Monday, December 31, 2012

A Challenge of Ice and Fire: Week 38

A Dance with Dragons: Cersei II to the end of the book

My previous posts on A Dance with Dragons:   week 31   week 32   week 33   week 34   week 35   week 36   week 37

65. Cersei II

I never really thought that this walk of shame would actually go ahead, but it did! I know I should not take so much joy from another person’s discomfort, but, firstly, she is not actually real, and, secondly, she is Cersei Lannister! If there was ever a character that I wanted to see forced to walk naked through a busy city: it is Cersei Lannister. You might expect me to have some sympathy for a woman who has been used as a political breeding machine, but we see that almost all of the other highborn ladies were treated in the same way, and yet she is fairly unique in her stupidly brutal way of dealing with other people. Plus she hates Tyrion, which is reason enough to dislike her.

I was intrigued, and surprised, by the need to shave her completely bald. I can understand that removing her head hair would remove her vanity, but I do not really see the need to remove her body hair: how does her underarm hair help to hide her shame? Anyway, I am sure that Lena Headey is really looking forward to filming this scene . . .

This was a powerful chapter to read, as it showed Cersei gradually breaking down. As she steps out of the Great Sept she is sure that nothing can harm her and she will be unchanged by this punishment, but by the end she is crawling and in tears, seeing visions of Ned Stark, her father, Tyrion and, finally, Maggie the Frog foretelling her downfall. She is a truly broken person by the time she reaches the Red Keep, which I found surprising.

There is a definite suggestion that Ser Robert Strong is Gregor Clegane, though how that is possible, I do not know. It would seem that Gregor’s head was sent to Dorne, so we do not even know if Ser Robert has a head, which is even more worrying . . . I really do not know how Qyburn ‘acquired’ the new Kingsguard.

66. Tyrion XII

Thank goodness! Our last view of The Mighty Tyrion is of him signing on as a member of the Second Sons. How ironic, that a son of Tywin Lannister would become a sellsword, and that it would be Tyrion. It would seem that Tyrion is handing over promises for most of the wealth of Casterly Rock in the process, which would infuriate Lord Tywin even more!

It would seem that he wants to persuade Brown Ben Plumm to switch sides and desert the Yunkai. This might seem like a poor idea, considering that Plumm had already abandoned Meereen, but it might work, especially now that Daenerys is missing. We leave our hero trying to find suitable armor for himself and Penny so that they can hide amongst the company.

67. The Kingbreaker

Inside Meereen, mutiny is in the air as Ser Barristan and the Shavepate plan to seize Hizdahr and accuse him of attempting to poison the Queen. I love the way that we follow Barristan during the way as he tries to wait for the right time to act. It is great to follow a character’s rambling thoughts as they reveal so much about their personality. Terrific writing again from Mr Martin, showing how these books are driven by the characters that inhabit them.

Obviously, Ser Barristan has no problem outfighting the pit fighter guarding the King and takes Hizdahr into custody. The King’s attitude to this shows how different he is from the other rulers we have seen, suggesting that he is almost useless as the leader of the city.

Then we hear that someone has released the dragons: oopsie!

68. The Dragontamer

Poor Quentyn, he really is an idiot. His plan to capture one, or both, of the dragons is laughable and doomed to certain failure. If nobody had seen one of them rampaging through the city this might have been understandable, but Drogon’s appearance at the fighting pit would surely have dissuaded anyone from contemplating this plan. I love the fact that they have some chains and a cage . . . and have completely forgotten the whole ‘fire-breathing’ aspect of the dragons . . . doh!

So they arrive at the pit after a bit of fighting, and open the door. I would have thought that one look at the broken chains all over the floor and the huge cave that Viserion has carved out of one wall would have changed everyone’s minds and made them slam that door and forget the whole thing . . . but, no. The image of Quentyn trying to shout down Viserion like the dragon is a badly behaved dog is horrifically hilarious, as are the shouts of “Behind you!” from the others.

At this point I can only hope that the poor lad dies quickly.

69. Jon XIII

What the @#$%??!????!???!!!

Dear Mr Martin,

I am officially VERY angry with you. Not because you had Bowen Marsh and some other traitors stab Jon, but because I must now wait for at least two more years to find out what happened!

If you have killed Jon I will cry . . . a lot.

Yours, in total disbelief and distress,


PS I know that Ramsay Bolton is lying about Stannis being dead, because he asks Jon to return Reek . . . and we all know that he is with Stannis’ army

PPS I hope that Ghost rips out the throats of all the nasty traitors that stabbed Jon.

70. The Queen's Hand

Quentyn took three days to die of his injuries . . . poor lad. But that’s what you get when you play with dragons. I particularly liked the added detail that they had arranged a ship to transport the beasts back to Dorne. Dragons on a ship . . . that is made of wood . . . and they breath fire . . . how could anyone not see the problem with this???

It is interesting that Ser Barristan is trying to get the sellswords to desert the Yunkai, so Tyrion’s idea might be met with a much better reaction than I had hoped. His decision to use the two surviving Dornishmen to approach the Windblown seems like a pretty good move, as we have seen that he is already willing to work with them to do outrageously stupid things.

I am still not convinced that the Green Grace is not part of the Sons of the Harpy plot to remove Daenerys, so I do not trust her to have worked very hard to persuade the Yunkai. I am intrigued that everyone is demanding that Barristan kills the dragons . . . how exactly do they expect him to do that? It will be interesting to discover what corpses are being thrown over the walls. I assume that they are those who have died of the Pale Mare, as this was a common tactic in sieges. it seems unlikely that it is the hostages are there were only a few of them left.

71. Daenerys X

In a strange parallel to Cersei’s walk of shame, we follow Daenerys as she tries to find her way back to Meereen from Drogon’s lair. She is also bald, having lost her hair to his fire, and she also suffers from hallucinations, although hers are probably caused by eating poisonous berries, dehydration and lack of food.

It is interesting that Drogon appears when she is afraid of being discovered by a Dothraki scout, which suggests that he is attuned to her emotions or thoughts somehow. I wonder if he will allow her to escape from Khal Jhaqo’s khalasar? Somehow, she does not seem to be in much immediate danger because she has the dragon beside her.

72. Epilogue

A new POV for the epilogue does not bode well for Kevan Lannister, as the previous epilogues and prologues have not ended well for most of their narrators.

I was surprised to read that Cersei has taken a back seat since returning to the Red Keep, and is apparently a new woman. Being the cynical person that I am, I find it hard to believe that she has actually changed, but we shall see.

Kevan is coming to realize what a nuisance Mace Tyrell is, especially now that he is the Hand, and actually expresses some sympathy for Cersei’s annoyance with the man. Mace seems to be totally incompetent, and is very dismissive of the reports of Sir Jon Connigton’s return to Westeros with the Golden Company. He is wildly over confident about Paxter Redwyne’s ability to defeat the Ironborn menace in the West and Roose Bolton’s to remove the threat of Stannis. In many ways he sounds a lot like Cersei in his inability to see the big picture and his fixation with less important details, which for him is his daughter’s trial. It would seem that the Small Council’s options are dramatically reduced by Cersei’s refusal to treat with the Iron Bank. They cannot raise the cash they need to try to defeat Connington as well as the other threats.

There is some discussion of Ser Robert Strong and, while nobody actually says a name, it is pretty obvious that they all believe that he is Gregor Clegane. The reports that he does not eat or even use the privy are very disturbing, while Qyburn’s claim that he has taken a vow of silence is simply too convenient. However, I am not sure that I really want to believe that Ser Robert is a headless zombie.

After a delightful dinner with the newly pleasant Cersei, Kevan is called to Pycelle’s quarters, where he finds the maester dead and gets a crossbow bolt in his chest. We then get a strange bit of monologue as Varys apologizes to Kevan but explains why he had to die. This was a truly shocking end to the book, especially as Kevan seemed like such a good man. Of course, Varys explains that Kevan’s competence is the reason why he has to die: his death will tear the Tyrell-Lannister alliance apart and allow Aegon to claim the throne with far less opposition. I feel sorry for Kevan because he has shown himself to be a decent, competent man who always does his duty.

A Final Word

So, here I am. Thirty-Eight weeks after I began this Challenge and five wonderful books devoured. I have the HBO series discs to look back through and the third series abut to start very soon, but it will be a very long time until The Winds of Winter lands in my mailbox. I know that Mr Martin will need to write a little faster now that he has the pressure of the adaptation catching up to him, but I am not sure that  we will see book six earlier than advertised, never mind book seven . . . sob! :(


  1. Love the idea of this challenge.
    My mum bought me the first four books ages ago, but I've been very reluctant to read them as they're rather intimidating.
    Will definitely have to try reading them like this , it seems less daunting.
    Happy New Year.

  2. I read about 120 pages a week, but I could have read much faster without wanting to post my thoughts. They are a terrific read and I would recommend them to anyone who enjoys a good Fantasy read. The HBO series is also excellent if you can get hold of it.

    I hope you give it a go and enjoy it as much as I have,

    Happy New Year! :)


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