A Dance with Dragons
|A Dance with Dragons|
|Author(s)||George R. R. Martin|
|Cover artist||Larry Rostant|
|Series||A Song of Ice and Fire|
|Publisher||Voyager Books (UK) & Bantam Spectra (USA)|
|Publication date||July 12, 2011 (US, UK)|
|Media type||Print (Hardcover & Paperback)|
|Pages||1040 (US Hardcover)|
|ISBN||ISBN 0-553-80147-3 (978-0553801477)|
|Preceded by||A Feast for Crows|
|Followed by||The Winds of Winter (forthcoming)|
A Dance with Dragons is the fifth of seven planned novels in the epic fantasy series A Song of Ice and Fire by American author George R. R. Martin. In some areas the paperback edition was published in two parts titled Dreams and Dust and After the Feast.
A Dance with Dragons was originally intended to be the title of the second novel in the sequence, when Martin still envisioned the series as a trilogy. Some early US editions of A Game of Thrones (1996) list A Dance of Dragons as the forthcoming second volume in the series. The 1998 anthology Legends, which features the novella The Hedge Knight from the same universe, lists A Dance of Dragons as the fifth installment of the series. Like the previous four volumes in the Ice and Fire series, the book includes a lengthy appendix, with the volume running a total of 1,040 pages.
On March 3, 2011, publishing imprint Bantam Spectra announced that the novel would be released on July 12, 2011. Martin delivered the manuscript to his editor on April 27, 2011; however, as early as 2006, Martin made sample chapters available on his website and at Amazon.co.uk. Additionally, the German branch of Amazon.com (Amazon.de) released a reported 180 copies two weeks early by mistake. The US hardcover was officially published on July 12, 2011, having gone back to press for six printings (totaling more than 650,000 copies) prior to the 1,000+ page novel being available; 298,000 copies in print, digital, and audio formats were sold that first day alone, becoming publishing giant Random House's biggest book of 2011 and a runaway bestseller. The book was the second in the series to debut at the #1 position on the New York Times bestseller list. A few weeks after publication, A Dance With Dragons went on to be #1 on both Publisher's Weekly and USA Today Bestsellers lists.
On the Wall
On the Wall itself, Jon Snow has been elected the 998th Lord Commander of the Night's Watch; but the young man has enemies, both in the Watch and beyond the Wall. Janos Slynt still refuses to acknowledge Ned Stark's bastard son as Lord Commander, even though he has officially been declared the winner of the election. Pointing out to Janos that the punishment for a single act of treason is death, Jon nonetheless publicly gives Janos three chances to follow his orders (noting that this is more chances than Janos gave Jon's father when Janos helped Littlefinger betray Ned to the Lannisters). Still scoffing at the idea that Jon can command him or the Night's Watch, Janos ignores all three warnings; Jon finally grows tired of Janos' insubordination and orders him executed. Janos pathetically begs for his life as they are about to hang him, but deciding to follow the laws of his father - that the man who deals the sentence must swing the sword - Jon personally beheads Janos, exacting small justice for Ned Stark. This increases Stannis' respect for Jon, and cements his new position as Lord Commander.
After making a peace with the wildlings, he lets them through in large numbers, despite objection from his fellow brothers, and enforces a conscription upon them to reinforce the Wall against the Others. Jon's reasoning is that any wildlings left north of the Wall will be massacred by the Others, then resurrected to swell the ranks of the undead horde they control, thus every wildling they let through the Wall is one less wight they have to deal with. Jon negotiates with a representative of the Iron Bank of Braavos (who has come to tell Stannis that, due to Cersei's refusal to repay money owed by the Crown to them, the Iron Bank will support and finance his campaign to take the throne, provided he repays the Crown's debts) to take out a loan so the Night's Watch can buy food to survive the winter. The Red Priestess, Melisandre, whom Stannis Baratheon left behind, shares many of her visions with Jon, telling him repeatedly that he has enemies in the Watch and warning him of daggers in the dark. Jon tries to maintain the neutrality of the Watch in the ongoing civil war, walking a political tightrope as Queen Regent Cersei is outraged that Ned Stark's bastard son now commands the Wall. Jon receives a taunting letter from Ramsay Bolton declaring that he has crushed Stannis' army at Winterfell, and demanding that Jon hand over Stannis' wife and daughter along with his wildling hostages, Theon and Jeyne Poole, or he will kill Jon and destroy the Night's Watch (the claims of the letter are questionable, as Theon and Jeyne were with Stannis and are not on the Wall). Jon finally realizes that he can't keep trying to be neutral to the Boltons and Lannisters when their reckless wars are tearing the realm apart even as the demonic Others amass their armies of the undead just north of the Wall to overrun and destroy the lands of men. Jon announces that he will ride south against the Boltons, not as an order but with any who will volunteer, yet violating his oath of neutrality in the process. Melisandre's prophecy comes to fruition when Jon is attacked by several of his brothers led by Bowen Marsh, believing they are acting for the good of the Watch, and Jon is stabbed several times. The narrative closes with Jon either losing consciousness or dying.
Meanwhile, in the far north beyond the Wall, Bran Stark's search for the Three-eyed Crow leads him to the secret cave where the last surviving Children of the Forest dwell, the magical non-human original inhabitants of Westeros. As Bran, Hodor, and the Reeds take shelter in the cave, they meet the "Three-eyed Crow", whom they call the "Last Greenseer". He is a former human member of the Night's Watch, who has been sitting on an underground weirwood throne for so long that its roots have fused into his body. He explains to Bran that he has been appearing to him as the Three-eyed Crow in his dreams so that he could lead him here, and train him in greensight. Bran learns that there is truth to the belief that the sacred weirwoods are the eyes and ears of the Old Gods: the trees are capable of seeing and hearing all around them, and recording it in their memory for centuries. They also allow a greenseer at one weirwood to see and hear events going on at another in the present, and communicate through them. Using his increasing powers of greensight Bran sees memories of his father Ned Stark at Winterfell's godswood in the past, and communicates with Theon Greyjoy at the godswood in the present.
Across the Narrow Sea
In the Free Cities
Meanwhile, having killed his father Tywin, Tyrion Lannister is smuggled to Pentos by Varys, where he is sheltered by Magister Illyrio. Tyrion is sent south; on the journey, it is revealed Varys and Illyrio have hidden the presumed-dead Prince Aegon Targaryen, son of the late Prince Rhaegar, with the intention of reinstating him as the rightful King of Westeros (as he is ahead of Daenerys in the line of succession). The self-styled Aegon VI was raised by Jon Connington, a former Hand of the King under King Aerys and old friend of Prince Rhaegar, whom Aerys exiled for his failure to end Robert's Rebellion. In the intervening years they have risen to command the Golden Company, the largest and most skilled mercenary army in the Free Cities, which was founded a century ago by House Blackfyre, a cadet branch of House Targaryen. Tyrion advises Aegon that Daenerys will not respect him if he comes to her offering aid, but she will if he has made his own conquests first. Tyrion manages to convince Aegon to launch an early invasion of the Seven Kingdoms (starting in the Stormlands), but without the aid of Daenerys and her dragons. Aegon believes that this will gain him prestige without relying on Daenerys - but it is unclear if Tyrion's advice was made with Aegon's best interests in mind.
After traveling with Aegon halfway across Essos, Tyrion is kidnapped by Jorah Mormont, who intends to deliver him to Daenerys in appeasement after she banished him for initially selling information to her enemies and his indiscretion of his romantic interest in her. Later, Tyrion and Jorah are shipwrecked and sold by slavers to a Yunkish merchant as a part of a jousting dwarf grotesquerie. After reaching Meereen, Tyrion escapes in the mass confusion of the plague ravaging the Yunkai'i army, and signs on with the Second Sons mercenary group and plans to switch their support to Daenerys.
In Braavos, the girl once known as Arya Stark undergoes the training of the guild of assassins known as the Faceless Men. The potion that made her blind is revealed to only have a temporary effect, as part of a stage in the training during which she must learn to rely on her hearing. While blind, she discovers that she is a skinchanger and can see through the eyes of cats. After successfully killing her first target by poisoning a merchant, she is officially entered into the assassins' guild as an acolyte, to continue her training.
In the far east, Daenerys Targaryen, believed by most to be the sole heir of House Targaryen, has conquered the city of Meereen, but struggles to maintain peace within the city and prevent military defeat at the hands of her many enemies and attempts to stop the spread of a plague, known as the pale mare, from entering the city. In addition, although her dragons are still growing, they have already become very dangerous - killing livestock and people - so she reluctantly confines them to a cage with the exception of the black dragon Drogon, who manages to evade capture. Daenerys marries the noble Hizdahr zo Loraq, despite her intense infatuation and strong sexual relationship with the mercenary Daario Naharis, hoping this will stop a series of insurrectionist murders and avert a planned attack by Yunkai and Volantis. Despite the plague-infected refugees outside, the fighting pits are opened shortly after the wedding, at Hizdahr's insistence. Daenerys happens to avoid an attempt to poison her in her private box at the fighting pits. The games are interrupted when Drogon, drawn by the smell of blood, attacks the fighting pits; numerous people die in the ensuing chaos, either trampled by the panicking crowd or killed by the rampaging dragon. In an attempt to stop the bloodshed, Daenerys climbs on Drogon, who flies away from the chaos in the pit. Drogon lands outside the city and slaughters 200 soldiers before flying away again to his lair with Daenerys still on him. After Hizdahr is implicated in the poisoning and it is revealed he intends to help the armies of Yunkai and Volantis re-enslave Daenerys's people and kill her dragons, Barristan Selmy removes him from power with the assistance of the Unsullied and Meerenese loyal to Daenerys, and prepares for battle with the armies encamped outside Meereen. Having ventured across the world in a failed attempt to court Daenerys, Quentyn Martell, Prince of Dorne, attempts to steal one of the remaining dragons out of desperation. Instead, he suffers fatal burns and both dragons are unleashed upon the city. Meanwhile, Drogon flies Daenerys to the Dothraki Sea where Dany, starved and ill from being stranded in the wilderness, eventually encounters the khalasar of Khal Jhaqo, a former Bloodrider to Khal Drogo who betrayed her after Drogo's death.
Meanwhile, the Iron Fleet under the command of Victarion Greyjoy sails through the outer islands of Slaver's Bay, bound for Meereen. Half of the fleet has been lost in storms, and they regroup at the Isle of Cedars. Victarion plans to save Daenerys by attacking the slavers' alliance besieging Meereen. His hope is that in gratitude, Daenerys will marry him, and with the aid of her dragons he will overthrow his brother King Euron and take revenge for the wrongs Euron Crow's Eye did to him, including bedding Victarion's wife and humiliating him in the process.
In the Seven Kingdoms
The War of the Five Kings in Westeros is over, but the conflict against the Lannisters (and their traitorous allies the Boltons and Freys) is shifting into a new phase. In the North, King Stannis Baratheon has installed himself at the Wall and attempts to win the support of the northmen. This is complicated by the fact that the Lannisters have installed Roose Bolton of House Bolton (loyal to the Iron Throne after the events of the Red Wedding, during which Roose personally killed Robb Stark) as Warden of the North, and much of the west coast is under occupation by the Ironborn. The Karstarks advise Stannis to march on House Bolton's castle, the Dreadfort, while it is still garrisoned by only a handful of men, but this is because they have secretly allied with Roose and are trying to lure Stannis into a trap. On the advice of Jon Snow, however, Stannis instead seeks and receives the support of the Northern hill clans and captures Deepwood Motte from Asha Greyjoy, taking her captive in the process. In gratitude for liberating Deepwood Motte, House Glover and House Mormont join Stannis' army. Instead of being pinned down besieging the Dreadfort until Roose Bolton arrived with an army outnumbering Stannis five to one (as Bolton and the Karstarks hoped), the Northerner reinforcements swell Stannis' army to four times its original size. A representative of the Iron Bank of Braavos arrives at the Wall, to bring news that the Iron Bank has officially had enough of Cersei deferring payment on the loans the Iron Bank is owed, and is switching its support from the Lannisters to Stannis.
Despite the fact that House Manderly told Cersei that they executed Davos Seaworth on her orders when he arrived in White Harbor, this is revealed to be a lie, intended to ensure the release of Manderly's last son and heir Wylis from Lannister captivity. Lord Wyman Manderly had Davos dragged away in view of representatives from House Frey, but then secretly placed him in gentle imprisonment. It is implied that when the ruse is complete, after the Freys send letters to Cersei stating that Davos is dead and Wylis is freed, the Manderlys discreetly murder the Freys. Lord Wyman explains to Davos that the Manderlys and other Northern vassals intend to feign submission to the Boltons, Freys, and Lannisters while plotting their revenge. Wyman informs Davos that he has discovered that Osha the wildling took Rickon Stark to hide on the remote island of Skagos, which is inhabited by savage clans who only hold nominal allegiance to the North. Wyman explains to Davos that they are in need of a skilled smuggler to retrieve Rickon, and that once the Northern bannermen see that a male Stark heir still lives, they will rally against the Boltons and join Stannis' cause.
Meanwhile, Theon Greyjoy is revealed to not be dead: he was kept as a prisoner in the Dreadfort's dungeon for over a year while Ramsay Bolton horrifically tortured and disfigured him, flaying his skin and cutting off several of his fingers and toes. Theon has since been driven insane by the torture, and Ramsay forces him to take on the identity of his servant "Reek". Ramsay's father Roose Bolton leads the main Bolton army up from the south towards Moat Cailin, along with several thousand Frey allies. Ramsay secures their passage by sending Reek, now re-assuming the identity of Theon Greyjoy, to negotiate with the few Ironborn who still hold Moat Cailin into surrendering. Reek succeeds, but Ramsay flays all the Ironborn anyway. When Roose arrives with Ramsay's bride Arya Stark, Reek recognizes her to be actually Sansa's friend Jeyne Poole. The Boltons are also aware of her identity, but merely see the marriage as a way to legitimize their claim of the North. The wedding is held at Winterfell, and to convince the North that the bride is actually Arya, Reek is forced to assume the role of Theon again to represent the lord of Winterfell and give away the bride. After the wedding, Ramsay horrifically abuses Jeyne physically and sexually. Reek sinks to his knees before the heart tree in Winterfell's godswood, and begs for forgiveness and the strength to survive. He hears Bran through the weirwood calling him "Theon", which (mostly) restores his sanity. He is approached by a disguised Mance Rayder and his spearwives and is asked to help them free "Arya." He escapes with Jeyne by leaping out a tower window, but Mance and his spearwives are left behind. Theon and Jeyne are then captured by Stannis Baratheon's forces nearby and are delivered to the main camp. There, Theon is reunited with his sister Asha. Ramsay's torture has so badly mutilated Theon that Asha cannot at first recognize her own brother. With increased strength from his new Northern allies, Stannis chooses to push south to confront the Boltons at Winterfell, but his army becomes snowbound as the weather continues to worsen.
Cersei Lannister, imprisoned by the Faith of the Seven, confesses to several of the less grave charges against her, such as adultery by sleeping with her cousin Lancel Lannister. However, she stops short of admitting that she murdered King Robert, or that her children are actually the product of incest. This is enough that the Faith is willing to release her from imprisonment, though she still must stand trial for the charges she has not confessed to. However, as a condition of her release, she is forced to make a penance walk by being marched under escort naked from the Great Sept of Baelor to the Red Keep. Cersei tries to maintain her dignity but the smallfolk of King's Landing, who have suffered greatly due to Cersei and the war she is responsible for, pelt her with rotten vegetables and insults; by the time she reaches the Red Keep she is crying and crawling on her hands and knees. However, Cersei has one last spark of hope: the unethical ex-maester Qyburn has perfected his "champion" for Cersei, "Ser Robert Strong", by conducting human experimentation on Gregor Clegane and others. An eight foot tall behemoth, completely encased in armor, never taking it off to eat or use the privy, more than a few characters including Kevan suspect that "Robert Strong" is some sort of Frankenstein's monster cobbled together from the corpse of Gregor Clegane and other prisoners. The silent Robert Strong is named to Cersei's Kingsguard, and will be her champion in the trial by combat to settle the Faith's charges against her.
In the Riverlands, having negotiated the bloodless surrender of Riverrun, Jaime Lannister arrives with his army at the siege of Raventree Hall. The seat of House Blackwood, Raventree Hall is the last castle of the Riverlords who supported Robb Stark that has not surrendered to the Lannisters. Negotiation goes much easier than at Riverrun, as the Blackwoods were just holding out for better terms, and didn't want to surrender to their age-old rivals House Bracken, who bent the knee to the Lannisters and were leading the siege. Jaime offers House Blackwood peace on generous terms, bloodlessly ending the siege, and the last stronghold of Robb Stark's short-lived kingdom in the Riverlands dips its banners. The Stark-Lannister war in the Riverlands is nominally over, but the region has been so devastated that brigands holding no allegiance now roam most of the broken countryside. Jaime sets about restoring order, when Brienne of Tarth bursts into his camp tent, telling him that she has found Sansa Stark and she is in danger from Sandor Clegane.
Meanwhile, after Tyrion convinces Aegon that Daenerys would rather learn of her nephew from his conquest, rather than by him showing up and demanding recognition, Aegon Targaryen and Jon Connington land in the Stormlands with the Golden Company, a mercenary army, in order to recover the Iron Throne. It is not clear if Tyrion gave the advice in good faith. They land in the Stormlands and quickly capture four castles with little resistance, with the intention of marching on Storm's End. Varys, still in King's Landing, sneaks in and murders Kevan Lannister and Grand Maester Pycelle. Revealing his support for Aegon, Varys killed Kevan to prevent him from fixing the damage Cersei had caused in her attempts to build Tommen's power base. Varys declares that with Tommen back in Cersei's control, the kingdoms of Westeros will spend their strength fighting each other while Aegon prepares to conquer the Seven Kingdoms.
The story is narrated from the point of view of 18 different characters, including two minor one-off point-of-view (POV) characters featured in the prologue and epilogue. All but two POV characters were identified before the book's release.
In the North:
- Prologue: Varamyr Sixskins, a skinchanger and one of the surviving wildlings north of the Wall.
- Jon Snow, the 998th Lord Commander of the Night's Watch and bastard son of Eddard Stark.
- Bran Stark, rightful heir to his brother, the late Robb Stark. Seeking an old power beyond the Wall, believed dead by his own family.
- Davos Seaworth, former smuggler and Hand of the King to Stannis Baratheon. Has recently learned to read, sent to negotiate with White Harbor.
- Reek, the Prince of Winterfell, the Turncloak, a Ghost in Winterfell: Theon Greyjoy, presumed-dead son of recently deceased King Balon Greyjoy of the Iron Islands, a captive of Ramsay Bolton and now tortured, starved and barely sane.
- The Wayward Bride, the King's Prize, the Sacrifice: Asha Greyjoy, niece of King Euron Greyjoy of the Iron Islands, fled the Iron Islands after her uncle's coronation.
- Lady Melisandre, a shadow-binder from Asshai and a devoted priestess to the red god R'hllor, advisor to Stannis.
In the eastern continent of Essos:
- Daenerys Targaryen, heir to the Targaryen dynasty which ruled Westeros for 300 years until their deposition 15 years before the first novel. Self-proclaimed Queen of Westeros, she now rules the city of Meereen.
- Tyrion Lannister, dwarf and uncle to the King Tommen of Westeros, a fugitive wanted for kinslaying and regicide. Recently fled the Seven Kingdoms.
- The Merchant's Man, the Windblown, the Spurned Suitor, the Dragontamer: Quentyn Martell, eldest son of Prince Doran Martell of Dorne, traveling into the East on a mission for his father.
- The Lost Lord, the Griffin Reborn: Jon Connington, one of the former Hands of the King to Aerys Targaryen and one of Prince Rhaegar's closest friends. Exiled, and falsely believed dead. His identity as a narrator was kept secret throughout the book's pre-release process.
- The Queensguard, the Discarded Knight, the Kingbreaker, the Queen's Hand: Ser Barristan Selmy, the former Lord Commander of Robert Baratheon's Kingsguard, and the first of Daenerys's Queensguard.
- The Iron Suitor: Victarion Greyjoy, Captain of the Iron fleet, recently gone on a quest to find Daenerys and use her for the Ironborn's own ends.
- The Blind Girl, the Ugly Little Girl: Arya Stark, hiding in the Free City of Braavos, where she has taken on the identity of the "Cat of the Canals" and continues her training as an assassin by the House of Black and White (The Faceless Men).
In the South:
- The Watcher: Areo Hotah, Captain of Doran Martell's guard.
- Ser Jaime Lannister, the Kingslayer, Lord Commander of the Kingsguard; currently occupying the lands around Riverrun.
- Cersei Lannister, the Queen Regent, currently imprisoned in a tower cell, awaiting trial.
- Epilogue: Ser Kevan Lannister, head of House Lannister in light of his brother's death, and current regent to King Tommen. His identity as a narrator was kept secret throughout the book's pre-release process.
Chapters for several POVs, which may include Sansa Stark, Samwell Tarly, Aeron Damphair, Arianne Martell, and Brienne of Tarth were written for the book, but they will instead tentatively appear in the next book, The Winds of Winter.
The book includes a new map of the previously unmapped area of the Free Cities on the eastern continent (in addition to maps published in previous books).
Split in publication
According to Martin, his manuscript for the fourth novel in the series had become too large to publish in a single volume. Rather than simply split it in half and publish it as essentially "Part 1" and "Part 2," Martin decided to split the book by character and location. Published in 2005, A Feast for Crows is narrated primarily by characters in the South of the Seven Kingdoms and in the new locations of the Iron Islands and Dorne. A Dance with Dragons features characters in the North and across the narrow sea, although Jaime Lannister, Cersei Lannister, Arya Stark, Areo Hotah and Victarion and Asha Greyjoy appear in both volumes.
Approximately one-third of the published A Dance with Dragons consists of material that had been written for the pre-split A Feast for Crows, although much of this has been rewritten by Martin.
In 2009, Martin confirmed that, contrary to earlier statements, Sansa Stark would not appear in A Dance with Dragons; Sansa chapters initially slated for the novel have instead been pushed back to The Winds of Winter, which is planned to be the sixth book in the series. In early 2010, Martin noted that his intent for A Dance with Dragons was for the first 800 manuscript pages to cover the alternate characters in the same time span as A Feast for Crows, and that "Everything that follows is post-Feast, so that's where some of the cast from the last book start popping up again." Stating that "I wanted to resolve at least a few of the cliffhangers from Feast," Martin also mentioned the possibility that some of his finished chapters might get pushed to the next novel, The Winds of Winter, depending on the length of the finished manuscript for A Dance with Dragons.
Road to publication
Despite original, optimistic predictions of possible completion in late 2006, Martin completed the novel in April 2011, nearly five years later. During this period, Martin's blog featured sporadic updates on his progress, and in January 2008 he posted an update affirming his vigilant commitment to finishing the novel. In early 2008, publisher Spectra Books (a division of Random House) announced that A Dance with Dragons would be released on September 30, 2008, but Martin stated this would only be possible if he finished writing by the end of June, before his trip to Spain and Portugal; he did not meet his goal.
On February 19, 2009, Martin posted on his website: "I am trying to finish the book by June. I think I can do that. If I do, A Dance with Dragons will likely be published in September or October." On June 22, 2009, the author expressed "guarded optimism" with respect to his progress on the novel, while still not confirming a publication date. When asked in a July 2009 interview with FREE! Magazine how the book was going, Martin stated, "It is going pretty well, actually. I am hoping to finish it by September or October; that is my goal." On October 6, 2009, Martin said that his working manuscript for A Dance With Dragons had just exceeded 1,100 pages of completed chapters, plus "considerably more in partials, fragments, and roughs." He noted that this made the upcoming novel longer than his earlier books A Game of Thrones and A Feast for Crows, and nearly as long as A Clash of Kings.
On March 2, 2010, Martin remarked that he had reached 1,311 manuscript pages, making Dance the second-longest novel in the series at that point, behind only the 1,521-page manuscript of A Storm of Swords. On July 8, 2010, Martin spoke at a conference and confirmed the current length of the book to be 1,400 manuscript pages. He expressed his disappointment that he was unable to completely finish the novel by the conference, although he would not speculate how soon the book would be completed after his return home on July 11. At the same conference, Martin also confirmed that he has written one Sansa, one Arya, and two Arianne chapters for the planned sixth novel, Winds of Winter, and had transferred two Cersei chapters from that book into A Dance with Dragons. On August 7, 2010, Martin confirmed that he had completed eight POVs, excluding the prologue and epilogue.
At the New York Comic Con on October 10, 2010, Spectra senior editor Anne Groell announced that Martin had only five chapters remaining to finish, with sections of the chapters already completed. She stated her desire to have the manuscript completed by December. In a December 2010 interview with Bear Swarm, Martin stated that he almost had A Dance With Dragons completed.
On March 3, 2011, the publisher announced that the novel, though at that point still not completed, would be officially published on July 12, 2011. Martin claimed this July 2011 publication date was different from the previous publication dates mentioned, in that this was "real," as opposed to earlier "wishful thinking, boundless optimism, cockeyed dreams, [and] honest mistakes". On March 12, he revealed that the unfinished manuscript had exceeded A Storm of Swords in length, making it the longest volume in the entire series. On March 27, he announced that the manuscript had exceeded 1,600 pages. On April 27, 2011, it was announced that Martin had completed A Dance with Dragons. Almost a month later, on May 20, 2011, Martin further announced that after incorporating requested changes made by his book editor and her staff copy-editors, suggested final draft notes from trusted friends, and his own final "sweat" (a line-by-line reread done to tighten and eliminate any unnecessary "fat" remaining in the manuscript), that the final draft had been reduced to 1,510 pages; this made Dragons the second-longest novel, by a narrow margin, to volume three, A Storm of Swords. The novel was now ready to meet its announced July 12, 2011 release date.
On June 29, 2011, Martin announced that Amazon Germany had mistakenly released 180 copies of the novel early and requested that those who held copies not spoil the book for fans who had to wait. Several A Song of Ice and Fire websites put an embargo in place on their forums with the same intent.
Foreign Language Editions
- Bulgarian:Бард : "Танц с Дракони"
- Catalan: Alfaguara(2012): "Dansa amb dracs" ("Dance with dragons")
- Czech: Talpress :"Tanec s draky" ("A Dance with Dragons")
- Dutch: Luitingh-Sijthoff: "Een dans met draken" ("A Dance with Dragons")
- French: Three Volumes, Pygmalion: "Le Bûcher d'un roi", "Les dragons de meereen", "Une danse avec les dragons"
- German: FanPro: "Ein Tanz mit Drachen" ("A Dance with Dragons")
- Greek: Two Volumes,Anubis: "Το Κάλεσμα της Φλόγας"( Call Of the Flame),"Το Σπαθί στο Σκοτάδι"(The Sword in the Darkness)
- Hebrew: Opus: "מחול הדרקונים"
- Hungarian: Alexandra Könyvkiadó: "Sárkányok tánca" ("Dance of Dragons")
- Italian: Three volumes, Arnoldo Mondadori Editore (2011, 2012): "I guerrieri del ghiaccio", "I fuochi di Valyria", "La danza dei draghi" ("The Warriors of Ice", "The Fires of Valyria", "The Dance of Dragons").
- Polish: "Taniec ze smokami" ("A Dance with Dragons")
- Brazilian Portuguese: Leya: "A Dança dos Dragões" ("The Dance of Dragons")
- European Portuguese: Two Volumes, Saída de Emergência: "A Dança dos Dragões"("A Dance of Dragons"), Os Reinos do Caos("The Kingdom of Chaos")
- Russian: AST: "Танец с драконами" ("Dance with Dragons")
- Serbian: Two Volumes, Лагуна: "Плес са змајевима Део први: Снови и прах", "Плес са змајевима Део други: После гозбе"
- Spanish: Ediciones Gigamesh: "Danza de dragones" ("Dance of Dragons")
The Atlantic's Rachael Brown found A Dance with Dragons "infinitely more satisfying than its predecessor, 2005's bleak and plodding A Feast for Crows. The aspects of Martin's work that have endeared him to fans are abundant here – rich world building, narrative twists and turns, and gritty depictions of the human struggle for power. Characters who were sorely missed in Feast – Daenerys Targaryen, Tyrion Lannister, and Jon Snow – make up more than a third of the novel, and Martin is wise enough to give us at least a chapter from (almost) everyone else. Weaknesses that have plagued Martin's previous books are also present: too much repetition, unexceptional prose, and characters who use the same idioms (and have sex in exactly the same manner) no matter their ethnicity, social class, or continent. But while A Dance with Dragons cries out for better editing, it remains entirely engrossing. Martin has hidden so many clues and red herrings throughout his previous volumes that it is a thrill to see certain pieces fall into place."
Remy Verhoeve of The Huffington Post said, "A Dance with Dragons is just a book, of course. It is not the Second Coming or anything. And I understand that the author must feel a lot of pressure concerning this one (he should). It's late and it has to repair some of the damage done by A Feast for Crows, which frankly felt as if it was written by a ghost writer at times. Finally it is here, and some of the things we've been wondering about for more than a decade are actually revealed (not everything, but at least some things). It has the same structural problems as the previous book; it is sprawling and incoherent at times, but at least the characters are more interesting than in the previous installment. It does feel like I'm reading a bunch of separate stories within the same setting–the chapters are told through the eyes of various characters–but that doesn't really bother me as I love the setting and like to see it through various points of view. Theories that have been bandied about online for the last ten years mostly come true in this book, so in that respect the novel isn't shocking but neither is it disappointing. Martin also manages to put in a few twists, but ends the book much like he did the previous one with cliffhangers instead of wrapping things up a little better so the next long wait won't hurt so much."
David Orr of The New York Times said, "A Dance With Dragons comes in at roughly 1,012 pages, and smart money says the final two books in the series will make this one look like 'The Old Man and the Sea'. Such length isn't necessary, and it hurts Martin's prose and his plot mechanics. Tyrion 'waddles' at least 12 times here, and even if we suppose the unflattering word reflects Tyrion's contempt for his own awkward gait, it seems unlikely he would indulge this contempt when he's, say, fighting for his life. Similarly, when your novel's terrain stretches across hundreds of miles and your world lacks jet propulsion, as an author you face some basic problems of transportation that can result in conveyance via Rube Goldberg."
Time's James Poniewozik found a possible "weakness to the early Meereen sections [by] marking time (and making Dany uncharacteristically indecisive) to allow time for all the pieces to fall into place" and said, "All this makes for a thousand-page book that feels half as long, that moves dextrously, answers key questions and gobsmacks you with convincing feints and change-ups. As in AFFC, there are sections that feel like they could have used an editor. In some chapters you suddenly find yourself in a strange land with a character you have little attachment to, wondering where this thread is going, as if you had stayed too long at a party after the friends you came with have left.
The Washington Post's Bill Sheehan said, "Filled with vividly rendered set pieces, unexpected turnings, assorted cliffhangers and moments of appalling cruelty, A Dance With Dragons is epic fantasy as it should be written: passionate, compelling, convincingly detailed and thoroughly imagined. Despite a number of overtly fantastic elements (dragons, seers, shape shifters and sorcerers), the book — and the series as a whole — feels grounded in the brutal reality of medieval times and has more in common with the Wars of the Roses than it does with The Lord of the Rings. The result is a complex summer blockbuster with brains and heart, a book with rare — and potentially enormous — appeal.
Megan Wasson of The Christian Science Monitor said, "A Dance with Dragons may well be one of the best books in the five-book series so far. Martin's prose is concise but pithy, begging to be devoured over and over again. All the fans' favorite characters make an appearance, unlike in the last book. But what truly sets this book above some of the others in the series is Martin's ability to keep his readers on their toes and the edges of their seats. No character, no matter how likeable and seemingly important, is ever safe from Martin's pen (remember Ned Stark?), and on the other hand, no one can ever be truly pronounced dead. What you thought was going to happen after reading Books No. 1, 2, and even 3 and 4, now clearly will not happen, and that's where Martin's strength lies."
In April 2012, A Dance with Dragons was nominated for the 2012 Hugo Award for Best Novel. In May 2012, it was nominated for the 2012 Locus Award for Best Fantasy Novel. In August 2012, the novel was nominated for a World Fantasy Award for Best Novel.
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- Review by Tom Shippey at the Wall Street Journal