A Dance with Dragons

A Song of Ice and Fire: Book Five

While sitting down to write this review I wondered about the core theme of this book and how it contributed to A Song of Ice and Fire series. Much like the pieces in a game of cyvasse the characters in this series are always moving around and interacting with each other in interesting ways. While this makes for interesting storytelling it does sometimes leave readers grasping when it comes to pinning down the central theme of each book.

So what is the central theme of A Dance with Dragons?

It took me a bit to come up with an answer to that question. I traced each character through the novel and followed each thread of story until I realized the most prevalent aspect of this book is that every character was going from one place to another (sometimes literally and sometimes metaphorically). Each character was trying to get from “here” to “there” and like every great thread of story in this series Martin has insisted that no journey consists of a straight line between A and B.

Tyrion is on a journey to reach Daenerys. Actually, a lot of people are on a journey to reach Daenerys. Daenerys is trying to find her way to peace for Meereen. Cersei is trying to find her way back to power. Jon Connington wants to return home and restore his honor. King Stannis is trying to claim the strength of the north and leads his army towards Winterfell to take it from the Boltons. Lord Commander Jon Snow seeks a way to save the Realm from the Others and it seems like the only way to that goal is through his allies.

By the end of the novel some find their way and some do not. I would tell you more but that would be cheating. However, their destinations are not the essential core of this novel. Those sweet fruits are being saved for the final two books in the series. This novel is about the journey and the inevitable truth that none of them are really prepared for what they will face along the way or what they will find at the end of the road.

Tyrion, so wise to the ways of the world, learns that he is less a player in the Game of Thrones and more a piece which is being moved by the real players. However, he has potential and he can become a player if he so wishes. Daenerys teases that “she is just a young girl” and does not understand the affairs of statehood and warfare but learns the hard way that she may have actually been as naive as the part she played. Now instead of “never looking back” she must “go back to move forward.”

So the journeys of “character development” are even more important than the literal journeys taking place. Meanwhile, Martin weaves his characters back and forth so their threads become tighter and tighter as the narrative progresses. Readers should be aware that their favorite characters may or may not find their destinations in this novel but they will all be richer characters for it in the end.

Do I have any complaints about this book?

Unfortunately, I do. More so than any of the other books in this series Martin’s editing skills have gotten sloppy. In most cases I can ignore editing errors but this book is full of them. Even overlooking the minor ones this book is plagued by characters who change gender (according to the pronouns) and cases where things are just amiss. His name is Tormund Giantsbane, not Tormund Giantsbabe.

I digress because I do not want you to think I did not enjoy this book. I loved this book! I love the entire series and I hope it is not five years before we get to read The Winds of Winter.

“Valar Morghulis.”

“Valar Dohaeris.”