Hugo Review – Best Novel – A Dance With Dragons

As I previously mentioned, I’m attempting to consume as much of the 2012 Hugo Short Listed works in order to make an informed vote.

I started with the Best Fancast category and am now on to the category of Best Novel.

This is my review of  A Dance With Dragons by George R. R. Martin

Note, this review is obviously subjective and most definitely biased, based on the topics and style of writing which interest and entertain me.

This review may contain SPOILERS.

Synopsis: The fifth instalment of Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series, most of A Dance with Dragons runs in parallel with the fourth volume with a geographic focus towards the Wall and beyond (mostly Jon, Theon and Bran) and across the Sea (mostly Daenerys and Tyrion). Near the end, we return to Southern Westeros to see what Jaime and Cersei are up to.

Plot: As the fifth book in an epic fantasy saga, it often seems like there’s so much plot it’s difficult to keep it at all straight. Almost all of the main characters have their own plots and schemes, and these then interact in somewhat expected and often unexpected ways. Still, it’s clear Martin knows the end game, and this book marches us closer towards it.

Characters: Unlike the last tome in the series, this one returns us to some of the more likeable characters, and we watch them struggle with the ties of duty and honour they’ve bound themselves up in.  Jon, Bran, Daenerys and Tyrion are all developed, and of course it wouldn’t be a Martin book with at least several of the main characters presumed dead at different stages of the book.

Scope: As an epic fantasy, the scope is huge, so huge that A Dance with Dragons is more the second half of a much larger book, rather than a book of its own. Martin gives us viewpoints from a wide number of characters and takes us across several continents, into different nations, all with their own politics, fashions and vices. One could never accuse A Dance with Dragons of having too small a scope.

Writing: Martin writes well, he’s a master at his craft and well into the middle of his epic saga. Nothing springs out at me as particularly excellent, nor particularly poor from reading A Dance with Dragons.

Pacing: The pacing of A Dance with Dragons will vary depending on the reader’s preference for multiple points of view. Personally, I found there were some characters I really didn’t care about, and had to suffer over their view point and story component to get back to a more interesting character or plot development.

Other Comments: I suspect that the series may be suffering a little from a bit of over indulgence on Martin’s part, and that splitting a book in two based on geographical location was compensating for this. There’s a sense that the story got away a bit, and has been difficult to try and rein back in. We’ll see with the next book, whenever it comes out.

Overall: I enjoyed a Dance with Dragons as the next instalment in an epic fantasy saga, but it’s not the kind of book which can even attempt to stand on its own, which I feel a Hugo winner should be able to.

Four Novels reviewed, two to go. Last: Deadline by Mira Grant



Best Novel Background Material:

Short listed in the Best Novel category for the 2012 Hugos are:

Among Others, Jo Walton (Tor)
A Dance With Dragons, George R. R. Martin (Bantam Spectra)
Deadline, Mira Grant (Orbit)
Embassytown, China Miéville (Macmillan / Del Rey)
Leviathan Wakes, James S. A. Corey (Orbit)


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