It's been a long wait for fans of George R.R. Martin's best-selling fantasy book series A Song of Ice and Fire. The saga's fifth installment, A Dance With Dragons, finally hits bookshelves Tuesday, six years after the last entry, A Feast for Crows. The success of HBO's Game of Thrones, adapted from the first book, has increased interest in the series exponentially, and now critics are raving about the latest installment which follows several noble families' struggle for supremacy on the divided continent of Westeros — calling it a "worthy of Tolkien" and the "book of the summer." Is it really that good?
It's a "relentless masterpiece": A Dance With Dragons is "unrelentingly ambitious and suspenseful," says Jace Lacob at The Daily Beast. At over 1,000 pages, Martin manages to juggle an array of "darkly enthralling" characters' subplots. Yet somehow, "there's a simplicity and ease" to the reading of Dance With Dragons. In fact, "it's impossible to imagine how Martin keeps track of it all." After a six-year wait, "expect to see many readers at the beach carting around" Martin's "triumphant" latest.
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It merely sets up the next book: The fourth installment, A Feast for Crows, was criticized for its jarring shifts between battles and "slow trudges" through war-torn lands, says Publisher's Weekly. A Dance With Dragons, unfortunately, has "a similar feel." Thankfully, though, a "heart-hammering conclusion" should whet even disillusioned fans' appetites for Book 6. And hopefully they won't have to wait so long.
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It's great, but hard to see as a TV adaptation: Now that HBO made a hit out of Game of Thrones, it's hard to read Dance With Dragons without an eye towards how it might play out on TV, says James Poniewozik at TIME. And Dance With Dragons, "half a novel" that's inextricably tied to its other half, A Feast for Crows, "suggests a big adaptation challenge." With their dizzying number of characters and settings, "it would be ludicrous to adapt nearly 2,000 pages of two books as one season" of a TV show. Still, there's no denying that on its own, Dragons is a "fleet, nimble, and deadly" book.
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