Read Along with Rhube 17: A Dance with Dragons, Chapters 33 & 34

(Index to previous ADwD posts here.)

It’s a bumper ADwD weekend, here in Womblevonia. I’m still playing catch-up with my reading and trying to make sure this doesn’t end up as something I doggedly do all winter as some kind of penance for my geek-sins. Not that I’m not enjoying it, it’s just that I don’t have a lot of time left over to review anything else, atm, and I know not everyone comes to ISotHM for the RAWR.

Let’s get started!

Chapter 33: Tyrion

This is a nice little chapter, mostly about character development, but that’s OK.

Tyrion and Ser Jorah have set sail for Slaver’s Bay, and taken poor Penny, the dwarf girl who’s brother was killed in Tyrion’s place, with them. Jorah is mostly drunk, seasick, and taciturn. Tyrion is mostly bored. He talks to a red priest who’s on board for a bit and reads the three books the ship lays claim to. Penny mostly hides away in her cabin, grieving. She doesn’t know anyone except Tyrion and Jorah, and she’s understandably not comfortable in their presence at first. Tyrion determines to be a friend to her when Jorah refuses, however, and eventually wins her trust. Jorah suggests that he sleep with the girl, but Tyrion doesn’t fancy her, even when she starts angling at him either as a bed-companion, or as someone to take her brother’s role in the comedy dwarf jousting that used to earn her a living.

The chapter ends as they pass near the ruins of Valyria, but not so near as to see it. That, we are told, is to become cursed. We learn that Tyrion’s uncle, Gerion, went to Valyria and never returned. Tyrion had begged Lord Tywin to let him go along, but Tywin forbade. It sounds as though there was a massive earth-movement – quakes and volcanoes, sinking cities beneath the waves and turning the sea to acid. Nice. Tyrion discusses it with the red priest, Moqorro, who also has visions, just like Melisandre. He has seen that others seek Daenerys, including a ‘tall and twisted thing with one black eye and ten long arms, sailing on a sea of blood’.

So, no real events, in this chapter, but a lot of colour. You know I like the whole lost-civilisation thing, and Valyria has been hovering in the background, a looming past that we see only tantalising glimpses of. (Is it bad that I sort of want Martin’s next series to be a prequel? In the unlikely event that he finishes this one, that is?) I may get a bit drowned in visions, though. I sort of like it, but at times the sudden upsurge in magic in this book is too sharp a contrast with its notable virtual non-existence in the earlier volumes. I’ve known many people to praise the originality of the series as a fantasy tale with relatively little magic. Well. It’s certainly not that anymore.

The twisted black thing with one eye and many arms is intriguing, though. Methinks this is not Quentyn. Daenerys’s missing black dragon, perhaps? Not with the many army and only one eye. It sounds more figurative – could be the plague from Astapor, but then, what’s the eye? Curiouser and curiouser.

I like that Tyrion befriends Penny, and also that he does not sleep with her. I had a fear for a while that he might, and it would be all ‘Gosh, isn’t it just easier when people stick to their own “kinds”?’, but fortunately, it wasn’t. I sort of like that Jorah callously suggests it, though. It rounds out his character. Loyal he may be, but that doesn’t mean he’s perfect. I wonder if those lines will make it into the TV series, if they make it that far. It does underline that there are some of the differences in characterisation, however much my hormones would like imagine Ser Jorah as he is in Iain Glen’s portrayal.

I both like and don’t like Tyrion’s attitude to Penny’s name. He’s disgusted by the fact that she’s chosen a name for herself that signifies her worth as equivalent to the smallest denomination of currency. He therefore refuses to call her by her name. He’s right in his analysis, and that it is a sad thing that she devalues herself so. At the same time, though, that is the name that she chose for herself, and there’s something a bit distasteful in the fact that he refuses to use it. It’s disrespectful of her and looks down on her for not having the intelligence to recognise how stupid her name is and that she should have the self-respect to choose a better one. Oh, Tyrion, you’re too smart for this – have the sense to recognise the irony in what you’re doing.

It sort of hits a nerve for me. I chose the name ‘Rhube’ as my Internet handle more than a decade ago. Actually, it goes back to before I was on the net – back when fans communicated almost solely via fanzines. I initially chose the name ‘Spacehippy’ for my interactions with ZZ9 Plural Z Alpha, the Hitch-Hiker’s fanclub. But someone assumed I was a man, and at the tender age of 14 I was too embarrased to correct them, and chose to go by ‘Rhubarb’ instead. I won’t bore you with the details, but ‘Rhubarb’ had a meaning for me and tickled me. When a penpal I got through ZZ9 took to shortening it to ‘Rhube’ I was flattered by the affection this signified. When the Internet entered my life and I started frequenting my first online forum, the Star Ship Titanic help forums, it was only natural that I take the name ‘Rhube’ with me. I have a lot of good memories tied to that name, memories that stand in stark contrast to the associations I have with my real name. There’s a power in choosing a name for yourself, one that I think Penny probably knows well. Imagine how I felt, then, on entering my university creative writing group’s forum, when one of my new university friends told me ‘Great to see you here, but we have to find you a new name – that’s AWFUL’. His objection? ‘Rhube’ sounds like ‘Rube’, which is apparently a slang term I’d never heard of for ‘country bumpkin’. It simply wouldn’t do for me to call myself something that, in his eyes, undervalued me and revealed my ignorance.

Took me a long while to get over the anger and shame generated by that careless comment about how stupid I had been not to respect myself more in my choice of name. Now I know that he was the idiot, and have embraced my self-chosen name again, but I’m still angry that I allowed him to colour my thought that way. So… I guess what I’m saying is: it’s awesome that Martin is presenting this nuanced look on the complexities of prejudice and respect, but all I want to do is just shake Tyrion and say: ‘Grow up! Do her the decency of respecting her choices, whatever they may be, gods damnit!’ Hope it comes out and they have a blistering row that brings him to his senses.

Chapter 34: Bran

Ohhhhh, this shit is creepy.

Bran continues life with the children of the forest and the greenseer that’s mostly just a corpse wired into a tree, now. He learns to control ravens, and that the reason people in Westeros use ravens rather than pigeons to carry their messages is that the First Men learnt from the children to slip into the skins of the ravens and speak the messages directly, rather than tying scraps of paper to their legs.

Bran is also getting far too comfortable about using Hodor to go places and do things. He’s also clearly working up to using Hodor to have a physical relationship with Meera. Not convinced she’ll be 100% cool with that, dude. Plus, they’re eating a blood soup of unknown meat – what are the odds this turns out to be man flesh?

Towards the end of the chapter they decide that it’s ‘time’. The children give Bran a paste of weirwood seeds, the mush of which apparently has red veins in it from the red sap of the trees. I’m not entirely clear how that works. I’d have assumed that if you mush it up it would go a pinky colour, but whatever. With some reluctance, Bran eats the mush and finds that he can see things through any weirwood tree he chooses, and because time feels different to the trees, a moment in the past can feel as present as now. Bran sees his father as a younger man beneath their tree back at Winterfell, and as he calls out to him Ned almost seems to hear him.

When Bran wakes up, Hodor carries him to his bed in the darkness. Neither Jojen nor Meera are there, Meera having wandered off with a case of the sads earlier. There’s something ominous about their absence. Bran resolves to stay awake until Meera gets back, but instead he slips into visions of the tree at Winterfell again, going rapidly back in time to what seems to be its beginning, where a woman slits the throat of a captive in what seems to be an offering. At the end, Bran cries out, asking them to stop, and one is left wondering whether this is only happening in the deep past at Winterfell, or if something is happening to Bran himself, or one of his friends. Meera’s and Jojen’s cryptic comments hint at something like that. It’s not clear what there is for them to do here, but it seems that Jojen, at least, does not expect to be going back down south.

So, anyway: super creepy. Suggestions of cannibalism are rife, whether real or symbolic. I have to say, the whole ‘going into the tree’ thing, with roots wrapping round and through your mouldering corpse, is squicking me out. I have actually had nightmares about it, people. I don’t want this for Bran. It’s not clear that he wants it, either, he’s just kind of going along with it, not least because no one else has offered him an option of a viable active life where it doesn’t matter that his back is broken. I keep wanting for him to stand up and say ‘no!’, but I don’t think he’s going to. And I guess that’s maybe part of my problem. He’s still so young and impressionable, he’s too easily led, too eager to show that’s he’s a brave man and will give things up if called upon. I don’t think I’m going to be happy with how this ends, and I can’t decide if it’s the book being good in taking me to extremes, or if I actually just don’t like it. I think it’s probably the former, but… what can I say? I’m uncomfortable. I’m half dreading the next Bran chapter because I’m not sure I want to find out what’s happened.

But the book keeps rolling on. Tune in next time for more Read Along with Rhube!

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About Serenity Womble

I'm a writer of science fiction and fantasy short stories, as well as many, many unfinished novels. I review things of a generally speculative nature. This is my blog for writing and reviewing.
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