As mentioned in my review of A Feast for Crows, the last two novels of the A Song of Ice and Fire series were originally conceived as one, but split in two to deal with their excessive length. A Dance with Dragons brings us back at long last to the storylines of Jon Snow, Daenerys Targaryen and Tyrion Lannister (the holy trinity of the series, in my humble opinion), among others.
Even more so than in the previous books, A Dance with Dragons is really about power – who has it, who wants it, and who can or cannot handle it.
It has been more than 20 years since Robert Baratheon led an uprising against the Targaryen king, in response to the “kidnapping and rape” of Lyanna Stark. (I am still anxiously awaiting the reveal of what actually happened to Lyanna as nothing in that story makes sense). Robert, a good man, was a terrible king. He led the kingdom into debt and ruin, and the wars never really ended.
In reading this latest installment, I was overwhelmed with the chaos of the world Martin created, but could also see the threads beginning to come together – literally and figuratively. (I am not going to summarize the plot. It is too complex, and if that’s what you want, read the book.)
Tyrion, now exiled for killing his father, is slowly making his way to Daenerys, and I eagerly anticipate the outcome of this meeting. Martin wants us to believe his only motivation is wealth and power, but I believe he will be Daenerys’ greatest asset. If I could contrive a theory that made him part Targaryen, one of the dragon’s three heads, I would believe it. I don’t know how or why, but he will help Daenerys win the throne.
Then we have Jon. Somehow, if any of my instincts are correct, Jon has to eventually end up with the other two . Of course, we are meant to believe [SPOILER: stop reading now if you haven’t read the book, I mean it!] that Jon is now dead, murdered by the men of the Night’s Watch for his plan to ally with and rescue the wildings (oh, and everything else he did that was new, innovative and/or risky).
A Dance with Dragons felt like a lot of time-filling, move-making and set-up (the whole ridiculously long and dull siege of Mereen for instance) but that is not the same as being dull or uninteresting. Only that aside from a few introduced changes and updates, the real purpose of the book was to set up for the next one, when the real action will happen.
Oh – and I almost forgot to mention that Bran’s story continues to evolve (and is getting really interesting) as he met the three-eyed crow of his dreams and is learning to be a skin changer. Will Bran control the dragons? Where does his ability come from? So many questions. When is the next book out? Here’s hoping it doesn’t take another six years.
Hardcover: 1040 pages
Publisher: Bantam (July 12 2011)