After I finished reading this, I put off writing a review for about a week, which is much longer than I normally do. There are a few reasons for this. First, once I finished the review, it would mean that the process of reading A Dance with Dragons was well and truly over, and that now I would have to join all the other George RR Martin fans in the long, grueling wait for Book Six. Having spent my summer ripping through the first five books in rapid succession, I’m still not sure if I can handle the years of waiting for the next book, much less remember who the fuck Oberyn Martell is and why he’s important. While reading this book, I found myself thinking, “wait, which Clegane brother is the Hound again?” so I don’t have a lot of faith in my ability to remember everything that Martin needs me to remember to enjoy this series.
The second reason I waited to write a review is because, simply put, I wasn’t sure what I want to talk about. Is this book more satisfying than its predecessor, the Daenerys-and-Tyrion-deficient A Feast for Crows? Yes, sort of. I mean, Daenerys and Tyrion and Jon are here, at least, and they’re still awesome (Jon Snow, in fact, is rapidly becoming a stone-cold badass, which is a vast improvement over his previous role as Broody McBrooderson, of Clan Unworthy). Yes, Bran is here, and yes, he’s still inexplicably the most boring character in the series (and speaking of which, am I the only one who’s actually really annoyed that all the Stark kids are wargs now? Except Sansa – I guess because her direwolf is dead and life refuses to stop fucking this girl over), but at least his chapters are few and far between. Also there’s a bit of Jaime, Cersei and Arya in here, which is always fun. And no Sam chapters, thank god.
But the problem is that none of these awesome characters really do much of anything in this book. There’s a lot of buildup, hinting that they’re going to do something really awesome in the next book, but here’s the problem: I’m not falling for that again.
Martin has a lot of plots at work, and a lot of characters trying to accomplish different goals. But everything’s been on a slow burn for five books now, and I’m still waiting for the payoff. If I may switch metaphors here, these books consist of Martin carefully and meticulously setting up the pins, and we wait anxiously for the next book, because we know that’s when he’s going to knock them down. But then the next book comes, and we’re waiting for the payoff, and Martin goes, “Hang on! I just have to do this first” and then he spends the whole book setting up another set of pins, and it looks like he’s finally, finally going to knock something over when he goes, “That’s all the time we have for today, folks! Make sure to tune in next time (in three years when the next book comes out)!” and I am getting tired of it.
Knock over the pins, Martin. We’ve waited long enough.
Verdict: three out of five stars