It was good to get most of the gaps from Feast filled, although of course we are left with more questions than answers. I was very happy to see so much of Jon and Tyrion and Daenarys, and to finally see Dany riding her dragon. Far more genuine "OH MY GOD" moments than we had in the last book; I counted four in the first 150 pages alone (Theon is alive and disguised as Reek, the fake Arya Stark is Jeyne Poole, young prince Aegon is still alive, Jon executing Janos Slynt). So overall, a more satisfying reading experience than last time. Worth waiting six years for? I'm less sure about that. But still, I'm glad it's finally here.
Plenty of others back from the dead, but none as surprising as those I listed above. I have come not to trust offstage deaths, in part because so many of them have proven false, but also because it's just not dramatic enough to kill off a major character offstage. Hence my lack of surprise at seeing Davos alive, and Brienne (although that was a hell of a thread to leave unresolved), and is there any chance that "Ser Robert Strong" is anyone other than Gregor Clegane? No, I don't think there is. Also I am pretty sure that Coldhands is Benjen Stark, although that's not so much with the "alive". Clegane may be some sort of walking dead as well; maybe the muteness and the mask is just to hide his identity, but somehow I think there's more to it.
Also not dead: Stannis or Jon Snow. No way. This isn't affection talking, either; it's simple storytelling. Stannis wouldn't die that far offstage any more than Davos or Dany did, and Jon has far more story left to be told. People have survived worse than that attack in this series so far, and don't forget that we have a red priest at hand, in Melisandre.
Something I didn't think possible: GRRM getting me to feel sorry for Theon. I had no sympathy for him in Kings at all, not even when things started to go so wrong for him, but the way Ramsey tormented him, the way he was broken and used, I couldn't help it. His reunion with Asha was actually one of the most emotional moments in the book for me.
I wish we had gotten more resolution on Bran; he disappeared less than halfway through the book. Also Davos and his quest for Rickon (another OH MY GOD moment), and how the heck did Brienne survive, and what is Jaime up to, and is that gravedigger we met in Feast actually the Hound, and and and. Let's just say it had better not be another six years. If we don't get the answers to these questions and more until 2017, I might die.
More later, perhaps, when I've had some time to digest. I am happy to theorize about any or all of the above, or just randomly squee about the fact that this book exists and we finally got to read it. Share your thoughts, if you have them!
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