My combined Feast/Dance re-read had at least one deleterious effect on my appreciation of the books: I don’t much care for the shifting chapter title thing at all. Its application is inconsistent enough to obscure more than it reveals. Here, let’s take a look and try to figure out the reasoning behind it.
Maybe they’re used to differentiate the Dorne and Iron Island subplots from the main storyline: Arys, Areo, Arianne, and Quentyn move along the Dorne storyline, while Aeron Damphair, Victarion, Theon, and Asha comprise the Ironborn material. They all get shifting chapter titles. So perhaps this is a relic of when GRRM was considering setting those sections apart as introductory novellas. But this doesn’t cover Jon Connington or Barristan, who also get the shifting titles.
Okay, so they’re used to differentiate minor characters from major ones, or maybe it’s characters who haven’t had POVs before from characters who have: First, let’s do ourselves a big collective favor and not quibble over the definition of “major” and “minor.” I think we’ve all got the gist of it. Well, this would then cover Arys, Areo, Arianne, Quentyn, Aeron Damphair, Victarion, Jon Connington, and Barristan. But Cersei and Melisandre are new POVs and they don’t get the shifting chapter titles. Plus, Theon and Arya and Sansa are old POVs and they do get them.
Well, maybe it’s for characters whose identities shift throughout the course of the narrative. That’s true enough for Quentyn, Theon, Arya, Sansa, and Jon Connington, all of whom use fake names. But so does Tyrion, and there are no shifting chapter titles for him; you can’t say “Welll, that’s because he’s a main character,” because so are Sansa and Arya and to a lesser extent Theon. Meanwhile there are no aliases to be found for all the other characters on the list. You might could argue, as the chapter titles themselves seem to, that the other characters whose titles shift are experiencing a less literal, more internal or emotional change in identities. That’s partially true, at least — but it’s also true of virtually every POV character in the entire series, since they all go through changes. Meanwhile, Areo and the Damphair probably change less than anyone else in these books, and their names change.
Now, Martin has said that someday this’ll all make sense and I’ll take him at his word, but it’s a rather unsatisfying device in the meantime.