The fifth book in George R.R. Martin’s epic A Song of Fire and Ice fantasy series begins by running parallel to the fourth book, A Feast For Crows, for roughly 2/3rds of the story before characters from AFFC begin to have narration in ADWD.
After all my raving about the first three books in this series and my excitement about the fifth book coming out despite a so-so fourth book, I was very disappointed with A Dance With Dragons. I found, as I did with AFFC, that it felt like much of the book was moving players around the chess board with no clear idea of how to get them where Martin wanted them to end up.
While the story telling was, as it always is, fantastic (and Martin has created such a believable fantasy world for his characters to inhabit) I found myself pleading with the story to do something. I was waiting for it to start. As the book moved further and further along, it became very apparent that many of the story lines weren’t actually going anywhere worth getting excited about.
I did feel, however, that ADWD ended with a much bigger promise of a pay off in the next book than AFFC did (although I will concede that this may be because ADWD is leading into the next part of the story, not leading to a book which runs parallel). Many of the principle characters are now set up to make their move. The chess pieces, so to speak, are ready for their final moves of the endgame.
I don’t require that every book be packed with action, but it’s possible to move the story along while you set up the upcoming plot lines (which Martin did excellently in A Game of Thrones so we know he is capable of doing it) but what I read here felt more like floundering in many parts.
On the positive side, I really enjoyed the chapters told from Reek’s perspective (if you’re reading the series and have reached book five: I always wanted him to have a chance to redeem himself after some of his previous actions and I really enjoyed watching him turn back into the man he could be.) And despite all my criticisms with ADWD, it’s still leaps and bounds ahead of almost any chick lit book I’ve ever read.