Archive | September 2011

A Read of A Dance with Dragons – Part 47

Chapter 46 – A Ghost in Winterfell

People are getting murdered at Winterfell. It starts with deaths that could be accidental; someone falls off a wall. People wonder if there are traitors among them. They are covered in snow, cold and suffering from frostbite. The gates are frozen shut. Someone makes the mistake of saying Stannis’ red god has brought the snow in Ramsay’s men’s hearing. He is whipped and thrown from the battlements.

Abel’s washerwoman approaches Theon asking how he took Winterfell. He is too scared to tell her. She wants to see the crypts. He walks the walls and is still too scared to flee.

A squire is found naked and frozen to death. A crossbowman is found in the stables with a broken skull. Theon recalls the similar deaths at Winterfell when he held it. Bolton’s knights are arguing about what to do. Frey and Manderly are at each other’s throats. Bolton is uneasy. The stable collapses, killing twenty-six horses and two grooms. Then one of Ramsay’s men is found with his severed cock stuffed in his mouth. All the horses and men are brought within the Great Hall.

Theon walks the walls again then returns to his chambers. He is summoned by Roose Bolton. He is accused of the murders and Lady Dustin asks him to show them his hands. They agree he doesn’t have the strength to be responsible. Some think that Manderly is behind the deaths. Lady Dustin points out that all the knights here had supported Robb.

A horn blows. A drum beat begins. Theon goes to the godswood wondering if he can get killed in the battle. Abel’s washerwomen find him and tell him they will kill him quick once he’s told Abel what he knows.

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I knew Abel and co were up to something. Hooray! Bolton’s alliance is being undone by the waiting and the tension. There’s still no sign of Arya/Jeyne. Theon seems a little less scared sometimes, as Ramsay can’t really hurt him here.

I felt so cold reading this chapter. Martin really brings the weather to life. Amazing.

A Read of A Dance with Dragons – Part 46

Chapter 45 – The Blind Girl

At the end of A Feast for Crows Arya had killed Dareon and the House of Many Faces had made her blind. This was to train her to use her other senses better. She goes out begging as a blind girl, works in the kitchen, attends to the dead, learns to move around without hurting herself and learns to fight.

Arya goes to an inn where three Lysene pirates are talking. She learns that two slaver ships got blown North and discovered Hardholme. They took on some wildling women and children and then made for the free cities. One made it to Braavos and was taken as slavery is illegal in Braavos. But they will go back as the price of slaves is rising. Arya tells the monk that she knows it’s him that has been attacking her in the crypts.

She gets her sight back.

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Oh hai Arya. I’ve missed you. I love Arya’s story and she is one of my favourite characters in the series. I am beginning to wonder how this is going to be brought back in to the rest of the stories. Maybe it’s being with Jon’s POV again, because their relationship is lovely. How will Arya ever fit back into her old life with her new ninja skills?

I hope Jon gets to the wildlings before the slavers do, but I suppose either option is better than being an ice zombie.

A Read of A Dance with Dragons – Part 45

Chapter 44 – Jon

Queen Selyse (Stannis’ wife) has arrived at Castle Black with a retinue of southern lords and a representative of the Iron Bank of Braavos. Jon meets her with his retinue. She mistakes him for a squire or something. They make introductions and Wun Wun the giant appears. He frightens her daughter, Shireen, but Patchface makes him laugh. The Queen is not amused and goes to her chambers in the King’s Tower.

Jon asks Lord Tycho of the Iron Bank to talk with him. They go to his chambers. Jon enquires about his business with Stannis. Tycho doesn’t reveal the details but says the Iron Throne has stopped paying its debts and he is interested in the views of the other claimants. Tycho arrived with three ships. Jon wants to borrow them to rescue wildlings from Hardholme and the Others. Then he negotiates a loan that will see the Night Watch through the winter.

Then Jon and Tycho go to the Great Hall to eat. Axell Florent, the Queen’s Hand, wants to see Val, the wildling princess. Jon says he’s not going to parade her in front of them. He goes back to his chambers and falls asleep. He’s woken to discover the girl in grey on a dying horse has turned up and is in Clydas’ chambers. He thinks it might be Arya and lets himself plan what he would do to keep her safe.

Of course, it isn’t Arya. It’s Alys Karstark, who is the heir to Karhold. She tells him her uncle Arnolf wants to marry her to his son, Cregan, who has buried two wives already. She appeals to Jon for protection and tells him Arnolf Karstark is only pretending to have declared for Stannis, and is still committed to Roose Bolton.

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I knew the grey girl couldn’t be Arya, but credit to Martin’s skill at creating suspense because I could never be completely sure. And now Stannis can be warned about the Karstarks.

Clever Jon for arranging the loan. It’s a bold move but it might just make all the difference.

I don’t like Selyse one bit. In previous books I’ve felt a bit sorry for her because she’s had a tough lot in life, but this chapter presents her in a very negative light.

100 Books in 2011: Sword Song

Book 4 in Bernard Cornwell’s Saxon Stories is Sword Song. Cornwell is one of my favourite authors and I am really enjoying the Saxon Stories.

Uhtred is nowhere nearer Bebbanburg. He’s busy building forts to protect Wessex from the Danes and raising a family. Then some Danes invade London, try to convince Uhtred to join them by promising to make him King of Mercia so that he will bring Ragnar to join the cause.

At the same time, Uhtred’s cousin Aethelred, is married to Alfred’s daughter, Aethelflaed and becomes the Lord of Mercia. Not king though; Alfred doesn’t want a King in Mercia. Alfred commands Uhtred to drive the Danes from London. He gives Aethelred the nominal command of the mission.

They win the battle for London and the Danes take refuge in the Kingdom of East Anglia from where they raid Wessex. On one of these raids, Aethelflaed is taken hostage and an enormous ransom is demanded. If it is paid, the Danes will have enough money to raise an army capable of overrunning Wessex. Uhtred is sent to negotiate and discovers that Aethelflaed has fallen in love with one of the Danes and they want to run away together. Uhtred is fond of Alfred’s daughter and knows that her husband is violent and jealous, and if she goes with her lover then the ransom won’t have to be paid and Wessex will be safe. So he agrees to help them escape.

I think I was grinning from the minute I opened this book. I like the character of Uhtred. It’s told in first person but from the point of view of the elderly Uhtred looking back on his life, so the character can be presented as arrogant and impulsive, but with the self-deprecating awareness of experience. It’s extremely likeable. Uhtred is a torn man. He’s bound by oaths he doesn’t want to keep and which prevent him following his dream. I can certainly identify with that.

A good third of the book is taken up by a detailed description of the battle for London, which is very exciting, but the consequence is that the plot feels quite thin in this book. I don’t remember thinking that for the previous three. However, it is gripping and the Saxon Britain is fully brought to life. As always, Cornwell’s skill is evident and the writing is excellent. I thoroughly enjoyed it and am looking forward to book five.

A Read of A Dance with Dragons – Part 44

Chapter 43 – Daenerys

Daenerys has been fucking Daario but now it is nearly time for her to marry. He asks if she is going to hold court, as she hasn’t done so in a while. When she says no, he says some of his Westerosi have a gift for her. She says she will hold court the next day, as much because she knows she has to. She wishes she could marry Daario but knows she can’t. He acts recklessly and shows no interest in rulership, yet expects to take liberties.

So the following day, Daenerys holds court. The Green Grace wants to lecture her on sellswords. There are many supplicants; some go away happy and some don’t. At the end of the day Daario presents his Westerosi. Quentyn Martell and his companions reveal who they are. Quentyn gives Daenerys the marriage contract that was signed in Braavos, promising Arianne Martell to Viserys Targaryen.

Daenerys considers it. But she is staying in Meereen and she must deal with that problem. She will marry Hizdahr zo Loraq.

Next she is prepared for her wedding. Daario goes off in a snit. On the journey Daenerys asks Barristan Selmy to tell her who her parents really loved. He does so, saying Rhaella loved a stormlord and Aerys loved Joanna Lannister, Lord Tywin’s wife. Then Hizdahr’s precession joins hers and they are married.

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It seems so sad that Quentyn arrived too late. I still don’t trust that Hizdahr is on the up and up. I know that Daenerys is putting aside her own needs for the sake of the people she rules, but I’m convinced this is a mistake.

A Read of A Dance with Dragons – Part 43

Chapter 42 – The King’s Prize

Stannis Baratheon is marching on Winterfell. Asha Greyjoy is chained up in a baggage wagon. The march starts off well enough and they make good time. Once into the Wolfswood it starts to snow which makes the going harder. The northerners fare better than the southerners but they are losing men and horses, and provisions are running low.

They press on but sometimes are only moving a mile or so a day. The northerners and southerners argue about whether they should have come. The northerners say it’s only a little snow and anyway it’s better to die fighting than to be frozen to death. They stop at a village where they can fish. In the morning they’re completely snowed in.

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Oh, Stannis, it does not look good for you. If you get to Winterfell your men will be starving and weak and all Roose will have to do is let you sit outside, starving and freezing.

Things I have liked this week

Politics stuff
From Men’s Rights Activist Marmoset comes the equally clever and funny Internalized Misogyny Aardvark. Brilliant.

´╗┐Writing stuff
Five reasons why blogging makes you a better writer. I’ve read a few articles lately about how blogging is a distraction activity and is basically giving your work away for free, so it’s nice to read something that affirms that blogging is a useful activity for a writer. It has certainly improved my writing.
Astronomy Picture of the Day
The Sun. So very awesome.