"A Dance With Dragons" - An unsatisfying ending

My enchantment with the Lord of the Rings series notwithstanding, I'm not a big fan of the fantasy literary genre. So I was surprised at how quickly I was sucked into George R.R. Martin's epic A Song of Ice and Fire, which has grown to five volumes, with two more on the way. The preceding link leads to a Wikipedia entry which has a pretty good summary of the plots of the five books, if you're interested in knowing more.

Book CoversI've spent the past four or five months slogging through the e-book series - the equivalent of more than 4,000 hardback pages - finishing up A Dance With Dragons last night. I must say that if the true test of a novelist's skill is to make the reader so emotionally involved with the characters and plots that he or she gets angry with the writer when things don't turn out "right," then Martin must be deemed a true master of the genre.

A Dance With Dragons has one of the worst endings - meaning "it's not the way the book should end if there's any justice in the world" - I've ever encountered. Not only did it end abruptly, as if Martin grew suddenly weary of wordsmithing, but it also [seemingly] ended the lives of some of the book's primary characters, although in a fantasy novel, much is not what it seems. But with possibly years to go before we find out what happened, or happens next, this is very uncomfortable for the reader.

Of course, IANAN (I Am Not A Novelist), and so I can't really get inside Martin's head and know his motivations or strategies. I would love to ask him a few questions, such as...

  • Do you already know how A Song of Ice and Fire will end, and the dispositions of each of the primary characters, or will you let the rest of the story evolve in ways you can't yet anticipate?

  • I haven't counted them, but I'm guessing you've introduced and fleshed out a couple hundred characters over the course of the series. Many of them are now dead. How do you keep up with each of them, and how do you decide their roles in the unfolding story?

  • You've taken fifteen years to write the first five books, and there was a six year gap between A Feast For Crowns and A Dance With Dragons. How long will you make us wait for the next installment?

  • Really? Seriously?!
I hesitate to recommend this series to you if you've not already gotten hooked. Martin's maddening habit of making you invest deeply and emotionally in characters and then killing them off is, well, maddening. On the other hand, you'll not find a richer alternate universe anywhere in literature.

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This page contains a single entry by Eric published on January 8, 2012 6:09 PM.

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