Valar morghulis! A Dance With Dragons, the long-awaited fifth book in George R.R. Martin's "A Song of Ice and Fire" saga, has finally arrived. Vulture's resident expert and superfan will be recapping the new novel, approximately 100 pages at a time. As with TV recaps, these book recaps will provide chapter summaries and commentary: Meaning, they will contain spoilers. If you haven't gotten to the part of the book being recapped — what, you couldn't stay up all night reading? — come back to the recap when you're caught up. If you have stayed up all night and are way ahead of us, be patient, we'll get there. As always, please share your corrections, thoughts, theories, reactions, and love of Daenerys in the comments — though, for anyone who has read further along, please don't spoil what's to come.
This recap covers chapters 48 to 53, pages 618 to 699.
“A pair of dwarfs, well trained for your amusement. Dog and pig included in lot. The dwarfs ride them. Delight the guests at your next feast or use them for a folly."
Craigslist it ain't — instead we're at an auction block in Slaver's Bay. Tyrion, in a shocking breach of slave auction protocol, hilariously bids for himself:
“I joust, I sing, I say amusing things. I’ll fuck your wife and make her scream. Or your enemy’s wife if you prefer, what better way to shame him? I’m murder with a crossbow, and men three times my size quail and tremble when we meet across a cyvasse table. I have even been known to cook from time to time. I bid ten thousand silvers for myself! I’m good for it, I am, I am. My father told me I must always pay my debts.”
In the end, they go to one of the Wise Masters of Yunkai. Tyrion gets Mormont (who, if you'll remember, was exiled from Westeros for selling others into slavery) included in the package. They join a freak show that includes a bearded woman, a goat-legged boy, a two-headed girl, and a hermaphrodite named Sweets.
Ben Brown Plumm, newly defected from Daenrys's service, shows up, and Tyrion susses him out in five seconds:
The faithful retainer, Tyrion decided. Every man’s favorite nuncle, full of chuckles and old sayings and roughspun wisdom. It was all sham. Those smiles never touched Plumm’s eyes, where greed hid behind a veil of caution. Hungry, but wary, this one.
And, as the gods laugh, Tyrion and Penny are heading for the Great Pit of Daznak in Meereen. Dany will surely be in attendence?
Hi, Jamie! He's off to play peacemaker between two of House Tully's former bannermen, the Brackens and the Blackwoods.
First, he interrupts Jonos Bracken in flagrante delicto:
“You took me unawares, my lord. I was not told of your coming.”
“And I seem to have prevented yours.”
(The Blackfish, we learn, is still on the loose. As commenter lizlemon noted, he could be the one killing people in Winterfell.)
Westeros seems to be full of these Hatfield/McCoy-level feuds between families. Jamie settles the siege with offhand aplomb (“Is this where I get down on my knees?” “If it please you. Or we can say you did.”) and, in a passage I think is supposed to be important, discusses the wages of violence with a bookish Blackwood son:
"As long as men remember the wrongs done to their forebears, no peace will ever last. So we go on century after century, with us hating the Brackens and them hating us. My father says there will never be an end to it.”
“There could be.”
“How, my lord? The old wounds never heal, my father says.”
“My father had a saying too. Never wound a foe when you can kill him. Dead men don’t claim vengeance.”
Their sons do,” said Hoster, apologetically.
“Not if you kill the sons as well. Ask the Casterlys about that if you doubt me. Ask Lord and Lady Tarbeck, or the Reynes of Castamere. Ask the Prince of Dragonstone.”
And then BAM! Brienne, last seen about to be hanged and uttering a mysterious word, rides up. Hi, Brienne! And she's lying to Jamie: She says she's found Sansa, or maybe Arya, and the Hound is threatening to kill her. We know those are not true. Presumably she wants to take him to Stoneheart/Catelyn? Will Jamie take the bait? Dun dun DUN!
Back at the Wall, it's a wedding, and we know those always turn out well. Alys Karstarck is about to become Mrs. Magnar of Thenn (or maybe Alys Karstark-Thenn).
Meanwhile, Melisandre is getting some very creepy vibes from Patchface: “That creature is dangerous. Many a time I have glimpsed him in my flames. Sometimes there are skulls about him, and his lips are red with blood.” She warns Jon, too, of "daggers in the dark," and tells him to keep Ghost nearby. The wedding feast passes, amazingly, without bloodshed. Two horns sound: Val's back with Tormund Giantsbane.
Another wedding party. Surely we can't have two in a row without some kind of violence. Watching the slavers celebrate her vows, Daenerys goes into a shame spiral: "How did this happen, that I am drinking and smiling with men I’d sooner flay?" Easy there, Roose Bolton. Actually, please proceed: A little Bolton-style flaying might be just the ticket to eradicate the simpering idiot that Dany has become.
The new king is obviously an idiot; Dany, who gives up hostages including Daario and Jhogo for peace, is getting played. But we knew that like 500 pages ago. Lackluster wedding sex ... And scene.
... is "Theon" again, in both the chapter header and self-esteem sense. Things are Falling Apart at Winterfell. "Abel" and his foxy commandos are busting out "Arya" Stark. But first, another murder. It's 9-year-old Little Walder, "butchered like a hog and shoved beneath a snowbank."
The usual suspects, plus cousin "Big" Walder. Lord Manderly offers up the best line of the book so far:
“So young. Though mayhaps this was a blessing. Had he lived, he would have grown up to be a Frey.”
Violence ensues; Manderly gets "three of four" chins slashed open by Hosteen Frey, though presumably it's the fourth one that really counts. Roose Bolton, trying to maintain order, sends the men out to fight Stannis in the snows; Abel uses the chaos to initiate his escape plan.
When Theon and the spearwives get to her room, it becomes clear that Jeyne "Arya" Poole has been thoroughly brainwashed by Ramsay's barbarity, much as Theon once was:
Jeyne pulled her wolfskins up to her chin. “No. This is some trick. It’s him, it’s my my lord, my sweet lord, he sent you, this is just some test to make sure that I love him. I do, I do, I love him more than anything.” A tear ran down her cheek. “Tell him, you tell him. I’ll do what he wants whatever he wants with him or or with the dog or please he doesn’t need to cut my feet off, I won’t try to run away, not ever, I’ll give him sons, I swear it, I swear it ”
Rowan whistled softly. “Gods curse the man.”
“I’m a good girl,” Jeyne whimpered. “They trained me.”
Then comes an extremely tense and thoroughly kick-ass action scene that ends with Theon and Jayne Pool leaping from the castle walls into the snow as crossbow bolts fly around them. To be continued ...
I think it's safe to say this is the Daenarys post that every single person reading these books has been waiting for. SHE FINALLY RIDES THE DAMN DRAGON.
It's the grand reopening of the fighting pits, and Dany attends with her new husband. Strong Belwas eats some poisoned locusts (perhaps meant for Daenerys, courtesy of Hizdahr?). Some dwarfs — it's Tyrion and Penny! — are spared by the merciful queen. Nauseated by the needless slaughter, she goes to leave, and then WHAM:
Above them all the dragon turned, dark against the sun. His scales were black, his eyes and horns and spinal plates blood red. Ever the largest of her three, in the wild Drogon had grown larger still. His wings stretched twenty feet from tip to tip, black as jet. He flapped them once as he swept back above the sands, and the sound was like a clap of thunder. The boar raised his head, snorting and flame engulfed him, black fire shot with red. Dany felt the wash of heat thirty feet away. The beast’s dying scream sounded almost human. Drogon landed on the carcass and sank his claws into the smoking flesh. As he began to feed, he made no distinction between Barsena and the boar.
(Some idiot with a spear tries to attack Drogon, and "Dany and Drogon screamed as one." Dany the Warg?)
As Selmy tries to be a hero ("Try me. Over here. Me!”), Dany brandishes a whip, Drogon submits, and she climbs aboard.
She could feel the heat of him between her thighs. Her heart felt as if it were about to burst. Yes, she thought, yes, now, now, do it, do it, take me, take me, FLY!
That triumphant screaming noise you hear is ten thousand "ASOIAF" fans cheering in a giant nerdgasm, as Daenerys's bullshit story line is forgotten and we finally get what we were promised. Dany + Drogon the Dragon = the Awesome.