Friday, August 15, 2014

A Dance with Dragons by George R. R. Martin


For the past four books, George R. R. Matin has used a specific and visually appealing format to structure his chapters. There is always a character name about the text that represents which P.O.V we will be reading from (though this format was bent somewhat in A Feast for Crows) and there is always an elaborate floral looking banner at the top of the page. That hasn’t particularly changed in the fifth installment of A Song of Ice and Fire. The P.O.V still remains and the floral banner still resides. What makes them different in A Dance with Dragons verses the other four books? Suddenly the P.O.V heading is smaller as well as the banner and there is a whole lot less page showing. I had to gulp in shock. Entering this book was intimidating already but this was icing on the cake. I knew I was in for a roller coaster of a book!
Indeed A Dance with Dragons is a roller coaster ride. There are tons of highs and many lows. To start off, and may I remind you that this review contains spoilers, I never guessed that Aegon freaking Targareyn was alive! I mean, wow! That blew me away. Looking back to the House of the Undying chapter from A Clash of Kings, I can now see the foreshadowing. Still, my mind is blown. But that wasn’t the only bit of excitement in this book. Speaking in broad terms, the book was avidly political, and very much mirrors our own current system, while also medieval and vulgar. Watching Jon Snow rebuilding the Wall and redefining what is right verses what the realm has come to believe was really fascinating. Equally fascinating was Dany. Jon and Dany, ice and fire, had very similar stories in a sense as they are bother leaders in a political fashion. And it was pretty amazing to finally see Dany ride one of her dragons! I literally cheered out loud when I read this part! Waiting for her fate after this point was like waiting for Bran’s fate in A Clash of Kings. But besides that, Dany’s arc was magnificently done and I can’t wait to see what is next for her. Her buddy Daario was pretty humorous throughout the book, dropping insults to Ser Barristan like calling him “Ser Grandfather.”
Bran’s journey was very intriguing. I have a hunch, with no evidence to back it up, that the “creature” who led them to the children of the forest may have been Benjan Stark. Again, just a hunch. Moving on though, I wish there would have been more Bran chapters in this book. This is another character that I can’t wait to return to. And finally, let me turn my attention to Tyrion. His story was very different than I expected but his adventures were always entertaining and the fact that he interacted with Jorah Mormont was freaking cool.
The epilogue was freaking amazing. Finally we know who Varys’s little birds are! We also know that words are wind from Martin having his characters say the line over ten times throughout this book. What we still don’t know is Jon’s mother, and I would argue that we don’t know if Jon is even dead. Martin made it seem like he died but he left it off in such a way that gave us no confirmation. I predict he lives!
Dany’s realization in the second to last chapter was refreshing. Finally I think she is ready to take her place as Queen on the Iron Throne! It is cool how Martin shows her hitting her lowest point so that she can realize her true destiny. This book also includes the famous quote, “A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies, said Jojen. The man who never reads lives only one.” I was pretty psyched when I read that.
There were a lot of great quotes actually. Many tied into the theme that I discussed in my A Feast for Crows review that everyone is on the same side. This theme shines across beautifully in this book, as it does in all five of the A Song of Ice and Fire books. “As the children splashed in the pools, Daenerys watched from amongst the orange trees, and a realization came to her. She could not tell the highborn from the low. Naked, they were only children. All innocent, all vulnerable, all deserving of long life, love, protection…It is an easy thing for a prince to call the spears, but in the end the children pay the price” / “Someone did [make peace], my lord. Many someone. We’ve had a hundred peaces with [this family], many sealed with marriages…The Old King’s Peace lasted half a century. But then some fresh quarrel broke out, and the old wounds opened and began to bleed again. That’s how it always happens…so long as men remember the wrongs done to their forebears, no peace will ever last…there will never be an end to it.” (510/644)
After reading these last three books, I have come to learn that Varys and Little Finger are the true masters of the game of thrones which is super awesome! That being said, I’m not quite sure that this series is about them. I briefly thought the series was about Jon and Daenerys. Then I thought it was about Starks and Targareyns. Next I moved to the idea I also mentioned in my A Feast for Crows review that these books have no specific character focus which could mean that A Song of Ice and Fire is specifically talking about the realm as a character which stretches from extreme heat on one end, fire, all the way to the wall, ice.
I have another theory as well. My theory is that in the end this will be Aegon VI’s story. I have my reasons for thinking this…first off, I want him to be King. At the same time, I also want Dany to be Queen so ideally I want them to rule together. But I have a feeling this might not happen. Here are my reasons: 1. The House of the Undying chapter from A Clash of Kings. In this chapter, Dany sees her brother Rhaegar standing with his wife and holding baby Aegon. He specifically says, “He has a song. He is the prince that was promised, and his is the song of ice and fire.” The series name is used and I don’t think it was by accident. That is some fantastic foreshadowing, that is. 2. Dany’s full name, Daenerys, is the biblical name for coin which has Caesar’s picture on it. I wonder if this points to Dany being the Queen we want, but not the leader we need. Perhaps the true savior of the realm is Aegon.
The only complaint I have about this book is Victorian chapters. I seriously cannot stand that dude. But even that doesn’t hold back the book because Martin’s writing is so freaking fantastic and rich that you can’t give him marks for something as silly as not liking a P.O.V character.
Overall, this book was mind blowing. The suspense is great, the character arcs are believable and awesome and the writing is impeccable. Definitely giving this 5 out of 5 stars. I can’t wait to read the sixth book, The Winds of Winter! That being said, I can’t stand when people become angry at Martin for not writing faster. News flash, he isn’t your slave to write you books. Give him the time he needs to shape these books as he imagined! We will all be better for it in the end.

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