BOOK: A Dance with Dragons
AUTHOR: George R.R. Martin
MY RATING: ★ ★ ★ (3/5)
In the aftermath of a colossal battle, Daenerys Targaryen rules with her three dragons as queen of a city built on dust and death. But Daenerys has thousands of enemies, and many have set out to find her. Fleeing from Westeros with a price on his head, Tyrion Lannister, too, is making his way east–with new allies who may not be the ragtag band they seem. And in the frozen north, Jon Snow confronts creatures from beyond the Wall of ice and stone, and powerful foes from within the Night’s Watch. In a time of rising restlessness, the tides of destiny and politics lead a grand cast of outlaws and priests, soldiers and skinchangers, nobles and slaves, to the greatest dance of all.
“‘A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies,’ said Jojen. ‘The man who never reads lives only one.’”
And no doubt you will live a thousand lives in A Dance with Dragons alone. In the fifth installment of A Song of Ice and Fire, George R.R. Martin gives us back (and then potentially takes away) some of our favorite characters.
There’s no doubt that this novel contains everything we’ve come to expect from Martin; a fully realized and ever expanding world full of some of the most colorful characters you will find in fantasy these days. Although A Dance with Dragons will no doubt leave you reeling for the next installment, there’s no denying that this journey was a long and slow going one, and we didn’t really see a lot of action until the end. Most of our favorite characters by now are fairly developed, and we didn’t see a lot of personal growth. Aside from a select few, most of the characters were fairly complacent and their struggles came from the decisions they needed to make rather from the action they decided to take.
My other complaint towards A Dance with Dragons would be the fact that we are just introducing too many new points of few. I know that I’m not alone on this opinion. The first 3 books in ASOIAF were great in that we had about 8 different characters that the plot moved along from and it worked really well. However, both A Feast For Crows and A Dance with Dragons throw in other points of view from very minor characters that don’t always seem necessary to the plot. I’ll admit that on occasion it is nice to have a fresh new set of eyes to look through, but it’s starting to happen too much. The chapters also have cryptic titles that vary each chapter even though it’s the same person’s point of view which can make it a little confusing to begin with. For instance, Asha Greyjoy’s chapters have titles like “The King’s Prize” and “The Sacrifice” instead of being just titled “Asha” like it would be for any other of the main characters. It just feels unnecessary.
“’This is my place as it is yours, and soon enough you may have grave need of me. Do not refuse my friendship, Jon. I have seen you in the storm, hard pressed with enemies on every side. You have so many enemies.’”
Our favorite crow is back, and Jon Snow is now Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch. He’s got a lot on his plate with the arrival of Stannis and his red lady Melisandre while trying to keep neutral in the quarrels of the realm. When Stannis leaves, Jon’s faith in the Old Gods keeps him wary and suspicious of Melisandre, and thus he tries to keep his distance. Spending most of his efforts on rescuing the wildlings from the horrors north of The Wall and trying to integrate them into The Night’s Watch. Though it doesn’t leave him very popular among his brothers, and it remains to be seen if Jon has in fact met his untimely end.
“’Most queens have no purpose but to warm some king’s bed and pop out sons for him. If that’s the sort of queen you mean to be, best marry Hizdahr.’
Her anger flashed. ‘Have you forgotten who I am?’
‘No. Have you?’
Although very little time actually passes in A Dance with Dragons, for me, Daenerys’ character was the one who grew the most. Her chapters were very boring towards the beginning. Lots of entertaining those who wished to see her, pondering in her gardens, and fooling around with Daario while waiting to marry Hizdahr.
I actually was starting to admire the relationship between Dany and Daario. It was nice to see her opening up again after everything that happened with her Khal. Her upcoming marriage is purely a political move to bring peace to Meereen. When Dany goes to the fighting pits to celebrate their reopening with her new husband, she narrowly escapes a plot to be poisoned, and takes off on one of her dragons who was drawn to the pits.
The last chapter where she was unburdened and making her way back to Meereen was actually one of my favorites because it was a glimpse of her true innocent self and a chance to see her without her “floppy ears”.
Tyrion was the only character here that did much traveling here, and his storyline was a blessing in all the boredom of the beginning. He’s still full of smart quips and a sharp tongue, though his brooding and self loathing over his “golden hands” and the crossbow japes started to wear on me.
“’So young,’ said Wyman Manderly. “Though mayhaps this was a blessing. Had he lived, he would have grown up to be a Frey.’”
The North is now in the hands of Roose Bolton and his bastard son, who are as terrifying as ever as they declare for the Lannisters. Everyone still hates the Frey’s after all their Red Wedding plotting, and Manderly’s retort had me smiling like a fool when they were all holed up in Winterfell.
Stannis makes his way towards Winterfell with his men to try and reclaim the ruins and rescue poor “Arya”. He’s also reclaimed Deepwood Motte and has Asha Greyjoy with his host as a captive.
“Cunt again? It was odd how men like Suggs used that word to demean women when it was the only part of a woman they valued.”
Cersei Lannister makes a few brief appearances. Her walk of shame was actually a very powerful moment to me (in the TV show as well). It almost felt like a bit of justice for us as the readers. Cersei is so stubborn right to the end, even as they are undressing her, thinking how she’s going to take the tongues of the septa’s when she is free. But then right towards the end she is very obviously struggling and you have this feeling that maybe, just maybe the realization is starting to dawn on her. We can hope, can’t we?
Jaime has barely a mention in this chapter which drove me crazy, especially left with the cliffhanger of Brienne (thankfully not dead!) marching in to tell him he’s found Sansa and he must come quick.
To be honest, the entirety of this novel was made up of a really slow moving plot with heavy description fillers, and right when things started to pick up and we thought things were going to move forward, it was cliffhangers in every direction. Seriously. This is probably the biggest cliffhanger book I’ve read of the series.
Damn you, Martin. Hopefully you can get the ball rolling again with Winds of Winter.