So that's it - I've now read every single one of the A Song of Fire and Ice books published to date. And it looks like a long wait for the sixth volume! I tried to slow down my reading of this one by reading it alongside other titles but as soon as I hit the half-way point, I had to give up on all other reading and concentrate just on this. As with all my other reviews of this series, there will be spoilers, so proceed with caution if you haven't already read it. A Dance with Dragons starts at the same time as A Feast for Crows, but follows different characters. We already know what happened to Cersei, Jamie and Arya so now we get to visit Jon Snow at the Wall, Daenerys across the sea in Meereen and Tyrion in exile. In the latter stages of the book all the narratives start to entwine again and the main characters from A Feast for Crows are reintroduced with their own chapters.
A Dance with Dragons is a long book at 1000+ pages and at times, I felt it's length more than I did with the other books in the series. There were some fascinating characters and interesting plot developments but the pace of the storytelling appeared to have slowed to the point where some chapters felt repetitive, especially for someone reading the series straight through. I've never been the biggest Daenerys fan and found the chapters dealing with her rule in Meereen a bit tedious. I understand why it's important for her to have actual experience of being a ruler before trying to take Westeros, but there was just too much information about too many new characters that the reader isn't invested in at all. I enjoyed her final chapters and the moral quandry the full grown dragons presented, I just didn't want to read about competing political factions in Meereen.
In A Dance with Dragons, rather than waiting for Daenerys to arrive in Westeros, half of Westeros seem to be seeking her out, including Tyrion, on the run for killing Tywin Lannister. Tyrion has always been one of my favourites as his chapters give the book some much needed humour. I enjoyed the meeting between him and Jorah Mormont and the trials he faced on his journey. Also seeking Daenerys is Quentyn, Prince of Martell and Vicatarion of the Iron Islands. I love both the Martells and the Greyjoys so again, these plots were welcome. I was shocked at the arrival of Aegon Targaryen and have my suspicions that all isn't as it appears to be, especially as he didn't have any chapters of his own.
Back in Westeros, Cersei's humiliation was the most memorable event. Although Cersei was unquestionably a bad leader and person, her punishment was harsh indeed and I was rooting for her to keep her head held high throughout it out. Theon Greyjoy emerges in the torture chambers of Ramsay Bolton and we get to see Jon Snow's choices as Commander of the Night's Watch. Jon's chapters were especially interesting as they were all about doing the right thing, whether or not it makes you popular. I could see his betrayal coming before it happened and don't think he is actually dead (although it's not nice of George R.R. Martin to leave us hanging). There were enough anvil sized hints about Jon's real parentage to make him too important to the plot to kill off, I think.
On the whole, I loved A Dance with Dragons despite it's long-windedness. I could feel the story building up to a pressure point and anticipate that the next volume will be more action packed, as all the main characters are now in key places for some game-changing events to occur.
And now the wait begins for book six!
Source: Personal copy (kindle)
First Published: 2011
Score: 4 out of 5