Dance with Dragons (A Song of Ice and Fire Book 5)

books0712sheehanAfter starting these book many years ago, I finally am finishing up the most recent book by George RR Martin in this series.  I started this series as a recommendation from my good (and late) friend John Reavis.  I was eager to start them after playing the games and enjoying them.  John introduced me to the board game a long time ago (around 2003) and I became very curious about the books from there onward.  This was of course long before the TV show and I was already past the third book when the show started.  While I enjoy the show, as usual, the books are better.  And as the show has progressed and departed further and further from the books, I have enjoyed them both.

This book runs in parallel with the last book, A Feast for Crows.  I found it frustrating to read the previous book because it did not touch on many of the characters I cared about but it had enough to keep my attention.  I think that book took me a little over a year to read.  Yea, I am a slow reader.  Dance with Dragons has taken me much longer, mostly because it is a much slower book and whatever plots he wants to develop takes FOREVER!  I used to like Daenerys but her story really stagnates in this book.  Dealing with the politics of Meereen and her anti-slavery crusade simply does not interest me.  The Dragons all but vanish for most of the book except for the ending, where they play a huge part.

This book deals with mostly the characters that were not in A Feast of Crows – Davos , Tyrion, Bran, Daenerys, Jon, and Theron, to name a few.  The book also touches back on others that were in the previous book as well like Arya, Jamie, and Cerci.  Many of these paths take interesting turns, but the progression of the story for all of them is very slow.  Although I hated that Tyrion was not included in A Feast of Crows, his story kind of dragged on, although his was one of the better ones.  To summarize my take on the character progressions –

  • Jon Snow – His story is building up rather rapidly, with a ton of things weighing on his young shoulders.  I have to keep reminding myself that this guy is just a teenager (in Westerosi time).  He makes some very controversial decisions and is being pulled in multiple directions – primarily between his duties to the Wall and his perceived duties to Winterfell.  If you know anything about the show, you know that his plans are rudely interrupted and we are left wondering about his ultimate fate.
  • Daenerys – I give a big ol’ yawn to most of her story.  Meereen just bores me.  That fact that she is stuck behind a wall and dealing with these whining slavers for so long, it frustrated me.  Nope, I could not care less about who she loves and who she has to marry.  Her story is really for the female readers, I think. It finally got good at the end, though.
  • Davos Seaworth – He is one of my favorite characters and I hate that they diminished him somewhat in the show.  He is a good man and when they implied he was dead in A Feast of Crows, I was very disappointed.  You follow him briefly follow Davos where he supposed is executed only to find out (SPOILERS) he is not.  I am still disappointed because you are left hanging with him, because he has an important role in the overall plot.
  • Theon Greyjoy – His story is another tiresome one.  Although he gets what he deserves for all that he has done, I fail to see his usefulness at this point.  I have really lost interest in his story.
  • Tyrion Lannister– As I said, he used to be one of my more favorite characters but much like many characters in this story, karma is a bitch.  He atones for his various wrongdoings (killing his dad, for example) by going through some pretty horrible experiences.  Yerys helps him out of King’s Landing and this is when you find out he has been a busy little eunuch (see below).  This story just keeps going and going.  I got bored with it until the end, where it finally gets interesting.
  • Bran Stark – Although interesting, I have never been a fan of the crippled boy story, but it gets pretty good in this book.  You briefly find out more about Bran and his whereabouts, and they introduce way more mysticism and fantasy elements than ever before.  You do learn just how powerful Bran in the end.
  • Arya Stark – I like her story a lot and saw the the path she is taking early on.  Her story simply continues and you learn just how bad-ass the Braavosi assassins are.  I did notice in this story two things – both the “world” Bank and the best assassins are located in Braavos.  Coincidence?  I think not.

George also brings in a new element into the story that convinces me that Varys is probably the kingpin of everything going on in this series, with a little help from Littlefingers.   Between the two of them, they wield more power in this setting than any of the kings vying for the throne.  That may already be obvious from the other books, but the new element accentuates that on levels that you did not expect.

Which also kind of why this new element bothers me.  Before I go any further, I have to warn of SPOILERS.  If you don’t want to know what this element is, stop reading now.  It’s less an element and more a new set of characters.

Aparently, Daenerys is not the only Targaryen that was saved from the overthrow of the king and House Targaryen.  Although it makes sense, and I am willing to suspend my disbelief a little (it is a big world and our vision of it is limited by the characters George gives us), the timing of this is kind of odd to me.  To bring a new Targaryen in the fifth book in the series just kind of invalidates a lot of what we have been assuming up until now.  But then again, George likes to play with those assumptions quite a bit.  So this is sort of along the same lines as killing off Ned Stark or the other big surprises that happened in previous books, but reverse.

Also, overall, I am getting tired of the exclamation points he likes to put on the cruelty and savagery of humanity in this world.  I get it, they are bad people and it reflects directly on us as humanity because they are no different from us. It is getting to the point that it is not worth investing so much time into characters that he is either maims or kills.  It is because of this I do not think I will be returning to the series after this book.  It is just exhausting to deal with the cruelty, the hopelessness and the horrible people that are in these books.  Ned was a ray of sunshine in the first book, Tyrion was also for a little while after.  But then the War and the aftermath kind of sent things spiralling in directions I am not entirely thrilled with.

When I started reading these books, I really liked the intrigue and some of the characters.  My least favorite characters slowly became some of my favorites.  I like how he changed perspective characters through the books.  This book seemed to just drag on.  I guess you can really call it Dance with Drag on!

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