A Dance With Dragons comes out on July 12th. This is probably the most anticipated fantasy book since Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. I’ve stayed away from all things Westeros for the last week or so because I want to delve into Dance with all the wonder and surprise of the last four books. And holy crap, the first four books are nothing but wonder and surprise. George R.R. Martin has a no holds barred attitude about storytelling. Two major characters died at the end of A Game of Thrones, and that was just the beginning.
In a nutshell, GoT acts as a murder mystery in a fantasy setting. Someone has murdered the Hand of the King, Jon Arryn. Eddard Stark, the new Hand, is determined to find out the how and the why. The current King’s life is in danger with those closest to him plotting his murder, foremost among those his own wife, Cersei Lannister. Ned snoops, Cersei schemes, Tyrion the Imp cracks wise, and eventually King Robert is killed over the truth of his heir’s parentage. All of “Robert’s” children were born of incest between Cersei and her twin brother Jaime. Ned also ends up dying for this truth. Across the Narrow Sea, Dany Targaryan, the last of her line and the true heir to the Iron Throne (Robert took it from her father by force), has lost her warlord husband and her child. However, she has managed to hatch three dragons after the last had died long ago. This is where the first book and first season of the HBO show end.
There have been three more books: A Clash of Kings (CoK), A Storm of Swords (SoS), and A Feast for Crows (FfC), all of them blood soaked and occasionally bittersweet. A Feast for Crows came out six years ago, so all of us fans have had a good long time to speculate on the happenings of GRRM’s rich world. Here are a few things I hope we see addressed in A Dance With Dragons:
1. Holy crap, what’s going on with Bran, Meera, Jojen, and Hodor? We haven’t seen them since A Storm of Swords. At the end of SoS, Samwell leads them under the wall to meet up with “Coldhands” a mysterious elk riding man who may or may not be dead. Sam has also sworn never to tell anyone that Bran is still alive.
2. Speaking of Bran, what the hell ever happened to Rickon and Osha? In SoS we find that Bran and Rickon are still very much alive despite the rumor that Theon Greyjoy had murdered them. Osha, Meera, and Jojen agree that it would be wise to split the boys up in case more attempts were made on their lives. While Bran travels north, Osha takes Rickon south and east, and we don’t hear from them for almost two whole books. One of the few things that bothered me about the HBO adaptation was Rickon’s treatment as a throwaway character – the books are doing the same. But this isn’t like GRRM, so I wonder if there’s more in store for the baby of Winterfell.
3. Is the aforementioned Theon Greyjoy still alive? In A Clash of Kings, Theon takes Winterfell but can’t hold it against Ramsay Snow, the Bastard of Dreadfort. Theon murders two innocent children and passes them off as Bran and Rickon Stark. The Stark bannermen still in the North come after Theon but are crushed from behind by the most treacherous and evil Bastard of Bolton. Theon assumes Ramsay is there to help him, but he instead puts Winterfell to the torch and sword. No one ever finds Theon’s body. His kin on the Iron Islands assume he’s dead since Ramsay didn’t leave anyone alive. But when GRRM kills off a major character, he leaves no question that they’re actually dead.
(Art by Pulyx.)
4. What the hell is going on at the Wall? Jon Snow has been named Lord Commander. Stannis Baratheon has joined the Black Brothers to fight whatever horrors lay beyond the Wall – but all is not well. Melisandre the Red Woman pressures Stannis to sacrifice one of king’s blood in the name of their cause. Jon walks the fine line of accepting Stannis’ help without supporting his claim to the Iron Throne. Mance Rayder knows better than anyone what they’re fighting, but he is set for execution.
5. Dragonglass, obsidian, black rock – it’s shown up not only beyond the wall but also in Old Town now as well. What is the secret to this substance and why is it the only thing that can kill a wight? In the final chapter of A Feast for Crows, Sam encounters The Sphinx and his mentor who alludes to the idea that the dragons were killed on purpose. He has an obsidian candle burning in his chambers and the company of what we all thought was a dead novice named Pate.
6. Is Sandor Clegane really dead? Again, GRRM isn’t shy about showing us the deaths of major characters. In FfC, we hear the story of how Sandor died and was buried and how Biter took his helm and ravaged the Saltpans. However, I wouldn’t be surprised if Clegane’s death was metaphorical and he was living as a silent brother on the Quiet Isle.
7. For the love of god, where is Tyrion? I missed him terribly in FfC. Tryion goes batshit at the end of SoS after being falsely accused of murdering Joffrey and finding out that his first wife Tysha wasn’t really a whore after all. Jaime frees him from the black cells but before Tyrion makes his escape, he shoots his father through the bowels with a crossbow while Tywin is on the toilet. Tywin Lannister gets gold stars for most deserved and most fitting death in the entire series. And GRRM gets extra gold stars for writing the most hilarious funeral I have ever read.
8. How is Dany spending her time in Meereen? We don’t get any Dany Targaryan in FfC either. Last we saw her, she decided to stay put in Meereen to raise her dragons, train her army, and rule like a true queen. She had found out the secret identity of Arstan Whitebeard, but also found that her dear Jorah Mormont had been spying on her for King’s Landing in return for a pardon. Dany exiles Jorah, but I don’t think we’ve seen the last of him by a long shot.
9. What’s the deal with this fake Arya? And what will become of real Arya? Catelyn Stark’s greatest tragedy was believing all of her children were dead when in fact they were alive and well. At the end of FfC, only one out of her five children has actually died. Arya is presumed dead by many but has been gallivanting around Westeros and then across the Narrow Sea. We leave her in FfC living in the House of Black and White, completely blind, presumably as punishment for killing a man who did not deserve it. However, King’s Landing has also managed to produce “Arya Stark” and sends this poor girl up north to marry the Bastard of Bolton and claim Winterfell. Will we hear from this fake Arya in DwD?
(Art by MathiaArkoniel.)
10. Finally, who the hell are Jon Snow’s parents? I’ll be honest and say it never occurred to me to question Jon’s parentage in the two times I’ve read the series. I hadn’t thought twice about it until visiting GoT forums online. But the more I consider, the more I realize that he is not Ned Stark’s son. Rhaegar Targaryan “kidnapped” Lyanna Stark, but we know so little about this. Robert accuses Rhaegar of raping Lyanna, but Robert’s version of Rhaegar does not match that of Barristan Selmy, Ned Stark, or even Cersei Lannister. By all accounts other than Robert’s, Rhaegar was gentle and scholarly, but not one to be crossed on the tourney field. GRRM beats into our minds over and over again how honorable Ned is. Ned is so honorable it gets him killed. How could he have fathered a bastard? He was betrothed to Catelyn Stark and very possibly in love with Alara Dayne, neither of whom are Jon’s mother. All we know of Lyanna’s death is that Ned found her in the Tower of Joy, drenched in blood. She makes him promise her something before she dies – we don’t know what. The theory held by many including myself is that Lyanna wasn’t actually kidnapped but went with Rhaegar willingly even though she was betrothed to Robert Baratheon. Jon Snow is the product of their union and Ned claimed him as his own to protect him from Robert’s wrath.
There we have it. Those are the major issues I think many fans would like to see addressed. Of course there are others – How does Dorne come into play? Will Brienne really hang? Will Jaime come to Cersei’s rescue? How much creepier can Littlefinger get? But I feel that the ten above are the most pressing. I’m so looking forward to this book and know that even if we don’t get closure on some of these issues, we’re in for a badass story.