Sunday, November 25, 2012

A Challenge of Ice and Fire: Week 33

A Dance with Dragons: Week 33 - Davos III to the end of Tyrion VII (p.371)

My previous posts on A Dance with Dragons:   week 31   week 32

19. Davos III

Oh dear, I had hoped that Wyman Manderly had spared Davos, but this does not look very promising . . .

However, I hope that his treatment of the King’s Hand is merely a display for the Freys that are hanging around. We are shown in the chapter that Wyman can hide his thoughts and feelings quite well, so we know that he is more than capable of deceit. The fact that at least one member of the household voices her strong support for Stannis is encouraging, even if she is shouted down. Young Wylla sounds like me at that age, and she is about as subtle! :D

20. Reek II

Yep, still feeling sympathy for poor Theon, although the Ironmen left behind in Moat Cailin are almost as pitiful. I was amazed that the Bastard actually made any promise to keep them alive, and also that they believed him. The line of bodies seen on the following morning was no surprise at all. I do wonder if the Bastard will manage to win a proper battle against an enemy that is not vastly outnumbered, surprised or incapable of fighting back. I do hope that Stannis sticks him on a spike while he is still alive.

It is interesting to read how Reek can revert to his old character of Theon, at least enough to persuade the Ironmen to follow his orders. Although I really do not want to read the train of thoughts of a broken persona, it is very well done and shows how torture can warp a mind into wanting to please the torturer.

We had heard about the ‘Arya Stark’ that was being married off, but did not know who they were trying to pass off in the role. Theon recognizes her as Jeyne Poole, which we can believe to be the truth as he is only thinking this information. I am quite sure that he will keep his mouth shut about what he knows, but it is useful to know the girl’s real identity. I suspect that she will not have much fun in her married life.

21. Jon V

As Jon travels to Mole Town with the rations for the Wildlings we see that they have not forsaken the Old Gods at all. This is hardly surprising, as they have had no real incentive to convert to the Lord of Light, only to pretend to embrace him. They also show that they are exactly as Mance Rayder said: impossible to treat in the same way as men from the South. They are aggressive and confrontational with Jon and the other Brothers until he tells them exactly how they can improve their share of the food. By offering them a simple choice, and by specifically not trying to rally them to a cause he finds many of them willing to exchange their skills for better circumstances. They are pragmatic and practical people, who simply want to protect themselves and live a free life, which does not seem too much to ask.

Of course, this is going to make Jon unpopular with those Brothers who would prefer to kill all the Wildlings, but their help at the Wall might prove to be invaluable in defeating the Others. It also shows Jon’s flexibility in dealing with them, something that we could never expect from Stannis: Jon’s familiarity with the Wildling mentality might make all the difference in years to come.

22. Tyrion VI

Tyrion seems to have survived his dunk in the river, although the threat of Greyscale is something that he will have to worry about for the foreseeable future. I am interested to learn why Griff decided to save him, especially after he had revealed his knowledge of Aegon’s identity. Unfortunately, we do not learnt hat because everyone is busy collecting supplies and information in the town of Selhorys.

Left onboard the boat, Tyrion bests Aegon at cyvasse, which angers the boy, although it might be Tyrion’s assessment of Daenerys that is really the cause of the rage. He says that she is not likely to accept the lad as a husband if he arrives in her court as a supplicant with nothing to offer. This is the total opposite of what Griff and Illyrio have advised, and Tyrion also adds that the lad should trust nobody, including those who claim to have his best interests at heart. Although Aegon is angered by Tyrion’s blunt speech, and by being deceived by some of his ‘advice’, he does ask for an alternative and sees some merit in the idea of landing in Dorne to lay claim to the Iron Throne and then asking Daenerys to back him, although I am not sure that he will follow this advice.

As I have said many times before, I am always impressed by Tyrion’s instinctive understanding of a political situation. He knows about all the major players, their strengths and weaknesses and can predict how they are likely to react in any particular situation. It seems blazingly obvious to me that Daenerys is unlikely to effectively bend her knee to Aegon simply because of who he is. I find it ironic that Griff, Varys and Illyrio are all gambling that she will behave like a well-trained daughter from a Westeros House, when she has shown that she is a real force all by herself. Her dragons are now amazingly important, but they are not the real reason that she has been able to become the Queen of Meereen.

His brief evening in the local brothel was a sad and pretty miserable affair, which showed how lonely Tyrion is, and how full of self-loathing. Perhaps one of the most appealing things about him is that he is fundamentally looking for simple acceptance and love. Given those things, he is more than happy with life, as we saw during his good days with Shea.

I was very surprised when Jorah Mormont appeared in the brothel: a stroke of amazingly bad luck for Tyrion. It looks like Jorah intends to swap Tyrion for a pardon by taking him to Cersei. Oh dear! :(

23. Daenerys IV

It seems that her security measures have not stopped the Harpy’s Sons from killing freedmen, so Daenerys seeks the advice of the Green Grace, Galazza Galare. The old woman praises the Queen for not killing her hostages in retaliation for the killings, but also notes that the situation cannot continue. She is sure that Daenerys will never be accepted unless she marries a man from one of the old families, and Hizdahr zo Loraq is the preferred candidate. Although Daenerys does not like to be maneuvered, she does recognize the wisdom of this advice and sees Hizdahr. As always, Daenerys manages to appear as if she is simply following other people’s advice while still including her own demands and only agreeing if she judges it the correct advice to follow. I am not at all sure that Hizdahr can actually produce the peace that she demands, or, if he does, that it has not all been an elaborate plot to gain him the title of King.

24. The Lost Lord

In this chapter we follow the POV of Griff or Lord Jon Connington, who has just arrived in Volantis.

Ironically, Jon thinks that Tyrion made his escape from the brothel, and so his trust in Haldon has been badly shaken. Meanwhile, Aegon has started to be more assertive, which is also causing problems, although the young prince is willing enough to visit the Golden Company, a group of sellswords who are all exiles from Westeros or their descendants. Illyrio Mopatis has bought them for Aegon and the plan is for them to travel East to Daenerys.

Connington used to serve with the Company and so is very familiar with the new leader, Harry Strickland, who moans about the constantly changing plans of the Magister. He has had to refuse a few lucrative contracts whilst waiting for Aegon’s party, which is weakening his command and causing problems with the men. However, Aegon reveals his intentions to sail west and raise his flags in Dorne, just as Tyrion recommended, and this is greeted with a great deal more enthusiasm than the original plan to go east. Jon sees that he has virtually lost control of Aegon, but is impressed that the lad can sway these hardened troops to his cause with such apparent ease.

We gain more insight into Connington himself, who blames himself for losing the Battle of the Bells, at Stoney Sept, and so allowing Robert to go on to kill Rhaegar at the Battle of the Trident. He has made a great many sacrifices to protect and raise Aegon, and he now sees his final mission as placing the Prince on the Iron Throne. Rather poignantly we discover at the end of the chapter that he has contracted greyscale, possibly whilst rescuing Tyrion from the river. He hopes to live long enough to serve his best friend’s son before he dies.

25. The Windblown

From one group of sellswords to another, and we find Quentyn Martell fighting with the Windblown outside Astapor.

Taking on the persona of a squire nicknamed ‘Frog’, Quentyn and his two remaining companions are no different to any of the other men from Westeros fighting for the Yunkai. Although he was frightened at first, he recognizes that their fight against the new Unsullied was really a massacre of scared young men who did not have the training to stand against their more experienced forces. The Windblown are now riding to Yunkai in order to re-provision before moving on to Meereen, leaving the Dornishmen to decide when to desert and strike out towards Daenerys.

An almost perfect opportunity presents itself when they are ordered to scout away from the main column to find refugees from Astapor that carry the bloody flux. The Yunkai want these plague-carriers herded towards Meereen, hoping that they will weaken the city with the disease. However, the fates seem to be on Quentyn’s side as the Westerosi men are ordered to use this opportunity to contact Daenerys’ sellswords and defect so that the Windblown can play both sides and hopefully profit no matter of the final outcome. This is perfect for the Dornishmen, assuming that everything goes to plan.

26. The Wayward Bride

We return to Asha Greyjoy’s POV, who fled to Deepwood Motte after the Kingsmoot.

We learn that Euron married his niece to Erik Anvilbreaker to consolidate their alliance, using a seal to stand in for her at the ceremony. Erik is now ruling the Iron Islands in her name, so she cannot return as a captain in her own right. She also receives a message from the Bastard relating the fall of Moat Cailin, containing a piece of Theon’s skin and demanding her surrender. It seems like she is running out of options, and her hand is forced during the night when five Flint men are killed climbing over the wall. Realizing that an attack is imminent, she decides to quit the fortress and make for her ships, which are a few miles away through the forest.

This seems like a fairly smart move, but the Ironmen find it difficult to move through the forest in the pitch darkness and so she decides to call a halt until dawn. I am not sure if they could have outrun the following northerners if they had kept moving, but by waiting, they become siting ducks. The enemy falls upon them and begin to massacre the Ironmen in the confusion. The last we know is that Asha is struck on the head and passes out, dreaming of flaming hearts and stags. This, and the inclusion of men from House Flint, suggests that the attacking army is that of Stannis, which I found a little surprising as we last saw the King setting out from the Wall, quite a long way northeast of Deepwood Motte. However, it seems that Jon’s advice was good, and that the northern mountain tribes have decided to support Stannis.

27. Tyrion VII

We seem to be getting an awful lot of Tyrion chapters in this book, which I will not complain about, as his story just gets more and more interesting.

So, we have our third visit to Volantis, and learn that the Golden Company is hiring ships to head west. Tyrion is surprised that Griff has agreed to this plan, and I am not sure whether or not the advice that he gave will prove advantageous for Aegon. It seems unlikely that Tyrion would do anything to help Cersei, but I am not sure that he would purposefully send someone to remove Tommen from the throne.

I like the way that we re-visit locations mentioned in earlier chapters from other characters’ POVs, such as the temple where the red priest is rousing the crowd of slaves and the inn called the Merchant’s House. This time we get much more detail, reflecting Tyrion’s attention to his surroundings and their slow progress through the city. There is also some nice interplay between Tyrion and Jorah, although almost all of Tyrion’s dialogue is witty and entertaining, no matter with whom he is conversing.

Yet again, Jorah is shown to be dishonest about his intentions and the Widow of the Waterfront is not won over by his half-truths. However, she does like Tyrion’s honesty and so is persuaded to help Jorah, as long as he delivers a message to Daenerys from the slaves in Volantis, asking her to come for them quickly. this follows a short altercation with a female dwarf, called Penny, who blames Tyrion for her brother’s death. Apparently he was killed because he was thought to actually be Tyrion, and it is possible that his head was one of those presented to Cersei.  

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