Read Along with Rhube 7: A Dance with Dragons, Chapters 13 & 14

(Index of previous ADwD chapter reviews here.)

Sorry this was so long coming – it’s been a busy week and I found chapter fourteen rather annoying to start with, so wasn’t greatly drawn back to it. I polished it off this morning, though, and did find some positive things to say about it in the end. To the review!

Chapter 14: Bran

Someone finally got somewhere! Finally! There’s been such a lot of set-up and people pootling about on journeys but not actually getting anywhere or doing anything significant, but Bran did it – he reached the three-eyed crow. But he has to battle through a bunch of zombies, first, who are lying in wait for him and his party under the snow.

This was nicely done. I enjoyed the fight. I’m still a bit puzzled as to why the group spends a goodly little bit of time standing around discussing how they need to get a move on rather than talking and walking at the beginning, but ho hum. Once they get going and the white-walkers rise out of their snowy holes to attack, it’s all pretty cool. I loved the bit where Bran possesses Hodor’s body to save the large simpleton by directing his strength to battle the monsters and move in the right direction. Very interesting – especially with the question hanging over it of what would happen if Bran’s body were to be killed whilst he was in possession of Hodor. That said, I did find the comment ‘He wondered what Meera would think if he should suddenly tell her that he loved her’ to be rather out of left field. Is this Bran just thinking that he could mess with Meera’s head by having Hodor tell her the he loves her? Does Bran love Meera? Does Hodor? What? More context needed here, please!

Anyway, they battle the white walkers and escape into the cave that has been their destination with the help of a ‘child of the forest’ – a creature Bran recalls from Old Nan’s tales. (Just an aside, here, but I loved the moment in Game of Thrones, the TV show, where they have Old Nan tell Bran the scary stories of above the wall he really wants to hear. Very nicely done. Served for a very effective call back for this moment in my mind.) Alas, Brandon’s monster, the ranger, cannot enter, as there’s some kind of ‘No bad things allowed’ field surrounding the cave. Anyway, the child takes them down through the cave until finally they reach the three-eyed crow, who turns out not to be a crow at all, but a man or corpse with roots growing all through his wasted body.

It’s a nice image and nice for a character to actually reach their goal for a change, but I was starting to feel a bit of ‘wonderous new things overload’ towards the end of this chapter. For most of A Song of Ice and Fire these books have been curiously and interestingly devoid of fantastical elements. There was a rumour of dragons and white walkers, but little of magic actually seen. It was all politics and sex and violence. In some ways its great to be finally seeing the magic that underlies this world, but in others it’s a bit of a sudden shift. Now we have child-like beings with cat eyes leading us through magical caverns to an undying corpse-lord prophet. I dare say I’ll get used to it, but for now it’s a bit like walking into another book.

Chapter 14: Tyrion

Sadly, the start of this chapter is very familiar in style. Unlike Bran, Tyrion is nowhere near his destination, and I have a feeling he’s got a great deal of journeying left before he gets there. And now one of his companions is a septa who just happens to like getting naked and going for a swim in front of him every morning and who seems utterly cool with the fact that Tyrion makes no secret of perving over her whilst he does it. I’m not sure if I want to yawn or smash things. I just don’t know what this section added to this chapter except to make me feel alienated and objectified. Is something going to hang on this flirtatious septa’s nudist ways somewhere down the line? It doesn’t seem like they’re destined to have a relationship together – Tyrion’s fairly clearly hung up on the idea of finding Tysha and somehow persuading her that gang-rape is a thing that should be forgiven in the name of love.

Eventually, the chapter moves on and finally starts to have some interesting elements. Tyrion notes that there’s something decidedly fishy about the extensiveness of the education Young Griff is receiving from the Halfmaester (this keeps making my think of the Hoffmeister, help me). He then challenges the HoffHalfmeister to a game of not-chess*, the winner of which will win secrets from the other. We don’t find out exactly what it is that Tyrion wins, but I guess it’s something to do with the birth of a king, as Tyrion thinks something cryptic about this at the end of the chapter.

One thing I did really like about this chapter was the scenery in the last few pages. I’m a sucker for ruins, and the image of Nymeria’s palace at Ny Sar broken and home only to bonesnapper turtles was pretty striking. As was the appearance of the Old Man of the River – a turtle of truly massive proportions. I only wish this moment had been dwelt upon a bit more, as it’s quite a striking concept, but felt a bit thrown in at the last moment.

Overall, this was not my favourite chapter so far, but it did have a few nice elements, and has led me to speculate hat Young Griff is actually another suitor for Dany’s hand. Bless. He seems like a nice lad; she’d probably eat him alive. n the other hand, I might become Team Young Griff just so that she can get with a Nice Boy for a change – anything’s better than her current crush.

Tune in next time for more frolicking dragons!

* Incidentally, this version of fantasy not-chess reminded me rather strongly of Sheldon’s Three Person Chess from the Big Bang Theory. Annoyingly, YouTube won’t allow this video to be viewed embedded, so the below is just a pretty picture. You can view it here, though.

Read Along with Rhube 3: A Dance with Dragons, Chapters 4 & 5

I’m hoping it doesn’t have to be said that all of these Read Along with Rhube reviews are going to be spoiler heavy. Essentially, I am assuming you’ve either read the chapters mentioned in the subject heading, or you don’t care. The nice thing is that if you’ve read some chapters, but not all, you can just pull up all the Read Along with Rhube posts via the categories, find where you’ve got to, and read only what you’ve already seen. I hope it works out like that, anyway.

On to the review!

Chapter Four: Bran

So, in this chapter we learn that Bran is not dead after all. Or rather, we’re reminded of that. As I mentioned in the previous RAWR post, I have rather lost track of some of the individual plots over the last few years in a way I hadn’t expected, and that’s a shame. I’m spending more time going ‘Ohhhhh yes, I remember’, or ‘Nope, sorry, still don’t have a clue’, rather than simply resuming a plot and excitedly pressing on to find out what happened. I could go on a Wikipedia spree and try to catch up, but apart from the fact that I want to avid accidental spoiling for other things, I think my confusion reflects something significant about the books and how they’ve been structured. I’m fully aware that George R R Martin is not my bitch or anyone else’s, but the long wait and unusual release decisions do have an effect worth recording.

So, here I am, dimly picking up the threads of Bran’s plot – remembering who Meera and Jojen are and why Bran is pressing on into the North whilst everyone else is running south. He’s travelling with a dead ranger to find the three-eyed crow of his visions. Rockin’.

It’s easy to forget that not everyone knows what the reader knows about the walking dead by this point. To me, it’s obvious that the ranger is a dead man, but the other characters spend most of the chapter figuring this out. This, combined with the now familiar scene setting that ‘it’s cold up North’, makes the chapter initially a bit slower going than the previous two. However, there are definitely elements of interest.

Following the opening scenes of the prologue, where we are told of (and see) the dangers of what can happen to a man who possesses wolves whilst they eat the flesh of other humans, or who possesses another human himself, it’s definitely creepy to read that Bran has been casually possessing Hodor, and to go with him as his direwolf feasts on the flesh of dead men of the Watch.

Also, despite the fact that it’s no surprise to the reader that the ranger is a dead man, the revelation of his status to the characters in the novel is very nicely built up to. The fact that he seems to have been leading them in circles, lying to them, killing men of the Watch… all distinctly troubling things that really make you wonder for the safety of Bran and his companions. And yet, the ranger does seem to have their interests at heart. And when he confesses at the end of the chapter that he is a monster, but ‘Your monster, Brandon Stark’ it is both poetically satisfying and chilling, nicely confirming and combining both the disquiet and reassurance we have been working through in our own minds.

There’s also a tantalizing question raised. There are two ways of reading that line. After all, we’ve known more than one Brandon Stark, and one was a ranger of the Night’s Watch, lost North of the Wall, possibly dead. Even though he refuses to reveal his face, is he tacitly confessing his own identity here as well?

Chapter Five: Tyrion

Ah, back with me old fave, Tyrion. This is an interesting and well-told chapter, but it’s largely getting us from A to B. It’s both literally and figuratively concerned with transporting Tyrion further along the road towards a meeting with Daenerys. In some ways, I’m loving this. With my new found admiration for the Dragon Queen, I’m all hot and bothered by the thought of her and Tyrion getting together and joining forces. I have a feeling that either something disastrous or fearsome will result, and I suspect the latter more than the former.

So, in some ways I’m all perked up at reading of Tyrion learning things that we already know about Daenerys for the first time. On the other hand, though, there’s not really a great deal to say about this chapter. It’s getting the job done – doing so in style, but that’s about it.

I don’t think I’ve anything else to report, for now. Tune in next time, for more of my thoughts on A Dance with Dragons.