Book Review: A Dance With Dragons
by Josh Cole
About two months ago, you may have felt a slight rumble as A Dance with Dragons, the sixth tome in the series, “A Song of Ice and Fire,” was released to the public. This rumble was not a natural disaster. It was the sudden vanishing of six years of nerd skepticism and rage. After much-publicized grief, the newest installment of one of the most intensely popular fantasy series had arrived and I think it is fair to say that the community simply got tired of being angry.
Which is probably for the best.
For those who don’t know, A Song of Ice and Fire series takes place in a world that’s medieval, a little magical, and very, very feudal. The series begins with the death of an advisor to the wine-powered king of the realm. The advisor’s replacement is the honorable king of the North..ish realm. Mayhem ensues and entraps the reader for hundreds of pages.
The books are structured very specifically, with each chapter is told from a point-of-view of one character. Many of the consistent narrators are heirs and members of the various dynasties. But many other chapters are told from the POV of one-off characters. Many of the characters die throughout the series creating a sense of uncertainty that never, ever goes away.
A Dance with Dragons continues the many, many, many, many, many plotlines from the last book. Big recognizable names like Tyrion Lannister, Daenerys Targaryen, and Jon Snow command most of the book, while the Stark clan, the Onion Knight, the Greyjoys have a much smaller narrative presence. The House Frey is there too, becoming increasingly ominous. I guess that where the saying, “Revenge is a dish best served fat,” comes from. The current war is in full recession. The seeds of the next war are clearly being planted, by old characters and new.
For those who are superfans of Martin’s prose stylings don’t worry. Lavish descriptions of food, eating, and excessive drinking abound. Until, finally, winter comes: “The snow had started to descend more heavily and the fire in the ditch was guttering out. The crowd began to break apart and stream from the yard, queen’s men, king’s men, and free folk alike, all anxious to get out of the wind and the cold. “Will my lord be feasting with us?” Mully asked Jon Snow.” Dance advances the plot and characters slowly, but well. Not knowing exactly what the next books contain, I still think it’s safe to say that this book is the eye of the storm. A Dance with Dragons will be attacked for being slow, pointless, wheel-spinning. It’s true that not much happens, but A Song of Ice and Fire has always been a game of chess. If you want to root for a particular pawn on the board, that’s fine. When it gets taken, look to the rest of the game and understand that isn’t over.