George R. R. Martin – A Dance With Dragons

It took me about 2 days and (luckily) most of my weekend. I write luckily because I could read continuously, except for sleeping and eating, which at least did not deprive me from getting sufficient sleep as reading during the working week would have caused. Those who have read the book I am writing about might be amazed for me reading almost 1000 pages in this short time, but if I am enjoying myself and the writing is easy to read I can manage 50 pages per hour. In this case it was only 30, if I make a rough estimate, so I don’t think I read too fast.

The book I am talking about is A Dance With Dragons (2011) by George R. R. Martin, the fifth book of A Song Of Ice And Fire. The previous novel was publish six years ago so the hiatus was quite long, although I did do some rereading, perhaps four years ago. Either way it was a long time since I had delved into the story. It took me no time to get back into the mood. That is the first thing I have to say about the book. Although it took Martin six years, the time was not wasted. A Dance With Dragons is a solid continuation of the series, capturing the same atmosphere and pace of the previous books. I can even say the pace is faster as time moves on faster between chapters. In previous books certain characters could be seen being rather slow in their movement but this time more ‘time’ is covered than before. Still it would nice to have an overview of the chronology of the different events.

The A Song Of Ice And Fire books remain founded on their characters. Most of the action comes from character interaction and their is little action. This was also the case in the previous books, but even more so here. Martin puts his characters in dire circumstances where they have to rely on fortune or their wits to get out of trouble. The events follow a natural course although one cannot predict how the flow will run. The characters choose paths were things can either one way or the other, but telling when or how it will go wrong remains guess work.

Going wrong is one of the common tendencies of A Song Of Ice And Fire which makes it so distinct and different than other novels. Most fantasy is in the end heroic fantasy. There is also dark fantasy where a lot of nasty things happen to the main characters, but the author in this case aims for it and presents the nastiness in a horrific way. A Song Of Ice And Fire is not dark. It sure is gritty and quite naturalistic, but events have a tragic nature to them. One can feel the tension growing while the characters aim to do right (from their own viewpoint) until things go wrong. The reader will feel a kind of desperation. Martin hits his mark and makes a deep impact.

There is one particular difference between this books and the others. The fantastic element is stronger. We see more of the special abilities wielded by certain persons. Still, a lot of things remain vague as ever. Many questions still have to be answered.

Martin yet again tells a great and complex story. Even in this fifth book he keeps pulling rabbits out of his big hat. No reader will have a clue where events will lead to and who will remain to be there at the end. The series contains a tremendous power with a steady and captivating rhythm. What further sets it apart from many fantasy series is its vast range of fascinating characters and details. To me it is a joy to read and I can only hope that the next installment won’t take that long to complete. This series remains one of my favorites and this latest addition is highly recommended.

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