Another gargantuan entry, the fourth in the Song of Ice and Fire series—indeed, while writing it Martin found the undertaking growing so vast and unwieldy that he spit the action into two novels, so A Dance with Dragons runs concurrently and features characters and locations barely mentioned here. The action picks up directly following the events of A Storm of Swords (2000).
The setting resembles a Medieval Europe where magic works, and every petty monarch nurses ambitions of empire—and behaves accordingly. Narrative complexity is an end in itself, with the plot unfolding from a dozen different points of view. Some of the highlights: In King's Landing, following the murder of young King Joffrey Baratheon, Joffrey's eight-year-old brother Tommen now rules, although the real power is his scheming mother, Queen Regent Cersei Lannister. Having successfully intrigued her way to power, however, Cersei proves a less than effective ruler, drinking heavily, surrounding herself with sycophants and becoming estranged from her brother and former lover Jaime. Another brother, Tyrion the dwarf, who apparently murdered both their father Tywin and Joffrey, has escaped the dungeons and vanished. In the Iron Islands, the priest Aeron Damphair calls a Kingsmoot to elect a successor to King Balon Greyjoy; Damphair's brother, Euron Greyjoy, ignites the Islanders' perennial dreams of conquest by claiming that he can control dragons. Sword-maid Brienne of Tarth pursues her quest to find the missing Sansa Stark, while Arya Stark arrives in Braavos and drifts to the House of Black and White, a temple dedicated to the Faceless Men assassin cult. One of Martin's real innovations is his willingness to kill off important characters—but don't worry, with a cast of thousands, there are always thousands more. The best characters are carefully nuanced, though too many others blend into the backdrop, so the near 60-page-long who's who is little help in sorting them out; still others indulge in long, intricate, mannered conversations that serve to advance the plot—if you have the faintest clue what's going on in the first place.
Another full-immersion experience and, once again, strictly for addicts.