Some Thoughts on A Dance with Dragons

I finished my first book of my 2017 reading challenge today.  Because I was in the middle of reading a series that had huge books, I decided to start with my “book with at least 400 pages.” It seemed as good a place as any since I was anxious to read the current book in the Song of Ice and Fire Series.  This book is the fifth book, and it is titled, A Dance with Dragons. Since this is a book that is occurring in the middle of a series, I’m just going to jump in with some thoughts about it without any build up.

This book has a slow build. There are more new characters. There are older characters that haven’t been seen in two books (such as Tyrion, Danerys, and Jon), and the plot lines that were introduced in the fourth book in this series are completely abandoned for the first two-thirds of the book. As I enjoyed, A Feast for Crows, I had a difficult time leaving the stories in there behind to care about Danerys and Tyrion again, but once I began to get into the book, I was so glad that I had picked this one up to start reading. I’m going to share some of my thoughts about the book using my favorite quotes from the book as a starting off point. (I am going to try not to be explicit about any spoilers, but if I have been, let me know, so I can hide it on my Goodreads review.)

One of my favorite quotes from the book was “Men are born to strive and suffer. Our woes only vanish when we die.” This quote was spoken by Hizdahr zo Loraq to Danerys as she continually refuses his wish to re-open the fighting pits in Meereen to the fighters and slaves of the city. I thought it made a great summary of what went on in much of the book. Those who were living were full of strife and suffering (especially Reek!), but those who had died in previous books were finally at peace with the Game of Thrones.

I found this quote quite appropriate to Jon Snow. “That was his mistake, the false humility of youth that is itself a sort of of pride.” Snow has a terror of the white walkers that will be coming that he bases many of his decisions on that, alienating his black brothers who already hold him in suspicion due to his time with the wildlings. When we see him last in the book, it is a definite cliffhanger as the struggle between his actions and the Night Watch’s feelings of alienation from their Lord Commander are bubbling over into some very definite actions. If Jon makes it into the next book, it is my hope that he’s learned a little more about transparency and brotherhood.

My favorite Roose Bolton quote is “Fear is what keeps a man alive in this world of treachery and deceit.” The Boltons are just not good people. Roose keeps his evil hidden from the world but Ramsay is someone who creates fear wherever he goes and with whomever he interacts with. My jaw would hang open as we visited Winterfell through the eyes of Reek. I admit to being a little naive, but just wow. They are sadistic and still alive at the end of book five. I wonder if having fear (or if doling out fear) is really what keeps them alive so far.

Jojen, who travels with Bran, provides me with this next great quote. “A reader lives a thousand times before he dies. The man who never reads lives only one.” Not only is that true of reading, but it’s also true of Bran’s story. We do not hear much from Bran, who is in the north above the wall at this point in the saga, in the second half of the book, but for a child who cannot walk, Bran is able to experience and do so much. He lives through the animals and people that he skin changes with, and he has lived so much that is not his own. I find his story to be a little bizarre, but I also look forward to seeing what the future of his story reveals.

Towards the last quarter of the book, Martin begins bringing back Cersei, Jamie and some of the other characters that were in the fourth book, and I was relieved because I had been missing my Lannister fix. Just their family story makes a great soap opera!!

One of the characters who ends up with Jamie as a hostage for the loyalty of his house utters these wise words. “So long as men remember the wrongs done to their forebears, no peace will ever last.” So many actions in all sides of this war are being completed as vengeance or retribution for actions of men long dead. Without forgiveness, there is no peace. I am pretty sure that there will either have to be some forgiveness and genuine healing among the families involved in this series, or one house is just going to have to murder all their enemies to end this story. I am looking forward to seeing how Martin will choose to resolve these stories because right now these families look irreconcilable.

Two characters are brought to serious lows in this book and they are both Lannisters. I thought it was a good thing because both needed to hit rock bottom. Tyrion says, “There has never been a slave who did not choose to a slave. . . Their choice may be between bondage and death, but the choice is always there.” Tyrion has been enslaved to so many things that I was glad to see him hit what I believe to be his lowest point in this book, and I look forward to seeing how he bounces back in the next book.

Towards the end of the book, we see a chapter written from Kevan Lannister’s POV, and I love that chapter. One of the things he says is, “But it did no good to brood on lost battles and roads not taken. That was the vice of old done men.” It struck me two books ago that so much of Cersei’s problems are self-made, and how much she would have been bettered if she had just taken her uncle Kevan’s advice in the fourth book and gone home to Casterly Rock. Alas! She did not and all around her continue to suffer from her bad choices.

This was an excellent book. Many of the story lines are left on cliffhangers, and I wish desperately that there was a book six to begin on the heels of this one. Maybe soon. These plot lines are intricately woven together, and I didn’t even mention half of them in this reflection. No wonder they take so much time to create.

Because I often write about home education, I want to make clear that this is not really a book that you want to introduce to your underage children.  The television show that is based on this series is the HBO show, “A Game of Thrones.” You’ve probably heard enough about that series to know that this isn’t the best book for uplifting and sharing in your family.  However, it is well written, and it is engaging and I enjoyed the book very much. I felt like it was a great start for my #vtReadingChallenge.

I have been debating which book in the Light Reader section that I outlined previously to tackle next, and I have decided to go with Chai Ling’s A Heart for Freedom. I am hoping to learn more about China and about Chinese women and women’s issues through the book. I received this one as a freebie Kindle book that I downloaded a while back, and when I make my Light Reader list, this seemed like a good choice because I already had it on hand. Here’s hoping for the best on my next read.

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