‘A Dance with Dragons’ paints a new picture of George R. R. Martin’s world. It shows a world scarred by wars and death and betrayal. As its story overlaps that of its predecessor, it shows the ruins left behind by the conflicts in Westeros and Essos. When wars end, the scars of their existence become solidified in the minds of those who survive, and they become seeds that propagate the remnants of hatred left behind.
Power and Politics
Power and politics are primary themes in ‘A Dance with Dragons.’ The novel shows as its characters try to gain influence and control the nature of politics in their environment. From Slaver’s Bay to the wall, politics is the most crucial element of the story.
On the wall, the arrival of Stannis creates a politically tense atmosphere that begins to weaken the unity of the brothers of the Night’s Watch. Though Jon desperately tries to remain politically neutral, he finds himself drawn into the political sphere of the events happening in the North. His interactions with Stannis start creating a rift between him and his men.
As Jon tries to gain political leverage over the matters on the wall, he alienates himself from his men, who begin to feel that he is trying to become a power-seeking commander. The situation further deteriorates when Jon negotiates with Tormund Giantsbane. His interaction with the wildlings and his decision to become politically active in the affairs of the North lead to his men betraying him.
In Essos, Daenerys faces political antagonization from almost every city surrounding her. The cities Yunkai and Quarth and the Sons of the Harpy start resisting the new queen’s reign as she is an alien from a strange land.
Desperate to find solutions to the looming war and deaths perpetrated by the Sons of the Harpy, Daenerys begins forming allies. Her first ally becomes Hizdahr zo Loraq. She marries him to reduce the tension and gain political leverage, but her plan fails as Drogon attacks the city.
With Daenerys gone from Meereen, the political atmosphere tenses as Barristan Selmy becomes active in ensuring that the queen’s absence does not create more problems for an already struggling Meereen. Barristan’s rise to power after Daenerys’s disappearance becomes crucial in determining the fate of Meereen as it stays besieged by the cities out to invade it.
In King’s Landing, Cersei remains locked up in the sept. She realizes that her lust for power destroyed her and King’s Landing. As she walks naked to the Red Keep, she beholds how her terrible governance created hatred in the city.
Her uncle, Kevan, becomes the new lord reagent and realizes that King’s Landing is in ruins from the terrible decisions made by Cersei. He tries to start fixing Westeros by restoring unity. However, Varys reveals to him that the political instability in Westeros is a crucial element needed for the succession of the real king.
War is a crucial element in ‘A Dance with Dragons.’ After the War of the Five Kings ends, the ghost of its brutality haunts Westeros and creates a divide among the seven kingdoms. Though the conflict ends, more battles keep happening, and people keep losing their lives. Westeros becomes a shadow of its past, a skeleton of what was once a mighty continent.
As Westeros faces calamity, many parts of Essos get dragged into the conflict. The cities in Slaver’s Bay declare war on Meereen in resistance to Daenerys’s arrival. Yunkai amasses troops and goes to war with Astapor, overthrowing its king and bringing slavery back into the city. With its victory, it sets its eyes on Meereen and lays siege.
As a political war rages within Meereen, Yunkai prepares to take over and besieges the city. The conflict destroys the peace and propagates fear and hatred in Essos.
On the wall and beyond, the winds of war start spread. Jon realizes that the Others are amassing an army of wights to attack the realm of men. He decides to mitigate the number of people that get turned into wights by allowing the wildlings through the wall. However, his actions create a political rift. Jon pays by getting stabbed by his men.
Honor and Duty
Though ’A Dance of Dragons’ shows a brutal world filled with killing, betrayal, and dishonor, it brings some characters who show true strength and honor. Though Brienne got battered and injured on her journey to find Sansa and Arya, she kept her promise to Catelyn. Injured and wounded, she journeys to Jaime and begs him to assist her in finding Sansa, an act of bravery.
Kevan Lannister is a man who kept to his duty and acted with fairness and discipline. Though his niece, Cersei, destroyed the political stability of King’s Landing, he still tried to fix everything she broke. Kevan’s kindness, compassion, and strength made him display honor in a time of dishonor.
With the arrival of Stannis and the wildlings, Jon becomes a political figure on the wall. After rejecting an offer to be elevated to a Stark, he becomes the commander of the Night’s Watch. However, Jon realized that the Watch was not just a line of defense against the wildlings but was the last line of defense between the living and the dead. Realizing that the wildlings will die if left alone, he decides to let them in.
Faith and Religion
After getting imprisoned by the Faith Militant, Cersei realized that religion is a powerful tool that will spiral out of control if left unchecked. As the Faith’s power keeps increasing, the people of King’s Landing begin opening to religion. More men start joining the Faith Militant to save themselves from the terrors of the war.
The rise of the Faith Militants shows the effect of wars on people. As many wanted to feel safe and secure, they turned to the Faith seeking help. However, as it grew in power, it started becoming a hindrance to the governance of King’s Landing. Though the rise of the Faith helped people, it became a double-edged sword that hindered King’s Landing, leading to the deterioration of the unity of the seven kingdoms.
Analysis of Key Moments in A Dance with Dragons
- Tyrion reaches Pentos and meets Illyrio Mopatis, who tells him about Daenerys.
- In Meereen, the sons of the Harpy kill an Unsullied soldier. They begin killing and destroying the stability of the city. Daenerys also meets a delegation from Astapor begging for help against Yunkai. She learns that her dragons are causing havoc and decides to lock them away. Drogon escapes from the city before getting captured.
- Jon meets Stannis and tells him about sending Sam and Gilly to the Citadel. Melisandre warns him of enemies lurking in the shadows.
- Bran, Jojen, Meera, Coldhands, Hodor, and Summer continue their journey north. Coldhands reveals that he got sent by a greenseer to bring Bran.
- Illyrio smuggles Tyrion out of Pentos. In Volantis, Quentyn Martell finds a way to travel to Meereen to meet Daenerys. He joins a sellsword company heading for the city.
- Jon forces Gilly to give up her baby for Mance Rayder’s. He kills Janos for disobeying him. Tyrion is handed to Haldon and meets Young Griff and Griff on the Shy Maid.
- Melisandre burns Mance Rayder. In Meereen, the tension grows as more people die at the hands of the second sons. Daenerys also refuses to open the fighting pits of Meereen.
- Bran and his group get attacked by wights and meet a Child of the Forest. He later meets the three-eyed crow, who tells him he cannot fix his leg.
- Davos reaches White Harbor and meets Lord Wyman Manderly. He gets shocked to see the Freys, and Lord Manderly sentences him to death.
- Daenerys meets Xaro from Quarth and refuses to heed his request. He then sends a bloody glove declaring war on her.
- Jon meets Stannis and advises him to take over Deepwood Motte instead of Dreadfort. Melisandre decides to stay behind as Stannis marches to Deepwood Motte.
- The Shy Maid gets attacked by Stone Men, and Tyrion gets thrown into the water. It gets revealed that Young Griff is Aegon Targaryen, and Tyrion advises him to head to Westeros and use the instability in the region to lay claim to the throne. Theon (Reek) gets sent to Moat coaling by Ramsay to make the Victarion’s men surrender. Upon completing the mission, Ramsay humiliates him by making him his dog.
- Daenerys agrees to marry Hizdahr if the Sons of the Harpy stop the killings. Tyrion gets captured by Jorah Mormont after visiting a brothel. Asha gets caught by Stannis’s men after trying to escape.
- Jorah and Tyrion arrive in Volantis, where they meet Penny, a female dwarf who tried to kill Tyrion for her brother’s death. Together they take a ship for Meereen but get captured and turned into slaves.
- Davos meets Wyman Manderly, who tells him he had arranged for someone else to get killed in his stead to reduce suspicion from the Freys.
- Astapor falls to Yunkai, and people troop to Meereen, but Daenerys prevents them from entering because of the bloody flux. Yunkish ships arrive in Meereen and besiege the city. She gets betrothed to Hizdahr after the sons of the Harpy stop attacking people.
- Melisandre reveals to Jon that Mance Rayder is alive. Jon allows some wildlings to join the Watch, causing tension in the brotherhood. In Winterfell, Ramsay marries a fake Arya, who Theon recognizes as Jeyne Poole.
- Balon Swann arrives in Sunspear with Gregor Clegane’s head. The crown orders Myrcella to return to King’s Landing, and Doran sends Nymeria with her.
- Jon sends Val to meet Tormund Giantsbane, and he agrees to negotiate to allow his people through the wall. His decisions create dispute among the brothers if the Night’s Watch, and he gets stabbed.
- Tyrion tries to escape slavery but enters the camp of the Second Sons, who have defected from Meereen. He then negotiates to allow him and Jorah to become one of the Second Sons. He later decides to make the Second Sons change sides again.
- Some of Ramsay’s men start dying mysteriously, and Theon realizes that Abel’s washerwomen are the mastermind behind it. They convince him of their plan to rescue Arya from Winterfell, and he joins their cause which turns out to be successful.
- Stannis arrives in Deepwood Motte and successfully captures it. He takes Asha as a captive and marches to Winterfell. Three days away from the castle, Asha meets some riders who ran from Winterfell and realizes that one of them is Theon.
- In Braavos, Arya gets tasked with killing a man after receiving her sight. Her face gets changed, and she successfully poisons the target. She gets promoted to an Acolyte and becomes an apprentice under Izembaro.
- Quentyn meets Daenerys and asks for her hand in marriage, but she rejects his proposal. she marries Hizdahr and agrees to reopen the fighting pits. The noise from the pit attracts Drogon. She tries to stop him from causing havoc and flies away with him. Quentyn tries to steal Viserion, one of Daenerys’s chained dragons but gets killed. With Daenerys gone, Barristan Selmy begins conspiring against Hizdahr and tries to arrest him but learns that Daenerys’s dragons have been set free.
- Prince Aegon arrives in Westeros and begins taking over some castles. In King’s Landing, Cersei gets shaved, and she walks naked to the Red Keep. Meanwhile, Victarion learns from a red priest, Moqorro, that the horn Euron brought from Valyria cannot get blown by a mortal.
- Daenerys arrives at the Dothraki Sea with Drogon and tries returning home. She gets sick and hallucinates but later gets found by Khal Jhaqo.
- In King’s Landing, Kevan Lannister tries to repair the city after Cersei’s terrible rule. However, he meets Varys, who shoots him and kills maester Pycelle. He reveals to a dying Kevan that Aegon is the son of Rhaegar Targaryen.
Style, Tone, and Figurative Language of A Dance with Dragons
‘A Dance with Dragons’ has a similar tone to ‘A Feast for Crows’ as their stories overlap. However, it is more intense and agitating than its predecessor. It creates anticipation by showing the brooding conflict on the wall, Westeros, and Slaver’s Bay. The story uses a limited third-person perspective as it gets narrated from the views of the characters who experience the brutal and unforgiving nature of the world around them.
‘A Dance with Dragons’ uses figures of speech extensively. From metaphor to simile and personification, the presence of a well-defined figurative language structure adds depth to the story, making it relatable and realistic.
A Dance with Dragons Symbols
In ‘A Dance with Dragons,’ dragons symbolize fear, death, and power. As the dragons grew, their existence conjured fear in the hearts of everyone, even Daenerys. She realized that dragons were a force shrouded in mystery.
In the House of Black and White, faces are the perfect weapon for an assassin. Arya learned from the Kindly man that a face is a key to the soul as it defines a person’s personality. She realizes that the Faceless Men succeeded at their tasks because they understood the secret art of masking identity under a different face.
In ‘A Dance with Dragons,’ fire symbolizes power and strength. Melisandre was a priestess who discerned events by looking into the fire. She used fire as a channeling mechanism to talk to R’hllor and perform magic.
What are the primary themes in A Dance with Dragons?
The primary themes in ‘A Dance with Dragons’ are power, politics, and survival. Throughout the novel, the characters try to survive the brutal world. Power is an element in the story that becomes the foundation for most wars, and the story captures how power, politics, and survival combine to create conflict.
What happens to Theon in A Dance with Dragons?
After becoming Reek, Theon becomes a dog to Ramsay and gets humiliated by him. He gets tasked to help Ramsay’s new wife, Jeyne Poole, and later, he decides to join the washerwomen who planned on escaping Winterfell. He leaves the castle and travels with Jeyne to Stannis’s camp, where he meets his sister, Asha.
What happens to Daenerys’s dragons in A Dance with Dragons?
After becoming the queen of Meereen, Daenerys begins receiving complains about her dragons and decides to chain them up, except for Drogon, who flies away. When she re-opens the fighting pit, Drogon returns, and she leaves on him. Later, Viserion and Rhaegal free themselves from their chains and starts causing carnage in Meereen.
What are some hidden details in A Dance with Dragons?
First, Melisandre saw Bran and the three-eyed crow when she stared into her fire. Arya becomes a warg as she begins entering the body of cats. Ser Robert Strong is Gregor Clegane. Victarion meets with a Red Priest, who tells him about Dragonbinder, the hold he possessed.