Danerys-Queen of the freed slaves is also Queen of Mereen. She is in love with her captain, Daharis, but marries Hizdahr to enable a peace treaty. Her dragons have grown into monsters. One of them is loose and burning people to death. The other two are caged in a pit inside of the pyramid/castle of the city. The chains aren't holding up from their fire.
The day after her wedding, Danerys attends a show that involves death fights. Her dragon swoops in and ruins the event. The show involves all kinds of perspectives, including Tyrion's, but when seen through her eyes it suggests that she is tired of her "children"/dragons running amok. She tries to discipline the monster with a whip which kind of works. She mounts him like a horse and he flies away. Everyone thinks she is dead, but she lives on an island with her dragon. At the end of the book a tribe of Dothraki find her chowing down on a horse with her dragon.
After Danerys marries Hizdahr, another man comes into her life, the prince of Dorne. He wants to marry her and he, too, has ancestors from the Targaryen family. She rejects him but he doesn't leave the city. He refuses to believe that she is dead and then sets her dragons free, believing he can control them. He ends up dead, but now there are three dragons on the loose.
After Danerys leaves Mereen, her faithful servant, Ser Barristan (the guy Joffrey kicked out of the kingsguard back in season 1 or 2), investigates. He suspects her husband was trying to kill her with honeyed-locusts. The dragon ruined his plan.
Tyrion-He snuck his way out of King's Landing after killing his father, Tywin Lannister. He was helped by the bad eunuch, Visrys. He embarks upon a trip to Dorne with another captive, Danerys's little brother who everyone thought had been murdered. Tyrion's original travel companions die or get lost after a storm and he winds up in chains under Sir Jorah Mormont's supervision. He and another dwarf are now part of a circus, headed for Mereen to entertain the lords. He and the other dwarf entertain Queen Danerys and the city at the fight. Sir Jorah is also part of the act. Their lord, a rich man from Mereen, tries to kill them with a man-eating lion, but again the dragon scene ruins the plan.
Reek/Theon-This is my favorite story line. Theon was never one of my favorite characters but in this book he shines! The Bastard of Bolton AKA Lord Ramsay takes Theon for a pet and tortures him nonstop. The man psychologically looses his identity and takes on a new persona, the persona given to him by his master. He is now Reek, the timid meek battered-wife syndrome PSTD prisoner who has forgotten most of his past. He is made to live in a hole and eat rats. He is not allowed to bathe and often flayed for the entertainment of Lord Ramsay. One day he is actually needed to play himself, Theon Greyjoy. Lord Ramsay wants Winterfell so he marrys "Arya" Stark who of course is someone else. He needs Reek/Theon to vouch for him and vouch for the girl's identity. A big wedding is held at Winterfell and Theon, through plots and schemes of others, gets free. This story reminds me of a Dracula-Renfield relationship.
Circe-She had a much bigger story line in the 4th book, but nonetheless, George doesn't leave us hanging on her imprisonment of the septas. For punishment she is made to walk across King's Landing naked. Her head and beaver are shaved. Townspeople throw things at her and make fun. She does live, but will never have any respect as queen. Her Uncle Kevan, the hand and king regent, is murdered by Visyrs, the bald eunuch. Before Kevan Lannister dies, Visyrs tells him he is doing it for the Realm and Circe will of course blame the Tyrells. Love the Machiavellian tactics!
My Review: There are so many new characters and new places. The maps inside of the book were not helpful. I couldn't find Meereen or Slaver's Bay. The story has several moments of greatness, but too many pages in between. This book has been the most difficult of the series for me to read. The plot keeps getting bigger and bigger, reading much like a history book at times. The characters' family trees have centuries of back stories that could have easily been condensed. Personally, this story could be even more brilliant if 300-400 pages were edited out of it. In the end, I love it. For all of Martin's faults, it's the unique and revolutionary story that keeps me coming back for more. His jaded themes of religion and politics resonate with me. And love, well it's just a means to an end in this series. The only halfway decent, moral character was Ned Stark. Look what happened to him! Nice guys finish last! I will buy and read the next book and the book after that and the book after that-I'm hooked. 4/5 stars