Chapter Six: The Merchant’s Man
This, unless I am much mistaken, is a new view-point character: Quentyn Martell. He’s named as the ‘Merchant’s Man’ because he’s pretending to be a servant to hide his mission. His mission is to find a way to Daenerys and wed her. It’s treason, against one king or another, but it’s probably a smart move.
This is interesting: we’re starting to see a bit more interaction between the Daenerys/dragon plot and the rest of Westeros, and the smart folk who aren’t looking north to The Wall are sniffing the wind to the south and scenting power. We’ve not seen much of this chap, yet, but he’s got that much going for him.
I’ve heard some mutterings on the web about extra view-point characters making things confusing, so I had a little trepidation about this, but so far, I like him. Don’t get me wrong: pretty much every chapter now I’m going ‘Who is this person with all these grudges I’m meant to know about?’ and that’s for characters I really should remember. I can well believe that adding more to the mix will tax me greater still. On the other hand, though, we’ve lost a few characters along the way, and I can imagine that anyone romping through the books from the beginning, or after a refresh, would have no trouble at all.
So, I’m cautiously interested in Quentyn. And he’s in a pickle. If he takes the ship he’s arranged for the next leg of his journey they’ll most likely kill him for his money. No decent captain is going into Slaver’s Bay. There’s a war on, don’t you know? But the only other way to Daenerys is The Demon’s Road, which doesn’t sound too great, either, and might take too long. Quentyn’s awfully concerned that his bride will get herself killed before he can claim her.
He seems like a nice chap, but he’s only 18, and despite the surface practical wisdom, he’s a bit starry-eyed where Daenerys is concerned. I’m not sure where he gets the idea she’s promised to him from. It’s entirely possible I’ve forgotten this too, but the Wiki of Ice and Fire didn’t seem to know anything about it, either. He’s also thinking of her as the most beautiful woman in the world when he hasn’t even seen her, which possibly makes him the most innocent teenage day-dreamer in these books… except maybe Sansa, early on. This rather suggests to me that things won’t end well, but you never know!
Chapter Seven: Jon
Jon throws his weight around a bit. We start out with a bit of baby-switch-a-roo: Jon tells Gilly the wildling nursemaid to leave The Wall, but to take the baby child of Mance Rayder (the King Beyond the Wall) and leave her own child behind. Jon reckons there’s a chance that Melisandre will kill the child to help raise a dragon (as the child has king’s blood, of a sort). I don’t know where this comes from, but it’s an interesting theory. In a sense, Khal Drogo was a part of the blood sacrifice for Daenerys’s dragons.
For those familiar with the fan theory that Jon himself is actually Robert Baratheon’s bastard that Ned Stark took in as his own for protection, this provides a nice symmetry. I don’t know if I subscribe to this theory or not, yet. I didn’t like it when I first heard it, but it is growing on me.
Anyway, Gilly’s going south with someone else’s baby, and so are Sam and Maester Aemon. I don’t like seeing Sam and Jon split up, but Sam’s going to go learn to become a maester, and that’s awesome.
The big event of this chapter happens at the end, though: Jon sentences a man to death, and chops his head off. You could tell we were building up to some kind of event where Jon would have to show himself to be a man, and this did very nicely. Jon gives the Janos Slynt a chance – a genuine chance where if the guy did as ordered it’d be really good for the Watch – and the guy throws it in his face, so Jon executes him. He has to, and he shows his strength and grim determination in doing so. It’s also really nice to see him insist on doing it himself, recalling Ned’s instructions on how important that is, if you’re to take a life. It’s an action that commands respect: the action of a Lord Commander.
The other note that I really liked was blink-and-you’ll-miss it, but nice: Valyrian steel kills dragons. You could tell from book one that there was something special about Valyrian steel. On the one hand, it might have just been that fantasy thing where there’s always some kind of Super Special Metal that if your sword or shield or chain mail can be made of it, it’s really nice. Mythril, meterorite, Valyrian steel, whatever – it’s a trope. But it would have been really irritating if that’s all it was. Especially as so many of Our Heroes (or anti-heroes) have received special weapons of Valyrian steel at one time or another. Now we learn it can kill dragons, and all the old Houses have some… it’s like a light going on.
It took long enough, but I like it.