Review: A Dance with Dragons

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

So, I’m done….I’m caught up. What a journey this has been. If one of the previous books was about the fallout from the War of Five Kings upon the smallfolk of Westeros, this book was about the fallout among the prominent families and rules of the kingdoms. It looks like everything is now ready for the climax of book 6 and denouement of book 7.

Because I’ve always been more of a science fiction fan than a fantasy fan, I came to the books of A Song of Ice and Fire through the HBO series Game of Thrones. So I have oft found myself comparing the plot in the TV show to the plot in the books. I’ve been mentioning in reviews for a few years now that I’ve come to terms with adaptations being just that: adaptations. It doesn’t make sense to port a story from one medium to another without changing it to fit that medium. Overall, I think HBO’s Benioff and Weiss have done a great job distilling GRRM’s massive tome into a cohesive show. I’m not a fan of the sexposition or the increase in rape vs the books, but the show as a whole has been good. Until now, that is.

What drew me to the show was the political intrigue. Again, I’m not a huge fantasy fan so that wasn’t really the draw. And for most of season 1 it could have been an alternate history show. But B&W’s strict adherance to a 74 hour long show has led them to strip more and more out of the show until it feels as though the show is just pogo stick jumping from one location to the next without anything of consequence happening. Or without allowing for the emotional resonance.

A Dance with Dragons really explained why various factions were aligning with this person or that one. It was full of moments of pathos. And Jon wasn’t killed by some whiny kid and a bratty Alisser Thorne. He was killed because the book made clear that the Watch was running out of food, Jon was giving many of the abandoned castles to the wildlings, and he seemed to be taking part in Stannis’ war. Additionally, and crucially, Jon was going to abandon his post to go fight Ramsay rather than in the show where he’s like – “Well, I’d serve till I die and I’ve died. Peace!”

Also, nothing annoyed me more than the removal of the epilogue in which Varys is a total badass. The show gives us this lame, unbelievable moment between Qyburn and Pycelle in which Qyburn claims not to bear any ill will towards Pycelle, but he has to die. It’s delivered unbelievably and also why wouldn’t Qyburn be pissed at Pycelle? Pycelle’s been trying to undermine him ever since he got to Kings Landing. Although by this point in the narrative it’s pretty clear that everything is happening because of the machinations of Varys and Littlefinger (not working together) (and even more clear than in the TV show) he’s mostly been portrayed as this tittering guy who can barely contain his giggles. This scene was just such a great turn of personality that I wish it’d been in the show.

As usual, I love GRRM’s writing. Some of my favorite quotes:
“Is this Dornish wine?” Tyrion asked him once, as he pulled a stopper from a skin. “It reminds me of a certain snake I knew. A droll fellow, till a mountain fell on him.”

“I used to think that it got cold up in the Dornish Marches. What did I know?” Nothing , thought Jon Snow, the same as me .

“How is it that the Spider became so dear to you?” “We were young together, two green boys in Pentos.” “Varys came from Myr.”

“Varys preferred orphan boys and young girls. He chose the smallest, the ones who were quick and quiet, and taught them to climb walls and slip down chimneys. He taught them to read as well. We left the gold and gems for common thieves. Instead our mice stole letters, ledgers, charts … later, they would read them and leave them where they lay. Secrets are worth more than silver or sapphires , Varys claimed.” – Magister Illyrio

Tyrion was almost sorry that he had killed his father. He would have enjoyed seeing Lord Tywin’s face when he learned that there was a Targaryen queen on her way to Westeros with three dragons, backed by a scheming eunuch and a cheesemonger half the size of Casterly Rock.

It takes a man to rule. An Aegon, not an Egg. Kill the boy and let the man be born. – Maester Aemon

“This is no game we’re playing for your amusement.” Of course it is , thought Tyrion. The game of thrones .

“The night is dark and full of turnips,” he announced in a solemn voice. “Let us all pray for venison, my children, with some onions and a bit of tasty gravy.” His friends laughed—Grenn, Toad, Satin, the whole lot of them.

Careful of the rats, my lord.” Dolorous Edd led Jon down the steps, a lantern in one hand. “They make an awful squeal if you step on them. My mother used to make a similar sound when I was a boy. She must have had some rat in her, now that I think of it. Brown hair, beady little eyes, liked cheese. Might be she had a tail too, I never looked to see.”

“If she pops out sons the way she pops in tarts, the Dreadfort will soon be overrun with Boltons. Ramsay will kill them all, of course. That’s for the best. I will not live long enough to see new sons to manhood, and boy lords are the bane of any House. Walda will grieve to see them die, though.” – Lord Bolton

“It was the singers who taught the First Men to send messages by raven … but in those days, the birds would speak the words.” – Brandon’s lessons in the tree with Max von Sidow

“But,” said Bran, “he heard me.” “He heard a whisper on the wind, a rustling amongst the leaves. You cannot speak to him, try as you might. I know. I have my own ghosts, Bran. A brother that I loved, a brother that I hated, a woman I desired. Through the trees, I see them still, but no word of mine has ever reached them. The past remains the past. We can learn from it, but we cannot change it.”

“A clever lord, you. Ghost’s the better choice. I don’t have the teeth for biting wildlings anymore.” – Dolorous Ed

The two queens are squabbling over Tommen like bitches with a juicy bone. – one of the Sand Snakes

“They are their father’s daughters,” the prince said. The little princess smiled. “Three Oberyns, with teats.”

Now answer my question. Why do you love the Starks?” “I …” Theon put a gloved hand against a pillar. “… I wanted to be one of them …” “And never could. We have more in common than you know, my lord. But come.”

A little brother may live to be a hundred, but he will always be a little brother – Asha

“Do you want to die, Wull?” That seemed to amuse the northman. “I want to live forever in a land where summer lasts a thousand years. I want a castle in the clouds where I can look down over the world. I want to be six-and-twenty when I could fuck all night. What men want does not matter. “

When princes failed to repay the Iron Bank, new princes sprang up from nowhere and took their thrones. – Jon Snow’s thoughts

“You were sullen. My father said that was to be expected in a bastard.” “I remember.” It was only half a lie. “You’re still a little sullen,” the girl said, “but I will forgive you that if you will save me from my uncle.” – great meta-joke from a Karstark (or Umber? I can’t remember)

He’s going to be as useful as nipples on a breastplate .

“These are common sins,” he said. “The wickedness of widows is well-known, and all women are wantons at heart, given to using their wiles and their beauty to work their wills on men. There is no treason here, so long as you did not stray from your marriage bed whilst His Grace King Robert was still alive.” “Never,” she whispered, shivering. “ Never , I swear it.” – The High Sparrow and Cersei

“Where …?” “Far away,” a half-familiar voice replied. He stood in a pool of shadow by a bookcase, plump, pale-faced, round-shouldered, clutching a crossbow in soft powdered hands. Silk slippers swaddled his feet. “Varys?” – Varys and Kevan

“Tommen has been taught that kingship is his right. Aegon knows that kingship is his duty, that a king must put his people first, and live and rule for them.” – Varys

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Author: Eric Mesa

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