation. The fantastic thrilling twists are gone and if it was bad enough that the plot started to become stale at the middle of the book, even some characters seem to have became softer, to have lost their previous cunning or daring. Unfortunately, this book is truly the other half of the previous one, pages and pages that try to add momentum and accomplish only to leave a feeling of dissatisfaction.
All this said, I will grant it three stars because that's just what this book is, "Ok". It introduces new players, it definitely revealed more about the world's lore and cultures and it is what it would be expected if the author is planning to use these books to prepare the terrain for something truly grand. But the mistake relies on the expectation factor, I only waited 3 days, conjuring plots and attempting to predict what Martin had in store to compensate for the previous book, only to read almost a thousand pages of disappointment. Had I waited more than five years I would probably give this book a minus one.
Looking back, I would still pick this saga and even recommend it, as Martin's style has it's share of uniqueness within fantasy literature and the first three where pretty good, yet, minding all the differences between writers, I must say that even if he did pull another two "A Game of Thrones", I would have my doubts as to naming him the "American Tolkien"
on 1 February 2012
It took me 2 days to read this book, all 1,034 pages of it. In actual reading time spent, I would say less than 13 hours. It is simply fantastic. Compelling. Gripping. The prologue, usually an irritating affair before we re-engage with our beloved heroes, brings forth a revelation about one of them, which gives you a squeal of fan-joy from the very outset. Then the first POV chapter brings us Tyrion, fan favourite Tyrion, and it becomes clear that what made A Feast For Crows weak was the absence of the witty, wily, dwarf. It is a pleasure to have him back.
We pick up Tyrion on the run from his discovery that his father did not in fact poo gold, now caught up in the machinations of Varys the Spider and Illyrio Mopatis, the man who harboured Viserys and Daenerys in A Game Of Thrones. He is sent on his way with a group of people on a barge, who are not he quickly gathers, who they are pretending to be. Who they are proves to be something of a thrill for the fans, at least for me, as with the revelation of the identity of young sellsword Frog. I heard some reviews say they were unhappy with the Tyrion chapters but I found them highly satisfactory. The TV series Game Of Thrones has however had the impact that I hear Peter Dinklage's dry delivery of Tyrion's dialogue everytime he speaks. But, since Emmy nominated Dinklage was perhaps the best cast actor of the bunch, this is by no means a bad thing.
Tyrion shares the main bulk of the POV chapters alongside Jon Snow and Daenerys. At Castle Black, Jon struggles with the demands that being Lord Commander place upon him, tensions grow between the wildlings and the Night's Watch. Though Jon knows he should not trust the Red Queen Melisandre, nor get involved with the events in the realm, he is manipulated into it and haunted by past actions and the thought of home. I found the Castle Black sections a bit difficult, mainly because they are over populated and a "bunch of names" without much character are hard to care about. This was also a problem but to less of a degree in Meereen where Daenerys Targaryen holds court, though as many characters wonder aloud in the book, I too wondered why she continued to remain there, fighting what is essentially a losing battle. My eventual conclusion was that, almost like in one of Tyrion's cyvasse games, Daenerys essentially remains in Meereen to move other pieces in the game of thrones into position. This, is really a weakness in Book 5, her presence there does not ring true and feels like the exposition device it most likely is, though, at the close of the novel, her POV section ends with a haunting image.
The best bit for me about A Dance With Dragons, was its little unexpected turns. Though the book belongs to Tyrion, Jon and Daenerys, a flick of the page may bring you suddenly to a POV chapter of a character you weren't expecting to see in this book, believing them consigned solely to A Feast For Crows, both books taking place at the same time. When a chapter suddenly appeared unexpectedly featuring a beloved character, I was thrilled, and this happens more than once.
One of the more successful POV's is that of Reek, a character we have met before living a new and utterly tormented life. The characters psychological destruction, sickening exploitation and total submission to his vile master are some of the best written parts of the book.
One of the most disappointing things for me however was that at the end of A Feast For Crows we were left with a true, true, cliffhanger. For the resolution of this cliffhanger to be done with two sentences only and for the continuation of that plot to disappear again entirely til "Next Time", was a massive disappointment and a major anticlimax. But we can't have everything I guess.
Though some may have been disappointed by the scarcity of Bran chapters, I am not their biggest fan and so was grateful for having fewer. The interaction with Reek was a nice touch though. I like the foreshadowing of what will be in the next book: it will clearly contain the mission assigned to Davos. And the epilogue was tremendous. However, what Martin has done as he did equally with a Feast For Crows is he has left us with a cliffhanger, someone is left in mortal peril: will they make it or will they die? I really hope the man doesn't make us wait 6 years to find out.
Martin is a God not just among fantasy writers but writers in general. All hail King George of Westeros 10/10