Okay. Spoiler alert. Do forgive me. For the life of me, I can’t get to the bottom of my feelings for this monster of a book without dropping one spoiler or two. And I fear that if I won’t, I think I will be stuck in writing this post more than I intended to. So after a month (the shortest time I’ve read a book in this series!), I finally got over with A Dance with Dragons... and here I am, as with the previous ones, writing all my #feels for this book. I won’t call this a review – totally. There’s a reason why I don’t put the word “review” in every title of posts I make immediately after I read a book. So... here are my thoughts regarding the fifth book of my favorite book series ever (yes, I declare that loud and clear):
“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 Westerps 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.”
The whole of the book was told, as per tradition, through the POVs of several key characters. If A Feast for Crows and A Storm of Swords have 12, well, try not to be surprised as this book has 16 POVs which includes: Jon Snow, Bran Stark, Davos Seaworth, Theon Greyjoy, Asha Greyjoy, Lady Melisandre, Daenerys Targaryen, Tyrion Lannister, Quentyn Martell, Jon Connigton, Ser Barristan Selmy, Victarion Greyjoy, Arya Stark, Areo Hotah, Ser Jaime Lannister, and Cersei Lannister; plus two one-off characters, each for the prologue and epilogue, which includes Varamyr Sixskins (a skinchanger, north of The Wall) and Ser Kevan Lannister (younger brother of Tywin Lannister), respectively – totalling 18 POVs, all in all.
The same as his presentation with AFfC, Martin referred some of his characters through different “title”s. The following were used:
- Reek, the Prince of Winterfell, the Turncloak, a Ghost in Winterfell: Theon Greyjoy
- The Wayward Bride, the King’s Prize, the Sacrifice: Asha Greyjoy
- The Merchant’s Man, the Windblown, the Spurned Suitor, the Dragontamer: Quentyn Martell
- The Lost Lord, the Griffin Reborn: Jon Connigton
- The Queensguard, the Discarded Knight, the Kingbreaker, the Queen’s Hand: Ser Barristan Selmy
- The Iron Suitor: Victrion Greyjoy
- The Blind Girl, the Ugly Little Girl: Arya Stark
- The Watcher: Areo Hotah
This book was pretty packed with characters – if you just consider the POV’s alone. But then again, new characters (and some pretty interesting ones) were also added to the already big number existing in the series. Honestly though, even though the use of titles was a pretty interesting choice in terms of delivery – I still find them too spoiling at times, in the sense that I sometimes can immediately know how the said chapter would turn out, i.e. the Kingbreaker and the Dragontamer chapter. But I think I can live with that, I just prefer the old original presentation than this one.
This book mainly follows the characters from the North and across the narrow seas, with the event happening simultaneously with that of Feast. At some point though, at the latter part of the book, characters from the Seven Kingdoms (particularly Cersei and Jaime) started appearing which means that the timeframe have moved past from that of AFfC. Though I don’t really think the division of AFfC and ADwD was a huge bother for me (well, except for the absence of my favorite character), reading through Dance was a little disorienting at first. We bear witness as the seasons slowly changed from autumn to the start of winter at Feast and to start in autumn again with Dance was really something that I find myself a little harder to adapt to.
I was a little alienated too when the characters from the Seven Kingdoms started to appear in the latter part of the book because I think they somehow felt a little detached to the whole narrative of almost all of A Dance with Dragons. But I guess their inclusion was pretty necessary in order to at least settle some of the cliffhangers that A Feast for Crows have left in the readers’ minds. The last chapter, the epilogue which was through Kevan Lannister’s POV, truly disturbed me though. That was just a chilling image that I can’t stop thinking about it. It's like reading about it and imagining every minute of it vividly, as if it was being shown on screen. Oh well, I think that would be Martin’s doing. XD
And Varys! Varys, Varys, Varys. I got such mixed feelings for this eunuch ever since but I felt it more especially here. Sure he was absent for the most part of the narrative but boy did he know how to make an entrance – an impactful appearance at that. I can’t even begin to describe how I’m feeling for him so I’ll just leave it for you to decide once you read the series.
|Just because I missed him that badly. I swear, Peter Dinklage will always be Tyrion Lannister for me. // source|
Fan favorites Jon Snow, Tyrion Lannister and Daenerys Targaryen are finally present -- With them leading the charge in the first chapters of the book. I swear, Tyrion’s presence in the books really did add something great in the narrative – it took his absence for me to fully realize his impact in the whole reading experience. He is, without a doubt, Martin’s greatest creation in his world of betrayals, lies, backstabbing, hardcore politics, and real characters. He was such a busy character in this book, and I think he’s been travelling a lot that sometimes it's so hard to keep track – but no worries, because his mind is such full of wonder (I think mainly because he’s an avid reader and such critical thinker) that reading through his POVs is already a rewarding experience in itself. The events that he’s been up to were anything but boring, especially during that part that he somehow psyched a future player that will, I think, change the way the game is seen -- drastically. I missed his wit and sarcasm, and this book filled me with it. His was the first chapter right after the prologue, and it’s been quite a delight. It’s been really a treat going through his mind as he struggles to come to terms with what Jaime told him back at ASoS, and one thing that made me sad is one that he’s been asking himself and anyone: “wherever whores go”. It’s really heartbreaking to see him hold on to something that has long been ended. I don’t know if he’ll ever find Tysha, and I don’t know if I would want that, but that would be a very interesting scene if ever that would happen. His somewhat (overly) brooding over the things of the past was a little uncharacteristic of him, but I guess he can’t help that – especially with everything that he’s gone through at ASoS. Plus! I really really love him whenever he plays the cyvasse. :)
|One of the most heartbreaking scenes in the whole book, for me. // source|
Back in action is Theon Greyjoy. Ever since I read his POVs back at A Clash of Kings (Book 2), I can’t deny that he’s seriously grown on me – I can even go as far as declare that he’s one of my favorite characters in the series. I didn’t expect him to come this far, but it’s sure is something that I really looked forward to. Before I read ADwD, my friend already gushed about how cruel Theon’s fate have been after the abduction. And yes, she’s not wrong to build up my expectations. After being physically and psychologically abused by Ramsay Bolton (bastard in every sense of the word =/), it’s quite disturbing how Theon transformed into someone almost unrecognizable – even the way he thinks. I can only just imagine everything that Ramsay has put him through in order to force him to take up Reek’s identity. The whole experience was dreadful, extremely painful, gross...and whatever unpleasant words you could use to describe it. I never thought flaying would be that bad, that painful. And here I am thinking that Joffrey may be the single most cruel (without any reason or driving motivation) character in the series, when the Bastard of Bolton was twisted at such greater lengths than him. He was evil in his face. And to quote the book, “evil runs in his blood”. I don’t know if it’s the pity, but Theon in A Dance with Dragons leveled up my attachment to him as a character – almost tying up with Jaime in my second-favorite-character spot. Reading into his POVs, goodness, I love to imagine Alfie Allen portraying everything that has happened to Theon up to this point. I have so much respect for him as an actor especially with his work during the second season of Game of Thrones, so that would be a pretty interesting thing to see. :)
|Just disturbing. // source|
One of the more interesting characters that surprised me in this installment is none other than Bran Stark. While everyone is busy handling everything across the continent, there he is journeying North of the Wall. It was quite chilling, and revelatory at most. Especially the part where (spoiler alert!) he came face to face with the remaining Children of the Forest. I swear, I was really wide-eyed with amazement when I read that – that proves that the wildlings are really more knowledgeable and that the people in the “south” really knew nothing when it comes to the wonders sleeping in the North. I really like where his character is heading and I got really really excited when I read that he can see things from the past. Ned is dead and gone, and up until now, I’ve been wondering how I could at least see what happened during the times when Rhaegar allegedly “kidnapped” Lyanna. Well I don’t want to spoil more than I did, but I must say that Bran’s adventure in Dance is almost at par with what Arya is experiencing at Braavos.
And of course, Arya is as bad-ass as she’s always been. I love her adventures in being a part of the House of Black and White. And though the process of learning (or making) a faceless man kinda creeps me out, I still find it kinda cool. Really. I loved the last task that they have given her and how she fantastically accomplished it. Yes, I was really amazed at how cunning and smart she is. And with that, she has officially become my female hero in this series.
I got pretty bored with Asha and Victarion Greyjoy – except the part where it is revealed that Victarion have something that might turn the game into a new direction. I’m pretty interesting how he would use what he have to win the throne or win Daenerys. Davos Seaworth’s narrative was a bit boring because I think he’s one of the men in this game who are straight as a stick in doing what’s good. I love Wyman Manderly. And when he said that “the north remembers”, I swear I had goosebumps all over.
|Just goosebumps at the conclusion of this chapter. Finally! // source|
Daenerys’ storyline was kinda boring for the most part for me (don’t judge me) until everything picked up and that scene above happened. It was truly an exciting thing to read. You know what I want? For her to just journey back to where she really belong all this time – at Westeros. Well, I don’t think we’re anywhere near that as her storyline proved to be really slow-paced for me. While everyone is at their feet vying for the throne, there she is, several miles from home, making her own trouble and her own problem that doesn’t have anything value-adding to the important narrative at hand – making everything worse. It was quite boring, but I guess it is necessary for her to evolve into something far from the Daenerys that we’ve met way back at A Game of Thrones. But at least, I know that she knew how to dance with dragons. XD
The rest were kinda predictable? Except the addition of Barristan Selmy, Jon Connington, and even Quentyn Martell. It was interesting to note that Ser Barristan is one of the few characters who knew (and almost an eyewitness at that) of the things that transpired before Robert’s Rebellion. I’m a sucker for Rhaegar (and Lyanna) facts so you could imagine how delighted I am when I found out that Ser Barristan and Jon Connigton had their respective POVs. Connington is a practically (well, almost) a stranger to those who haven’t read ADwD, but he is a pretty interesting character. I am really excited about how greyscale (THE disease) would affect the whole narrative. (One thing though: I think Connington is gay. Haha.) Quentyn Martell didn’t really caught me, if you won’t mind me saying... he may just be fulfilling his mission, but I just wanna point out that he’s a very foolish bastard to have done such blunder – and he paid for it. A side note to Areo Hotah though: I am pretty sure Princess Arianne is who he is referring to whenever he say “my little princess”, so I’m kinda curious about his relationship with her.
|Just because... // source|
And Jon. Yes, Jon Snow (for me) provided some of the more interesting storyline in this book. I just have to note that reading Jon’s 1st POV alongside Sam’s 1st POV chapter back at AFfC side by side was a pretty rewarding experience. I don’t think POV’s merged so closely like that in the past, and it was really wonderful witnessing how one mind works from the other. I have to commend Martin for putting it that way. J It’s really heartbreaking to witness every step Jon takes for the Night’s Watch. Being a Lord Commander sucks, and he sure learned it the hard way. (Tormund:”Whatever happened to the sweet lad I knew.” Jon: They made him lord commander.) It’s really hard to watch Jon “kill the boy and let the man be born” – forcibly, just for the Night’s Watch. Somehow, I never expected it to be that way. But then again, being at the top is lonely and is a treacherous place to be so I can’t really blame him. (I wonder if this is how Robb took everything when he led the North’s rebellion – we’ll never know.) The last scene with Jon though... I’m really desperately wishing that it is really not what it appears to be. Please GRRM, I don’t know if I could really stand the trauma (not again) – and at such a long wait at that.
|THIS FAN ART. @.@ // source|
If I look at it at a whole, A Dance with Dragons is not really that eventful as I expected it to be – but considering the fact that it came after A Feast for Crows, it was really an upgrade! It’s really a treat to at least see that some of the pieces are finally coming together. This book, in my opinion, though uneventful as it is, presents us with enough back stories and clues that will surely tickle our mind for it to start making strings of theories to satisfy our hunger, i.e. what really happened to Rhaegar and Lyanna. It's amazing how those who are already dead hunt them until now. And how each are regretting their mistakes that they think led up to all the things that had happened since then. It doesn't necessarily provide closure (as there are more cliffhangers presented than solved) but at least it has the sense of continuity that AFfC somehow lacked. Though the whole narrative of this book was kinda anticlimactic in relation to its title, this is still a satisfying read – at least for someone who has become so engrossed and addicted to the series. As some would say, this is a “necessary book” – and it sure is. So prepare yourself for some (maybe not action-packed battle scenes and not much of the gruesome death scenes that we’ve grown accustomed to) shocking revelations that would surely change how the game would turn out, how the game would be played. If you want to be engrossed deeper into the wonder that is A Song of Ice and Fire, this book is a must.
P.S. I love the fact that this book provides us with an impressive number of maps! Seems silly, but it's the first time I've used the maps while reading and they've proven to be so helpful.
The title "A Dance with Dragons" was originally the planned title of the second book of the series when Martin still envisioned it to be a trilogy. The book includes new maps in addition to those published in the previous books. Though it is the fifth book, it is (in actuallity) the second half of A Feast for Crows wherein Martin decided to split the book geographically, instead of chronologically, when it became too big to be published as a single book. In some areas, the paperback edition of the book was published in two parts: Dreams and Dust (Part 1) and After the Feast (Part 2).
“Reek. My name is Reek, it rhymes with ____ (whatever description Theon thought of)” ~ Theon Greyjoy
“I hope Your Grace will pardon me. Your king is trapped, Death in four.”The prince stared at the playing board. “My dragon—“ [Young Griff]“—is too far away to save you. You should have moved her to the center of the battle.”“But you said – “ [Young Griff]“I lied. Trust no one. And keep your dragons close.” ~ Tyrion Lannister
“The north remembers, Lord Davos. The north remembers, and the mummer’s farce is almost done. My son is home.” ~ Wyman Manderly
“A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies,” said Jojen. “The man who never reads lives only one.” ~ Jojen Reed
Ever choice had its risk, every choice its consequence. ~ Jon Snow
“Some men had faces that cried out for a beard. Ser Clayton’s face cried out for an axe between the eyes.” ~ Asha Greyjoy [never failed to make me laugh everytime I read this]
Not all men are meant to dance with dragons. ~ Ser Barristan Selmy
xxxxxThis has been part of my 2012 Reading Challenge. 16th book I've read that year. And part of The Lit Bitch’s A Song of Ice and Fire Reading Challenge. This is the 5th book of the series.
Note: I apologize if this post has grown to be too long! I never intended it to be this way, but I just have so many feels for this books (and this is the last book review for ASOIAF that I will do in the coming days, plus I don't know when the next book in the series would be released). I personally I haven't posted all of my thoughts for this book -- they're just too many that cramming them (if I haven't done that enough >.< ) in one post would prove to be a bother. But still, I'll make do with what I've made for almost three days. I hope you do, too. Again, sorry for the spoilers! :)