My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I have finally finished reading through the Song of Ice and Fire series up to this novel. A lot of amazing stuff happened here. There was a lot of setup for the final novel and several story threads made significant progress. There were a few, however, that were noticeable by their absence. Those we saw on screen include Jon and the Wall, Arya’s progress as a servant of the Many-Faced god, Daenarys as the Queen of Meereen and Mother of Dragons, Tyrion’s journey to the East, King Stannis’ campaign in the North, Jaime coming to grips with his new circumstances, Bran’s meeting with the three-eyed raven, Cersei as Queen Regent, the Bastard of Bolton and his Reek, and the Iron Fleet goes East. Notably absent except in passing reference were Sansa and Littlefinger in the Vale and whatever happened to Rickon Stark from whom we’ve seen or heard nothing since he and Bran split up in Book 3, A Storm of Swords.
Mr Martin does his usual superlative job of painting the setting and making the lives of his characters truly gritty and visceral. Two scenes in particular stand out as examples of this, Stannis’ march toward Winterfel and the siege of Meereen. Another thing he does well is throw us into the minds of various characters and turning antagonists into, if not protagonists, at least sympathetic figures. I’ve yet to figure out who, if anyone, is supposed to be The protagonist of this epic. I suppose that’s the point. Just when I think Mr. Martin has settled on a hero, said character winds up either marginalized or killed.
Even with all that happened in A Dance With Dragons there is still plenty left for the final book. So many questions remain to be answered. Will Dany finally being her dragons under control and sweep through Westeros in a flurry of fire and blood? Will we finally see a face-off with the Others at the Wall? Will Tommen survive long enough to become king in his own right? Will any of the contenders ever sit the Iron Throne? Where the heck is Rickon? What are Littlefinger and Sansa up to? Will there ever be another Stark in Winterfel? Will Winter ever finally get here already?