A Feast For Crows and a Dance For Dragons were originally one massive thome that Martin decided to split up among characters. Most of the 2 books' action is concurrent, with A Feast For Crows focusing on Westeros while A Dance Of Dragons mainly focuses on the events to the North and in the Eastern Continent. The most disappointing part of both is how little actually takes place in their combined 1800 pages (70 hours). It feels as thought George R.R. Martin has become interested in providing color and nuance to the world he's created than actually forwarding the plot. Color and nuance are great, but these 2 segments took 13 years to write and MAJOR developments promised by earlier volumes seem no closer to occurring than they did after A Storm of Swords. A Feast For Crows suffers much more for this than A Dance of Dragons, but reading both I found myself as fascinated by how easily it would have been to collapse them into 1 book than the actual events that transpire.
While the moment to moment writing can carry a listener through the book, the basic plot structure is haphazard and seemingly random. Characters motivations and basic attributes shift constantly with little reason. Some people completely flip their fundamental character traits 2 or 3 times. For much of the book I thought there was a grand conspiracy where a central figure was mind controlling everybody else to explain the bizarre actions of everybody involved, but that's not the case. Instead, the shallow reasons for a slew of incomprehensible actions are meant to be taken at face value. As I said at the beginning, it's not hard to listen to, just don't expect to invest yourself in the characters or the world at all.
I thoroughly enjoyed the 2 preceding books by Hamilton but this trilogy falls flat. The basic structure of the story is split into 2 parts: One part in the same universe as Pandora's Star and Judas Unchained, and one "story within a story" faux-fantasy fable that takes all 3 books to play out.
In itself, this structure makes it hard to immerse oneself in the story. Whenever one side gets going you are suddenly plucked into a completely different universe and timeline. Even with that doubling of content, the entire series story-line could have been easily developed and resolved in a third of the time. In particular the fantasy section is little more than a basic Twilight Zone plot, yet the basic cliche at its center is dragged out over the full series.
The primary story-line retains some of what made the prior books fun, but its events are too fractured by the intrusive story within a story, and also feels unnecessarily stretched out. The whole thing feels like a novella worthy concept artificially stretched to 65 hours. Disappointing.
This novel has the standard trappings of a type of metaphysical/quirky detective story that has become somewhat common since this book was written (published 1985). What separates this novel, though, is that all the setting entirely serves the more important allegorical elements of the text. This is not to imply that the work is obtuse, as a lot of allegorical pieces are, it's actually very easy to get into and follow. If you expect the book to follow the standard course of most detective stories, however, you may be disappointed when the plot does not end in an action filled climax. Rather, the themes are allowed to play themselves out as best serves them, and the novel is far greater for it. Having just finished the book, I think I have a decent grasp on what the book is "about" but there is plenty of room for individual interpretation, discussion and re-reading, without being so ambiguous as to throw off more casual reading.
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