Category Archives: A Song of Ice and Fire

Dancing the Dance with Dragons – A Song of Ice and Fire Review

I finished the last instalment of the Song of Ice and Fire Series A Dance with Dragons just the other day and try to benefit from all the events still lingering fresh in my mind. So I’m about to review it to you, if you want it or not. And in case you didn’t know if you wanted it (or not): You do. Of course.


I have mentioned it briefly in my last review of A Feast for Crows: both books were initially intended as one that should have been named A Dance with Dragons, but George R.R. Martin not only found that his concept of starting book 4 with a shift to 5 years later in story time not working to his liking, he also figured the whole thing would be way too long for only one novel. So he split them. Taking 500 pages of the manuscript he promised to deliver book 5 within a year (of 2005) and turns out he didn’t, it took him ‘til fall 2011 until A Dance with Dragons finally was published and fans were not only anticipating but also afraid – afraid of yet another series never coming to an end, especially in the light of the death of James Rigney a.k.a. Robert Jordan who left his epic fantasy series Wheel of Time unfinished, so that now another author (Brandon Sanderson) has to finish it.

This review is intended as a post-reading review. My intention with it is not to make you curious and get you to read it. I expect you have read it and know what is happening in the novel, so if not: MAJOR SPOILER ALERT. Because I will talk about the shit that goes down and might spoil the experience for you if you have not yet arrived at the last page of it.


The things I L.O.V.E.D. about it:

The House of Black and White/The Faceless Men
It is indeed a creepy concept to keep the faces of dead people who came to your temple to take their last breath as leather masks, but my oh my, how awesome is this concept at the same time, and how wickedly cool is that temple? I mean, how ridiculously open-minded must a society be to accept a temple in their midst where people can go, drink from a pool full of poisoned water, crawl into some little niche below the statue/whatever symbol of their god of choice and DIE? Ah-mah-zing!!
And to be sure, that is some crazy magic going on right there. There is always the debate around Song of Ice and Fire, if there is too little magic, just the right amount, increasing levels of magic, yadda yadda, prevalent in the books, but this one clearly makes its case for all sorts of magic being permissible within Martin’s fictional universe. Put on the face and it is yours, but beware, so are the memories of the previous face owner. Ouch.
And all them chapters in the House of Black and White inevitably lead to one question: What will become of Arya? I feel like I’m not alone in always having kinda counted on Arya becoming this under-dog super-heroine who’s going to kick major ass and become queen of Westeros or at least Warden of the North in Winterfell or something. But with the path she is on, she could just as well become a master assassin who lost her identity and shifts through the world, looking for a purpose. Which also: Ouch.

Quentyn Martell’s journey
While the Martell saga leaves me kinda cold, so does the character of Quentyn Martell. And actually the whole story of crossing the sea and losing all the friends and how loyal those friends stay and finally making it to Daenerys etc. BUT what I absolutely and unconditionally love about it though is how it ends. This total subversion of the usual hero trope: Him dying a gruesome death. And for his own mistake really, cause just like über-confident princelings usually go, he thinks “yeah, some blood of the dragon, this might work just fine…” and BURN. He does. Where in other stories you’d expect him to come out next chapter walking a dragon on a leash, because whoa! surprise, it actually did work and his princeling-super-qualities kicked in, this story does tell you to suck it, ‘cause the hell no.

Barristan Selmy
His newly introduced POV was a nice insight into the developments around Daenerys’ character, and might I add, even more interesting than Daenerys’ own POV. I love how we get to have a glimpse on Mereen and the undercurrents of Mereenese court life from his perspective and some reality checking on what Daenerys does and thinks and says and what her role in Mereen really is. And of course he totally kicks ass. Duh.

So, Theon Greyjoy is back. And boy is he. Or rather not. Cause he is transformed into this other being, humble, shy, submissive thanks to the wonders of … flaying. It is cruel and horrible and I feel for him, but it’s also a damn cool storyline and one that creeps me out. Fascinated by the quasi love-affair between him and Ramsay in this sado-masochistic relationship where obviously Ramsay has much more need of Theon than Theon of him. Without both of them realizing it.
And I like how deep the submission goes, how deep it has been ingrained into his personality. Crazypants. I also really enjoy to read about his altered appearance thanks to the wonders of torture and general shit happening, right down to his pain when eating because of the smashed teeth. Not because that is what I wish for his character (which I don’t) but because it gives the whole narrative so much more realism than to have him just be a little submissive, get rescued and become a shining prince (he never actually was) again. Does not = me likes.

The snowstorm halting Stannis’ march on Winterfell
While it also makes the plotline come to a halt, the snowstorm chapters are interesting because all of a sudden what seemed to be a series of triumphs for Stannis becomes something that looks like his looming defeat. And by the end of the book, well, it seems he was defeated after all (by the Boltons, yuck) although I don’t buy it and rather think that Ramsey just made that up. However, I think we can all agree, that nobody expects Stannis to survive through to the end of the series and actually make it as the king of Westeros. Sorry, dear, but that just ain’t gon’ happen.

Tyrion’s journey to Volantis
Tyrion in general is of course a grand character, because he’s fun and sharp and such an underdog to root for that it’s not even funny anymore, but in this book I wasn’t entirely feeling all his chapters. The first ones though, especially the passage from Magister Illyrio’s house to Volantis was neat. Like extra neat. Because instead of focusing on what the actions and interactions of the characters in these novels are, it gave some more depth to the world the narrative takes place in. All with a historical sightseeing tour, some thoughts on illness and superstition and the revelation that not all stories fed to kingdoms in the west actually are true, especially when it comes to baby heirs to thrones. This was a neat little journey.

The return of Varys the Spider
Because: duh.


Things that I am CONFLICTED about:

Jon Snow is dead
That came as a tremendous shock and I must say … I liked that. I liked what it did to me as a reader and I liked how it grounded the story in reality again, because I did not believe the other guys on the Night’s Watch would put up with his plans. So they stab him and I am shocked and all. But then again, the whole thing feels stale, because it seems very certain that he is going to come back. Either Melisandre will breathe life into him again à la Thoros to Dondarrion or Dondarrion to Catelyn. Or she will do the burn-healing thing like Morroq for Victarion. Or he will continue his existence warg-style in Ghost’s body. Or become a zombie like being like the cold man who escorted Bran to the Three Eyed Crow. Or whatever, but I’d really rather have him stay dead.

I wanted to write “Cersei Redeemed” but she is not really, is she? But good to have her back, though just like Theon, we get to enjoy a more submissive persona now. Not sure if I like it and not sure where that will take us. Frankly, the ending of Dance with Dragons kind of felt like we will not be seeing all too much of her in the future, which would be a pity, cause hate her all you want, Cersei is central to this story, and boy, is her trouble and bullshit fun to read about.



My Characters!
Yeah, an exclamation mark, y’all, cause this problem right here is really just me being all whiny and shit. I wanted more Sansa, I wanted more Sam, I wanted more Bran and I especially wanted more Brienne! But hey, we’ll eventually meet up with them again, so this complaint is really just me expressing irrational nonsense. But it needs a let-out, so, there.

Tyrion the slave
While some parts of Tyrion’s journey in the book are really awesome, others are, ermh, not so awesome. I didn’t consciously mind them, but in hindsight I realized how the whole meet-up with Jorah Mormont, the interaction with Penny, his time as a slave and his outsmarting sellswords (again) weren’t actually to my liking. I enjoy the character, and I liked parts of it (like the curiosity cabinet of Yezzan zo Qaggaz), but as a whole I am kinda dissatisfied, and I can’t even really tell you why. Maybe I hoped for another direction for his character? I guess so.

Victarion Greyjoy
Oh, the Greyjoy family. I can well deal with Asha and Reek Theon, but the rest of the lot really get on my nerves. Plus, I find that I actually don’t really care about them and their storylines and wonder why I’d be supposed to care about them. Like, what is going to be the significance of Victarion or Aeron in the grand scheme of things? My guess is: none, really. So I just kinda shrug. Oh and yes, I also do not approve of the leverage his newly healed hand gives to R’hllor.

Meets up with Khal Jhaqo’s Khalasar and this one is not pleased (oh btw Missandei? You fucking rule. Rule. RULE!). I was not unhappy about leaving the Dothraki and their depiction behind, not because I didn’t like them per se, but I did not like the racist imagery their portrayal feeds into, but hey, seems we’re at it again. The whole Daenerys gets kidnapped by Drogon and is lost in the wilderness thing feels a little forced. It sort of makes sense, and I appreciate what happens afterwards in Mereen, but it also seems like too convenient a plot device to get her the fuck away from Mereen and do we really have to go from queen to maybe bed-slave of a Khal again? Please no.


In conclusion I was very happy with A Dance with Dragons, although a few developments did not thrill me too much, but so did some in Game of Thrones and look how that has kept me from reading on and loving the shit out of this series. I also have to make honorable mentions of the names of characters who come from the East: all those Ys and Zs and Qs in their name – I just love it. Keep ’em coming.
I dread the prospect to have to wait years and years until the next instalment hits us, but hey, what can I do? Despair? An option that is, true.
Questions remain, however. Like: How much more awesome than before will Brienne be next time we meet her? How long will it take for her to become queen of the world? Will Rickon go supercrazy and slaughter everyone he knows? Will he return as a wight?
And even more pressing: What can we do to ensure that Jon Snow is really dead and remains so? When will Cersei’s crazy bitch-mode kick in full force again? How can we be happy about a novel that is centered around Arya alone and not miss Sam (or Brienne)? When will the final battle with the Others a.k.a. apocalypse finally hit us?
Maybe you have an answer, and if so, feel free to provide it in the comments.

Yes, this is the book I just read.


Feasting on A Feast for Crows – Reviewing Book 4 of A Song of Ice and Fire

I kind of did not fulfil my promise to myself to review the Song of Ice and Fire novels shortly after reading them, because now it’s been a good few months since I read its fourth instalment A Feast for Crows and I am already well into novel no. 5. Can’t help that now but can certainly help not having a review of AFFC yet by, well, posting this very one.


A Fest for Crows, of course also written by George R. R. Martin, is the fourth novel in the Song of Ice and Fire series and was published in 2005, after much delay and some shuffling of chapters, cause initially what is now book 5 (A Dance with Dragons) was set to be the title with the two volumes incorporated, which would have been way too long. As it stands, they are two separate books, with both of them covering some of the same in-story time, thus running parallel, although focusing on different characters in different locations.
I will stick to my drill of talking about the things that I really liked about this novel, about the things I didn’t like, about what left me going whatevs and provide some little why.
As usual, a SPOILER ALERT: I will be talking about everything that has happened until the end of this book no. 4, maybe even glimpse at events in book no. 5, so if you haven’t read them yet and intend to do so in the future I strongly recommend you to save the read of this review for later.

Really Good:

Cersei POV
I was positively surprised with the Jaime POV in the last instalment and I am ever more so positively surprised by the Cersei POV we get in this one. Plus, I’m also really digging that we now have both kinda side-to-side that give us a perfect insight into what is the deterioration of the relationship of Jaime and Cersei because a) Jaime continues to become a better person and an ever more likeable character, and b) Cersei continues to suck and it even grows worse, now for all of Westeros to see. The demise of Cersei is inevitable, but my bet is, that the big bang has yet to arrive in that plotline. I wonder if in the end there will be some insight on her part, but as of now, it is like a horrible car-crash happening in slow-motion and you just can’t look away. Painful to watch, painful to read her making up arguments as to why her actions are justified and right, but also oddly fascinating at the same time.
What I am not a super-fan of though is that apparently all the female characters have to have their share of lesbian sex and female admirers while the same is not happening at all on the male side, leaving me wondering: what in-story social conventions justify these occurrences, my answer being none, thus my suspicion being that the author gets to write out some fantasy of his. But hey, I might be wrong.

King Tommen
Oh, Tommen, you poor boy. Having to have Cersei as a mother and being king while having no clue really, but let us all just admit it: Finally, rid of Joffrey, he is kinda awesome, because he is so cute and might just become an awesome king, if there wasn’t, umh, his mother. But still, his love of putting seals on documents, his friendship with Margaery and his budding defiance of his mother: all pluses.

Becoming all pious and shitting all over his Lordship? Sweet, actually. I can’t even really tell you why, because the whole pious/religiously-fanatic thing pisses me off story-telling wise a lot of times, but in his case it works to his favour as a character. And I respect him much more now.

Ok, I am obviously on a Lannister roll here, but hey, we clearly cannot ignore them. Jaime continues his journey to The Side Of Awesome and restores order where he can, sees how vile and stupid Cersei is in what she does and ends a siege that was set to be a bloodshed bloodlessly. I am just speculating here, but we probably will read about more kick-ass-ness from Jaime and the future and frankly, whoda thunk that after Game of Thrones?


Jaime leads us of course to Brienne who continues to rule and does what Arya did before: give us eager readers insights into what it is like to live in Westeros as one of the common folk due to all her meeting-ups with guys and gals all over the riverlands, tracing the false hound (who deserves honourable mentions for extra-creepiness and appalling levels of violence) and connecting to people she’d never thought she had to and would connect with, which is, I guess, an ongoing theme now in Ms. Tarth’s life, and for the better. She also meets up with Catelyn again and that obviously does not go so well, but I guess it’s safe to say that the final verdict on her POV has not been spoken and we are probably all right in suspecting that she will be the one to get Lady Stoneheart back on the right track again.

The Tyrell’s at court
Well, Loras kinda sucks, but let us all see how his near-fatal wound plays out. But my oh my, Margaery? Gurrl is finger-snapping in Cersei’s face with every move she makes and does so very cleverly and skilled. Obviously, she has had some good teaching from her grandmother, but I am really liking the direction this is going. Busting Cersei’s ass and having her imprisoned by the Faith? Oh no she didn’t!

Reminiscent of Jaquen H’qar Arya enters the House of Black and White and dude, does that place seem to be creepy. I’m not the biggest fan of her having-to-go-out-in-the-real world shenanigans and would rather read more about what actually happens in this temple, but I admit to liking the encounter of Arya with Sam (who of course also continues to rule, because he is fucking Samwell Tarly), even though both of them did not realize whom they have just met. I am intrigued to learn about which direction Arya’s stay there will take. Will she really lose herself and become thus – what? A better person? A better assassin? A better queen? Or will it help strengthen her without ultimately having to give up her identity as a Stark? This is actually one of the storylines really keeping me on edge.


Really Bad:

The Faith Militant
And shit is going to hit the fan.
Wow, not that we needed more religious fanatics going all nuts over everyone else in Westeros, now the insitutionalized Faith of the Seven gets back its rights to organize militarily and boy is that going to get shitty in the near future. No fun there. And having Cersei’s plan backfiring on her leading to imprisonment in the Great Sept, kinda nice, but then again, this is going to go horrible for her and I already feel kinda bad. I see Lord of Light and Faith Militant groups slicing each other up all over the continents, and I am not liking it. Plus, I feel cheated. The Seven seemed to have so much more potential as something myserious pitched against the Old Gods, now they are just being instrumentalized for military purposes. It is a pity, says I.

The Greyjoys
I don’t know why, they still leave me supercold. I like to read about Asha, because she is fun, but everyone else in that family? Assholes left and right. And their struggling for leadership isn’t exactly what I’d call endearing, so no, no love from me for the Greyjoys and their storyline.


Really Undecided:

Lady Stoneheart
I still don’t know how I feel about Catelyn coming back as Lady Stoneheart, for several reasons. My major issue is that it diminishes the impact of her death-scene that hit me so unexpected and came as a real shock (probably the first real shock after Ned’s execution). My second issue lies with the leverage it gives R’hllor, that sick bastard of a God, cause we all know he’s being credited for her resurrection now. I like the idea of her being this corpse-like existence now (it’ll be fun to see that played out in the TV series), but I am not sure what I feel about her being only driven by vengeance. She was so before to a large extent, but with her humanity intact, and now that this is gone she is really just a hateful monster. Which diminishes the still-alive-Catelyn as a character IMHO. My guess for the wrap-up of that story-line is that she has to die for realz next time on the hands of somebody who loves her, my bets being on Brienne, but I also believe that we’re gonna see her wreak a lot more havoc on everyone’s asses until then.

Dorne/The Martells
The story of the Martells intra-family struggles to avenge the death of Oberyn Martell and seek vengeance for what happened to Elia Martell years past is a messy one. It is interesting, it is sad, cause the side we get to see does not succeed, but somehow I am not overly invested. I guess a lot of that has to do with the fact that these characters are just too new for me to care so much about them. I understand their rationale and their emotions, but I am just not very pro-Martell, wishing for them to get what they want, cause they all also seem like hot-tempered, scheming dicks, girls and boys alike. Nice to see them fight for gender equality, but it feels a little cosmetic to be honest.

The numbers reveal my stance, I guess, with seven points on the really good side against tow each on really bad and really undecided about. And yes, I loved it, but what do you expect. I would not go through the trouble of reviewing the fourth novel in a series if I didn’t like it (though wouldn’t that be fun? And masochistic?), so no real surprise that I am really invested in the story. Some strands of it make me fear that there’ll be events and plotlines little to my liking, but so far Martin has done an amazing job at subverting my expectations, especially my fears.
Maybe we should also start to speculate at this point, for there are several important questions that the series as a whole will have to answer.
Who is the three headed dragon to rule Westeros? Or rather, which three characters will be future kings/queens? I feel most people assume that Daenerys is a given, and so do I, but what if we are wrong? A lot of bets are placed upon Arya and let us be honest, it would kinda rule. And the third? Another stark? Jon seems like a candidate, especially with him potentially being the child of Rhaegar and Lyanna Stark, but as of now it seems more likely that he is set to defend the Wall. Bran maybe? Not unthinkable. Or someone totally else? Tyrion (though I doubt it)? Asha (though that would be a bit too much…but then again, an all female trio would be nice)? Or who knows, maybe even Brienne (which would be so freaking amazing, it hurts. Unlikely, though)? Who is your pick for future ruling trio?

Another major question is the Stark-kids business. How will they reconnect? Who will? Will Jon, Arya, Sansa, Bran and Rickon have a merry reunification at some point? Where the hell is Rickon, what is his role to play? Will Jon remain Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch til he dies? Will Bran become the messiah to some age-old religion? Will Arya become queen of Westeros? What will Sansa do? And how do their wolf-dreams play into this? They are obviously all Wargs (except for maybe Sansa), so what effect will that have and in how far will it ultimately be important to the story?

Well, I will it end it here. I know, I know. Questions over question over questions. And no answer in sight Maybe you would like to speculate in the comments?

Oh and you have to imagine a photo of me with one of the covers pictured above instead of this text here right now, because stupid me forgot to snap an effin’ picture before giving my copy away.