A Dance with Dragons by George R.R. Martin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
A (mostly) fine return to form for this series after the almost entirely redundant A Feast For Crows, which is looking more and more like a publisher-pleasing stopgap rather than a valid entry in the series. Still, this is not without flaws: Tyrion spends most of this book stuck on a boat, and - while it’s interesting to see him function without his usual weapons of wit and cunning - this means that he contributes very little to the overall plot; Daenerys also treads water in this book, dithering more than acting, and having both her and Tyrion removed as proactive characters gives this book an unfocused edge that doesn’t quite work for me.
If you wanted to catch up on Brienne and Jaime and Lady Stoneheart (which I’ve been waiting for since Book III a hundred years ago), you’re out of luck. Jon Snow’s story remains as the one in which most of this instalment’s joys are to be found, and seems to set the scene for the next book, as do the once irrelevant-seeming adventures of Arya, whose role in the rest of the story becomes clearer.
So, not without some of the flaws which A Feast For Crows introduced into the series, but certainly enough to reignite the love and enthusiasm I had for these book so many years ago. Actually can’t wait for The Winds of Winter - well done, George.
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A Feast for Crows by George R.R. Martin
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
After the breakneck speed, complexity and solid characterisation of the previous three volumes, A Feast For Crows stumbles at almost every hurdle. In fairness, most of these hurdles are of Martin’s own creation, and most of them were avoidable.
I don’t know a single reader of this series who doesn’t list either Jon Snow, Tyrion or Daenarys as their favourite character, and their absence here leaves a gaping hole; Cersei, Jaime and Brienne make for poor substitutes, and the new characters introduced (along with yet more storylines!) only serve to accentuate the deficiency.
Personally, I’d have been happier for this to have told the congruent stories along with A Dance With Dragons (which I have yet to read) and end on a cliffhanger. The finale of this book seems very limp compared to the flurry of twists and revelations that ended A Storm of Swords. Another fault in Martin’s storytelling decision is that we hear offhand of the deaths of at least one viewpoint character, and have to read hundreds of pages to, I hope, find out the details, and whether this fate is true.
I think the validity of this book’s plot will be tested in the inevitable TV version; I simply can’t imagine HBO spending millions on the dull ‘adventures’ of Cersei, Jamie and Brienne - their stories will be severely abbreviated and folded into the - fingers crossed - much more relevant and interesting tales of Tyrion, Dany and Jon. But I’m not going to read that now, because this book has put me off the series more than anything, so I’m going to read something shorter and more interesting.
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