Book Review || A Dance with Dragons I by George RR Martin

Perhaps you've read my review of George RR Martin's preceding novel in the 'A Song of Ice and Fire Series', A Feast for Crows. If you have, you would know that it was one of the slowest and most unexciting novels I had read in a long time. Although I admit that the novel was somewhat spoiled by the television series, the focus on only a few of the characters - none of which are my favourite - was frustrating to say the least.

However, the next novel in the series, A Dance With Dragons I: Dreams and Dust has completely redeemed Martin and has even inspired me to consider boycotting the television show entirely.

I was told that A Feast for Crows was difficult to get through and that Dreams and Dust was much more interesting and exciting, and this is true indeed. A Feast for Crows left me hanging after A Storm of Swords II. Focusing on only a few of the characters didn't answer any of my questions about the whereabouts of Bran, for example, despite setting up the pieces for the game of thrones.

Dreams and Dust made up for this, throwing in all the familiar characters, adding new interesting ones, deepening the intrigue, upping the ante for all those involved in the chess match taking place in Westeros. I could hardly put the book down in places, despite the television series, because getting into the characters' heads is simply so interesting.

So if I loved the book so much, why do I want to boycott the series? Well, because many of the changes in the television show just have me shaking my fist to the sky and asking why. Martin's world and its story is so incredibly detailed, the characters so rich in personality and depth, the moves of the players so deliberate that I don't see any reason for the basic plot to be altered. But the screenwriters have changed so much of the story now that I believe they should add a subtitle to the series: 'Inspired by A Song of Ice and Fire'.

I actually wrote my Honours on the changes made to scenes in the first few novels and seasons, but the changes now are completely ruining the story for me. Even after reading the novel after the final season, the book completely outshines it.

[Please stop reading if you wish to avoid spoilers!]
One change that has not only made this humble writer ill is the alteration of the plot to send Sansa Stark to Winterfell to be wed to Ramsay Bolton (formerly Snow). In A Feast for Crows, she remains with Littlefinger and makes up some of the most boring chapters in that book. But in Dreams and Dust, it is not Sansa who is sent to wed Ramsay as Sansa, but Sansa's friend Jeyne Poole, who is sent as Arya Stark. In the series, Sansa is raped on her wedding night, and she is not even given any agency as we are treated to a view of Reek's face as he is forced to watch. Apparently Sansa has absorbed the characters of Jeyne and her avenging mother, Lady Stoneheart. And the producers loved the subplot. Which subplot exactly is perfectly summarised by GoT Gifs and Musings here. But my issue is that Sansa has gained so much power in her story arc in the novels and the show strips her of this, all of it.

And then Tyrion's entire journey to Qarth is altered inexplicably - inexplicably because on his trip he meets someone I think could change it all: Daenery's little brother, Aegon. I realise that the producers of the show wished to shorten the story to fit it all in but considering the wealth of the story that already exists I cannot see how leaving this detail out makes any sense, unless Aegon dies in the second part of A Dance with Dragons or they wish to surprise the viewers.

And what about the Prince of Dorne heading to Meereen to wed Daenerys? Everything is coming to a head in Meereen and all that doesn't matter to the producers!?

I really could continue but I think the point is made: I feel that those in charge of the Game of Thrones television series are doing the story an injustice by squashing everything into a 10-episode season. George RR Martin seems to agree, at least from what we can infer from vague statements he has made about the digressions. Remember, he cannot be too openly critical, as he has deals to work on three other television series for HBO.

Salon ran a piece criticising the books after A Storm of Swords as uninspired and rushed. The author even goes so far as to suggest that had the producers not taken the reins and rewritten the story, HBO's viewing stats would have petered out - in essence, the claim is that they saved the story from the author, who has admitted he may not even finish the next instalment before the series catches up.

However, I feel for those who have only watched the television series. If the producers have made the series 'better' for the viewing public, the viewing public is missing out on an excellent story and is watching one dumbed down to appeal to people who are only watching the show because dragons and 'booooobs'.


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