It's been a long cold lonely winter for George R.R. Martin's legion of fans. Hooked – hopelessly, some of them claim – on his "A Song of Ice and Fire" fantasy series, they have waited for six years for the latest installment to appear. Now, finally, "A Dance with Dragons" has a publication date. The 900-page-plus book will be available starting on July 12.
"I'm not sure I have a good answer," Martin told Entertainment Weekly when asked why the book has taken so long. "If I did, I would have taken less time."
Martin did, however, point out that "A Dance with Dragons" is "enormous. It's as long as 'A Storm of Swords' [Book 3 of the series which tops 1,000 pages]. It's very complicated. I have a lot of characters and points of view. And I've been doing a ton of rewriting."
The first book of the "A Song of Ice and Fire" series, "A Game of Thrones," was published in 1996. Three more books – "A Clash of Kings" (1998), "A Storm of Swords" (2000), and "A Feast for Crows (2005) – followed.
The series is set in a fictional world divided into the continents of Westeros and Essos. Humans and other races mingle and must deal with a civil war in Westeros, the frightening Others who live behind a wall of ice to the North, and an exiled royal who returns to claim her throne. Multiple characters tell their stories from their own points of view as storylines cross and interweave.
Fans of the series claim that it's so good as to be addictive – which is why they've been so upset about having to wait six years for Book 5 of a projected 7-part series. Martin fans have been commiserating on websites and message boards around the world. (The book has been translated into more than 20 languages.)
Cathal Kelly, a frustrated Toronto Star reporter wrote a piece last year titled “Do Yourself A Favour: Don’t Read This Book,” noting that “the most disgruntled Martin fans gather together on blogs and message boards where they question Martin’s output, his age, his physical health, his sanity, his fashion sense, his bafflingly long blog posts, and his refusal to spend every waking moment working on his next book, 'A Dance With Dragons.' ”
Kelly even chronicled the stages of grief which Martin fans have have endured: "introduction, enthrallment, disappointment, disbelief and bitterness” – emotions which she claimed became even more acute when an HBO series based on the books was greenlighted last year. (The first episode of "Game of Thrones" will premiere on HBO on April 17.)
Now, however, the end of the wait is in sight. Come July, Martin fans around the world can be expected to rip into "A Dance with Dragons." And then, just as certainly, they can be expected to endure more misery as they settle down for another potentially lengthy wait as Martin prepares to grind out Books No. 6 and 7.
Marjorie Kehe is the Monitor's book editor.