It is becoming increasingly difficult to write spoiler-free reviews of A Song of Ice and Fire. I'll do my best, but if you are not up to date, beware.
A Dance with Dragons 2: After The Feast is no less interesting than A Dance with Dragons 1, and was by no means a disappointing read. Several interesting things happen to shake up the Realm:
Stannis gains support of many Northmen and marches on Winterfell with the intent of taking it from the Boltons (and as such, the Lannisters), but with winter truly coming, can his company survive long enough to reach it?
Theon Greyjoy surprisingly remembers his name (with a little help from Bran Stark!), finds his courage (with a little help from Mance Rayder!) and helps Jeyne Poole escape the evil clutches of Ramsay Bolton, surprisingly winding up with Stannis Baratheon.
|In the house of Black and White|
We get to spend more time with Arya Stark, who is fast becoming the nameless, faceless girl of Braavos. She is training with the guild of assassins known as the Faceless Men (such as her friend, Jaqen H’ghar) growing into a silent killer. While I fear for Arya’s humanity, I can’t help but love the strong, brave, badass she is becoming. Arya also discovers her skinchanger abilities, and alongside Bran is now one of only two Starks who actually realize what they can do (it is possible Jon caught on just in the nick of time, but we can’t be sure just yet).
Cersei Lannister gets her comeuppance to a degree, but she is still planning, plotting and conniving to worm her way out of punishment. And her champion – Ser Robert Strong – could he truly be who I think he is?
|The penance walk|
Tyrion, on his way to find Daenerys Targaryen and assist her in conquering Westeros, faces his worst nightmare when he, Jorah and Penny are sold into slavery; however, with Tyrion’s wiles they are not slaves for long. Interestingly, Tyrion and Jorah sign on to join a very unexpected company…
Contrary to my predictions, Daenerys does not marry Euron Greyjoy (who has sent his brother to fetch Daenerys – I can’t imagine her reacting well to that – not knowing Victarion intends to marry Daenerys himself), Quentyn or even Aegon. Instead she marries someone far less interesting - Hizdahr zo Loraq. She does this purely to stop the attacks of the Sons of the Harpy. This storyline really got on my nerves. Daenerys is portrayed as strong and smart, and personally I think this is the dumbest thing she’s ever gone and done. Previously she took what she wanted and came up with the most clever of ways to destroy her foes. To see her rolling over like this was quite the disappointment. Anyhow, Ser Barristan soon starts questioning her new husband’s loyalty. Does he truly love Dany, or did he marry her for the throne of Meereen? Does he intend to share the rule, now that he is King? Things concerning Dany’s dragons are certainly chaotic this time around, definitely more dangerous as well. Dany ultimately decides to chain them up in a dark pit, with Drogon escaping and Rhaegal and Viserion tied up, largely leaving the dragons out of the picture – again, disappointing. Can Dany possibly tame the wild Drogon, Balerion The Black Dread come again? On the bright side Martin gives Dany a spectacular final two chapters in ADWD that more than make up for her disappointing actions and overall quite boring storyline.
|Daenerys and Drogon|
On the wall the new Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch, Jon Snow, has many enemies and must constantly watch his back. His black brothers start grumbling when Jon makes a truce with the wildlings North of the wall, allowing the wildlings to enter Westeros and even joining the Night’s Watch to fortify the wall. What Jon understands, unlike just about everyone else, is that something worse than the wildings is fast approaching. Winter is coming, and so are the White Walkers. Jon is doing his level best to prepare for the coming attack, which no-one else believes is coming. Jon is smart, innovative and brave – an excellent Lord Commander (I must say, though, I kind of wanted him to accept Stannis’ offer of becoming a legitimate Stark, marrying Val and rebuilding Winterfel – while I never got into Jon with Ygritte, Jon and Val have excellent chemistry). Melisandre, however, keeps warning Jon about daggers in the dark…
When Jon receives a taunting letter from Ramsay Bolton, “the lord of Winterfell”, Jon finally realizes that he can no longer keep trying to be neutral when reckless wars are tearing the realm apart. Jon announces that he will ride south against the Boltons, violating his oath of neutrality. How will his already peeved black brothers react?
A Dance With Dragons concludes with the reader finally learning where Varys’ true allegiance lies and what he and Magister Illyrio have been up to all this time – and the confirmation that Winter has come.
There are several issues to be addressed in the next instalment of the series, The Winds of Winter.
*SPOILERS! SPOILERS EVERYWHERE!*
Aegon has launched his attacks and is officially attempting to conquer Westeros – will he succeed? Will Denearys reunite with all three of her dragons? What will happen with Khal Jhaqo, the former Bloodrider of Khal Drogo who betrayed her after Drogo's death? Will Dany exact her promised revenge and reform her Khalasar, adding thousands of Dothraki to her Unsullied? (What army could possibly withstand the Dothraki, Unsullied and dragons?) Will Tyrion convince the Second Sons to turn their cloaks and fight for Daenerys? Will he rescue Daario Naharis and gain Dany’s trust? (Truthfully, I can’t wait to see Dany and Tyrion together.) What will happen now that Brienne has led Jaime into a trap set by Lady Stoneheart and the Brotherhood Without Banners? (I want more scenes of Lady Stoneheart, already!) Did Ramsay Bolton truly defeat Stannis Baratheon? As for the Starks - Davos is on his way to Skagos (have fun with the unicorns and cannibals!) to return Rickon Stark to the North. Will Rickon and Shaggydog’s famous aggressive and distrusting temperaments come into play? What is the point of Bran’s greenseeing? Will he ever return to Westeros? Will Arya? Will she reunite with Nymeria? Will Sansa allow Littlefinger to manipulate her into doing his bidding? And most importantly, is Jon Snow alive?
Martin has confirmed there will be two major battles in TWOW: The battle of Meereen, and the battle for the North. The release date for TWOW has not been set as Martin is still in the process of writing it. His publisher has confirmed that the book is not slated to be released this year, meaning the earliest possible release date is 2015. My guess is we’ll have to wait longer - I’m hoping for 2016, but I doubt TWOW will be released before 2017. Here’s hoping I’m very wrong!
Title: A Dance With Dragons 2: After The Feast
Author: George R.R Martin
Number of pages: 592