I gave in to peer pressure and the lure offered by the TV series, and Kindled George RR Martin's A Dance with Dragons. I almost didn't, having seen the reviews on amazon - goodness, there are some grumpy readers out there! I picked out a few lines from my favorites :
" hardly anything really actually happens - you keep hoping and assuming it will but it never actually eventuates" (??? Eventuates ??? Mind you, I know what he means. I too have days when I never actually eventuate... )
" I'm excited to read anything, but at the end of a 100 pages i feel robbed." (This one made me sad. I imagined him going out to the bookshop, all excited, buying a book completely at random in an excited manner, and coming back with a cheery grin, which over 100 pages, slowly sags into woe. )
"The only time the story comes alive is in a couple of chapters when lesser used people are being covered. Here we see their stories zip along as martin simply didn't have the time/will/energy to indulge in the endless meadering... But we all have no choice but to buy it"
(I love the word 'meadering'. That's exactly what you do when you've had too much mead. The suggestion that 'lesser used people are being covered' is amusingly suggestive, if a bit too close to the truth. Also, I love the implication that GRRM is standing behind this reviewer with a revolver.)
"our plate is overloaded with generous helpings of Tyrion"
"I never write reviews, but this book just made my blood boil. I defended GRRM a many times for being 5 years late with this book, after all, good writing takes it time. So I expected a good book, with plot you know? Instead I got an overly expensive travelguide for a country I have no chance ever visiting, what a rip-off!"
(I can't even begin to comment on this one it just makes me giggle too much. I also kind of want to sell him London Bridge. )
"The writing had been on the wall with the relative letdown of A Feast for Crows, like some red comet blazing through the sky of an overly convoluted plot with too many storylines and new POV characters. " I half-suspect this commenter of having written this sentence for some kind of bet.
"I give one star to the PoVs in the East; Dany and the bunch approching Meereen asymptotically, and three to the ones in Westeros" (I would quite like to know what 'asymptotically; means in this context. 'Three to the Ones in Westeros' sounds like a pleasing start to a prophecy.)
Enough! Clearly a lot of people didn't like it. I thought it was interesting, in that it doesn't feel like a novel - in the same way that Feast for Crows didn't. I don't know what it does feel like, exactly - not a collection of short stories, because the stories have no conclusions of their own. Maybe like a huge collection of letters all from the same historical period? Related by context, but not necessarily by the drive of a single narrative.
I'm inclined to think that either A Song of Ice and Fire is the world's longest unfinished novel in (so far) five monstrous volumes. Or the books are not novels at all but something else: a set of collections, perhaps?
I can see why people who were hoping for a novel with a beginning, a middle and an end might be disappointed in this. There were parts of it when I wasn't gripped, and considered skipping ahead, or just wandered away and did something else. But I bet some of those were sections that other people thought were the best bits, and likewise, the stories where I was furiously reading about Asha Greyjoy, very likely other people thought were an interruption to the 'main story'.
I was very pleased with the number of Mormonts in this book. I love the Mormonts. I could read a book just about them. They are great. Admittedly, Grrm seems to be determined to describe Book Jorah Mormont as quite different and much hairier than Iain Glen who played him in the TV series, but I've decided to ignore that and have Iain Glen play Mormont in my head anyway.
And I'm really hoping that Davos Seaworth is going to have to rescue Rickon from Skagos, all among the Brians and unicorns. I was a little disappointed with Daenerys, who after seeming quite bright in previous books, appeared to have something of a fit of the 'I'm just a silly girl's. But she does seem to have got over it, so fingers crossed.
Tyrion! I admit his chapters weren't always bustling with forward motion, but to be honest, I'm quite happy watching him being played by Peter Dinklage and just wandering around making sarcastic remarks and observations about elephants and playing board games.
Speaking of which, we now have three different Elephantidae in the ASOIAF world : white dwarf elephants, large grey elephants, and mammoths. This is excellent. I can't decide if I'm hoping for an epic battle of grey sellsword elephants against mammoths in Westeros now, or if that is just too sad and tragic to hope for.
I'm starting to have a real soft spot for Stannis Baratheon. Everyone is SO determined to dwell on his inadequacies and how unlikeable he is, and he just shrugs them off and keeps going. The man has serious gumption, you have to give him that.
Things I didn't like :
Graphic descriptions of torture. Ew. I just don't get on with those. I did read the Reek / Theon chapters in the end, in case I was missing something, but I suspect that if I re-read, I shall skip those. Plus, my improbability filter was triggered by the fact that Theon was filthy, starving, terrified and in agony for months on end - but apparently still completely immune to all forms of bacterial infection. I can cope with dragons, giants, and a magic monster wall made of ice, but that kept throwing my suspended disbelief out of whack. It's probably another version of the Amazing Fatness Even When Starved & Forced to Exercise gene carried by Sam and the Manderleys.
Also, I know Ramsay Snow is supposed to be a monster, but he's an awful one-dimensional one. I'm unimpressed by the way that the Boltons seem to do absolutely nothing to inspire the absolute loyalty of their henchmen, who none the less do their bidding with enormous devotion and enthusiasm. I can see that being mean to smallfolk isn't necessarily a problem in a lord, but I'm just a tiny bit unconvinced by fear as a sole motivator in a feudal system.
I do have a sneaking suspicion that possibly the book could have done with a bit more editing to tighten up the narrative. I suspect the publishing company were so pleased to get their hands on the thing at last that perhaps the critical evaluation was not what it may have been for earlier books in the series.
There is definitely a 'too many surprises' aspect coming into play now - assuming that he does still want us to be surprised, I suppose.
So many people have now come back from the dead that I'm not entirely expecting Jon Snow to stay dead for long, if he dies at all. But he was never my favorite character, so if he is actually dead, then I can cope with that. (I was hoping Ned Stark might be one of the resurrected, but alas no! I'm not entirely ruling out a surprise Ned-return in the next book though, assuming that is ever finished, of course)
One thing that was very noticeable reading it on Kindle was that the production of that edition was quite poor. There were lots and lots of missing line breaks in dialogue - or extra line breaks in the middle of a sentence.
I found this really throws me out of the book, when I have to try to work out who is speaking because it's all on one line, or alternatively read a sentence that sounds broken and odd becausethere is a line break in the middle of a sentence and so a couple of words are mysteriously dangling underneath the
rest of it.
And what's with all the randomly-hyphenated words? Many of them were words that I would not break with a hyphen even if they fell across a line ending (eg prin-cess) - as on the Kindle these mostly came in the middle of lines, the overall effect was odd and unpleasing. And the maps were pretty much unreadable.
On the whole though, very entertaining and not as depressing as Feast for Crows. Despite the inadequacies of the Kindle edition, it was an awful lot easier to carry in that format. Which was nice.