A Dance with Dragons
|Author||George R. R. Martin|
|Cover artist||Larry Rostant|
|Series||A Song of Ice and Fire|
|Published||2011 (Voyager Books/UK & Bantam Spectra/US)|
|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 third installment of a four-book 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 Publishers Weekly and USA Today Bestsellers lists.
- 1 Plot summary
- 2 Characters
- 3 Map
- 4 Split in publication
- 5 Road to publication
- 6 Editions
- 7 Reception
- 8 References
- 9 External links
On the Wall
Jon Snow is elected the 998th Lord Commander of the Night's Watch, but Janos Slynt refuses to acknowledge him. Although the punishment for such treason is death, Jon publicly gives Janos three chances to follow his orders, but Janos ignores all three warnings, and Jon personally beheads him. This solidifies his new position as Lord Commander.
Jon sends Val, the sister of Mance's dead wife Dalla, to make a truce with Tormund, the leader of the surviving wildlings, whom Jon allows into Westeros despite objection, and forces them to reinforce the Wall against the Others. Tycho Nestoris, a representative of the Iron Bank of Braavos, arrives at the Wall to find Stannis, but arrives after Stannis marches south with his army, and explains that for Cersei's refusal to repay the crown's debts, the Iron Bank now supports Stannis' claim to power. Jon himself negotiates a loan with which the Night's Watch can buy food to survive the winter. Melisandre tells Jon repeatedly that he has enemies in the Watch. After recurring visions of a girl on a dying horse coming to the Wall, Melisandre feigns Mance Rayder's death and sends him south to rescue the girl (believed to be Arya Stark), while Jon tries to maintain the neutrality of the Watch in the civil war.
Jon receives a taunting letter from Ramsay Bolton that he has crushed Stannis's army, and demanding that Jon hand over Stannis's wife and daughter and his wildling hostages, along with Ramsay's servant Theon and his wife Arya (Jeyne Poole). When Jon announces that he will ride south against the Boltons with any who will volunteer of his subordinates, Melisandre's prophecy comes to fruition as Jon is repeatedly stabbed by several of these under Bowen Marsh, with his fate unclear.
Beyond the Wall, Bran Stark's search for the Three-eyed Crow leads him to the last surviving Children of the Forest, the non-human natives of Westeros. In the Children's cave, they meet the "Three-eyed Crow", alias the "Last Greenseer": a former human member of the Night's Watch, seated on an underground weirwood throne for so long that its roots have fused into his body, who appeared as the Three-eyed Crow in Bran's dreams to train him in greensight. Using this ability, 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
Having killed his father Tywin, Tyrion Lannister is smuggled to Pentos by Varys, where he is sheltered by Magister Illyrio. Thence, Tyrion is sent south; on the journey, it is revealed that Varys and Illyrio have hidden the presumed-dead Prince Aegon Targaryen, son of the late Prince Rhaegar, to install him as King of Westeros. In the intervening years they have made a contract with the Golden Company, the largest and most skilled mercenary army in the Free Cities. Tyrion advises Aegon that Daenerys will not respect him unless he has made his own conquests first, and persuades Aegon to launch an early invasion of the Seven Kingdoms, without the aid of Daenerys and her dragons.
After traveling with Aegon across Essos, Tyrion is kidnapped by Jorah Mormont, who intends to deliver him to Daenerys as a token of appeasement. On their way to Meereen they meet a dwarf survivor of the jousting match at Joffrey's marriage, named Penny. Later, Tyrion, Penny, and Jorah are shipwrecked and sold by slavers to a Yunkish merchant. At Meereen, Tyrion escapes in the mass confusion of the plague ravaging the Yunkai'i army, joins the Second Sons mercenary group, and plans their support of Daenerys.
In Braavos, Arya Stark is trained by the guild of assassins known as the Faceless Men, while herself under the influence of a temporary blindness during which she must rely on her hearing. While blind, she discovers her ability to telepathically perceive objects seen by cats. After poisoning a merchant, she enters the assassins' guild as an acolyte, to continue her training.
In the far east, Daenerys Targaryen has conquered the city of Meereen, but struggles to maintain peace within the city, while also trying to prevent military defeat. A plague known as the bloody flux or "pale mare" is discovered, whereas although her dragons are still young, they have already killed livestock and people, for which she reluctantly confines them to a cage (with the exception of Drogon, who evades capture). Daenerys marries the noble Hizdahr zo Loraq, despite her sexual relationship with the mercenary Daario Naharis, to stop a series of murders by a Meereenese resistance called the Sons of the Harpy, 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, and interrupted by Drogon. 200 people are trampled in the resulting panic or killed by the dragon, whereupon Daenerys climbs on Drogon to calm him, who flies to his lair with Daenerys still on him. After Hizdahr is implicated in an attempted poisoning of Daenerys, Barristan Selmy removes him from power and prepares for battle with the armies outside Meereen. Quentyn Martell, Prince of Dorne, attempts to steal one of the remaining dragons, but suffers fatal burns, and both dragons are unleashed upon the city. Drogon flies Daenerys to the Dothraki Sea, where she encounters the khalasar of Khal Jhaqo, a former Bloodrider to Khal Drogo, who betrayed her after Drogo's death. Meanwhile, Victarion Greyjoy sails for Meereen, to save Daenerys by attacking the slavers' alliance besieging Meereen. Victarion's hope is that in gratitude, Daenerys will marry him, and with the aid of her dragons he will overthrow his brother King Euron.
In the Seven Kingdoms
In the North, King Stannis Baratheon has installed himself at the Wall and attempts to win the support of the northmen; the Lannisters have installed Roose Bolton as Warden of the North; and much of the west coast is under occupation by the Ironborn. The Karstarks, plotting against Stannis, advise him to march on House Bolton's castle, the Dreadfort. On the advice of Jon Snow, Stannis instead acquires the support of the Northern hill clans and captures Deepwood Motte from Asha Greyjoy, whereupon House Glover and House Mormont join Stannis's army.
House Manderly's earlier statement that they executed Davos Seaworth in White Harbor is revealed to be a lie, intended to ensure the release of Lord Wyman Manderly's heir Wylis from Lannister captivity. It is implied that when the ruse is complete, the Manderlys discreetly murder the three Freys staying with them in revenge for Wyman's son, Wendel, being killed at the Red Wedding. Lord Wyman explains to Davos that the Manderlys and other Northern vassals intend to feign submission to the Boltons, Freys, and Lannisters while plotting revenge. Wyman informs Davos that Osha the wildling took Rickon Stark to the remote island of Skagos, and that they are in need of a skilled smuggler to retrieve Rickon and unite the Starks' supporters around him; in return for this, Manderly and his vassals will side with Stannis.
Theon Greyjoy is revealed to be a prisoner in the Dreadfort's dungeon, mutilated and driven insane by torture, and Ramsay Bolton forces him to take on the identity of his servant "Reek". Ramsay's father Roose Bolton leads his army to Moat Cailin, along with several thousand Frey allies; Ramsay secures their passage by sending Reek, again assuming the identity of Theon Greyjoy, to negotiate the surrender of the Ironborn garrison abandoned by Victarion. Reek succeeds, but Ramsay flays the Ironborn regardless. When Roose arrives with Ramsay's bride 'Arya Stark', Reek recognizes her as Sansa's friend Jeyne Poole. The wedding is held at Winterfell, and to convince the North that Jeyne is Arya, Reek assumes the role of Theon again to represent the lord of Winterfell and give away the bride. After the wedding, Ramsay repeatedly abuses Jeyne physically and sexually.
A series of murders in the castle increase the already high tensions between House Frey and the northern Houses present, with Roose and his vassals desperately trying to keep the peace. In Winterfell's godswood, Reek begs for forgiveness and hears Bran Stark's voice from the heart tree calling him "Theon", which restores his sanity. He is approached by a disguised Mance Rayder and compelled to help them free the false "Arya", but Mance and his spearwives are left behind when the alarm is raised. Theon and Jeyne are then captured by Stannis Baratheon's forces nearby, and in captivity, Theon is reunited with his sister Asha, who does not initially recognize him. Stannis decides to confront the Boltons at Winterfell, but his army becomes snowbound.
Cersei Lannister confesses to several of the charges against her, but does not confess having murdered King Robert, or that her children are the product of incest. As a condition of her release, she is stripped naked and forced to march under escort from the Great Sept of Baelor to the Red Keep. Along the way she is humiliated by jeering crowds of smallfolk, who have suffered greatly due to the war Cersei helped start. Meanwhile, the ex-maester Qyburn has perfected "Ser Robert Strong": an eight-foot-tall figure encased in armor, and speculated to be a Frankenstein's monster assembled from the corpse of Gregor Clegane and other prisoners, assigned as Cersei's champion in trial by combat. Her uncle Kevan Lannister and Grand Maester Pycelle name Mace Tyrell as the new Hand of the King, and Mace's bannermen Randyll Tarly and Paxter Redwyne as Master of Laws and Master of Ships, and send envoys to the Iron Bank of Braavos, hoping to undo the damage caused by Cersei's incompetence.
Having negotiated the surrender of Riverrun, Jaime Lannister offers peace to House Blackwood, the last of Robb Stark's allies still at arms. The Stark-Lannister war in the Riverlands is nominally over; but brigands holding no allegiance now roam most of the broken countryside. Jaime sets about restoring order, when Brienne of Tarth tells him that she has found Sansa Stark and she is in danger from Sandor Clegane, though Jaime is unaware that this is a trap orchestrated by Brienne and Lady Stoneheart.
After Tyrion convinces Aegon that Daenerys would rather learn of her nephew from his conquest than by his demanding recognition, Aegon Targaryen and Jon Connington capture four castles with little resistance, with the intention of marching on Storm's End, though Jon Connington is succumbing to the infectious disease "greyscale".
In Dorne, Ser Balon Swann of the Kingsguard presents the skull of Gregor Clegane to Prince Doran Martell and his court as justice for the murder of his sister Elia. Prince Doran agrees that Myrcella may return to King's Landing with her betrothed, his son Prince Trystane, but reveals to his family that Cersei intends to murder Trystane. Doran summons the three eldest of the 'Sand Snakes', his late brother Oberyn's bastard daughters, and sets each a task: Obara Sand to distract Ser Balon by leading his hunt for Ser Gerold Dayne, the knight who previously tried to kill Myrcella; Nymeria Sand to assume the seat offered to Dorne on the Small Council; and Tyene Sand to infiltrate the Great Sept of Baelor and ingratiate herself with the High Septon.
In the epilogue, Kevan Lannister meets with the Small Council to discuss the Golden Company. Later, Kevan enters Pycelle's chambers to find Pycelle murdered, and a new white raven sent from the Citadel, signifying that winter has officially arrived in Westeros. Before he can react, Kevan is shot by Varys, who reveals to the dying Kevan that he meant to kill him and Pycelle because they amended the damage Cersei caused, whereas with Tommen in Cersei's control she will bring Westeros to ruin. Thereafter the remaining factions will continue their feud while Aegon prepares to claim the Iron Throne.
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
In May 2005 Martin announced that the "sheer size" of his still-unfinished manuscript for A Feast for Crows had led him and his publishers to split the narrative into two books. Rather than divide the text in half chronologically, Martin opted to instead split the material by character and location, resulting in "two novels taking place simultaneously" with different casts of characters. 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" ("Dance with Dragons")
- Catalan: Alfaguara: "Dansa amb dracs" ("Dance with Dragons")
- Croatian: Algoritam: Two volumes: "Ples zmajeva"
- Czech: Talpress :"Tanec s draky" ("A Dance with Dragons")
- Dutch: Two Volumes: Luitingh-Sijthoff: "Oude vetes, Nieuwe strijd", "Zwaarden tegen draken" ("Old Feuds, New Battle", "Swords against 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"). Two volumes, Blanvalet (2012): "Der Sohn des Greifen", "Ein Tanz mit Drachen" ("The Son of the Griffin", "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: "ריקוד עם דרקונים חלק א - חלומות ואבק, ריקוד עם דרקונים חלק ב - לאחר המשתה" ("Dance with Dragons Part I - Dreams and Dust, Dancing with Dragons Part II - After the Feast")
- 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").
- Japanese: Three volumes, hardcover Hayakawa (2013): "竜との舞踏" ("Dance with Dragons") I, II and III
- 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" (Dance with Dragons Part I: Dreams and Dust, "" Dancing with Dragons Part II: After the Feast)
- Slovenian: Ples z zmaji ("A Dance with Dragons")
- Spanish: Ediciones Gigamesh: "Danza de dragones" ("Dance of Dragons")
- Turkish: "Ejderhaların Dansı" ("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 and won it in June 2012. In August 2012, the novel was nominated for a World Fantasy Award for Best Novel.
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