A few images recur in the enormously complex fifth installment of Martin’s massively multicharacter epic: the chess-like game cyvasse, small rivers flowing into larger ones, ships and armies battered by terrible storms. These themes suggest that readers should think strategically, be patient as the story grows, and brace for a beating. Martin’s fans, however, are hungry for more action and purpose, their appetites whetted by a six-year wait and the recent HBO adaptation of A Game of Thrones. Dance was originally the second half of 2005’s A Feast for Crows, sometimes criticized for shifting from battles and intrigue to slow trudges through war-torn, corpse-littered Westeros. The new volume has a similar feel to Feast and takes place over a similar time frame; Martin keeps it fresh by focusing on popular characters Tyrion Lannister, Daenerys Targaryen, and Jon Snow, all notably absent from the previous book.
Even ostensibly disillusioned fans will be caught up in the interweaving stories, especially when Martin drops little hints around long-debated questions such as Jon’s parentage.
It’s concerning, I suppose, that Publishers Weekly likens the ‘feel’ of the book to A Feast for Crows, a novel regarded by many readers to be (far and away) the weakest volume of the series. Of course, many of those readers feel that way because the novel lacks their favourite characters; A Dance with Dragons sees the return of Dany, Jon and Tyrion, which should allay those concerns. So, A Dance with Dragons might not feature the brutal, frenetic plot of A Storm of Swords (which was, in its way, a climax novel, wrapping up the first act of the series), but that’s alight with me. If pieces are falling into place (and they sound to be, based on the PW review), then I’m okay with another novel similar to A Feast for Crows (frankly, since it covers the same timeframe as A Feast for Crows for half the novel, it’s hard to see how this could be otherwise), because, well… I like A Feast for Crows, contrary to popular opinion.
And as long as we find out what happens to Bran and Coldhands, I’ll be a happy man.
I’ve avoided quoting the entire (short) review, for spoilers abound. There’s nothing major, but the general plotlines of the Big Three™ are revealed (and sound awesome). I could suppose about the spoilers, but they’d be nothing more than ill-informed guesses; feel free to share your theories in the spoiler section, though! If you’re curious about getting an early peak at some of the novels broader secrets, check out the full review of A Dance with Dragons.
There are no ARCs of A Dance with Dragons being produced, but I’ll be reading and reviewing it as soon as I get a copy (which, if the gods smile on me, should be a short while before release). Can you believe it’s right around the corner? I can’t.