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Friday, January 17, 2014

A Dance With Dragons (A Song of Ice and Fire #5) by George R. R. Martin

In the aftermath of a colossal battle, the future of the Seven Kingdoms hangs in the balance — beset by newly emerging threats from every direction. In the east, Daenerys Targaryen, the last scion of House Targaryen, rules with her three dragons as queen of a city built on dust and death. But Daenerys has thousands of enemies, and many have set out to find her. As they gather, one young man embarks upon his own quest for the queen, with an entirely different goal in mind.

Fleeing from Westeros with a price on his head, Tyrion Lannister, too, is making his way to Daenerys. But his newest allies in this quest are not the rag-tag band they seem, and at their heart lies one who could undo Daenerys's claim to Westeros forever.

Meanwhile, to the north lies the mammoth Wall of ice and stone — a structure only as strong as those guarding it. There, Jon Snow, 998th Lord Commander of the Night's Watch, will face his greatest challenge. For he has powerful foes not only within the Watch but also beyond, in the land of the creatures of ice.

From all corners, bitter conflicts reignite, intimate betrayals are perpetrated, and a grand cast of outlaws and priests, soldiers and skinchangers, nobles and slaves, will face seemingly insurmountable obstacles. Some will fail, others will grow in the strength of darkness. But in a time of rising restlessness, the tides of destiny and politics will lead inevitably to the greatest dance of all.

Released: July 12th 2011   Pages: 1016
Publisher: Bantam            Source: Library

In my review of A Feast For Crows, I said, "It's the high fantasy Hunger Games in here".  Anyone who has heard of this series probably knows of George R. R. Martin's reputation for brutally killing off beloved characters left and right.  There is no doubt that he has earned this reputation.  And yet, at the same time, there's more to it than "GRRM kills off everyone's favorites because he's just evil like that".  Scoff all you like, but in many cases, I appreciate it when characters die.  Sometimes, it's annoying how untouchable main characters are in other books or movies.  There's a clear distinction between the protagonists, who (in most cases) cannot and will not die, no matter how much danger they're in, and everyone else, who is at risk.  There are no redshirts in Westeros, which makes it all seem so much more real.  When the blades come out, you can never be sure that your favorite will make it out alive.  And the blades come out often.  (If you're curious, there's an interesting page on TVTropes that basically allows you to calculate how likely a particular character is to die.)

In my previous review, I also discussed my lack of fondness for almost all the characters.  I take this back--a little.  Not completely.  aFfC lacked some of my main favorites, which made it easier for me to dislike everybody.  This time, I got to read about Jon, Tyrion, and Daenerys again.   I didn't realize how much I missed them.  Daenerys just keeps getting stronger.  I love her protectiveness of her people, and her courage, despite her young age.  Tyrion, while often obnoxious and even crude, genuinely cares about the few people he can learn to love.  Jon is just...he's basically the only one left who would make a good king.  

Oh, wait.

SPOILERS IN THIS PARAGRAPH ONLY.  Actually, nobody's really sure whether or not Jon is actually dead.  Sure, he was stabbed multiple times, but several other characters have seemed pretty dead, only to reappear a hundred pages later, or in the next book.  And I'm still in denial.  I hope he's not dead.  I wasn't done shipping him with Daenerys.  This ship just keeps sinking, but I'm going down with it.

Even if some of my favorites are back, I'm still disliking pretty much everyone else.  I'm still in this for the long run, even if only just to see who survives.  The complex plot threads just keep getting more and more tangled, but we still have a long way to go to get to the end.  I'm sticking with it, even if these books are large and beastly and sometimes hard to read.  A Dance With Dragons is, arguably, the book with the most filler material out of this entire series.  A few chapters made me think, "How on earth does this move the story forward?"  Still, it was at least semi-interesting filler, for the most part.    

I've been listening to this song ('Daniel in the Den' by Bastille on Bad Blood) obsessively over the last few weeks, and it really makes me think of this series.  The lyrics are a Biblical reference, but the song could just as easily be applied to these books.  Especially the parts about being "felled in the night by the ones you think you love/they will come for you" and "you thought the lions were bad/well, they tried to kill my brothers/and for every king that died/they will crown another".

Overall, I enjoyed this complicated mass of a book.  The characters are compelling, even the ones I don't like.  The plot inches forward, but there's just so much going on that it couldn't happen any other way.  I'm eager to read the next book, though I'll have to wait awhile for it.
Similar Books:  Eragon, the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Possibly Dragons of Autum Twilight. A Dance With Dragons is much more political than Eragon, and much less quest-y than LotR. Its only similarities to DoAT are that they're both high fantasy and they both have this gigantic epic tome feel to them.  It has a similar premise and feel to Falling Kingdomsand kind of The False Prince, though TFP is a million times tamer (and smaller).  It also reminds me of the Seven Realms series.

PS: If you haven't taken my blog survey yet, you definitely should.  *Jedi mind powers activate*  You want to take this survey.  You are going to take this survey.  You are clicking right here, right now. 
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