Archive | July 2011

A Read of A Dance with Dragons – Part 11

Chapter 10 – Jon

Melisandre puts Mance Rayer in a cage of weirwood and burns him. The burning is on the north of the Wall, in front of the stockade of captured wildlings. The weirwood is an offering of the old gods to her new god. Mance screams and pleads and denies his kingship. She also burns the Horn of Joramun. After a few minutes of burning, Jon has the Night’s Watch archers kill Mance.

The wildlings are offered the chance to go South, through the Wall and settle in the Gift. The price is that they have to kneel to King Stannis and commit a piece of weirwood to the flames. Melisandre proclaims Stannis Azor Ahai and he draws Lightbringer, which seems to Jon to be brighter than before. Most of the wildlings accept the offer but some go north into the trees.

Bowen Marsh tells Jon he should seal the three gates in the Wall so that no one can get through. He says ranging is a waste of men they can’t afford. He also says that men think he is too close to Stannis. Jon says he is trying not to take sides and points out that Stannis still has three times the men the Watch has.

Jon wants company but he has sent Aemon and Sam away. He thinks he can eat dinner with Pyp and Grenn and his other friends, but when he finds them he realises he can’t. He remembers that Mormont tells him that a Lord Commander can love his men, but can’t be their friend. He goes to speak with Maester Clydas and says that he has read the passage Aemon left for him. It was about Azor Ahai and Lightbringer, which was hot. It indicates that Aemon doubts Stannis is Azor Ahai reborn.

Jon goes to his chambers and writes orders despatching his friends to other castles along the Wall.

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Oh Jon. Sending your friends away won’t make your loneliness easier to bear.

I can’t believe Melisandre burnt the Horn of Joramun. That’s like an archaeological treasure! The woman is evil. And I didn’t mind when she burnt effigies of the Seven, but burning the weirwood is wrong. The old gods are definitely the best ones. She burnt Mance. I thought that would get dragged out a bit more, but it seems Jon sent Sam away just in time.

I don’t think the gates should be sealed up. What about keeping the treeline back? What about when things go back to normal and the Watch can go ranging again? It seems like it would be irrevocable and a big mistake. 

A Read of A Dance with Dragons – Part 10

Chapter 10 – Davos

Davos is in chains. He has been captured on Sweetsister, a tiny island north of the Vale of Arryn. He is brought before its Lord who is wondering what to do with him.

Davos left the Wall with Salladhor Saan’s Lysene fleet to go to White Harbour and get Lord Manderly to swear allegiance to Stannis. Most of the fleet was smashed on the journey south and Saan feels that Stannis has beggared him. He was promised gold and never been paid. It appears that he has landed Davos on Sweetsister and gone on somewhere else.

The Lord of Sweetsister is Godric Borrell, technically sworn to Lord Sunderland, a bannerman of the Arryns.  He suggests Borrell gives him over to Lysa Arryn and learns she is dead and Littlefinger rules the Vale now. He offers Davos a seat and some food. Davos knows he is safe for the night. He learns that Tywin Lannister is dead. Borrell asks why he should help Stannis and Davos doesn’t know what to say, despite being able to see that Borrell has doubts about who to support. With Tywin dead and Tyrion fled, who will fight the Lannister cause now?

Davos explains he wants to go to White Harbour and learns that Manderly has made peace with the Freys by way of a marriage. Then Godric tells him that Eddard Stark was on Sweetsister at the start of Robert’s rebellion. He was brought their by a fisherman’s daughter and left her with a bastard that she named Jon Snow.

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Hmmm. I don’t believe that for a second. A fisherman’s daughter in the Three Sisters, a maid in Dorne? Just doesn’t sound much like Eddard Stark. Personally, I’m liking the Lyanna-Rhaegar theory of Jon Snow’s parentage. It fits Eddard’s character better.

Frankly, I’m surprised Salladhor Saan stuck with Stannis as long as he did. It’s not stated explicitly that Saan has abandoned Stannis’ cause, but the implication is there. Although, maybe it’s a fake out. It’s not like that never happens in these books. But, taking it at face value, that’s what happens when you buy someone’s loyalty instead of winning it. Doesn’t look good for Stannis right now. His fleet is good and White Harbour has declared for King’s Landing. All these little lords are looking for their advantage and what does Stannis have except personal strength and justice? How far’s that going to get you when even the Lord of the island eats plain fish stew and bread without butter?

A Read of A Dance with Dragons – Part 9

Chapter 8 – Tyrion

Tyrion wakes to find the litter stopped and Illyrio missing. Seeing as they’ve been stopping every half hour for Illyrio to piss, this doesn’t seem odd. Tyrion gets out and finds Illyrio talking to two rough-looking horsemen, so he insinuates himself into the conversation and starts shooting his mouth off. There is some banter, then the horsemen load up the chests that Illyrio has brought them and leave, taking Tyrion with them on the next leg of his journey. They are going to Ghoyan Drobe on the Rhoyne to meet Griff and go with him to Volantis.

On the way, they discuss happenings with the Dothraki and that Khal Pono is making his presence felt. One of the horsemen is Ser Rolly Duckfield. He tells Tyrion who he is and how he comes to be there. He is a commoner but Griff is a knight and so was able to knight him in a field of ducks. He reveals that he fought in the bittersteel rebellion. The other is halfmaester Haldon who questions him about dragons.

At Ghoyan Drobe they meet Griff and Young Griff aboard river boats. Young Griff is a charming boy, full of innocence. His father is another matter. Illyrio’s letter to Griff makes it clear who Tyrion is and Tyrion is surprised the captain of a sellsword company can read. Griff doesn’t appear to think that Illyrio’s plan to send Tyrion to Danaerys is a good idea. Tyrion thinks Griff is lying quite a lot about who he is.

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So, this would be the Golden Company then? Exiled Westerosi knights looking for a way to come home and throwing in their lot with Danaerys. Tyrion talks far too much and makes a fool of himself. The dwarf is one of my favourites and usually witty. But in this chapter he is indiscreet and doesn’t do himself any favours with his quips. It makes him seem stupider than he is. Maybe this is the effect of his grief and lets hope it’s temporary. Or maybe it’s a double bluff, and he’s deliberately making himself look stupid?

Griff is hard-nosed, eh? Although his son appears to have turned out a sweet lad, so there must be some softness in his father. I can’t wait until they hook up with Dany. She could use some more help.

Things I have liked this week

Clips from HBO’s Game of Thrones set to Johnny Cash ‘God’s gonna cut you down’. It’s brilliant. I haven’t seen the TV series yet and I’m really looking forward to the DVD coming out.
Blogging, writing and selling books
This is a thoughtful post from Livia Blackburne on blog writing and selling books and John Locke’s approach. At some point I’ll get around to reading what John Locke wrote.
Astronomy Picture of the Day
Not only is it a gorgeous picture, but I also learnt about noctilucent clouds.

A Read of A Dance with Dragons – Part 8

Chapter 7 – Jon

Jon has some difficult decisions to make. He knows Melisandre will burn Mance and then burn Mance’s son because she wants to give king’s blood to her fire. He summons Gilly and tells her he is sending her away with Dalla’s son and that she will leave her own son at Castle Black in his stead. Jon says that Melisandre won’t burn him because there will be no advantage to her in that, and that he will raise Gilly’s son.

Next he summons Sam and tells him he will go with Gilly and Aemon. He needs Sam to go to Oldtown and become a maester. Jon thinks Sam will be pleased by this and doesn’t understand why he isn’t. When Sam explains his father’s feelings about that idea, having wanted to be a maester in the past, Jon reminds him that his father doesn’t matter, only his vows matter. Jon also knows this voyage will kill Aemon, but thinks this will be better than dying in Melisandre’s fires. Jon sleeps that night but wakes feeling unrefreshed. For once, he doesn’t dream of being with Ghost.

In the morning, he goes to see the little party off. He tells Dolorous Edd to have Bedwyck and Janos Slynt come to his chambers. Gilly weeps, Aemon tells Jon he has left something for him to read. When he returns to his chambers, Bedwyck is waiting for him. Jon is opening an extra castle and giving Bedwyck the command. The idea is to extend their watch, not for it to be defensible, and it is made possible by Stannis’ men.

Janos Slynt keeps him waiting. Jon offers him another castle command, giving him the opportunity to use his abilities and to have some status. Slynt takes it as an insult and refuses. Jon tells him it is a command and not for him to refuse. Slynt refuses again and storms out. He recalls that Aemon had given him some advice – kill the boy and let the man rule – which was the same as his last words to Egg. Jon gives Slynt the night to come around.

The next morning, the new garrisons are ready to leave. Bedwyck’s goes off but Slynt has not appeared. Jon finds Slynt in the mess room with Alliser Thorne and the knight who challenged him in the last chapter. He gives the man one last chance to follow his command and again Slynt refuses. Jon tells his men to hang him. As they are dragging him up the stairs to the top of the Wall he changes his mind, thinking “This isn’t right.” Instead, he bedheads him. Stannis has watched this scene play out.

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Whew. Jon Snow is made of steel, isn’t he? He’s been killing boys left, right and centre. I’m glad he did something about Slynt; couldn’t have happened to a nicer chap and reduces some of his other problems. He beheads Slynt because that’s what Eddard would have done; it forces him to face the consequences of exercising his power. Dany, Tyrion and Cersei, take note.

He’s sent a message to Stannis, so what’s he going to do now? This Lord Commander Jon Snow will not be easily intimidated.

Also, I’m thinking there’s something significant in the fact that Aemon’s advice to Jon was the same as his advice to his brother, Aegon. Priming Jon as one of the three heads of the dragon here?

Jon is obviously a bit of a fan favourite, being the least obviously flawed as some of the other characters, but I find liking is turning to admiration a bit in this chapter.

A-Z blogging challenge: I is for Inspiration

Inspiration is a funny thing. In the right mood I can be inspired by everything around me, yet at other times I am stuck for ideas. That suggests that inspiration isn’t something external to me, rather a state of mind in which I am able to generate ideas from the input available to me. The input may be the same at any given moment, but the ability to do something with it rests within me.
The Collins English Dictionary has the definition as ‘stimulation or arousal of the mind, feelings etc, to special or unusual activity or creativity’.
Other definitions tend to run to the circular – inspiration is the state of being inspired. Umm, ok.
Anyway, the question I want to ask is not what inspires you, but how do you become receptive to inspiration? Is there always a time or place when you can be inspired? Do you have a ritual involving particular pieces of music, or particular activities? Is it a person or people displaying certain characteristics?
Meditation can work for me, but not necessarily all the time. If I’m honest, I don’t have a great handle on what triggers a state of mind in which I can draw inspiration from the world around me. Maybe if I worked out what was happening at the times when I am inspired, then I could be inspired more often. And perhaps more importantly, I could be open to inspiration at will. I think enthusiasm and passion may play a part. Yay, a project! Would love to hear your thoughts on inspiration.

A Read of A Dance with Dragons – Part 7

Chapter 6 – The Merchant’s Man

Quentyn Martell is in Volantis looking for a ship to take him to Meereen so he can marry Danaerys. He and his companions are pretending to be wine merchants looking to establish a trade. It seems most ships won’t go to Slaver’s Bay at the moment because of the wars, but he and Gerris Drinkwater have found a ship called Adventure which might. The Captain offers to take them at three times the usual price and they agree to come back in the morning. On the way back to their lodgings, Quentyn surmises that they will never make it if they go on the Adventure and that the Captain will kill them as soon as they’re on the open seas. They have no intention of going back.

Quentyn started off with six companions, three of whom died in a pirate raid on their way to Volantis. One of his remaining companions, the ‘big man’ favours going to Meereen via the Valerian road, but it is equally dangerous and will take much longer. He and Gerris ride through Volantis on a wagon pulled by a dwarf elephant and return to the Merchant’s House where they have lodgings. Quentyn wonders why Danaerys would want to marry him and what he has to offer, and settles on the idea that she would want Dorne. Outside the Merchant’s House there are three sellswords recruiting for their company/ship, the Windblown. The big man is in their rooms and the three of them discuss their options. Gerris has an idea.

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So, they’re going to join up with the Windblown are they? And pirate their way to Meereen? Quentyn Martell is a very serious young man. I like the twist of his insecurity in terms of what he can offer Danaerys so that she would want to marry him. In this setting, it’s a nice piece of gender role reversal.

Volantis is cool. It has dwarf elephants. It’s nice to get the other side of the Martell plans and this chapter reveals that Quentyn had met with his father in the Water Gardens. Doran Martell had planned for this to be Arianne going to wed Viserys. Lucky escape for her, then.

It looks like there are two levels of the game of thrones being played. Doran Martell, Varys and Illyrio, and Littlefinger are all playing a much longer game than the Five Kings.