[Please do not read if you’re not familiar with the story line up until A Feast for Crows]
Even as Dany struggles to hold Meeren, the other cities where she had freed the slaves are rising up in protest and mobilizing an army against her. Meanwhile, Tyrion, having killed his father, suddenly finds himself acquainted with stories of a dragon queen. Lord Varys’s spy network runs as far as Meeren and with Cersie hungry for his head, the only option Tyrion sees of returning to Westeros is through this mother of dragons; a Targereyn princess claiming for the Iron Throne. Dany has really slowed down however, getting embroiled in battles that aren’t hers to fight. To add to her woes, her dragons have grown and have become wild and impossible to control.
At the wall, Jon Snow is preparing for winter. With Stannis and his men all around him, Jon finds himself walking a thin line. Once you don the black cloak, you’re not supposed to take any part in the battles of Westeros but Jon cannot help sympathize with Stannis’s cause. Despite his sternness and his Red God, Stannis has a sense of fairness about him which appeals to Jon, who is concerned about his sister Arya’s supposed betrothal to Ramsay Bolton. So Jon struggles to balance the needs and desires of a king with the protest of his own men. To add fuel to fire, Jon starts to make common cause with wildlings because he knows that when the White Walkers come, every single man standing will be needed to man the wall.
Its snowing in Winterfell, which is held by Ramsay Bolton- the cruel, sadistic bastard of Roose Bolton for who no act of torture is degrading enough. Having stripped all dignity and personality off of Theon Greyjoy and re-named him Reek, Ramsay is now waiting to marry ‘Arya’- the fake Arya. Reek is struggling with his own problems. ‘I must remember my name’ he tells himself, ‘Reek it rhymes with sneak.’ But deep down he is still stirred with memories and emotions of a previous life.
The real Arya struggles with her own battles. In Dorne, the prince is laying low while his son makes his way towards Daenerys. But a lot of other people are moving towards Meeren as well: SIr Jorah Mormont, the exiled knight, Victarion Greyjoy and a certain Jon Connington.
Meanwhile, beyond the wall, Bran is on his way still to the Three Eyed Crow who is getting closer and closer. But so are the White Walkers. The winter north of the wall is bone-chilling, the food scarce and all villages abandoned. Can Bran make it?
Patience is the one virtue you need to sit with when you’re reading this book. A thousand plus pages and a slow moving plot but if you like your medieval fantasy fiction, you ought to be all right. Jon and Bran are by far the most exciting characters in this book. Despite being called A Dance with DRAGONS, Daenerys’ plot drags and sometimes you just feel like shaking her up and going, ‘But why don’t you return to Westeros’. Dany’s virtue and her weakness is that she cannot let go of people who need rescuing- her compassion makes her vulnerable but I still think she is the best contender for the throne. Brandon Stark had me sitting on the edge of my seat and biting my nails off. The Jon Snow chapters all ended at places where I couldn’t wait for more to come. A White Walker pattern is beginning to emerge but for many of our major characters, this book ends at a cliffhanger that leaves you speculating about what is to come.
For readers of A Song of Ice and Fire, this book will obviously be “unputdownable” (where did I pick up that word? Harry Potter? Not sure.) Despite the dragging the lengthy descriptions I would still recommend it because well, its part of a big saga which is going places!