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February 12, 2016

Book Review || A Dance With Dragons II by George RR Martin

I am torn with regret and wonder: Since I know that 'A Dance With Dragons: After the Feast' is the last published book in the A Song of Ice and Fire series, I know that I won't travel to Westeros again until at least 2017 (Yes, 2017!?) and so was loathe to complete the novel until such time as I could continue reading without any gap. But, alas, the story was just too compelling to put down. Now, I am left wondering what on earth is going to happen combined with the knowledge that I have at least a year before the truth of the story is out! And I am also wondering: what the hell are the screenwriters of the HBO television series thinking!?

[Stop reading now if you don't want to read any spoilers :)]

Let me start with the novel that I have just finished. As you may have read in my post about the first part of 'A Dance With Dragons', thus far George RR Martin has really raised the stakes for all the characters and their kingdoms, and it really feels after reading the second part that the plot is coming to a head, reaching the moment where you're almost at the end of your climb to the top of a mountain peak.

Very much unlike 'A Feast for Crows' and even Book 1, the story just flows along and everything is falling into place. From the goings-on at the Wall and Stannis' march to Winterfell to Daenerys' struggles with ruling Meereen and Arya's induction into the House of Black and White, it all seems to be working up to something amazing and I can't wait!

I was so pleased to read about the Greyjoys and Theon's struggle with himself. I also thorouhgly enjoyed the insight into Victarion, Theon's uncle as well as Jon's exploits at the wall. Every character is so interesting I cannot fathom how anyone can pick a favourite.

After the slump of 'A Feast for Crows', Martin must have received his second wind with this one as the plot twists and turns are intricate and interesting, the storyline is gripping fills in gaps between events with different viewpoints effortlessly, and the new characters are potent. This book has been so difficult to put down, even though I wanted it to last much longer than the few days it did.

After finishing this novel, I am even more adamant at boycotting the series. Not only because of the ridiculous promotion of some plotlines over others and the flawed omission of characters such as Prince Quentyn of Dorne, Lord Connington and the Golden Company, and DAENERYS' BROTHER AEGON TARGARYEN, but also because it is ruining the story for me.

I am at heart a book lover. Certainly, I love television, but books are my medium of choice and while I appreciate the merit of artistic interpretation when taking a story from text to screen, the omissions, focus and plot changes make absolutely no sense to me. In a way, I can see the thought process that goes behind, for example, leaving Quentyn out of the story, since he doesn't last very long in Meereen: it shortens filming time and producers don't have to search (and pay) for a new cast member. However, leaving this aspect - indeed any aspect of the plot - out of the television series merely makes for confusion, and leaves out all the fabulous political intrigue and back history that make Westeros and its fellow continents so compelling. To stick with this example, Quentyn arrives with a secret missive pledging Dorne's support of the Targaryens. To me, this seems a very important part of the puzzle: it explains why Dorne has deigned to remain apart from the doings of Kings Landing and the North. Regardless of the fact that Quentyn is killed, his death is also a wake-up call to Doran, the ruler of Dorne, who is adamant that he has the right of it. Quentyn's death is what will help his character develop.

This is merely one example. There are many others: the omission of Arianne's arc, skipping over Tyrion's meeting of Connington and Aegon, and the entire Greyjoy arc. All of these I believe add up to an irreplaceable, intense, complicated, and realistic plot, showing the depth and breadth of all those involved in a continental war.

I know the majority of people support these changes for streamlining and speeding through the story, but me? Nah.

Indeed, the complicated plot, histories, and general lives of characters in the books were why George RR Martin didn't believe a series of the books would work anyway. It was a massive gamble and while the production team has been praised for its work in maintaining this complication, the praise is in my opinion misplaced, especially for the last few seasons, which have overlooked major plots and plot points entirely.

The series has also spoiled the book in small ways. When I first read about the Red Wedding and even Joffrey's death, I had stones in my belly I was so shocked. But there was nothing surprising about Jon's death or Daenerys being carried off by Drogon. These are moments when I should be able to feel a connection with the story and instead I simply felt cheated.

The sacrifice of Stannis' daughter, the suicide of his queen, these are apparently plot points still to come in the next books, but I would rather have the entire story than one picked through for the choicest cuts. My only problem come April is avoiding spoilers!

Have you read the books and if so, what did you think of the changes?