Heresy, I know: I love Martin as much as anyone. Nevertheless, compared to the hype, my read of A Dance With Dragons has let me down a bit, and I'm pondering whether it might be better to recommend waiting with the later books til the series is finished for first time reading. Why? Well, it's a matter of resolution - or rather, the lack of it! A Game of Thrones had it - the moments where plotlines weren't necessarily finished, but arcs were definitely tied up. The moments of convergence, where everything comes together. A Clash of Kings had it too - and so did A Storm of Swords. But what about the two most recent installments?
Not so much. For all the talk of cutting the Meereenese Knot, George R.R. Martin hasn't equalled Alexander. Dany is still pretty stuck at the end of Dance, and none of the plotlines get the sort of resolution we wanted - scenes like the Red Wedding or the Battle of the Blackwater. So, here's the case:
Reasons You Should Read Feast and Dance
- Writing - Regardless of the rest, it's still Martin in the driving seat, and his writing is - as ever - superb. We feel for these characters - however unsympathetic - in a way that few authors can manage, and Martin at a slow pace is still better than a lot of fantasy out there
- Locations - Feast and Dance show us a lot more of Martin's worldbuilding and setting that we've never seen before: Volantis, more of Meereen, and more.
- R'hllor! - There's a Melisandre POV, and we get to see a fair bit more of the Red God in Dance - and learn a little bit more about the powers his priests have shown. Also Stannis - what more can you ask?
- Tyrion - Though the resolution's imperfect, Tyrion definitely goes somewhere: and if you enjoy him as a character, you'll likely love him in Dance as well. Let's just say that some of the situations he ventures into are just made for mockery...
- Atmosphere - Feast might be a low point in terms of action, but it does show us the effects of the War of the Five Kings on Westeros. We get to see the devastation left behind on Brienne's journey - as well as what's happened to a few characters we left behind. Always fun - or, in Martin's case, predictably horrible!
The Reasons Why You Shouldn't
- Climax - ...isn't there. Even Brienne's plotline escapes resolution, which, given her number of POV chapters, is really quite remarkable! If you prefer not to reread before the release of the next volumes, Feast and Dance are not for you.
- Brienne - With a huge number of POV chapters, Brienne is one of the make-or-break your enjoyment characters for Feast. If you don't like her? You might want to wait a bit longer.
- New Elements - I admit that it came as a bit of a disappointment to me to have a previously-unknown, unanticipated new player in Westeros: while it breaks some of the deadlock, it's a sudden introduction. Furthermore, not much is done with it - as yet. If you want progress before you start reading, you might want to hold off.
- Dany's Suitors - Some of the more interesting ones - Victarion, for instance - or emissaries like Marwyn aren't heard from much in Dance.
What do I think? Well, since I've started, I don't think I could stop myself reading Dance if I tried! But honestly, if you've only read up to A Storm of Swords, you might want to hold off till the anticipated convergence of the next book before getting yourself caught on the cliffhangers. So, what are your thoughts? Read - or not?