Read Along with Rhube 21: A Dance with Dragons, Chapters 41 & 42

(Index of previous ADwD posts here.)

Chapter 41: The Turncloak

Because one alternate name for Theon was never enough (or three, or four…).

Snow begins to fall. I’m forever fascinated to wonder how exactly the planetary system in the world of Ice and Fire works. If anyone could tell me, I’d enjoy being enlightened. How can they have such erratic and lengthy seasons? Anyway, by this point, if you didn’t know that the coming of winter was ominous,you really can’t have been paying a lot of attention.

One of Abel’s women goes to Theon and asks him to tell her of how he conquered Winterfell. She says Abel wants to write a song, but that sounds as dubious to Theon as it does to me. No one wants to celebrate the ‘Turncloack’s’ exploits, but potential invaders would be mighty curious about knowing how such a feat could be achieved. Sadly for them both, Theon’s advantage was simple and impossible to duplicate: surprise. Stannis will have no such luck. Where Theon took Winterfell with a small and silent group, Stannis will be approaching with an army of thousands, and they know he is coming.

Theon has stopped thinking of himself purely as Reek, though. Amazingly, he appears to be on a journey back towards something akin to sanity. I almost pity him, that. It is a ruined body he know inhabits, and a ruined reputation. He doesn’t have much of a future to look forward to, and the full position of his senses can only make him more conscious of that.

After leaving Abel’s woman, Theon wanders about the walls. No one bothers to stop him. He’s not an escape risk, and he’s harmless. That’ll be a useful trait, if Abel’s people can persuade him to co-operate. Somehow, he ends up at the godswood. Theoretically, these are not his gods. His is the Drowned God. Yet he has spent many, many years away from the sea. Haltingly, he begins to pray.

But Jeyne’s (the false Arya’s) sobs disturb his hesitant prayer, and he retreats. Lady Dustin approaches him. persuades him to show her the crypts. We learn her story – we she would betray the North in a heartbeat. He father had hoped to offer her to wed first Brandon (Ned’s brother), and later Ned himself. In cruel irony, Catelyn is promised to Brandon, and as Lady Dustin pinned her hopes on Ned, she found Catelyn promised to him as well. She blames it on a maester, whispering into Ned’s father’s ear. Then, when she did marry, her husband followed Ned off into his war for Robert, and her husband died. Cruel fate. She reveals that she hopes, one day, to intercept his bones on their journey north, back to Winterfell. She will feed them to her dogs.

Another curious thing is revealed as they walk through the crypts. The lords of Winterfell are entombed with statues to guard them, and each statue is given a sword. Some of these swords are missing.

So, this chapter confirmed my suspicions as regards Abel and his women. Granted, no one has been named as a spearwife or as Mance Raider, the King Beyond the Wall, but it’s pretty clear what Abel’s woman is fishing for, and not hard to speculate why. I guess it’s also interesting to hear about Lady Dustin’s motivation in taking up Roose Bolton’s cause. I’m not entirely convinced there’s justification for her to spill it to the Turncloak, but it is a good story. I’m more interested about the swords missing from the crypts. I’d say it’s Abel and his people, again, but no one seemed to have had any idea where the crypts were until Theon shows Lady Dustin’s men where to dig in the snow. Curious.

Chapter 42: The King’s Prize

The ‘King’s Prize’ is the new name for Asha. I’m relieved to hear she’s not dead – you know I like her.

The point of this chapter seems to largely be ‘It’s cold up north’. This is definitely the chapter in which winter gets serious. We also learn that a knight called Ser Justin fancies his luck with Asha, but she’s not terribly interested in him – she knows he’s chiefly after her lands, and he’s a bit of a soft Southron lad, anyway. We also meet Alysane Mormont, the ‘She-Bear’. Intriguing to meet a Mormont in the north, but very little to say about it beyond that. Other than that there’s largely the amusement of the northern clansmen scoffing as those of Stannis’s knights who think the snow storm they hit is ‘winter’. Tensions are clearly outlined between Stannis’s men from the south who think they either should have done a forced march (as Robert would have done) or stayed at Deepwood Motte until the storm cleared, and the clansmen, who are innured to the idea of losing men to the cold in winter (or even ‘autumn’).

Then, the chilling moment, at the end of the chapter, when Asha, Stannis, the clansmen, and everyone else, find themselves snowbound and unmoving, having merely stopped for the night.

Yup. It’s cold up north.

Not much more to say about this chapter than that. It is designed to lead up to that tableau at the end, to impress on us that Winter means Business in the north, and it does that pretty well.

Read Along with Rhube 19: A Dance with Dragons, Chapters 37 & 38

(Index to previous ADwD posts here.)

Chapter 37: The Prince of Winterfell

AKA Reek, AKA Theon. Again with the names! I guess it sort of does have some impact here, though. In spite of himself, Reek is starting to think again as Theon, but will it be enough?

In this chapter, Ramsay marries Jeyne Poole, who is pretending to be Arya. It’s not clear who knows that she is not Arya, apart from Reek The Prince of Winterfell Theon. What is clear is that it if Jeyne doesn’t play her role, she won’t be doing much of anything for very long. Poor Jeyne, at the start of the chapter she just thinks she is going into a forced marriage under a false name; she has no idea of the sort of man she is marrying. Hanging over this whole chapter is the question of whether Theon will come sufficiently to himself to launch some kind of rescue.

He takes her to the godswood and gives her away, as the closest thing she has to a family member. Despite Theon’s brief fantasy that she will announce to everyone who she really is – getting them both killed, but also getting the truth out – she meekly submits, and he confirms for all those gathered that she is Arya. They then return to the repaired hall to feast. Lord Wyman Manderley is there, suspiciously cheery, having brought with him a great deal of food, including three giant ‘pork’ pies. Funny that he somehow lost three Freys along the way. It’s pretty clear that Wyman has had his revenge by baking those men into the pies, and now he’s taking great pleasure in feeding them to his oppressors.

Also present are a bunch of musicians – ‘Abel’ and his six women. I don’t know about you, but I’m thinking this is Mance and his six spearwives. Hanging over the feast is the question of whether there will be some great uprising before the marriage is consummated. ‘Abel’ is there to save ‘Arya’, ‘Reek’ flutters around the verge of becoming Theon again and coming to her rescue, and there are some very bitter northman in the room who might be persuaded to rise up, or at least sit back and do nothing. But no one is clearly who they seem, no one is sufficiently committed to their roles. Abel does nothing. Wyman is content to have his secret cannibalistic joke. Theon seems to come close, especially when Ramsay insists that Theon accompany him as the ‘Prince of Winterfell’ when he goes to bed her. Finding that ‘Arya’ is dry, he commands Theon to go down on her first – I presume in some mockery of the tradition of a lord’s right to have his way with a newly wedded bride of his subjects (Theon having once proclaimed himself Prince of Winterfell, Ramsay his subject, before their positions were so dramatically reversed). For a moment it seems he might refuse, but he does not.

This is a well-constructed chapter. It is tense and horrible on several levels. We want the last minute rescue, and Martin dangles it artfully before us again and again, but the time is not yet ripe. Any rescue at this point would wind up with a lot of people dead, including, probably, the lady herself. All the fake names and duplicity hover around, looking as though they should be symbolic of something deep, but I can’t find it. They seem to be symbolic of… the fact that everyone’s hiding something, which isn’t so much a symbol as a fact. Still, tensions and understated horror reign.

Chapter 38: The Watcher

Odd point of view, this. Instead of returning to one of the players in the scene, we follow Areo Hotah, man-with-axe, and servant of Prince Doran Martell. The scene unfolds as the prince is presented with a massive skull that is thought to have belonged to Ser Gregor Clegane – aka The Mountain. The Prince and his family are pleased by this, especially the Sand Snakes – Obera, Nymeria, and Tyene, bastard daughter’s of the prince’s dead brother Oberyn. Gregor killed Doran’s sister and her children, so they’re pretty pleased to hear that he had a painful death.

The head is presented to them by Ser Balon Swann, as a gift from the Lannisters. He’s also there to ask that Princess Myrcella (daughter of Cersei, betrothed to Trystene Martell) return to King’s Landing, and that Doran accompany them to become the boy king’s Hand. Doran suspects that this is a trick, which is confirmed by Balon’s obvious discomfort when Doran proposes travel by sea, as opposed to by road, where it is suspected there would have been an ambush. Balon is also concerned to find Myrcella and her protector, Ser Aerys Oakenhart are away at the Water Gardens, and not there to greet him. The reason for this is that Aerys has been killed following a rebellion plotted by Princess Arianna and the Sand Snakes, for which the Sand Snakes had been detained in the Spear Tower until recently. I honestly can’t remember the details of this – I had forgotten this plotline completely until this chapter, and only now have vague recollections of what happened.

Anyway, after the presentation of the skull, the prince, the Sand Snakes, the Princess Arianna, and (for some reason) Areo Hotah retreat to discuss what to do in private. Doran would be a fool to go to King’s Landing. Balon will need to see Myrcella, but they need to work out how to handle the fact that his brother in arms is dead. The Sand Snakes are generally reactionary, but Doran advises caution, because he knows a few things they don’t. A plan emerges. Princess Myrcella has been led to believe that Gerold Dayne (aka Darkstar) tried to kill her and that Ser Aerys died protecting her. Doran mainly wishes to maintain a holding-pattern, and will send Lady Nym in his stead to King’s Landing. He has heard of a fleet departing from Lys. He hopes this is Quentyn with dragons and Daenerys. Of course, we know that it’s the lost prince, aka Young Griff. Either way, it could go well, for them.

This chapter was interesting. I didn’t remember any of the players well, but they do have an interesting plot. One of the Sand Snakes is apparently wearing a see-through dress, which I found a bit odd and rather unlikely, but ho hum. I like Prince Doran’s cunning. I like that we’re hearing of some interaction between what’s going on in the south and Westeros, finally. I like that everyone’s going to be very surprised when they find out whose fleet it is. I do feel sorry for poor Quentyn, though, off on his fool’s quest with his family thinking he might somehow have succeeded already. Smart though they may be, they clearly have no idea of the scale of the task they have set him.

Read Along with Rhube 16: A Dance with Dragons, Chapters 31 & 32

(Index to previous A Dance with Dragons posts, here.)

This is starting to feel like a captain’s log – the numbers are losing all meaning. Or at least, such is the sort of thought that strikes me on a Saturday morning.

Let’s do this thing!

Chapter 31: Melisandre

So, this was an interesting chapter. We finally get to see inside the head of Lady Melodrama. Turns out she’s intentionally all show, her clothes filled with the fantasy showman’s staple of powders and other things designed to make her look impressive. Not that she doesn’t do real magic. The chapter opens with Melisandre as she seeks visions in her fire. She prays to R’hllor to see Stannis, or the girl she believes is Jon Snow’s sister, but these are not the things she is shown. Instead she sees ‘A wooden face, corpse white‘, which sees her back, next to a boy with a wolf’s face. She hears voices ‘Melony’ cries one, ‘Lot Seven’ says another. A great grey cliff, full of caves, where fires go out one by one as a white mist rises, leaving only skulls, which mean death. She sees Jon Snow with skulls all around him. In other words, plenty of fodder to keep the reader flipping back and forth going ‘Ooo, is this the bit that was what was meant by the cliff and those skulls?’ etc and so on.

Some of it we can interpret for ourselves already. The wooden-faced corpse next to the boy with the wolf’s head who sees her back must be the greenseer and Bran. She assumed this is ‘the enemy’ – is she right? Surely they are both on roughly the same side… but we don’t really know what the greenseer’s gameplan is. As for Jon Snow surrounded by death, well, that’s hardly news. Interesting, though, that she asks R’hllor to show her a glimpse of ‘Azor Ahai’ ‘your king, your instrument‘, and she is shown Jon, and not Stannis.

There’s also another bit of magic revealed in this chapter. Melisandre calls ‘Rattleshirt’ to her and tells him off for not wearing his armour of bones. They talk about a spell, a glamour… and I don’t now about you, but it was starting to fall in place by this point. You remember how suss it was when ‘Mance Rayder’ denied his own identity as they killed him? How Rattleshirt moved much too quickly for a man his size when Jon fought him? Well, it turns out that (quelle suprise) that wasn’t Mance Rayder at all, but the Lord of Bones, Rattleshirt. Burning him alive helped to seal the illusion cast on Mance himself to make him appear to be Rattleshirt, thus allowing Lady M to spare him despite the need to kill him as a traitor. This is nice from the magic point as well – seemed like an awful waste of king’s blood to produce Stannis’s light-show with the sword, didn’t it? It also seemed a bit weird to find out that Lady M was capable of mind-control. But, of course, if R’hllor is a god of light, then the magic his servants work will be the play of light – seeing and illusions. The ring ‘Rattleshirt’ wears is not to keep him under Lady M’s control, it is to maintain an illusion, which makes a lot more sense.

Anyway, Lady M wants to win Jon’s trust by saving his sister, but she knows that he won’t send men after the girl himself, so she proposes to send Rattleshirt to save her instead. Jon, of course, laughs at this – the Rattleshirt he knows is as likely to kill and rape his sister as save her. So Lady M must reveal her hand, and they let Jon in on the secret.

It’s a nice chapter. Lady M still isn’t exactly my favourite character, but I was crying out for her to have a bit more depth, and now she has it, along with some explanation as to why she seemed to be all show before. It’s fitting and it works. I’m also much more at ease with the spell concealing Mance Rayder’s identity as opposed to controlling Rattleshirt. It makes much more sense, and is actually pretty cool. Also: yay! Mance Rayder isn’t dead!

Chapter 32: Reek

Poor Reek, he is a broken man. In this chapter, Lord Roose comes in to give Ramsay a bit of a telling off about being so publicly vile, then takes Reek away with him… although not before Ramsay commands him to spy on his father for him, and promised to take another finger off Reek when he returns. Dick.

Roose may be cruel and stern and heartless in his own way, but he proves somewhat less so than Ramsay. On their ride, he talks to Reek like a human being. Roose tells him about the ‘first’ Reek, who was sent to Ramsay as a servant and companion to keep him in line when he was a boy. Instead, they seem to have encouraged each other in depravity. He also confesses that he’s fairly sure that Ramsay killed his true-born heir, and that he expects the bastard to kill any new sons he makes with his new wife, also. Roose also reveals his plan to clean Reek up and make him presentable, but Reek begs him not to do so. Finally, they arrive at their destination and Roose introduces Reek to Lady Barbrey, who is shocked by what Ramsay has done to Theon Greyjoy. She says: ‘What did your bastard do to him… Is he mad?’ to which Roose replies: ‘He may be. Does it matter?’ Being introduced as Theon is too much for Reek, though, he falls to his knees, denies his identity, and says: ‘My name is Reek… It rhymes with freak.’

That’s a horrible last line. I haven’t been entirely sold on Reek’s habit of recalling his name by saying afterwards ‘it rhymes with x’. I mean, I do buy it that he would invent such a device for remembering his new name by, but as a literary device, punctuating his chapters, I was somewhat uncomfortable with it, especially as some of the words used for ‘x’ seemed jarring and out of place. I was worried we were building up to something like this, and, for me, it really didn’t work. It felt cheesy and forced, not helped by the fact that ‘freak’ is the worst possible choice of word for the ‘climax’. It’s a bit too knowing a choice for someone as mad as Reek clearly is, and too modern-sounding a word for the setting.

I should be clear: I am whole-heartedly of the view that all fantasy works are set in translation, and thus a certain amount of modern slang and phrasing is not entirely out of place. ‘Freak’ is not in and of itself a specifically modern turn of phrase, but it feels out of sync with the tone. Used in an earlier iteration it might have worked, but left dangling at the end of the chapter, as the climax… it didn’t have the strength of authenticity to carry it. The whole set-up felt a bit forced to begin with, and the choice of word just let the moment fall flat.

That said, this was an otherwise well-constructed chapter. Reek’s story required some relief, it was getting just too unremittingly awful. This isn’t a point about unbearable horror, but about the maintenance of dramatic tension and keeping the audience on side. If we’d had yet more unpleasantness for Reek with no end in sight it would have lapsed from stomach-churning horror into dullness. The reader would have thrown up his or her hands and said: ‘We get it! Ramsay is evil and he’s driven Reek mad. Yawn.’ So Roose needed to come in to ‘save the day’, but he strikes just the right note of ‘I don’t wish you any ill, but I’m not exactly a good man myself, and I’m only doing this because you’re useful.’ It’s nicely handled. I just wish the final line hadn’t been so forced.

And that’s it, for now. Tune in next time for more A Dance with Dragons

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 6: A Dance with Dragons, Chapters 10, 11, & 12

(Index of previous ADwD chapter reviews here.)

I know, three chapters in one post instead of the usual two – it’s a world gone mad.

Chapter 10: Jon

In this chapter, Stannis and Lady Melisandre have Mance Rayder, the King-Beyond-the-Wall, killed, whilst his followers look on. He’s burnt alive above a pit, into which they also throw the Horn of Joramun, which reputedly could have brought the Wall down if blown. After this, Stannis puts on a show with his very, very shiny sword, which Jon speculates may have been made shinier by the execution of Mance Rayder – blood magic, and the blood of a king. (If so, I can’t help but think they could have used his blood for more than a light display, but whatevs.)

The wildlings are then invited to either join with Stannis or return north of the Wall. If they choose to stay, they must each throw a stick of weirwood – wood from their god-trees – into the flames.

After this, Jon wanders unhappily about for a bit, concludes that as a commander he can’t talk to his men as friends anymore, and writes letters sending his two best mates away.

It’s a pretty unpleasant thing to do, asking people to burn their gods after burning their king. Lady Melisandre? Not a nice lady. In fact, I don’t like her at all. I don’t think we’re meant to like her, o’course, but she also feels like a bit too much of a caricuture. I keep waiting to see some kind of depth to her, but she just seems to keep wandering around like a devil on Stannis’ shoulder.

What I find most interesting about this chapter, though, is that ‘Mance’ starts denying he’s the king before they kill him. As a writer, I don’t think that’s the sort of dying words you randomly select, and Mr Martin goes to the trouble of highlighting it for us later in the chapter as well. Sounds to me as though that wasn’t Mance Rayder after all. I hope so, anyway – I’ll be disappointed if something like that is left hanging and doesn’t come again. Besides, Mance Rayder was such an enigmatic character, it would be a shame for Martin to have thrown him away before doing anything interesting with him as a person.

Chapter 11: Daenerys

Unrest continues in Meereen, Daenerys’s conquered city of pyramids. Nine freedmen are killed, including the brother of Daenerys’s girl-servant. Daenerys is fairly brutal in response, then she goes to bed, taking her girl-servant with her so that she can comfort the girl. Whilst in bed she fantasises about Daario Naharis for a bit and generally feels horny. When she gets up, she has a vision of a woman in a red mask called Quaithe who tells her to ‘beware the perfumed seneschal’ and then disappears. After that, she goes into the ‘purple hall’ to do a bit of governance. She’s again asked to re-open the fighting pits, this time by the slaves who used to fight in them. She says she’ll think about it, then goes off to see her dragons. Two of the dragons are now chained, the third has run away. Over all, things don’t seem to be going that well.

This chapter annoyed me. After all my praise for the previous Daenerys chapter, this one felt like it went back to the bad old defining-Daenerys-by-her-sexual-and-reproductive-faculties ways. The Daario Naharis fantasy was deeply problematic. She gets all hot and bothered thinking about him caressing the hilts of his swords, which happen to be in the shape of naked gold women. First off: how is this a sensible shape for a sword hilt? But even disregarding that, you don’t get much more classically symbolic of the objectification of women than naked gold women, and these are literally objects. The idea of this sleazeball caressing his idiotic hilts of naked gold women is just about the least sexy thing I can think of, but apparently Daenerys enjoys this sort of objectification. Talk about male-gazey.

And on top of this it’s really getting a bit heavy-handed with the whole ‘mother of dragons’ thing. I don’t mind it as a tool of power, but she seems to be being defined by it again, not only by other characters, but by Daenerys herself. There’s nothing wrong with powerful mothers (see my comments on Gwen’s portrayal in the latest series of Torchwood) but women who are only described as powerful with reference to their reproductive capacities… that’s less cool.

Maybe I wouldn’t mind so much, but we haven’t had any other female view-point characters yet, or even many female characters in general. I’m in need of a little relief! Bring on Arya – even Sansa – someone!

Other than that, this chapter felt a bit like punctuation. Yes, we get the prophecy, but it doesn’t really tell us much. We also learn that her biggest dragon has flown away, but for the most part it’s still just touching base on the fact that Meereen has civil unrest and they’d really like her to open the fighting pits, but she doesn’t want to.

Chapter 12: Reek

Talk about gruesome. We’re greeted with a view-point-character who is being held in a dungeon and who has been starved and tortured to the extent that he can’t remember his real name and now behaves with crawling subservience to his masters. It turns out that this is Theon Greyjoy, former ward of Ned Stark, now prisoner of Lord Ramsay. They’ve cut off some of his fingers and toes, but not before flaying them until he begged for them to be cut off.

They bring Reek (née Theon) in front of Ramsay, and after toying with him a bit he announces that Reek is to be cleaned up in preparation for Ramsay’s wedding. Ramsey, it seems, is planning to marry Arya Stark.

Martin definitely knows how to break a character. That’s a pretty bad way to get into – I don’t think we’re going to be seeing the old Theon coming out the other side of this. It certainly sets us up well for dreading the thought of Arya having to marry this guy. If she doesn’t come in and start using Needle to clean up this place I shall be very disappointed. In fact, in general: bring on Arya! I know it’s not likely to happen for a while yet, but I miss her so.

And that’s about it – it’s quite a short chapter. Tune in next time for more Read Along with Rhube, and A Dance with Dragons.