The miserable experience that was A Dance With Dragons

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After I finished reading “A Feast For Crows” and talked about how much it disappointed me, I was assured that “A Dance With Dragons” would be much better because it concerned itself with the majority of the more interesting characters, i.e. Tyrion, Jon, Daenerys, Arya (I don’t know why I listed Arya, I hate her).
Now, after reading “A Dance With Dragons” I have to say that I’m even more disappointed in this book than I was with its predecessor.

After the first 300 pages of the book I was a little baffled at the pacing of the narrative; I was a little miffed about how it seemed the progression of the story seemed to have ground Dance-with-Dragons-1down to a halt. I mean, in the first several books Tyrion was out-and-about, designing saddles for cripples, figuring out ways to thwart an approaching army of ships; he was a mover and a shaker, getting stuff done, and developing & progressing. Now, in Dragons, his chapter summation can basically be boiled down to “Tyrion is on the road and takes a boat ride, gets captured by some people, then goes into debt.”
That’s it. For the past two books that’s all Tyrion has done.

And this gripe isn’t limited to just Tyrion. Cersei is another interesting character that is squandered. She’s like the Nurse Ratched of the book. She’s the one who uses her innate power to not only get her way but to feel good about herself. So what happens with Cersei in this book? It can be summed up as this, “Cersei is forced to admit that she’s a bit of a dirty leg then she takes a walk down the street.”
Seriously, that’s all she did.
At least in “A Feast For Crows” we’ve got chapters dealing with the evolution in characters such as Brienne, Samwell, and Jaime. We watch how Brienne tries to make up for her past failings in her position as a supposed protector. We watch as Jaime changes character from a person that cripples a kid to a person gaining a conscience. And one of my favorite characters, Samwell, is shown to muscle his way from a self-professed craven into not only a brave man but a loyal friend.

Maybe “A Feast For Crows” wasn’t that bad.

“A Dance of Dragons,” however, concentrates primarily on Daenerys—a character that I’ve grown to absolutely loathe. Her character starts off as a meek girl who allows herself to be sold to a marauding band of savages—for the sole sake of her brother’s own advancement—and then evolves into a love-sick power hungry girl with the mentality of a Jr. High cheerleader. There’s one chapter where she talks about her love interest and how she wants to “touch his skin forever.” Really? That’s the kind of horseshit I expect to read in a grocery store romance novel. She then goes on to order this guy around by saying such tripe as “I’m your queen and I demand you get over here and fuck me.”

You know, George R. R. Martin, to me, has always been a guy that knew how to not only construct complex swatches of story structure but to also construct realistic characters and the multifarious cultural-centric dialogues that accompany. This falls apart with Daenerys. The way she talks, handles herself, and shifts in principles is incomprehensible to me. Her character has become indecipherable in purpose. Is she supposed to be the moral center of the book? Because she sits on her throne patting herself on the back about how she freed the slaves but languishes in the power that she has over the people. As her subjects come in to ask if they can do things she alone decides it for them. She stands on her principles to banish pit fighting and slavery but then abandons those principles for her means to an end.
Is Jon Snow supposed to be the moral center of the story? Because he sits on his wall never questioning why he’s guarding it in the first place. The people beyond the wall are known as the freefolk. They don’t bend their knee to kings. They are self sufficient and want to be able to roam free of the wintery waste land that the great wall divides. But Jon Snow, as the rest of the Nightswatch, keep them out without questioning why. Ultimately, a truce is made and things start to happen but Jon Snow never really shows an ounce of moral clarity to the position he’s been granted. This is a point that can be argued since the Nightswatch have been told that the people beyond the wall are savages. But there is a difference between the freefolk and the Wights and giants. It’s something that should’ve been questioned earlier.

My other problem with “A Dance With Dragons” is that it meandered off into the stories of other characters that I absolutely don’t give two shits about. Chapter after chapter dealing with people like Davos, Asha, and Ser Barristan.

What initially made “A Song of Ice and Fire” interesting to me was the individual development of each character, i.e., they’re own journey from point A to point Z. What I don’t find interesting is the bulk of the political intrigue and the behind-the-scenes clamoring for power. I don’t care about reading chapters devoted to the Greyjoys or the Boltons as they discuss where they’re going and what they’re going to do. This can all be summed up by other characters discussing the news in passing or by rumors or letters. This political posturing is the dullest thing I can imagine. It’s like reading CSPAN transcripts. Who fucking cares? Some people might find this interesting; I, however, do not. I’m sure there are some people that have maps of all the lands mentioned with little pushpins in the areas containing where each character is at. Nope, not for me.
After page 300 I was wanting to completely tap out on the book and finish it up with the audio book version. After page 500 I felt that I cared so little about the story and characters that I just wanted to tap out on the whole series. After page 700 I was a miserable mess that thought that I can’t tap out now because I’ve invested too much into it. After page 900 I realized that I wasted a huge chunk of my time.

At this point I don’t care who gets the throne. I don’t care what happens to Jon Snow. I don’t care about Daenerys. I don’t care about her stupid dragons. I don’t care about Brann or Tyrion or the Onion Knight. I don’t care about any of the thousand characters that the author decides to dream up just so he can mention some character in a paragraph.
Hey, that reminds me, you want a cool drinking game? Read any of these books and take a drink each time a paragraph goes by and a character isn’t mentioned by name.
Here’s another one. Read the book and take a drink each time the author uses “a thousand” to over exaggerate a number. Once you realize he does this then you can’t un-notice it. There were a thousand arrows in the air, there were a thousand bodies strewn about, there were a thousand stars in the sky. We get it, there was a lot of something. Find another way to over exaggerate it.

There did, however, come a point where I wanted to just get the book over with. So there were times at work that I would listen to a chapter or I’d listen to a chapter on my drive home. I have to say that the audiobook version of this has to be the worst narrated thing I’ve ever listened to in…my…life.
Roy Dotrice read the book and he has a whistling lisp that raked on my ear drums. Every single “S” sound that came out of his mouth had this high-pitched whistle—like GOB Bluth in “Arrested Development” after he got his front tooth cracked. This guy made very single guy sound like a drunken old Scottish man; every single girl (and Reek) sounded like a tiny cartoon version of Oliver Twist.
Why does every Fantasy story have to take place in Britain?
Apparently, Westeros, the land beyond the water, and anyone speaking the Old Tongue or the New all come from the same place.
A Dance of Dragons was just an awful experience all around. Just a miserable intolerable slog that wasted my time.

About Jay Lamm

J. Lamm is the bassist, vocalist, song writer, and keyboardist for the mercurial metal band Cea Serin. While away from Cea Serin J. Lamm also performs live with Cirque Dreams as a touring musician. J. Lamm has also written and recorded music for movies, television and radio.
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