WARNING: Spoilers ahead! Do not read if you haven’t read up to book 5 (A Dance with Dragons)
I have been a fan of the A Song of Ice and Fire series ever since I saw the first season of Game of Thrones on HBO, and devoured the first four books one after the other. However, I did not like the ending of book 4 (A Feast for Crows), and the reviews of book 5 (A Dance with Dragons) on Amazon weren’t very good, so I delayed reading it. But when the TV series restarted, I couldn’t resist anymore, and finally read A Dance with Dragons over the last week, finishing it last night.
So while the book is still fresh in my mind, I wanted to pen down some of my thoughts and predictions. It might be interesting to read these again when the remaining books in the series are released, currently expected in 2014 and 2017. The following are not in any intentional order:
Overall, I liked A Dance with Dragons more than I expected. Maybe it was just a matter of lowered expectations from the Amazon reviews I had read which were not very positive, or A Feast for Crows (book 4) was just so much worse in comparison, but I enjoyed this one quite a lot. The build-up across the various subplots was good as usual, and the “action” wasn’t concentrated only at the end. A Storm of Swords (book 3) remains my favorite though.
I was surprised how much I had forgotten from the previous books. For instance, I had completely forgotten the details around Cersei’s imprisonment and Joffrey’s death. I need to re-read A Storm of Swords :)
I can’t believe Jon Snow dies (unless GRR Martin brings him back similar to what he did with Catelyn Stark). Jon had become one of my favorite characters, and I was sort of hoping that he would become the eventual king across the realms. I am still sad about it :(
I loved the dilemmas that Daenerys faces as she tries to become a just queen. Does she choose the kind path, or the tactical one? What is the right thing to do anyway? If letting thousands die may lead to saving tens of thousands in the future, is it wrong to choose to do so? Should she always choose what is best for her current subjects? Or should she consider the people of the whole world as her subjects, since she is rightful heir of the seven kingdoms by birth and the queen of Meereen by victory? Even if her principles cannot tolerate the slave fighting pits, should she open them to stop the murders by the sons of the Harpy every night? She needs her dragons to be strong if she wants to win back the seven kingdoms, but what if the dragons cannot be controlled? What if the price for her victory is that entire cities will be burnt and innocent people will be eaten by the dragons?
Bran and Arya’s stories seem to be going off in completely different and independent directions from the rest of the story. They are growing more powerful, and it’s obvious that their newfound powers will be useful later, but it’s unclear how.
But I think this is what might happen in the remaining books…
I had expected Jon and Daenerys to lead the two major upcoming wars, as suggested by the name A Song of Ice and Fire, but if Jon is dead, then it’s unclear who is intelligent and respected enough to lead the war against the white walkers. Melissandre is powerful, and men fear her, but she cannot be Lord Commander. Stannis is dead, atleast according Ramsay Bolton’s letter. And even if they come back, Aemon Targaryen is too old and no one respects Sam.
With Jon Snow dead, the Wall will fall apart. The wildlings and the black brothers never trusted each other and were living under the same roof in relative peace only because of Jon. With him dead, they will fight. And while they weaken each other, and leave the Wall unguarded, the white walkers will come and the Wall will fall. Melissandre will probably escape before that happens and join Bran and his group. Together they will likely go south-east to find Daenerys.
As prophecied by Qaithe, Daenerys must “go east before she can go west, and go north before she can go south”. Hence she is going to go east first, raise a Dothraki army and return to defeat the slaver cities. Jorah Mormont will return to her, and she will forgive his past treason. She will defeat the Yunkai and kill the slavers in Astapor and the other slave cities. Braavos might join her fight, as it was built by escaped/freed slaves.
By the time the above is done, winter will have come. The white walkers would be all over the north and reaching south slowly, though news of this might not have reached the free cities. Melissandre and Bran will reach Daenerys before she sets sail to win the Iron Throne, and convince her that the real threat to humanity is from the white walkers. Daenerys, with Melissandre and Bran’s help, will bring her dragons’ fire to fight the ice of the white walkers and there will be an epic battle.
At this point, another big battle to win the Iron throne seems pointless compared to fighting the white walkers, so most likely the Iron throne would effectively fall on its own due to political infighting between the Tyrells and Cersei, and orchestrated by Varys. Cersei would plot and kill Mace Tyrell and potentially Margaery, but she would herself die, maybe even in the hands of Tyrion. I know Cersei is shown as contrite and broken at the end of A Dance with Dragons, but Kevan Lannister’s murder should bring her back to her usual self.
The most likely ending I can predict is with Daenerys and the Targaryens back at the Iron throne, Tyrion becoming the lord of Casterly rock, Bran and Arya going back to Winterfell, and the Free cities granted their independence by Daenerys in return for abolishing slavery.
The other major subplots that I did not touch have to do with Victarion and Jaime. I expect both of them to die. Victarion will probably die battling the Volantene fleet, which outnumber his ships 5-to-1 as of the end of book 5, while Jaime will probably die fighting the white walkers along with Brienne.
Having written all this, I hope I am wrong!. GRR Martin has impressed me with his twists and turns, and his willingness to kill off a character that his readers fall in love with. Everyone loves Daenerys, so her turning out as the eventual victor, might be a tad too predictable and what everyone is hoping. If the name of the series didn’t include ice and fire with the strong association to Daenerys for the fire part, I would have bet that she would have died as well. But since no one can really replace the mother of dragons, she remains my most likely candidate to defeat the ice. As a thought experiment, however, I will try to come up with an alternate, more surprising ending, in a different post.