Friday, November 19, 2010

#ASOIAF Re-Read: A Game of Thrones, Part 31

Welcome to another edition of the ASoIaF re-read. This is Part 31 of this project, and after today we'll be only four chapters from the end of this book. Crazy, eh? Well, Part 31 is brought to you by this recently released photo from the HBO set of A Game of Thrones. It features Bran in the early days, hale and hearty, and Jon, looking ever so emo. Not sure I like the teen mustache, even if it is Movember.

This photo is just one of the several posted on Entertainment Weekly, although I found them via fellow Game of Thrones fan Malene at Stargazing. Most of the photos look pretty sweet. Jaime and Robert look great. I'd still quibble with some of the casting, but not with anything major. The only thing that stands out in a bad way is this caption for Tyrion: "Peter Dinklage's Tyrion Lannister, known as the Imp, is constantly getting into trouble because of his marauding ways." Marauding? HBO, are you creating a new side of Tyrion? Because I'm pretty sure marauders are people like the ironborn and the Bloody Companions, not the sons of Tywin.

Spoiler Alert: There are spoilers contained in the ASoIaF-related posts and comments at Fiefdom. If you don't know your Baratheons from your Lannisters, you might want to read A Game of Thrones first, and probably the other three books in A Song of Ice and Fire as well.

The last update was Part 30. If you feel like beginning at the beginning, there's an intro post, and a Part 1. If you want to start or continue any discussions in the comments, by all means, go right ahead. If you'd like to follow the blog, you can use Google Friend Follow, RSS, Twitter, or black magic. We don't discriminate.

Also, if there are any readers from Finland, there is a request from another reader: if you would know where to get Finnish translations of this series at a decent price (something under the 44€ that Suomalainen charges) please leave an answer in the comments. Thanks.

Alright. The end draws closer, so we'll continue under the cut/after the jump.

Chapter 66: Bran

What Happens

Bran and Maester Luwin watch old men and boys practice fighting. Bran still mourns the loss of his legs and the ability to fight. Then he tells Luwin about the dreams he's been having, particularly the recent one with the three-eyed crow. He wants to check the Stark crypts for his father. Luwin insists that Ned is not down there, but Bran has the urge to look for him there anyway. Finally he convince Luwin, and the maester summons Osha to carry the boy, since Hodor is too frightened of the darkness.

While in the crypts, Luwin recounts a brief history of the Stark kings and lords, ostensibly for Osha's benefit. Then they arrive at the space reserved for Ned's tomb, and Shaggydog leaps out of the darkness, biting and wounding Luwin's arm. It turns out that Rickon was inside the tomb, looking for Ned as well. Rickon also dreamed that his father was dead.

This unsettles Luwin, and he agrees to let everyone go wait in his tower until they receive word about Ned. They take the wolves with them, too. Up in the tower, Osha sees to Luwin's wound, and the two of them give Bran and Rickon different perspectives on magic, dreams, the First Men, and the children of the forest.

Suddenly, Summer and Shaggydog start howling. Rickon starts crying, and Bran knows what it is even before something happens. A bird arrives, bloodied, but carrying a message. Luwin reads it in silence, but Bran and Osha guess its contents; it's time to find a stone-carver who can work Ned's likeness into one of the stone tombs.

Commentary
An infodump chapter, by and large, but I found it enjoyable all the same. We learn about the Starks, kings in the north for thousands of years, and the children of the forest, who are gone but maybe not really. Savvy? Luwin stars as the skeptic, and Osha counters as the one in favour of believing old legends. What has she seen north of the Wall?

By now we've twigged that the stuff beyond the Wall is NOT made up. Hell, that's been apparent since the prologue. It's just that everyone's looking the other way (south) worried about crowns and kings. Everyone except the Night's Watch and two of the Stark scions (three, if you include Rickon later on). This is laying the groundwork for Bran's future. He's drawn to stories of magic and the children. He can dream the future--sort of. What else can he do?

I'm not so sure of Rickon, but you get the sense that he and Shaggydog are very closely linked. Whether that means Rickon has strong "warg" abilities or not, I don't know.

Also in this chapter:
-The Rhaegar + Lyanna tale again, this time short and described as rape.
-A handy hint about the wonders of dragonglass/obsidian. It's good enough for the children to use.

This is also the last chapter Bran gets in the book, so bye-bye for now. I'm thinking we'll recap his character, along with some of the other major players at the end of this book.

Chapter 67: Sansa

What Happens

Sansa has been ill, sleeping away her sickness. When she is finally healthy enough, Joff visits her with Ser Meryn Trant and Sandor Clegane. Joff wants SansaSansa doesn't want to be near him because he killed her father. She tells Joff that she hates him. Joff retaliates by having Ser Meryn backhand Sansa. After they leave, Sandor tells Sansa to make sure she gives Joff what he wants; he will get it anyway, so she might as well save herself some pain.

Sansa gets cleaned up and visits the court. There she sees her husband-to-be rule and dispense justice as it suits him, without care or wisdom. Afterwards, Joff wants Sansa to accompany him to the top of the keep. She tries to refuse going, but her protests are useless. She remembers Sandor's warning, and follows Joff.

Up on the battlements, Joff shows her Ned's tarred and decomposing head. He shows her others as well, but Sansa has schooled herself not to rise to his bait or show any emotions. At the end, Joff tells Sansa that he plans on giving her Robb's head as a present. She can't stop herself from saying that maybe her brother will give her Joff's head instead. That earns her two, harder blows from Ser Meryn.

After that, Joff turns around and looks over a ledge with an eighty foot fall. She thinks of what would happen if she just pushed him over, but Sandor steps between them, and the moment is gone. The Hound dabs at the blood on her face, showing a delicacy that Sansa is surprised to see. She thanks him, and the episode is over.

Commentary
To think, Joffrey could have been pushed off a ledge. By Sansa, of all people! Oh well. On the bright side, Sansa sees His Royal Highness for the creep that he's been all along. There's no visions of a gallant prince this time, and thank Zeus, because that was getting tiresome.

Ser Meryn is a disgraceful knight, but there's a good part in the text where it explains that some people (ie Ser Meryn) just don't care about things like honour and chivalry. Fair enough, I suppose, but why make them members of the Kingsguard? Is it politics? Is it power? Is it the result of lazy, uninformed choices? It's a small point, but one that bugs me. Joff is a creep who inherited the throne; that was preordained. This is something else. This is the personal, dedicated bodyguard of the goddamn king. If you can't be choosy with them, what's the point of having them?

Sandor is proving to be more than a brutish murderer. A tough reputation to shake, but his kindness is earning him brownie points.

And Sansa is proving to be a tougher character than we might have originally imagined. This is also her last chapter. Look for a recap of her character in an upcoming post.

Chapter 68: Daenerys

What Happens

Dany is lost in a haze, overcome by fever, and too wake to do more except sleep and dream. Her fever dreams are more like nightmares, and waking from them doesn't make them any better.

Finally, Dany wakes after a long time, her fever broken. She is no longer pregnant, and she asks after Drogo's health. Her maid does not give a straight answer. Another maid then informs her that her son, Rhaego, did not live. Ser Jorah and Mirri arrive, and between them they tell Dany how her son was born mutated and dead. Dany knows it is because Ser Jorah brought her to Mirri's tent, and because Mirri used the baby's life to pay for Drogo's. Dany tells Mirri she didn't realize the price for Drogo would be her child's life.

She is taken to Drogo, who is alive, but without the ability to think or act without direction. Mirri says his mind will only return when the sun rises in the west, among other things. Dany accuses Mirri of cheating her, because she saved her. Mirri does not think she was saved, all things considered.

Dany orders the woman to be carried away. Meanwhile, she bathes Drogo, and takes him out under the stars. She tries to awaken him, to arouse him, to get some kind of response from him. When dawn comes and there is no change, she accepts Drogo's fate, kisses him, and smothers him with a pillow.

Commentary
What a sad end for Drogo. He wasn't half bad. And the losses for Dany keep piling up. Losing her baby (horrifically) and killing what's left of her husband in the same chapter? Terrible. I mean, good writing, Martin. Really. I've never been the firmest of Dany's supporters, but I feel as bad for her here as I do for just about anyone in this first book. So, yeah, good writing.

I guess the demise of Drogo is also a bit sad because of what he meant to Dany, and that it was relatively quick. Robert and Ned both kicked the bucket, but their deaths were on the radar, even if they weren't assured. Drogo had potential. His death sets the Westeros invasion back by... oh, about four books or so. (We'll see.)

Mirri turned out to be bitter and ungrateful, on top of being a scheming witch, with a way of twisting words and meanings. And did I mention the birth/death of Rhaego? If that doesn't qualify for horror, I don't know what does. Yet I admire Martin's restraint in this. Reading about the birth/death as it happened would have been grotesque, I think. This bare allusion to it makes it cross over into horror, a thing we cannot comprehend. Again, good writing.

Only death can pay for life. That will soon come into play again, that and the magic that goes with it.

Oh, and two straight chapters opening with girls having fever-dreams. Coincidence? Probably. I'm not looking closely into it right now.

This is not Dany's last chapter, and her next one is sort of a continuation of this one. We'll wait until the next post to pick it up, especially since other players don't figure as prominently in this one as in the next.

***

Four chapters to go. I had to stop here because it's a little after 3 AM and I don't have the "What Happens" for the next couple of chapters yet. But man oh man, they are a'comin'. See you for Part 32.

2 comments:

tabacoychanel said...

hi it's lya. that was a really good post with some really astute observations.

the thing with that bran chapter is that it never felt like an infodump. i'm really impressed with grrm's ability to work in these details so obliquely that by the time something like R+L=J dawns on you, or dragonglass slaying Others, it feels like it's been a long time coming.

i think it's very difficult to promote people based on merit when you're running a monarchy (not that the problem disappears under other forms of government). at some point there is going to be a tradeoff between a candidate's good judgment and his willingness to obey you. ser meryn is an asshat, but is the hound much better? why, because he's upfront about it? there are knights who manage to both serve the king and garner the realm's approval, but the arthur daynes of westeros are few and far between. basically i don't think ser meryn is a particularly egregious example of the kingsguard's lowered standards, i think he's the norm.

also the whole trope of very young women and fevered dreams (doesn't sansa wake up to her first period from one?) is making me side-eye GRRM right now. in general the depiction of women in asoiaf is ... i don't want to say he's sexist, because that's too simplistic, but the way that the reader is introduced to the characters and the way our sympathies are formed, there does seem to be a double standard when we're judging Jon and Ned for their perceived shortcomings versus, say, Cat and Sansa.

keep 'em coming!

Errant Knave said...

Heya. Thanks for the compliment :)

No, the Hound is not better than Ser Meryn. Sansa compares the two in the chapter, after she tells SM that he's no true knight; the Hound would have laughed, but SM just didn't care. The kingsguard probably need to be excellent bodyguards first and foremost. If they're decent men, that's a bonus, not a requirement. I agree that asshats are the norm. I suppose the issue of the knights and the kingsguard frustrates me because of courtesy and honour. Chivalry as it applies to medieval knights is more myth than reality if historical records are right. It's like what Sansa wants the knights to be versus what they are. She's disappointed with the reality of them, and so am I.

I thought about making a point about what I think some of the female depictions, but I decided there would be way more appropriate chapters in ACoK, although I'll get to some of it in the wrap-up for AGoT.

More coming soon!

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