Thursday, June 16, 2016

A Dance with Dragons (A Song of Ice and Fire #5) by George R.R. Martin

5 of 5 stars  *****

In a book that one expects completion or, at least, closure, A Dance with Dragons, instead, ends with more expectation and desire for the tying of loose ends. The only finality in this book is the same as it is in all of George R. R. Martin's Game of Thrones: A Song of Ice and Fire books, the deaths of well developed characters and the demise of kingdoms. The multiple plots unfold simultaneously in different regions of Westeros: The North, The South, and beyond The Wall where it is always cold, frequently snowing, and domain of the Wildlings, the uncivilized Free Folk. 

The scope of this epic tale requires a time overlap between the fourth book, A Feast for Crows, and Martin's fifth book, A Dance with Dragons. Both books begin at the end of the third book, A Storm of Swords. The story is so vast that each book tells the tale of two geographical locations with all of its players and all of their intrigue. This parallel continues midway through A Dance with Dragons before the saga resumes with mention of characters from all regions. The maps in the beginning of this book give the mind's eye a reference to place readers into Martin's fantastic Medieval world. 

George R. R. Martin is a student of history and admits to using the Wars of the Roses, circa 5th century, as an inspiration for his A Song of Ice and Fire series. Certain characters and events are similar to the dynasties who battle one another during this time period. Those battles are historically won and lost between the Yorks and the Lancasters for the throne of England. 

A major and memorable event in the Game of Thrones is the Red Wedding which occurs in this author's imagination and resembles the blood bath that occurs in Scottish history under similar trusts and betrayals. Further connections to reality involve the Wildlings, who are examples of the Scots, the Gaelic people who migrated from Ireland to Scotland in the late 5th century. The Romans built Hadrian's Wall to keep the uncivilized people in the north from coming south. That wall represents the huge wall of ice guarded by the Night's Watch at Castle Black to prevent the Wildlings from migrating south. The Queen across the Water, Daenerys Targaryen, Khaleesi, Daenerys Stormborn, the Unburnt Mother of Dragons, among other names, is said to be a cross between Joan of Arc and Cleopatra.

A Dance with Dragons releases in 2011 with a promise from its author for an additional book in this series, The Winds of Winter.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

4 of 5 stars ****

 The story is a flooding flashback of earlier times an adult has when he returns to the neighborhood in which he grew up. These memories emerge around a tragic suicide that release negative, unknown energy into the location in which it occurs. 

The foreshadow of suppressed dark, fearful threats challenge the young boy who needs the comfort and reassurance of a remarkable little girl, Lettie Hempstock. She guides him through crossed boundaries he has yet to imagine.

The marvelous imagination of Neil Gaiman displays in The Ocean at the End of the Lane, a novel that starts, originally, as a short story. Fantasy abounds in the boyhood roots of this author as a pond becomes an ocean and characters are full of magic. The rules of the universe become tools of fiction with extraordinary twists that stretch one's interpretation during this glorious adventure where even time is questionable.