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 55 to 62, pages 717 to 813.
The queen is in religious jail getting enhanced-interrogated by a team of “pious and unyielding” gaoler septas. Can we talk about how crazy this is? It would be like the Vatican kidnapping Silvio Berlusconi and water-boarding him until he admits he likes to bang prostitutes.
Sleep deprivation is making Cersei even crazier than usual. So she does what all torture victims do — she says whatever her torturers want to hear: She committed adultery with Lancel and the Kettleblacks. However, she denies killing Robert, sleeping with Jamie, and conspiring against Margaery, and must therefore face a trial for “regicide, deicide, incest, and high treason,” which is quite a rap sheet.
Some vintage Cersei here:
“We have all been praying for Your Grace,” Septa Moelle said as they were climbing. “Yes,” Septa Scolera echoed, “and you must feel so much lighter now, clean and innocent as a maid on the morning of her wedding.
I fucked Jaime on the morning of my wedding, the queen recalled. “I do,” she said, “I feel reborn, as if a festering boil has been lanced and now at last I can begin to heal. I could almost fly.” She imagined how sweet it would be to slam an elbow into Septa Scolera’s face and send her careening down the spiral steps. If the gods were good the wrinkled old cunt might crash into Septa Unella and take her down with her.
“It is good to see you smiling again,” Scolera said.
Ser Kevan, her uncle, lays it out for her: She must give up all power and do a naked walk of shame through the streets of King’s Landing. She assents, but has a counter for him: The empty slot on the Kinsgaurd must be filled by Lord Qyburn’s monstrous creation unGregor, because the current roster is “as useless as nipples on a breastplate.” (And, presumably, because she needs a member of the Kingsguard who can successfully defend her in a trial by combat.) Let us page back to Bran’s vision way back in the first book: “giant in armor made of stone, but when he opened his visor, there was nothing inside but darkness and thick black blood.”
Barristan Selmy is still in Meereen after Daenerys’s departure, and shit is not going well. All of Dany’s closest advisers are sick, sidelined, or out searching for her, and the plague is spreading. Selmy, feeling his age (more like Barristan the Old, amiright?), is reminiscing about younger days when he was knighted by King Aegon (Egg from the Dunk and Egg stories!).
He could still recall the touch of King Aegon’s sword upon his shoulder, light as a maiden’s kiss. His words had caught in his throat when he spoke his vows. At the feast that night he had eaten ribs of wild boar, prepared the Dornish way with dragon peppers, so hot they burned his mouth. Forty-seven years, and the taste still lingered in his memory, yet he could not have said what he had supped on ten days ago if all seven kingdoms had depended on it.
Back in Meereen, he’s having himself a little pity party. I’m too old, I failed Daenerys, I failed Robert. He’s the last of the honorable men in a world with no honor, and we all know what happens to honorable men in GRRM’s world.
A side note: Why were there members of the Kingsguard watching over Lyanna Stark at the Tower of Joy, where there were no members of the royal family present? Well, Selmy tells us: “Some kings thought it right and proper to dispatch Kingsguard to serve and defend their wives and children, siblings, aunts, uncles, and cousins of greater and lesser degree, and occasionally even their lovers, mistresses, and bastards.”
R+L=J — the case is getting stronger all the time.
Selmy notes that in the difficult job of guarding kings and queens, there have been many men, some good, some bad. But in agreeing to pursue the Shavepate’s plot against Hizdah, he commits himself among the worst — those who play the game of thrones.
THE IRON SUITOR
Victarion Greyjoy is en route, like so many, to Meereen, doing some pirating on the way. Fifty-three ships are all that remain from his 99-ship armada, and to top it all off his fleet is infected with monkeys. (Haw-haw!)
He has a curious moral code, does our Victarion, not to mention the same younger brother insecurities as Stannis. (Birth order matters: It is known.) Superstitious as all hell, he sees taking slaves (or “thralls) as “right and proper” but finds selling them distateful: “men were not goats or fowl to be bought and sold for gold.”
Then there’s the unfortunate Maester Kerwin, who in between getting ass-raped by the crew gets to drain the pus from Victarion’s badly injured hand. But what does the day’s tide bring? None other than Moqorro, last seen getting swept overboard from Tyrion’s boat. After some mysterious mumbo-jumbo that sounded strangely similar to the attempted reincarnation of Khal Drogo, Victarion gets a new “charred and blackened hand,” and the maester gets killed as a sacrifice to R’hllor.
Moqorro had seen that in his fires. He had seen the wench wed too, but what of it? She would not be the first woman Victarion Greyjoy had made a widow.
Slave master Yezzan has the plague. Sadistic overseer Nurse has seemingly died from it, helped along by a few of Tyrion’s poison mushrooms (“The last word Nurse ever said was, ‘No.’ The last words he heard were, ‘A Lannister always pays his debts.’”)
From Tyrion, self-educated master of dragon lore, we learn why all those crossbows didn’t bring down Drogan: “eyes were where a dragon was most vulnerable. The eyes, and the brain behind them. Not the underbelly, as certain old tales would have it. The scales there were just as tough as those along a dragon’s back and flanks. And not down the gullet either. That was madness.”
Tyrion, the ever-more-annoying Penny, and Jorah are trying to talk their way into the Second Sons. Well, Tyrion does the talking. It’s his superpower.
… is having one of those prophetic dreams again. The Others are attacking, he’s killing his long-departed friends and family … and then he awakens. It’s “Accept Your Former Enemies Into the Realm Day,” and 4,000 wildlings led by Tormund Giantsbane are crossing over.
“Corn,” the bird said, and, “King,” and, “Snow, Jon Snow, Jon Snow.” That was queer. The bird had never said his full name before, as best Jon could recall.
Bran, is that you?
The dream also included a sword with a “blade that burned red in his fist,” which has to be Lightbringer, right?
The latest from stand-up comic Dolorous Edd:
“Place was overrun with rats when we moved in. The spearwives killed the nasty buggers. Now the place is overrun with spearwives. There’s days I want the rats back.”
As the wildlings cross over, we get a list of really great names. Does anyone do names better than GRRM? Soren Shieldbreaker, Gerrick Kingsblood, Raymun Redbeard, Harle the Huntsman, Harle the Handsome, Howd Wanderer, Brogg, Devyn Sealskinner, Kyleg of the Wooden Ear, Morna White Mask, the Great Walrus.
“The Great Walrus? Truly?” “They have queer names along the Frozen Shore.” Rim shot!
Tormund finally gives Jon, and us, some useful intel about the Others:
“They’re never far, you know. They won’t come out by day, not when that old sun’s shining, but don’t think that means they went away. Shadows never go away. Might be you don’t see them, but they’re always clinging to your heels.” “Did they trouble you on your way south?” “They never came in force, if that’s your meaning, but they were with us all the same, nibbling at our edges. We lost more outriders than I care to think about, and it was worth your life to fall behind or wander off. Every nightfall we’d ring our camps with fire. They don’t like fire much, and no mistake. When the snows came, though … snow and sleet and freezing rain, it’s bloody hard to find dry wood or get your kindling lit, and the cold … some nights our fires just seemed to shrivel up and die. Nights like that, you always find some dead come the morning.
A man can fight the dead, but when their masters come, when the white mists rise up … how do you fight a mist, crow? Shadows with teeth … air so cold it hurts to breathe, like a knife inside your chest … you do not know, you cannot know … can your sword cut cold?”
There’s a seeming typo that the Redditors decoded:
“You’re a good man, Tormund Giantsbabe. For a wildling.” Explanation: We learned in ASOS that Tormund was actually suckled by a giant; he never killed one.
Dire news from Cotter Pyke at Hardhome suggests the Others have an army, too: “Dead things in the wood. Dead things in the water. Six ships left, of the eleven that set sail.”
“Night Falls, he thought, and now my war begins.”
Say what you will about this book, but the chapter-ending kickers are freaking awesome.
THE DISCARDED KNIGHT
Back with Barristan, who is the odd man out now that Hizdahr the Magnificent is running the show, and running it badly. The forces who have Meereen under siege despite Dany’s “peace” decide to up the stakes by beheading poor Admiral Groleo, who had been one of the hostages. Selmy is unsure why they picked Groleo for death and — in a line that certainly seems to channel GRRM directly — admits: “I have no skill at unravelling such knots.”
Selmy tells Quentyn Martell to leave; Martell seems unlikely to take the advice. And scene.
THE SPURNED SUITOR
When Barristan the Bold tells you to throw in the towel, you should really listen. But nooooooo … Instead he decides to hire the Second Sons to help steal a dragon. This is going to end well. I wish there were more to say here, but there isn’t. So let’s move on to …
THE GRIFFIN REBORN
Man, it feels good to be back in Westeros, where the septas are strong, the bards are good-looking, and the exiled lords crushing on dead Targaryens are way gayer than average. Let’s examine Jon Connington’s giant man crush on Rhaegar:
Prince Rhaegar was returning from Dorne, and he and his escort had lingered here a fortnight. He was so young then, and I was younger. Boys, the both of us. At the welcoming feast, the prince had taken up his silver-stringed harp and played for them. A song of love and doom, Jon Connington recalled, and every woman in the hall was weeping when he put down the harp. Not the men, of course.
“Your father’s lands are beautiful,” Prince Rhaegar had said, standing right where Jon was standing now. And the boy he’d been had replied, “One day they will all be mine.” But his father and his father’s father had never lost their lands. He had. I rose too high, loved too hard, dared too much. I tried to grasp a star, overreached, and fell.
Translation: He wanted the glory of killing Robert Baratheon, he failed, and Robert then killed his BFF Rhaegar. GRRM had said that ADWD would have a gay POV character, and it certainly seems like Connington’s the one (also, maybe Areo Hotah).
The Golden Compay takes Griffin’s Roost with ease, and Connington — declining the prospect of marriage, owing to greyscale, non-hetero-ness, or both — sets his sights on Storm’s End next. Aegon arrives from camp where he had been kept safe. Connington notes that Rhaegar’s eyes “were a deep a purple, darker than this boy’s.” Hmmm.
Aegon drops a bomb: He’s going to lead this next battle himself.