The world of fantasy genre fiction is finally happy this week. An incredibly long-awaited event has finally taken place.
With over five years since the last one, with much grumbling from the fans, the wait is over.
And people seem...underwhelmed.
The first three were amazing classics of the fantasy genre. I loved them, the way they combined fantasy tropes with a strong dose of reality. They were violent and brutal, just the way the world of political machinations really is.
The main problem with AFfC is that it is dull dull dull. Martin has taken the strengths of the series and turned them into flaws. A large cast of characters becomes bewildering and diffuse. Political intrigue becomes byzantine and pointless. Action and adventure leave centre stage and are replaced by endless wandering and political gabfests. The most compelling characters, Tyrion and Dani? Left to the next volume.
So, the problems are structural. There's still lots of good stuff here -- the last 100 pages or so save the novel from train-wreck status -- with the main plot being somewhat advanced. The problem is really that of length. At least two or three of the viewpoint characters could have been completely removed, such as Brienne's story. That could have been reduced to a paragraph in the Jaime thread easily. Also, some of the threads were massively over-emphasized. Cercei is the main example of this one: her story could have been effectively told in about half the space. One of the best bits, the story of the Iron Islands, should have told in a more focussed way, instead it was very diffuse.
If you check out the reviews on Amazon, my opinions, while hardly universal, are quite representative of a large segment of the fan base. The average score for the fourth is much lower than for the first three.
And judging from the reviews on Amazon, this new one is much the same, if slightly better.
Here's a sample of the current roster of Amazon's "Most helpful reviews:"
You get the idea. The average score is about 3.5 stars, compared to about 3 stars for book four and around 4.5 for the first three.
So, will I actually read the damn thing? Almost definitely. But I'm not in a rush. My younger son is racing through the first few books and if his momentum takes him through to ADwD, I'll pick it up for him and read it myself.
- Where Everybody Is Before A Dance With Dragons Begins (nice catchup if you haven't read the books in a while)
- A Read of Ice and Fire: A Game of Thrones (About 1/2 way through book one)
- Winter is Almost Upon Us: George R.R. Martin's A Dance With Dragons (Spoiler-Free)