Sunday, May 13, 2012

A Challenge of Ice and Fire: Week 6

A Game of Thrones: Tyrion VIII to the end of the book

My previous posts:   Week 1   Week 2   Week 3   Week 4  Week 5

I will be posting my first thoughts on A Clash of Kings next Sunday, you can find the schedule here if you would like to read along with me.

62. Tyrion VIII

Lord Tywin is a really bad father, isn’t he? Hopefully Tyrion will teach him to be civil at some point. Bronn, at least, seems to be respectful, and has brought the lovely Shea to be Tyrion’s companion. It is interesting to note that the Tyrion in the book differs from the one in the HBO show in this respect. It is clearly stated that Tyrion has not had a woman for at least a year, unlike all the debauched wenching that we saw on TV. This, plus the insistence that Shea must be faithful to him during their arrangement, puts rather a different slant on to Tyrion’s sex life.

Robb Stark gets a jump on Tywin’s army and they are forced to fight a day early, but the Mighty Tyrion and his band of raging lunatic clansmen do fairly well. This surprises lord Tywin, but earns Tyrion some grudging respect from his father, which is rather nice. Tyrion is also pleased to note that his father totally underestimated Robb as well.

63. Catelyn X

This was a really neat way to depict a battle, from a distance and by sound mostly: a great contrast to the last Chapter. I like the fact that it is Jaime Lannister’s own over-confidence that really clinches this battle. For all his skill with a sword, he is not a good general, and so leads his men into a trap. At some point I remember Tyrion saying that Jaime never takes anything seriously, and you can see this here, as he jokes with Catelyn. This could be bluff and bravado, but he seems genuinely unconcerned for his own safety: perhaps because he knows the Starks are honorable and that he is a wonderful hostage to hold. Theon Greyjoy shows again what a total political dunce he is by calling for Rob to kill Jaime. Thankfully, Robb is a chip of the old block and is growing into his role as a Lord very well.

64. Daenerys VIII

For some reason I had a vivid recollection of the opening paragraph to this Chapter, as the blood flies buzz around poor Drogo before he slides off his horse. The first time through I had failed to notice the detail about Drogo ripping off Mirri Maz Duur’s treatment and having it replaced by his herbwomen: I had thought that she had intentionally infected the wound, but now I see that she was treating it properly. However, her offer to use Blood Magic is cold and calculating, because she knows precisely what will happen to Drogo, but does not warn Daenerys about this, playing on her total desperation to do something so horribly malicious. I normally think the Dothraki come across as overly superstitious, but dancing shadows would scare me half to death as well, so I cannot blame them for trying to stop what was going on. I was surprised that Ser Jorah managed to best one of Drogo’s blood riders, although it seemed like quite an even match until Qotho’s blade got caught in Jorah’s hip bone: ouch! I do have to ask though: why did Jorah carry Daenerys into a tent full of dancing, evil shadows? I know they needed a birthing woman, but even so: dancing, evil shadows = bad, really bad!

65. Arya V

Arya just keeps rising in my estimation. She is living alone in enemy territory, scrounging and surviving off her wits and what she can find or catch. She is filthy and covered in fleas, but still alive and as full of spirit as ever. The choice of her to be the POV for Ned’s execution makes it so much more sad and poignant. I had forgotten about the part where she tries to fight her way through the crowd to save him. I am sure that she would have given Ser Ilyn Payne a severe kneecapping if she could have reached him, but fortunately Yoren grabs her and keeps her anonymous. To me, this was so much better than the HBO version, where Ned effectively sends Yoren to protect her. Here she has so much more agency and fight in her soul: she is a true Stark, with the heart of a dire wolf!

Needless to say Joffrey is an obnoxious little turd that will deserve everything that comes his way. This is the first time we see that Cersei has almost no real control over him, but, as usual, she has assumed that her orders will be followed blindly. Unlike Ned, who is actually willing to compromise his honor in order to save his children and avoid a prolonged war, Joffrey is a petulant, ignorant bully, who has no idea how much of a shit-storm he has just triggered.

66. Bran VII

Bran has had a dream where the three-eyed crow led him down into the crypts to speak to his father. Of course, we know that this is because Ned is now dead, but how can Bran and Rickon have both dreamt abut him? It seems like Shaggydog is having some control issues and bites Maester Luwin before Summer fights him off. Interestingly, Bran says that Robert fought his war to recapture Lyanna from Prince Rhaegar: so it seems that he had no political ambitions when he took up arms against the Mad King. This makes the final outcome all the more sad, as he ended up stuck in King’s Landing with a wife he hated, but it fits with the image we have of a passionate, reckless man. The wolves howling as the raven arrives carrying the news of Ned’s death is really creepy: how do these wolves know so much? Perhaps they are simply reflecting the boys’ understanding of what the news will be, but it still lends them a supernatural feeling. It was good to finally get some information on the Children of the Forest: I hope we learn more of them in the later books.

67. Sansa VI

Ok, I know that I have been somewhat critical of Sansa and her tenuous grasp on reality with regards to Joffrey, so I was so pleased when she finally woke up and saw him for what he really is. I am starting to actually like the Hound, which sounds strange because he is pretty much presented as a baddy. However, he seems to have sympathy for Sansa and tries to help her when he can, and give sound advice to protect her when he cannot. Unlike that bastard Ser Meryn: yet another to add to my growing list of people who need their heads on spikes. Joffrey’s words to her throughout this Chapter make it abundantly clear that he is a sociopath, as if we had any illusions about that: head, spike, soon hopefully. I particularly despised his comments about Sansa being stupid, and possibly giving him stupid children: head, spike, soon hopefully. Then his attempts to torment her by showing her the heads . . . thank goodness for the Hound. It was great to see Sansa finally develop a backbone and find her inner strength.

68. Daenerys IX

Daenerys dreams of becoming a dragon and of her son’s death, which is unfortunately true. The description given by Mirri Maz Duur is unnecessarily detailed and would have put Daenerys into shock if she had not already moved into a state of harsh calm. Her bravery and strength in the face of what she has bought for Drogo and of the price she paid is moving and inspiring: she has truly become a queen and a great leader of her people. Unfortunately, they have mostly left her or been carried away by the stronger men. The death of the baby makes me wonder what has happened to the prophecy about his destiny: was this just rubbish or has the prophecy simply moved on to Daenerys or to her dragon-offspring? The fact that the baby looked like a rotted dragon was bizarre but also intriguing. I admire Daenerys’ strength of character in trying everything to rouse Drogo and also in the dignified death that she gave him.

69. Tyrion IX

Oh dear, Lord Tywin is upset because the Starks have Jaime, I am so sad for him! Joffrey is very lucky that he is a long way away from Tywin; otherwise I suspect that he would have trouble walking for a while. I did like that he shared the blame around as well, though. He is obviously aware that Cersei is no longer capable of ruling through Joffrey, and that the rest of the Small Council are too self-serving or cowardly to stand against him, although I noticed that Varys ran to try to prevent Ned’s death. Ultimately, they totally miscalculated Joffrey and left him free to mess everything up for everyone in the whole realm. It is good to see Tywin FINALLY realizing that Tyrion is the child that inherited his wits, and it does seem like a wise decision to send him to act as the Hand: hopefully he can knock some sense into his deranged sister and nephew. We learn that Renly has claimed the throne, but that elder brother Stannis is still keeping quiet about his intentions, even though he has a better claim: I am sure that all will be revealed in the next book.

70. Jon IX

I love Sam. He is so weak and useless as an individual, but great at doing the right thing with his brain when needed. Plus he is the best friend that Jon could have and they make an awesome team together. Although I can understand Jon’s bold decision to desert and join Robb, it is a half-baked idea at best. However, it gives his friends the opportunity to show that he has a new family, who accept him and value him for what he is. I really liked the fact that Ghost made the decision to side with his friends: he knows something, that wolf. I loved the Old Bear’s matter-of-fact comments about what had happened: it showed how much wisdom and understanding he and Maester Aemon have. I can just imagine them sitting in the dark watching him ride out and nodding their heads as they saw his friends go out after him and then going to bed to wait for them all to come back. Plus, they are now going beyond the Wall, so that should keep Jon’s mind fixed firmly on the North and its problems.

71. Catelyn XI

I am a married woman, so I have no idea how Catelyn stays so calm after being told that her husband has been killed: I would be a total wreck. Even so, I could not agree with her call for peace. Although I see some testosterone behind the decision to continue the war, I cannot imagine how they could negotiate a peace with Joffrey: Tywin and Tyrion, perhaps, but Cersei and Joffrey will never allow people who have risen against them to survive. In this respect, I think Catelyn is wrong in her assumption that a peace would be possible and she has already proven that she does not always see the further consequences of actions: *ahem* capturing Tyrion for example. Although, I note that she now sees that this decision was a massive mistake. I found her reminiscences of her youth very interesting: particularly the story of her and Lysa playing kisses with Littlefinger, and her remembrance that Lysa liked it. Did Littlefinger take up with Lysa after Catelyn rejected him?

72. Daenerys X

This is such a powerful way to end the book. I cannot imagine what it was like to read this Chapter when the book was first published and there was who knows how many months before the next one would be published. Plus, we finally get to see some real epic fantasy stuff: dragons! Real, dragons! I have no idea if Daenerys’ ability to withstand fire is typical of the Targaryens or not, but it would be very useful when dealing with fire-breathing beasties. Of course, we have had this foreshadowed a couple of times, with her having amazingly hot baths, picking up the fire-heated egg and, of course, her comment about Viserys after he got his ‘crown’. I am a bit confused by her hair burning off, but what the heck, and I hope she has plenty of pain killer to help her nipples cope with little dragon mouths chomping on them: yikes! Oh, and it was nice to see Mirri Maz Duur getting her pay back for Drogo.

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