I finished the massive continuation of George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series called A Dance with Dragons this weekend, and I pondered a few thoughts just after reading the last page. It’s not a full on critique, but just a couple of things that immediately crossed my mind.
First, I might have done myself a disservice by not actually re-reading the previous installment, A Feast for Crows. While there is definitely some progress in this latest book, chronologically, most of the story is occurring in parallel to what occurred in Feast. This of course was deliberate, as the author had decided that what he thought was going to be a single volume rapidly got out of hand and required splitting some of the plots into two separate books (A Feast for Crows came in at about 784 pages and A Dance with Dragons is over 1,000 pages on its own). It’s not all that different from J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Two Towers where the story is divided between Frodo’s journey and the rest of the broken Fellowship occurring simultaneously. However, the last time I read Feast was about when it was published back in 2005, and I felt out of sync a little in terms of “when” I was in the plot because of the gulf of time separating the two books.
Also, as this series grows more and more complex, I couldn’t help but think about the HBO television adaptation of A Game of Thrones. Already, the sequel, A Clash of Kings, is being developed, and it will prove to be an even more monumental task in terms of adaptation for the small screen. If we should be so lucky to see A Storm of Swords (book 4) also worked into an HBO series, it will likely require a major departure from the ongoing plot because of the sheer complexity and weight of the numerous characters and interweaving sub-plots.
Finally, maybe it was because I read a lengthy chronology that breaks down significant moments in the plot at the blog, The Wertzone, just prior to reading Dance, but I seem to have noticed more and more digressions in the form of reminiscing by the characters whose points of view are being followed in each chapter. It’s great for readers who either did not remember certain details or for people who just love to explore greater details in the background lore of A Song of Ice and Fire, but it does tend to seem a bit rambling at times and sometimes intrusive.
Regardless, I’m glad to have started reading this series back in college, continued reading it over the next 14 or so years and finished reading the fifth book just yesterday. Yes, it’s maddening how long it’s been taking for the story to get to its conclusion, and the ending doesn’t seem to be in sight (as Martin himself admits that it may take more books than the originally intended seven). But, the end is definitely coming and it’s somewhat more in focus now. Otherwise, I have to say that for a part of me it might not matter if the chronicles of Westeros and all of the other fascinating lands in Martin’s world just keep right on chugging along its brutal yet engrossing path forever.