Q1 Benchmark: Book Review

Over the last month I read the Fifth book in the A Song of Ice and Fire series. I watched as the war of the five Kings wound to a close. I tasted the meals while reading George’s famous descriptions of food. I hurt when my favorite characters felt pain, and I smiled every moment they didn’t die tragically.

George R.R. Martin’s A Dance With Dragons is the fifth 1,510 page installment to his A Song of Ice and Fire series continuing his stories of the fictional continent of Westeros. While a healthy appreciation for fiction is certainly needed to get through such a large book, I can say that the series has much more to offer than originally meets the eye. Dance continues the story telling style of using “point of view characters”. Chapters are divided up by character, telling the story through their eyes.

For readers unfamiliar with this style of storytelling, let me tell you that it makes it very hard to hate one character more than another. Martin creates a world of gray areas. Much like real life, every character has a reason for their actions. This leaves it up to the reader to draw his or her own opinions. The maddening part of this type of storytelling is that those characters who might otherwise be considered the “bad guys” get to show their own perspective. I found it frustrating that George R.R Martin didn’t let me fully agree with the “good guys” or completely hate the “bad guys”, but I will say that it kept me on my toes. It keeps the story relatable and interesting more than anything else.

One issue I’ve had with the series so far is the inclusion of characters that don’t drive the plot in any way. This continues in Dance. For example, Quentin Martel’s inclusion in the story doesn’t serve any purpose other than to give exhausting details about unimportant places. His entire story can be summed up in the sentence “ The heir to Dorne travels east to find his queen.” I found myself caring little about him and more for what his actions mean to other characters. To those readers who don’t care about every detail but still want to be able to understand the plot, skipping Martel’s chapters is a safe way to save time.

While I love this book and hope everyone reads it. I also had to read the other huge books in order to get to it. Dance is completely plot driven, and will not make any sense unless the first four books are read before hand. If you think you are up to the challenge of reading such a long story, I guarantee that you will enjoy yourself. If you’ve made the journey through the other four books, congratulations! You are in for another thrilling installment to the series. Remember though, George R.R Martin in infamous for killing off major characters. In A Dance With Dragons, winter is coming, and that certainly doesn’t mean he’ll relent.

.By James Prell