1. A new reader–friendly combined reading order for A Feast for Crows & A Dance with Dragons

    NB: This post is intended for readers who have not read Feast or Dance yet. If you’ve read the entire series already, click here for the SPOILER-FILLED veterans’ version of this reading order, which also includes a very thorough explanation of how I came up with it, plus an ongoing list of updates and tweaks made to the order.

    Are you reading A Song of Ice and Fire for the first time? Have you heard that volumes four and five, A Feast for Crows and A Dance with Dragons, cover the same time period but split up the characters, so that most of the people who appear in Feast don’t show up in Dance and vice versa? Do you think you’ll be one of the people that finds this really frustrating? (I’m not, I was perfectly happy with the books as-is and recommend them as such, but I know y’all are out there.) Are you interested in recombining the two halves of the story in hopes that it’ll make for a more satisfying reading experience? Here’s how you do it!

    To combine A Feast for Crows and A Dance with Dragons into one giant megabook, keeping almost everything in order both within the timeline of the story and in the chapter order that author George R.R. Martin intended, use the chapter list below.

    NOTE: Though you’ll be switching back and forth from book to book at strategic points, you’ll almost always be reading the chapters within each individual book in the order they appear. The only exceptions, which you have to rearrange in order to avoid having one storyline spoiled by the other, are ADWD Chapter 7: The Merchant’s Man, which you’ll be saving for much later in the story, and AFFC Chapter 41: The Princess in the Tower, which you’ll skip ahead to much earlier before skipping right back. I’ve placed instructions regarding these chapters in bold below.

    1. Prologue: ADWD 1
    2. Prologue: AFFC 1
    3. The Prophet: AFFC 2
    4. The Captain of Guards: 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 [then SKIP Chapter 7, The Merchant’s Man]
    12. Samwell I: AFFC 6
    13. Jon II: ADWD 8
    14. Arya I: AFFC 7
    15. Cersei II: AFFC 8
    16. Jaime I: AFFC 9
    17. Brienne II: AFFC 10
    18. Sansa I: AFFC 11
    19. The Kraken’s Daughter: AFFC 12
    20. Tyrion III: ADWD 9
    21. Davos I: ADWD 10
    22. Jon III: ADWD 11
    23. Daenerys II: ADWD 12
    24. Reek I: ADWD 13
    25. Cersei III: AFFC 13
    26. The Soiled Knight: AFFC 14
    27. Bran II: ADWD 14
    28. Tyrion IV: ADWD 15
    29. Davos II: ADWD 16
    30. Brienne III: AFFC 15
    31. Samwell II: AFFC 16
    32. Daenerys III: ADWD 17
    33. Jon IV: ADWD 18
    34. Jaime II: AFFC 17
    35. Tyrion V: ADWD 19
    36. Cersei IV: AFFC 18
    37. Davos III: ADWD 20
    38. The Iron Captain: AFFC 19
    39. The Drowned Man: AFFC 20
    40. Brienne IV: AFFC 21
    41. The Queenmaker: AFFC 22
    42. Arya II: AFFC 23
    43. Alayne I: AFFC 24 [then JUMP AHEAD to Chapter 41: The Princess in the Tower]
    44. The Princess in the Tower: AFFC 41 [now switch to ADWD and JUMP BACK to Chapter 7: The Merchant’s Man]
    45. The Merchant’s Man: ADWD 7 [now switch to AFFC and JUMP BACK to Chapter 25: Cersei]
    46. Cersei V: AFFC 25
    47. Reek II: ADWD 21
    48. Jon V: ADWD 22
    49. Tyrion VI: ADWD 23
    50. Daenerys IV: ADWD 24
    51. The Lost Lord: ADWD 25
    52. The Windblown: ADWD 26
    53. The Wayward Bride: ADWD 27
    54. Brienne V: AFFC 26
    55. Samwell III: AFFC 27
    56. Jaime III: AFFC 28
    57. Tyrion VII: ADWD 28
    58. Jon VI: ADWD 29
    59. Davos IV: ADWD 30
    60. Cersei VI: AFFC 29
    61. The Reaver: AFFC 30
    62. Daenerys V: ADWD 31
    63. Melisandre I: ADWD 32
    64. Jaime IV: AFFC 31
    65. Brienne VI: AFFC 32
    66. Reek III: ADWD 33
    67. Tyrion VIII: ADWD 34
    68. Cersei VII: AFFC 33
    69. Jaime V: AFFC 34
    70. Cat of the Canals: AFFC 35
    71. Samwell IV: AFFC 36
    72. Cersei VIII: AFFC 37
    73. Brienne VII: AFFC 38
    74. Jaime VI: AFFC 39
    75. Cersei IX: AFFC 40 [remember, you can skip Chapter 41: The Princess in the Tower, because you already read it]
    76. Bran III: ADWD 35
    77. Jon VII: ADWD 36
    78. Daenerys VI: ADWD 37
    79. The Prince of Winterfell: ADWD 38
    80. The Watcher: ADWD 39
    81. Jon VIII: ADWD 40
    82. Tyrion IX: ADWD 41
    83. The Turncloak: ADWD 42
    84. The King’s Prize: ADWD 43
    85. Daenerys VII: ADWD 44
    86. Alayne II: 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: ADWD 46
    93. A Ghost in Winterfell: 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: ADWD 56
    103. The Iron Suitor: ADWD 57
    104. Tyrion XI: ADWD 58
    105. Jon XII: ADWD 59
    106. The Discarded Knight: ADWD 60
    107. The Spurned Suitor: ADWD 61
    108. The Griffin Reborn: ADWD 62
    109. The Sacrifice: ADWD 63
    110. Victarion: ADWD 64
    111. The Ugly Little Girl: ADWD 65
    112. Cersei XII: ADWD 66
    113. Tyrion XII: ADWD 67
    114. The Kingbreaker: ADWD 68
    115. The Dragontamer: ADWD 69
    116. Jon XIII: ADWD 70
    117. The Queen’s Hand: ADWD 71
    118. Daenerys X: ADWD 72
    119. Epilogue: ADWD 73

    The explanation:

    When I first created the original version of this reading order, I was in the middle of a re-read of the series and had 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 have been published, there are options available to us that never were before.

    George R.R. Martin famously took years to finish Feast after Storm came out, and infamously took even more years to finish Dance after Feast came out. 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 something called “The Meereenese Knot.” To discuss this I’d have to get a little bit spoilery, but it boiled down to how to get a whole bunch of characters to the place where a certain other character was, and in what order, and whether to have all of them get there by the end of Dance, and what to do with the character toward whom they’re traveling while they’re on their way. 

    As you’d quickly discover were you to read Feast as written, fans who read Storm when it came out had to wait a decade to find out how the stories of many of their favorite characters continued, since Martin decided to save those characters’ storylines for Dance — despite the fact that in story time, many of those storylines 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. Between the real-world delay and the weird sensation of following half the characters’ stories for a while in Feast before looping back in time to catch up with the other characters in Dance, reading that latter book can feel a little wonky for some readers. 

    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 Feast and Dance simultaneously? They cover the same timespan – Feast starts a little earlier with some of the material centered on the Ironborn, and Dance 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. Several groups of characters split between them have storylines that parallel, echo, or comment on one another in revealing ways. 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. 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. I did this differently for my original reading order, which is geared toward people who’ve already read the books. But for the purposes of this new reader–friendly version, I’m willing to make an exception to #1 & #2: Chapters can be read out of order if that helps preserve mysteries from one storyline that would otherwise be prematurely spoiled by another. The fewer changes necessary to accomplish this, the better.
    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, so I ended up making my own version instead.

    [NOTE: Consider all the following links SPOILERY.] For the basic framework I took this list by SFFChronicles messageboard member Orionis, then reordered the chapters 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. From there, I crowdsourced refinements to the list via my original post, both for actual fixes (i.e. I messed up the timeline because I switched between the books too quickly or too slowly) and to make sure the chapters flowed in a pleasing way. I relied very heavily on Atanvarno’s list (explained here) as well as his direct feedback for these refinements, particularly the changes necessary to preserve the reveals. 

    The end result 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. (I even kept big chunks of chapters together rather than flipping back and forth on a chapter to chapter basis — at first this was just a coincidence, but thinking about it, I think it’s a good way to maintain Martin’s original narrative flow.)
    3. It does the bare minimum of reshuffling necessary to preserve mysteries and avoid spoiling reveals. I only had to list two chapters out of order to keep the one big spoilable reveal intact.
    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.

    Much more on how the list was created can be found in the original post, which again is spoilery for anyone who hasn’t already read the books. It contains an extensive list of updates and tweaks I’ve made to the list since originally posting it as well.

    Happy reading — you’ve got a long road ahead of you!

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    It would be pretty cool if Martin could get behind this and release a special Ebook version like this.
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