Review: A Dance with Dragons by George R.R. Martin

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Game of Thrones

Published: 2011

My fantasy aficionados recommended me this series, and, although I don’t normally reach for a book in that genre, I decided to give this a try. I do realize that my lack of contact with fantasy will probably have affected my review of this book, seeing as I can make very few comparisons. Nonetheless, onwards we go!

Following the structure of his previous novels, this 1000+ paged tome, is split into numberless chapters, each labeled with the character’s name, about whom the chapter primarily revolves. True to his nature, George R.R. Martin often ends his chapters with a cliffhanger and then proceeds to a different character often miles away, with little or no connection to the previous chapter. This is one of Martin’s most powerful tricks, and one I personally really enjoyed because it kept me engaged, hungry to find out what happened and therefore kept me turning the pages. It is a rather effective ploy in literature, but to say it is unique would be exaggerating. Some may even argue it’s the oldest trick in the book.  It works though!

The character’s complexities and varieties are remarkable, and I praise the author highly for being able to convincingly depict their personalities, develop them over the series, yet still keep them realistic. Personally, I need strong characters to follow, not just plot, in order to enjoy the books. Delving deep into the human psyche through a variety of characters is one aspect of this novel that I really enjoyed. For example, to go from such an evil, self-absorbed character of Cersei Lannister to one like Jon Snow, who is compassionate, dutiful and a strong leader, is incredible. And he has yet to falter!

Having said that, I find myself eager to skim through a lot of the pages, where the plot seemed lost and the activity rather flat. At first I thought it was only when he was introducing new characters (how does one keep track of them all!) but that theory failed when I was quickly intrigued by the new character, Victorian Greyjoy. I immediately found his storyline very interesting. So then I realized that I skimmed mostly when there was a lack of action, when the characters are quietly brewing their plots in the background and when little is actually happening. The last handful of chapters are incredible and I raced through them but from about halfway until that point I will confess I struggled to keep going. Also, the myriad of characters can also be a drawback, since there are few that I care not much for personally and when their chapter came up I was a little disheartened. But I suppose that’s to be expected when so many plots are being carried out.

The diction of the novel is wonderful as well. Like mentioned before, I am not familiar with fantasy novels, or ones of medieval periods, so I found it enjoyable to refresh some new vocabulary, including phrases that we rarely, if at all, use in our society. The witty banter between characters is simply unforgettable, and frequently I would re-read certain pages because I found them so endearing. I found Tyrion Lannister an absolute mastermind, and I always enjoy his ability to “sift through the bullshit” to put it lightly and his ability to always know how to retort in conversations. Although not as heavily prevalent as in the other books, I also enjoy the intelligence and wittiness of Varys, the Spider. There are also characters that I have previously not enjoyed and now growing fonder of, including Theon, Asha, and Bran.

Other aspects I loved, was the author’s constant reminder of the “game of thrones” which the characters play, since it really reinforces the grand theme of the series and causes the reader to look at the bigger picture. His writing style is lovely as well, just sometimes the plot lacks in my view.

Verdict: Great diction, lovely characters, sometimes too many so don’t get discouraged when you can’t keep track of them all, sometimes lacking in plot, but I made it this far so I am going to keep going with the series. Also, the end is where things get interesting, and got hooked right in again. Fairly straightforward, easy read though.

 I would love to hear from you though! Would you say his novel is stereotypical of fantasy, or does this series add a new element to the mix? What did you like/dislike about the novel?

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7 thoughts on “Review: A Dance with Dragons by George R.R. Martin

  1. I have always loved the series, so there are really no complaints I have about it. The characters are rich and complex, deeply moving and deeply disturbing. I wouldn’t really say it’s typical fantasy, since I really dove deep into the word GRRM created and can find his storytelling so believable, I might as well be there. There are elements of it, of course, which are typical of fantasy series, but I think it’s the way he’s going about it that makes it so unique. Besides his kaleidoscopic array of memorable (if SHORT-LIVED!) characters.

    • I completely agree with the complexity of the characters. I really admire his ability to bounce from one to the other seamlessly. He really manages to encompass their personalities. It’s so nice to hear someone else’s perspective. You bring up really good points. I am excited for the next one 🙂

  2. I love this series! His strength is definitely with characters! With me it depends on who is telling the story as to how fast I’m reading. If it’s someone like Catelyn, Theon, or Cersei (or sometimes poor Daneris, can nothing good happen to that girl?) then I don’t like it as much and I’m reading slower, but if it’s Tyrion, Jon, or Jamie I’m speeding through and can’t get enough. It’s odd how he inserts sex, because in each novel there’s a different couple, so it feels kind of stuck in to me. (I skip those parts anyways, they don’t add to the book, but they don’t take away from it either. Why I’m afraid to watch the tv show.)

    • Yeah I do agree with you about the character preferences. And even those I feel their stories go through a roller coaster, sometimes being really interesting and other times become a bit boring…The only aspect I really don’t like are the minor characters that are briefly mentioned in one book and two books later are referenced constantly without much of a refresher. But hey-ho that is probably just me 😛

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