I don't know what to do with my life anymore.
Time to watch Game of Thrones!
With A Dance with Dragons, by George R.R. Martin, the A Song of Ice and Fire saga finally comes to a...middle. Though many had to wait years for the follow-up/companion to A Feast for Crows, I was able to jump right to it, which probably lessened any potential disappointment.
And yet I did really like it, though not as much as the first three books. With few exceptions, I did not have to suffer through a substantial number of POV chapters for characters I didn't like, and I liked all the new POV characters (one POV chapter in particular is revelatory). And the major focus of the book is three of the most influential characters: Jon, Dany, and Tyrion. Jon tries his best to serve as Lord Commander of the Wall, and he actually does a pretty good job. Dany tries her best to serve as ruler of Meereen, and she kind of does a terrible job. Tyrion is still reeling from his actions at the end of A Storm of Swords and finds himself on an adventure in Essos. This book continues the trend begun in A Feast for Crows of everyone converging on Dany, which GRRM called "the Meereenese knot." After spending so much time in Westeros, it was nice to have multiple POV characters in Essos and get a better picture of that continent. Meanwhile, Davos is on a doomed mission from Stannis, already having been killed off in the last book, and Bran continues his quest for the three-eyed crow.
And then there's Reek. Like Brienne in A Feast for Crows, Reek made this book for me, and I was always excited for his chapters. Never would I ever have guessed I would feel sympathy for and root for Theon Greyjoy, but GRRM reveals him to be a more fascinating and conflicted character than I had given him credit for.
Although I felt like more important things were happening in this book than in the previous one, it does have its share of chapters that didn't need to exist, and it leaves many characters' stories hanging. Some characters stop having chapters halfway through the book. Some characters feel like they should have had one or two more chapters to really give the story some closure and provide a suitable jumping-off point for the next book. There are some major developments, however, especially in the last few chapters.
A Dance with Dragons, though flawed, continues to demonstrate that this is a goddamn amazing and brilliant series that is doing things I have never seen in fiction before. Now George R.R. Martin has two more books to wrap everything up before he dies. And is resurrected. Or comes back as a wight. Or wasn't really dead after all. Or...