A Dance with Dragons: A Song of Ice and Fire, Book 5

George R.R. Martin. Bantam, $35 (1,056p) ISBN 978-0-553-80147-7
A few images recur in the enormously complex fifth installment of Martin's massively multicharacter epic: the chess-like game cyvasse, small rivers flowing into larger ones, ships and armies battered by terrible storms. These themes suggest that readers should think strategically, be patient as the story grows, and brace for a beating. Martin's fans, however, are hungry for more action and purpose, their appetites whetted by a six-year wait and the recent HBO adaptation of A Game of Thrones. Dance was originally the second half of 2005's A Feast for Crows, sometimes criticized for shifting from battles and intrigue to slow trudges through war-torn, corpse-littered Westeros. The new volume has a similar feel to Feast and takes place over a similar time frame; Martin keeps it fresh by focusing on popular characters Tyrion Lannister, Daenerys Targaryen, and Jon Snow, all notably absent from the previous book. These three are generally thought the most plausible riders of the titular dragons, but plots within plots abound, and two strong new candidates for those scaly saddles emerge as a powerful enemy threatens Daenerys's captured city of Meereen, Tyrion is kidnapped by slavers, and treachery undermines Jon's command of the undead-battling Night's Watch. More characters are revived than killed off and more peace accords signed than wars declared, but the heart-hammering conclusion hints that the next installment will see a return to the fiery battles and icy terror that earned the series its fanatic following. Even ostensibly disillusioned fans will be caught up in the interweaving stories, especially when Martin drops little hints around long-debated questions such as Jon's parentage. Author tour. (July)
Reviewed on: 05/30/2011
Release date: 07/01/2011
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