Sunday, November 18, 2012

A Challenge of Ice and Fire: Week 32

A Dance with Dragons: Week 32 - Davos I to the end of Tyrion V (p. 242)

My previous posts on A Dance with Dragons:   week 31

9. Davos I

I have missed Davos! He is such a modest, quiet character and yet I find him extremely likeable, perhaps because he is so straight forward and honest in a world stuffed with the politically scheming and down right evil. I fear for his safety after what we learnt in A Feast for Crows, but I still have my fingers crossed that Lord Manderly has deceived Cersei in order to retrieve his son and also exact some revenge. He may be treating with the Freys, but he may be far more cunning than he allows himself to appear.

It seems that Salladhor Saan has finally had enough of Stannis’ promises and deserted. I am almost sure that this has much more to the substantial loses caused by the terrible weather, but I can hardly blame the smuggler for trying to salvage something from the mess.

I liked the way that Mr Martin set up Godric Borrell as a possible threat to Davos, only to reveal that the Lord of Sweetsister was actually more pragmatic and inclined to remain neutral. This was actually quite refreshing and a very nice change from the deceit and politicking that we usually encounter in the characters. In many ways, this man is a good match for Davos, and makes me think that there is some hope for the Realm after all the political maneuvering has finished, if it ever does.

10. Jon III

I cannot help thinking that burning the Horn of Joramun might have been a bad idea. I know that it was supposed to destroy the Wall, but summoning the giants might have been a valuable asset at some point. Oh well, too late to worry about it now!

We already know that Maester Aemon had his doubts about Stannis’ sword being Lightbringer, and the fact that it burns much more brightly after Mance Rayder’s death does nothing to convince me that the old man was wrong. It is not as if Stannis is waving it about before Mance burns, so we do not see it becoming brighter as the ‘King’ dies. I suspect that it is just another of Melisandre’s tricks, although I cannot understand why she would follow a man that she knows is not Azor Ahai reborn.

I fear that Stannis’ lack of understanding of the Wildlings’ mindset will be a huge problem in the future. He does not have the flexibility to treat them differently from the ‘kneelers’ south of the Wall, and I predict that he will mishandle them badly. Perhaps Jon or Davos could help with this, but neither are really in a position to do so.

11. Daenerys II

Things are going really badly for Daenerys. The Harpy’s Sons are getting increasingly bold, now killing pairs of Unsullied on their patrols. Also, she has had two of her dragons restrained in one of the old fighting pits. I understand that she was appalled by the death of the young girl, but this seems like a poor decision. The dragons may turn against her and become even more unpredictable, which would make them more of a liability than a useful asset in her attempts to regain the Iron Throne. Also, Drogon is still at large, so the effort may be totally futile, as he was the one to kill the girl and may have developed a taste for human flesh.

Quaithe reappears to make some obscure prophecies. Some of them are obvious: the Kraken is Victarion Greyjoy, coming to persuade her to marry his brother. The lion is Tyrion, who is travelling with ‘Griff’, the probable Griffin. Other than that, the other threats mentioned do not seem to refer to anyone we have met yet, although time will tell.

12. Reek I

Here is something that I never thought I would type: I actually feel sorry for Theon Greyjoy.

Tortured beyond recognition and mentally broken, the poor lad is reduced to eating rats in his dungeon cell. The two Walders visit him in order to bring him before the Bastard of Bolton and he is absolutely terrified of them. Reading his thoughts, which dart about and scratch at the walls of his skull like the rats in his cell, is difficult to stomach. We knew that the Bastard was evil, but this chapter alone reserves a special place in Hell for him.

13. Bran II

I cannot wait to see this chapter on the small screen: wights bursting up out of the snow and Hodor going all badass on them with his sword! I know that it is Bran warged into Hodor, but it will still be impressive and scary at the same time. Meeting a Child of the Forest will be wonderful as well, never mind the three-eyed crow in his throne of weirwood roots. I predict epic coolness!

We still know very little about Coldhands, although his actions to save them from the wights leave no doubt about whose ‘side’ he is on. He is unable to follow them into the cave because of the wards to keep out the wights, so we will need to wait to learn more of his story. I am sure that it is a strange tale, as he is fighting against his own kind, and I really hope that we hear it at some point.

The last greenseer himself will be an amazing sight, and I have to wonder how he survives with tree roots growing through him. I would also like to know who exactly he is / was. Bran sees that he is dressed in black, so we can assume that he was a Brother of the Night’s Watch, but I imagine that he has been in this cave for a very long time. I am concerned that he wants Bran to replace him in the throne, which would seem like a sad life for a young child, but time will tell.

14. Tyrion IV

Young Griff is certainly getting lots of lessons that do not seem all that suitable for a sellsword’s son. Although I can understand the martial training, it is odd that he is learning languages, history and geometry. Also, he is travelling with a septa and an unchained maester. Tyrion obviously has his suspicions, and uses a game of cyvasse to try to get information from Haldon Halfmaester. Surely Tyrion has not been allowing Haldon to win so that he is lulled into a false sense of superiority? I find that hard to believe!

Our mighty dwarf obviously wins his bet and extracts some useful information from the maester. As we leave him he is thinking of the birth of kings, but I cannot see how that relates to Young Griff, as there are no known Targaryen heirs apart from Daenerys. Unless someone we thought was dead is actually alive, this makes no sense at all. But who could it be?

15. Davos II

As we might expect, Davos approaches White Harbor with great care and has a good look around before announcing himself. Like any good smuggler, he cases the joint thoroughly before making a move, so that he is much less likely to be surprised. Did I mention that I really, really like Davos? :)

The fact that Lord Manderly has been making some significant improvements to his city makes me think that I was correct in my assessment of him. This is a man who is cautious enough not to proclaim himself if he still has the chance to get his son back. I love the way that Davos understands that instinctively and so does not condemn Lord Wyman as Stannis would. It looks like White Harbor is more than ready for attack from the sea, which is doubly sensible with the Ironmen on the prowl on the west coast. I wonder how defendable it is from the landward side, which would be attacked by Roose Bolton and the Freys if Manderly allies with Stannis? I guess that he has improved his defenses all around, and we see that he is accepting refuges, which is a testament to his generosity and also how well prepared he is for a siege.

16. Daenerys III

Xaro Xhoan Daxos has arrived with gifts. It seems that Qarth has decided that Daenerys should go to Westeros as soon as possible and has sent a few ships to help her on her way. If we believe him, then it is only a matter of time before the whole area erupts around her and she is overwhelmed by her massed enemies. I am not sure that he is correct, but his arguments do sound fairly persuasive. However, it is also clear that she cannot transport all her people on the boats that he has brought, and that an over-land march would be a disaster. She also has the problem of how to leave Meereen without condemning those left behind to recriminations, death, torture and worse.

It seems that she is stuck between a rock and a hard place, but she tries to do what is best for all her people, which makes her a real queen in my eyes. She chooses the harder route, but this is the only way to protect the maximum number of her subjects.

17. Jon IV

Another person stuck in an impossible position is our new Lord Commander. Hated and despised on all sides, Jon at least has Stannis’ ear and respect, otherwise he would be really stuffed. Stannis may be stiff and inflexible, but he will at least listen to good arguments and accept wise counsel if it makes sense. That is just about his only redeeming quality as far as I can see, that and his decision to actually protect the Realm against the Others.

I do wonder if Lord Mormont would have had such an in-depth knowledge of the various Houses in the North. It seems that all of Jon’s years listening in the Great Hall of Winterfell might prove invaluable to the survival of the North. Jon’s knowledge of the various families, their connections, motivations and likely actions can let Stannis predict how they will react to his actions. This is most clear in Jon’s argument not to use the Wildlings in the army that marches south. He is quite right that this would send a terrible message to the Stark bannermen, but it would also be poor strategy as they are not predictable as a unit and so cannot be relied upon to follow orders.

I really like Jon’s suggestion to use the unacknowledged strength of the smaller Houses. We have already seen a Liddle being friendly to Bran, way back in A Storm of Swords, so I expect the small Houses to be much more likely to side with Stannis rather than the Boltons. I know that the Queen’s Men will be scornful of these poorer families, but Stannis seems persuaded that Jon is offering him sound advice and proposing strategies likely to further his cause. At least he knows that Jon’s advice is based upon thoughtful reasoning rather than thoughts of blood or glory.

18. Tyrion V

This is another atmospheric chapter that I look forward to seeing on TV. The idea of the stone men is chillingly similar to leprosy, but with a rather different final effect. The idea that they become solid and brittle is truly horrible.

But, never mind the fog and creepy atmospherics . . . Young Griff is actually Prince Aegon Targaryen! :O

OK, so now we know that even a dead body is not definitive proof of death, giving me even more hope for Davos. I guess it is even easier to replace one baby with another, and smashing its head against a wall would make it impossible to identify. That ‘Griff’ is actually the former Hand of the King and great friend to the boy’s father makes even more sense. The only thing that I do not really understand is why his survival was kept secret from Viserys, although it might have been judged that he was a bad risk when it came to keeping secrets. I suppose it also depends upon where the group has been hiding all these years while the boy matured. The more cynical part of me thinks that Viserys and Daenerys were kept in ‘open’ exile so that Robert had a target to fixate about, whilst Aegon could be made ready to be revealed as the true heir to the throne when he was old enough to rule. I assume that the plan is now to marry him to Daenerys and consolidate his claim to the Iron Throne. I am not sure how she will feel about that.

Then Tyrion gets himself knocked overboard and nearly drowned! I have total faith that he will be rescued, perhaps by Septa Lemore so that he can cop a feel while she saves his life: he would really appreciate that!

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