September 23, 2011

A new review after the reread

The reread of "A Dance with Dragons" is now complete, and it was a fun journey. I developed a deeper understanding of the book, the characters in it and the greater story arc involved. This blog will not publish new posts after this one. You can continue to read work from me on The Tower of the Hand. The comments for posts on this blog will stay active, and I will continue to answer them. That being said, let's return to the issue at hand: a review of "A Dance with Dragons" after it has been reread. To say the least, the second read was a whole lot different from the first read. That was of course true of the other books as well, but in the current volume a number of issues fell together, making the statement necessary. There was a lot of hate out there after people had read the book, and I joined into some of it especially regarding the chapters taking place in the east. That was, I have to admit however, unjustified. "A Dance with Dragons" is a piece of art, much like the other books, and the widespread disappointment could not have happened like that if not for unrealistically high expectations. I confess myself guilty on that account too, of course.

The expectations were unrealistic simply because we knew from the start that the book would be the second part of what was "A Feast for Crows", which gave way to the same disappointed expectations only to be later redeemed after it had sunk into people's mind and reread several times. It's much the same with "A Dance with Dragons". When I stated earlier that it was "a piece of art", I meant it. Martin's writing skills, the great characters and the general storyline aside, are visible throughout the whole book. We already know his stunning ability to tell the story from the point-of-view of his characters, to play with the knowledge they have, with rumors and predjudices. This challenges the reader to question what he thinks he knows, and to gather the whole picture together from various sources and inclinations.

September 22, 2011


Ian Gelder as Kevan Lannister in HBOs Game of Thrones
Red Ronnett is standing in the throne room before the Iron Throne. The Small Council has convened. He fervently pledges his loyalty to Tommen, offering to lead an army south himself to beat Jon Connington. Kevan dismisses him and confines him to his chambers before attending the next matter. He has the feeling that the two queen's presence, although their not here, lurks in the room, glooming the mood. Randyll Tarly states that the men Ronnett came with were unruly guys of Gregor's, and that only the Wall is fit for such when Kevan proposes to put them in the Goldcloaks. Kevan himself thinks that the Tyrells try to keep out Westerlanders from positions of power, but he doesn't speak it out loud.

The matter at hand now is Storm's End, to which Connington is headed if the reports can be believed. Mace Tyrell boasts that even if Connington took it it would mean nothing, since he would simply retake it - after the trial. Randyll Tarly doesn't believe in the rumors of the Golden Company and says that even if it were them they would pose no threat. Kevan remembers back in the days of the rebellion when he met Jon Connington, an arrogant but able youth back then, and is convinced that the years have made him more dangerous. He was convinced that after he lost the Battle of the Bells, Aerys would turn back to Tywin, but instead Aerys tumbled into his downfall.

September 21, 2011

Daenerys X

Daenerys Targaryen (Artwork by Amoka)
Dany climbs down a stony hill which she dubbed "Dragonstone", since Drogon made his lair there. For days, she tried to live alongside the dragon, and she is pretty weak now. Since she saw a stream in the distance, she is now determined to follow it as long as it takes to reach the big river flowing to Meereen and thereby returning to her city. She was not able to control the dragon. Hungry and exposed to the cold nights of autumn, she walks the Dothraki Sea, drying up around her. While she walks, her mind wanders. She remembers her first journey through the grass as part of Drogo's khalasaar. Then she thinks of it breaking up after his death, og khal Pono, khal Jaqho and khal Mago making away with parts of the Dothraki. After that, she remembers the pit of Meereen, how she climbed on Drogon, enjoying the flight but unable to control the dragon. Hoping against hope, she longs for the rescue parties, imagining Daario finding her. She is convinced that the Yunkai'i are marching home by now, honoring the peace, and that Daario is safe.

At nightfall, she makes herself a bed of grass in the old ruins of a village. Falling asleep, she wonders who it was that poisoned her, whether it was Hizdahr or the Shavepate or the Green Grace. In the night, she has a vision of Qaithe talking to her from the stars, reminding her who she really is, and what. The next morning, ants are crawling over her and biting her. She gets up, shakes them off and walks again. She is hungry, and when she comes by some berries, she casts all caution aside and eats them. The rest of the day she spends retching green slime. That night, she dreams of Viserys, who blames her for his fate and calls her names.

September 20, 2011

The Queen's Hand

Ian McElhinney as Barristan Selmy in HBOs GOT
Quentyn Martell is dead, after three days of fighting death. The dragons he loosened have burned parts of Meereen and made their home in two of the pyramids. Only the rains gave quelched the flames in the city. Looking at Quentyn's burned body, Barristan muses about the death by fire and how ugly it is. He admires Missandei for being with the prince day and night and wonders if Dany is dead at all, fiercely denying it without putting his doubts to rest.

When the Shavepate enters, his mind shifts to questions of politics. The Green Grace whom Barristan send to the Yunkai'i to negotiate for release of the hostages has not yet returned. The Yunkish demands to restore Hizdahr to his throne and to slay the dragons still stand. Since the imprisonment of Hizdahr, the Sons of the Harpy have taken up their killings again, and the toll of the current night and day alone has reached 23, as the Shavepate reports, who demands hostages to be killed instead of Barristan's way to collect blood money from the pyramids. Barristan declines and calls the council into session.

September 19, 2011


Lord Commander Jon Snow and Ghost
Jon is pleading Selyse to help him with Hardhome and grant him some men, but Selyse declines all his asking by demanding that he simply let the wildlings die. When Jon says that he will do the ranging himself then she lets him, but tells him that he will have to answer for it and other things once Stannis is back. She then summons "the king of the wildlings", which turns out to be Gerrick Redbeard, a far descendant of Raymun Readbeard. His daughters are to be married to knights of Selyse's court, and she demands that Val marries Ser Patrek, but Jon simply deflects it by saying that he needs to rob her then after wildling custom. Selyse's answer is to summon Val to teach her the proper behavings of a lady, and Jon is dismissed.

Angrily, he makes his way to his chambers. Out of the court, he encounters Melisandre, but he doesn't want to speak with her, accusing her of all her prophecies being wrong. She asks after Ghost, whom Jon has locked up in his rooms since Borroq's boar seems to make him mad. She also says the ranging is a bad idea, and that she saw in the fires that all ships were lost, but Jon turns her down and goes to the armory. On the way he seeks out Leathers, with whom he has a short discussion about how many men they should take and where the advantages of either approach lie. He gets a report that Ghost is wild, even biting the stewards, which disturbs Jon deeply.

September 16, 2011

The Dragontamer

Quentyn Martell (Copyright by FFG)
Quentyn can't sleep. He is restless before the task before him, pacing the room. He tries to convince himself of what he is doing. To test himself, he holds his hand over a candle flame, but it burns him like it's supposed to be. Gerris wakes at his calamity, telling him that he should calm down, preferrably by fucking a woman. Quentyn is appalled, but Gerris drives home the point that he is no experience with women and that Daenerys needs a man. Besides, he makes the point that she is married anyway, but Quentyn tries to argue that she doesn't love Hizdahr, a claim he knows is of no relevance, which Gerris confirms. Quentyn thinks about his father, Doran, who rued the love marriage he made for years and years. He thinks about their plan, calling it an adventure with him as hero in the center, mourns the death of his three companions and goes back to bed full of regrets.

The following night, they mask themselves as Brazen Beasts. Pretty Meris told them the password of the day, and they can enter the pyramid without interference. Inside, they meet with Meris and other Windblown, who have brought two big carts full of meat and chains to prepare the dragons to leave. After a short exchange, they go down to the pit. The guards in front of the door there clearly have another password, as they attack the moment Quentyn calls their own. The ensuing fight is won by the Windblown easily enough, but Quentyn escaped death only by a hair since he is terrified to the bone once the slaughter commences.

September 15, 2011

The Kingbreaker

Ian McElhinney as Barristan Selmy in HBOs GOT
In the black of night, the Shavepate and Ser Barristan meet to discuss their further actions one last time. They want to take the king captive and try to prove his guilt. The Shavepate is not happy with that, since he would like to kill Hizdahr and then attack the Yunkai'i by surprise, but Barristan has none of it, claiming it has no honor. The Shavepate finally yields to the point. The leader of the Brazen Beasts, Marghaz, is according to him already disposed, so they only need to strike. Before they agree to attack in a few hours, they have another discussion about Daario and the hostages. The Shavepate wants not to free Daario since the mercenary is trouble, but Barristan still feels bound to Daenerys' will and can't imagine that she would let harm come to him. The Shavepate also wants to kill hostages if their own hostages are not returned, but Barristan doesn't want to kill the kids, getting a bad feeling and memories of the death of Rhaegar's children in his mouth.

While Barristan prepares himself, he muses about his knights. Two of them are near completion of their training, but he wants to postpone their knighthood until the deed is done for their own good. Others will require more training, some are of no use at all. His mind then wanders to the intrigue he is now part of, and he wonders how he ended up in it in the first place. Without a satisfactory answer, his mind goes over to the turney of Harrenhal and the role that Aerys II and Rhaegar played in it, and then on to Ashara Dayne, the only woman he ever loved but had to let go to Stark. After he finished a bath, he arms himself and starts the venture.

September 14, 2011

Tyrion XII

Peter Dinklage as Tyrion Lannister in HBOs Game of Thrones
Tyrion is signing notes. Over fifty of them lie before him, each promising gold to the bearer. While he signs them, the sums grow bigger and bigger. He quips with Inkpot, the paymaster, and Brown Ben Plumm. They shoot witty remarks at each other of trust and honor, but in the end, Tyrion signs everything, thinking that he will be a beggar if he ever gets Casterly Rock. The last note, Ben Plumm's, promised 100.000 dragons, a castle, lands and a lordship. After all the signing is done, Tyrion signs himself into the book of the company, becoming a mercenary. He and Penny then go to the wagons where the company keeps their storage of armor and weapons.

Penny is devestated due to the loss of Crunch and Pretty Pig. Tyrion heard that the beasts were killed, but he shielded Penny from the news so far. Tyrion fears for a moment she might be ill with the pale mare; however, it seems to be psychological. They are led to the company steel by a boy named Kem, whom Tyrion indentifies of being from King's Landing and who fought with Stannis and was left behind. He hates Tywin Lannister, and Tyrion mocks him without the boy even knowing. At the steel wagons, they encounter Ser Jorah, who looks frightening in his new steel and seems to have overcome his prior weakness.

September 13, 2011

Cersei II

Cersei Lannister (Artwork by Amoka)
Cersei restlessly paces her cell. She was unable to sleep the whole night, frightened of the things to come. She has decided to face it as bold as she can, remembering an episode from her youth when she faced a lion in a cage where Jaime dared not to. She muses about Jaime, wishing he was here, and hoping that she reaches the Red Keep soon. When dawn finally breaks, some septas come into the cell and shave her completely. When Cersei asks for sandals, they are denied to her. She is then put into a white septa's robe and ushered outside, where a huge crowd has gathered. A knight of the Faith Militant introduces himself as Ser Theodan and commands her escort through the city. Memories of Eddard's execution wash over here as she stands the exact same spot.

The masses that assembled to watch her walk of shame are poor, ragged and filthy. The septas announce her and her crimes, and she has to think of Tytos' Lannisters consort, who had to walk the same walk of shame at the command of Tywin. She has to get out of her robe, and completely naked, freezing in the cold winds, she commences her walk through the city. The streets are filthy, and she is in danger to slip several times and does so once or twice. While her escorts clears a path through the people who cry insults at her and throw rotten vegetables, she longs for Jaime, who, she is certain, would have cut down the rabble in an instant.

September 12, 2011

The Ugly Little Girl

Maisie Williams in HBOs Game of Thrones
In the house of the Many-Faced-God, a meeting is conducted between eleven of his servants. Arya and another acolyte stand by with water and whine, ready to serve. The servants are talking in hushed voices, telling each other names and stating whether they know him or not. People they don't know they declare to deliver the gift to. After the meeting, one of the servants lingers, a man with a face full of marks of a plague. He talks to her, asking who she is, calling her a liar when she tells him that she's no one and hitting her when she chews her lip. He asks her if she wants to kill, and chides her when she is not certain. He tells her she is too proud to serve, which she declines.

He tells her that if she wants to serve the Many-Faced-Gods, she needs to give up everything. Arya states that she wants to be able to change her face, to which the man replies that this ability needs to be earned. She is asked to kill someone, and the next day, she starts observations as Cat of the Canals. As the days go by, she discusses the case with the kind man, trying to find out why someone wants the man dead. In the end, however, the conclusion is that it doesn't matter and that she has to bring the gift, period. Watching the victim, she learns that he is in the insurance business, insuring ships against going down and thereby giving the widows a possibility to live on - if he doesn't cheat them.

September 09, 2011


Victarion Greyjoy (Artwork by Amoka)
The Iron Fleet on its way to Meereen is capturing a Ghiscari galley. Its captain is brought before Victarion, whom he tells that Daenerys is missing, likely dead, and that Hizdahr rules now. Since Moqorro told Victarion that Dany is alive, he lets the captain's tongue be torne out for lying and then be drowned. Moqorro is clad in black and gold cloth now, the Greyjoy colors. He has proven to be of great worth for Victarion, correctly predicting many events from weather to prizes. Ironmen critizizing Moqorro or not believing in him are put to the leash. The following day, yet another ship is taken, repeating the story. Victarion learns of the Volantene fleet heading to Meereen, but they outdistanced them.

When on the following day two galleys are captured, Victarion routinely has the crew killed, but the rowing slaves are freed - he shatters the chains himself - and told that they may now row for the Iron Fleet. Victarion sees himself in line with Daenerys with this action and is under the impression of being protected by two gods now, the Drowned God and the Fiery God. He rewards Moqorro for further correct predictions. He is then facing a difficult strategic decision of either risking the strait of Yaros or to sail around it, losing days. Based on Moqorros prediction, he risks them. They capture additional galleys and get the same information about Dany. Victarion harbors the hope of besting Dagon Greyjoy, ruling a hundred years ago and waging war against the Great Houses too.

September 08, 2011

The Sacrifice

Asha Greyjoy
In the deep and howling snows, preparations are made for a sacrifice to R'hollor. Asha observes them, shivering. An argument breaks out between some of Stannis' men and some Flints about who send the snows and which god needs to be appeased, and which one was the right. One man overseeing the preparations, Sluggs, is a brute and sadist, eager to see humans burn. It is said that the sacrifice will calm the storms. When the four prisoners are ushered to the stakes naked, Asha thinks about why they are here: they cannibalized on a frozen dead and were caught. The oldest of the four insults Sluggs so hard that sluggs kills him before they burn him. Asha hopes that she can do the same trick once it's her turn.

When the king comes out in company Arnolf Karstark, who arrived only eight days past, the burning commences. It's a gruesome sight, and Asha, accustomed to sacrifices by slicing the throat of the victim, can hardly stand it. The accompanying prayer is led by Ser Godry. Asha knows that her chances are bad. The Northeners hate her to the bone, and the Southeners might sacrifice her to stop the snows. When the knight of Massey comes to court her again, Sluggs mocks him, but he doesn't care and invites Asha to eat. There are few horses left, and soon they will be gone, so Asha accepts and follows him to the hall.

September 07, 2011

The Griffin Reborn

Lord Jon Connington
Jon Connington is sending in his archers. In his years in exile he learned to treasure them, despite the little honor that can be found in their ways. 1000 archers are with the Golden Company, six hundred made their way to Westeros so far. The Summer Islander, sixty in total, are the best of them. The order Connington issues them is to shoot down all ravens that try to take wing from Griffin's Roost. Then the attack starts. The castle, laying at the end of a land bridge, is poorly manned and defended. The attackers lose only four men; then the castle is theirs. After three attempts to send a raven, the maester's tower is stormed and the maester thrown out the window.

Connington issues further commands to his men. They are to capture all people, if possible alive. No one is to escape. He points out hideouts and secret passages to them, so they succeed easily. Connington knows that it won't stay as easy, but Griffin's Roost provides a good base to them and can be hold against twenty times their numbers. Of course he doesn't intend to bunker down here. While he looks at his former castle, memories come up of a visit of Rhaegar, back when they were both young. He loves the lands that once belonged to Griffin's Roost, which are lost to the family now. He tells himself that he lost them overreaching.

September 06, 2011

The Spurned Suitor

Quentyn Martell (Copyright by FFG)
Gerris Drinkwater returns from an errand. He says he was succesful and that the lowlife he visited took his gold. He trusts that the message he gave him is delivered safely. In an advice to Quentyn, he says that when Barristan the Bold tells you to run, you should run, but Quentyn declines the chance, saying that he won't accept defeat. He weighs the thought for a moment, but the image of his father's disappointment is more than he can bear. The talk shifts to the happless guy who tried to kill Drogon in the arena. Half the city sees a hero in him, the other half despises him. Quentyn believes that he can succeed in taming the dragons. After all, he has Targaryen blood in him and traces his lineage back long enough.

They leave soon after to their destination. It turns out that they want to meet Pretty Meris. They don't encounter any problems entering in the safe house they were named, and in the cellar, they meet not only Pretty Meris and two of her men, but the Tattered Prince himself. The mercenary is surprisingly calm, scolding them lightly for deserting him. He goes on with a monologue about being cheated by the Dornishmen, and not being able to trust them. Between his lines, Quentyn tries to offer him a treaty. He wants the services of the Windblown. He offers to pay them in Volantis and the rest in Dorne. Again, the Tattered Prince goes on about their trustworthiness. In the end, they settle down to the price of Pentos, which the Tattered Prince wants for himself. Quentyn then reveals what for he needs the services of the Windblown: he wants to steal a dragon.

September 05, 2011

The Discarded Knight

Ian McElhinney as Barristan Selmy in HBOs GOT
Barristan stands in the throne room as Hizdahr holds court. The king had two thrones made and erected, carved in the shape of dragons. He is still among the king's guards, and he dislikes the new commander of the Brazen Beasts, the king's cousin Marghaz zo Loraq. There is great unease in the hall, since the freedmen demand knowledge of Dany's whereabouts and don't acknowledge Hizdahr as king. Reznak's permanent assurances that she is searched for don't help, obviously. Looking at Quentyn Martell at the back of the hall, Barristan thinks he better should leave since Hizdahr might take him as a scapegoat.

Suddenly, Barristan nourishes the notion that Quentyn might have been the poisoner, aiming at Hizdahr, to shatter the peace and present himself as the only choice left. He is not sure, however. When embassadors from the Yunkai'i enter the hall, Barristan shifts his focus again. It's Bloodbeard, the leader of one of the free companies and with the death of the Yunkish commander now the big man in the camp outside the city. He has a big sack with him, producing the severed head of Admiral Groleo from it, throwing it at the feet of Hizdahr. Barristan, accustomed to such sights, closely watches Hizdahr, comparing his reaction to the kings he served so far. Hizdahr is stunned, not able to do anything.

September 02, 2011


Lord Commander Jon Snow and Ghost
Jon has a nightmare. He fights the wildlings attacking the Wall, alone, raining down fire on them and slaying them. He wears armor of black ice and has a burning red sword in hand. After killing wildlings, he slashes all the dead rangers - Benjen, the Old Bear, Qhorin and the others. When he wakes due to the raven pecking at his chest, he's confused. Musing about whether it really is a good idea to let the wildlings in, he walks outside. Today is the day the open the gate and let Tormund and his 4000 pass. He decides that he has to make a decision, and then stick with it, which is just what he does now when he approaches his officers.

Bowen Marsh reports in. Everything is prepared and in place. Jon issues the last orders, including to Edd Tollet who makes back to Longbarrow, complaining as usual. He surrounds himself with some seasoned brothers as guards, including Leathers. That's unusual, and he doesn't like this tail, but he sees the need for a show of force. He then gives the command to open the gate and rides out to meet Tormund. The two leaders have a short exchange about fear, with Tormund stating that now that everyone sees Jon they will lose some of the awe they have of the Watch, and Jon replying by calling Ghost at his side. The transition from beyond the Wall in the realms of men then starts with the 100 hostages.

September 01, 2011

Tyrion XI

Peter Dinklage as Tyrion Lannister in HBOs Game of Thrones
The noble Yezzan is sick. The sickness of the pale mare has taken him, and the slaves fear the fate that awaits them. Since Yezzan was one of the few Yunkish lords besides the commander, who died in the pit when Drogon attacked, the Yunkish are disposed to take up the war again. Tyrion knows that when Yezzan dies, they will have a big problem, since no heir will take his interest in grotesque slaves. Penny in the meantime is daydreaming, imaginaing searching for Daenerys in the Dornish Sea. While Sweets tries to rescue Yezzan, Tyrion remembers how Nurse got sick with the pale mare. He brought him a soup, used the mushrooms in it and killed him, whispering "a Lannister always pays his debts" in his ear while he died.

Tyrion grabs Penny and commands some slave soldiers outside to fetch water for Yezzan. The soldiers, aware that their position is more powerful, command Tyrion to do it in turn. Tyrion barters for the cart, insisting to take at least Mormont with them. The three then make their way to the wells with pails in hand and get in the line. Tyrion observes soldiers training and thinks that they don't look very professional, especially compared to the Unsullied. He thinks that the crossbows many soldiers are carrying now will be useless against dragons. Their weak point, he knows, are the eyes, not the underbelly or the gullet as often said.

August 31, 2011

The Iron Captain

Victarion Greyjoy (Artwork by Amoka)
Victarion is in a sullen mood. The ship "Grief" is showing up, alone. He has only 54 of the 99 ships that set sail to the Stepstones, and time is short. Volantis is ready to dispatch a fleet of over 300 ships, maybe as much as 500, and he needs to reach Meereen before them. Monkeys are a pest aboard his ship, populating the masts since they anchored before the Isle of Cedars. His hand hurts him badly, but he tries not to show it. He goes into his cabine to his dusk woman and lets her tend his wound, talking to her about the ships.

He seperated the fleet into three groups back at the Stepstones, the swiftest to go a southern route along the northern shore of Sothyros where they payed the iron price for their supplies in the rotten cities there. The slowest ships went by Lys, selling the prisoners took on the way and on the Shield Islands as slaves to buy provisions, while Victarion sailed along the Disputed Lands to Volantis and captured several fishing boats and cogs on the way.

August 30, 2011

The Queensguard

Ian McElhinney as Barristan Selmy in HBOs GOT
Selmy was dismissed from protecting the king. He observes that Hizdahr has relieved all of Daenerys' men, and that it's definitely on purpose. The excuse Reznak gave him - for the sake of appearances to the Yunkish - does not convince Barristan. He observes too, however, that Hizdahr's protectors are few, since he can't trust the Brazen Beasts despite having the Shavepate relieved of command, and the Unsullied refuse to obey him too. Only the pit fighters remain really loyal to him. The grey plague is still rampant within and without the city.

Selmy is disgusted by the appearances of the Meereenese nobles anyway, their perfume mainly. He observes too that he gets old. Walking up the steps of the pyramid lets his back ache, and he hopes that he can finish the training of his new generation of knights so Dany gets some suitable protectors. Barristan's thoughts wander to the moment he was knighted, and the feast that followed. He asks himself if he was fulfilling his vows too good, if the realm wouldn't have been served better if he had never done his greatest deed of Duskendale but instead let Aerys die and Rhaegar take over.

August 29, 2011

Cersei I

Cersei Lannister (Artwork by Amoka)
Cersei sits in her cell in the cold. She know has a new shift after destroying her first, and she is waiting for Jaime. The septas still don't talk to her, they only pray with her and read her from the Seven-Pointed-Star. She only gets some news from the outside by listening to the noise through her narrow window. Since the septons want her to pray, she prays much, not meaning it but trying to sway their favor. She still is asked to confess every hour and can't really sleep, and the food is scarce and bad. Finally, Cersei decides to confess to get out of the situation. She is allowed to sleep through, and in the morning is brought before the High Septon. She gets some bit of information about the situation in the city.

Then she stands before the High Septon. The man treats her cold and without any courtesy besides the absolutely necessary. He resembles Tywin Lannister eerily. Cersei confesses that the she fucked Lancel and all three Kettleblacks, since it seems safe to her. Asked why she did it she says she wanted to protect Tommen since she couldn't trust the Kingsguard. When she weeps, the Septon is still not moved, simply waiting until she stops. It's clear that he doesn't really believe her. She denies the accusations of adultery while she was married to Robert and of giving the command of killing the High Septon. She also fiercly denies fucking Jaime.