Top critical review
So Many Words, So Little Plot
Reviewed in the United States on July 10, 2017
How, HOW is this book averaging 4 1/2 stars?? When did abject overwriting and lack of plot advancement warrant such a rating? Here were my thoughts going into this book (Spoilers):
1. Surely Daenerys would finally at least BEGIN her journey to Westeros to claim the Iron Throne with her super Unsullied army. - Nope (But ANOTHER Targaryen, whom the reader has spent a whole 30 seconds with, is poised to fight for the throne).
2. Surely we'd see a good, dramatic trial for Cersei. - Not a chance.
3. Surely Tyrion would do something, ANYTHING to get the story moving. - Negative.
4. Surely the White Walkers would finally factor into the story. - No.
5. Surely Stannis would wreak havoc in the North and at least somewhat avenge the annihilation of the Starks and be a real threat for claiming the throne. - Sorry.
6. Surely Dorne would begin to play a larger role in the Game of Thrones. - Don't be silly.
7. Surely Bran will begin to play a part in all of this. - Not quite. He's a tree now. Or a crow. I'm not really certain.
How can Martin write SO many pages yet have so little happen? I mean, if you want to know what a character is eating to break their fast, or what color someone's surcoat or tokar is, or what color the bricks of a city are that day, or that words are wind, then this book will be riveting to you. And are we supposed to care more about Westeros or Essos? Becasue ADWD sure is Essos-centric. In fact, 99% of Martin's world seems to be made up of it, with the people living there viewing Westeros as some insignificant backwater. Reading AGoT, I thought that part of the world would just be a jumping-off point for Daenerys. But no, it now has become the virtual main setting of ASOIAF. Why did Martin make that decision? I want to find out what happens in Westeros. Or do I? I'm not sure what the reader is supposed to be focused on because Martin is just all over the place. Toward the end of the book, Dany hallucinates and talks to Jorah Mormont who reiterates that he told her to go to Westeros because Meereen was not where she belonged. I felt as if Martin was mocking us because it's what every frickin' reader would have told her as well. So why did you make us read hundreds of pages about her fretting away in Meereen?! And, at the end, she seemingly ends ups in the same place she was in AGoT!
There are also numerous characters whom I think Martin wants us to be invested in, but we just aren't because they're either not too interesting or they get lost in this morass of a book. I'm sure some readers do, but do most of us care at all about characters like Asha, Victarion, and Euron? Even Theon/Reek got old by the second half of the book. And honestly, are we supposed to care about what happens to the the billions of people in Meereen like the Brazen Beasts, Stormcrows, Sons of the Harpy, Hizdahr, etc.? Everyone in Meereen, save a couple, are pretty much terrible people and I couldn't care less what their ultimate fate is.
And let's talk about Quentyn Martell. He and his journey to court Dany get no little page time, but the only purpose he serves is to free the dragons. That's it. Now that's fine, but there was no reason for Martin to spend the chapters he did on him if he was a simple plot device.
Lastly, everything in this series is miserable and depressing; and this is coming from someone who LIKES dark books and movies. But, my goodness, nothing uplifting at all happens. It's just one gloomy event after another and everyone is either angry, oppressed, or psychotic. Martin goes out of his way to ensure that absolutely nothing remotely pleasant happens. I understand there are books with such tones, but after nearly 5,000 pages of it, you get a bit worn down. I know a big appeal of the series are the "gray" characterizations, and I agree, but does nearly everyone have to be a murderous sociopath with no regard for human life? This worked in the first three books because we weren't sure what characters we were going to root for or against. But now, we know who has a shred of decency or not and the incessant melancholy is tiresome.
This was the first book which I had to put down and read another book in between with before mustering up the motivation to finish. Usually, I'd just abandon a book I wasn't enjoying, but after reading 4,000 pages of the series I couldn't quit on it. Books 1-3 were fantastic. A Feast For Crows began the downslide but I figured it was merely setup. But ADWD was even worse than setup because NOTHING HAPPENS. I'm really torn over whether I'll read The Winds of Winter if and when it's released. I don't think I have it in me to read another novel like ADWD. I only started this series a few months ago, so I read all these books back-to-back (excluding the one I read three-quarters of the way through ADWD to keep my sanity), so I saw the decline of storytelling with this series happen in real time.