A DANCE WITH DRAGONS

Head’s up! Spoilers abound in every paragraph of this review. So if you haven’t read the book and want to be surprised, bookmark this page then navigate away and I’ll see you in a week. As a series, A Song of Ice and Fire known for its complicated, twisty plots that have more possibilities (or so it seems) than there are combinations of DNA. This means that it’s always interesting as well as difficult to predict what will happen next let alone the eventual outcome of the story. Yet while I enjoy each book as I am reading it and am invariably left impatiently waiting for the next, it is purely intellectual. Aside from occasionally doing a happy dance when a character infrequently gets what is coming to them, there’s no emotional investment for me. Of anticipation and curiosity there is plenty, but of attachment to and genuine caring for the characters there is none. I don’t feel invested in the characters or what happens to them and I don’t live in the story with them the way I do in the best stories. Maybe it’s because I find myself unable to relae to the characters or maybe it’s because there are so many; I’m not really sure where the gap is. That doesn’t mean I’m not recommending the book. I’m just cautioning readers because at 1000+ pages, Dance is quite the time commitment and when you include the time to read the first four books if you’re a newbie…well it’s a big investment is all I’m saying. So read the book because you’ll enjoy it, but just know that if you like to sink into a story the way I do, you may find yourself disappointed in that regard because my experience with this series has been one dimensional enjoyment.

A note on all the missing or little used characters. Where is Rickon, (who has been completely absent for two books now) Littlefinger, Sansa, Sam, Brienne, the implacable Others and all the rest? What is happening to them? I know and you know that at some point or another, an author or their editor has to say enough is enough and stick The End in somewhere, but what does that mean for the writing? Do you really think Martin is disciplined enough to only write about the parts of the story for a certain group of characters? Do you think he suppresses the urge to write about Davos’ quest to find Rickon or how Sam is faring in Oldtown? Do you really think he says to himself I’ll just make a note of that idea and write about it later? I doubt it. As a person who has been occasionally struck by the muse myself over the years, I can testify that when inspiration strikes you write/type or dictate until your hands are so cramped you can write/type no more or you’ve lost your voice. What’s the point of this little rant? This: How long does it really have to be until The Winds of Winter is available to me? How long will the publishers make us gnash our teeth and paint models before our need will be sated? The easy answer is of course too long but do you have any idea? I’m asking for real here because I can’t seem to find out. Even Martin’s website doesn’t say. (It hasn’t even been updated to show that Dance is now available.)

This is totally random and could either be put down to my love of words or laid at the feet of my high school Latin teacher. Regardless, I love when I come across words that embody creativity and challenge the reader to be more intelligent than the lowest common denominator. Words that fit so perfectly into the story that you wonder how any synonym could even exist. In Dance it was the use of the word stygian which Martin used in his description of the pit where Drogon’s brothers are being held. He described it as a “…stygian darkness…”. Quick language lesson for those who didn’t divine the meaning from the context, stygian meaning very dark or relating to the (mythological) River Styx. Now isn’t that word just evocative of an actual image where other words may just have been…adequate? I absolutely love it.

Plot Summary

This is a rundown of the important bits of the plot as I see it. You may agree or disagree but the whole point of this is so that there is some reminder available so we don’t have to reread Dance when the next book comes out.

Tyrion surfaces in Pentos with Illyrio (who once protected Daenerys which is to whom he is sending Tyrion).

Doran Martell (of Dorne) made a secret pact to marry his daughter to Viserys but since he’s dead, he is sending his son Quentyn to marry Daenerys instead.

On his way to Daenerys, Tyrion’s liking for whores gets him captured by someone who knows who he is (we later learn it’s Jorah Mormont).

Davos’ death was only a ploy. White Harbor’s true loyalty still lies with the Starks/Winterfell but there is no Stark in Winterfell, so Davos is dispatched to find Rickon (whom Manderly knows to be alive) and bring him back in which case White Harbor and the north will declare for Stannis.

How great is this? The Lannisters sent “Arya” to be Ramsay Bolton’s bride, but it’s actually Sansa’s friend Jeyne going in her place.

Add another king to the mix. Aemon Targaryen (not the old guy but the child who supposedly had his head bashed in) lives.

Quentyn arrives in Meereen and shows Daenerys the secret pact between his father and her old protector but she says he’s too late that she must marry her Meereenese nobleman.

Arya turns up, still in the House of Black & White, still blind.

Tyrion’s ship is taken and he is sold into slavery (so is Jorah).

Daenerys marries the Meereenese nobleman for the good of her people (for peace).

Jaime received Cersei’s letter begging him to save her. He decides to leave her to her fate and instead goes off with Brienne who believes she’s found Sansa.

Cersei is forced to confess; it’s the only way she can see to get out of confinement. Margaery has already been released pending trial but there’s still some humiliation coming Cersei’s way.

Tyrion managed to get himself and Jorah freed and in the company of Brown Ben Plumm and his sellswords.

Jon Connington, aka Griff (Aemon’s protector) has taken back his father’s holding and brought Aemon home to Westeros. This means there is now a Targaryen in Westeros for people to flock to.

The day after Daenerys’ wedding there are games (think ancient Roman gladiators) and the blood and noise finally draw Drogon back to Meereen (his two brothers were imprisoned but Drogon too smart/strong). Daenerys leaves on his back.

Jon Snow made a deal with Tormund Giantsbane and more wildlings are settling south of the Wall.

Bolton got tired of waiting and has taken the fight to Stannis. Bolton won.

Just ahead of Bolton’s forces, Theon (with Jeyne in tow) is reunited with Asha.

Arya becomes an acolyte of the House of Black & White.

Quentyn dies of burns sustained while trying to steal the remaining dragons. It took three days.

Stannis has been killed by Bolton forces and Mance is discovered and captured. Ramsay sends a letter to Jon Snow with his demands, which include the return of Theon/Reek and the fake Arya – so maybe they didn’t die in the battle.

Rhaegal and Viserion, free since Quentyn’s attempt to steal them, are terrorizing Meereen, even if all they do is eat sheep.

Daenerys lives…and since Drogon will not go, she’s attempting to return to Meereen alone and on foot.

The Lannisters know about the existence of Aemon Targaryen.

Ser Loras’ only mention implies that he survived his wounds (so far).

Varys returns to the story at the end, just in time to murder Grand Maester Pycelle and Kevan Lannister (who has been acting as Tommen’s Regent).

The Oldtown maesters have sent out white ravens. Winter is no longer coming…winter is come. (Yes the bad grammar is deliberate.)

So where are they now? Previously I divided the characters up into the major families and then everybody else. With all the changes and deaths, it doesn’t really make sense to do that anymore so instead I’ve divided them up by the king (or queen) and those loyal to each and only then lumped in the rest.

Daenerys Targaryen & Company

Daenerys – found by Khal Jhaqo, trying to get back to Meereen

Quentyn Martell – dead of wounds sustained trying to steal dragons

Jorah – with Brown Ben Plumm and his sellswords, outside Meereen

Tyrion – with Brown Ben Plumm and his sellswords, outside Meereen

Barristan Selmy – ruling Meereen as the Queen’s Hand, awaiting Daenery’s return

Tommen Lannister & Company

Cersei – returned from captivity but bald and powerless

Ramsay Bolton/Snow – master of Winterfell and head of the army that smashed Stannis

Tommen – still sitting innocently on the Iron Throne

Margaery – released and awaiting trial

Jaime – off with Brienne searching for Sansa

The Starks – The North

Jon Snow – dying at the hands of his sworn brothers

Arya – in the House of Black & White

Bran – north of the Wall learning from the “three-eyed crow”

The Greyjoys

Theon/Reek – reunited with Asha just ahead of Bolton’s army

Asha – prisoner of Stannis; reunited with Theon just ahead of Bolton’s army

Victarion – at sea headed to Meereen and Daenerys

Everyone who is left

Davos – searching for Rickon

Aemon Targaryen – in Westeros, waiting

Stannis – dead at the hands of Bolton forces

My next review will be for Shadowborn by Alison Sinclair. If you want to get caught up, you can read my reviews of the two previous books, Darkborn and Lightborn. In the meantime, catch up with me Friday for my breakdown of the latest episode of Rookie Blue.

And that’s my thoughtful 2¢ for today.

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~ by leslies2cents on August 17, 2011.

16 Responses to “A DANCE WITH DRAGONS”

  1. Right on!

    • I’m so glad other people enjoyed this book too! But still no one seems to know the publication date of the next book. I guess we’ll all have to be in suspense for a while yet.

  2. Right on my man!

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  8. Intersting post and website. Great that Google listed so i was able to get here. This site will go no in my bookmarks from now.

    • Thank you and I hope you’ll keep visiting. I’m surprised and pleased to hear that with all the reviews of A Dance with Dragons, both professional and amateur, that I somehow got myself high enough on the google list that you found me.

  9. Thanks a ton for this – love the info and agree with your perspective. However many others will not, so thanks for speaking up. Nice blog, well done!

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