The chewing through the reading list continues! I finished book 5 two weeks ago and I have some feelings about it. Note that below has spoilers. Many spoilers. Pushing through books 4 and 5 which were very long, we’re left with — guess what? A huge set of cliffhangers for most of the main characters: Tyrion and Bran excluded. Reek is alive, Asha is alive, Dany is alive and back where she started in book 1. Stannis, Boltons, Dario, Jon Snow, Cersei, Jamie we’re all at the cliff with these characters– at least the Dornish prince storyline came to an end as I was getting quite confused as to which characters were with Aegeon Targaren and Quinten Dorne–that all got really messy until finally one was dead and one was in Westeros attacking.
Finally after 5 books, we have the Targaren faction fighting in Westeros itself AND since there are now two Targarens, neither of them are safe from death. I always said that the one character that was truly immortal in the series was Dany because if she died the entire non-westeros storyline would have been for nothing at all. Now that Aegeon is around, she is no longer untouchable and that’s an improvement.
The thing about the series is that the stories we thought we were getting in the beginning are not the stories that are being told, it almost feels like a Naruto fight, where the fighting that takes a total of 5-6 attacks drags out over 6-8 episodes of character exposition in between hacks (hey! Exalted combat in cartoon form!). What’s more, in book 5 there are more characters that you just don’t care about than you do–it’s like once you saw that first Samwell chapter in book 2 or 3 you realized that anyone could have a chapter on them, and in 4 and 5 we are exposed to chapter after chapter about Reek and Brienne and various Ironborn and Samwell that just seems to move the cheese of the conflict from Dany and whoever is in charge of Westeros at the time to minor players, and in a way, getting in the way of the conflict in the shadows between Varys and Littlefinger. Even the Stark chapters, the cornerstone protagonists, have nothing whatsoever to do with the main plotline at the end of book 5 with the exception of the likely dead/not dead Jon Snow. That said I doubt we’ll have another Bran chapter (though he will have an effect in the north in other character’s chapters) and while Arya’s view of the riverlands and Bravos was interesting it is now a complete sideshow that will take almost incredible dues ex machina to get her back in. Tyrion– well that’s a tough one because like all Hobbits in fantasy novels, he has some key role to play in the eventual resolution of the big plot, but in Book 5 he was really just wandering around doing a whole lot of nothing– sort of just a witness to events and peoples outside of the main conflict.
Last but not least, the dragons are finally having a bigger part in the plot, but what was the dance if they stay chained up the whole time (well except at the end)? We have no resolution to the Ironborn/dragon horn plot and have to wait, like everything else, for the next book. In addition, some of the progress the series made with characters and their positions seems to have been reversed– the book 4 “fall of cersei” was essentially reversed at the end of book 5 with the death of Kevan–leaving yet again another power vacuum that she can fill. It’s almost like Martin has a vision of where the characters will all be when the main plot starts to actually roll out, and we just have to wait until all the pieces are in place for that to actually start and until then they just get whipped around the mullberry bushes.