5 of 5 stars *****
In a book that one expects completion or, at least, closure, A Dance with Dragons, instead, ends with more expectation and desire for the tying of loose ends. The only finality in this book is the same as it is in all of George R. R. Martin's Game of Thrones: A Song of Ice and Fire books, the deaths of well developed characters and the demise of kingdoms. The multiple plots unfold simultaneously in different regions of Westeros: The North, The South, and beyond The Wall where it is always cold, frequently snowing, and domain of the Wildlings, the uncivilized Free Folk.
The scope of this epic tale requires a time overlap between the fourth book, A Feast for Crows, and Martin's fifth book, A Dance with Dragons. Both books begin at the end of the third book, A Storm of Swords. The story is so vast that each book tells the tale of two geographical locations with all of its players and all of their intrigue. This parallel continues midway through A Dance with Dragons before the saga resumes with mention of characters from all regions. The maps in the beginning of this book give the mind's eye a reference to place readers into Martin's fantastic Medieval world.
George R. R. Martin is a student of history and admits to using the Wars of the Roses, circa 5th century, as an inspiration for his A Song of Ice and Fire series. Certain characters and events are similar to the dynasties who battle one another during this time period. Those battles are historically won and lost between the Yorks and the Lancasters for the throne of England.
A major and memorable event in the Game of Thrones is the Red Wedding which occurs in this author's imagination and resembles the blood bath that occurs in Scottish history under similar trusts and betrayals. Further connections to reality involve the Wildlings, who are examples of the Scots, the Gaelic people who migrated from Ireland to Scotland in the late 5th century. The Romans built Hadrian's Wall to keep the uncivilized people in the north from coming south. That wall represents the huge wall of ice guarded by the Night's Watch at Castle Black to prevent the Wildlings from migrating south. The Queen across the Water, Daenerys Targaryen, Khaleesi, Daenerys Stormborn, the Unburnt Mother of Dragons, among other names, is said to be a cross between Joan of Arc and Cleopatra.
A Dance with Dragons releases in 2011 with a promise from its author for an additional book in this series, The Winds of Winter.