Sunday, November 11, 2012

A Challenge of Ice and FIre: Week 31

A Dance with Dragons: Week 31 - Prologue to the end of Tyrion III (p. 122).

0. Prologue

This chapter is written from the POV of Varamyr Sixskins the warg that we last saw running in terror from Mance Rayder’s army after Melisandre burnt the eagle he was using to spy on the Night’s Watch. He has led a terrible life, killing his younger brother at an early age out of pure jealousy. It would seem that he has no compassion for anyone, taking what and whom he wants with no regards for their wishes. We also learn that he has broken all the rules set by his warg teacher: he has eaten human flesh, warged into a beast to have sex with another animal and warged into humans. We see him try this trick again as he approaches death and tries to avoid it by taking the woman Thistle’s body.

We leave him warged into the body of his dominant wolf, One Eye.

1. Tyrion I

I have missed Tyrion and his sharp tongue: it is very good to be reading his chapters again.

It is a little strange to read Tyrion’s idea to travel to Dorne and make Myrcella the Queen after reading the Dornish chapters of A Feast for Crows. Although I imagine that Tyrion’s presence would weaken her claim, rather than strengthen it, I find it interesting that he sees this as a distinct possibility. Of course, he is mostly concerned with making Cersei angry and not with gaining power via his niece.

He is smuggled of his ship in a barrel, and has a thoroughly unpleasant journey to his final destination, which is revealed to be the home of Illyrio Mopatis. This makes perfect sense, because we saw Illyrio plotting with Varys in A Game of Thrones. It seems that the two are old friends and have a master plan that involves placing Daenerys on the iron Throne. I am not sure how Tyrion will fit in with their plans, but I can see how he would be a very useful advisor to the young Queen. The information that he is aiding a Targaryen against Tommen could be enough to cause Cersei to have a stroke!

2. Daenerys I

Daenerys is finding that ruling Meereen is not as easy as she had hoped. A secret group, known as the Sons of the Harpy, has been killing her supporters and has now killed one of the Unsullied when he was off duty. This shows a marked increase in boldness on their part, and Daenerys must act swiftly to suppress them. However, she is wise enough to realize that there is little chance of them being uncovered.

After a long day of hearing petitions and settling grievances, she is confronted with the terrible news that at least one of her dragons has eaten a child. I am not sure how she can regain control of them at this point, as they are obviously far too big for simple physical punishment or restraint. This is going to become a severe problem, as she needs them if she wants to regain the Iron Throne, but they have not been trained to be obedient.

3. Jon I

As with Tyrion, it is great to see how Jon is doing, but this chapter was a little disorientating because it takes place at the same time as Samwell I in A Feast for Crows. I completely understand why Mr Martin decided to divide up the stories as he did between the books, but I was shocked for a second when Jon bumped into Sam on the stairs. Fortunately, it only took me a moment to remember what was going on.

I am glad that Dolorous Edd is now Jon’s steward: he has such funny lines, and a wonderfully morose outlook on life that I find him hilarious. We also know that he is completely trustworthy, so I am pleased that Jon has at least one honest man close at hand. I fear that Jon’s command is tenuous and that there are plenty of men that will be happy to stick a knife into his back at the slightest opportunity. Jon seems to be aware of this, and I hope that Ghost can keep him safe.

Although I understand Stannis’ desire to station his men in the unoccupied forts along the Wall, I can also appreciate Jon’s unwillingness to comply with his requests. Jon cannot be seen to be siding with Stannis if he wants any support from Tommen and the Great Houses that ally with him. It is almost an impossible situation, because Jon realizes how vital it is to actually man the Wall, but his suggestion to use both Brothers and Stannis’ men to man the forts seems like a good compromise. I hope that Stannis will be flexible enough to alter his plans to allow Jon to maintain control over the entirety of the Wall and its defenses. I was very pleased that Jon designed this compromise as it shows that he does have the skills needed to be a good Lord Commander.

As a side note, I was disgusted by Stannis’ opinion of Gilly, who he sees as a whore. I fail to see how the poor girl could have done anything other than submit to her degenerate father in order to survive, but this is a common attitude, even in modern society, where women are often seen as partially responsible for being raped or assaulted.

4. Bran I

I really hope that Bran and his merry band reach the three-eyed crow soon, as they are really struggling with the cold and lack of food. Even Hodor is becoming weak, which shows how truly awful the conditions are. Jojen seems to be particularly badly effected, although he is convinced that he will survive to see the death that he has foreseen. I am not happy that Bran has made a habit of warging into Hodor. I am sure that this is a horrible experience for the big man and that Bran is only doing it out of boredom, which does not seem like a terribly good reason to me.

Coldhands remains a mystery. I know that many people believe that he is Benjen Stark, although this does not seem very likely, especially as he could not travel under the Wall with Sam and Gilly. Whoever he was, we know that he is dead now, although he does not seem to be a true wight. Hopefully we will get some answers later in the book. He is certainly capable of keeping them safe and doubles back in order to deal with some people following them.

Bran wargs into Summer and comes upon the corpses of five Brothers of the Night’s Watch, presumably the men that the ravens had spotted behind them. He also finds a small pack of wolves feeding on the corpses and fights the pack leader for dominance. This one-eyed wolf is Varamyr, but the wolf’s body is no match for Summer and must submit to him. When he returns to his own body, he finds that Coldhands has brought them some ‘pork’. I have a horrible suspicion that this is actually ‘long pig’, another name for human flesh, because I seriously doubt that there are any pigs wandering around alive in this landscape.

5. Tyrion II

Tyrion is quite right not to trust Illyrio Mopatis. I have no doubt that he and Varys have some overarching master plan that will benefit them more than anyone else. However, it seems that Tyrion shares some of their goals at the moment, so he might as well use them to his advantage. Perhaps things will become clearer when we meet the man Griff, but until then I understand Tyrion’s mistrust.

In his favor, it does seem that Illyrio protected Daenerys from Viserys as much as possible. I cannot say that I was overly surprised to learn that Viserys had tried to take his sister’s maidenhead the night before her wedding. This certainly fits in with the man that we saw in A Game of Thrones. Of course, one could argue that Illyrio was simply making sure that she was still a virgin so that Khal Drogo would not reject her and annul the wedding, but protecting her from incest and rape is a good thing, no matter his reasons for it.

We also learn a little of Varys’ history as a master thief and spy, who attracted the attention of the Mad King when he had become paranoid. We also learn that Illyrio was a beautiful youth and that he was deeply in love with his second wife: so much so that he keeps her hands as a reminder. Am I the only person who thinks that this is a little odd?

6. The Merchant's Man

The Merchant’s Man is revealed to be Quentyn Martell, who we learnt abut in A Feast for Crows. He has travelled to Volantis with a small party on their way to reach Daenerys. He intends to marry her, just as Viserys had been promised to Arianne. I am not sure that it will be as simple as that, especially as poor Quentyn is rather young and not at all handsome. They have also lost several of their group, including the maester, to corsairs who attacked their ship on the way to Volantis. The loss of the maester’s counsel will be crucial, as I fear that the remaining group is not as wise or cautious as he was. However, they are wise enough to see the peril of trusting the captain of the Adventure, but they are getting increasingly desperate to find some way to travel to Meereen.

7. Jon II

Poor Jon, he is forced to make some horrible decisions and act in a cold way that is against his nature, but it is good to see that he can make the tough decisions and force them through. It seems that he is taking Maester Aemon’s advice to ‘kill the boy’ that he was. He manipulates Gilly quite ruthlessly and is only marginally less harsh with Sam, but his reasons are perfectly reasonable and he does at least tell both of them why he needs them to do as he asks.

Then he tries to give Ser Janos Slynt the benefit of the doubt and offers him the command of Greyguard Castle, reasoning that Slynt must have had some talent to have become the commander of the City Watch in King’s Landing. It would also allow Jon to separate Slynt from his cronies, most importantly Ser Alliser Thorne. Of course, Slynt refuses to obey a direct order and storms off cursing. In the morning, Jon gives him one final chance to do his duty, but Slynt continues to be rude and insolent, leaving Jon with no choice but to kill him. It is not clear if Jon expects this behavior from Slynt or not, but it most certainly marks a turning point in Jon’s command. By beheading Slynt he shows that he cannot be disrespected or ignored, and that he is willing to make hard decisions and stick by them. I doubt that Ser Alliser will see it quite that way, and I do not expect the resentment to vanish. Perhaps this might even make it worse.

8. Tyrion III

We finally meet up with Griff and his boy, Young Griff. It seems that they are not what they pretend to be, but I doubt that Griff will trust Tyrion with the truth anytime soon: he is obviously someone who is used to keeping his own secrets.

It would seem that Illyrio has some real affection for Young Griff, which I hope is because he reminds him of his younger self. He seems genuinely sad not to have the chance to see the boy and is somewhat deflated by Tyrion’s departure with Haldon and Ser Rolly Duckfield. I liked Duck’s story of how he got his name: he sounds a little like Dolorous Edd.

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