For the past two months, Game Of Owns and the listeners of the podcast have wrestled with a question: where do we go from here?
With the completion of the A Storm of Swords read-through, it was time to venture forth into new territory. But it wasn’t so simple as just picking up A Feast for Crows, book four in George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series. For fans of the series, there is also the question of how to read- following the expected method of one book after the other, or to embrace the popular new way, reordering the chapters of Martin’s novels so the story takes on fresh life.
Readers have debated the merits of both styles, and the folks at Game Of Owns came together with a few friends to answer the question.
Game Of Owns will proceed with a combined reading order for the podcasts ahead, with an entirely new chapter arrangement created by a team of fans taking everything into account including chronology, spoiler issues, the weather and overarching themes.
Introducing the new reading order and sharing the process behind the creation of it are two of the people responsible for A Feast With Dragons: BryndenBFish and Zack Luye.
-Sue The Fury
Martin originally intended both books to be joined, but he found that he had too many plot and character developments to cover in one book alone.
So, he famously (or infamously) split the book into two. However, both books play on similar themes and narratives.
The A FEAST WITH DRAGONS reading order is intended to be a new, bright, shiny way to read A Feast for Crows and A Dance with Dragons. Taking subtle chronological cues and more overt thematic and narrative motifs evident in the books, Game Of Owns will tackle the major questions posed by the author in A Feast for Crows and A Dance with Dragons.
One example of our contextual and thematic approach: Chronologically, Arianne and Quentyn Martell’s points of view are not one after the other, but in AFWD they are. The “Dornish” point of view is spread across this entire book, weaving its presence with our other points of view, picking up where the other leaves off — while retaining one specific narrative release from The Princess in the Tower.
Here is a spoiler-filled handful of examples from Brynden on Reddit.
– Zack Luye
Across two books, Jon Snow, Daenerys Targaryen and Cersei Lannister struggle with challenges of leadership, but more than that, they struggle with inner conflict. In their arcs, the human heart is very much in conflict with itself, but the consequences won’t end there. Meanwhile, others struggle over their knightly vows and what it means to be a good knight and more importantly: good person.
For several months (as Game of Owns neared the conclusion of A Storm of Swords), comments, ravens, letters, and humble requests poured in from the listening audience with one specific ask. It was special to find such a diverse collection of people uniting under one common banner. You wanted the podcast to combine A Feast for Crows and A Dance with Dragons into a single experience that we could share in as a community. For months we argued and compared pros to cons, and your voices remained strong.
Sean T. Collins and Stefan Sasse’s Boiled Leather reading order was the first and most sent in our direction for evidence and consideration. Second-most was A Ball of Beasts (a beautifully fitting name- we toiled for weeks on what to name this damned thing). These were the clear pioneers and options for the path if we chose to combine the books for the podcast.
However, we knew if this was something we’d dedicate possible years of the podcast to, it should be crafted by our own hands in order to earn complete understanding of the subject material, and the choices it would take to put something worthwhile together. This was our first reason to strike on a fresh path combining these books.
On our podcast, I was one of the Unsullied hosts, up until Christmas break. For 300 episodes I waited to read along at the pace of the podcast, and it was maddening. This created a massive separation between myself and the idea of combining the two books. I haven’t read the Boiled Leather or Ball of Beasts reading order, but I know an uncountable amount of our listeners have. The second reason for the fresh path is to provide these listeners with a new experience.
Andrew Walker (a friend and frantically obsessed fan of Ice and Fire) began compiling his order after a long conversation with me about theme, and narrative. I didn’t want this to be a placement of chapters in order chronologically specifically — I’ve had time to learn from the podcast what feelings can resonate with structure supporting it — and that is what he began with.
After a few iterations, I was caught up enough to start actually helping. I finished AFFC and began helping with the order. Hannah Panek of GOO spent time reading through stretches of chapters, reporting syntax and feelings they crafted. This is what we do every week on the podcast. We’re ridiculously emotional about these books, and for the podcast’s sake, the order of how we analyze them on the show really matters. This was the third reason. But we needed help.
This is where BryndenBFish came in. He’s a vocal member of the community and listener of the podcast, and I greatly respect his writing and analysis of George’s material. After seeing what we’d come up with so far, we had a long conversation about the order (AFFC, the higher mysteries — it was one of most exciting talks I’ve had on this story, ever) and how he could help. Shortly following that talk, he began his order. Pages of notes later (hours of audio and text ingested), deadlines were moved due to not agreeing on pivotal issues, but we had agreed on a name. There’s progress!
When things were finished for each of us, we held a moot and argued through each decision, for each placement, for each chapter.
It’s not perfect and I don’t think it ever can be. This was my first read through Feast and Dance, after years of longing and separation. They were more than I could have hoped for, and I know that may not be the popular opinion. Read the books in the published order. Feast is haunting and beautiful; Dance is unbelievably exciting and full of mystery.
But if you’ve read through before, are impatiently awaiting winter winds, and are interested in trying something new — please join us in this trek though A Feast with Dragons.
So, we invite you all to join Game Of Owns as they explore the plots, conspiracies of the kings, queens, knights, reavers and dwarves and their deep character psychologies and motivations in this ordering of A Feast for Crows and A Dance with Dragons.
HODOR… yippee I was first again for the year!!!
So, where’s the link to this new reading order?
I’m not entirely sure how I feel about the ordering of some chapters. But there was obviously a lot of effort put into this, for which I commend you guys.
Some things, such as the decision to place the Epilogue before the last two regular chapters, and placing two Daenerys chapters back to back (which George has certainly never done), seem a little odd to me.
But I’m sure you guys put a lot of thought into each of these things. I’d love to hear details about how you came to specific decisions like these.
Why am I having trouble getting my posts to show up?
So wait… What should I do as someone who has been reading along so far with the podcast (i.e.: have not yet read through either book 4 or 5)?
I can’t wait! I have read in published order, then the Boiled Leather order which I thoroughly enjoyed, and now am really interested in how the experience of the books changes again in another altered chapter order in A Feast with Dragons.
This is one such reason why I wish they had stuck with publication order. New readers should read them separately first, no question.
I know people like to go on and on about how they are meant to be one book, and that was true at one point, but the finished products are distinctly individual works.
Thanks. I have considered doing a combined reading for a few years now and you have now made it easy to do. I look forward to the community discussion.
John M W,
I chose to read through them in the original way first. For years I was told they aren’t as strong as the rest in the series, and I couldn’t disagree more.
In AFWD, we tried to keep the soul of George’s tension and reveals true to the rest of his work, using the previous 3 books as a guide to create the one version. You won’t be /spoiled/ on things earlier than you should, if that’s a concern. But it’s not George’s published method, that’s why I didn’t do it.
It is a lot of fun. The scale of where it goes alone is soo coooool. It’s a choice a lot of listeners will have to make. I haven’t heard negative remarks about combining the read first, if that helps.
I think eating a huge bowl of chili and drinking a lot of beer would have helped me get the most out of these books.
Thank you so much Zack L., BrydenB & all the others that helped in putting this labor of love together. You are work horses!
If you have the time to read the two books separately first, then I would recommend that you do so. If not, then you should be fine if you follow this reading order … at least from a narrative perspective. While I haven’t tried it yet, I trust Zack and BryndenBFish. You’re in good hands with them!
Nevertheless, as John M W says, there are drawbacks to combining the two books together for your first readthrough. While AFFC and ADWD were originally intended to be one novel, that plan ultimately fell apart, and Martin spent 6 years working on ADWD knowing that it would be released as its own book. As a result, each book has a distinct tone and some different themes, which can get muddled if you’re constantly jumping back and forth from one tome to the other. I liked the Boiled Leather reading order when I did my first combined reading last year, but unfortunately, the constant tonal shifting did undercut my enjoyment of the experience to a certain degree.
These combined orders were all created by devoted fans to create a richer experience for the reader, and I believe that they can … at least on re-reads (which is the only way I’ve ever tried them). However, it can’t be denied that a significant factor in all of these various reading orders materializing over the years is a strong desire among the fandom to correct or minimize perceived deficiencies – structural and otherwise – in these two novels. Some of these deficiencies are overstated, but some of them are – at least in my opinion – very, very real. There’s no way to make that judgment for yourself (and understand why, even leaving content aside, these two books are so controversial in the fandom) unless you read the books separately.
With that in mind, I tend to think that a reader’s first experience with these two books should be the way that GRRM released them to the world – AFFC first, then ADWD. Regardless of what some people will say, the idea that AFFC and ADWD fit seamlessly together to form one unimpeachable masterwork just isn’t true – no matter what order you read them in.
That’s how I read the books my first go-around, but I definitely grabbed a lot of the thematic tension GRRM was putting into the books when I did Boiled Leather’s combined order. This is intended to hit some of those thematic issues that GRRM plays out in both books, focusing these issues through the narrative and chronology. As Zack said, this won’t be perfect by any stretch, and if you enjoy going through AFFC and then ADWD or you like one of the other reading orders, by all means, enjoy! 🙂
I might try this reading order sometime in the future. I enjoyed Dance for the most part, but reading Feast can be a real slog at times. Anything that could improve the experience is most welcome.
Thanks for putting this together and sharing.
Did there really need to be another version of this? I feel like you guys threw this together so that you could have your “own” version of the merged books.
Looks like we desperately need some TWOW or GoT material.
That will make it one massively long slog that still lacks an ending.
Lord of the Rings (all three combined): 473k words
War and Peace: 587k
A Feast for Crows: 300k
A Dance with Dragons: 422k
A Feast with Dragons: 722k
Frodo got to Mordor and back in 2/3 of the word count of this combined epic in which not that much happens.
Sources for word counts:
I’m sure it’s been mentioned before, but your project webpage should really include links to the pre-existing reading orders that you used for inspiration and ideas, and should credit Sean T. Collins and the other creators.
You clearly tried to pair thematically or narratively linked chapters together (with the pattern: first even-numbered, then odd-numbered chapter). This totally makes sense for this format, so I’m really excited about this.
But because of that, I just have to ask: Are you sure about the placement of The Iron Captain/The Drowned Man? Shouldn’t they belong together in one episode?
This will be interesting to follow along with.
Btw, Jaime not Jamie in your reading order.
Unfortunately, the reading order isn’t the biggest problem with these two books. Too many POVs, too many chapters and too many fruitless quests. Hoping that winds of winter is not nearly so bloated.
John M W,
I agree. It seems like cheating to do it this way the first time.
Not to mention it lets George off the hook for his monumentally poor decision to destroy the structure of his books. For better and for worse, them being separated is what George intended.
I recently finished reading the Boiled Leather version. It was my third read through of the series, and it greatly increased my enjoyment of the two books, as the themes became much clearer. I’m eager to hear this version!
Great stuff! Excellent effort, folks! Enjoyed your initial AFfC prologue episode as well. I happen to think the AFfC “bookends” (Prologue and Samwell V) are fantastic contrasts to one another and I like how you placed them in the order.
One thing to consider as you near the latter third of this reading order….if TWoW is published over the next year, it will most likely contain much overlap with ADwD and may require a slight integration into the order. In fact, the six TWoW chapters already available should be considered in this list.
Will you be posting a justification of why the order is different to the Boiled Leather one? Some of the decisions look downright strange to me.
Regarding the afeastwithdragons.com website, could you link each completed GOO podcast to the relevant chapter(s) in the ordered list covered by the podcast? That would be a nice cross-reference between this site, the goo site and other 3rd-party sites.
There is a lot of talk about “The FIRST time you read them through, do this, then on re-reads, do that”. I’m sure many people here have read the books multiple times, but man, I wonder if the majority of your audience will.
I read them as published, because I had to wait until Dance came out. Feast was a long, long, long book and not as enjoyable (to me at least) as some of the others. Dance came out, and really tied up a few of the questions from Feast…if I would have had an encyclopedia like memory of what happened. But I didn’t, so I was left in the dark on some of the tie ins. I re-read the entire series this year prepping for what I had hoped would be a new book release right before the season, and I read the Boiled Leather mashup.
It GREATLY improved the experience of both books, and I wish I would have read it that way the first time. I know people who read a lot of books, and can’t be bothered to read this massive amount more than once. I’m all for those people reading the combined version the first time.
I just wanted to write to say that while I totally respect and accept your decision to become sullied, I am also pretty saddened by it. Probably the biggest reason I loved the podcast was the fact that some of you were reading it for the first time – now that’s not going to be happening and also now that you’re moving on to what are (IMO) much less interesting books, I’m going to be unsubscribing from the ‘cast until the new season begins. It’s nothing personal! I just love unsullied, and I don’t particularly love ADWD/AFFC, whatever order it’s in.
Anyway, thanks so much for hanging on as long as you did – to the end of Storm! It was a herculean effort, and I do completely understand how agonizing it must have been! And finally, I’m glad you enjoyed the last two books. I have heard from some that they are a lot less painful to read if you haven’t been waiting 5 years… 😉
I also hope that you don’t find that you enjoy the SHOW less having become sullied…
So happy I have finally found someone to read Feast and Dance with me! I started the Boiledleather at 2-4 chapters a week (two weeks in) but I will now switch and try your version. I AM EXCITED!
I have read the books as they were published, when they were published. And I have read also both books randomly because I’m weird like that (by character chapters: all Brienne, all Jon, all Jaime etc)
*highfive* I feel the same way as you regarding the quality of these two books compared with the first three. I never understood people like this guy Cumsprite, or this one cosca!
It’s beyond my comprehension that, for as often as the conversation comes up about the best way to Frankenstein the two works together (it’s mind-boggling enough that the author made this suggestion a few years ago), people continue to heap praise on them without realizing that the mere existence of these discussions is a sign that something is seriously, negligently and possibly terminally wrong with AFFC and ADWD.
Git outta my head, woman.
And besides, I was FIRST according to the timestamp. So there.
Zach and BFish:
This looks really awesome and exciting. I’ve read each book multiple times but haven’t done a mashup so this will be fun.
HOWEVER, could you guys pretty please add the actual chapter numbers within the book as well as the “Jon I, Tyrion II” titles? Chapters are not labeled that way within the book and especially on a Kindle it’s very hard to quickly get to “Jon VII” without guessing wrong several times as I click through the table of contents.
Just because people look for a different reading order to balance the chronology of events vs location, doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with the content of the actual story. Like I said I read by character the last two at one point. Story is still strong.
And anyway, years from now most won’t remember the chapter order but the story itself!
Dare ya to remember (NO GOOGLE!)which one was first: Jaime’s IVth or Brienne’s IVth. Gotcha! LOL
You are absolutely correct: the division should be considered separately from content when evaluating the works. The split is just the undigested airline peanut in the upper decker that is AFFC/ADWD.
No one will care nor will they remember 30 years from now the gap between AFFC and ADWD nor will they remember or care what they liked or disliked about those two books. The fact that individuals in the fandom have decided to merge two of the proposed seven into a single volume says nothing about the quality or lack thereof in the two books. This is one story as a whole, regardless of how many books it takes and regardless of whether or not individuals in the fandom decide to customize the presentation of the story.
You’re right. Thirty years from now, people will hardly think of ASOIAF at all.
I have no idea why I’m wasting my time responding to you, but I, for one, prefer the books as they are AND I “heap praise on them”. So, no, I do not feel there is something “seriously, negligently and possibly terminally wrong” about them. Complete the opposite.
And bravo Zack for proudly proclaiming your love for the two books. That’s so refreshing to read. 🙂
John M W,
Good for you. Here’s a peanut.
I did a character read my last re-read and that was a lot of fun. Really gets you into the mind of the individual characters and lets you see how they change and grow.
Suggestion for this combined reading order: You may want to list which chapters each one is in the books as BL did. It helps a lot when you’re searching through the books/kindles for your next chapter. The books (at least my kindle version) does not list which one is Jon II (for example).
Seriously, what is wrong with you?
Very colorful Mr. Sprite. I was almost close to believing you spoke of an Upper-Deck Airbus Airplane but then I remembered you hate flying. So I just thought “What would Mr. Sprite think that’s disgusting about Dance?!”
And then it came to me. I wish I could express what I’m thinking but I am bereft of speech. You may now proceed to you fave audio chapter from Dance.
To the people I have replied to in this thread, I have offered agreement, encouragement and praise. All of them. Even though I have never (to my recollection) engaged you in any way, your response to me was dismissive and very condescending. And still, because of the depth of love I feel for my fellow human people, I offered you a peanut.
The only thing I have insulted here is a couple of books. That you elevated that to a personal attack upon yourself begs the question, “What is wrong with you, Mr. John M W?” Did your mommybook not hug you closely enough?
So… a lot, then.
John M W,
And then some.
Lol shush you! Stop baiting John! There’s absolutely nothing wrong with you!
(Unless you count an extremely powerful dislike for Feast and Dance and a bit of a cheeky scoundrel when you are bored)
While I am not as critical of the AFFC and ADWD as some, I do think the fact so many people look for an alternative reading order, not to mention seem to enjoy the books more when they find one, is indicative something is off with those two books. On the other side of it, the fact said people want to read them at all, in any order, much less reread them is indicative there is some good stuff in those books. I don’t think it’s a black or white as some of those here make it seem.
Out of curiousity, why did you guys opt to end on the Dany chapter instead of the original ending?
Nymeria Warrior Queen,
Someone’s being measured and reasonable in this thread.
A Feast for Crows was immensely unsatisfying when I read it. And I didn’t understand why until I started reading Dances with Dragons. And I don’t care that it’s a book in a series. If a book cannot stand alone with some sense of resolution, then it’s not done well, and that’s the case with both of these So yes, there’s something wrong with them.
And attacking Cumdumpsprite won’t change that.
And saying that the book(s) isn’t good won’t change that people are free to disagree with you.
John M W,
Well duh you can disagree. Why do folks always pull the censorship argument when it’s unwarranted?
And I agree with CumSprite. No-one will remember ASOIAF in 30 years. Perhaps every so often people will say. “Remember that series that went bad and then was never finished? I sure hope my current favourite fantasy author doesn’t pull a GRRM”
They will remember the show though. All hail the new canon.
Both will be remembered as classics in their respective mediums.
I’ve never thought of it that way!
Everyone, truly I am sorry that I quashed any dissent. I see now that people are entitled to their opinions and my shutting out anyone who disagrees with me violated their human right to expression.
I am chastised. Chastened. Abashed and abased. I have seen the error of my ways. This was an epiphany. THANK YOU JOHN M W! I am a better gamete with people like you in this world.
Try not to be assholes to each other. That’s in our mission statement somewhere. Maybe.
Chapter 28 Bran II
Chapter 69 Bran III
Chapter 42 Sansa II
Chapter 81 Sansa III
If you’re reading two chapters a week it’ll certainly be hard to keep track of the characters that were short-changed with chapters, I’ll definitely listen along though
YEAH. BOOM. Love you Sue
I read AFFC years ago, and while still liking the stuff that was there, I severely disliked the lack of several of my favorite POV characters (this was long before the show started and I’ve never been involved in any ASOIAF community, so purely my own uninfluenced experience). A few months ago, I decided to finally read ADWD prior to the next season of the show, and since I hadn’t done a re-read yet, I decided to mix in AFFC according to the Boiled Leather reading order. Turned out I am one of those who enjoyed the story much more the chronological way!
I don’t know if we really needed yet another reading order, but if I do a re-read at some point, I’ll give AFWD a go. Btw, (if you haven’t done so yet) on the website you should really make reference of the reading orders that inspired you!
I am one who likes both Affc and Adwd (separately and combined) better than the three first books. That has to do with pacing, tone, themes and world immersion 🙂
You scallywag you
Good. Bad. I’m the guy with the pun.
For a first time reader, i would read the books in their normal order. Feast for Crows is like gothic fantasy bordering into horror, especially in the brienne and cersei plotlines. A Dance with Dragons is a reunion of sorts with 3 major characters and later, a tying together of the plotlines from both books.
I think of these two books as half of one as well and have read the boiled leather ordering and would recommend doing that on the second reading, maybe even trying one of the other recommended chapter lists. I perceive both books as one even larger introductory book; it’s like he’s arranging dominoes to knock over, but there’s a lot of dominos.
I think of his time writing this as him beginning to write the story set 5 years later, scrapped it, decided to write about how they got there and wrote the chapters most closely related to mereen first, with some others like jon, brienne, etc. getting a lot of chapters as well. The closer he got to deadlines the more he began to truncate the characters he was saving for later such as sansa, arya, etc. Also along the way he discovered that in the getting there he had more story for certain characters than others, etc but kept going. The book could use more editing and polishing but if it didn’t get it i’d still be happy with it, especially if winds ends up being a fast paced return to form for the series. This would only enrich the previous books as a set up to winds.
Overall i think that reading the books separately allows you to feel the moods of the characters and more importantly scenes more strongly while reading them together gives you the overarching story of both books combined with the drawback of having you be conscious of the read-hack and being occasionally taken out of the story. I think a lot of the hate about crows and to a lesser extent dance comes from the fact that if you were an original reader of the books (i’m not and am just presuming) you basically had to wait 10 years to find out with tyrion did after escaping the red keep, what daenerys was doing, what jon snow was doing at the wall after being saved by stannis and to have it then end on a cliffhanger must have been frustrating. So i kinda understand your point of view. Hopefully winds does come out soon, as much as martin hates deadlines he writes better, it seems, when they are enforced on him, and hopefully he keeps plowing forward with the next book.
I’m glad you chose the name “A Feast with Dragons”, although I am sure others than me had suggested it. And good for you, the .com URL was available!
This is the first place I heard of “A Ball of Beasts”. At first I was all “meh…” about it, until I understood that I read ball as in balloon, while it makes much more sense with ball as in ballet… Now I like it too!
My favorite part of the Boiled Leather combined read was the back-to-back Sam and Jon chapters where the same scene is revisited, with each hero thinking of the secrets he keeps from the other one… it was a hoot!
It seems that other site no one else likes is straight up copying you guys. It’s so sad. I stopped following them on all social media and will never visit that website again. Enough is enough.
That ya’ll are ridiculously emotional about these books is one of my favorite things about your show. Keep it up and you’ll keep me listening. Let’s get ridiculous up in these earholes!!!
I’m in the middle of the A Ball with Beasts reading list–which I’ve already found very inspired as it is, so I’m sticking with that one for the nonce. I will say that the AFFC chapters start slower and are tougher to get through than the ADWD chapters when read back to back. In AFFC it feels like he’s trying to drag out chapters in certain places simply to increase the word count so that each chapter can be at the minimum 20 pages long in mass market paperback (while the ADWD chapters are shorter in the 15 – 19 page range). However that said, certain thematic connections between characters in books that are separated from one another become a bit more obvious, and some of the critiques GRRM includes become far more apparent (reading Samwell 1 immediately before Jon 2 really brings to light a two-sided argument and critique of masculinity that is otherwise missing from just reading one or the other). In any case I’m enjoying merging the books and POVs and highly recommend it no matter if it’s your first or millionth time.
Man this sucks I finally caught up to reading and listening to every podcast, thought I would finally be able to contribute owns, but now I find there is a combined reading & now the unsullied are sullied 🙁
This is my first read through, so I think I would have a better grasp on things reading the books the way they were published first. This way just seems better for re-readers. Gonna miss you guys in my ear holes, but will definitely come back when I get to aDwD.
I just recently found A Feast with Dragons. I appreciate all the hard work that went into it. To help my mom get through this reading order on her kindle, I put a note at the end of each chapter to let her know where to go next. I thought this may be helpful to other Kindle readers so I decided to make the notes public.
If anyone is interested, go to kindle.amazon.com and search for Colin C. Scheidt and follow. You may need to make sure your versions of A Feast for Crows and A Dance with Dragons are updated and that Public Notes is turned on. To turn Public notes on go to Settings>Reading Options> Notes & About This Book>Public Notes. I think your kindle also has to be 3rd generation or later.
I included the names of characters with the chapters that did not give the names. For example Chapter 1- The Prophet (Aeron). So if anyone does not like that, you have been warned.
I tried to make the notes intuitive. If you are in Feast and the next chapter is in Dance the note will say “Go to A Dance with Dragons Chapter 1-Tryion I” If you are staying in the same book but jumping around the note will say “Skip to…” or “Skip back to…” If you are just going to the next chapter it should say “Proceed to…”
Hopefully I did not make any mistakes. I just finished and haven’t had a chance to proof it yet.
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