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1,132 of 1,259 people found the following review helpful
on July 28, 2011
I am trying to be fair, and I will not deny that this book had for me some elements of interest. I read all 5 volumes in quick succession, and I still feel semi-invested. But I am honestly not sure this volume (or even the series as a whole) deserves even the 2 stars I am tempted to give it. GRRM has sucked me in, but he also makes me feel like a sucker. And having read it, I would now give 10:1 odds that the series will never be completed.

This latest volume alone contains 959 hardback pages; over 400,000 words; close to matching in length all 3 volumes of Tolkien's LORD OF THE RINGS. How could a book this long contain so little in the way of plot progression? Is the author stalling on purpose, or is this the only way he can cope with some weird kind of writer's block?

Part of the problem was that George RR Martin, whatever his talent for piquing the readers interest and keeping him turning pages, was never that efficient a writer. He often uses 10 words to say would could be better said in 5. Even the early volumes could, in my opinion, be trimmed down significantly and be the better for it (in particular, I could have without the voyeuristic sex stuff, constant whore references, etc.). But the level of inefficiency and bloat has increased with each volume, reaching new heights with the last two.

The other part of the problem is the proliferation of characters and points of view ("POVs"):

1. Game of Thrones: 9 povs
2. Clash of Kings: 10 povs
3. Storm of Swords: 12 povs
4. Feast for Crows: 13 povs
5. Dance with Dragons: 18 povs
4/5. Feast/Dance combined: 25 povs

If you consider that FEAST and DANCE are supposed to be "the same book" divided by POV, then you can see that the number of POVs suddenly doubled after STORM. No wonder the story suddenly became unmanageable for the author. If one divides ones story between twice as many different characters in twice as many different locations, then the story can only progress half as fast. And if your chapters contain twice as much bloat (as seems to have happened), the your story can only progress one quarter as fast.

And then the author starts repeating himself, perhaps because he fears you have not seen So-and-So in so long that you have forgotten what happened last time. More bloat.

A third aspect of the problem is this: In the first volume, not only were there only 9 povs, but they were mostly gathered in the same place and time and able to help a single storyline forward. GAME OF THRONES started most of the main POVs together, such that there were initially 2 main threads, which then divided into 3 main threads. Only at the end of the volume were the 7 surviving POVs completely scattered to the winds. Then did the author require 2 more (larger) volumes to complete the same level of plot progression that the first volume had. And yet many fans remained patient and even enthusiastic. Then it got worse ...

By the end of DANCE, we still have about 20 surviving POVs, and they are all still all scattered. One would think that the author would recognize this problem created by this vast scope, and adjust his writing style accordingly. But no. He thinks he has the time to describe how it feels for a character to urinate, and then describe a conversation he has with another character about how good he is is at urinating. Will his urinations skills have future plot relevance? He thinks he has the time to spend an entire paragraph describing a humble boat whose sole plot function is to transport a minor character from point A to point B (and leave him there), and then the author wastes another paragraph on how this minor character could have arrived on a nicer boat had things been different. George, you could have saved half a page, there. There are COUNTLESS such examples. Each chapter needs to have its length cut in half AT LEAST.

So where are we now? How close is he to finished.

THRONES was originally sold as the first of a "trilogy" (though the author admits he already knew better at publicaton). But his "trilogy" plan had originally been as follows:

Part 1: Game of Thrones: Covering War of 5 Kings.
Part 2: Dance of Dragons: Dany invades Westeros
Part 3: Winds of Winter

Well, he ended up needing a full 3 volumes to complete part 1. Part 2 was supposed to resume the story 5 years later, but for whatever reason, the author decided to scrap this plan and write an interim volume called "FEAST FOR CROWS". Let's call this Part 1.5. Well, as you recall, FEAST ended up becoming so bloated that it had to be split in two volumes, the second half being what is now being released as "A Dance with Dragons."

But the bad news is, this unplanned Part 1.5 is not even finished. All the threads that were set up in FEAST and DANCE to converge on Meereen have not reached there yet, as this latest closes. Hey, remember that guy Victarion with the dragon horn who set off for Meereen at the beginning of FEAST FOR CROWS. Well, he is still at sea. BUT HE'S GETTING CLOSE!!! When will Dany finally land in Westeros? At this rate, it won't be until volume 7, because she will need all of Volume 6 to resolve the impending climax in Meereen.

So here is a release schedule, with my estimated projections into the future, giving George 5 years to complete each future volume:

Part I, Vol 1 (A Game of Thrones): 1996
Part I, Vol 2 (A Clash of Kings): 1998
Part I, Vol 3 (A Storm of Swords): 2000

Part 1.5, Vol 1 (A Feast for Crows): 2005
Part 1.5, Vol 2 (A Dance with Dragons): 2011
Part 1.5, Vol 3 ... 2016 (Climax in Meereen)

Part 2, Vol 1 .... 2021 Dany reaches Westeros)
Part 2, Vol 2 .... 2026
Part 2, Vol 3 .... 2031

Part 3, Vol 1 .... 2036
Part 3, Vol 2 .... 2041
Part 3, Vol 3 .... 2046

GRRM still says he hopes to finish the series in seven volumes. But if that were so, those who believed that promise had a right to expect better story progress in this volume. He should just be honest and say that he hopes to complete the series in 12 volumes and that he also hopes to live to be 120 in excellent health (don't we all). That way, potential readers could make an informed decision as to whether they should invest time and money in this story.

But I cannot see it at his current rate. This story will not be resolved, and readers who hope for a resolution are wasting their time with it. That's how I am calling it. George, you are welcome to prove me wrong.
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346 of 391 people found the following review helpful
on September 11, 2011
I just finished A Dance w/Dragons with a profound sense of disappointment. I kept reading this book hoping that after setting up the mail plot points, George RR would close out the book with monumental outburst of action, violence, battle and intriguing plot twists. But. Nothing. Ever. Happens.

I loved Game of Thrones--the best fantasy book I've read since LOTR, and Clash of Kings held my rapt attention, especially with Tyrion's Machiavellian nature and the way he systematically outmaneuvered his sister and bent everyone to his will; and the series momentum, to large extent, was continued with Storm of Swords--though there were troubling sections in that book that led me to wonder what the author was thinking. (However, I thought the climatic duel between the Red Viper of Dorne and The Mountain was a tour de force--I keep re-reading that section hoping for a different outcome of the fight and always coming away disappointed. That's great story telling!)

However, Feast & Dance should never have been written in their current form--or preferably not at all. Will somebody tell Tyrion where whores go? Yes, I get it--Jon Snow knows nothing. Jaime, did you know Cersei has been screwing Lancel & Osmund? One can cut 100 pages of text simply by removing all food references. If you remove all reminisces you could cut another 100 pages. Good lord! Did anybody edit this train wreck? Instead it's up to the reader to assess whether or not a paragraph is worthy of being read and then skipping to the next paragraph if the answer is "no" (which happens all too often--the vast majority of this book is mere "fill" the purpose of which is to extend the life of this series).

George--what happened, man? Was it the money? Vanity? Who was responsible for deciding to turn this trilogy into a 7 book series? Are all the later books going to be 1000+ pages? Are you being paid by the word? Did you really think your fans would be interested in what Tyrion had for breakfast, lunch, and dinner while playing chess floating on a barge down some river to join Daenerys--day after boring & uneventful day? You might have pulled it off if they had joined forces in the end, but we were denied any resolution to this intriguing story line.

Daenerys was one of my favorite character in the first three books; I loved it when she slowly changed from a frightened girl into a leader and conqueror in her own right; but in Dance she does NOTHING (unfortunately like all the other characters). The Daenerys in Storm crucified 163 Great Masters in Meereen when they sufficiently provoked her, yet she seems reluctant to do what is necessary to stop the Sons of the Harpy. Chapter after chapter and she does nothing. Lots of internal dialogue, reminisces, and angst, but she does NOTHING. At the end when she FINALLY rides Drogon, she still manages to do NOTHING.

The beheading of the main protagonist in Game of Thrones was a brilliant stroke that riveted me and left me gasping to find out what happens next; but, George, you've gone to that well too many times--the shock value of killing off a main character has lost its power and now it looks like a desperate move to regain your magic. [spoiler alert!] Jon Snow was never one of my favorite characters, but why give him the Caesar treatment in a ludicrous plot twist that undercut the only interesting thing he was about do (march on Winterfell)? Or is he really dead? After all, Westeros is quickly turning into Zombieland.

I know your stated reasons for killing off your characters, but you should know that because your penchant for mayhem This Reader now refuses to invest any emotional energy and identify with any of the characters for fear they'll be stabbed, shot, poisoned, or otherwise butchered at their wedding. I know there are no heroes in real life, but that's why I read fantasies--to escape real life for brief periods of time--not to have my heroes torn down and my nose rubbed in the nitty gritty detail of life in medieval times.

And this brings me to another disturbing point: George--you're starting to creep me out with your sex scenes. From the start I was uncomfortable with girls being married off at twelve or thirteen, or whenever they "flower"; it's now getting dangerously close to kiddie porn and I think you should back away from writing any more sex scenes involving girls. You have to be an writer of exceptional power (think Nobokov's "Lolita") to pull off this delicate subject matter, and as good a writer as you are, you are not that good.

I'm sorry for venting; I guess I'm really very upset that a series like Ice & Fire that started off with such promise should get derailed so badly. George--you could have been one of the greats, but you threw it all away for another sack of money. My advice: do a DO OVER. Go back and pretend book #4 & 5 never happened and pick up the story from the end of book #3, apologize to your fans for wasting their time & money, ask them to burn their copies of Feast & Dance, and then wrap up the series in another book or two (maximum of 500 pages each), and do it in the next year or two; no more 5-6 year gaps. If you cannot summon up the energy to get this series concluded, just release the main plot points in a Black Lightning format and let your fan base take over the series. You're burned out.
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130 of 148 people found the following review helpful
on May 24, 2012
This is the book in which George Martin betrays his readers, exploiting for profit the very fan base which helped him achieve money and fame.

Since people are usually pretty good about discerning when they are being taken advantage of, the whole slew of caustically negative reviews surrounding this book should come as no surprise. In the immortal words of Randall Patrick McMurphy:"When a man's getting screwed he has a right to holler."

Hundreds of reviews point to similar truths.
1)A Dance With Dragons contains little to no real plot advancement. This is especially infuriating when the novel is the size of a phone-book. To write a near thousand page novel where "nothing much happens" takes a certain amount of craftsmanship, I'll grudgingly admit.
2)Martin's stall tactics are enabled through character assassination. Tyrion and Dany are practically unrecognizable, having seemingly lost their strength and resolve. If these characters had retained spunk and a sense of agency, Martin might have been forced to take the story a discernible direction. Hence, Martin mangled them beyond recognition.
3)This long, uneventful book relies on plenty of "world building" filler, in the form of tedious, mind-numbing descriptions. It also relies on maintaining the interest of the reader through plenty of lowest common denominator gutter tactics, in the form of excessive and gratuitous sex and violence.
4)Unlike the first 3 books of the series, Martin did not seem to enjoy writing this book. Hence, the writing is weary, uninspired, and sleep inducing. (I think he tried to make up for this by talking excessively about food, which he obviously does love. Unfortunately, this did not improve the book, it merely contributed to the bloat.)

Oddly enough, there is a common point of view expressed by many of this book's defenders, and even by some of its detractors. This point of view is basically that "A Dance With Dragons may not be up to the quality of some of the other books in the series, but a bad George Martin book is still better than almost any other fantasy book out there."

I totally disagree.

The world of Fantasy Fiction is full of wonderful authors worth reading. Whether one is talking about relatively neglected geniuses of the past like E.R. Eddison or Fritz Leiber, or obvious choices like Tolkien or LeGuin, or contemporary figures like Tim Powers or Robin Hobb, there is no dearth of first rate material.

It is mystifying to me why many people tend to assume that George Martin is the standard bearer, the best the genre has to offer. This assumption does not bear scrutiny. Sure, I really enjoyed the first three books of this series and consider them very good, but even Martin at his best seems to suffer from a defective worldview: nihilism masquerading as realism.

Even if one puts the first 3 books of this series high in the fantasy pantheon, there is no getting around the fact that A Dance With Dragons fails on many levels. It is much worse then the misstep that was book 4. In fact, I am hard pressed to think of a worse fantasy book. What is particularly galling and pernicious is that the mainstream media has decided to jump on the Martin bandwagon and give A Dance With Dragons laudatory reviews. (I'm sure marketing considerations has nothing to do with it...) Not only is an overrated author getting an excessive amount of attention, but newcomers to the fantasy genre may well give up on the genre entirely if they read Martin's train wreck of a series under the false assumption that this is the epitome of fantasy.

I would like to forget about A Song of Ice and Fire entirely. Unfortunately, the HBO series and accompanying marketing blitz ensures that Mr. Martin and his series will be the topic of conversation for some time to come.

Well, then here are my two cents: George Martin has become the contemporary Darth Vader of the Fantasy world. His influence is toxic. He is a powerful villain in the Fantasy Fiction Galaxy. He exploits his fan base, he crafts inferior works designed NOT to advance a story, he utilizes a vast marketing machine to sell a series that even in its best moments contains an ugly and erroneous world view and which in its worst moments panders to very vulgar tastes, he insulates himself from criticism, he stigmatizes those who have criticisms, he gives fantasy fiction a bad name.

Come to think of it, I don't think Fantasy Fiction even had a Darth Vader prior to GRRM. No other genre author I am aware of merits the negative reaction that Martin so richly deserves. Congratulations, Mr. Martin, on this singular accomplishment!
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192 of 224 people found the following review helpful
on July 25, 2011
Over the course of the last few weeks, I have dragged myself through George R. R. Martin's latest, A Dance with Dragons, the fifth book in his Game of Thrones series.

I'm done. No more. I'm not reading any of his books any more.

It's terrible. Martin has taken the concept of the pot-boiler to an extreme -- it's a novel where nothing happens other than continual seething, roiling turmoil. He whipsaws the reader through a dozen different, complex story lines where characters struggle to survive in a world wrecked by civil war -- one other problem is that I'd hit a chapter about some minor character from the previous four books, and struggled to remember who the heck this person is, and why I'm supposed to care -- and again, nothing is resolved. Well, not quite: major characters are brutally killed, if they're male, and graphically and degradingly humiliated into irrelevance if they're female. I guess that's a resolution, all right -- perhaps the last book will be a lovingly detailed description of a graveyard, draped with naked women mourning?

And all the death and destruction accomplishes nothing. It doesn't further the plot, it doesn't change any situations.

There is still a mysterious, supernatural menace lurking beyond the great wall to the North; but don't worry about them, they do absolutely nothing in the entire book. That's the problem with the undead: inertia. They just kind of lie there.

The expatriate princess with the dragons was supposed to be a great threat, promising invasion. She decides to hole up in one city and dither with palace intrigues for the whole book, while everything falls apart around her. She takes a lot of baths, though, and I felt like her primary role in Martin's mind is to provide nude scenes for the HBO serialization. The dragons? Pffft. Random SFX carnage.

The dwarf ping-pongs about from place to place, commenting cynically. We're supposed to care about what imaginary continent he's on in this chapter, or what city or boat or troop of rapscallions he finds himself in now. I didn't.

There's a war going on, you know, and one of the kings in this multi-sided conflict is marching his army off to attack a castle. In a snowstorm. Which leads to the army being mired down and starving. For the entire last half of the book. Those chapters would have benefited greatly if they'd just been left blank and white (blizzard, get it?)

In his afterword, Martin complains about how his last book "was a bitch. This one was three bitches and a bastard." I can sympathize. Writing over a thousand pages of dull, dragging, incestuously self-referential, soap-opera style narrative in which nothing happens must have been a torment. I understand he's committed to writing at least two more of these overblown pop fantasy novels, but I don't think he's at all committed to bringing anything to a conclusion. George R. R. Martin has successfully penned himself into a lucrative writerly hell of his own creation. I have a recommendation that would spare him some pain: stop now. Roll around happily in your money, and enjoy a prosperous retirement. It's not as if anyone expects anything to ever be resolved in your fantasy world, so just ending it now is the same as ending it at book #7. Or book #1, for that matter. I've reached an end that is as satisfying as anything I expect from this story, which is not satisfying at all.
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174 of 203 people found the following review helpful
on August 8, 2011
Where oh where to start. I first picked up the series in 1997 and was blown away by Game of Thrones. I was delighted by Martin's amazing balance of juggling a variety of viewpoints while building what seemed to be a living, breathing world all around them. My delight grew into awe and then burgeoned into rapture by the time I read through A Clash of Kings and A Storm of Swords, because he managed to maintain a varied but limited cast and hop among them to highlight major developments while avoiding the lulls.

After reading the stillbirth that was Feast and the nightsoil--one of the many new continuity-jarring words a variety of characters have inexplicably developed a fondness for--that is Dance, I am almost ready to give up hope on this series. What a shame.

Here are the major problems:
1) characters seem to routinely ignore warning signs about which they became explicitly aware in previous books, in some cases going so far as to actively participate in muzzling the warning sign by their own hand WITHOUT EVEN A FLICKER OF RECOGNITION.
2) the story seems to be moving along for the first half of the book, only to see it completely stall out in the second half. Nothing happens in the second half that doesn't involve problem #1
3) Martin is starting to write like Steven King, with long, drawn out trips to Irrelevant Lane where the narrative meanders pointlessly around dish #7239 or decorative scrollwork #1218. The somewhat abbreviated meal descriptions of Game or Storm have now become chapters in their own right.
4) there must be at least 30 points of view, which would be alright if they showed anything of consequence. Unfortunately, they don't. In fact, I'm still waiting for this problem to combine with problem #3 to give us the Rasher of Bacon viewpoint. Don't laugh. At this rate, it's almost 50/50.
5) the long breaks between completion are starting to cause continuity problems. Characters we've seen for 3 books now constantly throw out phrases and words we've never seen before. I wouldn't mind if words like "nuncle" or "serjeant" were regional, but when series-long familiar characters like Tyrion begin bandying them about, it's a serious problem.
6) Martin's editor is apparently asleep at the wheel. The book could have been half as long, twice as enjoyable to read, and still accomplished everything it does. In fact, the worst thing about Dance is that the Martin of Game, Clash, or Storm could have told each character's entire story in Dance with 6 or fewer viewpoint chapters. That is how little development and how much rushing around to do nothing takes place. INEXCUSABLE for such a veteran.
7) Feast and Dance really screwed things up storytelling wise. There's still no way to skip ahead (which is why he wrote Feast and Dance in the first place), and now we're left with a host of shoddy, slapdash cliffhangers to clean up before we can even make any progress in Winds.

The last two books were worse than irrelevant: they actually weakened the series for all the above reasons. Dance is an absolute shame, and I can only hope against the obvious that Martin realizes what a crap job he's done with the last two books and take to Winds with only 8 to 10 viewpoints to get some progress going again. For now, this series is drek.
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52 of 59 people found the following review helpful
on August 6, 2011
Sorry about my review title, but some clever chap already took "If You're Into Diarrhea, This is the Book for You"

Before I get too far, let me say that I really enjoyed the first three books even though the adult fantasy genre isn't my favorite type of fantasy. The 4th book was an obvious stumble that left me so unsure about the rest of the series, I decided to check this book out from the library rather than purchase it as I had the others. It saved me from buyer's remorse.

If "A Dance with Dragons" was an absolute *bleep* to write as Martin has said, it was an even bigger *bleep* to read. In reading it, I truly felt mired in the same morass, writer's block, Meereenese knot, etc. that Martin experienced in writing it. I refuse to believe the intended theme of this book is boredom, drudgery, or frustrating hopelessness because that's what came across. That

A lot of readers and many critics mistakenly waved around the massive page count of each successive book as an obvious sign of the series greatness.
The danger of going too big, too epic is that you either burn up (a la Daedalus) or you burn out (author and readers). The K.I.S.S. method (Keep It Simple, Stupid) or maybe more realistically the "everything in moderation" philosophy is necessary even in a massive epic. Everything dies. Everything good must come to an end. If you fight it, you slowly, painfully, and sometimes (with much embarrassment) fade away into irrelevance.

It's why Lost producers set an end date for their award-winning epic show.
It's why the Beatles aimed for tight 2 and a half minute songs.
It's why Brett Favre should've retired the first time.

Staleness is a real threat. Sometimes less can be more. You must leave something to the imagination of the can't spell out every last little detail or you smother a work to death.

I'm rambling (ironic, huh) so let me create a list of why I gave this book one star:

1. Nothing happens! - Six years waiting for the next chapter and we get a glorifed prologue along with a deli ticket for another 5-6 years wait.
2. Characters - The change in how his character's acted felt very false to how they acted in the previous books. Smart becomes dumb.
3. Martin's Coat of Arms is a Freak Flag and he flies it - George's juvenile, sicko fascination with the depraved and disgusting reaches a new low. I think he throws something in to cover every single sexual fetish. He talks about poo a lot also.
4. 959 pages of adjectives and no action verbs
5. The repetition of mottoes, flashbacks, and descriptions is distracting to the point of anger.
5. The lack of meaning - With each success character death or turnaround betrayal, the book demonstrates it's nihilism as opposed to Tolkien's focus on hope and faith.
6. Meereen - Talk about wandering the desert for 40 years. No one cares about the Free Cities, Valyria, Meereen, etc. We're still digesting Dorne from FOC
7. I actually found, really.....typos.

All his worst instincts come to light in this one. I don't know whether a good editor could've curtailed or prevented this from occurring...but the fact remains that it did occur.
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60 of 69 people found the following review helpful
on August 16, 2011
First of all, I want to say I'm one of those who liked A Feast for Crows. I would rate it 4 stars, while I'd give 5 stars to the first three wonderful books. I'd rate Feast one star less basically because the pace of the usually gripping narration slowed down, and most of all because for the first time emerged the use of cliffhangers in the middle of narrative arcs. While I'm fine with cliffhangers at the end of TV series seasons, I always thought them abusive at the end of books. The middle book of "The Lord of the Rings", e.g., provided a satisfactory conclusion for the Isengard-Rohan story arc, and for the alliance of the Two Towers. Just to say, since GRRM has been crowned the "American Tolkien". A story arc should be completed, even if it ends with potential switches in the plot and in the future of characters, and this didn't happen in AFfC. A pity, I told myself, but probably it depends on the fact that it is only the first half of a bigger, greater book.

*spoilers henceforward*

Now the second half of this bigger book has come out, and the slowing of the pace and the abuse of cliffhangers have reached alarming levels. What we've got here are two powerful climaxes (the struggle in the North and the siege of Meereen) which, if resolved, could bring to an epic narration, but they are truncated. So we have an entire book bulding two main events that are postponed in the following book, hopefully coming out not six years from now. Not what I would call high quality literature. Again, think of "The Two Towers" ending before the battle of Helm's Deep. The regret increases when thinking that, probably, no more than a few chapters would have been needed to have a satisfactory denouement. One of the best parts of the book is the Quentyn-Barristan subplot, which is satisfactory also because... it comes to its own denouement.

The other big issue of this book is editing. Honestly, I can't remember having seen so much typos, repetitions and inconsistencies in the previous books. What does the Kingswood have to do with the Ironborn? Why the narrow sea is no more a proper noun? How many times must we learn that the Lord Commander's tower is "a burned shell" or that "words are wind"? Why a certain character is called "prince" while his lineage is still to be revealed?
The first half of the book, especially, is the most defective one. This is quite curious if you think that we had to wait six years for the book and that, apparently, parts of it were already in the hands of the editors from long time. So, the possibilities are few: (1) the editors waited until the last minute to start the editing process; (2) the editors were unable to see the flaws in the text; (3) the editors became fans and/or GRRM became so bestselling that the editors did not have anymore the courage to change something he wrote. In any case, I strongly suggest to Bantam that someone should be fired, and the whole editing process reorganized. For GRRM own good, first of all give him the advice of someone who actually can help him setting correctly his priorities and fight his self-indulgence.

I was also worried by the increasing amount of "deus-ex-machina" solutions. In this book we meet characters and facts that become prominent while they were not even nominated in the previous books, obviously to fix plot needs and allow the story to go on. While it was still easy to justify the introduction of the prophecy of Maggy the Frog in AFfC, it is quite harder to justify the entry of a new Targaryen character from nowhere in ADwD. I could have accepted him if Illyrio Mopatis hinted at him in his famous conversation with Varys in AGoT, in example, but in this way he really comes from nowhere. We can at least hope he is a "mummer's dragon".

In the end, I'd say this could have been a great book if it wasn't rushed and published incomplete, and if someone would have had some care in the editing process. This is odd to say, since we are waiting for this book from six years (though eleven would be more accurate). It's even odder if you think that in these years the leitmotiv has been "art can't be rushed". It seems that from a certain point, art has been rushed without too many concerns.
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111 of 131 people found the following review helpful
on August 18, 2011
At the end of "A Feast for Crows" (AFFC) we could read :
"Tyrion , Jon , Danny ..... will be along next year (I devoutly hope) in A Dance with Dragons (ADWD), which will focus on the events along the Wall and across the sea, just as the present book focused on King's Landing.
G.Martin June 2005"

Further, to justify that just 680 pages of AFFC took 5 years to be written, G.Martin tells us that ADWD was ALREADY finished. He merely had to publish the available material in two books instead of one.

Well as we all know, ADWD didn't come the next year nor the year after. The book "already written" in 2005 took full 6 years to be published. It was necessary to remind these facts because, obviously this incredibly long time span raised significantly our expectations.
If we had already to wait so long, it better be a masterpiece of A Storm of Swords caliber.

Let us be honest, ADWD is to the Song of Ice and Fire what the Crossroads of Twilight were to the Wheel of Time. In other words a subpar lazy piece of writing which deserves 1 star because it is not possible to give less.
As an aggravating circumstance comes that this piece of .... work was laboriously extruded during a full decade (AFFC+ADWD = 11 years).
The Crossroads of Twilight has been very weak but at least R.Jordan didn't need 11 years to throw it at us.

Readers and the series fans have speculated that George Martin has lost inspiration or interest.
I submit that he lost both.

First he obviously lost interest.
ADWD has 959 pages prologue and epilogue included and contains 73 chapters.
Let us be generous and consider that Martin mislead us and that actually only the half of this has been written in june 2005, so 480 pages and 37 chapters.
That leaves us with 36 chapters and 480 pages to write.
Obviously a writer committed to his work and as devoted as G.Martin says he is, will put some hard work in the writing.
Nobody expects 8 hours a day but ... what do you think about his interest when the result is 480 pages in 6 years, 312 weeks?
If one considers that Martin wrote more than 1 chapter a week for the first 3 volumes (and how GOOD those volumes were !), he'd have indeed needed about 1 year to finish ADWD as he said.
The unavoidable conclusion by comparing the 37 weeks of work with the 312 weeks delay is that Martin spent about 10% of his available productive time on writing ADWD.
Those glaring disparities tell a clear story : while Martin had been both inspired and interested during the first 3 volumes, he bungled AFFC and completely lost interest in ADWD.
As this would be irrelevant we'll not speculate about the reasons but everybody who occasionaly read Martin's blog knows why he lost interest.
A severe case of hypercephalitis (new Tolkien indeed !) has certainly played a role .

Second he lost inspiration.
Here we will go in some length and spoilers are unavoidable. Actually there is nothing surprising or unexpected that happens in ADWD to warrant a spoiler alert but it is a tradition that I respect.
As I said, ADWD is composed of 73 chapters. They are structured as folllows:

The Wall+ Stannis: 22 chapters and 30 % of ADWD
Jon : 14
Davos : 4
Asha : 3
Melissandre : 1

As you see this part which makes a whopping third of ADWD is all about Jon. What is so thrilling about him that Martin needs 14 chapters?
Well Jon counts sausages. Cheese too. When he doesn't count sausages he receives wildlings south of the Wall. As they are many and more (mostly weak, wounded, crippled and otherwise impaired), he wonders what they will eat. And goes to count sausages. All this interspersed with
"You know nothing" , "Corn,corn,corn"and "The night is dark and full of terror". It finishes with a REALLY ridiculous wannabe cliffhanger which will make you burst out laughing.

The 4 Davos chapters are among the best and especially Lord Wyman Manderly, one of the few survivors of the excellent beginnings, is truly a character that still has 3 dimensions.

Asha is useless drivel and Melissandre without interest.
For those interested about Stannis like I am, his arc doesn't advance a single inch but you will be fed (another) ridiculous cliffhanger so that you may wait the next 5 or 10 years.

Meeren + Daenerys : 33 chapters and 45% of ADWD
Tyrion : 13
Daenerys : 10
Barristan : 4
Quentyn : 4
Victarion : 2

I admit that I waited for this part with much interest. Most of us remember Martin's whining how he was struggling year after year with the "Meerenese knot". For the struggling part as I showed above he didn't struggle much. So what about the knot part?

Tyrion "Wherever whores go" Lannister is actually on travels. You may leave him a message, he will call back in 5 years. Or 10. Is that all? Yes it is. Nothing knotted there.

Daenerys transformed in a whining sex obsessed teenager with about as much intelligence as an oyster. We all know that her only purpose in the book is to tame her dragons, get to Westeros and kick Lanisters' a...s. Not that there are many Lannisters left because Martin has already exterminated everything that counted in the family anyway.
Well in those 10 chapters Daenerys didn't make any progress towards this goal.
She's stranded in Meeren surrounded by all kinds of Ahrrakz pffz Zgriks who do not like her and want the fighter pits opened. She doesn't. Then she opens them anyway. Everything is linear, boring and predictable. The slave and slavers can exterminate each other for all we care but they don't even do that. Not a trace of a knot here either.

As Daenerys is temporarily absent, to get our dose of Ahrrakz pffz Zgriks we need Ser Barristan to give it. He kills some guy in a definitely non knotted way.

Quentyn. This is a disaster waiting to happen. Nobody remembers this guy and nobody cares. But that's all right because Martin kills him after the 4 chapters anyway. Pure waste of time and space. Useless to add that there is no knot even with the wildest imagination.

Victarion is a real badass, one of the few that are left. I admit that I enjoyed his 2 chapters even if Martin succeeded in the very hard task consisting in avoiding any action or character development at any price . In any case Victarion is a very straightforward guy with nothing knotted about him.

So definitely this part which makes about half of the book is happening in places we don't care about, indulges in endless travelling (Tyrion) and descriptions, contains no plot at all and is generally irrelevant to anything that was important for the series. It is especially this part which demonstrates how uninspired and boring Martin became - the Quentyn chapters are an embarrassment and an insult to the intelligence of all readers.
If there was any "knot" than it was only in Martin's imagination because with the best will you won't find anything that would be more complex or more knotted than a highway through Nevada .

Westeros : 10 Chapters and 15 % of ADWD
Theon : 7
Cersei : 2
Jaime : 1

Theon belongs with Davos to the best. We are in the thick of the contest for the North. The Boltons and the Freys are still their old selfs. We get a glimpse on what's seething in this cauldron and there are even moments which show that Westeros could still be interesting if Martin was not lazy and uncaring.

Cersei was downgraded from a strong, beautiful and vicious woman in Storm to a wilful totally paranoid bundle of nerves in AFFC. Martin finishes her off in ADWD. She is broken and exits the scene. Oh, I almost forgot, the last Lannister who still had some strength and personality gets killed too.

Jaime's chapter is just a manner of Martin to taunt us "I served you a cliffhanger in AFFC and you thought to get the result in ADWD? Well I won't give it just to show you how little I care. Perhaps in 6 years. RAFO ! Hehehe ! "

Trash (for lack of better word) : 8 chapters and 10% of ADWD
Bran : 3
Arya : 2
Griff : 2
Areo : 1

Bran's chapters consist of Bran watching roots grow. Literally. Unfortunately he's necessary to the plot because he will deal with The Others when the time comes. Probably in many and more years if Martin and we live so long. So we had to suffer through those bleak chapters just to avoid forgetting who he was.
I can understand that some readers were so desperate that even watching roots grow was an improvement to many other chapters so that they semi-liked the Bran's part.

Arya's chapters are totally and utterly irrelevant to everything and anything. She has been training for assassin for the last 11 years and still does so.

Griff introduces us to another resurrection. Not that we didn't expect this one.

Areo. Who ?

So what can be salvaged from this literary train wreck called ADWD preceded by another train wreck in the making, AFFC ?
Theon (7 chapters) , Davos (4 chapters) , Victarion (2 chapters) , Griff (1 chapter) , Daenerys (1 or 2 chapters) and Jon (1 or 2 chapters) . Maximum 17 chapters out of 73.
1 star .
I am very pessimistic for the continuation . Martin has clearly lost it and the story will now just follow the gravity forces with much and more copy and paste. The strong and powerful characters, we cared for are dead and those who stay are either broken (Cersei,Daenerys,Jon) or irrelevant (Bran, Arya, Stannis). Oh perhaps Wyman Manderly will be the only shining moment left.
The plot grew stale , drawn out and predictable .
We'll see in 10 years if Martin can recover but I won't hold my breath and do not recommend you to do so either.
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137 of 163 people found the following review helpful
on August 11, 2011
I was introduced to the ASOIAF series by a friend at work. He got me to read the first book (Game Of Thrones) and I was hooked. As has been stated ad nauseum, the first three books in the series are simply amazing. I won't go into details as I would like to keep the review concise and most who are reading this already know what I'm talking about anyway as evidenced by the ratings.

ADWD is nothing like the first three books; none of the original magic that made the first three so addictive is present in the last two books of the series.

I disagree with some of the assertions that the problem with the book is that there is too much detail. Rich detail is fine and the first three books had it in spades. The difference with those stories though is that along with the vivid descriptions you got loads of plot development and closure to the storylines.

But now, not only does the story stagnate, but the author also introduces several new characters that most fans of the series are not invested in. What most readers crave is some sort of resolution for the original characters - especially after six years of waiting!

Another thing I've noticed is that it almost seems as if when GRRM can't think of anything new for his characters to do he simply sends them on a journey that never ends. It's gotten pathetic.

It is a real shame the way things turned out with this series. As stated, I was enthralled with the first three books; as was the friend who originally turned me on to the series; but when I asked him over lunch the other day how far along he had gotten in ADWD? He confessed that he was having a very hard time maintaining focus on the story - And this from the same guy that couldn't stop talking about the first three books.

Right after we had both finished A Feast For Crows, I told him how disapointed I was with the story and he remarked " Don't worry, ADWD will pick everything up again!" . . . Well, no. . . Not really.

I used to think about the characters and worry about where the storyline was going next but after the last two books I'm at the point where I no longer really care. It's a real shame that it turned out this way for a series that showed so much promise at the begining.
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40 of 45 people found the following review helpful
on September 4, 2011
For die-hard George R.R. Martin fans, the quality hasn't slipped during the long wait for "A Dance with Dragons". With the return of popular characters missing from "A Feast for Crows" and the introduction of new points of view, fans of his previous book will find the newest offering an improvement. Martin even manages to answer a lingering question or two.
But problems remain. Of all the points of view, only a handful captivate. Of the others, words spent on world-building (and endless lists) give the work bulk, but not much else.
Huge swaths of this book detail people traveling across great distances while the plot walks down the driveway to check the mail. Characterization and world-building? Sure. But it reeks of filler.
Phrases old and new are repeated over and over and over again. You can make a wonderful drinking game of the audio-book. One sip for "You know nothing, Jon Snow", two for "Nuncle" and finish the drink on "Words are wind".
Martin likens his writing to gardening. Indeed. He overmulched the perennials, forgot to cut back the liriope and hasn't trimmed the hedges in a decade. Wonderful flowers remain, but they need sunlight and Martin left his pruning shears in the shed.
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