While several sources have already released reviews for the fifth book of A Song of Ice and Fire, I'm still slowly chugging away at the monster. This is a busy week for me, so I probably won't get a chance to even finish the book this week, much less review it, but I am slowly tackling it. I can offer a brief first impression of what I've read so far, however. Beware: there are some very light spoilers in terms of the novel's structure below, but I won't reveal any plot points yet.
As most fans of the series probably know already, A Dance with Dragons is kind of an interesting book. Rather than being a direct sequel to the fourth novel A Feast with Crows, the timeline actually runs concurrent to the events in Feast, at least for a major portion of Dance. The decision to set up these two books this way came about when George R R Martin was working on a Feast with Crows and discovered it was rapidly becoming much too large and unwieldy than he intended. He did not wish to simply cut his product in half, however, feeling that would have been a tacky and pandering resolution to his problem.
Thus, he reached a decision to split the book by location - A Feast with Crows would contain mainly the stories of the characters located in the South. The characters in the North and across the sea would have to wait with A Dance with Dragons.This decision was a controversial one, and has resulted in Feast being the lowest rated of all of the books on amazon.com - undoubtedly due to the fact that Feast with Crows contained mostly the perspectives of new, unfamiliar characters, or characters that simply did not resonate as well as previous ones did.
Well, all the characters that we missed from Feast are back in full force, and they're just where we left them (almost 10 years ago now). Martin's style remains strong; while the novel is not Harry Potter in that you can not read everything at breakneck speed, if you take the time to sit down and absorb the details and appreciate just how much care Martin has put into his words, you'll get that much more out of the experience.
One thing to note: it looks like that the timelines eventually do catch up in the middle of A Dance with Dragons, not at the end. There are certain characters' chapters that appear towards the end of the novel, who also appeared in Feast. I will say that this particular point irks me a little. Why bother separating the books the way he did, if Feast characters are going to appear in Dance? A bit arbitrary, methinks.
I am enjoying the novel so far. Expect a full review towards the end of next week.