Friday, August 6, 2010

#ASOIAF Re-Read: A Game of Thrones, Part 25

Greetings, dear readers. This delay was brought to you by a week's worth of job fun (not fun at all), a long-weekend camping trip, and a solar-pulse induced blackout. For real. The burst of solar energy was actually supposed to fill the night sky with northern lights, but even though I waited in the heat without air-conditioning, while the contents of the fridge and freezer thawed and melted, I saw nothing. Which sucks because people saw them about 50 kms north of here (that's 31 miles for the Imperialists). So I have yet to see the northern lights. Sigh... Did anyone else see them? Care to link to pictures you may have taken?

But hark! the re-read beckons. Today we cover Chapters 54-56. But first, do you know that there might be spoilers ahead? Do you know that if you're a first-timer, you can start the re-read over at the intro post? And do you also know that you can keep track of this blog by clicking the RSS button, or the Follow button, or by using #ASOIAF on Twitter? Did you?

Well... this post isn't getting any shorter.

Chapter 54: Daenerys

What Happens

During a post-coital conversation, Drogo flat-out refuses to go to war in Westeros. The Dothraki fear the sea, and Drogo does not care for the Iron Throne. He leaves, and Dany summons Ser Jorah, asking him to help convince her husband, but the knight counsels patience. To cheer her up, he decides to bring her to the Western Market in Vaes Dothrak.

The market reminds her of home, even though she's never been to Westeros, and of her childhood, when she played in the bazaar. She tries talking to Ser Jorah, but the knight is distracted, and excuses himself, saying that he wants to see if Illyrio sent any letters. Dany wonders if he is off to find a whore.

She wanders the market with her handmaids and bloodriders, until she arrives at the stall of a Tyroshi wine merchant. The merchant is stunned that she speaks Valyrian, and even more so when he realizes who she is. He produces a cask of the finest red wine from the Arbor, as a gift for her and Drogo.

Dany is pleased, and about to leave when Jorah reappears. He orders the merchant to open the wine, and then to drink it. The merchant protests, but is given little choice. He throws the cask at Dany and tries to escape, but Jhogo the bloodrider catches him and Dany is safe. Dany asks how Jorah could have known, and he says he suspected after reading Illyrio's letter. The wine was poisoned because of Robert's bounty. Angry and afraid, Dany orders everyone away from her and puts her dragon stones in a fire, but they remain stone.

When Drogo returns and hears of what happened, he rewards Jorah and Jhogo, and vows that he will enslave the Seven Kingdoms as a gift to Dany and their unborn son. The khalasar goes west from Vaes Dothrak two days later, the naked wineseller in tow.

If Drogo knew what kind of story he was in, he'd realize that sooner or later his wife will have to cross over to Westeros. Then again, even though that's where Dany's plot is headed at the end of the chapter, we're still waiting for her to cross over four books later. A lot of stuff happens.

So, where did Jorah go, and why didn't he let Dany die? Remember that he is Varys's spy, or he was. (Someone remind me if he still is at this point.) Did Illyrio send a letter? Probably. But did it tell him that Robert wanted Viserys, Dany, and the child killed, or did it contain Ned's order to cancel any assassination plans? If the POVs are all moving in relative sync for now, then I don't think there was enough time for Ned's order to go through yet. Would Illyrio have told Jorah to stop any assassination, or would he have told him that he could get a pardon and a lordship out of killing her?

I think that Jorah wants to go home, but that won't happen if someone else kills Dany. Plus, Illyrio and Varys don't want her killed, do they? These people make my head hurt.

Wine merchant: You were so close. If only you'd spent the last five years developing an immunity to iocane powder, you could have survived the drink. Alas, for you.

Chapter 55: Catelyn

What Happens

Catelyn and her Manderly escort arrive at Moat Cailin where Robb's host in encamped. The fort is not much to look at--even Brynden thinks so--but Catelyn knows from Ned that the place is a deathtrap, impenetrable to southern attackers.

She finds Robb poring over maps with various lords, but resists the impulse to run to her child. The lords ask if she still has Tyrion Lannister, and she replies that Lysa made her give him up. She asks for time alone with Robb, whereupon she wonders that he has grown a beard at fifteen, and that he is leading the host when there were other lords to choose from. Ultimately, she declares that she cannot send him back to Winterfell, as that would only undermine his authority in the future when he becomes Lord of Winterfell.

Robb shows her Sansa's letter, and she sees it for what it is; threats from Cersei, with Sansa hostage, Ned a prisoner, and no word of Arya. The only hope for the Starks is to meet the Lannisters in the field and win. Robb accepts this and begins talking about military strategy. Jamie Lannister has a large force near Riverrun, and Tywin is bringing another army around from the south. That second army was waylaid by "some southron lordling, Lord Erik or Derik or something like that," sent by Ned, but his force was smashed by Gregor Clegane's, with few survivors.

Robb proposes to split his army, leading the horse south to Riverrun, and having the rest march down the kingsroad. It splits his army, but puts them between Jamie and Tywin. At first he proposes that the Greatjon should lead the marchers. Catelyn suggests someone with cold cunning instead, so Robb chooses Roose Bolton. Satisfied with her son's choices, Catelyn declares that she will not go back to Winterfell, and that she will go with him to Riverrun, to be with her ailing father.

War plans are interesting to read, but not so great to comment on. Robb's plan makes sense, and the same goes for Catelyn's suggestions. And that's that.

What we can go into are personal observations. For example, I think Catelyn does a good job of understanding her son's leadership situation, and she doesn't try to over-protect him. Robb has a moment or two of weakness, but otherwise seems like a really level-headed leader in training. Roose Bolton makes a quick but creepy appearance. The rest of the characters are just window-dressing for the moment.

One line rang particularly true, or rather one section. It comes when Catelyn says her father never trusted Lord Frey. "Nor should you," she says to Robb. "I won't," Robb promised. Ouch. That'll be the dearest promise he ever breaks.

Lord Erik/Derik is Beric Dondarrion, of course, and from the sound of things, he might have suffered his first death already. Perhaps not. That timeline is fuzzy. Whether he's still on his first life or whether Thoros has found his inner fire yet is hardly the point. The point is that Beric's been forced to regroup in the forest around the riverlands, beginning his transformation into a legend of the woods.

Chapter 56: Tyrion

What Happens

Tyrion and his ragged clansmen happen upon a large Lannister force at the crossroads. After some squabbling over who will accompany him, the clan leaders follow Tyrion down to the camp. Some knights ride up to meet them, express surprise at Tyrion's presence, and direct him to Lord Tywin's lodgings at the inn at the crossroads. There is a gibbet outside the inn, and the disfigured body hanging there belonged to the former innkeeper.

Tyrion leaves the clan leaders outside, and strolls in to find Tywin and his uncle Kevan conversing. Kevan is surprised to see him; Tywin is emotionless. Tyrion's father explains that he had to go to war to defend the family name. They talk of the war effort and how the river lords are almost beaten. Tywin expects the war to be won soon, unless the Arryns and Starks challenge him. Tyrion expects the Arryns won't be a bother, but he is caught aback by the news of Ned Stark's imprisonment and Robert's death.

Tywin's proposed duty for his second son is to chase off a few nagging raiders (Beric Dondarrion's men). Tyrion is in the process of telling his father and uncle that he actually brought an arm of his own when the clan leaders barge in.

After introductions, Tyrion is about to lay out his plan to overtrow the Arryns, but a messenger interrupts him with news that Robb Stark's host is on the move. Tywin deftly coerces the mountain men to fight for him against the Stark, a move that Tyrion silently admires. However, the clan leaders still plan on holding Tyrion's life in their hands unless they get their payment soon. Tywin, of course, has no problem with that.

Yet another cameo for this particular crossroads. But that's not the point of the chapter, is it? No. Enter Tywin Lannister! While most of the Westerosi crowd has a strong connection to medieval, War-of-the-Roses Europe, Tywin always strikes me as an ancient Roman. I think he would have fit right at home with some of the Julio-Claudian emperors.

We also get a glimpse of Kevan Lannister. He's a little on the portly side, and balding. Perhaps he didn't get the Lannister looks like Jaime and Lancel. That's ok; as a man I came to respect in the later books, he's got more integrity and family values than some (most?) of his closest relations.

Like most Tyrion chapters, this one has its fair share of quips. Tyrion holds back very little when he talks to Tywin, like humour is his only weapon against his father. The boy's got sass to spare. Chopping off manhood and feeding it to the goats was also a funny recurring bit, like when Shagga tells an unlucky Lannister guard that he'll chop off the man's manhood and roast it in the fire. "What, no goats?" Tyrion says.

Near the end of the chapter, we see Tyrion appreciate the way Tywin manipulates the clan leaders. Father and son might dislike each other, but they're like peas in a pod when it comes to manipulating others. They might not win every time, but these are two guys who were born to play the game of thrones. You decide if that's a good thing.


That's it for today. I hope Part 26 is more punctual. Take care in the meantime.

Francesco is halfway through the month of all weddings. He is looking forward to the first semi-free weekend in a while, just in time for more wedding-related events next week. If only the northern lights were visible at this latitude.


IceNeedle said...

There have been several comments that the series is short on humor, but I really have to disagree. There's humor in every chapter, not just Tyrion's stuff. Much of it is subtle, contextual, and rarely over-the-top (except maybe Dolorous Edd, who is nevertheless a favorite). GRRM has a keen sense of timing and rhythm with his humor. Some of the funniest lines in the series come courtesy of Hodor.

I know you're a big WoT fan, but I could only get a bit through book 2, partly because it was thin on humor. Maybe I just vastly prefer GRRM's style.

Errant Knave said...

I'm of the opinion that GRRM has a darker style, but there are plenty of funny parts in each ASOIAF book. Hodor's one-liners are predictable, but he's got a good sense of timing. Dolorous Edd is the personification of Eeyore, committed to the pessimist cause.

I think the humour in WoT is different. It comes from characters like Mat and Nynaeve not realizing that they're being funny, usually when they're angry. In ASOIAF, when Tyrion, Jamie, Littlefinger, et al make quips, they know what they're doing. They're going for the laughs, especially if their barbs are directed against people with little to no sense of humour (ie Tywin and Ned).

Stacy said...

Sorry about the power loss but be thankful you live in the North. If you lived in Texas (like I do) not only can a power outage be truly miserable, but there is no chance of ever seeing the Northern Lights from here.

Onto your post. Clearly, it wasn't iocaine powder in the drink, because the merchant spoke Valryian, not Australian.

I have always found Ch. 56 incredibly sad. Tyrion has not only managed to save himself, but has put together a fighting force in the process, and when he is finally reunited with his father he doesn't even get a "Good job son," much less a hug. No wonder Tyrion kills the guy later on. I'd have killed him too.

IceNeedle said...

Agreed, Stacy, I think this is the first hint of us (the viewer) seeing how little Tywin thinks of his younger son, which becomes an ever-growing arc every time these 2 interact. In fact, I wonder if Cat's abduction of Tyrion was almost just a pretext for war; clearly none of the Lannisters (except Jaime) cares a whit about Tyrion and wouldn't lift a finger to save him -- except that he happens to be a Lannister, and therefore Cat's action is an affront on their honor (such as it is).

Being another Texan, I have no hopes of seeing the aurora borealis unless I travel to Alaska. But I hate the cold, so that's highly unlikely. I'd make a terrible Black Brother, and almost all of Jon's or Samwell's chapters just make me shudder.

"Hodor's one-liners are predictable" -- well, their content certainly is, anyway. ;-)

Anonymous said...

Tywin doesn't care about Tyrion. As it was commented on, Tywin states he had to go to war to defend the family name. Tywin won't have his family insulted as his father allowed.


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