Tyrion surfaces in Pentos of all places and is with Magister Illyrio. This might make us go back to the first book and look through the chapter where Arya accidentally overhears a disturbing conversation. Did she perchance hear Illyrio and Varys talking in the dungeons? We finally know the secret goal towards which Varys has been working so long; to reinstate Rheagar Targeryan’s son Aegon who was spirited away during the rebellion and brought up Jon Connington who was his father’s dear friend. Tyrion travels with Aegon and advices him to forge his own way towards the iron throne rather than depend on Danearys and her dragons.
Danearys Targeryan is struggling to rule over Meereen, a slave city that she has conquered. Her dragons are now fully grown but she has no clue about how to control them. Drogon has flown the coop while she holds her other two dragons in the fighting pits. Stuck with her decision to rule over the slave city that she has captured, Danearys is looking a bit clueless. And she falls in love with a sellsword but gets married to another man in a bid to bring peace to the city.
Sometimes I wonder if she has taken out a matrimonial ad in some newspaper in Westeros, because of the number of suitors who are on their way to her. We have Victarion Greyjoy enroute to her armed with a horn that can supposedly control dragons, Euron Greyjoy wants to marry her to claim the iron throne, Quentyn Martell travels all the way from Dorne, only to find her married to Hizdhar.
In the seven kingdoms, the war is moving onto the next phase. Stannis is garnering the support of the Northern men in the wall while Roose Bolton wants to solidify his hold on Winterfell by marrying his son Ramsey to ‘Arya Stark’ (Jeyne Poole). Theon’s chapters were very pitiful and you do feel sorry for this misguided youth. Ramsey’s wedding happens and like other weddings in the series, is not without bloodshed. Freys have literally become sitting ducks for all northmen who are out to revenge them for the red wedding and many of them are put to sword in the Godswood.
The onion knight comes back in this book thankfully alive and is commissioned by Wylis Manderly to find Rickon Stark who has apparently journeyed with Osha to a cannibal island.
In the meanwhile Jon Snow is the Lord Commander of the wall. Trying desperately to hold the wall against the white walkers, he allows the wildings to cross the wall amidst much hostility from his own brothers.
In King’s Landing, Cersai and Margery are imprisoned for their infidelities and Kevan Lannister is back trying to right the wrongs of his niece. Cersai confesses to all her lesser sins and is asked to do the walk of penance; a chapter that would have us pitying her. But her trial is far from over and she has a new champion Ser Robert Strong (who could be the Gregor Clegane in a frankeinstein avatar).
Arya in the meanwhile is at Bravos learning to be a faceless assassin. She dons many roles and also realizes that she is a skin changer with the ability to connect with her long-lost direwolf, Nymeria. She manages to kill a stranger and pass her test.
Bran has reached his destination and is able to connect with the trees and move in time through past, present and future.
Brienne and Jaimie Lannister are still missing. We still don’t know what happened with them? And nor does Lady Stoneheart make an appearance here. Danearys flies off on Drogon while Quentyn Martell tries to make off with the remaining dragons. For a moment I wondered whether Danearys and Drogon have gone to Westros to claim the throne, but no they are back at the Dothraki sea. Will she ever cross the real sea and go to Westros?
There are many cliffhangers in this novel. What is Jon Snow’s fate? What will happen to Theon and Asha? When will Arya finish her training and come back to take revenge? What’s Lady Stoneheart doing? Will she ever get a chance to take revenge on the real culprits, Boltens, Cersai and Little Finger? Sansa’s fate again hangs in balance though she doesn’t make an appearance in this novel.
The list of mysteries, resurrections, mysterious past has increased steadily with each book. Who are Jon Snow’s real parents? Are Jaimie and Cersai’s progeny of the mad king? Who is the Azhor Ahai reborn? Is it Stannis, Danearys or Jon Snow? I could go on and on… So let’s just –