In the aftermath of a colossal battle, the future of the Seven Kingdoms hangs in the balance — beset by newly emerging threats from every direction. In the east, Daenerys Targaryen, the last scion of House Targaryen, rules with her three dragons as queen of a city built on dust and death. But Daenerys has thousands of enemies, and many have set out to find her. As they gather, one young man embarks upon his own quest for the queen, with an entirely different goal in mind.
Fleeing from Westeros with a price on his head, Tyrion Lannister, too, is making his way to Daenerys. But his newest allies in this quest are not the rag-tag band they seem, and at their heart lies one who could undo Daenerys's claim to Westeros forever.
Meanwhile, to the north lies the mammoth Wall of ice and stone — a structure only as strong as those guarding it. There, Jon Snow, 998th Lord Commander of the Night's Watch, will face his greatest challenge. For he has powerful foes not only within the Watch but also beyond, in the land of the creatures of ice.
From all corners, bitter conflicts reignite, intimate betrayals are perpetrated, and a grand cast of outlaws and priests, soldiers and skinchangers, nobles and slaves, will face seemingly insurmountable obstacles. Some will fail, others will grow in the strength of darkness. But in a time of rising restlessness, the tides of destiny and politics will lead inevitably to the greatest dance of all.
I was excited to read this book as we finally return to the characters I missed in A Feast for Crows – Jon Snow, Tyrion, and Daenerys. In A Dance With Dragons, we travel between the Wall and the various locations at sea, as tales of Daenerys and her dragons draw many to seek her out. But Dany can trust few people, and it has been prophesised that she will face three betrayals. She struggles to maintain control over a freed slave city – and over her dragons. Tyrion, meanwhile, has committed the unforgivable sin of murdering his own father, and in escaping the castle finds himself on one of many searches for the rightful heir to the Iron Throne. Bran’s viewpoint chapters are interesting, as he learns more about being a skin-changer deep in the woods. Back in Westeros, Jon Snow has unexpectedly risen to the position of Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch, and has been forced to work with King Stannis, who is newly converted to the religion of the red god, under the influence of the sorceress Melisandre.
The storylines are expertly plotted as ever, with different perspectives on key events offered by differing characters. Events overlap with those in A Feast for Crows to some extent, and I felt that the plot moved quite slowly at times, but Martin handles the multiple viewpoints and intersecting plotlines as expertly as ever, and it’s interesting to explore even more diverse locations and gain an insight into the complexities of his unique fantasy world. I did find that there were a few too many different viewpoints in this book and it slowed the pace down considerably, but there were some great scenes, and the many, many agonising cliffhangers have me eager for the next book!