A Dance with Dragons

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A Dance with Dragons
Author George R. R. Martin
Country United States
Language English
Series A Song of Ice and Fire
Genre(s) Fantasy Novel
Publisher Voyager Books (UK) & Spectra Books (USA)
Released July, 17, 2011
Cover Artist Larry Rostant
Media Type Print (Hardcover), E-book, Audio Book
Pages 1040 pp (US Hardcover)
ISBN ISBN 0-553-80147-3 (978-0553801477)
Preceded by A Feast for Crows
Followed by The Winds of Winter (forthcoming)
Purchase A Dance with Dragons

A Dance with Dragons is the fifth of seven planned novels in the epic fantasy series A Song of Ice and Fire by American author George R. R. Martin. Despite original predictions of possible completion in late 2006, the novel was released on July 12, 2011. Martin officially finished the book April 27, 2011 by delivering the 1,500+ page manuscript into the hands of book editor Anne Groell while completing it at her office in New York City.[1]

"The Dance of the Dragons" is the name given to a civil war in the prior history of Westeros, leading to much speculation that the novel would feature the long-awaited invasion of Westeros by the army of Daenerys Targaryen. However, at ComicCon 2006, Martin said that is not necessarily what the title is referring to.[2]

A Dance of Dragons was originally the title of the second novel in the sequence, when Martin still envisaged the series as a trilogy. Some early US editions of A Game of Thrones list A Dance of Dragons as the forthcoming second volume in the series. It was also the original planned title for the fourth novel.

Much as A Storm of Swords was divided in the UK Mass Market Paperback editions into Steel and Snow and Blood and Gold, so it was announced that those of A Dance With Dragons would also be published in two volumes, named Dreams and Dust[3] and After the Feast.[4]

Plot summary

A Dance with Dragons is set in a fictitious world reminiscent of medieval Europe (primarily on a continent called Westeros), except for the fact that in this world, seasons can last for years, occasionally decades.

A Dance with Dragons picks up where A Storm of Swords leaves off and runs simultaneously with events in A Feast for Crows. The War of the Five Kings seems to be winding down. In the north, King Stannis Baratheon has installed himself at the Wall and vowed to win the support of the northmen to continue his struggle to claim the Iron Throne, although this is complicated by the fact that much of the west coast is under occupation by the ironborn. On the Wall itself Jon Snow has been elected the 998th Lord Commander of the Night's Watch, but has enemies both in the Watch and beyond the Wall. Tyrion Lannister has been taken by ship across the narrow sea to Pentos, but his eventual goals are unknown even to him. On Slaver's Bay, Daenerys Targaryen has conquered the city of Meereen, and has decided to stay and rule the city, honing her skills of leadership which will be needed when she travels on to Westeros. Daenerys's presence is now known to many in Westeros, and from the Iron Islands and Dorne, from Oldtown and the Free Cities, emissaries are on their way to find her and use her cause for their own ends...

A Dance with Dragons takes place in the year 300 AC, and partly runs simultaneously with A Feast for Crows, but continues on longer into the year 300 than the previous book did.


The tale is told through the eyes of sixteen POV characters and, as with previous volumes, a one-off prologue and epilogue POV.


In the North

Jon Snow, Lord Commander of the Night's Watch, is beset on all sides by threats and danger. King Stannis Baratheon wants land and waycastles belonging to the Watch, which he means to hand out as fiefs to his most loyal supporters. The Others are continuing to mass beyond the Wall. Mance Rayder's wildling host, leaderless and smashed by Stannis during the events of A Storm of Swords, still numbers in the thousands, and Jon sees every wildling represents another wight the Others can send against the Wall. To this end he takes great pains to court the wildlings, winning them over to his side and uniting them with the Watch against their common foe. In doing so, however, Jon loses the support of many of his sworn brothers. Shortly after shepherding a large wilding host through the Wall, he is stabbed by several members of the Night's Watch, his last chapter ending with him falling unconscious. Melisandre, meanwhile, burns Rattleshirt disguised as Mance Rayder under a glamor, while Mance secretly lives on disguised as Rattleshirt. Melisandre reveals to Jon Snow that a grey girl on a dying horse, whom she interprets to be Arya Stark, is coming up the kingsroad to seek asylum, and with Jon's permission dispatches Mance and several spearwives to rescue her. The girl is revealed to actually be Alys Karstark, fleeing the manipulations of her relatives in light of her father's death. After taking Jon's advice Stannis is able to seize Deepwood Motte with the allegiance of the hill folk, the Karstarks, the Glovers and Mormonts, and half of the Umbers. He then moves against Ramsay Bolton, who has taken up seat in the ruins of Winterfell with the other half of the northern bannermen. At last report—a gloating letter in Ramsay's handwriting to Jon Snow—Stannis's host was smashed and the king slain.

Lord Davos Seaworth has been sent to treat with Wyman Manderly. Lord of White Harbor, in the hopes of bringing him to Stannis's cause.[5] He finds the Merman's Court infested with Freys, who claims that Manderly's older son Wylis was slain by Robb Stark at the Red Wedding, and Wyman yields to their insistence that Davos be imprisoned. However, Davos continues to narrate long after the chronological moment when the queen received word of his death; he is being kept in genteel imprisonment in the Wolf's Den and is eventually freed by Robett Glover, who has joined Lord Manderly in presenting a friendly face to the Freys whilst secretly plotting their downfall, especially now that Cersei has released Wendel. Wyman introduces Davos to an ironborn squire, Wex Pyke, formerly in service to Theon Greyjoy, who survived the sack of Winterfell by hiding up a tree and observed six survivors—Bran Stark, Jojen and Meera Reed, Rickon Stark, Osha, and Hodor—fleeing the ruins. Davos is commissioned to retrieve Rickon from the island of Skagos; should he succeed, House Manderly and its vassals will join Stannis's cause.

Asha Greyjoy, lately fled the Iron Islands after her unsuccessful bid at the kingsmoot which saw her uncle Euron crowned, sleeps with Qarl the Maid at Deepwood Motte. She is captured after Stannis's assault on Deepwood, however, and taken with Stannis's host during their march on Winterfell. A fierce blizzard slows their progress and Stannis halts his march at a crofters' village.

Meanwhile, a creature now known as "Reek"—once Theon Greyjoy, before Ramsay tortured and psychologically abused him into adopting his new identity—is released by Ramsay to convince the ironborn-held Moat Cailin to surrender, thus allowing Lord Roose Bolton, a contingent of Freys, and those northerners who escaped the Red Wedding to return home. With them comes Ramsay's new bride, a girl calling herself "Arya Stark." Recognizing her as Jeyne Poole, daughter of Winterfell's former steward, Reek warns her to adopt her new identity lest Ramsay be displeased with her. The bard Abel and his washerwomen take some interest in Reek: unknown to him, these are Mance Rayder and his spearwives in disguise. Several of Roose's supporters mysteriously died at Winterfell, and Theon begins to regain his identity. The spearwives help Theon smuggle Jeyne out of the castle, and eventually the pair reach Stannis's host, where the narrative leaves them. Ramsay's letter to Jon mentions that he wants his wife and Reek back, suggesting that they at least were able to escape the slaughter.

Across the Narrow Sea

Daenerys Targaryen, Queen of Meereen, finds the crown lying uneasy on her head. Though she rules Meereen, the Sons of the Harpy pick off her men when they can in a so-called shadow war. Many Meereenese citizens resent the new order of things, and a number of other cities eventually take up arms against her, as the slave trade she abolished is one of the cornerstones of the economy of the region. She has no idea how to tame her dragons, which are ranging far and wide and eating whatever they feel like... including children. Danerys is visited by Quaithe, who warns her of the others descending on her: "Soon comes the pale mare, and after her the others. Kraken and dark flame, lion and griffin, the sun's son and the mummer's dragon."

The lion, Tyrion Lannister, lately fled the Seven Kingdoms and accusations of regicide and kinslaying, is smuggled to Pentos with the help of Varys and left in the care of Illyrio Mopatis, supporter of Daenerys. Tyrion decides to offer his services to her, and he makes the journey in the company of a tall taciturn knight, Griff, and his son, Young Griff. Tyrion takes note of the care with which Young Griff is tutored, as well as his coloring, and deduces that the boy is actually Aegon Targaryen, long-believed-dead son of Prince Rhaegar Targaryen and Elia of Dorne; his "father" Griff is actually Lord Jon Connington of Griffin's Roost. Whilst at the town of Selhorys, Tyrion is waylaid by Penny, a dwarf woman who was hired to be entertainment at King Joffrey Baratheon's royal wedding and whose brother and performing partner was killed in Cersei's purge, and then by Ser Jorah Mormont, who kidnaps him as a prize to win his way back into Daenerys's graces. Unfortunately the Selaesori Qhoran, the ship Mormont hires to take them to Volantis, is waylaid by slavers, and he, Tyrion, and Penny are sold at markets in the shadow of Meereen, claiming to be an entertainment act. From there, Tyrion sneaks his way to the camp of the Second Sons, led by Brown Ben Plumm, and Tyrion pledges his sword to them as another step in getting closer to Daenerys.

The kraken, Victarion Greyjoy, Lord Captain of the Iron Fleet, sails his forces east towards Meereen. Victarion has been given possession of Euron's dragon-binding horn. He also comes across a red priest, Moqorro (who was last seen on Tyrion's ship, being washed overboard not long before the slavers attacked). Moqorro brings Victarion to believe in R'hllor, the Lord of Light, by demonstrating his power, and he claims to know how to use the dragon horn safely. Victarion's men call the priest the "Black Flame" after "Moqorro" proves too difficult for them to pronounce.

Prince Quentyn Martell, eldest son of Prince Doran Martell of Sunspear, is traveling east as well. He has a parchment signed by Ser Willem Darry many years ago, establishing that his elder sister Arianne Martell is to wed Prince Viserys Targaryen when he comes of age; it is Prince Doran's wish that Quentyn and Daenerys stand in place of their deceased elder siblings in this matter. He arrives too late, finding Daenerys about to enter into a political marriage with a Meereenese noble, and Quentyn is left in a bad position when her new husband tries to have her poisoned—a tactic notorious to Quentyn's uncle Oberyn Martell. In a last-ditch effort to prove his worth, Quentyn visits Dany's two dragons, Viserion and Rhaegal, and attempts to tame them. He dies of his burns three days later.

Jon Connington and Prince Aegon never arrive at Meereen. They have hired the Golden Company, a group of sellswords founded by Westerosi exiles. Once in their company, Aegon shows that he has listened to Tyrion's counsel during their time together (despite Tyrion admonishing him to trust no one, "especially me"): he suggests attacking Westeros now, establishing a beachhead which Daenerys can later reinforce. Aegon too seeks Daenerys's hand, and is keenly aware that he must have something worthwhile to offer her besides his own bloodline as her nephew. The first conquest of the landing of the Golden Company is of Griffin's Roost, Connington's former seat, which is a relief to the exiled lord as he has contracted a terminal disease, greyscale, in his travels. Their main target is Storm's End, the siege of which Aegon proposes to lead himself.

Unlike the symbolism of Quaithe's other references, the "pale mare" is a literal horse, carrying a refugee from Astapor. He too brings a gift: plague; by coincidence or not, those who contract it are said to be "riding the pale mare." This bloody flux ravages not only the Meereenese but the armies of Yunkish slaves and sellsword companies drawn up to attack them (its advent allows Tyrion, Penny, and Jorah to escape their captivity, amongst other things). On the advice of her councilors, Daenerys marries Hizdahr zo Loraq, a leading noble who is able to pacify the Sons of the Harpy and broker a cease-fire between Meereen and her aggressors, which include Volantis, Qarth, and Yunkai; however, she gives in to her attraction to Daario Naharis before the ceremony. She also locks Viserion and Rhaegal away to keep them from eating anyone, but is unable to capture Drogon, who escapes into the wild. As part of her wedding feast, Daenerys goes against her own wishes and allows the fighting pits of Meereen to reopen, and is present for the first pit fighting games... as is Drogon, drawn by the noise and chaos. Daenerys leaps into Drogon's back and the two fly away from Daznak's Pit, leaving Meereen largely in the hands of Ser Barristan Selmy, who takes over not only the rulership but narration. Barristan becomes convinced that Hizdahr was trying to poison Daenerys—a sweetmeat he offered her turned out to almost kill Strong Belwas when he ate them instead—and is able to organize a coup against Hizdahr. Barristan's attempts to re-broker a peace fail, and the war begins in earnest. The final chapter (aside from the epilogue) is Daenerys's, as she attempts to return on foot to Meereen from a hill in the southern reaches of the Dothraki sea, which Drogon has taken for his haunt, only to be encountered by the khalasar of Khal Jhaqo as the novel ends.

Assorted Others

A few chapters deal with the fate of a trainee in the House of Black and White, a girl formerly known as Arya Stark, currently blind. It is revealed that her blindness is yet another step in her training and is maintained by a potion she is given every night; she refuses an antidote, knowing that to yield is to be released from her training. After passing the blind portion of her regimen and successfully orchestrating the assassination of a hated insurance agent, she is officially advanced in her training.

Ser Jaime Lannister, the Kingslayer, travels to Raventree Hall, seat of Lord Tytos Blackwood, where the rival Lord Jonos Bracken commands the siege of Raventree. Tytos is the final bannerman of Robb Stark's still under arms, but he yields once presented with someone to surrender to with whom he has not had a lifelong feud. That night, Brienne of Tarth arrives at Jaime's campsite, claiming to have found Sansa Stark: "I can take you to her, ser... but you will need to come alone. Elsewise, the Hound will kill her." This is a falsehood, as it was revealed in A Feast for Crows that Brienne knows Arya was last seen alone at Saltpans, and that "the Hound" is dead and was buried by a source she trusts. Her motivation in this lie has yet to be explained. Presumably, however, given her actions at the end of A Feast for Crows, she is leading him to Lady Stoneheart.

Areo Hotah, captain of guards to Doran Martell, Prince of Dorne, observes the goings-on at Sunspear. Doran reveals to his late brother Oberyn's mistress, Ellaria Sand, and Oberyn's daughters Nymeria, Tyene and Obara Sand, that he has convinced Princess Myrcella Baratheon to lie about the events of Princess Arianne Martell's botched queenmaking attempt, in which the Kingsguard knight Ser Arys Oakheart was slain and Myrcella herself injured by Ser Gerold Dayne, called Darkstar. Since Myrcella lost an ear to him to begin with, she has agreed to claim that Darkstar slew Arys as well. Doran has also decided to deny Queen Cersei Lannister's request that his own son, Prince Trystane, return to King's Landing with Myrcella, as an ambush has been planned in Tyrion Lannister's name that would result in Trystane's death. Doran dispatches Nym and Tyene instead, one to take up his small council seat and the other to join the Great Sept of Baelor, thus giving him eyes and ears in the capital.

Cersei Lannister, the Queen Regent, continues her captivity at the Great Sept. After a period of enforced sleeplessness, she confesses to the High Septon on the charges of fornication and incest with Lancel, though not to adultery nor the slaying of King Robert. This gains her the right to receive visitors, particularly Ser Kevan Lannister, who reveals the news of Myrcella's injury and Ser Arys Oakheart's death in Dorne. Cersei is relieved: this allows her to name Qyburn's silent champion Ser Robert Strong to the Kingsguard in Oakheart's place, giving her a chance to win a trial by combat. Eventually she is released to the Red Keep to spend time with her son before her trial... but must walk the entire way naked and suffering the humiliation of the smallfolk.

The epilogue closes the novel with the viewpoint of Ser Kevan Lannister, the late Lord Tywin Lannister's staunchest supporter, and current regent in light of Cersei's judicial troubles. After supping with Cersei and King Tommen, and noting his niece's now-broken spirit, Kevan is called to Grand Maester Pycelle's quarters to receive a white raven from the Citadel at Oldtown, a traditional sign that winter has come. There Kevan finds Pycelle dead, and the regent is then himself assassinated by Varys for "threatening to undo all the queen's good work, to reconcile Highgarden and Casterly Rock, bind the Faith to your little king, unite the Seven Kingdoms under Tommen's rule." With Kevan dead, Varys claims, the way will be opened for Aegon to assume the throne.


Martin offered glimpses of the book at several times between 2005 and 2010.[6]

Published on his website:

Published promotionally by Bantam:[7][8]

Read at conventions and other events, perhaps incompletely:

Split in publication

Pre-publication split from A Feast for Crows

When the fourth novel in the series, A Feast for Crows, was published it was missing many of its key characters. This was because the book had gotten far too large to publish as one volume. Rather than simply split it in half and publish it as 'Part 1' and 'Part 2', Martin decided to split the book by character and location. This decision was apparently inspired by a conversation with Martin's friend and fellow writer Daniel Abraham. Thus, characters in the south of the Seven Kingdoms and in the new locations of the Iron Islands and Dorne appeared in A Feast for Crows. Characters in the North and across the sea were held back for A Dance with Dragons. Arya Stark and Asha Greyjoy will appear in both volumes.

Approximately one-third of the published A Dance with Dragons consists of material that had been written for the pre-split A Feast for Crows, although much of this has been rewritten by Martin. Martin also promised to try and include some 'catch-up' chapters at the end of the novel to reveal what happened to some of that novel's characters after the cliffhanger endings of A Feast for Crows, such as Sansa Stark, Brienne of Tarth, and Jaime and Cersei Lannister.

Post-publication split into Dreams and Dust and After the Feast

A second form of split occurred involving A Dance with Dragons; while the book has been originally published as a single volume in the middle of 2011, starting around March of 2012 many English language editions were designed as two volumes (a similar decision to that taken in A Storm of Swords. The first half of these split editions are subtitled Dreams and Dust, while the second half received the subtitle After the Feast, supposedly because they include chapters that happen chronologically after the end of A Feast for Crows.

Allusions/references to other works

On page 601, Arya passes by the Cult of Starry Wisdom. This organization originated in H. P. Lovecraft's short story "The Haunter of the Dark".


The English language editions of A Dance with Dragons are published by Random House in the United States (by way of their division, Bantam) and by Harper Voyager in the United Kingdom.

The book was first published in July 2011, as hardcovers from both Bantam and Harper Collins

  • ISBN 978-0553801477 (0-553-80147-3) - Bantam US Hardcover
  • ISBN 978-0002247399 - Harper Voyager UK Hardback

In March 2012, the first MMP (Mass Market Paperbacks) were published:

  • ISBN 978-0553841121 - International Mass Market Paperback (MMP), published by Bantam in 2012. Does not include preview chapter from The Winds of Winter.
  • ISBN 978-0006486114 - Harper Voyager UK MMP published in March 2012.

Other editions also exist:

  • ISBN 978-0007456376 - Harper Voyager Slipcase Hardback published in March 2012. This is a deluxe edition with a considerably smaller print run.
  • ISBN 978-0002247405 - Harper Voyager Paperback, published in April 2012.

The American MMP was greatly expected, both for financial considerations and due to a promise of a new sample chapter of The Winds of Winter:

  • ISBN 978-0553385953 - Trade paperback; initially expected for a 2012 release but has been pushed back to March 2013, then May 2013 and finally October 2013. This is a regular trade paperback, and therefore a bigger book than the MMP.
  • ISBN 978-0553582017 - US MMP, also expected for March 2013. Delayed to May 2013, then October 2013. A sample chapter from The Winds of Winter is promised for that edition.

References and Notes

This page uses content from the English Wikipedia. The original content was at A Dance with Dragons. The list of authors can be seen in the page history of A Dance with Dragons. As with A Wiki of Ice and Fire, the content of Wikipedia is available under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License.