Knowing that the next book’s events happened both in parallel and after A Feast for Crows, I had great expectations that A Dance with Dragons would answer the majority of the questions left open by the fourth book of A Song of Ice and Fire, not to mention take the overall story arc to the next level. I couldn’t have been more wrong.
It’s as if Martin’s mindset has shifted from novelist to screenwriter. Where the first three books offered many satisfying conclusions to individual events happening in the larger narrative (the general state of affairs in Westeros has always been ambiguous), the last two books have offered nothing of the sort. Instead of tying up storylines as the series moves closer to its conclusion, more and more are being left open. In other words, you’ll have to tune in next week to find out what happens with Dany and Jon. I ask, where’s the consistency in all this? What happened to the pattern established in the first three books? Am I the only one who enjoyed knowing the aftereffects of Eddard’s choice to defend Sansa at the end of A Game of Thrones? Would you have enjoyed A Storm of Swords if it ended in the middle of the Red Wedding? What if Tyrion was just left for dead at the end of A Clash of Kings? With beginnings, middles, and ends, those were true storytellers’ books. A Feast for Crows and A Dance with Dragons with their cliffhanger endings are, however, made for television.
So, for those expecting to read A Dance with Dragons and walk away having a feeling of closure similar to the endings of the first three books, you’ll need to wait for either The Winds of Winter, or, if indeed a new pattern has been established that decisive events are continually pushed ahead to an unknown time, you’ll need to wait for the series as a whole to be published. (At the pace Martin is currently unveiling the story, it may take three more books.) Suffice to say, another 150 pages in A Dance with Dragons would have allowed Martin to tie up many of the loose ends and make the book actually feel like a book. Alas, we must wait.
If you’ve read A Song of Ice and Fire this far, the six year wait for new Westeros material will undoubtedly be satisfying in its own right. It’s good to hear from Jon, Dany, Tyrion, Bran, Arya, Cersei, Jaime, Davos, and others again - and some of these arcs continue to sparkle, Bran’s and Theon’s in particular. But when you’ve finished reading A Dance with Dragons, don’t expect to be met with any sense of satisfaction that the series has been taken to the next stage. Yours truly will be waiting for it to be finished before spending money on the next book.