‘A Dance with Dragons’, George R.R. Martin

Ah, now, I believe I’ve come to the point where the fifth A Song of Ice and Fire book is discussed here. I finished it this Monday, and contrary to the majority of forum posts I’ve read by ASOIAF fans, I loved it. In terms of the series, I’d rank it second after ‘A Feast for Crows’ though I do understand that the slow-moving pace (much as in Caprica, if we want to compare it to something) made people dislike it especially if they hoped that wonderful things would be discussed here.

Note: I’ve added a quote from most POVs after the name of the character or just after the passage describing them. They are quotes *from* the POVs, and not necessarily by the people whose POV it was. 

I have to say that I was especially pleasantly surprised in the middle of the book when I unexpectedly came upon a POV by Jaime — which I had originally understood would not appear in book five as the story in King’s Landing and the south in general was told in book four.

 Jaime: “That’s how it always happens, my father says. So long as men remember the wrongs done to their forebears, no peace will ever last. So we go on century after century, with us hating the Brackens and them hating us. My father says there will never be an end to it.”

Of the other point of view storylines, I found Jon and Barristan most likable in the book — Barristan’s episodes always made me think how they’d look on screen (especially given the memorable dismissal of him in the TV series which was so very well played — and which reminded that we should certainly have the chance to see more of Lord Beric Dondarrion on screen!).  For the first time I, however, felt that Daenerys was being a total idiot — her chapters were not the most pleasant to read and well, let’s just say that she could have done much better, which is a pity given that her developments in book three were reasonable. Then again, I did not appreciate her that much in ‘A Clash of Kings’ either so it might just be the same vibe echoing through.

Daenerys: “Man wants to be the king o’ the rabbits, he best wear a pair o’ floppy ears.”

Jon: “Laws should be made of iron, not of pudding.”

Barristan: “You kill men for the wrongs they have done, not the wrongs that they may do someday.”

Otherwise, Tyrion : less enjoyable (mostly because there was less jesting) chapters than previously but they achieved a new value — the first ones at least, where we saw him travel : quite brings to mind some other fantasy books with excellent descriptions on travels (and not only fantasy, for some of H. Sienkiewicz’s traveling chapters are also very well written). Tyrion definitely needs command of something though (if only sewers) so that he could make fun of others and amuse the readers…

Tyrion: “I think life is a jape. Yours, mine, everyone’s.”  ||

“There has never been a slave who did not choose to be a slave, the dwarf reflected. Their choice may be between bondage and death, but the choice is always there.”

Who else could we follow in ‘A Dance’? A wonderful chapter with Areo Hotah, who has to be one of the coolest guys in the area — I think there’s been a total of two chapters with him over the course of the series but I’d say that the two certainly outplay anything Daenerys has managed to offer. Especially since Areo’s view is somewhat closer to what ours might be, given that he is not a Westeros native.

Areo: “Tell me, Captain, is that my shame or my glory?” “That is not for me to say, my prince.” Serve. Protect. Obey. Simple vows for simple men. That was all he knew.

Then we had a chance of seeing Brandon in action again who seemed less well played than before, but might be just that my original dislike for his chapters kicked out — he certainly could be a bit more… innovative. Ask questions? Do something else besides what is *not* suggested? *sigh*

Bran: “A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies,” said Jojen. “The man who never read lives only one.”

The Lannisters — I believe there was a chapter on Cersei which was nice again though she was a bit more active in ‘A Feast’. Well, with good reason — I’m sure that she’ll rise again. And a surprise Lannister POV as well – Kevan. About time we saw a bit more of that man, I would say. Very much liked it again.

Cersei: “Women were always the cruelest where other women were concerned.”

Kevan:  “That is how it is when a man grows as old as Pycelle. Everything you see or hear reminds you of something you saw or heard when you were young.” ||

“But it did no good to brood on lost battles and roads not taken. That was a vice of old done men.”

As another surprise, of our wonderful King Stannis, we had the chance to see his Hand, Lord Davos in action, and that was almost as good as his original chapters in ‘A Clash’. A few plot-twists as well (and some which have created quite a buzz in the fora but that’s only natural — Davos seems to always both enter and leave on a very dutiful note, much like his King). The other Stannis POV was Melisandre though if anything, this raised the question to me what ‘Clash’s prologue would have looked like from Melisandre’s point of view.

Davos:  “So I ask you, Onion Knight – what does Lord Stannis offer me in return for my allegiance?” War and woe and the screams of burning men, Davos might have said. “The chance to do your duty,” he replied instead. That was the answer Stannis would have given –. The Hand should speak with the king’s voice. 

Melisandre:  “Devan was the fifthborn and safer here with her than at the king’s side. Lord Davos would not thank her for it, no more than the boy himself, but it seemed to her that Seaworth had suffered enough grief. Misguided as he was, his loyalty to Stannis could not be doubted. She had seen that in her flames.”

Added to this was a POV series by a Prince of Dorne (the title ‘Prince’ has to be one of the finest ones around). Quentyn Martell managed to utter his “Unbent, unbowed, unbroken” in a pleasant enough way, and endeared the Martell’s even more than before. His attitude managed to remind me of the Starks though, which is a wonder, but an interesting move.

Quentyn: “Men’s lives have meaning, not their deaths.”

A few of the Ironborn made an entrance as well : starting from the lovely princess Asha Greyjoy who had quite a few wonderful passages; continuing with the not-as-likable Theon, who by all rights should be dead by now but seems to survive and in a rather good shape. *sigh* Martin’s sense of justice isn’t what it could be, but it is sufficient for now, I’m sure that Theon will suffer in the future. The last Greyjoy to appear was Victarion : still brooding over his defeat a number of years hence, but have to say, the description we were given did quite establish that the commander of the Iron Fleet was an idiot and sailed into a trap. Aside from that, he was his good former self killing people left and right in the most pleasurable way conceivable. And, of course, I do like the concept of the Iron Fleet which is another plus for Victarion. 🙂

Asha: “The enemy of my enemy is my friend, men said, but the other side of that coin was, the enemy of my friend is my enemy.”

Theon: “A peaceful land, a quiet people. That has always been my rule.”

Victarion: “Life is pain, you fool. There is no joy but in the Drowned God’s watery halls.”

Also, another new entry by a fellow exiled from Westeros — namely, the former Hand, Lord Jon Connington. I did enjoy his chapters though he appeared a bit too brittle… We’ll see how he fares in the future.

Lord Connington: “Not every man is what he seems, and a prince especially has good cause to be wary … but go too far down that road, and the mistrust can poison you, make you sour and fearful.”

All in all, a very enjoyable book — certainly better than both ‘A Clash of Kings’ and ‘A Storm of Swords’ though likely bested in quality by both ‘A Game of Thrones’ and ‘A Feast for Crows’. This is my opinion though — I recommend everyone to read them all, and tell me yours!

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