Gen-Xer, software engineer, and lifelong avid reader. Soft spots for sci-fi, fantasy, and history, but I'll read anything good.
While I disliked having to wait five years for A Dance with Dragons as much as anyone else, I wasn’t too disappointed with the experience of reading it. In fact, I was thrilled just to be immersed in George R.R. Martin’s gritty, living world again, and to revisit my favorite characters (Tyrion, Jon Snow, Daenyrs, and a few others) and locations. I couldn’t put down the audiobook (well, the device containing it).
The first three books were tough acts to follow, and Martin can be partially forgiven for falling a little short on books four and five. However, the chorus of frustration from fans isn’t without merit. Martin kind of painted himself into a corner back in 2004, when he realized that the book he was writing had gotten too long. Rather than edit it down to a more manageable size, he split it in two. A Feast for Crows wound up being an immense novel of in which lots of hitherto minor characters got placed into new intrigues, along with some new characters. Was there was a larger purpose to these minor adventures? Or had the author just gotten swallowed in his own world, convinced that what the reader really wanted on this bus tour through Westeros was more stops, with no roadside stand or historic marker not worth a visit? (Hey, it worked for Patrick Rothfuss.)
A Dance with Dragons doesn’t really resolve those questions, but at least we get the major characters back, and the things eventually start to pick up steam and head somewhere. Tyrion hitchhikes his way east by a few less-than-ideal arrangements. Jon Snow tries to do his duty while dealing with the conflicting demands of an impatient king. And Theon Greyjoy makes a return, in *very* changed circumstances. As always, the “living, breathing” world remains brilliantly vibrant and alive, its drama infecting everything that happens in the foreground. For example, there’s one sequence in which soldiers are sent on a dreadfully misplanned winter mission, not unlike Napoleon’s troops in Russia. While this sequence could have been shorter, the details of cold, starving, weary men were so vivid, I didn’t really care -- I was just along for the ride. And the chapters with Daenrys in Myreen illustrate the difficulties of ruling a “liberated” land in a way that seems not unfamiliar. By the time the dragons in the story finally come into their own, we’re feeling as ready for it as she is.
I agree with a few other reader complaints. Martin has slipped into the bad habit of repeating catchphrases (“words are wind”, “my name is Reek...”) and important pieces of information multiple times, from multiple angles, rather than trusting readers to see the connections themselves. The new characters he introduces aren’t terribly interesting, and there’s little tension (for now) over the possibility that our old favorites will die, as they have in the past. I wouldn’t have minded a little more exploration of strange and wondrous things (e.g. the ruins of Valyria).
On the audiobook experience, I had very mixed feelings. Overall, Roy Dotrice’s grandfatherly tones are a great fit for Martin’s writing, but, to my ears, he gets some voices horribly wrong. Young women sound like old hags or Monty Python members in drag. Too many knights sound like Long John Silver, and Tyrion could be a leprechaun. For the first hours, I was tempted to give up and get the print edition, but, luckily, my ears adapted. In general, I’m pretty tolerant of less-than-perfect readers for audiobooks -- your mileage may vary.
Yet, all that said, I remained hooked on the series, and even a flawed entry is one I can’t put down. Martin has tested us with two long novels of buildup, buildup, and more buildup, but I remain hopeful that the tour bus will be getting back on the highway and heading towards the big destinations that his fans signed on for.
Let me begin by saying I was as big a fan off this series as you could find. I considered it and the lord of the rings as the absolute best of fantasy. That is no longer the case. The 1st 3 books were incredible. I gave Martin a pass on book 4, but after reading a Dance I have little confidence in Martin being able to finish the series on a high note.
Technically the writing is great and on par with the other books. The dialogue is fantastic and the strength of the book. The problem is the plot. While it is extremely well written, It doesn't move the story along that far. It seems that Martin is trying to slow the story down rather than speed it up. As the story billed to its climax, Martin drops the ball. "Hey George, you already made your point. We know your not afraid to kill off major characters. In fact we now expect it."
As a fan of the series, I root for certain characters. If my favorite characters are killed off do I really care if some characters introduced in book 5 who I couldn't care less about are meant to be the heros?
Does every character who displays the slightest bit of honor need to die?
The Daenerys storyline is a mess. All of the sudden Martin has her making stupid decisions and of course all she can no longer control her pets. Because if she could, God forbid, she might get to Westeros before book 6.
Meanwhile, all the "Really Bad Guys" are doing well. Life's a beach for them. Drinking, hunting, whoring, and taking long walks through the city.
And How, after waiting 6 years do you leave the book with a cliffhanger ending? Do I really have to wait another 6 years to find out what happens in the Jon and Stanos storylines? "Even as disappointed as I am, George, I'm still going to buy book 6." Throw us a damn bone and give us a complete book.
I can only hope that Martin bring the "dead character" back in a similar way as Mrs. Stark. I'll keep my fingers crossed for, lets say 6 years.
I logged in to write how Roy Dotrice changed Dany's voice from the first three books in the series he narrated. I see that everyone else is complaining about it. First off, the book is great. I've been waiting years for it and I'm not dissapointed. I do have an issue with at least one of the voices; Dany's. There was always a voice here and there that I thought was a bit ridiculous, but it was never a main character; especially since Dotrice already had a perfectly good voice for Dany in the other books. He basically gave her the voice of an old wildling crone. Didn't anyone at Random House pick up on this? Anyway.... five stars still, I love the series and I love Dotrice. I just had to point out that annoyance.
After waiting for so long to get the next installment in this series I was disappointed to read reviews on Amazon that said this part of the series was a standing still waste of a volume. And I saw a lot of reviews that said that. I'm a huge fan of this series so I got it anyway because I figured GRRM has basically done so well to this point that if this volume dropped in quality it was still probably going to be light years ahead of nearly all other fiction being written these days.
Boy was I wrong and those reviewers right. With the exception of Cercei not much progresses in this volume. Daenerys has become perhaps the weakest character of all in this volume. She has so many opportunities to make her move and regain her throne and whether or not she is successful doesn't matter to me anymore. In fact, I'm beginning to believe that Martin will never have her actually make her move. She is panning out to be a whining child that has no clue that she is nothing more than a weak pawn in foreign politics. Sad because she had become a really interesting character in the way she was able to be basically a cast off widow that by all measures should have been killed that forces her way to the top and become a legitimate force in the world. Now she's reduced to just a sniveling girl that for no reason what so ever doesn't want to go take back her throne. I know, I know, she's worried about all the people she has saved on this side of the world who will be victimized if she leaves, but then that too basically indicates that Martin was a false and unreliable narrator when he made her seem she has the kind of influence and power to leave her conquered cities and take her throne without needing to worry if the freed people could take care of themselves. In earlier volumes Martin would have in fact written that kind of character. Now I'm afraid he doesn't even know what he wants to do with the characters and the story.
Plus, this has become a story that has nothing but completely reprehensible characters. There are so few characters that are remotely likeable anymore that I really had to struggle to get through this. Just because you take a likeable character and brutally kill him or her does not mean that drama and tension is ramping up. It just means you're giving me less and less to like about the story. Especially when all the twisted and evil characters get right to the brink when they should be getting some punishment and then Martin always saves them and pulls them back so they can continue to romp through the story. This is not satisfactory. I've dropped other series because they've gone this same course and I really got close with this volume.
Also, there are so many characters being introduced that the whole story and what is happening is becoming completely muddled. This isn't a story about a civil war and an exiled queen trying to take back her throne. This has become an over indulgent exploration of a bunch of created cultures and their varying politics. I would honestly say that if 50% of the pages in this volume were missing the actual number of pages which advanced the story(ies) was over written by a factor of three.
I'm also different from other reviewers in that the narrator for Feast of Crows was bad. It was a bit of a system shock to hear a different voice but the story was still good enough that it didn't matter. However, when Dotrice started doing this weird, Scottish, Old Lady Troll voice for Dany I really wished the last narrator was back. It was especially odd because Dotrice didn't have her voice that way in the other volumes he read.
In the end this became very difficult to endure. I'll give the next one a go but if I don't see significant progression in the actual story rather than a bunch of (arguably) character development/exploration I will likely turn it off and never come back. That's how far down the quality of this volume came.
If John is truly dead (and I suspect so because there is no way he could have survived) I'm going to be convinced that Martin is really not that great a dramatist. Like I said earlier, if he thinks he's ramping up the drama by having the bad/evil characters constantly killing the good/likeable characters he's way off. All he's doing is making me not care at all about any of the characters. John was my last hope.
So now that I read back through this whole thing I realize I pretty much have no reason to check out the next volume. Not that it matters. It is getting so long between installments Martin will probably die before the next one comes out.
A whole lot of new characters without notable characteristics. Nothing much happens. Reminds me of a student trying to stretch a 500 word idea into a 10,000 word paper. Even Tyrian seemed lame. Dotrice didn't care enough to get the voices right, not even for the jester who keeps shouting "I know!, I know!" And considering the title, the dragons get short shrift. Way too much self analysis, way too little action.
GRRM phoned it in. I won't hold my breath for number 6.
Ok, first off I like Roy Dotrice, he is very good with the male characters in this series. The women on the other hand are horrible and inconsistent unless it is a washer woman or old servant. He has changed Dany's voice from a normal, slightly softer voice to this old lady commoner voice and now Melisandre has gone from a husky, smokey cool voice to a high pitched accented voice. This sucks. You would think someone involved with the production would have pointed out to him that the voices were completely different in the preceding books. The reader should of at least listened to his prior readings (Maybe 11 years made him completely forget the series). Who is running the show over there at random house audio. Please call Steven Pacey for the rest of the series
This is just about the slowest paced and most tedious book I have ever listened to. There are about 44 hours of boredom slowly, torturously metered out. You wait for scores of mostly irrelevant characters to do anything more than aimlessly ponder what they might do, but don't do. At most, there are about 5 hours of anything interesting that actually does happen in this enormous story. Nor does Roy Dotrice's once superb narration add anything to the book. For some inexplicable reason, in this book he has given Denaris, the 14-year old gorgeous queen, a voice like a broken old ancient hag. The first three books and narration were superb. Sadly, the 4th and 5th books are about as enjoyable as a kidney stone. It seems like the author, George RR Martin, is merely rambling aimlessly along just to milk this series as long as he can.
For those that are complaining about Roy's narration of the book, just be happy that he is around. There were a few changes to voicing of a few characters. However, remember that Roy is 90 years old! NINETY!!! I just hope that I sound anywhere near that good....or am even still alive.... at 90! Hit 90 years old and see how well, you can pull off a teenage girls voice. All things considered, well done, Roy!
If it were any other writer I would rate this book four stars...but I have higher expectations of Mr. Martin. The writing is vintage Martini- perfect pitch- sparse but beautiful- sometimes his prose is poetry. BUT...the plot moves (at least I think it moved) at the pace of a wounded snail- NOTHING happens- no resolution to anything. The book reminids me of the cul de sac that Robert Jordan got himself into in Volumes 8 and 9 of the Wheel of Time Series...worthless. Mr. Martin needs an editor- at least one who will let him know when he has so many characters stuck in place doing nothing but wandering, withdrawing and dithering. I expect more from Mr. Marting. Perhaps he should draft Brandon Sanderson to finish the last two books of this series. Mr Sanderson has delivered two volumes of the WOT in the last two years- beautifully written (as close as possible to Jordan) but much more fast paced. Seriously- it took Mr. Martin five years to write this morass of confused plot lines.
Okay enough ranting- I feel the way I did as I slogged through the middle of Robert Jordans WOT series- I was to invested to turn back. Please- will someone please tap Jordan on the shoulder and tell him that plot lines should MOVE occasionally! What a disappointment. The first three books in this series were spectacular - better than Tolkien- the fourth slipped a little- and now this?
I wavered between two and three stars. I was really irritated with the cliff hanger endings particularly at the Wall. No way the series will be done in two more books - it will be three at least (assuming the mortal body of George R. R. Martin holds up for another 12-15 years). For eleven years of waiting I cannot say I was impressed with the results.
I don't think Roy Dotrice went back and listened to A Storm of Swords. His voices for many of the main characters is different (especially Dany), but of course he has seven years on him from the recording of A Storm of Swords so some slippage is to be expected.
The best parts of the book are the two Darwin Award winners. One disobeyed a direct order from a Commander who would have a very personal grudge against him, and the other for someone who thinks dragons can be handled like any other livestock. Honorable mention for someone who does not learn from his sire or his brother.