Audiobook Review: A Dance With Dragons by George R. R. Martin

26 07 2011

A Dance With Dragons by George R. R. Martin

Read by Roy Dotrice

Random House Audio

Genre: Fantasy

Quick Thoughts: Despite major issues with Dotrice’s narration, A Dance with Dragons is an engrossing fantasy tale that is sure to fascinate and frustrate fans as only George R. R. Martin can do.

Grade B+


One of the things I like most about being an audiobook blogger is my chance to introduce my readers to some hidden gems of the literary world. Often, in the fast paced digital world with big name releases coning every week, a worthy book may fall into the cracks. It us up to us, the amateur marketers of the products we like to get the word out through blogging, word of mouth, and if possible, mind control. Sometimes our voices, or lack of them, can help make or break a worthy product. I recently had the pleasure of listening to the audiobook version of genre author George R. R. Martin’s A Dance with Dragons. For those of you who may not have heard of this book, it is the long awaited fifth novel in the author’s A Song of Ice and Fire series. A Song of Ice and Fire is a quite intricate epic fantasy with thematic elements influenced by medieval wars like The War of the Roses. The series is quite a hefty undertaking, with many of the books coming close or surpassing 1000 pages with hundreds of characters to keep track of. I am usually not a huge fan of sword and sorcery fantasies, and that is one of the reasons I ended up giving this series a chance. While magic does play a role, it is not as prevalent as in many other fantasy series. You don’t have wizards running around solving all the problems of the world like some Deus ex machina. In fact, problems are rarely solved and the magical elements of this series tend to muddle the issues further. And I for one enjoy the muddling.

A Dance with Dragons is the follow up to A Feast for Crows, which many fans consider the weakest novel in the series. In Feast, Martin focused mostly on the internal maneuverings of Westeros, particularly of King’s Landing and the Lannisters. Because of this focus, many of the favorite characters, who exploits are on the edges or out of the Seven Kingdoms, were left out. In A Dance with Dragons those characters were back with a vengeance.  It was great reuniting with such characters as Jon Snow, and Daenerys Targaryen. Now, for me, since I decided to go into the story cold without any sort of reread, it took me a little bit of time to remember some of the situations and many of the minor characters. I think there is a certain mindset a reader of this series needs to be in, and initially I wasn’t in it, for various reasons, but eventually the pure power of the storytelling brought me back into the right mood. Martin is such a powerful storyteller, that any bit of confusion or distraction is eventually remedied by the power of his world. A  Dance with Dragons is a beautifully told story, but that is what we have come to expect, yet it is also highly frustrating. The frustration isn’t a bad thing, the frustration comes from these characters that we have grown to embrace, making poor decisions, and digging themselves into more and more holes. It seems that any player in this drama, no matter how big or small eventually gets sucked into the game of thrones, even those who should know better. They know that each step is perilous, yet they continue to walk straight towards the fire. No one in this book is left unscathed. No ones life becomes better when they become involved in the politics of kings. Martin spends a lot of time setting up the pieces in the novel. While overall the story doesn’t progress as much as many fans would have liked, the epic showdowns are all in place. The true proof of Martin’s gift as a story teller is that the set up is just as fascinating as the payoff.

I have to give credit to Random House Audio, the producer of the audiobook version of A Dance with Dragons for hearing the voice of the fans that were disappointed with the narrator change, and wanted Roy Dotrice back. I for one read the dead tree versions of the previous novels, and really had no horse in the race. Now, after nearly fifty hours of 15 year old girls sounding like old Scottish wenches, I for one, wish the John Lee continued on as narrator. In the initial hours of the novel, when I should have been getting reimmersed into the Martin’s world, I was trying to find a way to embrace Dotrice’s reading. I never really was able to accept it, yet luckily Martin’s story was able to grab me enough where I could overlook it. Personally, I never understood the need to have a British actor narrate this series, or many other series with a medieval setting. I prefer someone with a crisp narrative style, and a gift for characterization, whether British, American, or heck, even French. With Dotrice, all his characters contained the base elements of his distinct accent, making many of them sound the same. This made it difficult to follow multi-character dialogues, as well as differentiate between a characters internal and external voice. What made matters worse was his character’s voices often were not appropriate to the character’s age, and often even gender. Yet, with all my complaints about the narration, I have to say that a lot of credit must go to Martin for creating a story that allowed me to overlook these problems and enjoy the listen.



31 responses

26 07 2011
Audiobook Review: A Dance With Dragons by George R. R. Martin « The Guilded Earlobe | Everything AudioBooks |

[…] Audiobook Review: A Dance With Dragons by George R. R. Martin « The Guilded Earlobe Hey, have you heard of A Dance with Dragons by that George RR Martin fellow. Source: […]

18 10 2011

OMG so I got the audio version for free..don’t know how you made it through it. i’m going to just give in an buy the hard copy. I can’t tell WTF is going when all the characters sound the same. I didn’t realize I had given them all familiar voices in my head and some of the characters you were spot on, you couldn’t tell young from old, male from female. don’t get me wrong, he is a great actor, but you need to be able to have a big vocal range to properly narrate a novel with this many characters. I just couldn’t get into it.Now I’m only on chapter two. Perhaps I’ll start getting into it, but I can’t get there! I can’t get to Westeros, to the Free Cities, not with a narrator. With seeing the words I can make the voices, paint the detailed scenes, stop and think about certain events for a moment. You cannot do this, or should I say, I am having a lot of trouble being able to do this.

26 07 2011

I haven’t had the pleasure yet of reading any of the books in the Song of Ice and Fire Series. I just checked and my library has the first four books available in audiobook. Thanks for the recommendation!

29 07 2011
Jon Dodson

A really unfortunate decision. RD is simply no longer capable of interpreting such a mammoth work. I have given up, after trying to reconcile Daenerys with the voice of a ninety-year old Irish crone.

For the earlier books, I’ve turned to the American of Roy Avers (who has other problems) and John Lee’s reading of A Feast for Crows, which – I agree with you – now seems a tour de force.

30 07 2011

I loved RD doing the first 3 books, but this book is a disaster. Half the characters have Irish accents and lots have voices completely wrong for their age. Some the voices are still there, but used for the wrong characters. Daenerys, Melisandre, Magister Illyrio, Bran … I could go on. It is SO off putting and very disappointing if you’ve heard him read the first three books. I’m about 3 hours in and seriously thinking about just reading the book.

31 07 2012

In the first 3 books, RD had distinct accents and voices especially well suited to the female characters, which is why I misliked John Lee reading the 4th book. In Book 5, RD gave up on the unique accents (Melisandre & Daenerys’ child scribe in particular) which has been a great disappointment. And there is no longer a distinction between the speech of the “small folk” and the lords/ladies, which is also annoying.

31 07 2011

I completely agree RD is the worst choice for narator, I wish they would re-record the entire series with someone who has sense enough to understand that a 15 year old girl does not sound like a 90 year old Scottish grandmother. It is quite distracting and somewhat painful to hear his voice butcher this awesome book.

4 08 2011
Jen - Devourer of Books

I’ve never heard Roy Dotrice’s narration, but as much as I hate narrator changes, I can’t imagine ever asking John Lee to NOT narrate something.

5 08 2011

I was actually surprised by the amount of negativity thrown towards John Lee’s reading of the previous Song of Ice and Fire. I absolutely loved Lee’s reading of The Plilars of the Earth, and have never been disappointed by his reading of other novels. What floored me more was how distracting Dotrices narration was, but many insist his earlier reads were much better.

17 10 2011

OK, so it has been a few months since this was posted. I was looking on the Internet for an explaination as to why Dotrice changed the way he did the voices from the previous books.

It took me about an hour to first get used to his style on the first book, but then I learned to really like it. The change to John Lee really threw me off and I rushed through Feast of Crows to get back to Dotrice. That was a mistake. Lee may not have been as entertaining as Dotrice on the first 3 books, but this 5th book is dreadful.

Its one thing to have a narrator change, but to have the same narrator make such drastic changes to his voices is maddening. I have not idea what I’m hoping for for the 6th book. I don’t know what I want anymore.

19 10 2011

The only explanation I can figure for how such a screw up could have occurred is that I think maybe Dotrice has gone senile. He also must have been allowed to record the entire book at home, with no one listening. Then once it was finished, they must have published it without having heard it. Because it’s a total crap read, the voices are whack.

4 11 2011

First I have to admit I havent listened to the ADWD audiobook yet but I cant wait to. And Im so happy they brought Dotrice back.
Thank you for doing an actual review and not just a summation of the plot, as is offten the case. Im also glad to hear that as a non fan of the genre you were able to enjoy Martins masterfull work. My all time favorite author is Tolkien, Martin is the only other fantasy writer I have read to actually stand on par(as almost EVERY fantasy writer has unsuccessfully attempted)with the MASSIVE scope of his created fictional world.
Now, I have to ask, how could it be you did not enjoy Roy Dotrices reading? I have never found it confusing as to who is who, or internal or outward dialogue. Ill agree at times his 87 years is hard to mask, but I dont think any man can really sound like a 10 year old girl. But I would think its one of those things one would take as a minor “condition of terms” so to speak. As for his characterizations, over the course of the first 3 books I came to love Tyrions slightly Scottish lilt, Samwells innocent nervous studder, and all the rest. And came to tell the difference between one to the other very quickly. And for me, as well as many others Dotrice is the voice of Westeros. John Lee, it would seem to me didnt even do his homework. He was mispronoucing names and at times read the characters as if he knew nothing of them at all. I be honest in that Im bearly half through AFFC but if not for characters names I would feel as if this wasnt even from the same series, without Dotrice.
Again, an excelent review. Im sorry you didnt enjoy Dotrices work but am pleased you could see through you displeasure to enjoy the under lying masterpiece.

7 11 2011

I had to Google this because I started listening to the Audio book today and couldn’t believe how bad Roy D. was. I thought I was going crazy when I heard the voice he was portraying for Daenerys and had to revisit the other books in this series to confirm that I wasn’t going crazy. Wow, what a letdown!! I can’t believe he didn’t go back to one of the other books to remember how he did the characters voices. I also can’t believe random house didn’t just scrap his reading and go with someone else. I’m going to buy the dead tree version because I can’t differentiate between genders, age, and characters the way Roy reads this book. I am embarrassed and even pissed for how bad Roy is reading this book!

19 11 2011

I thought Dotrice’s reading of the first three books was great and that he did an excellent job with the character voices. I loved John Lee’s reading of Pillars of the Earth, so although there were many complaints about his reading of Martin’s 4th book, A Feast for Crows, I was fine with it, as I think he has the most wonderful voice. That being said, I was excited that Dotrice was going to read Dance with Dragons and couldn’t wait to start the book. Once into it, I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. None of the character voices were consistent with what they’d been in the earlier books and most didn’t match the characters at all. As was mentioned in some of the other comments, Daenerys’ was probably the worst, but most all were pretty terrible and it’s definitely hard to tell who’s talking much of the time. What a disappointment!!

2 01 2012
Out With The Old, In With the New: 2011 Review « The Guilded Earlobe

[…] maybe most talked about. My negative review of Roy Dotrice’s narration of George RR Martins A Dance With Dragons has received more comments than any other post. Some agree, and others are flabbergasted at my […]

5 02 2012

I never did enjoy Mr. Dotrice’s narration of the first three books. Not only did the young girls sound like old crones, but the young men sounded like wheezing geezers, too.

When Sansa spoke with Loras Tyrell in Storm of Swords, for example, I was immediately thrown out of the book because he was supposed to be a young character but sounded like a stuffy old coot.

When I got the John Lee version of Feast for Crows I was surprised and happy! I’m not yet through Feast for Crows but am really enjoying Mr. Lee’s work. He’s doing a great job and I do not understand why he got so much bad press for it. Terribly unfair.

Now I’m reading that Roy Dotrice has re-recorded Feast (ah, well) and yet his fans are still unhappy — this time because he made changes in character voices.

I’ve often wondered why narrators of long series can’t check back with their prior work to ensure that their character’s voices remain the same; even Jim Dale messed up on a few characters in the Harry Potter books. After all, I think it’s normal for listeners to want consistency. When I used to read bedtime stories to my kids, they’d always call me on voice changes. They’d remember, even if I didn’t!

It seems to me that if I were managing an audio book project of a series I’d want to bring some audio samples of characters voices, just so the narrator could listen and say, “Oh, yeah… that’s how I did it.” Audio books must cost a mint to record, so you’d think they’d want to do it right.

Enough of the rambling… thanks for posting this. It explained a lot for me!

16 02 2012

Wow, I have compared Lee to Dotrice with their readings of Feast for Crows and it’s a no-brainer… Dotrice is basically 88 going on 109, and sounds like he doesn’t even know what page he’s on when he’s reading. Why did Lee get so much flack? Unbelievable.

23 02 2012

Like everyone else said, this reading was quite bad, unlike the first three which were godly. That being said I cant live without Roy’s version of Tyrion so I’m gonna have to stick to Dotrice anyway, he deserves another chance for the first 3..

25 04 2012

I dunno, his characters sound very samy and just not really that compelling. Lee was great, each character sounded different and you could really tell the difference between thoughts and outward comments. Let’s hope Dotrice kicks the bucket before the next book so it can be enjoyed.

28 05 2012
Armchair Audies Roundup: Fantasy « The Guilded Earlobe

[…] A Dance With Dragons by George RR Martin […]

24 07 2012
Westeris Weirdo

It’s so, so bad. Danerys and Sam’s voices are absolutely terrible. Who hired this guy?

11 08 2012

Just out of curiosity, does anybody know how many CDs this audiobook’s got?

22 08 2012
Dan Tong

Your review totally crap -this audio version is UNACCEPTABLE. Worse thing I have ever listened to. I gave up after about 45 minutes. DO NOT BUY THIS AUDIO BOOK.

26 10 2012

I wish roy avers narated all the books. im trying to get used to Lee’s voice

13 11 2012

I really am glad to have found other people who feel the same way, I can’t stand Dotrice doing this book. Dany shouldn’t sound like an 80 year old feeble woman with a mixture of Scottish and Irish accent!!

23 11 2012

1 Up, I can’t stand Dotrice in this latest book, i’ve kinda gotten by by switching all the character views to old people in my head, makes for some funny listening, especially daenerys! I’m sure she’s just going to keel over from natural causes any time!
I also thought John Lee was a little over the top. He kinda reminded me of Calculon mixed with Shakespear. hard to listen to. The only one I’ve liked to far is Roy Avers.

28 12 2012

Found this after googling to make sure that my problems with Dotrice’s narration wasn’t just my problem. This is really terrible. Daeny’s voice is horrible. If you have any other option (including reading hard copy), do it.

1 08 2013

It’s not just inconsistency in the narration from one book to the next. Inconsistencies within each book also exist. I didn’t think books 1-3 were narrated particularly well…. Why would Tyrion have a welsh accent but Tywin and Cersai not? I’m pretty sure Jaime’s accent changed to Welsh and didn’t start that way too. The west-country accents on Samwell and Brienne are so exaggerated and slow they sound like simpletons. His “pirate” accent is so slow and drawn out every sentence takes an age to complete. Likewise he only seems to be able to do that real bumpkin Irish accent, and is unable to do it without affecting a high pitched voice, consequently the fearsome mance rayder sounds like a leprachaun. Arya and Danearys suddenly become irish as the series progresses, inconsistent with none of the other starks sounding Irish.
And at times you can hear the pages turning.

Simply having a competent director for the recording would solve all these problems.

16 04 2014

The narration was just so awful I had to got the ebook version and listened to it using the TTS on my android phone… seriously, even a TTS engine produced a more enjoyable experience! Sure, Dotrice was great for the first 3 books – but you really shouldn’t waste your money on this one… All characters sound like the same: old irish grandmas&grandpas… sorry to say, really.

21 09 2014
I am ready!

I am ready!

Audiobook Review: A Dance With Dragons by George R. R. Martin | The Guilded Earlobe

16 01 2015

This was a HORRIBLE narration by Roy “All the same voices” Dotrice. I wish ROY AVERS would narrate ALL of the books. Fortunately I have the first Two with Roy Avers and use Ivona Salli for the other books.

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