?Okay. Honestly, I don’t know how to review this book, at least without spoiling it in some way. I will say this: I liked it, but it was more like A Feast for Crows than the first three books, so your mileage may vary. But I have a few other thoughts, and besides, I want to have a space where Topless Roboteers who have read the books can discuss it, and that’s what’s after the jump. SPOILERS, obviously. So many spoilers. You’ve been warned.
? When I say A Dance with Dragons was like A Feast for Crows, I mean, goddamn, they are clearly the same book in GRRM’s head. I know he said that they were the same book originally, and he split them apart in order to publish something — and there’s even a note at the beginning where GRRM says that ADwD starts when AFfC starts, covering the same time frame, but then the eventually ADwD catches up, and the AFfC stories continue in ADwD. So I don’t consider them separate books at all, but one 1700-page Volume 4. Honestly, I think both books would have been more satisfying if they were joined together.
? The problem is that like AFfC, not a lot advances in terms of the overall story. A lot happens, but compared to the first three books, ADwD is pretty much as slow as AFfC. I’m not put off by this, because I feel like GRRM is moving the pieces around in order to start the next part of the saga — like, the story in the first three books unfolded at a magnificent pace, and now he’s winding the mechanism back up with these two books. Of course, that was easier to tell myself after only reading AFfC; two books of not a lot of movement is kind of worrisome. If the next book doesn’t pick back up, that’s when I’ll really worry. Of course, we’ll have to wait until 2015 at the earliest for that one, I’m sure. And then only if HBO chains GRRM to his desk or something.
? FUCKING JON SNOW (shakes fist at GRRM). This is one of those plot points that made perfect sense, but was still a gut punch, mostly because Jon Snow is our de facto main character at this point (we started with the Starks, so they’re still our foundation, but Bran’s been gone too much, Sansa’s too passive, Arya’s off becoming a Mission: Impossible member, and fuck only knows what’s up with Rickon). I ran to the forum at Westeros.org as soon as I finished the book, where I was relieved to find out that no one believes Jon is staying dead, if he died at all. Obviously, Jon is half-warg, Melisandre and her crazy R’hi’llor powers are there, it is theoretically possible to survive four stabs wounds if not exactly plausible, etc. Most people assume this is a way to free him of his Night’s Watch oath, which makes a lot of sense. Of course, it’s fucking GRRM, so I can’t discount the possibility that he’s just fucking dead. Unfortunately, if he is, I think it will be a real problem, because he’s pretty much the only protagonist we have left.
? And when I say that, I mean Jon was one of the people doing things and effecting change in ADwD, unlike our other favorite characters. Tyrion just got swept along in a variety of awful shit, Daenerys slowly fucked up Meereen, Arya is off in her own little weirdness. And Jaime gets one fucking chapter, which was extremely frustrating.
? Although you know what was satisfying. Theon. It was satisfying when he popped up, fucked all to hell, and his little semi-redemption arc was also satisfying. The fact that I was actually rooting for Theon by the end of the book is a testament to GRRM, I think.
? The other big thing that happened — maybe — is that Stannis bought it. Maybe. Unfortunately, all we have is a note from Ramsey Bolton, and he’s an enormous fuckhead, but his letter had a lot of details he shouldn’t have known. So there’s evidence on both sides as to whether his letter is bullshit or not. If it happened, it changes the game yet again, but unfortunately, it happens so perfunctorily in ADwD — and we get no evidence that it’s real — and even if it is real no one other than Jon has a chance to react to it (and that for a second). So it only barely happened. Which is also frustrating.
? So what did really happened in ADwD? Many wildings crossed the wall and joined forces with the Night’s Watch, although that probably won’t end up going well. Daenerys rode a dragon. Theon was revealed to have lived (kind of). Stannis bought it (maybe). Jon bought it (probably but he may come back). Isn’t that pretty much it? I mean, Tyrion and Victarion got close to Daenerys, but but didn’t get there. Jaime is on his way to Lady Stoneheart, but didn’t get there. Cersei showed up to get freed. Quentyn Martell wasted a lot of time. Barristen messed around in Meereen a bit, but without Daenerys there, it never seemed that important. Oh, Kevan Lannister also bought it, but on the last page, and no one really gives a fuck about Kevan Lannister. That will probably have major repercussions in the next book, but again, none of them happened in ADwD, so it doesn’t feel as major as it could have.
? You know, writing all this down, a decent amount did happen in ADwD, just not as much as the first three books, and not with the big stories we were all dying to see more of, especially Bran’s powers and Jaime and Stoneheart. And I’d say Daenerys and Tyrion, too — nothing really changed about them, other than their locations, by the end of the book. None of the big mystery’s were revealed, like Jon parents or the prophecies or the identity of Coldhands or why the fuck the red priests have all this power. Jon’s was the only major character with major movement, and, well, he died. But overall, more happened than I realized when I finished the book.
? I know GRRM says two more books, but I’m guessing four. Three at minimum. Anyone disagree?
? All right, it’s discussion time! Let’s hear your thoughts and rage and excitement and probably more rage in the comments. I’ve warned everyone about spoilers to the best of my ability, so go nuts.