It was, famously, six years between the last Song of Ice and Fire book and this one. What was George R.R. Martin doing all that time? Was he wandering in the wilderness? Was he sunning on the beaches of Dorne? No: he was girding his loins and rallying the banners, and he has come charging back with one of the strongest books of the series, and the year. Dance with Dragons puts us back in the main narrative stream of A Song of Ice and Fire: we go into exile with the black-humored dwarf Tyrion, raise dragons with Daenerys, walk the wall and brood with Jon Snow. The artistry and savagery of Martin's storytelling are at their finest: he has seized hold of epic fantasy and is radically refashioning it for our complex and jaded era, and the results are magnificent. It's anyone's guess who will wind up ruling the Seven Kingdoms, but in the realm of epic fantasy, there is only one true king, and it's Martin.