Like Sands in the Hourglass, These are the Games of our Thrones ...

"You know nothing, Jon Snow" (Kit Harington)

Jon Snow. His character showed the most growth. He had to contend with King Stannis, his Red Witch Melisandre, and his Queen and her court while simultaneously trying to breach a peace with the Wildlings. A decision that was most unpopular with his men of the Night's Watch, Jon let the Wildlings not only cross to their side of The Wall, but allowed some to don the black cloaks of the Night's Watch. Heresy. Jon understands that the old prejudices must be set aside if they are truly going to survive the winter that is coming, and the Others and otherworldly threats that lurk beyond the Wall. At the same time, he can't seem to let go of his allegiance to his old home of Winterfell, and a decision to try and defend the castle opens the door for his men to pull a Caesar-style execution move. Or did they? Cue Melisandre and the Lord of Light's magic in 3,2,1 ...

Those are the three central characters of the narrative at the moment, but there was a lot more going on as well, with Arya, and Bran, and Asha Greyjoy, but most especially with Reek, now back to calling himself Theon. Theon has become a fascinating character, one which I never expected to sympathize with. When we first meet him in A Game of Thrones he was clearly a callow youth. Some might even have called him a jerk. It comes as no surprise (except to the Starks) that he became Theon Turncloak. But Martin threw Theon and his readers for a loop when he introduced an even more vile character in the form of Ramsay Snow, the Bastard of Bolton. Ramsay tortured, castrated, and mutilated Theon, turning him into the sniveling Reek. The unpleasant Reek gave us a view into Ramsay and his father Roose Bolton's doings (much like his sister Asha functions to show us what Stannis and his army are up to). But once Ramsay takes Winterfell in A Dance with Dragons, Reek slowly transforms back into Theon. His memories of his childhood there and his vists to the weirwood tree (and possible coaching from greenseer Bran) restore, at least mentally, his manhood. A character I used to loathe reading about, Theon has become one of the most interesting characters in the series.

A Dance with Dragons visits King's Landing for just a few chapters, which may have worked better in A Feast for Crows, but why quibble? Cersei is as awful (and fun to read about) as ever. Her uncle Kevan had a slam-bang chapter of his own, which featured another favorite face from the past, Varys. But these brief visits are just previews of the next book, The Winds of Winter. And there, lies the rub, of course. Martin has such a way of making us interested in his characters, that one can't help but be frustrated when one nears the end of the massive tome and realizes that just ten more pages aren't going to reveal what happens next to Tyrion, Daenerys, or in a way-too-short tantalizing peek, Jaime and Brienne (!) So here we sit, hoping for scraps and previews that Martin is posting on his blog. And maybe rewatching select episodes of Game of Thrones until The Winds of Winter comes out. This year? Next year?

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