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Took my sweet time with A Song of Ice and Fire series and still caught up before Winds of Winter is out. Not sure if I possibly could have stretched the reading of A Dance with Dragons any more, reading a few chapters here and there was an exercise of great restraint. Now I join the ranks of readers wishing Mr. Martin had ten brains and twenty sets of typing fingers and no life outside his work all because each book stokes a greedy appetite for more.

A few of my friends have re-read the series a few times, but I only enjoy re-reading books after a few years have passed. Recently I settled for the next best thing and gifted A Game of Thrones to my sister with the condition that she has to talk to me about it as she goes.

A Dance with Dragons is book 5 in the series, following A Feast for Crows. Books 4 and 5 run in tandem – book 4 is focused entirely on characters in the southern lands including King’s Landing and Dorne while book 5 concentrates on the northern kingdom and distant lands of Slaver’s Bay.

a dance with dragons

The thrill of reuniting with Jon Snow, the Wildlings, Stannis, Daenerys, Tyrion and creatures beyond the wall was short lived. Nobody is safe in Martin’s books and right away you feel the forces of winter pressing down.

Since most of these characters were absent from book 4, I assumed it’d be difficult at first to pick up most of the story lines because I sort of forgot where they left off. I should know better than to underestimate George Martin. The reading is seamless. Stannis still believes he is the one who will be king. Daenerys continues taking the long way home to claim her throne from the usurpers. And speaking of rightful rulers, we haven’t heard from Gendry in some time. I keep expecting George to put him back in play. At this point in the story the big question is less who will rule the seven kingdoms, more who will survive winter with dragons on the loose and undead creatures making their way south.

Bran’s story gets a whole lot more interesting now that he’s so far from home. And it’s a good thing as Winterfell is occupied by monsters intent on playing out a farce while ghosts pluck them off one by one.

Jon has the wall and makes the bold decision to allow the wildlings to take shelter south of it. These dodgy allies wear armor made of bones and leather, helmets carved from skulls, but they’re the least of his worries. Melisandre has her eyes on him for good reason. The north could be his, a bastard’s, if he stepped down from his post. And yet his deepest struggle is internal. He struggles to take Maester Aemon’s advice:

Kill the boy and let the man be born.

I’m steering clear of plot details to avoid spoilers. Let’s just say this book lives up to expectations. It’s my favorite of the series so far. Seeds planted in earlier books finally sprout, adding ever more depth and tension. Storms, prophetic riddles and green rulers learning what it is to have power when there are no good options. Unions form as many continue to play the game of thrones even as winter rolls in. Darkness comes to a boil half a world away. What more could a reader want?

The fight continues for Daenaerys as she once again earns her title as the Mother of Dragons.

When she laid the whip across Drogon’s right side he veered right, for a dragon’s first instinct is always to attack.

Best not to read about broken teeth, plagues and bloody betrayals on an empty stomach. This series continues to surprise and thrill. It’s a moving train and I like where it’s going, though the way is dark and bloody. Winds of Winter can’t come soon enough.

I have yet to meet anyone who doesn’t adore these books. To recommend them to a book lover is like saying the sun feels good. Have you read the series? Do you love it? Do you go to George Martin’s site and hug the computer, too?

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