Dance With Dragons by George R R Martin is the fifth book in the Song of Ice and Fire series. They say there will be seven books in the series but, thanks to Robert Jordan, I’m a bit skeptical at this point. I had said I wouldn’t read any books I didn’t own this year but, after reading the fourth book and being horribly disappointed, I was worried that I’d let that simmer and take root and I’d lose interest in the series altogether.
Now, I’m not sure what is going on but I think Martin has an obsession with men’s nipples because more than one of his point-of-view characters (and goodness knows there are many!) say something about the uselessness of nipples on a breastplate. It’s mentioned twice in this book, twice in A Feast for Crows, and once in A Storm of Swords. Maybe he’s just obsessed with Batman or George Clooney. I don’t know. Regardless, there were a few odd moments that took me out of the book, that drew my attention away from the story itself and reminded me that there was an author, a writer, a creator, behind the narrative.
This is not a compliment. And yet, I confess that I enjoyed this novel so much more than the previous one that my faith in this series is restored. There are a lot of extra characters and I think that, by allowing so many of the secondary characters a chance at being the point-of-view character, the story is prolonged but I am not sure that it is unnecessary. The necessity of it remains to be seen as the rest of the novels are published. However, while the previous novel seemed to drag on endlessly, this one moved along at a faster pace.
In the third novel I noticed the significance of the relationship between the Starks and their direwolves and this relationship is all the more palpable in this novel. I am also noticing something interesting about names and naming. In the first novel, Tyrion tells Jon Snow “Never forget what you are, for surely the world will not” after Jon bristles at being called “bastard" (57). Tyrion, accustomed as he is to being called “Imp,” “Dwarf,” and hearing his brother Jaime called “Kingslayer,” the power that names and nicknames have is evident.
With so many characters, it can be challenging to keep up with the various names. All the more difficult when so many of them adopt new names or nicknames. But there is something meaningful about the names, both those by which a character is labeled and those the character adopts him/her-self. One could write an entire book about the different names and how each defines the characters or belies their nature. It is this that makes these books so fascinating, an awareness that there is much more occurring within the pages.
That and the surprises. I think George R R Martin has taken the writing suggestion “Kill your darlings” entirely too seriously. Of course, after the third book, the reader ought to know nothing and nobody is sacred. But then there are twists and turns and surprises. Characters you love do horrible things and those you loathe become, if not likable, somewhat sympathetic.
So be warned. You’ll want to smack the author, you’ll want to hug the author, but mostly you’ll want him to hurry up and finish the next two books because we’re all ready to see how things turn out for all of the characters. Or the survivors, anyway.