It’s autumn in Westeros, blizzards are already blasting the Seven Kingdoms with brutal force, and “winter is coming.” Jon Snow is treading a dangerously fine line between keeping the vows of the Brothers of the Night’s Watch and involvement with King Stannis’ revolt. Tyrion is on the run for his life and hopes to find an ally with Queen Daenerys, but as is always the case with the Imp, he just manages to trade one peril for greater ones. It is Daenerys’ destiny to reclaim the Iron Throne for the Targaryens, but doing so now means leaving her conquered city to her enemies and the slaves she has freed to their former masters. Meanwhile, her dragons are growing bigger and more unmanageable. As all the great houses make their bid for who will rule the Seven Kingdoms, north of the Wall the restless dead are gathering en masse to invade with the winter storms, adding slain victims to their ranks.
Just as all the previous books in A SONG OF ICE AND FIRE have been, A Dance with Dragons is a tombstone-sized doorstopper of a book. (I purchased the Amazon Kindle version, and I swear my Kindle was heavier after I uploaded it.) An age has passed since A Game of Thrones kicked off what just might become the most influential series in fantasy since LORD OF THE RINGS. I’ve been anticipating A Dance with Dragons ever since I read the last sentence of the last book, A Feast for Crows, almost six years ago.
A SONG OF ICE AND FIRE is a colossal-sized epic. There is no getting around the fact that this series is really one long book. I think Mr. Martin’s idea of a conclusion for each book has been to build up to the most shockingly climactic outcome imaginable and then leave the readers in a nearly painful lurch of a cliffhanger. (Fair warning: the ending of A Dance with Dragons is no exception.) This is made almost intolerable by the fact that fans will be lucky to get more than one installment per decade.
But if you can put all that aside and just take the events as they happen in A Dance with Dragons, there’s no denying it’s another grand adventure.
George R.R. Martin is one of those authors who could write the Yellow Pages and make it exciting. As complex and as large-as-life as this story is, and even considering how long it’s been since I last visited his world, I had no problem keeping up with A Dance with Dragons.
Martin has created some of the most interesting characters ever, and there are so many of them. It’s amazing how he can tell a story from so many unique perspectives. I’m not sure I even know as many people living in the real world as there are living and dying within these books.
He draws the plot out like a sharp blade from a scabbard — one that will easily cut the careless. His underlying theme that every hero is the other side’s villain is profound and believable. All the players in this deadly game of thrones have a strategy that seems like a guaranteed victory. But since Martin solidly established early on, that no one — I repeat, no one — is safe, it’s anyone’s guess who will hold the Iron Throne when this is done. Providing there will even be a throne to win. That will depend on the Crows holding the Wall against the wights and other monsters that have yet to strike in full force.
It almost seems impossible that Martin will actually be able to wrap this thing up with a worthy conclusion, and do it in both his and his readership’s lifetime. Call me crazy, but I think he can. Afterwards, blurbs on fantasy book-covers will claim comparisons to George R.R. Martin and A SONG OF ICE AND FIRE, like they do now for J.R.R. Tolkien and LORD OF THE RINGS.