To preface this review, I wanted to inform you that this is a review of the unabridged audio-book version of A Dance With Dragons (ADWD). Every word of the book is read to the listener in an unabridged reading with the actor changing his voice slightly for different characters and using a neutral voice for narration. I have listened to all of a A Song Of Ice And Fire (ASOIF) in audio-book format as I simply don’t have time to sit down and read such lengthy novels. I highly recommend this type of “reading” for people who have to commute a lot or spend lots of time working with their hands on mindless tasks (for me this entails renovating my 1850 home and landscaping the backyard).
Not wanting to write a spoiler review, let me just say “wow, I did not see that coming!” I think you will be shocked toward the end of the book – I was both saddened and very curious to know more. I can’t say more than that without spoiling it. A Dance With Dragons is better than night soil!
In regards to how long it took for Martin to write this book, I agree with Brent Weeks’ opinion post that George’s readers probably shouldn’t have to wait almost 6 years for the release of a book, but on the other-hand I can understand why it would take so long to write a book like ADWD. It seems to me the average author takes one to two years to write a book. ADWD is fully twice the length of the average novel that comes out – it is truly epic in both scope and words. In addition, George was working on other books in that time-frame as well as dealing with the HBO adaptation of A Game Of Thrones. With these considerations, I see how it could take between three and six years to write the sequel (or in this case parallel) to A Feast For Crows (AFFC). Still, I just wish it didn’t have to take that long. Now that the initial push with HBO is done, with all the publicity and now Hollywood behind him, and a horde of new fans bugging him, I think we can expect to see the next book in the Song coming along within two years – but really, who am I to say?
All that out of the way, now onto the meat of the review. ADWD is an exquisitely written gritty tale, peppered throughout with colorful terms such as “night soil” pulling its readers a little deeper into George’s imagination with every page turned. Simply stated, Martin is just an excellent writer and his huge world is highly organized. The scope is vast with so many plot-lines, sub plot-lines, and side plot-lines keeping the reader entertained and always guessing. His story contains many players – both main and side characters – and you never really know which ones are going to die next. George revisits some of the characters that we didn’t see in AFFC just enough to keep us up to date on what is going on in their lives, while he focuses more on other characters and developing their stories more fully. You will find yourself falling in love with characters you hated in previous books, and you will despise some characters even more! George does a great job with getting us to know his characters, understand what is in their minds and hearts, what motivates them and gets them to do the things they do and even why they repent. It is a joy to watch martin break his characters both mentally and physically as he does it so fantastically. George really knows how to tell a tale and ADWD will leave every epic fantasy reader satisfied that they got their money’s worth.
This tale stretches across two continents and really beings to bring the whole story we’ve been reading thus far together. And the dragons, wow! These are some ferocious beasts. These creatures are not the little dragonlings that were crawling on Daenerys’ shoulder on the HBO version of A Game Of Thrones. These creatures are huge behemoths that can spout large gouts of flame effortlessly and endlessly to consume their prey and foes. These dragons are nasty, nasty creatures – there is not much controlling them as they are truly wild beasts.
As with the other stories in the Song, ADWD does move along rather slowly compared to many other authors out there. You are however rewarded with richer detail, but not so much as some authors I’ve read who make you want to skip five pages just to find out what is going on. George balances description with plot very well – perhaps balanced more on the description side, but not too much that he keeps you from wanting to read further. It is a page turner and you won’t want to put it down.
The only true downfall I can put on this book is that it is actually only half of a story. A Feast For Crows and A Dance With Dragons are mostly written parallel to one another as the scope of the series has become so vast, Martin simply can’t capture a section of a timeline in one book. While I knew this before I even started ADWD, I ended up missing my favorite characters like Samwell, Brienne, and of course Jaime. We do catch snippets of them, but I miss reading them especially after we’ve been waiting more than 5 years. ADWD and AFFC being the whole of a single book also begs the question, will ASOIAF be eight books long now (previously the series was estimated to be 7)?
George seems to be holding true to his philospohy that evil always triumphs over good, chaos over order, falsehood over truth, and darkness over light. But as always he leaves the door open just a crack so that at the end of this series (however long it may be) the good guys could still possibly win out and may indeed triumph. But time is running out. Winter is here. It is a fact that can now be seen even on the Dothraki Sea. Are the dragons going to be the power that defeats the mysterious god of ice we’ve barely heard mention of? Who is Varys actually working for? Lots of questions arise from reading ADWD and hopefully they will begin to be answered in the next book.
Recently ADWD was voted on goodreads.com to be the best fantasy novel of the year by readers like you and I. This is definitely deserved. I voted for Patrick Rothfuss’ The Wise Man’s Fear and even after having finished ADWD I would not change my vote. It was a tough year for Pat going against George. I am sure Wise Man would have won had there not been the media hog (deservedly so) that ADWD has become because of HBO. I’d bet 80% of the votes for ADWD would have gone to Rothfuss had ADWD not been in the running, putting it probably on the top, closely contested with Erin Morgenstern’s breakout novel (which is definitely now in my to-read list). But those are the breaks – they WERE released the same year and even if both ADWD and TWMF are excellent stories deserving of the number one spot, “there can be only one”! I am very happy to give A Dance With Dragons 5 out of 5 stars!
You can buy it here: