George R.R. Martin

A Song of Ice and Fire, Book 5

Voyager (2011)

ISBN: 9780002247399

Reviewed by Mitenae

A Dance with Dragons is the long awaited latest volume in George R R Martin’s highly popular A Song of Ice and Fire series, and it isn’t hard to see why. This is a series I’ve been reading for many years and if you’re new to the series (perhaps having become a fan of the TV series, A Game of Thrones) I recommend you start at the beginning and not with this volume. A Dance of Dragons runs parallel to A Feast of Crows (Book 4) and in this we pick up the stories of the characters that weren’t included (or included in a minor way) in Book 4.

In A Dance with Dragons, Jon Snow is commander at the wall but, with wildings streaming in and having to deal with Stannis, as King of the North, and his Queen Selys, he has enough to handle without their insistence that he bend to their will. And it doesn’t help that Melisandre insists on sharing her visions with him.

Tyrion, having escaped the cells of King’s Landing in a barrel, travels across Pentos, smuggled out by Varys, finds himself with Magister Illyrio before journeying south where he meets Jon Connington and a boy long thought dead.

Bran continues his journey north in search of the Greenseer with Hodor and Summer. Theon Greyjoy, now the Reek of Robert Bolton (formerly Snow, current Warden of the North) doesn’t remember his name, who he was or that he can overturn the moot. He is just trying to live.

Daenerys is struggling to maintain control of Meereen in the midst of hunger and assassination attempts, finds that she may have to marry in order to secure peace. But one of her dragons has gone wild and is no where to be found.

I skimmed through the previous volumes to refresh my memory and found myself, rather than reading the books properly (as I perhaps should have been doing) following one character and for me, this is one of the downfalls on the series’ rereadability. I flitted through it, focusing on one character, becoming easily bored with the rest, and couldn’t get back into the story and read it as I should have liked.

Tyrion has to be my favourite character, but he’s grown on me over the years. I love his wit and how other characters don’t get his point and I would quite happily read just his story. Some of the minor characters, like Asha and Theon appeal to me for various reasons but what I do like about this series is that it is told from multiple points of view, giving a wider view of events. It adds to the depth of the story, adding layers and texture that a single point of view could never achieve. It’s something that a lot of high fantasy doesn’t offer and it is only in the hands of great authors that it can be achieved. This is high fantasy at it’s very best.

Without this, the world offers very little that is different from other high fantasy novels. It is set in world that is very reminiscent of middle ages Europe but with dragons and magic. It is the multiple points of view that sets this series apart and it makes me look at the world in a different way.

I also love that the characters face perils and awful events, so they don’t follow the happily-ever-after path. Characters die when you would prefer they didn’t, they face awful things. It makes the story interesting, unpredictable and each volume, or installment (as it often feels like it’s a world that could go on and on with the story constantly evolving), well worth reading.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading A Dance with Dragons and although this is not a series I reread all that often I look forward to seeing where Martin will go next.