1. A proposed A Feast for Crows/A Dance with Dragons merged reading order, with explanation (and Dorne Reveal variant) [UPDATED x8]

    NB: This post is intended for people who have already read both books, as are its recommendations for the combined order. SPOILERS AHEAD. For a new-reader-friendly version, click here.

    The order:

    1. Prologue (Varamyr): ADWD 1
    2. Prologue (Pate): AFFC 1
    3. The Prophet (Aeron I): AFFC 2
    4. The Captain of Guards (Areo I): AFFC 3
    5. Cersei I: AFFC 4
    6. Tyrion I: ADWD 2
    7. Daenerys I: ADWD 3
    8. Brienne I: AFFC 5
    9. Jon I: ADWD 4
    10. Bran I: ADWD 5
    11. Tyrion II: ADWD 6
    12. The Merchant’s Man (Quentyn I): ADWD 7 ^
    13. Samwell I: AFFC 6
    14. Jon II: ADWD 8
    15. Arya I: AFFC 7
    16. Cersei II: AFFC 8
    17. Jaime I: AFFC 9
    18. Brienne II: AFFC 10
    19. Sansa I: AFFC 11
    20. The Kraken’s Daughter (Asha I): AFFC 12
    21. Tyrion III: ADWD 9
    22. Davos I: ADWD 10
    23. Jon III: ADWD 11
    24. Daenerys II: ADWD 12
    25. Reek I (Theon I): ADWD 13
    26. Cersei III: AFFC 13
    27. The Soiled Knight (Arys): AFFC 14
    28. Bran II: ADWD 14
    29. Tyrion IV: ADWD 15
    30. Davos II: ADWD 16
    31. Brienne III: AFFC 15
    32. Samwell II: AFFC 16
    33. Daenerys III: ADWD 17
    34. Jon IV: ADWD 18
    35. Jaime II: AFFC 17
    36. Tyrion V: ADWD 19
    37. Cersei IV: AFFC 18
    38. Davos III: ADWD 20
    39. The Iron Captain (Victarion I): AFFC 19
    40. The Drowned Man (Aeron II): AFFC 20
    41. Brienne IV: AFFC 21
    42. The Queenmaker (Arianne I): AFFC 22
    43. Arya II: AFFC 23
    44. Alayne I (Sansa II): AFFC 24
    45. Cersei V: AFFC 25
    46. Reek II (Theon II): ADWD 21
    47. Jon V: ADWD 22
    48. Tyrion VI: ADWD 23
    49. Daenerys IV: ADWD 24
    50. The Lost Lord (Jon Connington I): ADWD 25
    51. The Windblown (Quentyn II): ADWD 26
    52. The Wayward Bride (Asha II): ADWD 27
    53. Brienne V: AFFC 26
    54. Samwell III: AFFC 27
    55. Jaime III: AFFC 28
    56. Tyrion VII: ADWD 28
    57. Jon VI: ADWD 29
    58. Davos IV: ADWD 30
    59. Cersei VI: AFFC 29
    60. The Reaver (Victarion II): AFFC 30
    61. Daenerys V: ADWD 31
    62. Melisandre I: ADWD 32
    63. Jaime IV: AFFC 31
    64. Brienne VI: AFFC 32
    65. Reek III (Theon III): ADWD 33
    66. Tyrion VIII: ADWD 34
    67. Cersei VII: AFFC 33
    68. Jaime V: AFFC 34
    69. Cat of the Canals (Arya III): AFFC 35
    70. Samwell IV: AFFC 36
    71. Cersei VIII: AFFC 37
    72. Brienne VII: AFFC 38
    73. Jaime VI: AFFC 39
    74. Cersei IX: AFFC 40
    75. The Princess in the Tower (Arianne II): AFFC 41 ^
    76. Bran III: ADWD 35
    77. Jon VII: ADWD 36
    78. Daenerys VI: ADWD 37
    79. The Prince of Winterfell (Theon IV): ADWD 38
    80. The Watcher (Areo II): ADWD 39
    81. Jon VIII: ADWD 40
    82. Tyrion IX: ADWD 41
    83. The Turncloak (Theon V): ADWD 42
    84. The King’s Prize (Asha III): ADWD 43
    85. Daenerys VII: ADWD 44
    86. Alayne II (Sansa III): AFFC 42
    87. Jon IX: ADWD 45
    88. Brienne VIII: AFFC 43
    89. Cersei X: AFFC 44
    90. Jaime VII: AFFC 45
    91. Samwell V: AFFC 46
    92. The Blind Girl (Arya IV): ADWD 46
    93. A Ghost in Winterfell (Theon VI): ADWD 47
    94. Tyrion X: ADWD 48
    95. Jaime VIII: ADWD 49
    96. Jon X: ADWD 50
    97. Daenerys VIII: ADWD 51
    98. Theon VII: ADWD 52
    99. Daenerys IX: ADWD 53
    100. Jon XI: ADWD 54
    101. Cersei XI: ADWD 55
    102. The Queensguard (Barristan I): ADWD 56
    103. The Iron Suitor (Victarion III): ADWD 57
    104. Tyrion XI: ADWD 58
    105. Jon XII: ADWD 59
    106. The Discarded Knight (Barristan II): ADWD 60
    107. The Spurned Suitor (Quentyn III): ADWD 61
    108. The Griffin Reborn (Jon Connington II): ADWD 62
    109. The Sacrifice (Asha IV): ADWD 63
    110. Victarion IV: ADWD 64
    111. The Ugly Little Girl (Arya V): ADWD 65
    112. Cersei XII: ADWD 66
    113. Tyrion XII: ADWD 67
    114. The Kingbreaker (Barristan III): ADWD 68
    115. The Dragontamer (Quentyn IV): ADWD 69
    116. Jon XIII: ADWD 70
    117. The Queen’s Hand (Barristan IV): ADWD 71
    118. Daenerys X: ADWD 72
    119. Epilogue (Kevan): ADWD 73
    ^ The Dorne Reveal Variant: To preserve the revelation that Quentyn Martell’s on a mission to Daenerys until after Prince Doran reveals it to Princess Arianne rather than allowing it to proceed chronologically, simply take The Princess in the Tower/Arianne II (#75) and The Merchant’s Man/Quentyn I (#12) and put them after Alayne I/Sansa II (#44): Alayne I/The Princess in the Tower/The Merchant’s Man.

    The explanation:

    I’m rereading the series and just finished A Storm of Swords. At a certain point along the way I got to thinking about how to approach A Feast for Crows and A Dance with Dragons. Now that both books exist, there are options available to us that never were before.

    Martin infamously took years to finish Feast after Storm, and even more years to finish Dance after Feast. As we know, this came down to several problems. First, he’d intended to have a five-year jump in the narrative following the conclusion of Storm, but after about a year of writing he realized it wasn’t working and had to start over. Then, once he’d started over, he discovered that while the five-year jump didn’t work for most of the storylines, it worked really well for a few, and it was hard to get them right without it. Then he realized that he had way too many characters and way too much story to fit in one volume as planned, and he needed to decide how to split one volume into two – should he tell half the story for all the characters, or (nearly) all the story for half the characters? (He chose the latter solution.) Finally, he struggled with “The Meereenese Knot”: How to get everyone on the hunt for Daenerys to Meereen, and in what order, and whether to try to have them all arrive by the end of Dance, and what to do with them once they got there, and what to do with Daenerys and company in the interim.

    So fans who read Storm when it came out had to wait a decade to find out how the stories of Jon, Daenerys, and Tyrion continued, despite the fact that in story time Jon and Tyrion’s tales in particular pick up almost immediately after we left them. Even someone like me, who was late to the party and first read the series about a year, year and a half before Dance ended up coming out, had a delay. In my case it was a delay long enough to read the entire series, then read it over again, then have a month or two to wait before Dance came out.

    I know I’m probably not telling you anything you don’t already know, but what I want to convey more than the details of the production or reception of the novels is how distant the various real-world reasons for the delay between the end of Storm and the beginning of Dance made the events of those books feel in story time. Rereading Storm just now, some of this hit me like a lightning bolt. Like “Holy shit, Jon is a 17-year-old during his stint as Lord Commander, not a guy in his mid-20s who’s years older than when the story started.” It felt that way to me because of the delay, but it’s not true of the story at all. It just feels like it’s been years.

    Ditto Tyrion: It can be jarring to see what an alcoholic mess he is at the beginning of Dance, but only because the immediate impact of the events that befall him at the end of Storm—betrayed by his wife (at least that’s what he believes), betrayed by his girlfriend, abandoned by his father and uncle, wrongfully convicted of kinslaying and kingslaying, freed by his beloved brother only to discover that Jaime had lied about the young wife in whose gang-rape Tyrion was forced by his father to participate, lying to Jaime about killing Joffrey, murdering his girlfriend, murdering his father, and beginning a life on the run—has been diluted by the amount of time that passed between reading all of that and reading about him in his full drunken “where do whores go” glory.

    Here’s where it changes.

    Right now, for the first time, the only real-world delay necessary to endure between reading, say, Jon’s last chapter in Storm and his first in Dance is the amount of time it takes you to read the entirety of Feast and get to the beginning of Dance after you’ve finished Storm, since Martin split the characters up between the two books.

    But since we now have access to both books at once, what’s to stop us from folding the stories back together, re-reading Feastand Dance simultaneously? They cover the same timespan – Feast starts a little earlier, with the Iron Islands material, andDance goes a little later, with everything in the final third or so of the book, but they mostly overlap.

    Moreover, as my colleague Stefan Sasse has persuasively argued, the two books are thematically as well as temporally congruent. Cersei’s attempt to rule in Feast is echoed by Jon’s and Dany’s in Dance, from their very similar opening scenes on down. Brienne’s quest in Feast is echoed by the quests of Quentyn, Tyrion, and Bran in Dance, too. In other words it’s quite possible, and profitable, to consider them as one giant book. Why not make it so?

    Figuring that ASoIaF fandom has covered every possible base – not just first, second, third, and home, but bases I don’t even know exist, like fifth, nineteenth, and quarmty-secondth – I asked around and discovered that several proposed A Feast for Crows/A Dance with Dragons merged reading orders are out there:

    This one by Orionis at the SFFChronicles message board (seemingly propsed to him by some unnamed source) and this Google Doc by redditor Juicyjames were the most frequently suggested options. There’s also this very in-depth exploration of the idea by Miranche (aka Stinky Steward from Westeros) at Whittlinganother SFFChronicles message-board proposal by TDKthis proposal by alayne25 on the Westeros forum, and another, more in-depth Westeros-forum proposal by Atanvarno. None of them appear to be considered definitive by the fandom. (To wit, I asked Elio Garcia of Westeros, whom I trust implicitly on such matters, if he knew of a good way to go about merging the books, and he told me he hasn’t seen one he really likes as yet, though he may attempt one himself in the future.)

    In trying to pick one over the others, I had a few criteria in mind.

    1. I want to read something that’s in rough chronological order, rather than following half the characters to (nearly) the end of the story, then going back to the starting line with the other half of the characters. That’s the whole point, obviously.
    2. But I don’t want to read something that’s in strict chonological order, to the point where people are radically re-ordering the chapters even within the context of a single book. I want something that preserves Martin’s original flow as much as possible given the caveat that once the decision was made to split the books he wrote them with that in mind, not something that puts the 9th chapter of Feast featuring Character X after the 20th chapter of Feast featuring Character Y because that’s when it technically takes place. If Martin had wanted to roll out the chapters in strict chronological order he’d have done so, up to and including putting the first few chapters of both books somewhere inside Storm.
    3. Yet I also don’t want to read something that hews so closely to Martin’s original intent that it works overtime not to spoil reveals in the storyline of Character A late during Feast because they’re discussed by Character B early on in Dance. The best example there is how Quentyn’s first chapter from Dance would fall near the beginning of a mergedFeast/Dance megabook, thus “spoiling” Prince Doran’s revelation of his secret plan for vengeance from the end of Feastand now near the late-middle of the merged Feast/DanceI’ve already read both books and know what’s coming, so I have no problem with blown reveals, not if it would require radically reordering chapters to preserve them.
    4. This isn’t a narrative concern but a logistical one: I want a guide that’s easy to follow and easy to fiddle with if I feel like fiddling with it. Clearly labeling each chapter with the book, character, chapter number for that character specifically, and chapter number for the book overall will make it easiest to do that.
    5. On some level it’d be nice to understand why this particular order was assembled and suggested – the methodology behind it, any problems the compiler feels they solved or failed to solve, and so on. Not necessary, but nice.

    None of the proposals quite fit the bill. The Orionis/SFFChronicles was the clearest to read and featured Orionis’s own endorsement of the proposed order as a reader, but some chapters were still reordered, and there wasn’t much by way of explanation. The Google Doc was radically reordering the chapters. The Whittling list was based mainly on the idea of making longer versions of either Feast or Dance, so combining them was an afterthought; I’m also just personally skeptical of anyone who suggests Quentyn is a waste of time. TDK’s SFFChronicles list actually enlightened me on Orionis’s methodology in contrast to its own, though the list itself was in a hard-to-follow format. Alayne25 seemed to be proceeding fairly straightforwardly but there’s no real way to judge the ordering based on the information given. Atanyarno made the intriguing suggestion of pulling out the Ironborn/kingsmoot and Arianne/Areo/Dorne stuff entirely and reading it as a novella before doing the merged read, which I think would work well with the Ironborn stuff in particular but which would defeat the purpose of picking up with all the Dance characters as soon after finishing Storm as possible; and again, if Martin had wanted the Ironborn stuff to all be read before the rest of the story, since that’s when it technically takes place, he’d have done so.

    So I ended up making my own version instead. It’s basically just Orionis’s list, with chapters reordered so that you bounce back and forth between the two books but never read chapters from within one book or the other out of order. (I also added the real names and character-chapter numbers to many of Dance‘s shifting-name chapters, which Orionis hadn’t done.) This seemed to fit my five criteria better than any of the other options:

    1. It has rough chronology, so you pick up with most every character across the board at roughly the same time afterStorm left off and keep going with all of them until they each run out of chapters.
    2. It doesn’t have strict chronology, so you’re not radically re-ordering the chapters despite what Martin felt was the best reading order when assembling the books originally.
    3. It keeps the chapters in order rather than monkeying around to preserve reveals I’m already aware of.
    4. It’s clearly labeled and very easy to read, understand, and even alter, if you want.
    5. I’ve explained my methodology to an almost embarrassingly comprehensive degree, so you can understand what the heck I did here.

    To be clear, I have no especial expertise in the events of each chapter, or whether the order I just assembled will present events in an intelligible, pleasing way. It seems like it ought to, though. And I’m happy to crowdsource the refinement of it – if you look this over and think a change would make it better, please let me know.

    I start tonight. Looking forward to it!

    UPDATE 01: Per commenter Charles R, my original version had “The Watcher,” which takes place after “The Princess in the Tower,” come before it in the reading order. I’ve therefore moved “Cersei IX” and “The Princess in the Tower” in between “Jaime VI” and “The Prince of Winterfell,” preserving both chronology and chapter order. Thanks, Charles!

    UPDATE 02: Upon further reflection and an edit by Charles R to his proposed solution, I moved “Bran III,” “Jon VII,” and “Daenerys VI” to fit in between “The Princess in the Tower” and “The Prince of Winterfell,” to give “Princess” and “The Watcher” a little more distance between them.

    UPDATE 03.1: I’ve moved Davos III to after Cersei IV, since that’s the Cersei chapter in which she calls for the execution that Lord Manderly orders in that Davos chapter. This is the one bonafide “fix” I’ve made in this update, and it comes courtesy of Atanvarno, who’s created a revised reading order of his own (reading order; explanation) that you should check out, especially if you’d like to preserve the Quentyn/Dorne reveal, which he’s attempted to do with the absolute minimum of damage to chapter chronology. He’s made many other helpful suggestions, most of them tweaks for effect, some of which I’ve incorporated as detailed below.

    UPDATE 03.2: Atanvarno pointed out that starting Tyrion’s storyline immediately after Cersei’s provides a fun contrast: Cersei’s paranoid that Tyrion will leap out of the walls of the Red Keep and kill someone else any moment when in fact he’s busy drinking his way across the Narrow Sea. So I moved Tyrion I to directly after Cersei I.

    UPDATE 03.3: But this got me to thinking about the identical openings for the Cersei, Daenerys, and Jon storylines — rulers awoken from dreams. I can’t put them all in a row since I wouldn’t want to either put Tyrion I before Cersei I or run the first few chapters of Dance out of order. But I can alternate “ruler” chapters with “quester” chapters, so that’s what I’ve done: Cersei I/Tyrion I/Daenerys I/Brienne I/Jon I/Bran I. I think that’s a nice rhythm, and it enhances our sense that Feast and Dance really are two halves of the same giant story, with lots of intriguing and rewarding parallels, which was basically the whole point of this exercise. (It’d be nice if Brienne & Dany’s stories were related the way Tyrion & Cersei and Jon & Bran are, but what can you do.)

    UPDATE 03.4: Commenter Nora pointed out that my original list had Victarion I and Reek II in jarringly close proximity; a lot takes place among the Ironborn between those two chapters, and it’d be nice to give them more room to breathe. So I moved Alayne I (Sansa II) and Cersei V directly after Arya II to pad out that distance. This has a secondary beneficial effect: keeping Alayne and Arya’s chapters together reinforces the narrative parallel as they begin their “training” under assumed identities. (Atanvarno suggested this move independently for that reason.)

    UPDATE 03.5: Finally, Atanvarno pointed out that I had only one chapter, Samwell V, between Jaime VII and Jaime VIII. I moved The Blind Girl (Arya IV), A Ghost in Winterfell (Theon VI):, and Tyrion X after Samwell V to spread the two Jaimes out a bit.

    UPDATE 04: In further correspondence with Atanvarno, he noted that while his suggested reading order bounces back and forth from Feast to Dance and back on close to a chapter by chapter basis, mine tends to alternate between big multi-chapter chunks of each book. Was there a rationale behind this, he wondered? Not really. As I said up top, I basically just took Orionis’s list and smoothed out the out-of-order chapters with minimal effort, then incorporated all the other tweaks I’ve listed. Those tweaks aside, that technique, not some sort of reasoned approach to the material, led to the chapter arrangement you see above. That said, I’m now kinda fond of the way I did it. In my second criterion, I said “I want something that preserves Martin’s original flow as much as possible,” and that’s a lot easier to do when you’re running a bunch of chapters from each book in a row rather than constantly switching between them. Both approaches have aspects to recommend them, mind you — I think alternating the way Atanvarno suggests will keep readers from getting “stuck” in Feast material they’re more familiar with and therefore might find a bit stale compared to the newer Dance material, for example — but now that it’s been pointed out to me, I stand by the way I (accidentally) did it.

    UPDATE 05: I’ve started seeing readers steer friends who’ve never read Feast or Dance before to this post, and I started feeling bad that I didn’t have an option to preserve the Dorne reveal available to them. So I whipped one up, based once again on Atanvarno’s suggestion for how to rearrange the Dorne chapters to keep Quentyn’s secret until Doran reveals it to Arianne. The full variant reading order chapter list is here along with an explanation tailored to noobs, but the long and short of it is that you take The Princess in the Tower/Arianne II (#75) and The Merchant’s Man/Quentyn I (#12) and put them after Alayne I/Sansa II (#44): Alayne I/The Princess in the Tower/The Merchant’s Man. Everything else should be able to stay as-is. Obviously you don’t have to be a newbie to use this version; veterans who simply want to maintain that feeling of surprise in order to be true to Martin’s intent or for their own enjoyment, this one’s for you too.

    UPDATE 06: I actually feel kinda bad messing with this at this point, now that it’s been so widely reblogged and linked to and jpg-ified and all that, but I’ve recently come across a couple of minor changes that I think might well lead to an improved reading experience. The first comes from reader Pedro Miranda, who suggests putting  Jon II prior to Samwell I in order to preserve the Gilly/baby reveal, or more accurately to delay the spoiler somewhat. (It takes Sam another chapter to find out.) It did bother me a bit, while re-reading, that that reveal was spoiled, but since the truth of the matter is established so quickly within Sam’s storyline (and since it’s not a huge deal compared to the Dorne situation) I just kind of let it slide. But unless anyone has a reason why the two chapters can’t be swapped so that you at least spend a full chapter with Sam and Gilly under the pretense that she has her own baby, I might as well do it.

    UPDATE 07: Meanwhile, frequent commenter AHorwitt suggest putting Jaime II before Tyrion V, so that Jaime’s relative non sequitur about Criston Cole, the “Kingmaker” who initiated the Dance of the Dragons, can segue directly into the chapter in which Tyrion reveals he’s learned the secret identity of Aegon, setting up a potential Kingmaker role of his own. Again, unless anyone can come up with a reason not to do this, I’m all for making this minor switch in order to enhance the flow. Heck, it even sets up a transition directly from Tyrion still being quite alive to Cersei receiving the latest shipment of severed dwarf heads, so it’s doubly useful.

    UPDATE 08: Because I’m an idiot and wasn’t paying attention to what was going on in the actual chapters involved, I misread the suggestion that inspired Update 06, which actually called for the Gilly reveal to be MORE spoiled, not LESS. I don’t like that idea, so I’ve undone the swap and restored the original reading order of those two Jon and Sam chapters.

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