A Dance with Dragons I: Dreams and Dust by George R.R. Martin
In the aftermath of a colossal battle, new threats are emerging from every direction.Tyrion Lannister, having killed his father, and wrongfully accused of killing his nephew, King Joffrey, has escaped from King’s Landing with a price on his head.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 998th Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch. But Jon has enemies both inside and beyond the Wall.And in the east Daenerys Targaryen struggles to hold a city built on dreams and dust.
After finishing A Feast for Crows, I was looking forward to seeing all of the characters that volume missed out. Jon, Tyrion, and Dany featured once more, and it was great to see how they have developed and matured after some of the situations they found themselves in when we last saw them.
Despite this, and although I understood Martin’s reasons for splitting the books geographically, I wouldn’t say it worked well for me. It felt like there was something lacking the whole time, both here and in A Feast for Crows, and I believe the missing element to be the full-rounded view I was used to in previous volumes. To hold back certain characters’ viewpoints created repetition, a sickening for certain characters, and a dulled sense of excitement. Although I was still engaged with the plot, I certainly wasn’t engaged as much as I had been before this strange piece of editing affected me.
I enjoyed the contrast in setting here between places in Westeros and places in the east. Martin shows us, for examples, the coldness of the Wall and its surrounding areas, before transporting us over the sea to warmer climates, like Dorne and Meereen. This felt almost jarring to me, where in once place we have wildlings dying in the snow, and in another we have residents of eastern cities dying of flux in the baking heat. I could almost feel the change in temperate on my skin, it was cleverly done.
Again, Martin implements flash chapters from characters whose viewpoints don’t recur in the same way as our main players. In A Feast for Crows, I found this to be quite distancing, but it seems he has found his feet with this device here. We meet some new competitors in the game of thrones in this way, and the tiny sprinklings of information given did well to create the proper level of tension and suspense. Much and more are weighing in here, too many actually, and I think someone is due a bloody death very soon.
Once more, Martin is moving his pieces around his cyvasse table without making any deadly strikes. Although it was intense in places, it’s clear to see he’s preparing something, and I can only hope whatever he’s brewing should happen very soon.