November 29, 2012

30 Books in 30 Days: "A Dance with Dragons," by George R.R. Martin

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A Dance with Dragons, by George R.R. Martin

A Dance with Dragons
By George R.R. Martin
Bantam

As regular readers know, it's been a year and a half now since I got seduced into reading what many now refer to as the "Game of Thrones novels" because of the popular TV series, more formally known as "A Song of Ice and Fire" or simply the Westeros novels; it was only for the first in the series that I did a big extended write-up, which I encourage you to check out for the details of how I feel about the entire story overall, with each subsequent novel getting just a small check-in from me here. And in fact, with the finishing of volume 5, A Dance with Dragons, I'm now officially caught up with all the writing that currently exists (a sixth and seventh volume are still expected in the future); but alas, after four thousand pages so far that had kept me surprisingly engaged, given that I'm not a usual fan of fantasy novels, the veneer is finally starting to wear off here around page five thousand. And I suppose the main reason for this is because of a strange decision Martin made for this and the previous volume; that after simultaneously juggling a dozen different major storylines set all around that fictional world in the first three books, for volumes 4 and 5 he decided to split these storylines into two groups and deal with only one in each book, and unfortunately a lot of the stuff I care about the least all ended up here in the second half together. See, the reason that so many usual non-fans of this genre have been getting sucked into this series is because Martin not only keeps the supernatural elements down to a bare minimum, but in fact all of the usual tropes about fantasy that drive us non-fans crazy (the endless weirdo made-up names, the endless faux-Medieval dialogue), delivering instead a fascinatingly complex and realistic look at what the Middle Ages in Western Europe were actually like; so the times when he does most lapse into cartoonishly complicated regal wars and Elfquest-like character names, for example like in all the scenes set with Daenerys Targaryen over in the mysterious eastern continent of their world, my eyes tend to glaze over for good, especially when combined with the fact that nothing has actually happened with Daenerys for the last thousand pages than endless fretting over her newly formed and shakily held kingdom. It still has its charms, and for sure I'll be reading the last volumes as well when they eventually come out; but A Dance with Dragons was the first moment this series started reminding me of its length, and demonstrating why five thousand pages is an awfully long distance to follow a single massive story.

Out of 10: 8.0

Filed by Jason Pettus at 4:43 PM, November 29, 2012. Filed under: Literature | Literature:Fiction | Reviews |