The Promise of Potential & Effects of a Lie (A Dance with Dragons)
I did it, finally. I am caught up to date with George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire, having just finished A Dance with Dragons.
I will be a little more delicate than I was in my review of A Feast for Crows here, but Spoilers there may be.
What the Feast lacked, A Dance with Dragons did provide for me: Tyrion Lannister, some Stannis action, action upon the Wall, insights from Davos Seaworth, and my Queen and Khaleesi, Danaerys Targaryen. The inclusion of those characters to start with raised the bar from Dance’s predecessor.
Some of Feast’s problems, however, followed closely into this book. Martin decides to take his time, to really stroll in his characters’ shoes for certain parts of these last two books that surely enriches this world he’s built, but DAMN if it doesn’t bog things down. As I tired of Brienne of Tarth’s ambling quest to find Stark children (which all readers knew she had no hope of finding since we knew from other perspectives that they were far, far away from the Maid!), I tired of sailing and the issues of sailing all the way to the Slavers’ Bay with Tyrion, Jorah, Quentyn, and Victarion. I take that back, I was actually relieved to get some Vicatarion in there, he accomplishes something by way of plundering any damn boat he sees, at least.
I tire of these story lines where we follow certain characters in the promise of wherever they are going could lead to the accomplishment of something, which actually lead no where. In Clash of Kings and Storm of Swords, we kind of get the same thing with Arya and what I’d dub her “Tour of the Riverlands” which circled the action, but rarely paid off. Arya’s was transformed by those events, however. The near third of a book following Brienne accomplished little and transformed her not; this third of a book following Tyrion was more entertaining(as that’s what Tyrion does), but only managed to bruise him and the reader some, as nothing was accomplished. The promise of connecting Tyrion Lannister’s wit & tactical acumen with Danaerys & her righteous dragonquest fizzled and failed.
Here’s the problem: while Martin maintains his character’s viewpoint in the world around them, doing it so completely and making them believe the lies surrounding them, he drops off too many hints or outright facts to the reader so we know the follies of these characters and are forced to follow along on these fool-quests. I only hate Brienne’s story through knowing she’s looking in the wrong places for Stark children. I know Arya’s whereabouts from her perspective, so I find little enjoyment in watching several different stories of Northerners who want to race towards Winterfell and rescue poor little False Arya from her imprisonment with the Boltons. All the readers of this book know she’s on the wrong continent! I care little and less for each of Melisandre’s visions and warnings when one carries any weight out of four.
The author lies to his characters to be realistic about the game they all play for control over one another, but drags his reader through the same lies over and over again. We hear the cry of wolf from one perspective, but witness the reaction from four different sources, which gets tiresome in my view.
The backs of these books all say, “Time Magazine proclaims George R.R. Martin as the American Tolkien.”
Tolkien is Ser Barristan Selmy. Ser Barristan is honorable, steadfast, and truthful. He holds himself to the ideal of the vow he swore, even after being cast aside. You can trust Ser Barristan to do the right thing, even if that’s tell you things you don’t want to hear. I’m one of few that prefer the Silmarillion to LOTR. Tolkien has no qualms about telling you things you don’t want to hear, but he will tell them true.
George R. R. Martin is Roose Bolton. He delights in your torture. He’s going to feed you a lie and ask you how it tastes, then leech that feeling from you quietly. He’s not the Bastard Bolton, Ramsay – flaying the reader and telling them they have a new name. We can take solace in that, at least. But he’s the quiet Dreadlord. He wants everyone to know that there is a lie, but there’s nothing that can be done about it.
7 (out of 10) Dragons Dancing.
ADDENDUM: Tormund Giantsbane should be the main character of the series. In fact, he is already. This book was actually called A Dance with Tormund. Tormund Dragondancer. Every Tormund belch is a song of ice and fire.
It is known.