A Dance With Dragons is the fifth novel in George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series. I haven’t included any spoilers about Dance in this review, but it is impossible to discuss the book without revealing events from the first four. So if you haven’t read A Game of Thrones (1996) and its sequels, go ahead and get yourself caught up. I’ll wait.
Okay, now that we’re all on the same page (literally), you’re probably a little unsatisfied by A Feast for Crows (2005). After all, as Martin writes in the afterword, “Wait a minute, wait a minute! Where’s Dany and the dragons? Where’s Tyrion? We hardly saw Jon Snow. That can’t be all of it…” Fortunately, that is correct. The story Martin set out to tell in Feast was too big to fit in just one book, so he divided it into two. Dance tells the rest of the story, although like all of the other books in the series, it ends with more loose ends than knots.
In Dance, the game of thrones is far from over, and it has become clear that the game is not worth winning (though losing is much worse). Only one of the original claimants in the “War of Five Kings” still lives, but new contenders keep popping up. The fight for control of Westeros has become a world war, with new fronts opening up north of the Wall and across the Narrow Sea.
Martin’s great strength is his ability to flesh out all of his characters by regularly shifting point of view. Cersei Lannister, in particular, begins the saga as a calculating ice queen, but is startlingly human in Feast and Dance. Like the real world, Westeros contains no heroes or villains, just people whose mistakes cause unintended suffering.