A Dance With Dragons came out last week and it has been eating my life since. So long-awaited (SIX years). After four intense days of almost nonstop reading, I finally finished at 1 am last night/this morning. If you haven't read the first four books, don't highlight the following text:
I knew this book would be the other half to Feast, but didn't expect that some of the scenes in the beginnings would actually overlap with scenes in Feast. One of Jon Snow's first chapters contains exact dialogue used in a Sam chapter in the previous book. Rather a waste of space, in my opinion, since Martin is a good enough writer that we could sense Jon hardening into a commander from Sam's point of view without an interior monologue from Jon. But it got better. Oh yes, did it ever.
Jon's character is much more interesting than in previous books. Actually, all of the Wall chapters are more interesting. His whole narrative has evolved from a very straightforward, navel-gazing coming-of-age story (with fight scenes!) into more of a politicking and power maneuvering kind of thing. Also, it was nice to see how much his time with the wildlings and especially Ygritte actually changed him, for the better, in my opinion. His thoughts about Ygritte made my heart break a little.
Melisandre's moments = perfect. After all, a fallible human (who happens to know a bit of magic and illusion). Stannis and Selyse are insufferable. All Stannis does is go on about how he is entitled to be king. And Selyse reminds me of the worst kind of religious fundamentalist.
Love the fat men in this book and love how George R. R. Martin obviously relishes describing fat men and the amazing, amazing food they eat. Illyrio Mopatis and Tyrion's meals were luscious. Wyman Manderly is a secret badass.
I was pretty bored through the first half of Tyrion's chapters. It's all floating down the river with some mildly intriguing new characters, thinking bitter, misogynistic thoughts and playing cyvasse. I love Tyrion but don't think he's quite the hero that other fans imagine he is. Anyway, his self-pity boiled over into annoying in the first half of this book. Of course, in all his mental ravings, he would conveniently forget that he also raped his beloved wife Tysha after fifty household guards were through with her. And that Shae was a woman who slept with men for money and not really his girlfriend. For someone who held so little power, she couldn't have really refused to comply with Cersei and Tywin's commands. Don't think she deserved to die for that, frankly. But I'm actually quite glad that Martin did this to Tyrion, since his character was starting to get a bit stale and needed somewhere to grow.
Really enjoyed Penny's role in Tyrion's story. Also, Pretty Pig and Crunch. Yes, yes, my heart is easily lost to cute animals. Those shaggy garrons at the Wall also make me smile. I had wondered about all those poor dwarves who were murdered for their heads in Feast so the story of Penny's brother was super poignant to me. And Penny wondering how Tyrion had managed to survive living in a world of big people with his attitude and mouth was funny and sad at the same time. It makes me imagine what she and other dwarves had to put up with, since they didn't have Tyrion's social status and wealth to protect them.
Oh yes, BRAN. FINALLY, more interesting. All that warging he's doing in Hodor's body is disturbing, especially given the prologue. I wonder what he'll do when he finds out it's considered evil by other wargers who are in the know.
Arya is well on her way to being a psychopath. Disturbed but also glad that she's cheating on her training, because maybe one day Needle might bring her back to herself. I really don't want her to end up as a coldblooded killer with no remorse. Actually, she seems to already be a coldblooded killer with no remorse. I don't want her to stay that way.
I didn't love Daenerys until this book. She always felt like too much of a fantasy cliche, with her dragons and going from weak to strong and intuitively knowing how to kick ass. But she was gloriously human in this book and so young and unsure. I love seeing all the CONSEQUENCES of her impulsive actions play out. Even though her liberation of the slaves felt so right and wonderful and satisfying to read about, there are always going to complications and consequences when you change the entire economic and social structure of a society.
And lastly, my favorite chapters were Theon/Reek. My poor, poor Theon. I cheered when he and all his were crushed a few books back. But again, consequences. The consequences of his crushing are horrible. He's really just a wreckage of a human being. It was horrible and gutwrenching and fascinating to read at the same time. I honestly never thought Theon would become one of my favorites, but he is now, because for all the violence and gore that goes on in the books, this is the first time we can get into the head of a character who has gone through some serious physical trauma and see the emotional devastation that resulted. Other than Sansa's storyline, I am most excited for Theon and Asha's story in the next book.