Sunday, June 3, 2012
A Dance with Dragons by George R. R. Martin
Seriously, George R. R. Martin???? I mean, seriously?????
That is what I want to say to the author. After more than 1000 pages, if you count the appendix, I am getting kind of disgusted with this series. I've been reading this book off and on more more than a month, and the payoff was basically zilch. I love the world of Westeros and all the characters, but really, this was extremely time-consuming, confusing, and with very little payoff.
If you've read the books, you'll know some of what I'm talking about, and you don't want any spoilers. If you haven't read the series, you probably haven't read this far anyway. So, there's no point in much of a synopsis. Suffice to say there are more adventures of the various denizens of Westeros, from multiple viewpoints, but not all of the characters. If you are looking for resolution and answers, there are few, and we must keep waiting.
First, I have to say that of the five books in this series, this one took by far the longest for me to read. As I mentioned in previous posts, I was also caught up in books for three different book groups, plus I'd been listening to a monster work by Dickens on audio simultaneously, so shame on me. But this book just did not grab me and obsess me like the others, not even A Feast for Crows which isn't as good as the first three. It took me more than a month, compared to less than a week each for each of the other books, and compared to the rest, A Dance with Dragons is kind of a slogfest. Here are some of my problems with the book.
1. Too many characters. That's right, from the woman who loves Dickens and can juggle multiple plot lines and characters, this book has too damn many. After four volumes and more than 3600 pages of this series already, with hundreds of characters, you'd think that GRRM would have created enough, right??? Wrong; so very, very wrong. Each book is told from multiple viewpoints, and having mastered the major players in earlier books, GRRM has decided it's important to elevate a whole bunch of minor characters to leading character status, so the people who engaged and involved you earlier have essentially disappeared. Instead of chapters focusing on eight or nine revolving characters, like the earlier books, this one has chapters featuring about sixteen!!! Some of them get a lot of time, some, just a little. Martin throws the reader a bone now and then with a short little chapter to keep you from throwing the book across the room, but I got hundreds of pages about minor characters about whom I don't give a tiny little rat's behind. Why is he wasting my time with these people???
2. Too much back story. Not only does he constantly give us new characters, new travels, new adventures, there's tons and tons of back story and history and legends that I can't keep straight. Sorry, George, I don't want to read about the legend of this goddess or this saint or the mythology of this new land. I can hardly keep all these other people straight, and you want me to learn more? It really seems like he's a little ADD. Is he bored with all the important characters? If you want to start a new series, fine, but please don't leave me hanging with all my favorite people. At least don't pretend you're continuing the first series.
3. Too many crazy names. My biggest complaint about high fantasy in general is all the world building and all the new vocabulary. At least most of the people in the original books had relatively easy names, like Jon and Robb and Arya and Eddard and Catelyn. I can even manage Joffrey, Cersei, Tywin, Tyrion, Sansa, and Petyr. Even the most exotic names, like Daenerys, Khal Drogo, and Jaqen H'gahr, fine. But now we've moved into a whole new realm of weirdness with the land of Mireen and some really funky names that just tire me out. Reznak, Hizdahr, and God help me, Yurkhaz zo Yunzak. Yezzan zo Qaggaz!! Seriously???? Is George Martin just trying to use up those high-scoring tiles in a A Game of Thrones Scrabble? (He also loves names with apostrophes, which always irritates me.) This book clocks in at more than 1000 pages, but fifty pages at the end are an appendix with names, so you can try and keep the characters straight. Riiiiiiight. Honestly, I think GRRM should have spent more time working on the story, and less time making up names for people.
4. No map of the lands beyond Westeros. The front and back end papers have a lovely and detailed map of Westeros with Kings Landing, Winterfell, the Wall, and the lands in between. But half the story in the last two books (and parts of the other three) have taken place in other places -- Braavos, Mireen, Pentos, and on various sea voyages. Don't you think it would be helpful to give us a map? Where are these places, and how far away are they from Westeros? Martin gives us 50 pages of character names, but no map? Why not??
Anyway. This book was a lot of work, and in the end, just a disappointment. I admit I did know there are at least two more books on the horizon to finish the series, but basically, this book is 1000 pages long, and not much happens. How is that possible? I got sucked into this series a year ago after watching the excellent HBO adaptation of the first novel, and I've been saving this book for about six months.
Am I being too nitpicky? Am I asking too much of the author -- but seriously, if the book is so complicated that I have to consult an online wiki while I'm reading it, then something is wrong here. I love the characters and the land of Westeros, but I'm getting fed up. And now I'll probably have to wait five years to find out what happens next. If anything.