Monday, June 21, 2010

#ASOIAF Re-read: A Game of Thrones, Part 16

Hello, and welcome back to this little thing called the ASOIAF Re-read. It’s been a while, but I’m back from vacation, ready to buckle down and finish A Game of Thrones.

A few things have happened while I was away. For example, the teaser trailer for next year’s A Game of Thrones has been released. If you think you’ll enjoy 17 seconds of darkness plus 5 seconds of random footage and ominous music tones, then it’s a very exciting trailer. Expect longer trailers before summer is out.

If you’re feeling rusty and need to remember where we left off, that would be Part 15, and if this is your first time visiting, the whole shebang starts off here with the intro and Part 1. Wit and coherence vary. Spoilers abound.

If you're following on Twitter, you'll want to use the #ASOIAF hashtag, or you can click the handy-dandy RSS button right under the blog header featuring Errol Flynn.

It’s June 21’st, the first day of Summer. Summer is the name of Bran’s direwolf. This post features Summer and Bran. It also features Dany, who’s been missing for a while. So let’s start with her, shall we?


Chapter 36: Daenerys

What Happens

Dany and the khalasar reach Vaes Dothrak, a city without walls or buildings. Viserys is contemptuous of the Dothraki, but he is careful not to speak in a language they understand. He reeks of entitlement, but he does not know the Dothraki laugh at him and call him the Cart King and the Sorefoot King.

Dany and Ser Jorah talk about the ten thousand men promised to her brother. Jorah does not think the Dothraki will do any good for Viserys because he is not a leader. She asks if ten thousand Dothraki could take Westeros, and Jorah is not sure. On the one hand, they are great fighters, and there are more of them than there are Westerosi knights. On the other hand, the horselords would be completely ineffective in siege situations.

The conversation halts when Dany finally sees the vastness of Vaes Dothrak. It is large enough to house every khalasar at the same time, but only the dosh khaleen crones and their slaves live in the city permanently.

That evening, Khal Drogo must make sacrifices to the gods for his safe return. Dany is relieved, as her pregnancy and Drogo's nightly attention leave her very tired. She has her maids buy and cook some food while she prepares gifts intended for Viserys. Yet Viserys is furious when he arrives in her hollow hill (literally, a home made out of a hollowed hill), offended that he was commanded to go to Dany (a misunderstanding). His mood is not helped by Dany's gifts; he scorns them.

Dany is hurt by his rejection and unsure of what to say without offending him. His words are cruel, even though she only wants to help him be accepted by the Dothraki. But he sees himself as Lord of the Seven Kingdoms, and doesn't care about Dothraki acceptance.

He starts hurting Dany, but she fights back, actually cutting his face with a belt she'd intended to give him. Viserys is furious, but Dany orders him to leave before Drogo hears about what happened. She goes to sleep without supper. The chapter ends with her talking to her unborn baby, saying her child will be the true dragon.

Commentary
So, Viserys is more of an ass, Dany is doing her thing, and Jorah is working his way into the role of trusted advisor. Kind of ho-hum, really, but it's a much lighter chapter than the last one. I don't think I appreciated that as much during my first reading. I wanted Starks and Westeros, not Dany and the Dothraki. But, aside from being more connected to the central storyline than first assumed, her chapters give the story some breathing room. The world does not revolve around King's Landing; people there may play their game of thrones, but their machinations mean very little to people like the Dothraki.

Ironically, Jorah continues to be a good source of information for Dany. His latest tidbits include an outsider's perception of King Robert ("He is a strong man, brave... and rash enough to meet a Dothraki horde in the open field,") and Eddard Stark ("He took from me all that I loved, for the sake of a few lice-ridden poachers and his precious honor, ").

Is he right about Robert? You'd think so, at first glance, but I'd like to think Robert had enough military tact to not charge into suicidal situations. Or did the powers that be just give him the crown because he was 6'6'' and swung the meanest hammer since Thor? Either way, I don't trust Jorah on matters concerning Robert. I doubt they knew each other well.

Likewise, he gets no sympathy from me when it comes to Ned. After all, Jorah was a) breaking the law, and b) selling people into slavery. He feels wronged just because he engaged in a little bit of human trafficking. There are particular levels of hell reserved for people who do that. Mind you, Jorah is now hanging around folk who have their homes built by slaves, so he's among sympathizers.

As for Viserys, he must have inherited his father's madness. He doesn't trust his sister, who is still trying to make nice with him, and he's really testing the limits of what kind of abuse he can get away with. It looks like that's about to come to a head, but not yet.

Chapter 37: Bran

What Happens

Bran can hardly believe it, but he can actually go horse-riding. The special saddle design works, and now Bran can go beyond the walls of Winterfell with Robb, Theon, and some guards.

With a flick of his reins, Bran gets his horse to trot and then gallop, racing with Robb for a couple of miles until they reach the wolfswood. The brothers are laughing, but Bran can tell that something is bothering Robb. That's when Robb mentions he's had a raven with news. Dark wings, dark words. The news is that Jory Cassel and others are dead, wile Ned is badly injured.

Robb says Theon thinks he should call the banners, but only the Lord of Winterfell can do that. Theon, just arrived, mentions that Robb will be Lord if Ned dies. Bran wants to go back to Winterfell, but the direwolves have run off and need to be found. He and Robb ride into the forest, gradually leaving the others behind. They hear the howling of their wolves, and Robb leaves Bran to track them down.

Bran gets cold waiting for Theon and the others to show up, but the people who appear out of the trees are strangers to him. He deduces that a couple must be oathbreakers from the Wall, and at least one other is a wildling. They tell him to get down and are just in the process of cutting Bran's straps when Robb arrives.

Robb and the direwolves manage to take care of most of the brigands, but one of them puts a knife to Bran's throat and tells Robb to drop his sword. Robb obeys. Just as the man is yelling at Robb and Bran about killing the direwolves, a arrow explodes from his chest. The guardsmen have arrived, and with them, Theon and his bow.

Robb calls Theon an ass for taking the shot when so many things could have gone wrong. Theon thinks he deserves thanks instead. Robb is angry with him, but doesn't say any more.

A wildling named Osha has surrendered. She was a good fighter, and had seemed like the voice of reason among the brigands. Maester Luwin suggests Robb takes her alive so they can ask questions about activities in the north. Robb seems relieved that he won't have to execute a woman. The company leaves the wolfswood for Winterfell.

Commentary

Robb sounds pretty angry in the text when he's laying into Theon, who is practically his best friend at the moment. Bran was never a fan of Theon, so between his perspective and Robb's anger, Theon looks like a bit of a jerk. True, there are several ways his killing shot could have gone wrong, but I don't think that's giving Theon enough credit.

What would Robb have done? Killed the direwolves? At best the oathbreaker would have taken Bran hostage. Theon saaw a chance and he went for it. Furthermore, when Robb rounds on him for disappearing, he says he didn't think Robb would leave Bran alone. Pardon me, but I have to agree. Even if you don't expect oathbreakers and wildlings to take a stroll in the local wolfswood (a wood with presumably enough wolves to warrant the name), you don't leave a paralyzed boy alone on his first day riding a horse.

The rest of this chapter is part infodump, and part getting to know the Stark boys better. Robb, we just saw, is still learning to be a man and a leader; he is not the Lord of Winterfell just yet. Bran is a little boy trying to overcome a tragic injury.

Also, this is where we meet Osha, who will become kinda sorta significant later, sometimes in interesting ways.

***

Kiddies today, traitors on Thursday. That means Part 17, the unlucky number. I’ll see you then. Enjoy the beginning of summer, unless you’re in the southern hemisphere, in which case enjoy the beginning of winter.

7 comments:

Lya said...

Welcome back! Sounds like you had a good time abroad, yes? (Also, that's Errol Flynn in your banner? Hmmm definitely need to get caught up on my classic movies quota.)

I've always had a soft spot for Theon so I am 110% with you on your analysis of Robb and Bran's ... overreaction? Insensitivity? It's not like they suggest a better course of action or anything. Theon at this point is pretty much the best shot north of the Neck. And I love me my archers! Sarella Sand and Anguy are both favorites of mine among the second- and third-tier characters. It just feels like Theon is very much a product of his environment, and if he'd been born somewhere/sometime else he might have turned out very differently. Which doesn't excuse his behavior, but it does make him more understandable.

I don't think it even registered with me on the first read-through that Ser Jorah was engaging in human trafficking. And the fact that Dany is still seeking Viserys' approval and affection just about kills me.

Anyway, good to see again!

ibeeeg said...

I liked Dany in this book, but I still cannot get over the whole Dany is pregnant thing, and all the sexuality that comes along with her...I guess I cannot get out of my head that she is something like 13, or 14 (14..I think).

Ser Jorah and human trafficking...I did not catch that with my read. Something to look forward to when the day comes for a re-read for me...catching the stuff that I missed.

Theon...well, I do think he got a bad rap from Rob in this chapter. Isn't Rob just as much to blame for leaving Bran as is Theon. And, I agree...why would they at all leave the boy alone on his first outing?? Crazy they all were with this decision.

Anyhow, I am not a Theon fan...my mind is fuzzing but in the second or third book is where I did not care for him at all regardless of his upbringing for which I am thinking was not too bad considering it was Ned who took care of him. True, being a hostage is not a great thing, but at least it was with Ned.

Glad to see the ASOIAF posts again. :D Just what I need to light the fire for the start of my A Feast For Crows read tonight.

Errant Knave said...

I'm also a big fan of the archers (re: Theon and Robin Hood). I'm a little hazy on some of the later Theon parts, but I thought he was more of a tragic character than a bad guy. He reminds me of Draco Malfoy, a guy who wants to be bad and tough, but doesn't have the stones for it when the time comes.

Yeah, I'd blame Robb just as much for leaving Bran. I'm not sure what he was thinking, but he needs to become a little more accountable. And he does, later on. He just needs some seasoning and growing up to do. All in all, everything turned out alright. Well, except for the dead guys. They paid up.

Thanks for the welcome back! It feels good to be doing this again :)

ibeeeg said...

Theon is tragic, for sure, but from what I have last read of him...I think he is a bad guy in the sense that he has made incredibly poor decisions based solely on his needs and desires. He hurts people. Tragic yes, but that does not negate responsible behavior.

Draco Malfoy...okay, sure, but Theon did seem to have the stones (as you say) for it. Who knows, maybe things will be different in book four.

Errant Knave said...

Can't remember if he's in Book 4. What you should know about this book is it's actually half a book. Half the characters are in it, and the other half were supposed to be in Book 5... 4 or 5 years ago.

ibeeeg said...

I realized that half the characters are in book 4, and have heard that this one is not a lot of people's favorite in the series. Thanks though for the info.

Stacy said...

I completely understand Robb's reaction (not that I agree with it). He was feeling guilty because he left Bran alone in the first place and in an attempt to assuage his guilt/deflect attention from his error, he lashed out at Theon.

As for Theon as a character, initially I did not like him at all. But as the books progressed, I came to see him more as a tragic character. Taken from his home as a small child. Well taken care of, but still separated from his family and not a part of the one he is living with. Then when he finally returns to his family, not only are they not happy to have him back but seem to blame him for his captivity. And everything he grew up thinking was right is now wrong when he returns to the Iron Islands. He can't do anything right. The guy is just screwed.

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