Tower of the Hand

A Laboratory of Politics Part IV

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Race for the Iron Throne's Steven Attewell will be sharing some of his work on Tower of the Hand, offering his historical and political insights on A Song of Ice and Fire. Steve began with a five-piece analysis of the Hands of the King, and followed that with his five-part look at Hollow Crowns and Deadly Thrones. Now he turns his attention toward the great continent of Essos. In Part IV: The Free Cities, Steve looks at the Free Cities as a unit, the historical counterparts of each city, and how their political interactions shape politics in Essos.

This post discusses the fifth book of the series, A Dance with Dragons (published 2011). If you've completed the book, set your scope above to ADWD. Otherwise, we advise you to avoid reading this post as it may contain spoilers.

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Warning: Footnotes may contain spoilers from later chapters or books.
  • 1 - Actually, this one works whether one is taking the comparison of Venice against the Ottoman Empire or the Dutch against the Spanish and the French.
  • 2 -
  • 3 - The Disputed Lands covers an area of roughly 90,000 square miles, making it roughly the same size as the Stormlands.
  • 4 - Which brings up an interesting question: why did Bittersteel stop at building a mercenary army, rather than following the Daemon Targaryen model of using an army to build himself a kingdom whose resources could be relied on to support a prolonged invasion of Westeros? In general, one of the things that still isn't clear about the Blackfyre Rebellion period (especially with some of the retcons re: the Second Blackfyre Rebellion and Aegon V's role in the War of Ninepenny Kings) is the extent to which the two sides learned from their mistakes in previous encounters. In other words, was Maelys' attempt to seize the Disputed Lands a response to the lack of support that undid the Fourth Blackfyre Rebellion? Was the decision by House Targaryen to preemptively invade the Stepstones a response to the responsive strategy followed in previous Rebellions?


Warning: Discussions are not subject to scope. That is, commenters can and often do discuss events from the most recent book. We recommend avoiding these discussions until you're caught up.

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