Read Along with Rhube 10: A Dance with Dragons, Chapters 19 & 20

(Index to previous ADwD posts is here.)

Sorry for the gap, guys, I felt the need to review something else at the weekend, but my Reviewing Through the Time Machine posts tend to be a bit more in-depth, and it sort of took it out of me. Anyway – onwards and upwards!

Chapter 19: Davos

Bless him, Davos sort of gets to do something, this time. He gets hauled before Wyman Manderly, Lord of White Harbor, but is treated as somewhat less than a King’s Hand. A bunch of Freys are present, and Davos is unable to get an audience alone with Lord Wyman. The Freys have fed him and his some rather astonishing lies that cast the Red Wedding as Robb Stark’s fault. Rather than a Frey blood bath, they maintain that Robb and his men turned into wolves, and that it was they who killed Wendel Manderly. Some of the court are apparently convinced of this, others seem to be paying lip-service to the belief because the Lannisters apparently have Wyman’s son, and he’s therefore unlikely to move in any case, and it’s in his best interest to keep the peace with their side.

There’s a really interesting moment when the tide almost turns. With how much Davos considers himself a man of few words, it was inevitable that he would say something to catch someone’s ear. He appeals with honesty to the cost and a reminder that they have common enemies with those who killed the king. He may mean Robert, but he strikes an emotion with those who feel the pain of Robb’s death in his role as King in the North. Northmen (and women) have always felt an intense loyalty to Winterfell, almost over the King in King’s Landing. The real crime – what divided this country and made war inevitable – was the death of Eddard Stark. Robb was just a symbol, but Eddard? That blunt, honest man – that good northern man – their true king, who they had followed into war before. Yes, they’re angry about that. They want blood for that. And they find voice in Wylla, a young girl. Young enough to think you can show defiance without consequences, or idealistic enough to believe it is worth it. She almost has them, for a moment, but in the end, these people know the pain of war better, and their lord’s head is in a noose as long as the Lannisters have his son and there are Freys in his court.

Although by the end of the chapter we’ve effectively returned to the status quo, I loved it. I loved the politics, I loved the tensions, I loved Wylla. I was crying out for more non-objectified female voices, and there she is, speaking naturally and powerfully, even if she’s then silenced. I loved the stories that can be told and accepted without the advantage of instant news-transmission and images we have in our modern age.

Most of all, I loved the way the blood was stirred when Davos and Wylla called to their murdered lords and ladies – to their murdered kings, and, most of all, to Ned Stark. He was never crowned, but he was their king more than anyone who has claimed the crown since Robert died. And, of course, he’s our king, too. It’s a nice synergy of dramatic tension with reader-emotions. He’s been dead these many books, but we still love to hear his name. He was the protagonist in an ensemble cast in the first book – good and true and doomed. Whether you thought he was stupid or not you had to root for him. I was surprised at the outrage people who hadn’t read the books felt at his death at the end of the recent TV series. And yet, it’s that depth of attachment that we’re all called back to. As I mention in my summary, his death is the turning point of this whole story: Bran’s fall, Cersei’s infidelity, Daenerys’s growing army, even Catelyn’s blunder in accusing Tyrion – all of it could have come to much less if Joffrey hadn’t commanded Ned’s head be parted from his shoulders.

I like that Martin is weaving the emotions of the characters through with the emotions of the readers in this way. It’s skillfully done.

Chapter 20: Reek

Oh, this is a nasty chapter – in a good way. I think.

Our good friend, Reek (née Theon) is dressed up in normal people clothes and sent out under his own banner to treat with those who hold the ruins and towers of Moat Cailin. Unknown to everyone, including those who man the towers, they’ve already effectively lost them. They are manned by the rejects of their army. They have the advantage of position, and could still do damage to the Boltons if they stayed put, but disease and each other would kill them all in time. The scenes inside the tower are sickening in a way that draws forth the brutality of war in a way we in our safe homes are rarely exposed to. This is not the violence of war; this is the neglect of war. This is the dehumanising grind of war.

With some little resistance, Reek persuades the men manning the towers to surrender on condition of safe passage. Of course, the mad Ramsay Snow Bolton reneges on that promise, killing them all. He is then able to present these towers to his father, Roose Bolton. In a nice touch, even hard man Roose has the decency to be shocked at Reek’s appearance: ‘What is this, some mockery?’ he asks. The twist in the chapter comes when the captive Arya is revealed, however, for this is not Arya. Reek, or rather, Theon, knows Arya. And with all the growth spurts in the world, he knows this is a different girl – a girl he recognises, too: Sansa’s friend, Jeyne Poole.

This brings back some stirrings of memory. It probably seemed like a good idea at the time to pretend to be Arya, and, again, without our world of instantly knowable faces, it’s a plausible pretense. Oh, but poor Jeyne, as you bow meekly to the man you have said you’ll marry in Arya’s name… this will not end well for you, I fear. And, lord, I hope something happens to spoil this little ruse and thwart Ramsay’s claim before he can convince people that he really has married Arya. That would give him a more powerful claim than any army could. As we just saw in the last chapter, the Stark name means something.

This is a chapter made of exciting but horrible and worrying things. Two thumbs up!


I’ve read much further than this, so should be able to get you another update soonish, but I’ll sign off now to maintain the bite-size chunk. Toodle-pip!

Read Along with Rhube 5: A Dance with Dragons, Chapters 8 & 9

(Index of previous ADwD chapter reviews here.)

Chapter 8: Tyrion

Tyrion’s still on a road trip. Things are a bit less cushy for him, now, but he’s still exchanging witticisms and pottering along, seemingly ahead of all the other people who are rushing to claim Daenerys, whether for wife or as a partner in conquest. I think it probably stands in Tyrion’s favour that he’s more interested in the latter. I doubt she’ll have much time for suitors. Her hand in marriage is too valuable an asset to give away. Apart from the potential threat to her own power from marrying, if she can keep suitors in competition she’ll keep more of them in play.

I really don’t have that much to say about this chapter itself. Like most of the Tyrion chapters so far, I’m afraid it pretty much just got the job done. I still love Tyrion, and the chapter was still enjoyable, but at the moment he’s just serving as a witty punctuaion mark between other chapters as he gets from A to B.

One thing I’m noticing about Tyrion in general, however, is that I don’t find him nearly as attractive in the book as in the series. He’s still a favourite character, but I guess it just goes to show that the Dinklage-appeal is a definite addition factor. Man brings his own charisma to the role and makes it his own. I suspect there were also some directorial or adaptational decisions about presenting him as more clearly a goody-within-the-Lannister-camp. Although they maintained the moral complexity of the books, they were probably looking to simplify the lines wherever possible, not to mention the impulse towards presenting a cast that’s easier to identify with. They may have been unsure about how an audience would react to having a little person as a main character. I don’t know.

On a different tangent: let us engage in a bit of wild speculation. The big question hanging over all these books is ‘Who will win the Game of Thrones’. There’s a distinct possibility that the answer will be ‘no one’. It possibly depends on whether Martin is more tied to grim themes as opposed to historical analogues. If we’re talking thematically, there’s a clear temptation towards the ‘rocks fall, everybody dies’ philosophy. Who wins when you struggle over power? No one. In one sense, that’s not grim at all – it speaks to the wonders of co-operation, love, and looking after each other. On the other, if co-operation fails to materialise sufficiently to save the people of Westeros to the threat from the North, that speaks for a rather negative view of human nature. Grim though his books are, I suspect Martin really leans towards something more balanced. No one is purely good or purely evil in these books.

What about the history, then? Oh, here I show the rather large gaps in my knowledge. I had a very engaging and oddly tense discussion a while back about which House aligned to what and who might be successful based on historical analogies. Sadly, I remember very little of it, much like my history lessons from school. Honestly, most of what I know about this period comes from Shakespeare, and I know that’s not a reliable resource. Looking at the Wikipedia page on the Wars of the Roses was just confusing. I think the conclusion of the discussion was that someone unlikely will come in out of the blue and make a claim for the throne on the basis of marrying the right woman. Based spuriously on this, my money is on either Tyrion or Littlefinger with a marriage claim for Sansa, but Daenerys is looking like a stronger and stronger contender. Plus, Tyrion also looks plausibly set up as a Richard III analogue – physically differing from the norm, yet extremely clever. He was also blamed for Bran’s accident, initially, which could be considered an analogue for the princes in the tower.

Speculations, I has them.

But let’s move on.

Chapter 9: Davos

Yet another character who rings bells in my mind but isn’t that familiar. This is Stannis Baratheon’s Hand, who has been sent south with a fleet. He has very poor luck with the weather, loses a lot of ships, and ultimately loses the favour of his pirate friend, who’s sick of a certain lack of money. The pirate guy let’s Davos off on one of the Three Sisters, islands theoretically under the rule of the Vale, but with an uncomfortably rocky history. Essentially, their loyalty is up for grabs.

Davos is captured and brought to Lord Godric. Godric toys with him for a bit, but ultimately hints that he might come out for Stannis if the winds prevail. He’s canny, he’s stepping back from the action. He knows that what really matters is that some strong ruler pulls the country together in time to defend the Wall, for winter is coming. But that doesn’t mean he’ll come out for Stannis just because Stannis is at the Wall now. He lets Davos go as though he had never been so that he might try his hand at winning support for Stannis where it’s most needed.

This chapter was interesting. I enjoyed getting to know Davos better, and Godric made a pleasing little nod to Ned that tickled the fangirl in me. We also learn that Jon Snow’s mother was possibly a woman of the Three Sisters, who likely got it on with Ned when he was in town in the last war. That seems to put paid to those rumours that he was really Robert’s son, but there’s still no proof. Again, this chapter was more about helping characters on their way than really getting anywhere, but it was fun.

Tune in next time for more of A Dance with Dragons