Tuesday, January 1, 2013

A Dance With Dragons - George R.R. Martin

Happy New Year!  Kevin and I rang in the new year with dear friends, but not before I completed one last book.  It has been my goal for the last week or so to finish this bad boy before the end of the year.  I started it in May, took a pretty long hiatus from it in the fall, but had a serious determination to add its name to the 2012 list.  It truly came down to the end; I finished the last page around 8:00pm last night, just a half hour before our company arrived.

One reason I took so long to finish with book, besides its length, is the vast emptiness after its completion.    There seemed to be no point in rushing to the finish when nothing lay beyond.  George R.R. Martin certainly is not known for his speed of writing.  As of now, people have predicted the release of Book Six, The Winds of Winter, to fall some time in 2014.  Any of fan of Martin's work knows that may well be a generous prediction.  Now that I have completed Dragons, only waiting remains. (Spoilers Ahead)

Many of Martin's fans claim Dragons as their favorite book within the Song of Ice and Fire series.  It certainly ranks better than Book Four, A Feast for Crows.  Personally, A Storm of Swords ranks highest for me.  I enjoyed that by the end of Dragons, nearly all living characters had returned to the story.  There are only a few notable exceptions.  Brienne of Tarth makes a brief cameo; Sansa Stark/Alayne Crow, Catelyn Tully/Lady Stoneheart, and Samwell Tarly appear not at all.  Seeing as I spent a good deal of Crows becoming attached to these characters, I missed their presence.  I also would have appreciated some updates on King Tommen and Queen Margaery, although we at least catch glimpses of their fate in Cersei's chapters.  Perhaps because of the now prolific number of story tellers within Martin's world, he finds it impossible to keep us updated on everyone's status.  Martin did at least return both Daenerys and Jon to us, for which I am thankful.  I do find it amazing, however, that even in a book over 1000 pages in length, Martin cannot find a place for all the characters to share their story.

Of course, and here we reach my only real issue with Dragons, even had their stories been told, we may not have learned much of anything.  Martin seems to derive immense pleasure from taking his sweet time drawing things out.  While I enjoyed getting updated on all of the characters, it seems that the time spent with each of them was so brief that little actually happened to progress the story.  Certainly, a lot of happens in the book, but only some of it actually forwards the overarching story line.  Everything in Westeros takes a long time: the seasons, the journeys, and the story telling.  Despite my appreciation for and enjoyment of Martin's epic, I am tired of winter and tired of waiting for answers.  It's like being a LOST fan all over again.  Except with exponentially longer waits between story segments.   

Still, in spite of Martin's glacial pace, so much good happens in Dragons.  In my post about Crows, I complained about how Cersei continually got away with being pure evil.  Martin granted my wishes in Dragons.  Cersei's mandated atonement punished her further than even I would have.  She found herself literally dirty, ugly, and exposed before the citizens of King's Landing.  Yet, her heart remains as hard as ever.  Despite her elaborate show of repentance, she seems to have lost little ability to concoct her dark schemes.  In addition to those previously mentioned, Crows also taught me to love Asha Greyjoy.  Here, I found her to be a weaker character, but since she remains a captive of Stannis for most of the book, I should excuse that.  It did please me to see Theon and her reunited.  Theon certainly has had a rough go of thing and I loved seeing him reclaim his name and identity.  His character has grown tremendous over the series.  Arya Stark has remained one of my favorite characters since Book One.  I really enjoy the stubborn fight she has in her; however, I am anxious for her to leave Bravvos and for all living Stark children to be reunited (speaking of - where is Rickon?!).  I doubt we will see that longer for reunion any time soon, if ever, especially since at the end of her part of Dragons Arya became an acolyte in the House of Black and White.  Another character I enjoyed in Dragons was Quentyn.  Of all those seeking Dany's hand in marriage, I found myself rooting for him.  I thought for a while that he would subdue one of her remaining dragons and prove himself to her in that way.  Instead, his story went up in smoke as the dragons bested him instead.  Martin, unsurprisingly, leaves us questioning the fate of both Jon Snow and Daenerys.  The men of the Night Watch stab Jon after the announcement of his intended journey to Winterfell to deal with Roose Bolton.  Meanwhile, Khal Jhaqo finds his former khaleesi and her grown dragon alone in the Dothraki sea.  Too bad it will be at least 2014 until we discover the fate of any of these characters.

It feels great to have conquered this series, especially as the capstone to my challenge.  I, as all fans, am eager for more.  Upon finishing Dragons last night, I immediately texted my cousins who got me hooked on Martin's work in the first place to express my displeasure that they would get me started on something without an end in sight.  Thanks a lot, Matt and Jamie.  It will be nice to have conversations or read reviews and articles about the series without fear of spoilers.  George R.R. Martin, you have drawn me into your world.  Now get to work and bring us the next chapter!

Have you read the A Song of Ice and Fire series?  Do you have predictions for Book Six?  

Pages: 1040
Date Completed: December 31, 2012

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