Please forgive the length of this post.
I used the long weekend to finish up ADWD. I can see how Martin used the last two books to push and pull the characters into place for his finale. I found the books by turn compelling and maddening.
Based off info I have read on this board and others, I understand how filling in a part of the narrative he never originally intended to visit in such detail could have been grueling for the author.
However, as a reader, I have mixed feelings about the last two books. Certain POVs worked brilliantly, but others just left me scratching my head over their inclusion.
I would say that Quentyn wins my personal award for most pointless POV. I cannot think of anything contained in his chapters that could not have been brought out in some other way. We knew of his intent from Hotah’s chapters. The chapters of Dany and Barristan could have provided us with the rest of the info. Dany could have learned the purpose Dornish delegation and even their manner of arriving there. Barristan could have let the readers know that Quentyn loosed Rhaegal and Viseron, dying as result.
Some of Tyrion’s material did get a bit tiring. However, I do not recall becoming personally annoyed with his story until he ended up on that ship with Penny and Jorah. Perhaps Martin wanted to give everyone’s favorite imp an bit of humility, but it just came off as a tad contrived. Martin has never shied from piling coincidence upon coincidence, but Tyrion meeting back up with one of the dwarves from Joffrey’s wedding....It just screamed filler. Tyrion being kind to Penny tells us nothing new. The readers know that under Tyrion’s glib exterior is a good heart. The Tyrion and Jorah show would have been enough for me. (I did like the nod to what got Jorah exiled in the first place. He sold slaves. There was a great symmetry to him ending up one himself.)
Dany’s time in Meereen did allow her to grow as a person and a ruler, and I think she has learned some hard lessons. Even though she has never set foot there, she is a Westerosi at heart. She was trying to remake another land into Westeros and it won’t work. Perhaps she will stay with the Dothraki but I doubt it. The Dragon has three heads, and as just one beast, its heads need to be together. Her pale backside can only sit on one dragon, and even she notes that no Targeryn has ridden more than one dragon. That means that Rhaegal and Viseron need riders.
At first, I thought Aegon was a pretender, but now I am not so sure. Why would Varys want to put a fabulous fake on the throne? Most of what we have seen Varys do relates to him in some way scheming to put the descendents of Aerys on the throne. I don’t think he would put a fake on the throne ahead of Dany. I do not believe that Connington would be so fiercely loyal, unless he was sure he had his beloved Rhaegar’s son. Also, Keven recalls that baby Aegon’s face was smashed. You could not be sure...
As much as I love Arya, I found her chapters to be maddening. The house of black and white was intriguing, but...I just kept thinking – Your direwolf is in Westeros child. You are a Stark and a warg. You need to stop denying who you are and get your butt in gear.
I don’t think any of the current contenders for Azor Ahai fit the bill. Mel thinks it is Stannis and she is wrong. Aemon thought it was Dany and I think he was wrong. Rhaegar thought that the 3 headed dragon would be comprised of his 3 children and he was wrong. Prophecy has bitten them all in the butt cheeks and it makes me laugh. However, no one suspects Jon that we know of. Therefore, I say that Jon is the promised one.
Just like Dany’s chapters. Jon’s showed us a green youngster learning to wrestle with command and make some hard decisions and some massive mistakes. His advice to Stannis about the hill tribes was very astute. His marriage plot for Alys Karstark made me giggle. He gave his very distant cousin an army to stomp out her false family members and got rid of a dangerous Wildling band in one fell swoop. However, he did not learn from Mormont’s demise. He should have looked at his sworn brothers a little more closely. Taking the black did not confer sainthood on them, and he should have been more wary.
Wyman Manderly wins my favorite secret badass award. I love that the Freys went missing on the way to Winterfell. He is loyal fat man and pretty good at being sneaky. And his line about it being a good thing that the Frey boy was dead because he would only grow up to be a Frey had me hooting out loud. Even if he perishes at Winterfell he has laid good groundwork. One of the Glovers also knows that Bran and Rickon are alive as does Davos. The Stark children have great marks of authenticity. Who else in the seven kingdoms can waltz into a room with a direwolf loping at their heels?
Now for the speculation....
As it stands right now, I see the 3 heads being-
1. Dany – learning to rule
2. Aegon – groomed to rule since birth
3. Jon – learning to rule
I don’t know that Jon is dead. Yes his wounds appear grievous and possibly fatal but...We know that he received one slash at the neck that was not deep. One knife went into the torso, and one struck home in between his shoulder blades. The narrative states that he never felt the fourth. I assume from the text it is because he warged into Ghost. He was saying the wolf’s name. Perhaps he will survive the attack or perhaps Mel will revive him ala Cat and Beric.
If Jon is truly dead, then Martin spent a lot of time building him up for nothing. There has been this great mystery surrounding his parentage since book one. Plus, there have been hints of there being more to Jon’s story than him just being Ned’s bastard.
1. Ned promised Lyanna something that haunted him. (And I don’t count hauling her bones home as being “haunting.”)
2. When Ned is imprisoned he worries about Jon especially. (Granted that could be just because Ned was the only parent Jon had, but...I did not get that vibe.)
3. At the feast at Winterfell in book one, Benjen says something odd to Jon about wishing he had been Jon’s father. What in the world for other than Benjen being his father would have made things simpler?
4. When Mels asks the flames for Azor Ahai, she sees Jon.
5. Melisandre seems oddly attached to Jon. From the way Melisandre was treating Jon there at the end, Stannis would have been jealous if around. Plus, her flames kept showing her more and more about Jon.
5. Those Ravens know things. Mormont’s raven said King and Jon Snow.
6. Azor Ahai is supposed to battle the Others. Who else in the narrative is poised to do so?
Oh well, we shall see.
One more note – I hope they don’t kill Wun Wun.