A Dance with Dragons — SPOILERS AHOY!

Rightio! I finally cracked and readA Dance With Dragons.  I put it off for a while, because ASoiF and I have a love/hate relationship. I’m redonkulously over the casual misogyny and ableism when I’m not reading it, and impatient for the plot to GO GO GO! when I am. I don’t mean that last in a good way, either, since I feel like there are some characters who other fans really like that get a ton of POV chapters (:cough: Tyrion!) that don’t advance their CHARACTER-building (THIS JUST IN: Tyrion thinks of most women as whores, sex objects, or possessions) in significant ways and other characters who’re just more interesting (:cough: Sansa!) who are left by the wayside. It kinda makes me think of The Moon Goddess and the Sun, only that was published all in one book, so you had the option of skipping POVs you weren’t interested in.

Anyways, here’s a random ordering of my initial reactions:

1. For some reason, ADwD felt way, way more problematic/racist/colonialist/sexist than the other books. If we’re not hearing about Skahaz’ “odious face”, Daenarys is all upset about how this conquered populace won’t just lie down and stay conquered, and she’s got to do stupid shit like WEAR FLOPPY EARS with these sallow, tricky-ass motherfuckers who have FUNKY HAIR. I know she’s supposed to be the good liberator, but seriously, wtf. Also, I felt we got even LESS characterization for the Dothraki than before. How are they one of the cultural groups we’ve known about since the beginning of the series but still the least fleshed out? Also, wtf, how is Daenarys still pulling this stranger in a strange land BS when she GREW UP on this side of the Narrow Sea? Like, not EVERYTHING should be a bewildering surprise. Also, wtf, sometimes GRRM gets it SO wrong when writing from a female POV. Like, why would Dany, given her history of sexual assault from her bro, her own status as a queen/mother of all, etc., begin fantasizing about Daario as someone who wouldn’t take no for an answer? On the one hand I can see how it might have been meant to parallel her marital rape, but on the other hand, it just felt super clumsily handled.

2. I don’t get how Tyrion, who’s been perpetually sheltered from the realities of being a dwarf by his class/privilege, is somehow better at being a streetwise dwarf than Penny, the GIRL (she’s never a woman) he meets. How does that make sense? Like, seriously, how does that make sense? Some of his narration is beautiful, though, particularly the scene with the stone men on the Sorrows.

3. I like the Sand Snakes. They’re viciously all right.

4. Oh, greyscale. You make me think you’re magical gay leprosy, what with Jon Connington’s revelation that he loved his prince coming up in the same chapter we find out he’s got it, and Tyrion not getting it even though he fell in the same dang river. I know Shireen’s got it as well, but seriously, that whole section, with Jon deciding how he was going to hide it, etc., really resonated for me in a bad way.

5. I don’t think Jon is Rhaegar’s son anymore — I am hoping that the surprise twist will be that Rhaegar wasn’t into the ladies himself. As it is, we have a couple different theories for Ned having fathered him (the fishermaid, the woman with the big boobs that Baratheon slept with, Ashara Dayne) as well as several spare Targs. It’s less narratively “neat” for Jon to be a Targ now. I’m thinking that Ned is actually an honorable goofball, and accidentally killed a woman or something during the war, and so took in her son (less likely), OR that Lyanna took a commonborn lover, and that’s why he has all those dreams about her asking him to promise her something (more likely). He doesn’t need to be a Targ to be Azor Azhai reborn. Plus, with all these bastard sons of noblemen running around, it’d be nice to have Jon be the bastard son of a noblewoman who found love in a hopeless place.

6. The dragons were amazing. Finally, something strange that felt genuinely otherworldly that wasn’t Othering and weird.

7. WTF!! JON SNOW!! Okay, if he’s a warg and popped into Ghost after the betrayal, does that mean Robb is still in his wolf as well??? Also, this is really the book where Jon Snow finally finally finally came into his own as a POV narrator. He’s all grappling with morality and leadership, living in gray areas his father MUST’VE at one point (remember, Ned did participate in a revolution/coup), and really trying be good. Loved his chapters, love love.

8. Poor Theon. He’s… not nearly as arrogant now. Nope.

9. Bran is turning to the dark side of the force. Poor Hodor.

10. Varys is SECRETLY A LOYALIST to the OLD REGIME. Holy crap! <3

11. Oh, Cersei. I’m not sure why they needed to shave your pubes for that scene, but that was the only off-note in that scene for me. Hair grows back, bb. Also, I’m really hoping GRRM gets over himself and moves away from, like, being so critical of women’s bodies when they’re over 20. Apparently the only thing Cersei had going on was her beauty, and now that she’s 33 that’ll DISAPPEAR. Now NO ONE will want to fight the war for Cersei’s cunt! (Also, what’s up with the parallels between Cersei’s walk and the Stations of the Cross? Meant to emphasize that she’s absolutely not a savior-figure?)

12. Loving Davos. I think he’s the one of the only legit “good guys” in this piece.

13. I’m also hoping that one of the female characters is revealed as into women as more than just substitutes for men who won’t/can’t sleep with them. It was WEIRD when Cersei’s depravity was linked to her bisexuality.

I’m reading the series aloud with my husband, so we’re really into it right now. What are your thoughts on ADwD? What are some things you loved?

Comments

  1. says

    I haven’t read book 3 in awhile, so someone correct me if I am wrong, but don’t they kill Robb’s wolf too? In fact, they sew his head on its body, right? I seem to remember that, so I’m assuming he’s quite dead. On the other hand, I *am* sure Jon is in his wolf. Otherwise what was the point of the prologue that specifically showed us that can happen?

    In the last 2 books, Cersei’s particular brand of crazy has increasingly been linked with her femininity in ways I’m not comfortable with. She can’t just be evil and crazy in general? I find that disappointing.

  2. Maartje says

    My reaction was a lot like yours: ‘Yeah just get on with it!’

    I mean, it’s been pretty obvious from the moment Dany got the dragons eggs- or really from the moment we heard that a Targaryan queen came riding in on her big dragon and killed all the white walkers, that Dany would do as her great-great-etc-grandma did. (I would look kinda stupid now if it turns out not to be the case..) And I would like to see (well… read) that! That would be awesome!

    For the longest time I thought Jon was Lyanna and Rhaegar’s son. It’s been pointed out that Arya and Jon look the most Stark and the most like each other and that Arya looks like her aunt at that age. And Ned kept it THAT secret because if someone knew he was harboring a Targ people’d go apeshit and kill his nephew.

    And poor Arya, her mind had to twist all up itself just to keep her alive and functioning.

    Just a little wishful thinking: Let’s have Sansa and Dany meet. I long for the day that Sansa gets some actual power and watch her wield it like a skilled seamstress (ie do something useful with it that doesn’t involve killing everyone because that clearly isn’t working).

    And I really don’t care for that latest Targaryan that crawled out of the woodworks.

    Also: More Queen of Thorns please!

    It’s been a while since I read aDwD, but these are the things that came to mind. Because the pace seems to get slower and slower it is hard to keep focused and enjoy it.

  3. Maria says

    Alanna B,

    No, Summer is still alive. Bran’s actually popped into his brain for a visit (which probably means Robb’s not in there too, or he’d've said hi).

    ETA: MY MISTAKE! Grey Wind, Robb’s wolf, is dead. So I guess Robb is as well, for really reals.

  4. Maria says

    Maartje,

    I think that in ADWD, GRRM started explicitly treating those tropes you’re supposed to “see” him as subverting as actually being real. So Cersei really IS a stupid aging Mean Girl with saggy tits, not a regal queen who’s endured years of a rapist boor of a husband and made a serious play for power in a manner that advanced Lannister standing at court. Dany really IS a semi-virginal young girl in need of political guidance. Jon Snow really IS a tragic figure caught between different types of honor. Etc etc.

    For characters like Jon Snow, where there’s external stuff, like the White Walkers, to make it compelling, that’s okay. For Cersei, it’s a little weird/boring — while shaving pubic hair is a historically accurate punishment, that whole sequence felt oddly sexual. For Tyrion, it was just dull dull dull.

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