Caution: If you have not read all the novels, don’t read this… there would be spoilers in terms of who is still alive. Not many though… spoilers that is, not living… never mind… you are forewarned. – CJB
After a million pages and many years (actually, more like 5,500+ pages and ~3 ½ months), I have finally finished the fifth and most recent novel in the A Song of Ice and Fire series, A Dance with Dragons.
In my review of the fourth novel, A Feast for Crows, I mentioned how that book and this were originally planned as one until the novel became too unwieldy for the author, so instead of chopping it in half, he chopped it up by character. Therefore, we got a host of what some may consider second tier characters in book four (I dont quite see it that way, but can understand the argument), and more of the so called first tier characters in the fifth and with them, the meatier part of the tale specifically, everything going on at the Wall and Dany in the east.
In order to accurately review this novel without giving too many spoilers, I must say, I loved it but not much really happens until it does. Like the previous novels, a great deal of time is spent setting up situations and characters in positions for some great mechanism of plot to come and twist and fuck everything up for everyone involved. That is very much the case here with the added bonus of at least three, if not six, major cliffhangers.
At some point in A Dance with Dragons, the story lines for book four and five merge and we are no longer splitting the story between novels. But what is it that happens? Many travels, many lines almost crossing and frankly not much in the way of good for any of our beloved characters.
I dont have too much to say about this novel that I havent already said with regards to the series itself read the previous four reviews if you want a better overview of the plot and characters. Due to the huge nature of the series, there are so many characters, so many twisting plot points, so very many houses and sigils and styles and places that it can be an excruciating task trying to keep up with everything and everyone and it helps greatly to have an equally if not more so obsessive friend to go over all of the fine points and in A Song of Ice and Fire there seem to be thousands of fine points to go over.
What was most exciting for me was to finally be done with this series for the time being. I am itching for and craving books six and seven but if Martins history can be a guide, we may be waiting for five years at a minimum for the next novel. My biggest hope on that front is that if the HBO series is doing well he may feel pressure to complete the series faster so when Game of Thrones returns in the spring watch it dammit! Tell all your friends, your parents, your Facebook friends, your Twitter followers, you children (if they are old enough), your mail person and your congress person get everyone to get onboard the Game of Thrones train then perhaps Martin will stop blogging about food and keep writing about Westeros.
I dont mean for this review to sound negative. I very much enjoyed this last novel. I was great to be back with Jon Snow, Tyrion and Dany I would say it may be my third for fourth fave of the series (my order of faves: ASoS, ACoK, ADwD, AGoT and AFfC) but I have had my head in this world for far too long it was nice beginning a book last week and finishing with it in a few days (review of that to follow soon). Of course now, I have a small stack of novels to start reading and one to finish but they are all a bit heavy and mentally challenging (More DFW and some Franzen) I need a mental vacation and whats most frightening to me is that Infinite Jest is already staring at me again saying, you know you want to do the second read come on man read it again you know its the best novel youve ever allowed yourself to read do it man do it! But I am afraid. This year Ive already read Infinite Jest and five books of A Song of Ice and Fire were talking, at least 7,000 pages of engrossing stories not to mention all of the crappier books along the way. Im a bit tired and could use a mental vacation or rather, a corporeal vacation as well.
Who said reading cant be exhausting?
Looking forward to The Winds of Winter
Cornelius J. Blahg