February 15, 2015

Book: A Dance With Dragons by George RR Martin

Filed under: Books — Tags: , , , , — krishnafromtoronto @ 12:29 pm

imageThis is the fifth and the last released book in the excellent The Game of Thrones series. The series, of course, is officially called A Song of Ice and Fire, but I do not think that anyone recognizes it by that name after the immensely popular TV series from HBO rechristened it as The Game of Throne Series. It is also one of the most shocking books in the series, even given his propensity to kill of important characters (Ned Stark in the first book, the Red Wedding in the third etc) and at least upset some of my ideas; it upset my apple cart.

We have already reviewed the first four books, which are The Game of Thrones, A Clash of Kings, A Storm of Swords and A Feast for Crows earlier.

I understand that the last two books are to be named as The Winds of Winter and The Dream of Spring.

Our usual caveat applies here. It is impossible to review this book without telling some of the storyline. I have tried not to give away the shocking twists but if you are the type who does not want to know only what the blurbs proclaim, you may be better off skipping this review and coming back to it after you read the book, to see if you agree with the views here.

Let us move on to the story. The story continues from where The Feast of Crows leaves off. You also learn an interesting fact, in that this book and the fourth book start out as contemporaries, in the sense that the fourth book just carves out some characters to talk about and this book talks about what happened to the rest of the characters in the same timeframe until we are all caught up. And then it goes on to narrate the story as normal. Therefore you found no mention of Tyrion in Book Four but this book covers him. (He explains it in the preview and so it is not some kind of a brilliant detection on my part!)

For that reason, the story can get a bit confusing, as you wonder how come certain events that you already know happened in the Book Four seem not to have happened in Book Five, until you remember what the author has done.

Varamyr Sixskins, who can inhabit other bodies,  is dying and wants to get into another body at least to live as another being, even if he will forget everything and become that thing. After trying unsuccessfully to get into the body of his servant woman, he then gets to be One Eye, the leader of the wolf pack. His body dies and he can no longer be a skinchanger.

Tyrion gets sent to Pentos(?) and ends up with Illyris, he of the yellow painted hair and monumental obesity. You met him in the first book, when he helped Daenerys.  Daenerys herself is ruling the city she conquered with lots of resentment from the ex-owners and ex-slaves who were freed.

When Bran is rescued by Coldhands, the dead thing sent through Sam, we later realize that it is by the doings of Stoneheart, who used to be his mother!

Illyoro in Pentos wants to take Tyrion to see Daenarys! Meanwhile, Quentin is trying to reach Daenarys too, to marry her and take her back to Dorne.

Davos, in the meanwhile is stuck in Sweetsister. Learns of Tywin’s death and Tyrion’s escape from Lord Godric. He was betrayed by Sallador San and left to reach the island wet and bedraggled.

Jon teaches Janos Slynt a lesson on who is the commander of the Wall. When Janos loses his head figuratively, Jon makes it literal. He is viewed with suspicion as allied with Stannis too much.

Reek is released from his dungeon while eating rats and Ramsay Walder, restored to glory from Ramsay Snow (a bastard) asks him to accompany him while he goes to marry Arya, Coldhands, Bran, Hodor, Meera and Jojen are set upon by wrights and escape.

Jon asks Stannis for wildlings to defend tthe wall and Tyrion goes on a boat through scary landscape towards Dany. Dany herself refuses an “offer” of 13 ships from a Pentoshi and he declares war on her.

Tyrion tangles with stone men and drowns in the conflict. Davos, in the meanwhile does not convince the Walder Frey and is arrested by him as a spy. In secret Walder releases him after pledging support to Stannis, killing another man in his place to place ‘a head on a spike’.

Tyrion goes to get intelligence on Daenarys and after going to a whorehouse is captured by a knight, who means to take him back to Cercei. The knight turns out to be Ser Jorah Mormont.

Meanwhile Tyrion meets and befriends another dwarf girl. His ship is overwhelmed and captured by slave traders and so all of them become slaves to be traded.

Reek turns out to be none other than Theon Greyjoy, tortured by Ramsay Bolton and who has lost a few fingers and completely submerged in the identity of Reek. One of the most terrifying descriptions is what happens to Reek, who he is, and how he was tortured.

Jon takes wildlings to worship in Weirwood beyond the Wall and also sends Stannis to win over the Greyjoys, which he does. He gives hundreds of wildlings to join the Brothers in Black.

Thoeon Greyjoy is forced to give away fake Arya (Jayne) in wedding to Ramsay Bolton –  the most cruel man in the story perhaps. This takes place in the ruined Winterfell while they expect Stannis to attack there anytime.

Dany is in love with the sellsword captain Daario but is forced to marry Hizdahr to keep peace is her place. Alyssa comes to Jon for asylum against her own uncle who is chasing her.

Meanwhile, the real Arya is now Blind Beth, and goes around with her other senses heightened.

When she identifies the kindly man as the attacker, even without eyes, her sight is restored to her. Tyrion is sold as a slave to a massively fat man with Penny, the other dwarf. They are meant to be his personal clowns, entertaining him with mock battles on horses (mules). Tyrion ends up saving Ser Jorah Mormont. They are right outside the walls of Mereen, where Danny used to rule as queen. Now Hizdahr is the king and takes all decisions. He opens fighting pits and also allows slave traders to set up camps right outside Mereen’s walls (where Tyrion is).

Theon finally grows a pair and helps the fake Arya (Jayne Poole, remember her as a maid of Sansa in earlier books?) escape from the clutches of the vicious sadist Ramsay Bolton (nee Snow).

Tyrion and Penny are shown in the fighting pits for their comedy act on a dog and a sow, but unknown to them, lions are about to be released into the pit as well. Dany is watching. When that is averted, the biggest Dragon comes in and get the competition adjourned. Dany is carried away by the dragon in front of the whole auditorium full of people!

Jon is collecting freefolk at the Wall for help.

Jon Corrigan, in the meanwhile is taking his old kingdoms one by one.

Asha, who is a prisoner with Stannis and is just outside Winterfell (Roose and Ramsay Bolton are inside) meets with escaped Theon and is shocked to find him transformed.

Meanwhile, Arya, after gaining her eyes back, gains a new face and a mission to kill in the service of the One With the Thousand Faces. The face she gains is of an ugly hag for the deed.

Meanwhile, Cercei faces her public humiliation bravely.

When Barriston Selmy decides to arrest the king Hizdahr, he learns that the dragons are loose. They are loose because the Frog (Quentyn, prince from Dorne) tried to tame them like Daenerys could and he could not, with disastrous results. Jon tries to take on Ramsay when he gets a note saying Stannis is dead but the men in black, already upset about his siding with the wildlings, decide to take matters in their own hands. Shocking twist almost near the end as far as Jon is concerned.

Danny now is lost in the Dothraki Sea, trying to survive and find her way back to Mereen, unaware of the fate of Hazdahr.

Kevan now tries to unite Tyrrells and Lannisters as the Hand, and sideline Cersei. When he goes to answer a raven’s call, an old familiar face appears to put an end to him. Shocking endings, nicely done.

Like most of the people who have read the books, cannot wait for the next one to be published.

Definitely a 9/10

  • – Krishna

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