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?
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.