A Dance With Dragons (A Song of Ice and Fire, #5)A Dance With Dragons by George R.R. Martin

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

wow! i read all five books in two weeks. i think that does say something about the books (in addition, perhaps, to some commentary on my willingness to abandon reality utterly).

these books are popcorn books in the extreme–books meant to be devoured rapidly, without perhaps much (if any) reflection. and i think you’re probably a very very young person if you are looking to these books to gain any wisdom on the larger issues of life. but…

they’re fun! they have one of the finest things ever found in literature: people you love to hate. i mean, really, if you can get through one book without hating cersei, you are the buddha reincarnate. tyrion is wonderfully hate-able even when he does something good. tywin is loathsome. and so on. now reflect on this a moment: how many people do we really get to hate in real life? a full-hearted, rich, complex, many-layered hatred? not that many, alas. (two for me, if you’re curious–dick cheney and deng xiaoping.) you can be angry with people. you can think people are idiots. you can wish them off the planet. but really hate them? it’s hard, because deep down we know they’re just humans–flawed and weak and multifaceted and you know, you just can’t hate on a real person very easily. it takes effort.

so you get to hate people, pretty freely, in these books, and that’s special.

the plotting in the first three books of the series should be a master class for any wannabe writer. a plot that hooks you through the entrails and pulls you forward through loss of sleep, friendships, the guilt of children ignored, parents abandoned… now that’s good plotting. in my opinion, though, all that lovely control has gone utterly splat in the last two books (so far) of the series. and when that kind of plotting goes splat… the books’ other flaws emerge in all their gruesome horror.

if a book ever had to stand before a judge at the biblio-equivalent of St. Peter, i gotta say, these books would have a lot to answer for. they’re repetitive. the characters are fairly shallow, and there are far too many of them by book #5. the deus ex machine has tossed a rod from overuse. gratuitousness comes in many flavors: gratuitous violence, misogyny, food obsession, details on sigils, armaments porn… if i went on to the length required to list all the gratuitousnesses, this review would start to resemble some of the worst flaws of the novels themselves.

i’ve no idea how long before book #6 comes out. when it does, i’ll be happy to put myself on the gratuitously long library wait list for it. but i’ll also be full of an itchy kind of joy to get my hands on it when it comes.