A Dance with Dragons Review - Ramsay Bolton is the new Joffrey
by George R. R. Martin
As of the beginning of 2019, George R. R. Martin is still procrastinating which means A Dance with Dragons is the last book available in the A Song of Ice and Fire series. 8 years and no book!!! I would try to rush him but the quality in his books are almost always guaranteed which means the 6th book will be worth the wait but until then, I will just re-read the series over and over again. A Dance with Dragons begins where the third book left off for the characters that were not included in the 4th book which means we get to see Daenerys, Jon Snow, Arya Stark, Theon (Reek), and Bran Stark.
King Stannis Baratheon is at Castle Black with the rest of the Night’s Watch where Jon Snow has become Lord Commander before Stannis leaves South with a group to take Winterfell from Ramsay Snow. Jon Snow switches Gilly’s baby with Mance Rayder’s and sends him down with Samwell Tarly and Gilly to the Citadel to protect him from being sacrificed by Melisandre. With much drama between Jon Snow and Janos Slynt, he decides to execute him as a way to be taken seriously as the new Lord Commander but it instead causes more resentment among Slynt’s followers. Jon Snow sends Val to look for Tormund to strike a truce with the wildlings in order to use their numbers to protect against the White Walkers. Someone from the Iron Bank shows up at the Wall looking for Stannis after deciding to back him since Cersei has decided to no longer pay the crown’s debt.
Arya Stark is with the faceless men in Braavos in order to learn how to become “no one”. They temporarily blind her so she can learn how to move, hear, and fight without sight however she begins to have dreams through the eyes of cats as she had before with her direwolf Nymeria. After her sight is restored, they begin tasking her with assassinating a merchant and make her an apprentice of the faceless men. Across the sea, Tyrion Lannister is still alive after Lord Varys and Jaime helped him escape from his doomed trial for Joffrey’s murder. After Illyrio decides to send him to Daenerys, he reveals that Lord Varys and him have been hiding Aegon Targaryen in order to eventually put him on the Iron Throne. They travel together to Meereen to find Daenerys when Tyrion is captured by an exiled Jorah Mormont. He decides to bring Tyrion to Daenerys in order to regain her favor until they are both captured and sold as slaves to a Yunkish merchant.
Daenerys has conquered Meereen and decided to rule over all that she’s freed which proves difficult when the former slave owners all hate her. Her dragons have also continued to grow and prove to be difficult to control as their appetites increase. Even though she may be in love with Daario Naharis, she decides to go through with a marriage alliance with Hizdahr zo Loraq in order to bring peace to Meereen. After the marriage, she decides to re-open the fighting pits which ends in disaster as Drogon appears and burns half the audience before she jumps on his back and flies away. Right as the chaos ensues, Tyrion arrives (a little too late) and decides to break free and stay in Meereen.
Theon, named Reek by Ramsay Snow, has been getting tortured and flayed by Ramsay till he is almost like a trained dog. He watches the horrible things Ramsay does such as letting loose girls and then hunting them down with his dogs who are named after the women he kills. When “Arya Stark” arrives, Theon realizes it is really Jeyne and not the real Stark, but Ramsay goes through with the wedding to ensure their claim to Winterfell. Theon escapes with Jeyne and gets captured by Stannis’ army and reunited with his sister Asha. Later, Jon Snow receives a raven from Ramsay who claims to have defeated Stannis and his army. After deciding he will march down on Winterfell, the members of the Night’s Watch betray him and stab him to death. Daenerys, who was presumed dead, is alive and roaming lost after her flight with Drogon. She gets captured by Khal Jhaqo who recognizes her from his time with Khal Drogo. A Dance with Dragons ends with Cersei confessing her crimes and having to do the walk of atonement where she has to walk naked to King’s Landing in front of all the citizens who hate her.
Final Rating & Thoughts: 9/10
Compared to A Feast for Crows, I found A Dance with Dragons to be so much more action packed! The last book was all about politics and playing the Game of Thrones, but in this one we get to see all the meticulous planning unravel and succeed or fail. Once again, George R. R. Martin is all about the little details. I was thrilled in A Feast for Crows Joffrey was finally killed but I should have known George R. R. Martin wasn’t going to let us off that easy and Ramsay Snow truly is a cruel new villain to add to the roster. I thought for the past few weeks that I hated Theon Greyjoy and that he deserved to die if that ended up being his fate but halfway through A Dance with Dragons and I couldn’t help but sympathize with Theon aka Reek. Joffrey was always cruel but he always had his guards and The Hound to do all the work for him while Ramsay enjoyed doing the flaying himself. I was honestly so relieved to see in the books that Sansa wasn’t forced to marry him like she was in the show. He completely broke Theon to the point where he could barely even remember his past life before becoming Reek and was loyal to Ramsay out of complete and utter fear.
I also was not shocked at all that Stannis’ army was defeated at Winterfell. Even though I know technically Stannis should have been the heir to the Iron Throne since Cersei’s children were Jaime’s, Stannis’ efforts were doomed from the beginning. The only real asset he’s had was Melisandre and even she isn’t enough to help him claim the throne when all the other numbers were stacked against him. To add fuel to the fire, he was not loved or even respected by the citizens of Westeros so gaining alliances has always been like pulling teeth. I just feel like he’s always been so stubborn and that’s been his biggest fault.
Jon Snow’s death hit me too hard. Even though I watched the show and (spoilers ahead) I know he comes back to life, I just couldn’t believe his brothers would betray him like this. I know his idea to work with the wildlings versus killing the wildlings was an extremely unpopular opinion especially when many of the men haven’t seen these white walkers in person, they should be trusting and respecting Jon Snow’s authority as their new Lord Commander. It also doesn’t help that whenever I read Jon Snow’s chapters I see Kit Harrington’s face in my mind and why would you want to kill such a beautiful man? George R. R. Martin I am talking to you!
What I didn’t enjoy so much was Daenerys time in Meereen. I think that was probably the weakest part of an incredibly strong novel because Daenerys is a fierce Targaryen dragon and spends most of the book failing to rule as queen of Meereen. I didn’t really like her love interest with Daario Naharis because I know it would be temporary and I hated her marriage to Hizdahr. I understood the reason why she wanted the marriage alliance but I felt like she never got the peace she was promised so what was even the point of this marriage? I also was so disappointed when Tyrion literally just missed Daenerys and didn’t get a chance to meet because in the TV show it is such a highlight of the season and I was looking forward to seeing that in the novel. Either way, I do understand Daenerys reason for staying in Meereen to “practice” ruling but if this is how her practice is looking like… maybe she’s not cut out to be queen.
Overall A Dance with Dragons is a must read to continue on the story of A Song of Ice and Fire. I love the different character developments of Theon and Tyrion Lannister especially as they were almost completely different men in the first book compared to the fifth book. My favorite character developments have been that of Arya Stark and Sansa Stark though because they are learning to play the game and survive. Arya has always been such a fierce little wolf and training to become a faceless man/ assassin is honestly not that far-fetched for the girl who did dancing training to use her sword Needle in the first book. I also feel like Sansa is learning how just because someone is “helping” her doesn’t mean she should trust them because in the Game of Thrones, anyone can betray you at any time. Even if Arya or Sansa doesn’t end up on the Iron Thrones, I know they will survive the series because they continue to push through no matter the circumstance. The North remembers and I can’t wait till they make it back to Winterfell and are reunited.