Saturday, December 7, 2013

Reflections on 'A Dance With Dragons': Part 1

CAUTION: This post contains SPOILERS! This is based on my re-read of all five Game of Thrones books, so do not read unless you too have read all five. Neither is this meant to be an introduction to the series. It is intended for people who want to ponder where George R. R. Martin might be headed with his series. As always, if you are one of those people, I welcome your comments!

Book 5 of the A Song of Ice and Fire series sits on my bookshelf once again. I just finished my re-read of George R.R. Martin’s fantasy series, and I was able to appreciate many more subtle clues and nuances than the first time around, when I absorbed the books like a sponge, eager to discover revelations in each chapter. The first time I read the books, it took me two months, averaging about two weeks per book. This time, it took me four months. I read at a much slower pace, stopping to blog more often about what I found. And now it’s time to reflect on what have quickly become some of my favorite books.

First of all, I highly recommend The Meereenese Blot as an excellent source for some well-developed fan theories. The Danaerys theory on that site highly influenced the way I viewed her after Book 5. I also recommend this Reddit compilation of fan theories, some more well developed than others (I hope no one actually believes Ramsay Snow is Azor Ahai). The Game of Thrones Wiki can answer many questions too, or help you recall minor characters; I refer to it frequently.

I'll focus on the last chapters for the characters. First off is Jon Snow, well-known to be my favorite character. So is Jon dead? Of course not! I’m obligated to answer that way because I love him so much, but truly I can’t figure out what would have been the point of his character if Martin kills him here. Yes, his character arc from bastard boy of Winterfell to sworn brother to false turncloak (and lover of Ygritte) to lord commander is mesmerizing, but if his story ended there, it wouldn't contribute much to the books. He hasn't entirely figured out how to defeat the Others yet, we don’t know who his parents are, and we don’t know why Melisandre only sees snow when she gazes into her flames for a glimpse of Azor Ahai.

Other characters’ deaths have taught us something. With Robb’s death, we learned how heroes can fall. With Quentyn’s death, we learned how far a man will go for his reputation in his home country, and the glory of that country. (On a side note, it’s also interesting to reflect on his character compared to Doran’s; he seemed to be quite cautious, like Doran, and he made a rash mistake, as Doran did when he married Quentyn’s mother. Yet Quentyn lacked a key character trait that Doran possessess: cunning.) With Tywin's death, we learn the repercussions of working for one's family without getting to know them deeply. As it stands now, the story of Jon does not teach us much…yet. Say what you like about Martin's cruelty as an author, but I don’t think many of his main characters die needlessly (that’s for the smallfolk).

A plot line that is easy to take for granted while reading but is truly astonishing is the fact that all six Stark children are wargs, or at least had that potential until separated from their wolves. Jon and Bran have had the greatest chance to develop their skill at warging, yet Arya reveals incredible potential in her wolf dreams, which continue even when she crosses the narrow sea. It would be interesting to see how different Sansa would be if Lady were still alive. To me, the direwolves are a sign that Martin believes in hope, and that the Stark children were given aid for their hard road to come. As Jon’s last word is “Ghost”, many have speculated that he warged into Ghost right before he “died”, and I think that is a plausible theory. As we never really receive evidence that Ned or Catelyn were wargs, I wonder where all five (and Jon) received their capabilities.

I have to confess that I sat down to write this post and had no idea of how long it would be, so I have decided to break it up into two parts. The next part will concern Danaerys and Bran, my other two favorite characters. So please hold your Dany and Bran comments; the rest is coming, like winter.


  1. I agree with what you said about Jon's story. To end it now would be pointless. I don't think that he went into Ghost though. If I remember correctly, Jon was told that Wargs who die and take over an animal eventually fade away and become the animal. Jon would be near useless as Ghost I think. I'm not sure what the final outcome will be with Jon, but I highly doubt that he's actually dead. He's got too much unfinished business.

    1. No way John is dead and somehow he will come back (if he ever died) but will not be the same thou