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A Dance with Dragons (A Song of Ice and Fire #5) by George R. R. Martin
A Dance with Dragons (A Song of Ice and Fire #5)

Wilfred, January 1, 2013

This fifth installment of the Song of Ice and Fire series continues the epic tale of the people of Westeros and beyond, filling out the already massive world with more characters and plenty of additions to the rich lord Martin has created. Where other authors in the epic fantasy sub-genre may have a map and named countries enough to constitute a supposedly large world, the world of A Song of Ice and Fire actually feels like a vast land rather than just a set of names. The world has a fully fleshed out history, things going on in every corner of it in present day, events on the one side of the continent actually affect those on the other once news travels to them, and other seemingly small things work together to make the world feel real.

World building aside, it is the cast of characters, particularly those which have chapters given from their point of view, that are the main draw of the series. There are no perfect gallant knights, there are no irredeemable villains, the people are not black and white like that. Martin's characters are well written and show a multitude of points along the spectrum of shades of gray, ranging from the well meaning lord who just wants his family to be safe and happy to the greedy bastard who plays with peoples lives as if they are pieces on a chess board to the king slaying, incestuous, child murdering knight who actually isn't that bad of a guy once you get to know him. It sounds ridiculous, I know, but it works. Oh, and if wonderful and disturbing characters weren't enough of a draw, most of the plot revolves around backstabbing political intrigue and war. What's not to love?

The only negative thing I can think to say about this book actually isn't a bad thing: it took far too long to come out. That's it. My one negative is that I had to wait so long to get my hands on the thing. Other than that one little nugget of resentment added to my reading experience, it was absolutely perfect so far as I'm concerned.

I would recommend this book and of course the entire Song of Ice and Fire series to anyone mature enough to handle some adult content (murder and rape and various other atrocities occur in the books) that wishes to read a fantastic novel or five. The genre is fantasy, but those who avoid such need not worry about getting pulled into a land of elves and wizards and such. The traditional fantasy elements are rather light, such that only those with a deep set pathological aversion to all things fantasy might become upset with them. It certainly won't be everyone's cup of tea, but why not give it a shot? You may very well end up like me and find yourself with a new favorite series once you get done with it.
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