Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Booke Review: A Song of Ice & Fire- Books 4-5: A Feast for Crows & A Dance with Dragons- George R.R. Martin (read by John Lee & Roy Dotrice resp.)

     I read books 1-3 all in a row and reviewed them together. At the time I started to read A Feast for Crows and made it about 1-2 hours into it before I had to give up and take a break. As I complained them the reader, Roy Dotrice, was pretty hard to listen to. As Season 5 of the TV show loomed I decided, however, this spring that I should pick it up again and read through Book 5. I had the goal of making it through both before the season began on my birthday, but that did not happen [I was about 30% through #5 when Season 5 began]. I am now all caught up with the books and the TV episodes and will review the books here.

     First, I managed to find a copy of A Feast for Crows read by John Lee [according to one webpage, at least three people have read for this book]. Although this upset many fans and I will agree it is hard in a series to switch readers, I personally though that Lee was a better reader and it make book 4 easier to listen to. Unfortunately, Dotrice was back again for book 5, and I had to slow the book down some at times to understand him. I can forgive him his age and understand fans fervor for him, but it does not mean that I enjoyed him any more.

     Of course, George R.R. Martin originally intended these two books to go together and chose to split them oddly on his own, and so I will review them together here. It is understandable that many fantasy books are long. That is because so much of the world needs to be setup, which doesn't have to happen in a normal novel when the world is already familiar to the reader because we live in it. After putting this much effort into the world and character development, it is also not surprising that many authors have trouble letting go of their created world and end up letting the series get away from them, spilling into sequel after sequel. For some series this is a good thing and has been done well (personally, I am a huge fan of The Wheel of Time), and others where it has gone very poorly as the series just drags on and ends poorly (I'm thinking specifically of the Left Behind Series which I started, but never finished the final book). A Song of Ice and Fire balances on a knife edge between those two extremes. I am in love with the characters and much of the story and I want to know what happens to them, at the same time I find myself constantly wondering (or even checking) how much I have left until I'm finished with the stupid thing. This duality is weird.

     Furthermore, I don't remember Martin doing this too much in other books [maybe a little in A Storm of Swords], but he has kind of started giving chapters names. From the beginning chapters have simply been titled after the main character from whose perspective they have taken place, but then in these books he's started using nicknames or positions of characters instead of their real names, he is especially guilty of this with Arya's storyline, as she takes on many nicknames as she tries to become one of the faceless. I understand the desire to do this from the author's perspective, but as a reader it is really frustrating to have such a large encompassing work switch how sections are headed partway through the series. If he wanted to title chapters then he should have done so from the beginning, but now I don't care if Theon (view spoiler) the chapter should still be titled "Theon". The storytelling has drug on and to be honest, until Season 5 I had been enjoying the TV show better than the books, it has held pretty true to the books, and has been less wordy about it. However, Season 5 has begun to deviate quite a bit, there are places where I can forgive them of that (view spoiler), but I'll review the TV show elsewhere.

     Suffice it to say, the series is as detailed as ever, I still dislike Dotrice's reading, and I don't think it was necessary to have the books be so long and drug out or the split into two novels take place. I hope the action in the next book that has been hinted at in the books and by Martin in interviews means that Book 6, The Winds of Winter, will be even better than these two were.

PS- I'm not a purist and several people out there have made chronological order versions of books 4 & 5 and if someone is willing to put up with the constant page flipping and book swapping, it might be worth it instead of reading both straight through (I kind of wonder if anyone has done it with Dotrice's versions of the audiobooks too).

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