George R.R. Martin's "A Dance with Dragons": Complexity, Strangeness, and Adventure


This morning the blogosphere, the review-o-sphere, and just about all of the major print media outlets exploded with reviews and articles about George R.R. Martin’s A Dance with Dragons, the fifth novel in his Songs of Ice and Fire fantasy saga. It’s perhaps the most anticipated title of the last few years, with the hype reaching the proverbial fever pitch in part because of the recent conclusion of the first season of the intelligent, brilliantly executed HBO series based on the books.

My own review just appeared in the Los Angeles Times and after some context about the series, I asked the question of whether A Dance with Dragons was worth the wait. My answer?

“Absolutely. Indeed, Martin's decision to release a sizable chunk of his story-in-progress as the fourth installment---the underrated A Feast for Crows (2005)---now seems wise and actually generous to readers. Originally intended for release as one novel, Feast and Dance overlap in terms of the time period covered, but they are vastly different. Feast chronicled aftermath, the dying fall after the great battle that ended the third book, A Storm of Swords. But A Dance With Dragons, which overtakes Feast chronologically after about 600 of its 1,000 pages, functions more as a novel about exploration and quests.”

In addition to noting that Martin is now only two books away from completion of one of the best fantasy series in history, I wrote that “Martin's love for sophisticated, deeply strange fantasy permeates Dance like a phantasmagorical fever dream.” Although there is now plenty of non-escapist heroic fantasy being written, Martin’s work stands a step or two above not just by dint of his scope but also this enduring, wonderful strangeness--something you don’t see much of in NYT bestsellers, if we’re to be honest.

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Posted by: tool steel | Tuesday November 1, 2011 at 6:30 PM

Nice review, Jeff. I'm only a hundred pages into ADWD so far, but it was my second read of AFFC (and now, being able to recall its tale in context) that gave me an appreciation for it. Still, ADWD is a welcome addition to my library, and as I engage the story, I am reminded of why I like GRRM so much - truly, his layers of skill in prose and storytelling shine in such a sprawling epic. He's the best.

Posted by: Bill Wolfe | Friday July 15, 2011 at 9:40 AM

Nice post, Jeff.

I too liked Feast for Crows. I can understand why some people didn't like it, but at least for me, I actually interested in all of the new story lines and characters. In a way, it felt like a necessary break to stop and inspect the damage before moving on. (I'm especially fond of the moments at the Quiet Isle.)

Posted by: Jason | Friday July 15, 2011 at 8:39 AM

Feast was very bleak and left out a lot of major characters, I think that's why the negative feedback. Marting separated out some of the story lines for Feast instead of incorporating all of them and cutting the book short but, IMO, I think that's what he should have done.

Posted by: Jack M | Thursday July 14, 2011 at 6:51 AM

Never could quite understand the dissatisfaction with Feast. Not my favorite, but it was certainly an excellent addition to the whole.

Posted by: Robert E Waters | Tuesday July 12, 2011 at 11:57 AM

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