Fiction — print. Bantam Books, 2011. 1016 pgs. Borrowed from a friend.
Running concurrent to A Feast for Crows, the fifth book in Martin’s series follows the characters traveling and living outside of Westeros. Daenerys Targaryen, in the land to the east, rules over the city she conquered with her Unsullies and her three dragons but is finding how difficult it is to reign rather than defeat in battle. Tyrion Lannister leaves King’s Landing following the murder of his nephew, King Joffrey, set on helping his niece seize the throne for herself, but his loyalties are directed away from his sister to Daenerys.
And, in the north, Jon Snow serves as Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch and spends the book dealing with power dynamics within the Night’s Watch, the struggle to remain neutral in the war for the Iron Throne as Stannis Baratheon gathers forces under the safety of the Night’s Watch, and the conflict with the Others beyond the Wall and the wildlings who live in the space between.
It is going to be a long slog to the end. I cannot be any blunter about it. Martin is, unfortunately, one of those people who likes to hear the sound of his own voice, and I would not be surprised to learn that the next books in this series end up getting split into multiple volumes as this book and the one before it were treated.
I wrote in my review of the previous book about how much I missed my favorite characters. Unfortunately, my excited over our reunion lasted only for the first three hundred pages. The next seven hundred were spent slogging through the travels of sixteen individual characters (plus two new narrators for the prologue and epilogue) who serve as the narrators to the march towards winter, and many of my favorite characters began to take on characteristics or act in ways I struggled to understand in the context of their prior characterizations.
Martin’s decision to rename his characters tripped me up once again with the exception of Reek, formerly known as Theon Greyjoy, and it was so very easy to forget about the events occurring simultaneously in Westros until they are poorly melded back into the narrative towards the end of this novel. Suddenly, the plot began to advance whereas the previous several hundred pages had been more of an exploration of the world Martin has created rather than the story he is trying to tell. Symptomatic of too many characters or too many stories or maybe, as I mentioned before, the sign of a person who loves to hear themselves talk.
No longer am I frantically turning page after page; instead, I’m wondering if I would be better off sticking to the show rather than waiting for events to unfold in novel format. Martin’s obsession with detailing his characters’ need to defecate is also less apparent (so far) in the television series than in the books, and that is certainly one thing I could live without.