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Literature: A Dance with Dragons

Not all men were meant to dance with dragons.
Ser Barristan Selmy

The fifth book in George R. R. Martin's doorstopper A Song of Ice and Fire fantasy series, released in 2011.

The north deals with various perils; Jon Snow, the newest Lord Commander of the Wall, makes truces with the wildlings, while House Bolton struggles to maintain their position as the new Wardens of the North, replacing House Stark. Meanwhile, Stannis Baratheon makes desperate attempts to win the North to his cause, with varied results. And finally, Bran and company's travels beyond the Wall bring them to unusual places.

Across the Narrow Sea, Daenerys Targaryen endures numerous difficulties in ruling the slaver city Meereen, with treachery and opposition surrounding her at all sides. Multiple others travel towards her for other purposes - among them Tyrion Lannister, a mysterious boy named Young Griff who might or might not be someone we've heard of before, a vicious pirate captain from the Iron Islands, and Quentyn Martell, son of Doran, seeking to ask Daenerys' hand in marriage. In the Free City of Braavos, Arya Stark continues her training to become a Faceless Man. We are also offered short glimpses into King's Landing, continuing the story threads from AFFC, at the end of the book.

The novel has a staggering total of 18 POV characters. All characters that were missing in A Feast For Crows return, along with some of the characters that did have POVs in the preceding book, and a few entirely new ones. The prologue is provided by a skinchanger named Varamyr Sixskins. In the epilogue, we follow Kevan Lannister.

  • The Wall is seen from the perspectives of Lord Commander Jon Snow and Lady Melisandre, priestess of the Red God and unofficial consort to Stannis Baratheon. Beyond the wall, we follow Bran Stark still seeking the Three-Eyed Crow.
  • In the North, Asha Greyjoy provides glimpses into Stannis Baratheon's travelling army, while the actions of House Bolton are documented by Theon Greyjoy, who is their captive. Davos Seaworth's perspective shows the rest of the North as he travels through it making his way to White Harbor.
  • In Meereen, we follow Daenerys Targaryen and her Queensguard, Barristan Selmy. Various cities and areas in Essos are documented through the respective perspectives of fugitive Tyrion Lannister, Prince Quentyn Martell and "Griff" (Lord Jon Connington), as they travel through the continent making their way to Meereen. Arya Stark's perspective stays in Braavos, while we also follow Victarion Greyjoy as he pirates his way across the Narrow Sea.
  • In southern Westeros, Areo Hotah provides a look at Doran Martell's court, Jaime Lannister once again documents the Riverlands, and Cersei Lannister shows how things have been in King's Landing.

Dragons is divided from A Feast For Crows geographically, rather than chronologically — the contemporaneous adventures of characters in the North and Essos are covered in that book. However, at the end of Dragons, various storylines from Feast are continued.

This book provides examples of:

  • Action Girl: Asha proves her worth in a fight against Stannis' men, despite being severely outnumbered.
  • Aerith and Bob: While "Penny" would be a perfectly normal name in the real world, Tyrion can't help but feel that it's a completely ridiculous name (who names their kid after a worthless piece of currency?) and can hardly manage to make himself say it.
  • All Girls Want Bad Boys: Daario's appeal to Daenerys.
  • Arc Words:
    • For Tyrion: "Wherever whores go."
    • For Jon: "Kill the boy. Let the man be born." Not to mention "You know nothing, Jon Snow."
    • Daenerys: "If I look back I am lost."
    • For Theon: "Reek, Reek, it rhymes with X" and "You have to know your name."
  • Arranged Marriage:
    • Ramsay Bolton and "Arya Stark".
    • Alys Karstark and the Magnar of Thenn.
  • Better to Die than Be Killed: Tyrion keeps a bunch of poisonous mushrooms in his boot to serve this cause, should the need come for it.
  • Bodyguard Crush: Daenerys and Daario Naharis.
  • Bolivian Army Ending: For Jon and Daenerys, whose fate at the end of the book is left ambiguous. Also possibly Jaime Lannister, if Brienne is really leading him into a trap.
  • Chronic Hero Syndrome: Everyone is urging Daenerys to let Meereen rot, but she feels obligated to protect every single one of her "children".
    • Similarly, Jon Snow can't bring himself to let a single potentially-friendly wildling band die north of the Wall, though in his case, there are darker reasons: he can't risk them rising as wights.
  • Cliff Hanger: The final scenes have Drogon and Dany lost in the Dothraki Sea, and the Night's Watch staging a mutiny against Jon.
  • Cryptic Conversation: Daenerys and Quaithe.
    Quaithe: Hear me, Daenerys Targaryen. The glass candles are burning. Soon comes the pale mare, and after her the others. Kraken and dark flame, lion and griffin, the sun's son and the mummer's dragon. Trust none of them. Remember the Undying. Beware the perfumed seneschal.
    • Fans have extrapolated some of these hints.
      • We saw the glass candle burning in the Citadel in Oldtown in AFFC, signaling that magic is growing strong once again.
      • The Meereenese call catching dysentery "mounting the pale mare," and the disease arrives in ADWD as a epidemic.
      • The kraken heading to Essos is most likely Victarion Greyjoy, who plans to marry Daenerys, whom his brother Euron covets.
      • The red priest who converts Victarion to the faith of R'hllor is named Moqorro; the Iron Islanders cannot pronounce his name and nickname him "the Black Flame."
      • The one person in Essos whose family sigil is a lion is Tyrion Lannister; the one with a griffin for a sigil is Jon Connington. Both were headed toward Daenerys until they changed their minds.
      • The "sun's son" is probably Quentyn Martell; his house bears the sigil of a sun impaled by a spear, and he is the son of the head of that house—Doran Martell, Prince of Dorne. His attempt to attract Daenerys' attention was disastrous.
      • The mummer's dragon is most likely Aegon Targaryen VI. The jury is still out on whether "mummer" means he is a fake Targaryen or simply a reference to how his life, upbringing, and bid for the throne is being orchestrated by Varys, a former mummer who still uses many of the tricks of the trade.
      • The perfumed seneschal could refer to a number of things. It could be Daenerys' seneschal Reznak, who possibly betrays her during the book. It could be Varys, who was involved in her marriage to Khal Drogo and is raising another Targaryen to take the throne. And it could be the ship that Tyrion and Jorah were taking to Meereen, whose name roughly translates to "the Fragrant Steward."
  • Death Faked for You: For Davos Seaworth.
    • Also for Mance Rayder: the Lord O' Bones was burned in his place.
  • Despair Event Horizon: Jorah ends up as this when he was sold to slavery, and has become a broken shell of the man he was. Fortunately in the end he snaps out of it, and joins the Seconds Sons along with Tyrion.
    • More to the point, it was hearing of Dany's marriage that broke him, not slavery.
  • Enemy Mine: The Night's Watch teams up with various Wildling groupings and offers their leaders terms, because they have a common enemy now.
  • Fake Defector: As it turns out, Wyman Manderly.
  • Hidden Backup Prince:Aegon VI, Rhaegar Targaryen's son, was in hiding in the Free Cities all this time.
  • I'm a Humanitarian: It's strongly implied Wyman Manderly cooked the three Freys formerly staying at his court into pies, which he fed to the lords of the North and a few Freys at Winterfell.
  • I Need a Freaking Drink: Jon Snow's thoughts on confronting yet more problems. "A cup of hot spiced wine would serve me well just now. Two cups would serve me even better."
  • Ironic Name: Qarl the Maid is a man who has lots of sex with Asha.
  • Made a Slave: Tyrion, Penny and Jorah Mormont.
  • Malicious Slander: The former rulers of Slaver's Bay spread horrible rumors about Daenerys Tagaryen to justify going to war with her. They accuse her of being a lustful, bloodthirsty, hedonistic sorceress who feeds babies to her dragons. Some of this is deliberate distortion of the facts or outright lies, but some is merely a nod to how such a character must appear to her enemies.
    Qavo: If even half the stories coming back from Slaverís Bay are true, this "child" is a monster.
  • Man on Fire: Quentyn Martell. He doesn't live to tell the tale.
  • Modest Royalty: Quentyn projects this attitude and it screws him over. Daenerys is running into similar problems with her desire to avoid making summary decisions against those who displease her. Prince Aegon is implied by Varys to supposed to be this, but it doesn't seem like anyone's clued him in on it.
  • No, Except Yes: Jon Snow decides not to hang Janos Slynt. He'll chop off his head himself, like Ned Stark taught him.
  • Not-So-Imaginary Friend: The "Children of the Forest".
  • Oh Crap: Daenerys has a major Oh Crap moment when a farmer presents her with the charred bones of a child her escaped dragon Drogon ate.
    • Davos Seaworth once he realizes exactly where Wyman Manderly is asking him to go. note 
    • Jorah: "It's a slaver."
    • Roose Bolton has a minor one once the violence get's uncontrollable
  • Off with His Head!: Janos Slynt.
  • Pet Monstrosity: Subverted — Daenerys turns her back on her dragons, as they are becoming too unruly and dangerous. Played straight when she starts controlling Drogon after he turns up in the fighting pit.
  • Plant Person: The Three-Eyed Crow, as it turns out. And he wants Bran to take his place.
  • The Plague: The bloody flux, carried into Meereen and the Yunkish camps by a pale mare.
  • Put On The Back Of A Dragon: Daenerys is carried into the Dothraki Sea, far away from Meereen, by Drogon. Many believe she is dead back in Meereen.
  • Rape as Backstory: Roose Bolton tells "Reek" of how he raped Ramsay's mother.
  • Rape By Proxy: "Reek" is forced into this at the wedding night of Ramsay Bolton and "Arya Stark".
  • Reality Ensues: Turns out that forcing a highly traditionalist organization to go through a ton of reforms, many of which completely go against the principles and ideals of the organization, is a bad idea. Especially if said organization is already resentful of you being their new leader due to you being a bastard and being younger than most of your officers.
  • Redemption Equals Affliction: Theon heads in this direction after his prolonged Cold-Blooded Torture at the hands of Ramsay Bolton.
  • Save the Princess: Unfortunately it's not the real princess.
  • Secretly Dying: After saving Tyrion from the Stone Men, Jon Connington contracts severe greyscale and knows he's dying, but hides this from everyone.
  • Slut Shaming: Cersei must perform a naked walk of shame through King's Landing. Also has a Shameful Strip, complete with full body shaving.
  • The Unpronounceable: Half of Daenerys' court in Meereen qualifies.
  • Wrong Genre Savvy: Quentyn Martell thinks he's The Hero of the story, and therefore destined to victory.
  • You Gotta Have Blue Hair: Young Griff dyes his hair blue to hide his natural silver, which would identify him as a Targaryen. This is also makes his Targaryen purple eyes look more blue as a bonus.
  • You Said You Would Let Them Go: Ramsay Bolton promises a fort of Ironmen that if they surrender, nothing will happen to them, counting on them believing him on his word. They do, and he flays them alive before killing them. All of them.

11/22/63World Fantasy AwardAlif the Unseen
A Feast for CrowsHugo AwardAmerican Gods
The Dagger and the CoinLiterature of the 2010sDark Inside
A Feast for CrowsLiterature/A Song of Ice and FireTales Of Dunk And Egg
A Feast for CrowsFantasy LiteratureSong in the Silence

alternative title(s): A Dance With Dragons
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