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'A Dance with Dragons' delivers, say critics

By Jake Weinraub
/ Source: Reuters

By Jake Weinraub

LOS ANGELES (TheWrap) - "Game of Thrones" fans seem to be happy with author George R.R. Martin again.

Six years in the making, "A Dance With Dragons -- the highly anticipated fifth volume in Martin's eventual seven-part fantasy series "A Song of Ice and Fire" -- was released Tuesday.

It seems to have silenced critics of its predecessor, "A Feast for Crows," which disappointed many critics and fans for leaving out the series' best characters: Tyrion the dwarf, Daenerys the dragon queen and Jon Snow, bastard son of Eddard Stark.

Positioned as a continuation of "Crows," the newest edition to the franchise -- which began with "Game of Thrones" -- was initially part of "Crows." But a decision by Martin and his publishers hoped to de-complicate the story by splitting the book in two -- and saving some plot lines for later -- didn't sit well with many fans.

Now all seems forgiven.

In his review of "Dragons," Salon critic Andrew Leonard writes that subtracting a story's three strongest characters undermined the magic that hooked readers in the first place: "It didn't work. It was like watching "The Sopranos" without Tony, or the original "Star Trek" without Spock. What's the point?"

"After a prologue," he continues, "the first three chapters of "A Dance with Dragons" are devoted, in succession, to Tyrion, Daenerys and Jon. Problem, solved."

After lauding the new book, Leonard concludes, "At the end, I felt shaken and exhausted. I'm almost glad that it will be years before I have to do this all over again. Because it will take me years to recover."

Said L.A. Times critic Jeff VanderMeer: "'A Dance with Dragons' delivers what readers really crave from Martin -- not closure, but instead, a sense of total immersion in a world in which the lines between good and evil, chivalry and betrayal, success and failure are blurred and morally ambiguous. It isn't easy being a hero in 'A Song of Ice and Fire.' It may be impossible. But that's what makes 'A Song of Ice and Fire' great."

"This is top-notch kitchen-sink storytelling -- part straightforward pulp, part high fantasy -- that will leave you thirsty for more," wrote Entertainment Weekly's Darren Franich.

"I don't know when I have ever been as comprehensively and pleasurably outgeneraled as I am when I read Martin," echoed Time critic Lev Grossman.

Fans, of course, haven't had time yet to digest the 1,016 pages. But they're whetting their appetites with their newly arrived copies, taking to Twitter to register their excitement.

@joiezabel writes, tonight i will be reading 'a dance with dragons' whilst wearing my wizard hat. i've only been waiting for this for 6 years. #gameofthrones

@IamSansa writes, "My copy is in my hands, but I must return to work. Aaargh!!!!! #ASoIAF #ADanceWithDragons #GameOfThrones"