Sunday, December 23, 2012

A Challenge of Ice and Fire: Week 37

A Dance with Dragons: The Queensguard to the end of The Ugly Little Girl (p. 847)

My previous posts on A Dance with Dragons:   week 31   week 32   week 33   week 34   week 35   week 36

55. The Queensguard

It seems rather late in the book for a new POV, but here we have Ser Barristan Selmy’s first chapter. Of course, this is needed so that we can see what happens in the court.

Now that Daenerys is missing, Barristan is a Queensguard with no Queen to guard. He is also very unsure of his standing with the new King of Meereen: it certainly seems that Hizdahr has wasted very little time in grieving for the loss of his wife, dismissing all of her servants apart from Missandei and insulting the Unsullied. He uses pit fighters as his bodyguards, which Barristan finds remarkably stupid because they are not trained to look for attackers approaching covertly.

Meereen itself is in disarray as the Pale Mare continues to move through the city and has now spread to the surrounding Yunkish forces. I find this almost funny, as the Yunkai thought that they could use the disease as a way to weaken the city without realizing that they would be just as susceptible to infection. The besieging forces are now also terrified of Drogon and have altered their siege engines to aim them at the sky, although this seems like a pointless action as Drogon has proven himself to be very maneuverable and intelligent.

However, not everyone in Meereen is complacent and the Shavepate, who was previously the leader of the Brazen Beasts, means to remove Hizdahr from power before the King can surrender the city to the approaching fleet from Volantis. Although Barristan is unwilling to trust the Shavepate completely, he also sees the wisdom of his plan and agrees to participate by speaking to Grey Worm.

I do wonder how the city will cope now that Daenerys is missing. It was already in such a delicate position that her disappearance could not have come at a worse time.

56. The Iron Suitor

We have not heard from Victarion Greyjoy for quite a while, but during this time he and his fleet have sailed the significant distance from the west coast of Westeros and the Isle of Cedars in the mouth of Slaver’s Bay. it has been a difficult journey and he has lost a large section of his force due to the appalling weather. The storms have brought him one great stroke of luck though: the last ship to arrive at the agreed meeting point carries Moqorro, the red priest that we previously saw travelling with Tyrion towards Qarth. Just as Melisandre has won over Stannis with prophecies that prove accurate, so Moqorro tells Victarion a few things that can easily be tested. He also treats the infected wound on Victarion’s shield hand, something that the maester given to him by Euron could not do.

I find this similarity intriguing, and it makes me wonder if Victarion will play a much greater role in the forthcoming titles that I had previously expected. He certainly seems confident in his assumption that his fleet can destroy the blockade of Meereen and that he can take Daenerys as his wife. As with Melisandre, I do not totally trust Moqorro, and I suspect that he might be withholding some of his visions from Victarion in order to further his own ends. I suspect that Daenerys will not feel the need to marry Victarion, even if he does succeed in defeating the Yunkish forces.

57. Tyrion XI

Ha! The Mighty Tyrion strikes again!

After barely surviving the fighting pit and missing out on the spectacle of the dragon attack, Tyrion is caring for his master, who is dying from the Bloody Flux. It would appear that Tyrion was with Nurse when he died of the same complaint, although I suspect that the overseer actually died of a lack of blood or some other slightly cleaner cause: Tyrion drops a fairly heavy hint that he hastened the man’s death.

It seems fairly obvious to me that this is the perfect opportunity for an escape attempt, and Tyrion agrees, leading Penny and Jorah to the well to get water and then ‘getting lost’ on the way back. Strangely, they find themselves in the camp of the Second Sons, where Brown Ben Plumm instantly recognizes Jorah and seizes the opportunity to acquire a rather valuable hostage. Tyrion makes a very interesting comment about Ben being well liked by Daenerys’ dragons because the sellsword carries Targaryen blood. I am not sure how this will end, but Tyrion is at home amongst mercenaries, and the prospect of random violence and sudden death seems to be much less likely than it was at the beginning of the chapter, although I was a little said that they had to leave pretty Pig and Crunch behind.

58. Jon XII

It seems that Jon’s faith in Tormund Giantsbane is well founded, as the wildlings arrive on time and do all that is asked of them. The hostages are provided with few hitches and include Tormund’s own son, which seems like a huge gesture, especially as he has recently had to deal with one of his sons who died and rose as a wight. The other wildlings do not all seem as agreeable, but the chances of a workable peace seem quite likely. However, Jon is still skeptical when Tormund claims that the horn that Melisandre burned was not the real Horn of Joramun, but just some ancient relic that they uncovered in a grave. It makes sense that Mance would have lied to Jon about the horn because he would have used it as a way to rally the wildling army.

It is interesting to note that one of the wildlings is a warg with a monstrous boar, which is unhappy about Ghost. The feeling is mutual, and I do wonder of this pair will be more of a hindrance than a help to Jon.

We also hear from Cotter Pyke, who has arrived at Hardhome and tried to rescue the wildlings crowded there. He sounds very unhappy because he has lost ships to bad weather and mutiny and also because there are dead things surrounding them and in the water as well. This sounds highly dangerous and unpleasant, so I do not blame him for resenting Jon’s orders. However, he asks for assistance rather than refusing to continue with the mission.

59. The Discarded Knight

King Hizdahr does not seem to be very effective, making Ser Barristan even more uncertain of his own future. He has also begin to wonder if the king was responsible for the poisoned honeyed locusts that made Strong Belwas so ill: it would certainly be easier for him if Daenerys were dead and he could lay claim to all her power. I agree that Quentyn Martell would make a very convenient fall guy for the poisoning, as his uncle, the Red Viper, was renowned for his use of venoms, so Ser Barristan’s advice to him seems very wise to me.

There are rumors spreading that Drogon killed Daenerys, although the people are adamant that she will return to protect them from the Yunkish slavers. However, this is not the only thing working to the advantage of the attacking force. Their leader was trampled to death in the panic caused by Drogon’s attack, and they use this as an excuse to behead Admiral Groleo. Although they return the three hostages that are related to Hizdahr, they continue to hold the other three until all the dragons are dead. The king is stunned by this political move and can make no reply, and, to be honest, I fail to see how he can get himself out of that situation, especially as he does not even have all three of the dragons.

60. The Spurned Suitor

Unfortunately, Quentyn Martell does not heed Barristan’s advice. I cannot help thinking that this is a very poor decision, especially when he approaches the Tattered Prince for help in stealing a dragon.

Yes, you read that correctly: he thinks that he will be able to steal one of the dragons!

I am not sure that I have ever seen such a stupid idea in a fantasy novel, and this man has actually seen the dragons that he plans to abduct. I would have thought that their massive size, the broken chains and, of course, THE FIRE, would have been enough to dissuade him, never mind the problems of transporting the thing once they get it out of the pit. That he is even considering this plan shows how immature and, frankly, stupid he is: his father would be appalled at such a plan. I cannot believe that anyone else would agree to go along with this insanity, but I foresee lots of burnt people and the dragons still in their prison at the end of the attempt. Good grief!

61. The Griffin Reborn

Meanwhile, back in Westeros, everything is going very well for Prince Aegon’s forces. Although they seem to be landing all over the coast, they are meeting little, or no, opposition and are taking their objectives easily. However, their advantage of surprise will not last for long, and so it seems very sensible for Jon Connington to send to Prince Doran to reveal Aegon’s existence and ask for an alliance. Although this might work against Doran’s plans for Quentyn, as we know that the young prince is about to become dragon-bait, I hope that Doran decides to seize this opportunity to strike against the Lannisters. With Arianne still available for a political marriage, it would be only a slight deviation from his original plan for Viserys.

Now that we are reading Jon’s thoughts he is a much more sympathetic character than he appeared through Tyrion’s eyes. He is plagued by guilt and doubt about his failure at Stony Sept, where his desire for a dual with Robert led to the usurper evading capture until the Stark and Tully forces arrived to defeat Connington’s. It is obvious that he sees this as the turning point of the war that ultimately led to Prince Rhaegar’s death. It is equally obvious that he truly loved Rhaegar, although whether this is because he is a homosexual I cannot tell.

He certainly seems to be a very competent commander and I doubt that he will have much trouble taking Storm’s End. However, I do not think that it will be a good idea for Prince Aegon to lead the assault, and I foresee lots of arguing and pouting when they have that discussion. This is the last of Connington’s chapters in this title, so we will probably need to wait until The Winds of Winter to discover if his cunning plan succeeds.

62. The Sacrifice

It is getting increasingly obvious that I am approaching the end of this title. Not only because of the shrinking pile of pages on the right hand side of the book, but because I Mr Martin is drawing his plot lines to suitable stopping points, where we are about to launch onto the next phase of the story. This is not leaving us with a lot of cliffhangers, yet, but it is making me increasingly anxious about the publication date for the next book: 2015!

The men have become so desperate that four of them have been discovered eating one of their fallen comrades. They are burned as an offering to R’hllor, in the hopes that this will lift the appalling weather. Of course, it also provokes the northmen because they worship the Old Gods, who they believe will be offended by the offering, so whatever happens there will be problems. Asha is present as the sacrifice is made and is repeatedly threatened by one of the Queen’s Men who wants to burn her as well, although she seems to have survived that fate for the moment. Just as he gets really menacing, a group of horsemen enter the camp.

This is Tycho Nestoris with his escort from the Night’s Watch and the more valuable Ironmen that he ransomed from Lady Sybelle Locke of Deepwood Motte. The group has already been to Winterfell, which is where they expected to find the army. It would appear that the horns and drums outside Winterfell were actually Crowfood Umber. This makes sense, as there seemed to be no obvious attack or displays of strength, suggesting that it to be more about unsettling the defenders and possibly provoking them to sally forth, which we saw happening in the last Theon chapter.

It is ironic that Asha does not recognize Theon when he is presented to her as this mirrors their first meeting when he did not identify her. She is shocked by his appearance, but at least he is answering to his own name again, which is a massive step forward.

This is our last view of Stannis’ forces and Winterfell before the next book . . . write faster, Mr Martin, write faster!

63. Victarion I

In our last visit to Victarion, we see him being amazingly successful on his trip to Meereen. With Moqorro’s help, he has taken a succession ships and his arm is healing. However, he may suffer from mutiny because he is now giving the red priest a lot of credence and this is seen as blasphemy by many of his men. He even goes so far as to seven young women to R’hllor by burning them. Although this gives them a strong wind towards their destination, I am not sure that it will sit well with his men.

Even more concerning is the fact that his arm now burns and crackles with flames when the skin splits, and it has much more strength than it ever had before. This may solve the problem of how to blow the Dragon Horn that Euron had given to him: the last person who blew it was consumed by fire from the inside. Perhaps if Victarion’s inner fire spreads, he might be able to blow ‘Dragonbinder’ without injury. However, from what Moqorro says, it seems more likely that one claims mastery of the horn by making a blood offering and making someone else blow it. Argh! So many things to wait for in book six!

64. The Ugly Little Girl

We have not seen much of Arya in this book, but we now follow her as she carries out her first assassination. She uses her persona as Cat of the Canals to observe her target and then develops a plan to poison him through the coins that he accepts: he always bites them to check that they are legal tender. This is a fairly elegant plan and does not require physical strength or risk the necessity of killing anybody else, which would be against the ways of the Faceless Men.

The way in which Arya is given a new face is disturbing and rather gruesome, but still does not explain how Jaqen Hagar could change his appearance in the way that he did. Still, we now have some big hints about how that was done, and we can be suitably impressed by Arya’s strength of character. After completing her task she becomes an acolyte and will now face her first apprenticeship . . .

No comments:

Post a Comment

Please let me know what you think, because comments make me happy!

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.

Link Within

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...