My Spoiler-free Review of A Dance With Dragons

Last night after a great dinner out with my friend and editrix Leslie I came home, spent some time with Michelle, fed the boy, and finished the book.

As I said before, it felt like seeing some old friends you haven’t heard from in a while (and who you expected to die horribly at any moment) which was good because the voice and tone of the characters was something I was worried about. Why? Well, George R.R. Martin has, in the past, taken some time in finishing a novel but he hasn’t ever taken as long as he did between Feast and Dance and one thing I was concerned for was that he would’ve lost the voice of his characters. Thankfully, that doesn’t seem to have happened.

The plot moves a bit more in this book than it did in Feast in that we have a greater span of time happening (at least as far as I remember) although parts of it did feel like they were bogged down, particularly around Meereen. The thing that has held up A Dance with Dragons was Meereen, or as GRRM put it “the Meereenese Knot”. In previous books GRRM felt like he’d written himself into a corner with having Daenerys end up there and staying to rule. Since he has said many times that he knows how the series is going to end, I’m assuming that Dany has to get somewhere from Esteros and having her stop and stay in Meereen kind of got in the way of it. The plot felt slower in these chapters with not a lot going on, nothing really knew being discovered, and I could feel some of that frustration; to put it in a different way, the characters speak a lot words but don’t say anything, they take a lot of actions but don’t really accomplish much.

My only other complaint is that I didn’t feel like this was a book with a beginning, middle, and end really which makes sense when you consider that, originally, it was supposed to be part of A Feast for Crows; the taste that is left in my mouth after, so to speak, is that this was filler. Delicious filler to be sure but not anything that left me sated in any substantial way.

One thing I found I enjoyed about ADwD was that it features some characters who received little to no face time in previous books who get to grow a bit, who we are fleshed out more. Mostly I think that’s because a lot of the other, more important characters in previous books are now dead but, still, it’s nice to see them move from one-dimensional characters to actually having lines and personality and I found myself cheering on some characters who I wouldn’t have expected to see much of.

I do have some other praise and complaints but those would involve specifics about the plot and so I won’t go into that here. In the end did I enjoy it? Yes, very much, and as with his previous books it leaves you with more questions than it answers and I expect there to be many more theories sprouting up about the fate of characters and what really has gone on. I would say that A Dance With Dragons, while not the strongest book in the series by far, definitely isn’t the weakest.

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