Okay, I know that there is no book called “A Feast With Dragons.” However, the two volumes “A Feast for Crows” and “A Dance with Dragons” were carved apart because the fourth volume of the series was just too long. George R. R. Martin decided to cleave the book according to geography, making two interconnected narratives that evolve in parallel.
At first, we created independent networks for “A Feast for Crows” and “A Dance with Dragons.” But as you can imagine, the resulting networks gave us skewed results, as half the important characters were missing in the complementary volume. For our network analysis, we have returned these two books into a single whole, giving us a more meaningful network.
The “A Feast with Dragons” network has 506 nodes (characters), 1329 weighted edges (relationships), corresponding to 10,426 interactions. Character names are sized by PageRank centrality. Character nodes are sized by betweenness centrality. Edge thickness corresponds to edge weight.
The largest communities are:
- the North (Jon Snow, Stannis),
- King’s Landing (Jaime, Cersei), and
- Slaver’s Bay (Daenerys).
Next, we have medium-sized communities:
- the Vale and the Riverlands (Sansa, Brienne, Littlefinger),
- the Ironborn (Victarion, Asha),
- Westerosi in Essos (Tyrion),
- Winterfell/Braavos (Theon, Arya), and
- Dorne (Arianne, Doran, Myrcella).
Finally, we have three small communities:
- the Haunted Forest (Bran),
- Old Town (connected to Sam) and
- a band of four freefolk.
These communities have nontrivial structures, reflecting the growing complexity of the narrative. Some communities represent new alliances (the Night’s Watch and the Wildlings, the growing empire of Daenerys). The storyline now includes the mechanizations of the lesser houses of Westeros, including the Greyjoys, the Martells. Finally, we see the actualization of Littlefinger’s scheming in the Vale.
The larger communities have multiple focal points.
- The Essos community is the closest to having a single hub (Daenerys). However, Quentyn Martell anchors his own sub-community, and we have a band of Meereenese pit-fighters.
- Tyrion is nearly a hub for the Westerosi/Essos connectors, but this community is also littered with the corpses of Targaryens, Lannisters and Starks from the recent past.
- Cersei is slightly stronger with the King’s Landing community, but Jamie makes up for this by forging more connections beyond the city walls.
- Jon Snow and Stannis anchor different parts of the Northern community.
- Theon and Arya are the hubs of a motley community that combines Winterfell and Braavos, thanks to Jeyne Poole’s masquerading as Arya in Winterfell.
- The Ironborn are organized in clusters around Asha and Victarion.
- The Dornish community splits between Arianne and Doran.
- The Vale/Riverlands community agglomerates the influence of Sansa, Littlefinger and Brienne.
Perhaps the most unusual community is the sprawling amalgam of Winterfell (Theon/Reek and Ramsay), White Harbor (Wyman Manderly) and Braavos (Ayra). The memories of Ned and Robb play a crucial role in binding Winterfell and White Harbor. Meanwhile, Jeyne Poole’s masquerade as Arya Stark pulls the young Stark girl into this community as well. Moreover, Martin uses a sparer writing style for the Faceless Men, where names and identifiers are used infrequently, so there is not enough cohesion in the Braavos chapters to counter this merge.
The Top Three Characters
Three characters vie for the top spot in this combined network:
- Jon, Jaime and Cersei.
These three characters are nearly tied for number of connections. Cersei has the most interactions: the Queen Regent has 930, compared to 857 for Jon and 611 for Jaime. However, the feedback loop of PageRank rewards Jon with the top spot. It seems that Jon has more high-quality relationships than the Queen Regent. Ned Stark’s bastard helms the lion’s share of the Northern community, with a strong reinforcing bond to Stannis, the other Northern hub. He also benefits from his ties to Sam. We note that this is the first time that Jon takes the top PageRank spot: his narrative arc is finally the most dominant storyline, as he entwines three major threads by uniting the Night’s Watch, the wildlings, and Stannis’s forces.
PageRank also rewards Jamie handsomely. The Kingslayer shares half of Cersei’s connections, and he is adjacent to nearly all of the large Riverrun community. He also benefits from his tie to Brienne, who takes tenth place in PageRank. Indeed, the Maid of Tarth becomes a point-of-view character in this volume, and her trek through the Riverlands brings her face-to-face with the aftermath of those who were on the wrong side of the War of the Five Kings.
Let’s look at the next PageRank grouping:
- Daenerys comes in a close fourth, followed by Stannis and then Tyrion.
The Essos community is rich with players, new and old, as Daenerys has developed into a power that commands attention. This is the start of the narrative shift that has been promised from the start of the saga. Daenerys has also forged meaningful connections outside of the Essos community for the first time, including ties to Tyrion and Victarion Greyjoy. Like Jon Snow, her PageRank has jumped tremendously. Jon and Danerys have followed parallel journeys in exile, one in ice, the other in fire. In this volume, their stories begin to veer towards one another.
The two most striking features in the runners-up are Tyrion’s fall to 5th place and Stannis’s rise to 4th place. (Fun fact: Stannis is the only non-point-of-view character in the top 10.) This network includes the resoltuoin of the the arc of Stannis, hence his rise to the top. Meanwhile, Tyrion is in exile from King’s Landing, and his advisory role to Daenerys does not yet equal the narrative center he enjoyed in Westeros.
Arya and Sam come next, as each of their arcs takes them to far-flung cities. Arya overperforms considerably in PageRank, benefiting from the hub-and-spoke nature of her Braavos community, and from her connection to Sansa. Victarion Greyjoy ranks 6th, which is a very strong performance given his 11th place finish in both degree and weighted degree. This suggests that he will play a more important role than his brother, Euron, in the future. Meanwhile, Magaery, Tommen and Littlefinger all underperform compared to their local connectivities.
For the top seven characters, degree centrality stays very consistent with PageRank centrality. From there we start to encounter some over-performers in PageRank. Victarion (14th in degree, 8th in PageRank) promises to be an important link between the Ironborn and Daenerys. Arya (13th in degree, 9th in PageRank) and Sansa (9th in degree, 13th in PageRank) have an amusing symmetry between them.
Perhaps the most interesting observation is how different PageRank centrality and eigenvector centrality are from one another. In fact, those with both high eigenvector centrality and high PageRank centrality,
- Cersei, Jamie, Stannis, Tyrion
are the exceptions rather than the rule. This reflects the broad reach of the narrative in these volumes: the story is no longer confined to the major players (the Starks and Lannisters). Much of the momentum in the narrative comes from the new and developing characters, who are still establishing their roles and influence, adding local and global complexity to the network. Tyrion’s high score reminds us that the Imp is an important player in the game, even if his talents are not being fully utilized at the moment.
After the top four, there is a large gap in eigenvector centralities. We then encounter
- Tommen, Daenerys, Jon Snow and Ned Stark.
This is a motley collection of characters, each commanding importance for different reasons. Tommen is a simply pawn in the game, shielded by Cersei and Jaime, while holding the attention of Stannis. His eigenvector score is simply an echo of those first tier characters. Jon and, especially, Daenerys have made huge gains in eigenvector centrality compared to previous volumes. Once again, this reinforces the fact that they are finally becoming central players to the game of thrones. Finally, Ned embodies the narrative power of House Stark, even four volumes after his demise.
Betweenness centrality also captures the fulcrum shift of character importance. Stannis and Cersei are in a virtual tie for first place. They are are the focal points of the current power struggle. With his arc complete, we realize that Stannis’s absence will create a hole that will need to be filled.
Next, Jon Snow and Daenerys come as a pair. Their betweenness values have been consistently strong throughout the series. Finally, their other centrality measures are starting to live up to their potential as connectors. In addition to providing access to far-flung lands, they have now forged connections to important players, and are in position to further strengthen their respective powerbases.
After another gap, we encounter Tyrion and Jaime. The Imp has forged connections to Essos, while Jaime continues to do his best to maintain the Lannister hold on the throne.
And the Winner is…
Taken together, these two books are a massive journey. With the untimely demise of King Joffrey, we find a strong narrative shift towards the Lannister twins. One could argue that it is a three-way race between Cersei, Jaime and Jon Snow. But that statement itself suggests that we should grant the prize to the Lannisters, since it is two-against-one.
But who should be crowned the victor between them? Jaime just bests Cersei in two categories (degree and the illustrious PageRank). Meanwhile, Cersei dominates Jaime in the remaining three categories (weighted degree, eigenvector, betweenness). It is a close call, but the Queen Regent deserves the title.
Jon Snow must accept third place, in spite of winning the most important category: PageRank. But he does not have the breadth he needs in the other measures: Cersei beats him in every one.
The battle for fourth place is razor thin: Daenerys and Stannis reach a 3-2 split across the measures. In such a close battle, I must award the prize to the winner of PageRank, in spite of Stannis’s first place showing in betweenness. Next, we find that the Imp has clinched sixth place. So the ranking is:
Finally, Theon deserves special mention once again. He finds himself in a similar position as Jon Snow did in the earlier volumes. Except for a low eigenvector score, he performs strongly across the board. If he can forge some powerful connections to new people, he could find himself in the first tier in the novels to come.