I don't know how to objectively review this book.
I first found Westeros in high school--sophmore year, to be exact. I'd had A Game of Thrones
for months, maybe a year. I think it was a present. I kept opening it, reading a few pages, and bouncing off. And then one day I was bored and didn't have anything better to read and I finally forced my way through the prologue (which I still hate, and skip on rereads) and fell head-first into the book. When I came up for air, I demanded my parents take me to the bookstore so I could buy A Clash of Kings
, even though it was only out in hardcover and I was young and broke.
I needed to know what was next. I'd never found books that so perfectly combined hard-edged politics with an air of the numinous. But it was more than that--I needed to spend more time in this world, with its history and mythology and people and landscapes and food. There's a picture of me reading Clash
in my high school yearbook, hunched over on the school bus and oblivious to everything and everyone, including the camera flash.
When A Storm of Swords
came out, I ordered it from amazon.uk rather than wait an extra three months for the U.S. release. I did the same for A Feast for Crows
, even though the difference was a mere three weeks. There's no question I would have done the same for A Dance with Dragons
, if the option had been available.
It doesn't matter that I find many of the characters objectionable, and not just the villains but also the heroes. (Die in a fire, Tyrion.) It doesn't matter that the Orientalist descriptions of Essos send my eyebrows crawling up to my hairline. It doesn't matter that the sex scenes are cringe-inducing and that all the female characters are written through a male gaze. It doesn't matter that Martin desperately, desperately needs a better line editor--or to listen to the one he has and avoid using the same phrase ten or twenty times in a single book.
All that matters is that Westeros is home, and I will always be grateful to return to it.
Even a week after finishing, I don't know what to say about Dance
. Parts of it dragged (Dany). Parts of it flew all too quickly (Davos). Parts of it were deeply satisfying (Theon), and parts of it were enraging (Tyrion). All of it made an impression. All of it stirred a reaction.
Was it a good book? Hard question, because it isn't
a book. It's part 5 of X of the ongoing Book of Westeros, and it pretends even less than the previous volumes to have a contained storyline, to have a beginning and a middle and an end. I think it could have improved on that aspect; I am sorry it was rushed to press so quickly, because I think better editing could have produced a better-shaped book, with less repetition and more sense of emotional climax. (I don't necessarily think it needed more battles
. Theon's final scene, Jon's, Dany's--those were all climaxes, even if they weren't filled with fire and blood. Even Cersei, to an extent. And I'm okay leaving Bran and Arya mid-training. But I thought the ends to Tyrion's, Victarion's, and Jaime's stories were bizarrely abrupt.) I still think it was a worthy addition to the series.
But oh, god, the line editing. By the end of Dance
, the "much and more," "little and less," "words are wind," "he was not wrong," and wroth/wrath confusion were so grating, and so prevalent, that I was stopping every two or three pages to close my eyes and cringe. I can forgive a lot--the racism, the misogyny, the endless meandering travelogues--as long as I'm allowed to sink into the world of Westeros. Redundant prose is like a hand constantly jerking me back to the surface. Please. Please. Be better in the next book.