I'm finally all up to date with George R. R. Martin's series "A Song of Ice and Fire" with the fifth installment "A Dance with Dragons" (1016 pages). I made the rare hardback purchase with this book, as I just couldn't wait to see where the story was headed. From Goodreads:
"The future of the Seven Kingdoms hangs in the balance.
In the east, Daenerys, last scion of House Targaryen, her dragons grown to terrifying maturity, rules as queen of a city built on dust and death, beset by enemies.
Now that her whereabouts are known many are seeking Daenerys and her dragons. Among them the dwarf, Tyrion Lannister, who has escaped King’s Landing with a price on his head, wrongfully condemned to death for the murder of his nephew, King Joffrey. But not before killing his hated father, Lord Tywin.
To the north lies the great Wall of ice and stone – a structure only as strong as those guarding it. Eddard Stark's bastard son Jon Snow has been elected the 998th Lord Commander of the Night's Watch, but he has enemies both in the Watch and beyond the Wall, where the wildling armies are massing for an assault.
On all sides bitter conflicts are reigniting, played out by a grand cast of outlaws and priests, soldiers and skinchangers, nobles and slaves. The tides of destiny will inevitably lead to the greatest dance of all…"
In the acknowledgements of the novel, Martin states: "The last one was a bitch. This one was three bitches and a bastard." At times it was three bitches and a bastard to read! "A Dance with Dragons" covers about half of the characters in the series much like the previous novel "A Feast for Crows" covered the other half. Hopefully the next book in the series won't be so massive that it will need to be cut up like the last two, or at least not split up in such a way as to wait years to see what happens to a good portion of the characters.
I think "A Dance with Dragons" was a stronger effort from the previous installment mostly because it featured the better or more liked characters in the series. It still suffers from the same problems as the previous novel as well, a feeling that the story isn't progressing fast enough in spite of its thousands of pages. In true Martin fashion nearly all the characters end their final chapters in some kind of cliffhanger that won't be revealed until the next book in the series. This isn't necessarily a bad thing unless you consider that the last two novels took five and six years to complete. I hope myself and the author are alive to see the finished product some day!
Again, I love the characters (literally hundreds) and the rich world and cultures that Martin has created. Humor, tension, and plot twists definitely make this series a worthwhile read. I only wish the stories flowed as well and quickly as the first three books in the series. Recommended for fans of fantasy. As I've said before, a friend of mine called it "Lord of the Rings with tits." Start with the first novel "A Game of Thrones" or check out the series on HBO.