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Tuesday, August 9, 2011

A Dance With Dragons: Volume Five of A Song of Ice and Fire

Hokay, so as my two readers know, I have been working through Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire and the newest book, A Dance With Dragons came out on July 12th. Yeah, I know I said the 21st, that was my fault and I'm sorry this review is basically a month late. However I would like to give my thoughts on the book since I managed to finish it. Oh, warning, this kind of contains spoilers in my analysis so you've been forewarned.

Like all of Martin's books the writing is very good and keeps me interested. The plot advances, granted at a slow pace, but at an appropriate level for the detail of this series. For those of you that love Danerys, Jon, Tyrion and Theon, you're in for a treat because the book focuses mostly on those four. It's a little confusing at first because this book begins chronologically at the same time as
A Feast For Crows. I had to get used to the fact that some events that I already knew about hadn't happened yet. Eventually Dance With Dragons catches up with volume four and moves the overall plot a little further, but honestly not by much. Most of this book is playing catch-up with the other characters that got left out of the last book. However, I do appreciate it because some of my favorite characters, like Tyrion, Jon, and Davos got left out of Feast For Crows so it's good to catch up with them again.

However, I do have some complaints and concerns about the book and the series as a whole. Specifically with this book I am frustrated that Davos got three chapters and Bran got two or three. Now Davos is one of my favorites because he's an honest guy, seriously he's employed for that reason. Stannis relies on Davos to give his honest opinion every time. Davos doesn't say what the king wants to hear or what the king
should hear, but tells Stannis how things actually are. I really like him for that and think he's one of the best characters in the series. However, Davos gets three chapters, thankfully doesn't die, but just starts doing interesting stuff and then disappears off the face of the earth. I wanted to know what happens with him! He was doing a really important mission! Graaaaah.

It's sort of similar with Bran, he gets two, maybe three chapter in the entire book. (Sorry I don't recall the exact number, I know it's at least two but not much more beyond that.) Now you might be thinking "At least he makes an appearance, right? He's not missing." Well, yes, but it's hard for me not to consider him to his sister, Arya. Both of them are going through a type of training. Bran to be a greenseer, Arya to be one of the Faceless Men. This is all well and fine, except Arya gets two chapters in this book as well. Now you may be wondering, "But Kalpar, if they have sort of similar stories and have the same number of chapters, why are you complaining?" And I would say, that's a very good question, dear reader. The issue I have is that Arya got somewhere around four or five chapters in the
previous book as well, while Bran had none. This means that overall, I've seen Arya develop more than I've seen Bran develop in two books that started as one. I can't help but feel that Bran, and to an extent certain other characters are being neglected.

This brings me to my overall concern for the series as a whole, which is I'm worried that it's getting too big to be managed. For comparison let's look at the first book,
A Game of Thrones, the number of point-of-view characters was eight: Ned, Catelyn, Sansa, Bran, Arya, Jon (All Starks), Danerys Targeryn and Tyrion Lannister. (I'm pretty sure I'm not forgetting anyone) For an eight hundred page book, everyone gets about a hundred pages on average (although this wasn't the case in fact) but it allows a fair amount of development for the plots. However, by the end of book five the number has increased to include Davos Seaworth, Theon and Asha Greyjoy, Cersei and Jaime Lannister, Brienne of Tarth, and numerous other characters that serve as viewpoint characters for maybe one chapter, sometimes more. And while the books have increased in overall length, we're not getting 100 pages per character anymore.

Basically I'm worried that the series is getting too big to be managed properly and give everyone good character development. Like I said, a lot of the book focuses on four characters, and everyone else gets a handful of chapters at best. If Martin really is planning on keeping everyone together in the next book,
Winds of Winter then he's going to have the following plots to keep track of:
  1. Bran's Training in the North
  2. Conflict at the Wall
  3. Davos's Mission
  4. Stannis's War in the North
  5. Littlefinger in the Vale
  6. Jamie and Brienne's Quest
  7. Cersei in King's Landing
  8. Samwell's Training at Oldtown
  9. The Ironmen Raiders
  10. The Golden Company in Westeros
  11. The Dornish Characters
  12. Arya's Training in Braavos
  13. Tyrion and the War in Slavers Bay
  14. Danerys and her dragons.
See, that's at least fourteen plots going on at once, and we might get more before the book is finished. If Martin is continuing with his plan for his series, we have only two more books to go with the series. Yet I have this feeling that the conflicts keep proliferating and we're nowhere close to a denouement for the series as a whole. I guess I'll have to wait for the next book to come out, hopefully not five years, to see what happens to the series overall.

Now, the book alone I liked a lot and I'll give it four sheep because it's as good as many of its siblings in the series, but I'm worried about where the series is going overall.


Adventurer's Rule #17: Never borrow money you can't repay.


  1. I can see what you mean by to many plot lines and characters. That kind of happened with Laurel K Hamilton's Anita series. I can't keep up with the characters anymore! And if you have to wait a year for the next one, you tend to forget things...

  2. I'm wondering about this issue as the author of a series myself - I'm thinking that creating spin-off series might work best to give each group of characters equal time. This is what Patricia Briggs did with her werewolf stories. One is the Mercy Thompson series, and the other became the Alpha & Omega series. They share the same background and history, with many characters in common, but you get to look at them from different perspectives. Thanks Ben for all the work you put into reviewing the whole Ice and Fire series.

  3. I have yet to read the books and to be honest I might not start. BUT I frelin LOVE the HBO series of these stories. If you are undecided about the books I would say start with the show. It's gooooood.

    Great review!

  4. Awaiting the last and final book. Can't wait to see who survives the final chapter and who reigns over the seven kingdoms.