Thursday, July 29, 2010

#ASOIAF Re-Read: A Game of Thrones, Part 24

Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears; I bring you this latest in a series of posts on A Game of Thrones.

For those of you who are new to this thing, there are possible spoilers ahead. If you'd like to start from the beginning, the intro post is here, the first post is here, and the last post that actually contained a recap is here >> Part 23. Keep up to date with the latest happenings here, either by subscribing via RSS or using the #ASOIAF hashtag on Twitter.

Lorem ipsum dolor, and so on...

Chapter 52: Jon

What Happens

The hand that Ghost found beyond the Wall belonged to Jafer Flowers. The man is dead now. His body and that of another man named Othor were found in the forest. They were Ben Stark's men, once.

For some reason, the horses and the dogs do not like being in the area. Neither does Sam, but Jon convinces his friend to look at the bodies, if only because he's supposed to be Maester Aemon's eyes in this place.

The Old Bear asks how two of his men could have been killed so close to the Wall without being seen or heard by the Watch. He question's Ser Jaremy Rykker's competence and leadership, but Rykker has fewer rangers than he'd prefer, and he'd pulled men closer to the Wall on Mormont's own orders. Rykker things wildlings killed the men, and likely Benjen as well. He guess that Othor and Jafer were on their way back for help when they were slain near the Wall, perhaps only a day earlier.

Sam finds his voice, objecting to Rykker's theory. He stutters through an explanation that the men were killed days earlier, and at a different location. The corpses aren't rotting, but there's no blood near the corpses, despite their grave wounds. The dogs won't go near the bodies, and then the men notice that Othor's and Jafer's eyes are blue, even though they weren't when they were alive.

Mormont orders the bodies brought back to Castle Black while Rykker and his men search the forest for clues. He praises Sam for speaking up, and Jon for supporting Sam in the first place. Upon arriving at the Wall, Mormont learns that Maester Aemon received a letter with important news. Meanwhile, Jon learns from Pup that the king is dead. He goes to Mormont's solar, and the Old Bear tells him that not only is the king dead, but Lord Eddard has been imprisoned as well, charged with treason. Jon believes it's a lie, and asks what will happen to his father. Mormont thinks that whatever happens, Ned is a great lord and must be allowed to take the black. He tells Jon not to do anything stupid in the meantime, and to remember that he must hold to his oaths.

At supper, Jon's friends tell him they believe the charges are false. Then Ser Alliser's voice cuts through the din of the hall, saying, "Not only a bastard, but a traitor's bastard." Jon is on top of him in an instant, slashing at the man's face, but his friends manage to subdue him before he can reach Ser Alliser. Later, when Jon is locked in a cell with Ghost in the Commander's Tower, Mormont visits and expresses some disgust with Jon.

During the night, Jon wakes up in the cell. He is very cold, and Ghost is silently snarling at the door. Jon realizes the door is open. The guard outside is dead, and Jon creeps up the tower with the dead guard's sword when he hears footsteps going towards Mormont's chambers. There is a shadowy man-shape in the dark, and Ghost attacks it. The figure, however, is strong, and starts strangling Ghost. Jon tries to save his wolf by slicing through the man, and then slashing the face. But he recognizes the face. It is Othor's, back from the dead. He and Othor tussle, until Ghost is able to pull the thing off Jon.

Mormont appears with an oil lamp, and Jon snatches it away, setting fire to a pile of drapes. He picks up the drapes, calls Ghost off, and throws the flaming material at dead Othor, hoping the creature will burn.

The undead walk, and now the Watch knows. We the readers have known since the prologue, but we've been a bit preoccupied with the goings-on south of the Wall.

Still, it makes for exciting reading when blue-eyed wights come to life. I admit to being just a little worried that dead Othor was going to kill Ghost. Needless worry. Also, editorial quibble: Othor, killed by an Other? Were there no other names available?

Anyway, nice work, Jon! Way to think fast and use fire against the wight. Also, way to not lose your cool once you cleaved the thing in two and it kept walking. And the severed hand that was making like Thing from the Addam's Family? Again, way to keep calm and carry on.

You know who should have his own motivational Keep Calm and Carry On poster? Sam. That boy is never anything less than helpful, but I confess to being just a little annoyed with him sometimes. I'm annoyed because I like him, and sometimes I wish he could grow more of a backbone. That he has a spine is evident; he may sound timid and he may stutter, but at least he acts on his impulses. It's just that it's so excruciating to see the poor guy go through his stage-fright so often. So, on the one hand, three cheers for Sam the open-minded and kind of brave. On the other hand, well... well maybe I'll let Don Vito Corleone say it.

Before you protest, I don't actually want to slap him. Sam already has self-esteem issues, and maybe social anxiety disorder as well. Slapping him is what his father and Ser Alliser had in mind, and look where it got them. So, Jon has the right of it. You have to be patient with him and hope he builds confidence slowly.

Quick question: Why was the door to Jon's cell unlocked? I mean, there's a fortunate slip-up if ever there was one. Turn the lock on that door and Jon's heroism never happens. So why was the cell unlocked? Did I miss something?

Chapter 53: Bran

What Happens

Bran and Maester Luwin watch Lord Karstark’s army enter Winterfell. Karstark is the last lord to bring the troops that Robb has called for. Bran asks Luwin how many knights there are among the army.

“Few enough […] To be a knight you must stand your vigil in a sept, and be anointed with the seven oils to consecrate your vows. In the north, only a few of the great houses worship the Seven. The rest honor the old gods, and name no knights… but those lords and their sons and sworn swords are no less fierce or loyal or honorable. A man’s worth is not marked by a ser before his name. As I have told you a hundred times before.”

Bran decides to visit the godswood. He gets Hodor to carry him away from Luwin, and whistles for Summer to join them. Bran sits under the heart tree with Summer while Hodor goes to soak in the pools. The boy prays that Robb won’t go away, or that he’ll be safe if he has to go. He also prays for Rickon to understand; the youngest Stark has been wild and unruly lately, and Shaggydog has been even worse.

He thinks about how quickly Robb has taken to becoming a lord. Each of his lords have tried to test him, including Roose Bolton and Lord Umber the Greatjon. Robb has bent all of them to his will. The Greatjon actually pulled a sword on him, only to have Grey Wind knock him down and bite off two fingers. After that, the Greatjon became Robb’s staunchest ally.

Yet Robb is still a youth. He visits Bran at night and confesses that he puts on a brave face, yet he is fearful when he has to face down some of the lords. Bran continues to pray for everyone’s safety, and is surprised when Osha appears nearby. She is chained, but allowed to walk around the grounds. She tells Bran that the gods are listening and answering, but they will have no power to help Robb once he goes too far south.

Osha also tells Bran about the dangers in the far north. Giants exist, and so do the Others, she claims. They are the reason she fled south. She feels the need to tell Robb about them, but cannot get him to hear her. Bran volunteers to pass a message to his brother, and Osha tells him that Robb’s army is needed in the north, not in the south.

At supper, Bran is upset when he hears newcomers whisper about him being broken. He wants to be a knight, and he wants to learn magic. Luwin suggests that Bran could become a maester, although they cannot do magic.

Two days later, Bran bids farewell to Robb, although he can’t bring himself to pass on Osha’s message. He and Rickon both feel that no one ever comes back when they leave Winterfell, and he prays again for Robb to remain safe.

Well, it was about time to check in with the lordlings in the north. Now we know that Robb is marshaling for war, and that he's adapting very well to his role as Lord of Winterfell. Good for him.

This is stating the obvious, but direwolves come in handy now and then (aside from Shaggydog, who seems like a disaster waiting to happen). I mean, Grey Wind chomped off the Greatjon’s fingers! Memo to Robb: always keep your wolf with you.

On a totally different note, I’d wondered about the dearth of knights at Winterfell. It struck me as odd that there were none in the north. For his role in Robert’s rebellion alone, Ned would have been the equal of almost any knight, yet there’s no mention of him going that route, even though he was the second son and not the direct heir to Winterfell. I didn’t realize that you needed to swear to the seven to be considered a knight. It makes sense. The ‘ser’ is just a name, after all. But how would that have squared with Bran’s early desire to be a knight?

Looking at another institution, there are masters everywhere in the seven kingdoms. (Funny that the scholars and doctors should be separate from men of faith, at least in a medieval setting.) Luwin is half-nudging Bran to become a maester, and in ordinary times why not? But these aren't ordinary times, and the key to Bran's future lies with the dream crow and the northerners.

Once Bran recovered from his accident, I was never worried that he would die. There's the three-eyed crow, Bran's love of the old stories, his ambitions to be a great knight, and all the warnings about the real trouble coming from the far north. It just feels right for Bran to be instrumental in protecting the kingdoms. It feels like that's the set-up anyway. George R.R. Martin could kill him off at any time, but it would feel like a waste. So, I think Bran is a lock to survive until at least some battle of reckoning between men and Others.

This hasn't been a shining example of chapter commentary, but it was a more leisurely chapter anyway. What's next?


Next would be Part 25, where another clumsy attempt at assassination goes awry.

A fan of ASOIAF since he first heard about the series, Francesco would like to thank other fans for stopping by and reading the blog, giving a special shout-out to the ones visiting based on the recommendation at Tower of the Hand. Thanks for the props!


Anonymous said...

Good point on the door to the cell being open. That is never explained if I recall correctly.

Errant Knave said...

Yeah, I wasn't sure if I was just going cross-eyed from looking at the text too many times. It IS kind of important, in my opinion.

Maybe when the guard saw the wight, he turned around to free Jon (or to let himself into the cell), and got killed before he could push open the door. Or maybe there were no locks on the thing.

Stacy said...

Bran, Jon, and Arya are three of my favorite characters (yes, I just love those Stark kids). And what is happening with Bran in the later chapters is one of my favorite story lines. Bran is headed towards the real fight in the series, man v. Other -- take no prisoners! And of course, he is also with two people who may know a lot of real Westerosi secrets (do the children of the forest still exist? who were Jon's parents?). I can not wait to see what happens with Bran.

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