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Jason Panella

A Dance With Dragons [SPOILERS!]

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Wow. Finally finished. I read too fast so I'm going to have to read it again. I have many thoughts:

(SPOILERS ABOUND!)

Mike, I am less ambivalent than you (I quite enjoyed it), but I understand your frustration. Martin is too wordy by far.

Still, a lot of stuff was necessary, albeit not in quite so much detail, perhaps.

  • The insubordination of the Night's Watch, and the treaty with the wildlings set in motion by old Aegon, had to come to a head.
  • Dany, who sort of regressed in this book from flinty conqueror to foolish young girl, had to come to the conclusion that there is no place of rest in any world for a barren, exiled queen with three dragons. The constant marriage proposals got old (I felt at one point like I was reading "Who Wants to Marry a Dragon Queen?"), but I think they showcased Dany's lame attempts at diplomacy (exacerbated by her love-addled brain) and her avoidance of the Dragon Problem.
  • Theon, long hated by a great majority of ASOIAF readership, had a chance to redeem himself.

What I thought was unnecessary:

  • As precious as he was, Quentyn Martell. I'm still racking my brain to figure out why he even existed at all. Dany already knew Dorne was sympathetic. She was already married by the time he showed up. And the only purpose he actually served was to release the dragons? Couldn't Martin have accomplished the same by having them just melt through their chains and bust the doors? Or some other accident? We were all waiting for it anyway.
  • Asha Greyjoy. I like her, but I'm not sure she added anything useful. I didn't think House Greyjoy would even stick it out this long - why prolong the inevitable?*
  • The single Jaime chapter. Was that just to throw a bone to Jaime fans? It was kind of annoying to tease that storyline and then leave the rest for the next book. I guess Martin was worried about chronology.

Other thoughts:

  • Wow, Aegon. That changes the game entirely. If he's not a phony.
  • Did we know that Jon and Arya were probably wargs too? I can't remember if that had been hinted before this book. I was already thinking this thing would end with some kind of Dany + Jon rule, but now I'm convinced that Stark warging is the only way she can keep a handle on those dragons.
  • Tyrion's had better storylines, although no moment with Tyrion can be wasted. Everything happened to him or was done to him, which gave him a lot of introspection time. I'm not sure he got farther than self-flagellation. He did, though, finally find a woman he could trust.
  • Do we know that Stannis, etc are actually dead? I was looking for confirmation and didn't find any.
  • Cersei. Ouch. She is uniformly hateful (in the books, at least), but reading her walk of shame was...rough.
  • *Oh yeah - forgot about Victarion. Confession: I may have skipped one of his chapters.

Thoughts, anyone?? I'm dying to talk about this. No one else I know has finished yet (they're waiting to borrow my copy ;)

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This spoiler issue is going to make conversation tough in this format.

  • The insubordination of the Night's Watch, and the treaty with the wildlings set in motion by old Aegon, had to come to a head.


I agree that this and the Aegon surprise represent necessary advances in the plot. I guess most of my frustration was about the regression of Dany. I hadn't really thought her character was capable of the kind of swooning that happens in this book. But maybe Martin has done this so that her resolve will strengthen in a different direction toward the conclusion. She begins to think more and more like a Westeros queen in this book, which was an interesting twist. I guess I was hoping for Dany the Barbarian in this installment.

Other thoughts:
  • Do we know that Stannis, etc are actually dead? I was looking for confirmation and didn't find any.
  • Cersei. Ouch. She is uniformly hateful (in the books, at least), but reading her walk of shame was...rough.
  • *Oh yeah - forgot about Victarion. Confession: I may have skipped one of his chapters.

The letter to Jon is still up in the air. Is it a trick of some sort? If so, it works. Unless I missed something, I think Asha Greyjoy and her brother have a greater role yet to play, as their story was left unfinished with the entire Stannis crew.

And yes, the walk of shame was the dark heart of this installment.

It seems that this book was all about watching the Game of Thrones crumble from every possible perspective. There isn't much narrative advancement, but it is more about bearing witness to a principle of history that is at the center of Martin's narrative art. And it turns out that this principle of history is born in the clumsy, self destructive desire for power that directs the various houses and regencies on the chessboard. The walk of shame for Cersei was like a mirror image of the passion of Christ in this respect. For Cersei, she had to endure the shame of her own evil in order to regain the Lannister power she so desperately wants.

Okay, I am starting to warm up to this one more and more.

Edited by M. Leary

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For movies, don't we generally assume spoilers are rampant once the movie's come out? I'm a litle fuzzy on that. Should we retroactively spoiler-warn this thread?

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That could work, though I'm convinced that most should assume that once something (like this book) is released, entering this thread isn't necessarily safe.

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Ok, I added a warning to the title. All y'all can edit your spoiler quotes now, if you so choose to. Jason, are you finished?

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Ok, I added a warning to the title. All y'all can edit your spoiler quotes now, if you so choose to. Jason, are you finished?

Well, I'm finished with the third chapter. That doesn't count, does it? ;)

I'm hoping to be done in a week or so. I kind of want to savor it, but also not dilly dally.

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I'd say spoilers come with the territory. Those who venture in should probably know that. Just as an example, I'm only midway through Book 1. I'm assuming, given the title of Book 5, that those quaint, unhatched dragon eggs may figure more heavily as the story moves forward. :-)

Edited by Andy Whitman

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Biggest, most Gigantic Spoiler of all:

No Hot Pie in Book 5.

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All right, I'm spoilin'!

The more I think about it, the more it makes sense that this book was sort of a regression for some characters. It used to be part of Feast, after all. The fourth book is slower and more painstaking in picking through the wreckage of book 3, so it's not surprising to me that the growth in book 5 is similarly stunted.

Seeing Dany falter and dawdle was hard. But her original motive in staying in Meereen was not Daario per se; she wanted to heal, she wanted to be Mother, she wanted for once to leave a free, thriving city behind instead of ashes. Unfortunately, that's exactly what she didn't do. She needs Jorah back :(

I found some threads on the Westeros.org forum that, like me, asked "What was the point of Quentyn Martell?" One response offered was that so he could fulfill the line in Dany's prophecy "the sun that rises in the west and sets in the east." Good lord. If that turns out to be it I will laugh. The best explanation I found was that Dany had to lose Dorne's loyalty to Aegon. If Quentyn left to go win Dany, and Aegon turns up with an army but without Quentyn or Dany...who knows?

Wow - didn't see the Cersei walk of shame as a mirror of Christ's, although I should have. Great catch.

Interesting new revelations about Brandon & Cat and their peers. How depressing that he never loved her at all.

The epilogue seemed to add some weight to my own pet theory that Varys orchestrated Tyrion's final scene in Storm, down to planting Shae without her knowledge. I don't think we can say either way, but it looks like it to me.

Edit: HOT PIE. :( He'll be back.

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No Hot Pie, but the DOLOROUS EDD action covers that sin.

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Spoilers openly discussed...

I found this book (and the last) to be a lengthy setup for books 6 and 7, an interlude with favorite characters and settings before the end. Most of the action is travelling or character (Tyrion) positioning, with the season changing officially at the end signalling that the climax will happen...soon. The situation in Meereen annoyed the heck out of me, not just because it halted Dany's triumphant and destructive march to the sea and effectively took some favorite characters out of commission. It also seemed too on-the-nose current event-wise, with its foreign invader bogged down in a desert-ish land by a disgruntled populace and an insurgent war. But now I think it mainly exists to show the consequences of Dany's actions and her failure to deal with them. She has everything she needs to advance to Westeros, but at the cost of many civilian lives and regional instability, and as much as she tries, she can't fix it. This sequence gives Dany a chance to make mistakes and (possibly) learn from them, and halts her advance long enough for the other pieces to fall into place. I still don't think it works well for the flow of the story, but I do appreciate how Martin does not let his readers or characters ignore the messes they make.

For me, Quentyn Martell worked better. He serves as a contrast to Dany (and maybe also Bran) as a character who, despite being guided by idealism, personal integrity, birthright, political cunning (not his own, unfortunately), and even prophecy ("the blood of the dragon", perhaps), fails completely. He might even serve an important role in advancing the plot--not dragon-wise (poor guy), but in delivering his friends to Meereen (I have a feeling we'll see Drink and the big man again).

A few quick notes: Coldhands was covering his face because he didn't want Bran to recognize him (his identity has been posited by many others, but I think the book confirms it). And I'll believe Jon is dead when his body is burned. Also, how delicious was Davos' last chapter? Hidden passages, double agents, the mute knife-thrower, the suicide mission, and some of the best non-Tyrion dialogue in the book. When Lord Wyman asked, "Was ever snow so black?" I laughed out loud.

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Also, Wyman Manderly baked some Frey pies, right? That is the only thing I could think of that could explain his extreme glee at the wedding.

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Also, Wyman Manderly baked some Frey pies, right? That is the only thing I could think of that could explain his extreme glee at the wedding.

So Hot Pie was in the book after all!

I didn't catch this while reading...somehow thought that Manderly was trying to poison everyone with his "wedding pies" as retribution for the Red Wedding and was surprised when nothing came of it. This makes more sense, though.

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I missed that too. Do you recall whereabouts that is in the book so I can reread it? (Though this will require a lot of Kindle button pushing. One very serious drawback of the format.)

Edited by M. Leary

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I missed that too. Do you recall whereabouts that is in the book so I can reread it? (Though this will require a lot of Kindle button pushing. One very serious drawback of the format.)

One upside of the Kindle: searchable text :D . Location 10982 (don't know the physical edition page #).

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It also seemed too on-the-nose current event-wise, with its foreign invader bogged down in a desert-ish land by a disgruntled populace and an insurgent war. ...I still don't think it works well for the flow of the story, but I do appreciate how Martin does not let his readers or characters ignore the messes they make.

You know, I usually have a sharp radar for overdone current events allegories, but I didn't notice this one. You're right, it is a little too close. But yes, Martin's refusal to ignore the wake of his characters' warpaths is one of his best qualities.

For me, Quentyn Martell worked better. He serves as a contrast to Dany (and maybe also Bran) as a character who, despite being guided by idealism, personal integrity, birthright, political cunning (not his own, unfortunately), and even prophecy ("the blood of the dragon", perhaps), fails completely. He might even serve an important role in advancing the plot--not dragon-wise (poor guy), but in delivering his friends to Meereen (I have a feeling we'll see Drink and the big man again).

Yeah, now that I think about it more, I think he does work well as the sweet young idealist with big hero dreams who gets crushed unceremoniously, even though he's got a lot of things going for him: earnesty, innocence, and determination. I suppose book 6 will tell us more.

I guess most of my frustration was about the regression of Dany. I hadn't really thought her character was capable of the kind of swooning that happens in this book. But maybe Martin has done this so that her resolve will strengthen in a different direction toward the conclusion. She begins to think more and more like a Westeros queen in this book, which was an interesting twist. I guess I was hoping for Dany the Barbarian in this installment.

Re: Dany the Barbarian, me too. She seemed to be just closing in on full-throttle "waking the dragon" territory, and then it all kind of fell to pieces. I guess she already had the compassion and strength needed for a queen of the Seven Kingdoms, but what she needed was temperance and wisdom, since she had lost or driven away nearly everyone who could cultivate it in her. She is only a "young girl" after all, and nothing can replace the experience of seeing one's own city burnt to a crisp by one's own dragons. It's basically Robert's reign (or Aerys's) writ in brief.

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It also seemed too on-the-nose current event-wise, with its foreign invader bogged down in a desert-ish land by a disgruntled populace and an insurgent war. ...I still don't think it works well for the flow of the story, but I do appreciate how Martin does not let his readers or characters ignore the messes they make.

You know, I usually have a sharp radar for overdone current events allegories, but I didn't notice this one. You're right, it is a little too close. But yes, Martin's refusal to ignore the wake of his characters' warpaths is one of his best qualities.

And at least he began the series long enough ago that Dany was already slated for desert war anyway. I didn't pick up on this either. Especially the insurgent part.

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Sorry I'm taking so long, folks. I'm averaging about three to four chapters a day, so this might take another week or two.

I finished a particular Bran chapter that was completely nuts. Bran warging into Hodor and smacking zombies with a broadsword ("Hodorhodorhodor!"), children of the forest, the three-eyed crow (who, from what I'm gathered on forums, is a character from the Dunk and Egg novellas Martin wrote. Guess I should read those!) And speculation about Coldhands being the Ranger Formerly Known As Benjen seems to have held up especially well at this point.

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Finished the book last night after a couple of late night reading sessions. Overall, I have to agree with sanshiro's sentiments about this book being all about positioning and setting up the last two books -- which are going to be absolute monsters with everything that Martin has been building up to date. A few random, spoiler-filled thoughts:

* Like others have noted, the Dany storyline got frustrating at times. Part of that is because I always get lost in the Meereenese knot, with all of the slavers, sellsword companies, and whatnot. At times, it felt like Martin was heaping on complexity just for complexity's sake.

* I loved Jon's interactions and dealings with the wildlings, particularly with Tormund Giantsbane. And his dealings with Janos Slynt... wow.

* Also, Jon can't be dead. He can't be... that is all.

* Loved Theon's redemption. (Those Bolton chapters give me the heebie-jeebies.)

* Davos is still awesome.

* I was glad to see Arya again, but I'm not sure how Arya and her new abilities are going to fit into everything. I can sort of see how everything else does, or I have some theories, but not with Arya.

* I wanted more Jaime and Bran.

* I didn't get that Manderly had baked any Frey pies, though I sort of wish he had. I hate those Freys.

* I know that Martin keeps the supernatural on the books' periphery, which is one of the things that I like. But I do find the various comparisons betweens the gods and religions interesting, especially with the arrival of R'hllor. I've read that the conclusion of the book, in which the reason for Westeros' crazy seasons will be revealed, will be supernatural in nature. That, combined with the Children of the Forest, Bran's visions, and the inevitable rise of the Others, makes me wonder just how much more prominent the supernatural will become in the last two books.

Edited by opus

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R'hllor gives me unfortunate flashbacks to the "One True God" of Battlestar Galactica's Cylons (as opposed to the Colonies' many gods), and that depresses me when I think of how the supernatural took over that show as well, and ultimately ruined it.

The undead in particular seem to be multiplying. I hope there is not too much focus on zombies - I'm kind of worn out on zombies.

I'm a little more vague on my Arya theories than I used to be. Clearly she is being groomed by George for something spectacular, but I am not good enough at clues to pick up what that might be.

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R'hllor gives me unfortunate flashbacks to the "One True God" of Battlestar Galactica's Cylons (as opposed to the Colonies' many gods), and that depresses me when I think of how the supernatural took over that show as well, and ultimately ruined it.

The more GRRM focuses on the religions of Westeros and Essos, the more I'm captivated. I feel like the various religions have nods toward real-life counterparts without getting too much into allegory. For the most part, I didn't mind the mono/polytheistic story arcs in BSG, but it reaaaaally became shrill in some spots. Thankfully, A Song of Ice and Fire hasn't reached that point for me, and I'm hoping it stays that way.

Also, Ron Moore has a mullet and dictated random plot twists to the scriptwriters via cell phone.

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I am carefully avoiding reading anything on this thread, so forgive me if I'm repeating anything: But GRRM is speaking in Seattle on Friday at Town Hall.

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The more GRRM focuses on the religions of Westeros and Essos, the more I'm captivated. I feel like the various religions have nods toward real-life counterparts without getting too much into allegory. For the most part, I didn't mind the mono/polytheistic story arcs in BSG, but it reaaaaally became shrill in some spots. Thankfully, A Song of Ice and Fire hasn't reached that point for me, and I'm hoping it stays that way.

Also, Ron Moore has a mullet and dictated random plot twists to the scriptwriters via cell phone.

Heh. I didn't mind that those storylines existed on BSG; I just resented the fact that they basically steamrolled the whole show from season 2 on, even though the religions themselves were vague and not very well explained. There just wasn't much to them when you really looked closer.

That is one thing I really like about ASOIAF - the religions each seem to have structure and distinct personality. The Seven (and sept(a)(on)s) and their temples, the Northern gods and their godswoods, about which we learn a lot more in ADWD, and R'hllor, god of fire and light.

I can't remember now if this was explicitly detailed in the book, or if I read it online, but I like the idea that the sacred godswoods were actually once sentient humans who warged into trees. Or "greenseers" - I forget the difference. Anyway, that makes a lot of sense as to why they would be worshiped.

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That warging bit was in the book during one of the Bran sections. Can't remember which.

There was increased commentary on the various religions via Tyrion as well, which I think may become a more important part of his character arc. Not only is there more detail emerging on these various religions, which I agree are going to become a major part of the conclusion, but a lot of different perspectives on what religion is. There are the believers, the cynical, those who use religion to gain power, there are those who are discovering religion.

I just like the way Martin contours the presence of religion here with the way people actually respond to religion in real life.

Edited by M. Leary

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Curious: have there been any indications that the gods, themselves, actually exist and have intervened? There's a lot of talk about the faithful and whatnot, but there's also a prevailing cynicism amongst most of the characters that the gods don't exist or simply don't care. There's been some indication that there's some power behind the religion of R'hllor, thanks to the various deeds of Melisandre and Moqorro, but I think there's still plenty of ambiguity as to whether or not their deeds are more tricks than anything else. There's also that interesting exchange between Jon and Melisandre where the latter admits that her visions are sometimes flawed and not at all certain (though she maintains faith that R'hllor's messages are pure and truthful).

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