Previous Entry | Next Entry

earthsea
It is here at last - the fifth volume in Martin's epic Song of Ice and Fire series, taking the dynastic struggles around the realm of Westeros on, with yet more journeys of destiny, hidden heirs appearing, viewpoint characters meeting untimely and painful ends, and horrible violence of every variety. And the end of the book does seem to be setting us up for a climax in the next volume, though don't read this one expecting a lot of resolution. Spoilers below the cut, but see also rozk's spoiler-free review in The Independent which pretty much nails what's good about the series.

S

P

O

I

L

E

R

S

My biggest problem with A Dance With Dragons was the sudden appearance of Aegon out of nowhere. Did I miss all previous references to him and to Jon Connington's continuing career in previous volumes? Or is my suspicion correct that there weren't any, and he is a new element? If so I feel it is a big narrative weakness, when so much else has been ominously foreshadowed, to suddenly discover that Daenerys' nephew, who has a superior claim to hers, has been alive all along. (And it's a bit of a coincidence that Tyrion and Quentyn just happen to end up in the same boat.)

So, two viewpoint characters get multiply stabbed to death in the closing chapters. Kevan Lannister is the fourth Hand in King's Landing to be killed since the start of the story (counting Jon Arryn) - I think only Tyrion has survived, so a messy death more or less goes with the job. But do we take it that Varys has been plotting all along (with Littlefinger?) to put Daenerys on the throne? This is fairly explicit in the TV series, but I don't remember it being so clear in earlier books. It seems to me rather uncharacteristically daring of Varys to invest so heavily in a young woman who he can never have met (and he would have had to have been investing in Viserys until he died) unless he has motives and resources that we don't know about.

And poor Jon! Often when Martin leaves us with his viewpoint characters apparently about to die, there is a chance that they may reappear (most obviously Brienne and Catelyn). However, it looks like it's all over for Jon Snow. And it seemed shocking but fair to me; he turns out to have been an unreliable narrator, but the clues that his command of the Watch had terminally slipped away were all there.

But what of the battle outside Winterfell? Did it even happen, or was Bolton lying in his message to Jon? I was partly hoping for Stannis to pull off yet another surprising and undeserved military victory, but I was hoping even more that we would actually see what was happening, rather than move from Asha's reunion with Theon (and how would Stannis deal with Jeyne/"Arya"?) to a reported but unseen battle. I hope there turns out to be a good narrative justification for leaving us hanging, though I worry we may be left like Brienne in A Feast for Crows.

Having said all that, I still love the series. I lost patience with Robert Jordan after one of the volumes where the central characters did little more than pointless epic voyaging. There's a lot of epic voyaging here, too, but it all seems fairly pointful - Daenerys, Tyrion, Asha, even Jon Connington, all are closer to a conclusion by the end of the book. Kevan and Jon don't go anywhere and consequently snuff it. (Though the Stark sisters survive despite relative immobility, and Quentyn dies at the end of his own very foolish errand.) And part of the joy of the journeys is the scenery: at first I was a bit miffed that so little of the book is set in Westeros itself, but it's entirely fair to explore the neighbouring continent in more detail.

And I am speculating wildly about how it will all end. I had wondered if Jon and Daenerys would eventually get together, but that seems a bit unlikely now. (Daenerys and Tyrion for the future, perhaps?) I had thought that Arya as trained killer would return to King's Landing to wreak vengeful havoc, but it looks like that will happen without her. (Maybe she will hook up with Jaime at the end?) Maybe I'm completely wrong, and rather than a happy ending, Martin is going to leave us at the end of the series with a devastated and chaotic Westeros and no resolution other than death. It would certainly be consistent with what we have seen so far...

Comments

( 14 comments — Leave a comment )
rosefox
Jul. 31st, 2011 06:51 am (UTC)
My biggest problem with A Dance With Dragons was the sudden appearance of Aegon out of nowhere. Did I miss all previous references to him and to Jon Connington's continuing career in previous volumes? Or is my suspicion correct that there weren't any, and he is a new element?

You didn't miss any references, but you may have missed some of the fan chatter, which includes someone asking GRRM "So are Rhaegar's kids really dead?" and him replying "The princess is definitely dead". Given that people were asking such questions, GRRM may have felt it sufficient to have a track record of a completely disfigured body being referred to as one child but actually being another (seriously, this is at least the fourth).

I am curious to know which child the Mountain did smash to death thinking he was Aegon, and just how the Lannisters are involved in all that...

(And it's a bit of a coincidence that Tyrion and Quentyn just happen to end up in the same boat.)

Not a coincidence at all; Varys and Illyrio arrange it. At least, that's how I recall it. (I don't have my copy of the book to hand.) Sorry, misread--I don't recall how Tyrion and Quentyn end up on the same boat. But given the war, there can't be that many Westerosi heading that way.

But do we take it that Varys has been plotting all along (with Littlefinger?) to put Daenerys on the throne? This is fairly explicit in the TV series, but I don't remember it being so clear in earlier books.

He has--we get it right from the start with his collusion with Illyrio, which Arya overhears. That's straight from book one.

And poor Jon! Often when Martin leaves us with his viewpoint characters apparently about to die, there is a chance that they may reappear (most obviously Brienne and Catelyn). However, it looks like it's all over for Jon Snow.

Most fans are pretty sure he'll live on in Ghost. Warg!Jon is more interesting (to me) than wight!Jon so I hope they're right. Either way, it feels more like a Martin cliffhanger not-really-death than like an actual death.

Incidentally, I am really waiting to see what Martin does with Ned Stark's missing bones.

And I am speculating wildly about how it will all end.

It seems clear at this point that the Lannister siblings are all actually Targaryen siblings, so my guess is that Cersei finally dies in some spectacular fashion, Jaime remains a member of the Kingsguard, and Aegon and Tyrion get the other two dragons. That or Aegon dies mid-conquest and Jaime gets a dragon. Or Martin comes up with yet more Targaryens; let's not forget silver-haired purple-eyed Edric "Ned" Dayne, and if Cersei and Jaime are Targaryen enough to be considered potential dragon-riders then so are their children, so keep an eye on poor Myrcella and Tommen as well.

I think Jaime/Arya is spectacularly unlikely; Jaime/Brienne is the only hint of romance that Jaime's gotten since he and Cersei parted ways, and I'm still hoping for that to pan out somehow. Even if she's dead. Also, Jaime's old enough to be Arya's father. The surviving Stark children seem destined for isolation: Sansa in the Vale, Arya as an assassin, Bran with a tree growing through him, Jon (if he indeed survives) transformed and inhuman, and Rickon...

...say, where is Rickon, anyway? There's a question that could really use an answer.

Edited at 2011-07-31 07:14 am (UTC)
drplokta
Jul. 31st, 2011 08:48 am (UTC)
Rickon is on Skagos, and Jaime and Brienne are on their way to find him. Or at least, that is strongly implied. And he will presumably end up as Lord Stark of Winterfell, there being no other likely candidates.

I wouldn't bet on all the Lannisters being Targaryens; I would say just Tyrion, giving Tywin another reason to despise him.

If Edric Dayne is a Targaryen, then there's yet another unknown Targaryen, who is his father or mother, since no known Targaryens could possibly have had a child in Westeros five years after Robert's Rebellion.
liadnan
Jul. 31st, 2011 08:52 pm (UTC)
Somewhere on the westeros site there's a reference to GRRM having said at a signing something along the lines of "who said all the dragonriders had to be Targaryens anyway?"

I think Edric Dayne is a Dayne, Ashara looked pretty Targaryen-ish by all accounts. Still have doubts about what happened to her child.

Lord Manderley knows about Rickon I think, that's his deal with Davos. I think Jaime & Brienne are up to something else.

I certainly don't believe Jon is finished.
jeffreyab
Aug. 1st, 2011 03:12 pm (UTC)
Brown Ben gets a dragon, I think that has been for told.
drplokta
Jul. 31st, 2011 08:53 am (UTC)
My interpretation is that Varys believes (with considerable justification) that the realm will be subject to endless civil wars unless there is a clear and uncontested candidate for the throne who can be accepted by all the great houses, which can only be Daenerys (and Viserys before her).
nwhyte
Jul. 31st, 2011 09:15 am (UTC)
Clearly Daenerys as she is now is a better bet than Tommen, let alone Joffrey. But surely Robert was obviously a safer bet than young Daenerys, let alone Viserys?
drplokta
Jul. 31st, 2011 09:18 am (UTC)
Robert clearly wasn't a better bet, given that his death was followed by terrible civil war. And Varys probably had enough spies to know Joffrey's true parentage, and know the likely consequences.
paratti
Jul. 31st, 2011 09:04 am (UTC)
Aegon's there to Perkin Warbeck Dorne so it splits between Trystane-Mrycella and Aegon-Ariane supporters who wipe each other out while Jon Connington's super-virulent Greyscale takes out the rest. Dorne has to be taken off the board for the rest of the story to play out.

The baby's Aegon's death's facelessness allows Martin to Princes in the Tower him.

There were Blackfyre Targ legimated bastards in Essos, whose backstory, along with the guy in the tree Bran meets in the Dunk and Egg novellas.

Melisandre is right at hand to bring Jon back after he pops into Ghost for a rest, so I think he's only comic book dead.
drplokta
Jul. 31st, 2011 09:21 am (UTC)
There were Blackfyre post-facto legitimised bastards in Essos, but the line was extinguished in 257AL with the death of Maelys the Monstrous (he was killed by Barristan Selmy, as it happens).
rozk
Jul. 31st, 2011 09:31 am (UTC)
And as you, or maybe scattermoon, pointed out to me, dying frees Jon of his oath to the Watch even if Melisandre brings him back.
paratti
Jul. 31st, 2011 09:41 am (UTC)
It was me:)
despotliz
Jul. 31st, 2011 11:57 am (UTC)
I thought the prologue with Varamyr Sixskins was a definite hint that Jon is not dead, but will go into Ghost and survive.

I'm still enjoying the series, but I thought this was a weak installment with a lot of setup - like you, I'm hoping there is a good reason for not showing us the battle outside Winterfell, which had been building up for so long. I'll still be reading the next one, whenever it comes out.
liadnan
Jul. 31st, 2011 08:44 pm (UTC)
I'm backing the "Aegon is a fake" horse.
jeffreyab
Aug. 1st, 2011 03:17 pm (UTC)
"But what of the battle outside Winterfell? Did it even happen, or was Bolton lying in his message to Jon?"

Roose's Bastard is lying. The victory is Umber's for deceiving the Bastard into thinking Stannis was already there. The Banker showed that it was/is possible to get to Winterfell from the camp and Theon is there to tell how he took Winterfell.

Interesting that the message comes from The Bastard and not Roose himself.
( 14 comments — Leave a comment )

Tags

Powered by LiveJournal.com
Designed by yoksel