George R.R. Martin, “A Dance with Dragons” Game of Thrones Book 5

That’s that, then. I have now completed all five existing volumes of George R.R. Martin’s immense Game of Thrones series. It’s an achievement that needs to be punctuated somehow, with an exclamation or perhaps the thud of a very heavy paperback called A Dance with Dragons hitting the coffee table. But after all those hours in Martin’s fictional world, do I feel… bereft? Have I returned to real life blinking and disoriented? Do I miss my direwolf?

Arthur Rackham's version of the Wagnerian dragon Fafner. Martin's scope is arguably Wagnerian.

Arthur Rackham’s version of the Wagnerian dragon Fafner. Martin’s scope is arguably Wagnerian.

Sadly, no. The delight and excitement that propelled me through the first three volumes seemed to reappear after the dreary, confusing A Feast for Crows but that was a temporary phenomenon. So much of the narrative is still taken up by conflicts I just can’t be bothered to follow. Basically a power vacuum in Westeros has attracted the attention of bordering kingdoms (or clans or splinter groups) and a wide array of deeply unattractive characters are maneuvering for supremacy. As you might expect from the title of this volume, the silver-haired Danaerys Targaryen and her dragons occupy a big slice of the story, but the slavery and scheming in her part of the world are depressing and confusing. Meanwhile the north of Westeros is occupied by the sadistic Bolton family and those gloomy Greyjoys are everywhere.

Would it be too much to ask for a glimmer of hope, Mr. Martin? I have been assuming that the more attractive characters are undergoing various challenges that will form them into the leaders who can bring peace to Westeros. I understand that this is a long story arc and that turning its trajectory is like driving the Queen Mary. But I am reading this series for entertainment, and it’s starting to feel like work.

About carolwallace

I spend most of my time writing and reading. Most recent publications: the reissue of "To Marry an English Lord,"one of the inspirations for "Downton Abbey," and the historical novel "Leaving Van Gogh." I am too cranky to belong to a book group but I love the book-blogging community.
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4 Responses to George R.R. Martin, “A Dance with Dragons” Game of Thrones Book 5

  1. Alex says:

    Ah, I too got stuck on book four and haven’t yet got round to picking up book five. Now I’m wondering if I should bother. Thanks for doing the suffering for me.:)

  2. carolwallace says:

    Well, Alex, I may have been too harsh, but some of this did feel like a forced march. (And we know what that’s like, right?) Too little Bran, too little Arya, Jaime, Cersei… lots of Jon Snow. That was the one consolation. Anyway you’ll have plenty of time to read it before it comes to HBO!

  3. Thanks for the insight Carol. We had a diehard Game of Thones fan in our household. He gave up after a while due to lack of hope and the killing off of favorite characters. (I gave up early on, too, but I wasn’t a diehard.)
    What an achievement, the talent to create compelling characters and story lines and hook in your readers. But I wonder what it says about today, that so much careful craft and skill goes into making stores without hope. Some people, you, Julien… have voted with your feet (or hands tossing the book with a thud.)

    • carolwallace says:

      Well, Mary, we do get the stories we want, somehow. I think it’s possible to read GoT as an extended anti-war novel, and the “winter is coming” story line as an environmental concern. And I think there is hope: some of the most compelling characters are still alive and undergoing what I think of as preparation for a great challenge. That being said, if Martin kills off Arya Stark, I’m done!

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