A Dance with Dragons (ASOIAF #5)

0553801473-01-_sx450_sy635_sclzzzzzzz_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.

A Song of Ice and Fire

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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)

51azshts4dl-_sx450_sy635_sclzzzzzzz_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.

A Song of Ice and Fire

A Reading of George R.R. Martin’s FeastDance

As some of you may or may not know, after A Storm of Swords George R.R. Martin planned on a five-year gap between where the story left off and where it would be picked up again.  However after a year or so of writing he came to the conclusion that it wasn’t going to work and scrapped what he had written and started over again.  Yet this to had complications as well resulting in Martin dividing his next installment into two books, A Feast for Crows and A Dance with Dragons, with the former set south of the Neck exclusively and the latter set in the North and in Essos.  As it took 5 years for AFFC to be written and 5 years for ADWD to be written this meant that the storylines of Dany, Jon, and Tyrion were on hold for a decade.

After the publication of A Dance with Dragons, readers realized two things.  First, many events in one book were hinted at in the other or the effects were felt showing the shared time frame the two books shared up to a certain point.  And second, that AFFC and ADWD shared the same time only through 2/3 of ADWD and the last third saw POVs from AFFC appearing along with those that had been only in ADWD up to that point.

Soon after this, long time fans started re-reading the series and once they had finished A Storm of Swords many debates started to spring up about how to deal with existence of both AFFC and ADWD especially knowing that both books overlap in chronology a lot.  Some were of the opinion to read each separately as published, but others started contemplating and creating a reading order combining both books.

Among the latter group was Sean T. Collins, of the All Leather Must Be Boiled Podcast, who has created the most well-known (among fandom) merged reading order as well as a new reader variant.  It is Sean’s reading order that I’ll be going by during my simultaneous re-reading of A Feast for Crows and A Dance with Dragons over the next few weeks.

While waiting for my next review, check out my reviews and chapter-by-chapter ratings for previous A Song of Ice and Fire books:

A Game of Thrones (chapter-by-chapter)
A Clash of Kings (chapter-by-chapter)
A Storm of Swords (chapter-by-chapter)

Legends II: Dragon, Sword, and King

Legends II: Dragon, Sword, and King (Legends 2, Volume 2 of 2)Legends II: Dragon, Sword, and King by Robert Silverberg
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

Legends II: Dragon, Sword, and King bounds together short stories from five bestselling authors in fantasy in one-half of a follow up volume to the first Legends anthology. Edited by Robert Silverberg, this collection sees returning authors such as George R.R. Martin and Orson Scott Card with newcomers Terry Brooks, Diana Gabaldon, and Elizabeth Haydon. All are connected to the author’s best known established universe; however the success of each story is how the reader quickly understands the universe connected to it.

The first three stories in this volume are the best of the five, whether stand alone or part of a prequel sequence, they’re success was on how minimal the reader needed to be knowledge about the author’s established universe regardless of how long their story was. The last two stories while okay-to-good suffered from the reader trying to comprehend some aspect of the established world or in the case of one story having no clue about the importance of anything given that the story was an epilogue of an entire series.

The fact that the two weakest stories of the collection finish off the book gives the overall volume a bad rap when finishing it, however the first three stories make this collection for any first-time readers of their authors. For long-time or experiences readers of any or all of these authors, these stories will be well worth the read.

Individual Story Ratings
A Song of Ice and Fire: The Sworn Sword by George R.R. Martin (4.5/5)
Tales of Alvin Maker: The Yazoo Queen by Orson Scott Card (4/5)
Outlander: Lord John and the Succubus by Diana Gabaldon (4/5)
The Symphony of Ages: Threshold by Elizabeth Haydon (3.5/5)
Shannara: Indomitable by Terry Brooks (2.5/5)

View all my reviews

The Sworn Sword: The Graphic Novel (ASOIAF- Dunk & Egg #2)

1477849297-01-_sx450_sy635_sclzzzzzzz_The Sworn Sword by Ben Avery
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The graphic novel adaptation of the second of George R.R. Martin’s Dunk & Egg novellas, not only stays true to the originally written story but gives it life with fantastic renderings of all the characters, the locales, and the action. Drawn by artist Mike S. Miller and livened by colorist Mike Crowell, The Sworn Sword gives both Game of Thrones book and show fans a great look into the history of the Seven Kingdoms as Ser Duncan (Dunk) the Tall and the future King Aegon (Egg) V learn about the greatest threat to the Targaryen throne nearly a century before Robert’s Rebellion—the Blackfyre Rebellion.

The story begins almost two years after The Hedge Knight, Dunk and Egg are in the service to Sir Eustace Osgrey who holds a small tower but reminisces about his family’s ancient glory and his own immediate family’s misfortune. A nearly two year drought has gripped Westeros after the Great Spring Sickness—think the Black Death—resulting in water and people being short, which is when Ser Eustace’s stream disappears. After Dunk and another sworn sword, Ser Bennis, search upstream they discover that Ser Eustace’s neighbor Lady Webber has built a dam to divert the water. Soon things escalate and the two nobles begin to lob threats and promise blood vengeance as Dunk tries to find a way to make peace.

Of the work surrounding the graphic novel itself, I can only praise the work of Miller and Crowell who not only brought into visual life Dunk and Egg but so many other historically important characters in very consistent way throughout the entire book. It is hard to find fault with the work of these two men save with pointing out a few continuity errors, which unfortunately happen in every graphic novel. But when it came to the memories of Ser Eustace Osgrey about the Battle of the Redgrass Field that ended the threat of Daemon Blackfyre, the artwork is fantastic and brings the memories of the battle alive and giving justice to some of Martin’s best writing.

If you’re a fan of the A Song of Ice and Fire world and haven’t gotten this book yet I, what are you waiting for? I highly recommend this graphic novel adaptation of The Sworn Sword as well as the novella itself, you won’t be disappointed.

A Song of Ice and Fire

The Sworn Sword (ASOIAF- Dunk & Egg #2)

The Sworn Sword by George R.R. Martin
My rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

The second Dunk and Egg novella, “The Sworn Sword”, is set nearly a century before the start of A Game of Thrones, but like the first novella author George R.R. Martin expanses the historical knowledge of Westeros along with a fantastic short story. Once again Ser Duncan ‘Dunk’ the Tall and his squire (Prince) Aegon ‘Egg’ Targaryen get neck deep in a feudal clash, but one that has ties and repercussions from the great threat to the Targaryen Dynasty before Robert Baratheon–the Blackfyre Rebellion.

The story begins almost two years after The Hedge Knight, Dunk and Egg are in the service to Sir Eustace Osgrey who holds a small tower but reminisces about his family’s ancient glory and his own immediate family’s misfortune. A nearly two year drought has gripped Westeros after the Great Spring Sickness—think the Black Death—resulting in water and people being short, which is when Ser Eustace’s stream disappears. After Dunk and another sworn sword, Ser Bennis, search upstream they discover that Ser Eustace’s neighbor Lady Webber has built a dam to divert the water. Soon things escalate and the two nobles begin to lob threats and promise blood vengeance as Dunk tries to find a way to make peace.

Unlike the previous tale, The Sworn Sword takes a little longer to develop but once the story gets going both it and the backstory of rebellion more than make up for that slow start. Martin once described his writing style as ‘the tale grew in the telling’ and with The Sworn Sword the history of Westeros that later impacts the main series as well as Dunk and Egg is one of the most important parts of this story and one of Martin’s best written passages.