Book Review: “A Dance With Dragons”

(We will return to our regularly scheduled discussion of books and weight loss when there’s weight loss to report – D’oh!)

Funnily enough, for as few times as I’ve posted lately, I’ve been doing a lot. It’s mostly just that I haven’t been posting about it because time, energy levels, or other things have prevented me from it. And so, this is the first of three book reviews that I need to push out from this year’s “21 books and 10 lbs” challenge.


Book 2: A Dance with Dragons by George R.R. Martin


A Dance With Dragons by George R.R. Martin


I originally bought George R.R. Martin’s “A Song of Ice and Fire” series for dh, as we were both fans of HBO’s “Game of Thrones” series. Over time, as he realized that Martin’s vision of an otherworldly medieval world was perhaps too bloody and too filled with “adult themes”, he withdrew from it. In fact, he never even picked up the books. So, of course, I picked them up instead. {Warning: ahead there be spoilers! Not that I’m going to tell you who’s died, but by telling you who’s ALIVE, you find out who hasn’t yet been killed off. Maybe. Let’s just say, don’t read this review unless you’re okay with possibly knowing that someone’s lived long enough to be there at least for a part of this book.}


My brother-in-law refers to Martin as “the enemy of happiness”, and I would tend to agree with him. Much as the four preceding novels in the series, the closest you’ll find to a happy ending in “A Dance With Dragons” is of the prurient kind. This book focuses more closely on main characters that were set aside in the prior book – A Feast for Crows – so, there’s renewed focus on some of the children of House Stark, particularly Arya, Bran and Jon. You get more time with the golden haired Lannisters, as well, and Danaerys Targaryen gets more than her fair share of page time. The book opens with Arya still learning the arts of concealment and killing, Jon trying desperately to control a continuing escalation at The Wall between Stannis’ retinue and the wildlings, Cersei scheming to get her freedom, Danaerys endlessly lip-chewing in the desert, and Tyrion attempting to make his way East to plead his case to the white-blond would-be Queen.

As usual, Martin focuses on four main themes: people killing people, people having sex with people, people pondering the miserableness of their situation, and people wandering/dithering/nearly-but-not-quite-finding-each-other. I won’t say that it’s become boring after five books; I devoured this one fast enough for something that runs over 1,000 pages. I will say, though, that this is not a book for the faint of heart. Martin’s vision of a medieval world is never sugar-coated, and the hyper-realism and sheer grittiness of his descriptions can be off-putting to those of tender or delicate sensibilities.

There is also a sense of frustration to be had reading some of the rather lengthy tales of indecision and wrong turns; Martin is very clearly in love with Danaerys, else he wouldn’t mind watching her wander, ponder, and generally do not a lot of anything for quite a few pages. Or perhaps he loves her least, since she often is the literary equivalent of the video game character you keep bumping into a wall because you can’t manage to sort out the controller.

For those who are willing to hang onto the dragon, so to speak, and see where it leads – I suspect the ride will continue to be interesting. And, after all, he claims to have “The Winds of Winter” in progress and teed up to keep the (planned) seven-book franchise going. I’ll keep reading…even if I’m reading it all on my own.