Dangerous Women 1

Dangerous Women 1Dangerous Women 1 by George R.R. Martin

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The first subdivision of the Dangerous Women anthology edited by George R.R. Martin and Gardner Dozois is a mix bag of both story quality and the interpretation of the phrase ‘dangerous women’. In seven stories across genres around the central theme of women who are dangerous, a reader is treated to see women in various ways only but is also forced to figure out if the women presented or alluded to are actually dangerous.

Of the seven stories featured in Dangerous Women 1 the three best at presenting both a very good story and dangerous women were Carrie Vaugh’s “Raisa Stepanova”, Megan Abbott’s “My Heart Is Either Broken”, and George R.R. Martin’s “The Princess and the Queen”. Just outside these three was Cecelia Holland’s “Nora’s Song” which had a very good story but was seen from the perspective of a little girl finding out how dangerous her mother is. These four stories were at the very beginning and the last three stories of the collection giving the anthology a strong start and finish.

However, the three stories in the middle suffered from a failure of either not being very good or not having a dangerous woman. Both Megan Lindholm’s “Neighbors” and Joe R. Lansdale’s “Wrestling Jesus” were very good stories, but the danger posed by the women either featured or more mentioned then seen was hard to detect. But the weakest story of the entire collection was Lawrence Block’s “I Know How to Pick’em” which went from having potential to falling flat by the end.

Overall Dangerous Women 1 is a mixed bag of very good stories with strong female characters, just very good stories with no danger attached to any female character, and just plain bad all around. The best that could be said is in the end the reader is the ultimate judge.

Individual Story Ratings
Raisa Stepanova by Carrie Vaughn (4/5)
I Know How to Pick’em by Lawrence Block (1/5)
Neighbors by Megan Lindholm (2.5/5)
Wrestling Jesus by Joe R. Lansdale (2/5)
My Heart Is Either Broken by Megan Abbott (4/5)
Nora’s Song by Cecelia Holland (3.5/5)
The Princess and the Queen by George R.R. Martin (4/5)

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The Princess and the Queen (ASOIAF- History)

dw1The Princess and the Queen by George R.R. Martin
My rating: 4 out of 5 stars

The Targaryen civil war known as ‘The Dance of the Dragons’ was mythologized in Westeros by bards for almost two hundred years before the events of George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire. “The Princess and the Queen” offers the history of first great Targaryen civil war through the death of one of the titular characters, but unlike other Targaryen civil wars or rebellions that threatened the dynasty this one features dragons on both sides.

The titular characters were Rhaenyra Targaryen, eldest child of King Viserys I, and Viserys’ second wife Queen Alicent Hightower, mother of Viserys’ eldest son Aegon. These two dangerous women were rivals for one thing, the succession to the Iron Throne. Through oaths and proclamations Viserys had designated Rhaenyra as his heir but Alicent championed the right of her son Aegon to succeed as was Westerosi custom of sons over daughters. For years this feud was building up as Viserys grew older and everyone awaited his death with unease as it felt like a battle for the Iron Throne was sure to follow, a battle that would pit Targaryen dragons against one another.

Written as a history by an archmaester of the Citadel, Martin gives an account of ‘the Dance’ noting first the political intrigue by Queen Alicent and her father to crown her son as Aegon II, then the war of letters and ravens to gather support by the two claimants from all the great lords of the realm before inevitably blood was shed then gushed from almost every corner of the realm. Yet, while some of the narrative reads like a dry history some others describe the action of battles in such a way as to make your imagination view two or more dragons battling one another over sea and land, fighting to the death.

Although the military actions in “The Princess and the Queen” are dominated for the most part by men, it’s the decisions by Rhaenyra and to a lesser extent by Alicent throughout the conflict that make this civil war unlike any other in Westerosi history. Yet, the biggest result of this civil war wasn’t which line of succession won out but that at the end the Targaryen’s greatest claim to the Iron Throne was lost, the dragons. This factor alone has repercussions down to the time of the events of A Song of Ice and Fire in which dragons return to the world.

“The Princess and the Queen” is not like other ASOIAF related short stories, like Dunk & Egg, this is a vivid retelling of history of events that surprisingly do connect with George R.R. Martin’s main series as well as the novellas of Dunk & Egg. As a fan not only of ASOIAF material, but also an avid reader of history I really enjoyed this piece by Martin, even though it is actually much less than he originally wrote of the events of this time. But because of the heavy lean towards male characters in a collection focused on dangerous women, there is some downside.

The Mystery Knight (ASOIAF- Dunk & Egg #3)

warriors-1The Mystery Knight by George R.R. Martin
My rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Political intrigue and mystery are the essence of the third Dunk and Egg novella, “The Mystery Knight”. George R.R. Martin exposes the reader to the historical reality of the reign of King Aerys I as Ser Duncan ‘Dunk’ the Tall and his squire (Prince) Aegon “Egg” Targaryen stumble into a wedding and tournament full of supports of the Blackfyres and mysterious individuals.

The story begins soon after the events of The Sworn Sword, Dunk and Egg stumble upon various lords and hedge knights headed to the wedding of Lord Ambrose Butterwell to a daughter of Lord Frey of the Crossing. Not wanting to pass up a good meal, Dunk decides to go to the wedding and later to enter the tourney under a mystery knight moniker. However, Dunk isn’t the only one under a moniker as is the case with Ser John the Fiddler while another knight, Ser Glendon Ball, claims the name of a famous Blackfyre supporter. However, behind all this pomp and mysterious characters is a fantastical plot to take advantage of the hatred to the Hand of the King Lord Bloodraven and put a Blackfyre on the throne.

The Mystery Knight is the first of the novellas in which magical elements seen in the main books series are seen as well as two characters, one very well-known and the other just recently introduced. From the outset, this novella is very well paced and the growing mystery around the entire wedding of Lord Butterwell only increases the tension that Dunk and Egg find themselves. In the history of Westeros, Ser Duncan the Tall and the future Aegon V Targaryen are two of the most well known figures of recent memory and with the events of The Mystery Knight they leave their second big impact on the political landscape.

ASOIAF Chapter-by-Chapter Rating: A Dance with Dragons

Tower of the Hand, is a site dedicated to George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire book series as well as it’s adaptation HBO’s Game of Thrones.  As part of their site, they have chapter summaries for every chapter in every book and novella of the ASOIAF world.  On each summary page a site member can give their own personal rating for that chapter as a way to show how they liked or disliked the writing, the events, and etc.  So as part of my ASOIAF features here, I’m posting my personal chapter ratings for A Dance with Dragons.

  • Prologue — 9/10
  • Tyrion I — 8/10
  • Daenerys I — 7/10
  • Jon I — 8/10
  • Bran I — 8/10
  • Tyrion II — 7/10
  • The Merchant’s Man (Quentyn I) — 7/10
  • Jon II — 9/10
  • Tyrion III — 7/10
  • Davos I — 8/10
  • Jon III — 7/10
  • Daenerys II — 6/10
  • Reek I (Theon I) — 8/10
  • Bran II — 9/10
  • Tyrion IV — 6/10
  • Davos II — 7/10
  • Daenerys III — 7/10
  • Jon IV — 8/10
  • Tyrion V — 7/10
  • Davos III — 8/10
  • Reek II (Theon II) — 8/10
  • Jon V — 7/10
  • Tyrion VI — 7/10
  • Daenerys IV — 5/10
  • The Lost Lord (Jon Connington I) — 9/10
  • The Windblown (Quentyn II) — 7/10
  • The Wayward Bride (Asha I) — 8/10
  • Tyrion VII — 8/10
  • Jon VI — 8/10
  • Davos IV — 10/10
  • Daenerys V — 6/10
  • Melisandre I — 9/10
  • Reek III (Theon III) — 8/10
  • Tyrion VIII — 8/10
  • Bran III — 9/10
  • Jon VII — 7/10
  • Daenerys VI — 5/10
  • The Prince of Winterfell (Theon IV) — 8/10
  • The Watcher (Areo I) — 9/10
  • Jon VIII — 8/10
  • Tyrion IX — 6/10
  • The Turncloak (Theon V) — 8/10
  • The King’s Prize (Asha II) — 7/10
  • Daenerys VII — 5/10
  • Jon IX — 8/10
  • The Blind Girl (Arya I) — 8/10
  • A Ghost in Winterfell (Theon VI) — 8/10
  • Tyrion X — 8/10
  • Jaime I — 8/10
  • Jon X — 8/10
  • Daenerys VIII — 6/10
  • Theon VII — 9/10
  • Daenerys IX — 9/10
  • Jon XI — 8/10
  • Cersei I — 7/10
  • The Queensguard (Barristan I) — 8/10
  • The Iron Suitor (Victarion I) — 8/10
  • Tyrion XI — 8/10
  • Jon XII — 10/10
  • The Discarded Knight (Barristan II) — 7/10
  • The Spurned Suitor (Quentyn III) — 7/10
  • The Griffin Reborn (Jon Connington II) — 9/10
  • The Sacrifice (Asha III) — 8/10
  • Victarion II — 9/10
  • The Ugly Little Girl (Arya II) — 9/10
  • Cersei II — 9/10
  • Tyrion XII — 8/10
  • The Kingbreaker (Barristan III) — 9/10
  • The Dragontamer (Quentyn IV) — 8/10
  • Jon XIII — 9/10
  • The Queen’s Hand (Barristan IV) — 8/10
  • Daenerys X — 9/10
  • Epilogue — 10/10

Other Chapter-by-Chapter posts:
A Game of Thrones
A Clash of Kings
A Storm of Swords
A Feast for Crows
The Winds of Winter
A Dream of Spring

A Dance with Dragons (ASOIAF #5)

A Dance with Dragons (A Song of Ice and Fire, #5)A Dance with Dragons by George R.R. Martin

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

As crows feast over the carrion of southern Westeros, in the steadily wintery North and the sun-soaked far east of Slaver’s Bay there is A Dance with Dragons both literally and figuratively. After waiting five years in between the fourth and fifth installments of A Song of Ice and Fire, George R.R. Martin brought back the stories of Jon Snow, Tyrion Lannister, and Daenerys Targaryen after a ten year wait after finishing A Storm of Swords. As with A Feast for Crows, this book shows how new leaders handle responsibility and the results of their actions.

While the previous book had a feeling of intimate focus, A Dance with Dragons returned to the grand scale that had given Martin’s series one of its biggest appeals. The majority of the book takes place in North or Meereen, whether in the city or traveling towards it. At the Wall, Jon has to juggle the needs of the Stannis Baratheon, the Night’s Watch itself, the Wildlings, and more importantly the Others who look to take advantage of men divided against one another. Just a little south, the Boltons and Freys look to secure the North as Theon Greyjoy reeks out an existence within the confines of Winterfell all the while as his sister Asha marches with Stannis as the coming of winter hits hard without knowing that Davos Seaworth has discovered that ‘the north remembers’. Tyrion’s escape from King’s Landing and his eventual journey to the far east of Slaver’s Bay is full of soul searching, the need to survive, and finally the thrill of political intrigue especially as he sends another Dragon west towards Westeros. Wherein Meereen, Dany is finding ruling a conquered city challenging especially after confining her dragons and must compromise to bring peace from her foes within the city walls all the while enemies approach without as well as several friends.

The much lamented “Meereenese Knot” that Martin talked during the writing of A Dance with Dragons, is the area of the book in which many are dissatisfied, including myself to an extent. In all honesty, the majority of Dany’s chapters were my least favorite of the entire book which made me not look forward to anything related to Meereen until after she had ridden out of the city in style. Once Dany had left, in her place came Barristan Selmy who seemed to get things moving with a little help from Quentyn Martell. Although the later character’s story was a fiery catastrophe, Barristan made me look forward to seeing Meereen again as things were actually happening. Given the issues and personal dilemmas that Dany was facing, it felt that it was parallel with Jon however Martin seemed to write Jon’s chapters better than Dany’s which made Meereen a slog until she left and when she did her chapters improved dramatically.

The first 60% of A Dance with Dragons takes place at the same time as A Feast for Crows and it isn’t until the final two-fifths of the book that the entire epic feels whole again as previous POV characters Cersei, Jaime, and Victarion make important appearances. However there is one important new character making a first appearance in this book that could considerably change the political landscape of Westeros for better or ill as The Winds of Winter hit the continent.

After a wait of five and ten years respectively for this installment and for a lot of these characters, A Dance with Dragons is a very good book. Although one major point of view character’s chapters are not up to par with those from previous books, the great writing of other major and secondary characters more than makes up for it resulting in a harrowing and thrilling latter part of the second act of A Song of Ice and Fire.

View all my reviews

ASOIAF Chapter-by-Chapter Rating: A Feast for Crows

Tower of the Hand, is a site dedicated to George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire book series as well as it’s adaptation HBO’s Game of Thrones.  As part of their site, they have chapter summaries for every chapter in every book and novella of the ASOIAF world.  On each summary page a site member can give their own personal rating for that chapter as a way to show how they liked or disliked the writing, the events, and etc.  So as part of my ASOIAF features here, I’m posting my personal chapter ratings for A Feast for Crows.

  • Prologue — 8/10
  • The Prophet (Aerion I) — 7/10
  • The Captain of Guards (Areo I) — 8/10
  • Cersei I — 7/10
  • Brienne I — 7/10
  • Samwell I — 7/10
  • Arya I — 7/10
  • Cersei II — 7/10
  • Jaime I — 7/10
  • Brienne II — 7/10
  • Sansa I — 8/10
  • The Kraken’s Daughter (Asha I) — 8/10
  • Cersei III — 6/10
  • The Soiled Knight (Arys) — 7/10
  • Brienne III — 7/10
  • Samwell II — 6/10
  • Jaime II — 7/10
  • Cersei IV — 7/10
  • The Iron Captain (Victarion I) — 8/10
  • The Drowned Man (Aeron II) –7/10
  • Brienne IV — 7/10
  • The Queenmaker (Arianne I) — 7/10
  • Arya II — 7/10
  • Alayne I (Sansa II) — 8/10
  • Cersei V — 7/10
  • Brienne V — 9/10
  • Samwell III — 8/10
  • Jaime III — 9/10
  • Cersei VI — 8/10
  • The Reaver (Victarion II) — 8/10
  • Jaime IV — 8/10
  • Brienne VI — 9/10
  • Cersei VII — 7/10
  • Jaime V — 8/10
  • Cat of the Canals (Arya III) — 8/10
  • Samwell IV — 8/10
  • Cersei VIII — 8/10
  • Brienne VII — 9/10
  • Jaime VI — 9/10
  • Cersei IX — 6/10
  • The Princess in the Tower (Arianne II) — 9/10
  • Alayne II (Sansa III) — 8/10
  • Brienne VIII — 9/10
  • Cersei X — 9/10
  • Jaime VII — 9/10
  • Samwell V — 10/10

Other Chapter-by-Chapter posts:
A Game of Thrones
A Clash of Kings
A Storm of Swords
A Dance with Dragons
The Winds of Winter
A Dream of Spring

A Feast for Crows (ASOIAF #4)

A Feast for Crows (A Song of Ice and Fire, #4)A Feast for Crows by George R.R. Martin

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The War of the Five Kings is all but over with only a few holdouts remaining in the realm, however as Westeros attempts to recover enough before winter hits it appears that more carrion will be on the menu of A Feast for Crows. The fourth installment of George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series shows the ugly aftermath of war which other fantasy epics seemingly ignore after the triumphant conclusion, but as the middle of Martin’s series begins it shows that politics and opportunists use any situation for their advantage.

Unlike the first three volumes of the series, Martin divided narrative settings in half with some point-of-view characters appearing in Feast while some had to wait until the fifth volume (A Dance with Dragons). With the focus on the events in southern Westeros, primarily King’s Landing and the Riverlands, the story feels more intimate than grand as the previous volumes did. The fallout of Tywin’s death is felt in King’s Landing the most when Cersei takes control and attempts to outshine her father in governance, yet it caught up getting entrapped within her own web of intrigues. Jaime’s story shows a man looking to redeem himself while taking advantage of his dishonorable reputation in wrapping up the war in the Riverlands. Along with the Lannister siblings, readers followed Arya to Braavos where she happened to interact with a traveling Samwell Tarly headed for Oldtown who on his journey sailed around a conspiracy filled Dorne and saw the effects of events among the Ironborn. Within the untouched Vale finds Sansa Stark under a false name watching as Littlefinger schemes to retain power and set up events for the future. Yet Martin’s best writing is following Brienne of Tarth’s quest to find Sansa in the war ravaged hinterland, showing off the results of war upon the land and the populace which is often avoided in other epic fantasy.

While many fans have found the division of the narrative upsetting and following Brienne’s journey annoying, some didn’t realize how much set up Martin was writing for events in the last 40% of A Dance with Dragons as well as the last two books of the series. In the chaos of war’s aftermath just like in battle, anyone can take power and some who thought themselves natural wielders of power are outplayed in the game of thrones. The events in Dorne and the Iron Islands change the completion of the entire series, making it more epic in scale when seen in context of the whole story. One of Martin’s best decisions was to both begin and end in Oldtown with characters introduced in the prologue appearing again at the end from the point-of-view of a favorite character in a sense connecting the whole book together.

A Feast for Crows shows the aftermath of war as well as showing that schemes for power never end, especially as a realm tries to put itself together after it was shattered by war. While not as “epic” as the first three volumes of A Song of Ice and Fire, this book is still a fantastic read on why the game never ends.

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