Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Positive reviews for A Dance with Dragons so far..

Amidst the chaos that is my domestic life these days, I received the confirmation email from Amazon that A Dance with Dragons shipped this week. After what, six years, the long-awaited sequel will be in my grubby hands hopefully by this weekend!

About the time I will be moving. Again. Ha.

I don't know if there's anyone who is this far into the series who actually will NOT order the book at one point or another, but it's nice to know that the reviews have been fairly positive.

Especially when contrasted with A Feast For Crows. I'll be honest, I was a little disappointed with the first read of AFfC, for reasons cited frequently. Brienne's and Samwell's arcs read like a travelogue, Cersei was not a sympathetic character, Sansa was a passive character, and overall the events and characters portrayed were not the ones that were the most compelling and interesting in the story frame.

The second read of AFfC changed that for me, as I grew an appreciation for what Brienne and Sansa and Sam were observing - especially after reading The Hedge Knight last month. Arya/Sandor and Brienne/Pod are reminiscent of Dunk/Egg in some aspects. Fitting, considering Samwell's arc and the demise of Aemon Targaryen.

If you want to read the reviews before you get the book, or if you're like me, and want to read the reviews just out of morbid curiosity, here's some good starting points.

A Dribble of Ink, unsurprisingly, has beat me to the punch with this idea. As well he should. He had a few I was unaware of, which I'll mix in here.

Jo Walton, on the Tor.com blog.

Jace Lacob, at The Daily Beast.
This is, one could argue, a tale of hubris, heartbreak and horror, a world out of balance where death itself is not an ending, and which threatens to swallow up those more fixated on the game of thrones than the true battle for the survival of man.

Lev Grossman, for Time Magazine.
The complexity of Martin's design ensures that we experience the struggle for Westeros from all sides at once. It's as if he's trying to show us that every fight is both triumph and tragedy, depending on where you see it from, and everybody is both hero and villain at the same time.

Remy Verhoeve, for The Wall Street Journal.

Publishers Weekly, as I recall, broke the first review several weeks ago. This one has been called a little spoiler-y, though it didn't offend me much.

Pat's Fantasy List has his review here, as well as the story behind how he inspired a character in the novel who meets a grisly death. (9/10)

The Wertzone has a review here. Adam is probably one of the most knowledgeable sources of Westeros material that I have stumbled across on the internet. (4.5 stars)

Charlie Jane Anders did a review over at IO9.

All in all, A Dance with Dragons is moving, thrilling, horrifying and thought-provoking — and a propulsive continuation to a series that might have seemed like it was losing forward momentum. By the time you put this book down, you're left with no doubt that this story is racing towards a definitive ending, with only two books (or a mere 2,000 pages!) left to go. Some things happen in this latest book that you've probably been waiting for since Book One, and some huge mysteries are resolved.

Chris Y, SF/F buyer for Borders, on their blog (spoiler free).
I loved the pacing of this book. There is a slow buildup to an explosive finish. The last 100 pages are absolutely intense, and there are some game-changing events near the end of the book.

Rachel Brown gives a brief review, followed up by a GRRM interview for The Atlantic.

Jeff Vandermeer gave a heads-up for his LA Times review last week on his facebook page.

James Poniewozik, who covered the HBO series, did a second review for Time Magazine.

Chris Barsanti, for Barnes and Noble.

Steve Bennett, for My San Antonio. (Mild spoilers.)

Bill Sheehan, for The Washington Post.
Filled with vividly rendered set pieces, unexpected turnings, assorted cliffhangers and moments of appalling cruelty, “A Dance With Dragons” is epic fantasy as it should be written: passionate, compelling, convincingly detailed and thoroughly imagined.

That seems like enough, hmm?

Overall, the reviews seem to be positive, with some complaints about the story overlap (which was to be expected), resolved/unresolved puzzles (there's two more books - from an author's perspective, the puzzles should get answered when they become most relevant), and some cliffhangers. What, suddenly GRRM is going to NOT leave us with cliffhangers? I thought everyone was watching HBO...

Less frequently, comments on rambling and/or need for editing. But, truly, anyone who has read the first four volumes comes to expect a certain amount of Martin's stylistic immersion. Clothes, heraldry, feasts - none of those are things that necessarily forward the plot, but it allows the reader to experience the protagonists' stories. (Notably, this was a question in The Atlantic interview.)

Will I do a review? No, I don't do reviews anymore, per se. I'll share some thoughts when I finish. While Martin is an excellent storyteller and I'm as thrilled as other fans by the book's release, his is also a style that allows immersion, escape and above all else, complexity.

Reading GRRM is a strong lesson in how to combine lush prose with intelligent, adult fantasy fiction. For that reason alone, he will always be a must-read for me.


  1. I haven't ordered my copy yet, but I will get it sometime this year I imagine. Trying to work my way through a couple of other books on my shelf at the moment. Martin is my favorite fantasy author, and even as disappointing as AFFC was, it's still the best series I've read. I have much higher hopes for ADWD, and even higher hopes that George will finish the book in his or my lifetime.

    I agree with your takes on the characters in AFFC. That's exactly what I thought about it after I finished. Arya's character was also boring, and she has always been one of my favorites. I haven't read it a 2nd time but maybe I should.


  2. I am so glad you have your copy now after waiting so long for it to come out...and I can't wait to read your thoughts on it once you've finished... :)

  3. @Steven. Welcome to my blog. As far ADWD, it will definitely go better with a recent reread of AFFC. Having said that, in both novels, the beginning is all set up, travel, small chess moves here and there.

    AFFC is worthy of a reread, particularly in prep for this one. Either way, as you say, this is likely the strongest series in adult fantasy fiction.

    @Songbird. I'm a quarter of the way through already, and after moving this weekend, I'll have lots of time to read and rest my aching muscles. lol. Thank you for the comment. :-)


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