Thursday, July 15, 2010

#ASOIAF Re-read: A Game of Thrones, Part 22

What do you know... it's Thursday. Time for an ASOIAF re-read, wouldn't you say? Although, I warn you, today's post marks the point where SHTF, at least as far as one of the favourites is concerned.

So take this moment to think about the people of Westeros, and how they are living in relative peace. When last we met (Part 21), the seven kingdoms were united, but the king was on his deathbed. So, change was in order. And now it's coming. Oh dear... It will be a looong time before there's a similar sense or order.

The intro post is here, and the first post is here. There are several ways for you to follow the blog, including the RSS button near the upper right portion of this page, or you can use the #ASOIAF hashtag if Twitter's your thing.

Like I said, change is in order. Death, betrayal, and all kinds of craziness. Shall we?
Chapter 48: Jon 

What Happens 
It's the morning after Jon spoke to Maester Aemon about Sam. Everyone is having breakfast when Sam enters the hall and tells his friends that he's been asked to join the Brotherhood. Everyone is stunned, and Jon acts like he's pleasantly surprised.  

The youths arrive at the sept and are greeted by the septon, senior members, and Lord Commander Mormont. The Old Bear gives a short speech about leaving everything behind and what it will mean to join the Watch and live for the realm. None of the youths back out. Most will say their vows in the sept. As the Starks follow the old gods, Jon will say the words before a heart tree. To everyone's surprise, Sam asks to do the same because the Seven have never answered his prayers. 

The Old Bear calls out the names of each youth and where they are assigned. Some go to the builders. Some, like Pyp and Grenn, are made rangers. Sam and Dareon are chosen as stewards. Jon's name is called last, and he is assigned to the stewards. Jon is shocked, but he sees Ser Alliser smiling, and thinks he must have been behind the decision. He is furious, but Lord Steward Bowen Marsh tells him Mormont asked for Jon to be his personal steward. 

Still fuming when he leaves, Jon lashes out at Sam and Dareon, thinking his selection wasn't fair. Dareon thinks Jon is too full of himself, but Sam tries to make his friend understand. Being brought up as a lord's son, Sam knows that this move means Jon will have access to the highest commander in the Watch, meaning he's being groomed for command. Jon is surprised to hear that, and after thinking it over, becomes ashamed of the way he acted. 

Later that afternoon, they set out to say their vows, accompanied by a small escort and Ghost. The godswood is located beyond the Wall, so they have to go underneath the wall and into the forest. It's almost a different world on the other side, like it's colder and more silent. They find nine heart trees in the godswood, and when night comes, Jon and Sam make their vows.  

Just as they're about to leave, Ghost appears at Jon's side with a blackened human hand in his mouth. 

The last time we saw Jon being ashamed was when Donal Noye told him he was a bully. Here's Jon again getting a bit too uppity, again getting taken down a peg or two, and again having the good grace to realize how foolish he's been. He was so focused on one thing (being First Ranger), that he didn't see the obvious benefits in working for El Capitano, Mormont himself. Basically, he couldn't see the forest for the trees. Luckily, he has Sam there to put two and two together for him. You could look at that as Jon's compassion paying off.

I was a tiny bit surprised when Jon wasn't chosen as a ranger, caught up in his own angry emotions. Once Sam mentioned his theory, things made a lot more sense. So, Ser Alliser's not exactly the bad guy in this case.  
I didn't quote the vow here, because you've presumably read it, but the first thing I did was scrutinize the words to see if there was any wiggle room for Jon. At first, there seemed to be. When Mormont tells the youths what they'll need to sacrifice, he says they will bear no sons. That seemed to leave the door open for daughters. The brothers can't marry, but that leaves a door open for bastards.  

Then there's a curious line about honour being their mistress. A mistress is generally considered dishonourable. Not sure what Martin was going for. But... once Jon and Sam got around to swearing, they clearly stated they would father no children. The oath makes them swear to the realm, which seems like enough of a loophole to leave the Wall and go south. What I'd like to know is what happens if (when?) the Wall falls. Do the oath hold? I imagine there would be extreme chaos, but if you're not used to chaos by the end of the second book, you're reading the wrong series.

On a side note, it's rarely an issue, but sometimes I wonder about the effectiveness of certain gods. R'hllor has his fiery priests and priestesses who certainly have some kind of power. The old gods have something of a more natural power, or at least that's the feeling I get from godswoods, heart trees, the children of the forest, and maybe Coldhands. But the Seven? They seem largely ineffectual. Maybe they just like to stay out of things. Maybe they're just waiting for their chance to strike. I'm not really convinced when it comes to them. They feel false. 

Chapter 49: Eddard 

What Happens 
It is a grey morning and Ned is having breakfast with his daughters. They are to leave by midday, but Arya requests a final, short lesson with Syrio. Ned allows it, but that only makes Sansa ask to see Joffrey one last time, and Ned declines. Sansa runs away, weeping, and Ned tells Septa Mordane not to follow her. 

An hour later, Pycelle arrives to tell Ned that Robert is dead. The time has arrived for Ned to make his move. He calls the members of the small council to his solar. He is disappointed that Renly left the city just before dawn, meaning he has one less ally, but he shows the council Robert's will. He asks them to proclaim him Lord Protector of the Realm.  

At that moment, Fat Tom arrives, saying that the king demands the presence of the small council in the throne room. Ned is not surprised that Cersei would act so quickly. The council goes to the throneroom, where Joffrey sits on the Iron Throne, and five knights of the Kingsguard stand near the throne. There are also armed Lannister guards present, but the City Watch outnumbers them five to one; Littlefinger apparently held up his end of the bargain.  

Joffrey declare that he wants to be proclaimed king, but Ned produces Robert's letter. Cersei just rips it up, shocking at least Ser Barristan. Then she gives some advice to Ned: "Bend the knee and swear fealty to my son, and we shall allow you to step down as Hand and live out your days in the grey waste you call home." 

Ned wishes he could. Seeing himself without a choice, he declares that Stannis is Robert's true heir, and Joff has no claim. In the uproar that follows, Starks and Lannisters draw swords. Joffrey orders them all killed, while Ned tells Janos Slynt, Commander of the City Watch, to take Cersei and the children into custody, unharmed. Slynt orders the gold cloaks forward, and they suddenly attack the Starks, killing all of Ned's men. As his men die, Littlefinger pushes a dagger to Ned's throat, saying, "I did warn you not to trust me, you know." 

So it begins. In a series filled with chapter endings that make you go, "Did that just happen?" this is one of the worst moments in this book. Oh, it gets worse, but you'll notice that the really, really bad moments are all because of last minute betrayals, of good guys doing what they think is right and suddenly realizing they've been caught in a trap. Yeah, this is only the beginning, and it's not even the last time for Ned. 

What can I say here? It sucks to be Ned. Littlefinger double-crossed him. Cersei somehow got the upper hand. Joff is king, even though he's not of age. Renly fucked off somewhere (fat lot of help YOU were, buddy).  

Yeah, that about sums this up. Throw in a *headdesk* or two, and be done with it. Better yet, save them for a couple of chapters.

I will say this much, in case it isn't blindingly obvious by now: One of the things that makes Martin's work so compelling is that the good guys don't always win. Sure, sometimes the bad guys become good guys (sort of). But sometimes the good guys get the shaft. I think that frustrates some people. I know a couple of people who've abandoned the series because they were tired of seeing their favourite characters come to terrible ends. Me... I just hope the good guys win in the end. Some good guys go down, but more are left standing. Maybe Martin's genius lies in the ability to make readers switch allegiance over the course of a few books. I guess we'll find out as the series draws to a close. 


Next week: A meeting with a very unusual dancing master in Part 23. 

A dog, cat, and bird-owner, Francesco has had to spend the last couple of days proof-reading a book on wild animals in the world of entertainment. It's been an insightful and thoroughly depressing experience. Please help stop animal cruelty. 
No animals were harmed in the making of this blog.

1 comment:

Rogerdering said...

What do you mean sometimes? When do the Starks ever get the better of the Lannisters?

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...