Tuesday, September 24, 2013

A Flight of Sorrows: Collector's Edition

So I managed to spill water all over my laptop and it even got into various ports and damaged the battery; I am writing on it now so it works for the most part, but I need to have the keyboard changed because I'm missing six or so letters and it makes it really hard to write. Also, because I have no PC at home (saving up for a new one after my last laptop and stationary machine both imploded) I've had to delete all my private stuff on it before I send it off for repairs. Which is a roundabout way of saying I'm a little late with the next re-read post (and I was finally on a once-a-week roll) because writing is a really annoying thing to be doing with keys missing, bent and unresponsive unless you hammer it with your fingertip (does that make me sound strong?). Ye olde gods how many times do I have to tap just to get an "R" ?? Geez.

Anyway, in the meantime, fabulous fansite Tower of the Hand has revealed its new publication, a collector's edition of Flight of Sorrows. Formerly an e-book, now an actual printed book with lots of new material for those who already have the digital version. Here is the press release for said book. I was kindly asked to write a new additional foreword for this collector's edition, which I did. I thought it was very nice that they asked someone who's, well, on the "wrong side of the fence" (as in, having been smacked around by Ran's Mighty Banhammer +1 and being a pain in George R.R. Martin's ass on occasion). Not that I'm being particularly outspoken or nasty in this new foreword, by no means (just one little dig out of tradition and/or habit) - anyway, I am really looking forward to this collection of essays by fans of A Song of Ice and Fire. I have read some of it already and it's a real treat for any Ice & Fire-fan, and perhaps (and no, I am not tooting any horns here) the best product to come out of this franchise this year even though it is fan-made, TV series excepted. All right, here is the press release as published over at the Tower.

Tower of the Hand: A Flight of Sorrows - Collector's Edition comes out in one week and one day. Never heard of it? It's a special print edition of the best-selling ebook, released due to popular demand, that includes a whole slew of extra content. And to celebrate the occasion, we're happy to let you all in on a little secret: the Collector's Edition's complete lineup (which, we're delighted to finally share, includes a few extra faces from the Ice and Fire community).

Here we go:

Foreword - Remy Verhoeve, author of Waiting for Dragons

Bendable Joints and Removable Body Parts

Introduction - Marc N. Kleinhenz, editor

The Princes Kept the View

A full-length, behind-the-scenes essay that provides a fly-on-the-wall recounting of the ebook's genesis and initial designs, including its original listing of essays and lineup of authors (a number of whom never made it to the finished product). Other tidbits include the very first attempt at creating Tower of the Hand: The Book years before and a sneak peek of what's in store for 2016.

"Savoring the Taste?" - Stefan Sasse, essayist at Tower of the Hand and co-host of the Boiled Leather Audio Hour

On the role of revenge in songs of ice and fire

Why is it that so many players in the game of thrones seek revenge as their number-one priority? How is it that these plans almost always deny the revenge-seeker satisfaction, even when they're successful? And what is George R.R. Martin telling us, exactly, about the nature of vengeance?

"The Prince Is Riding" - Miles Schneiderman, essayist at Tower of the Hand

Rebutting the identity of - and the aim of the conspiracy around - Aegon Targaryen

The ebook posited that Aegon was a "mummer's dragon" and provided many details explaining the what, who, and why of the conspiracy. The print book refutes that conspiracy and explains how Aegon really being a Targaryen not only makes perfect sense, but how it tracks with all the other developments in all the other books.

"A Feast of Vipers" - Amin Javadi, co-host of A Podcast of Ice and Fire

Ethnic diversity, personal identification, and fandom theories in Dorne

A celebration of the diversity and solidarity of Dorne, the most unique of the Seven Kingdoms. It's also an investigation into why Dorne is proving itself to be the most controversial of the Seven Kingdoms, getting caught up in debates of ethnicity, audience identification, and the role - or lack thereof - of stereotypes.

"The King's Justice Is Mute, Not Blind" - John Jasmin

Why trials in Westeros are not what they seem

A continuation of the legal explorations into Westerosi society, expanding upon the original essay's theme and scope both. What is the difference between the king's justice and the King's Justice, and how can one differentiate between the two? More importantly, how can the king?

Afterword - Kyle Maddock, co-host of A Podcast of Ice and Fire

Completed Songs and Frozen Conversations

All in all, we've added roughly 18,000 words to the overall count, expanding on the ebook edition by nearly a third.

In addition, all 13 chapters of the original A Flight of Sorrows are included, in a brand-new, re-edited version. Think of this as the director's cut of the material, polished and improved for your total reading pleasure.

Tower of the Hand: A Flight of Sorrows - Collector's Edition goes on sale on October 1, 2013, for one month only. Find it on CreateSpace.com for $15.99.
Come November 1, the Collector's Edition will never, ever go on sale again.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

[Re-read] Sansa III: Simply Purgatory

Finally the British death metal band Carcass have released a new album, the first in seventeen years! You bet I am enjoying the heck out of Surgical Steel while writing this post. Groove, melody, raw energy all packed onto a shiny little disc. I love. 

I also love A Storm of Swords, so there is that. Here we go, without further ado, straight into the 29th chapter of the third book, which is still more than ten chapters away from the first half of the book! A Storm of Swords truly is the definition of a door-stopper. While I praised HBO for their decisions regarding the Daenerys story-line, I am equally dismayed at all the good stuff that's missing from Sansa's arc in the show. One vital scene occurring right at the beginning of this very chapter is an example of something I'd wish they didn't change or omit. I highlighted Sansa's marriage to Tyrion as a plot twist in an earlier post; it's not so much a plot twist as it is an unexpected or surprising turn of events, it's not really a twist per se; but it is oh so enjoyable whatever you call this plot development, feeling both sad for Sansa, kind-of-happy for Tyrion, but also happy for Sansa (she can be free from Joffrey) and sad for Tyrion (he's marrying someone who thinks of little of him, pun not intended); this is what makes Martin's work so amazing here! How he screws with our perception of characters, and how he invites various emotions in the reader depending on points of view. Brilliant stuff. Let's read.

The Dungeon-y part.
So I wrote that opening paragraph above and then promptly learned that the game 'Card Hunter', an online browser game mixing up Magic: The Gathering with old school Dungeons & Dragons had gone live. I've been following it half an eye through Facebook out of curiosity (and because game designer Richard Garfield probably is a little bit of a game design genius) and now all of a sudden I could just log on and get cracking. Needless to say, it's addictive. Dangerously so. Especially since it is browser-based and thus can be played from anywhere at any time (although it disconnects quite frequently over the last twenty four hours or so I've been spinning it). "Why are you playing a game from the eighties?" the Lady Slynt commented when she saw what I was secretly doing instead of paying bills (which was my excuse for slipping away). Yeah, it doesn't look like much, really, but the combination of RPG nerd humor and playing cards and continual progression is insidious and must have been designed specifically to keep me even more away from everything. And with that, I'm going to try and give the damn game a rest so I can actually finish this post. Seriously though, this is one of those games where you just take one.more.turn. Fortunately it is also of the kind that I hopefully grow tired of real soon, but it does scratch that itch for now. And now, Sansa III! For real.

The Magic-y part.
Edit: One hour later and I am still holding off writing this post because you know. DAMMIT! ... but now, yes now I shall be a responsible adult and not let myself be distracted by such...distractions. Let's put on a good underground metal album, let's say Sarc√≥fago's 'I.N.R.I.', a real classic to some and disturbing noisy filth to others, and get cracking on that (bitter)sweet Sansa-chapter. Edit 2: Half an hour later. I just had to do the next map. How can I let myself be fooled like this? Argh! But the kobolds, they needed punishing. All right, here we go. I hope Mr. Martin shies away from stuff like this. Edit 3: And again (sigh). But now I x-ed out the screen. This is not good. I am an adult. I'm better than this. Or so I tell myself.

SOOOOO, Sansa Stark. Whenever I think of this character I begin to wonder about her future in the books. There are several possibilities, and all of them could theoretically be her arc. There's the notion that Sansa will become a good ruler, having learned from those who can't really rule (Cersei Lannister, Joffrey Baratheon); there's the possibility that she will up-scheme Littlefinger himself and become a master player of the game of thrones in her own right (though I can't see how Martin can pull it off in only two more books); then there's the idea that (and this one I don't see as often) Sansa Stark will die before it's all over, because the death of her direwolf Lady kind of suggests it. In this case, I can foresee Sansa sacrificing herself for a greater good (maybe?) or die at the hands of her sister Arya, come to assassinate the manipulator that Sansa has become (so kind of mixing in idea 2 as well). In addition, the books suggest the possibility that there is an arc involving the Hound, Sandor Clegane, and her, but maybe Martin just wanted us to see Sandor liking the little bird and there is nothing more to it - a thought that has me wondering if the entire finished saga will stand up just as well as the first three books did, three books full of possibilities for future plot lines that may never come to fruition. And there are possibly more suggestions as to what Sansa's future holds, beyond the fact that she loses her naivety and learns politics. It is almost infuriating - for thirteen years I've been wondering about this plotline and how it can be resolved in a satisfying way but never getting anywhere (well, yes, we saw Sansa in A Dance with Dragons and those chapters kind of supported the idea that she's going to be a player but there is still much unresolved). Maybe I care too much. I probably do. Her story so far has been pretty interesting and I love the character growth she's been through, witnessing so many of the major events of Westeros. Secretly I wish she was still in King's Landing, where her story was the most interesting, but that's a matter of taste. I hope the recently announced paperback of A Dance with Dragons with a new preview chapter actually delivers a Sansa chapter (as opposed to what I expect we'll get, a chapter we've read before or heard about before from some con). By the way I believe Mr. Martin is forgetting half his fan base with his announcement for surely I have seen ADWD paperbacks in the stores here for the longest time? Different publisher, I suppose, in the UK, but still - a bit sloppy there. I realize I'm still not actually writing about Sansa III. Palm meet face. Here we go. For really reals.


Right from the get go, we're inside Sansa's head; Martin is oh so good at writing from his characters' points of view, and giving them different voices. It's the morning her new gown is to be ready - immediately we know we are reading Sansa because of her focus on the gown, she is still somewhat of a materialist isn't she - and the entire first paragraph describes how Sansa is being treated like a princess; for once, she is getting what she dreamed of (and of course, an excellent opportunity for the author to mention nipples). However, there is no mention of Sansa enjoying this luxurious treatment; it is described in a somewhat detached state, as if she's just going through the motions - which she of course is.

Cersei arrives with a seamstress, and the Queen Regent watches as Sansa is dressed up; again, Martin takes the time to "be" Sansa in that she observes the details of the gown. Very in character, but possibly a bit longish; at the same time, the full description of the gown with all its ivory and cloth-of-silver and satin and dagged sleeves and slashed bodice and tight waist gives us a great impression of medieval gowns, which Martin has some knowledge of (based on this description, anyway). The seamstress at last tells her she is very beautiful, and Sansa, in a moment that comes as a little bit of a surprise when she suddenly has an emotional burst, giggles and agrees that, yes, she is beautiful. She thinks of Willas Tyrell and it seems then that from this passage, she has begun to come to terms with the fate chosen for her. Cersei is more critical, wanting more moonstones. Once the stones are hanging from her ears and about her neck, Cersei too admits that Sansa Stark is indeed beautiful - "it seems almost obscene to squander such sweet innocence on that gargoyle." Well, thank you, sister-in-law-to-be. Sansa doesn't understand, wonders if Cersei knows about the Tyrell plot, and if I were her, I would like, say, "Stop and a half, what are you talking about?" but Cersei ignores her and brings forth a cloak with a direwolf embroidered upon it. "Your father's colors," Cersei says, taking on the role of Captain Obvious there for a moment, and in that very same moment of obviousness it all becomes obvious to Sansa: she is not marrying Willas Tyrell. Cersei tells her the wedding guests and the septon are already waiting, so there is barely time to absorb the shock. And as a reader, wow! I just love this turnaround. So how could a cloak make her realize what is going on, and not the fact that Cersei tells her she's marrying a "gargoyle"? Well, as I read it, the cloak symbolizes her father's colors, and the Lannisters want dominion over the North, and this is what Sansa realizes. I may be dim and I may not be a native English-speaker but I find this bit confusing (probably not as much as Sansa though). And I wish all these small scenes building up to her marriage were intact in the TV series. But wishing it doesn't make it come true, as we all know, so I'll let that one lie. And then Cersei's cold attempt at sympathy, such a brilliant bit of dialogue totally showcasing her personality: "I understand your reluctance. Cry if you must. In your place, I would likely rip my hair out. He's a loathsome little imp, no doubt of it, but marry him you shall."

Outside the chamber, Ser Meryn Trant and Ser Osmund Kettleblack are waiting to escort her to the sept;"I'm your father today." Sometimes when you read this stuff you just feel the need to go online and find that animated gif where Joffrey is repeatedly slapped. Not that I actually believe slapping him stupid(er) would be the most effective method for changing his outlook on life. No sirree, I am not of the old guard.
Sansa tries to run, but is caught immediately. Martin slips in a little characterization of Osmund, showing him to be gentler and more sympathetic than Meryn (by a long shot). She remembers when another kingsguard, Ser Boros, had torn her clothes off - quite humiliating; she listens to Osmund telling her that "wolves are supposed to be brave", and decides to be just that. She decides that Osmund isn't as bad as the rest of them; in hindsight, an obvious first impression of a character to become more important later in the story. Her steps toward the sept become a blur; but everything is thrown back into sharp focus when Joffrey awaits her on the steps of the sept, greeting her with a, I assume, triumphant-sounding

Sansa spits back that he isn't and will never be; Joffrey becomes angry and tells her he can choose anyone for her, suggesting Ser Ilyn Payne. Before the situation can escalate, Tyrion Lannister appears. Those moments when POV characters are "visiting" other POV characters' chapters - they are precious to me. They are few and far between. They allow you to see certain main characters from a completely different perspective, thus "building" them differently if you know what I mean. I wouldn't mind more of these dare I call them "cross-over chapters", if only because the story's become to spread out and people that are great fun to read about when they are together...kind of aren't together that much anymore.

Once again, through Sansa's point of view, Martin chooses to focus on clothing; it feels almost as if Sansa is bending down to properly study Tyrion's attire; "Tyrion wore a doublet of black velvet covered with golden scrollwork, thigh-high boots that added three inches to his height (kind of funny), a chain of rubies and lions' heads. Rubies? A very subtle link to Rhaegar Targaryen? Who knows? He tells her what we know she already knows - that she's beautiful - and she tells him that was nicely said, lowering her gaze and holding her tongue so as to not say anything insulting. Tyrion immediately begins to apologize for the manner of her being sent here in haste and secrecy, blaming his father who wants it this way, for "reasons of state" (I believe it). Then, he begins to blunder as he offers her to marry Lancel instead which I suppose any girl would have gladly accepted instead, but she just wants to say that she doesn't want a Lannister; in her mind, she has already begun to romanticize the possible relationship to Willas, much like she used to dream about knights way back in A Game of Thrones. Seems to me she needs a few more setbacks before she finally learns to stop with these wishful dreams, eh? Marrying Tyrion should be a good first setback in her development in that regard. She does realize that she is a pawn in the political game, and an important one at that, what with her having a claim on the entire North. Sansa also admits that she remembers that Tyrion has been kind to her, which may be an admission that she realizes the Imp isn't as bad as certain other members of House Lannister.

This is not an action figure, Google Search!
So she put her hand in his, and he led her to the marriage altar, and they lived happily ever after. We're given a list of witnesses, which could come in handy at a later time; Dontos is there, Ser Balon Swann and brute Ser Boros Blount; she notes that there are no Tyrells around (surprise!); Varys is present (with the exception of his genitals obviously - ooh that was low), Ser Addam Marbrand, Lord Philip Foote, Ser Bronn, Jalabhar Xho (who is always present it seems - is there something more to him? IS there? Who knows? Is he the entire saga's narrator?); Lord Gyles is coughing (as he always does, I believe in fact there's something called Lord Gyles' Coughing™ that you can buy along with a book collecting Tyrion's dialogue, Kickstarter-funded dragon coins and Game of Thrones ale - where are my action figures dammit). Anyway, I do not begrudge Mr. Martin his franchise branching out into various licenses, just to make that clear - I am more worried about the kind of companies buying the licenses (see: awful computer games) and the kind of products being released (for some people, obviously, the dragon coins are great - I mean, look at all those backers). If I could produce something related to Ice & Fire with Mr. Martin's blessing, I'd go for a computer adaptation of Fantasy Flight Games' A Game of Thrones Board Game, allowing fans from across the world to play the game online. Possibly with a discount for losers like myself who own the game but have no friends. Battles of Westeros and A Game of Thrones: The Card Game are likewise already existing brilliant games that could work just as well in digital formats. These things are actually good. And, of course, I would like action figures to liven up the shelves. So there is good stuff out there (the first art book was a treat, as well), but there is also so much useless stuff (again, depending on your point of view). Speaking of points of view, let's get back to Sansa about to be speed-married into House Lannister.

Where was I? Ah, in the sept. We were going through the witness list. I kind of stopped when Lord Gyles coughed, such a distracting mannerism for a character to have. Lady Ermesande is present and correct at a breast, and Lady Tanda's pregnant daughter is sobbing "for no apparent reason". No apparent reason for you, Sansa. Nobody sobs for no apparent reason (which you should know a little something about). The ceremony then, passes as in a dream, and Sansa just follows along as if drifting on a current (though nightmare could be a more suitable word?). She cries. Time flies too fast for her. Time tends to do that when you either are having fun or are really not looking forward to something. Time is cruel. Time, in fact, could very well be the root of all evil that we're always looking for. Anyway, there she is, and it is time for the ceremonial changing of the cloaks, the moment that in importance can be compared to slipping the wedding ring on your future partner's finger. A moment where everybody in the hall holds their breath and watches, witnesses.

Joffrey is Lord Eddard Stark's stand-in and you could of course not ask for a worse replacement for herfeel what Sansa feels without ever stating straight out what is going on inside her head. It's fantastic. And just to pile a little bit more nasty on the nasty, Martin has Joffrey brush one of Sansa's breasts and lingers there to squeeze it when he takes off her cloak. [Chandler] Can you be a bigger dick? [/Chandler]
father. Sansa is rigid, and Martin is great at freezing this moment and let us
Nobody seems to notice this little insolent harassment, though. It's worse for Tyrion Lannister (from a PR point of view). He's holding the bride's cloak and it is huge and heavy, and there is no stool for him to stand on, and he has to tug Sansa's skirt to get her to notice she has to kneel down. She blushes, is mortified folks - that is, if I understand correctly, a particularly heavy bout of embarrassment - and it all comes down to her hopes being crushed again: It was not supposed to be this way. She had dreamed of her wedding a thousand times, and always she had pictured how her betrothed would stand behind her tall and strong, sweep the cloak of protection over her shoulders, and tenderly kiss her cheek as he leaned forward to fasten the clasp.
Yes, Sansa, you live in a world and society where you as a woman have no say over, well, most matters. In fact, it has been this way for the longest time in the real world, far beyond the Dark Ages. In fact, many women live under this oppression still. Did no one know tell her how things work in Westeros? Or did her dreams overshadow reality? She must always have known that she would not be able to decide whom to marry. So her dreams, then. Utterly annihilated here, in the sept, while Lord Gyles is coughing and Joffrey is squeezing one of her titties. Yet I can't get over the feeling that Sansa seems so woefully unprepared for this; surely she must have been told all her life that she would marry for politics, not for love? Still, I'm not let such a great chapter as this be ruined by my ruminations. ¨
Tyrion is insistent, tugging her skirt twice more, and she just really doesn't want to kneel down, pride and all that, and this is like the last straw for her, her last chance at defiance. People begin to laugh because they've noticed. Joffrey commands Ser Dontos to get down on his hands and knees so Tyrion can climb up to reach Sansa's shoulders.
And so it was that her lord husband cloaked her in the colors of House Lannister whilst standing on the back of a fool.
This is just insanely epic in all its humiliating aspects. A wedding people will talk about for the longest time. A sequence ripe to be adapted for puppet plays at fairs all over Westeros. By the way, I love the concept of "the changing of the cloaks", how real it feels and how it suits a wedding so well symbolically. A bonus point there for Mr. Martin. While she struggles to hold back her tears, the septon proclaim them husband and wife forever. One of the most poignant scenes in the series for me, has come to an end. To have followed Sansa through all her travails only to arrive at this forced wedding...it's breath-taking, and certainly something else than ye standard old fantasy fare. HBO made a huge mistake when they had Sansa kneel, by the way. It is such a vital part of her arc that she is defiant here. Well, I think so, anyway.

The feast that follows is held in the Small Hall with fifty guests, mostly Lannister allies and retainers; but here, Sansa also finds the Tyrells. Margaery  gives her a sad look (thanks sister that makes me feel better) and the Queen of Thorns doesn't look at her at all. Same goes for Elinor, Alla and Megga (why did he have to call her "Megga"? Means "that bitch" in Norwegian and therefore distracteth me).

Tyrion drinks heavily and eats little (this part HBO captured pretty well though); time is cruel once more, this time stretching and stretching into infinity (almost), and Sansa is really not looking forward to the bedding to come and Martin spends a full paragraph on Sansa dreading this particular part of the wedding, thereby preparing his readers either for a surprise or a confirmation of her fears. She asks Tyrion for a dance, but he fears that will only lead to more humilation; instead she watches Joffrey and Margaery dance. Again she thinks of her dreams, and wonders how such a monster can dance like that. Well Sansa I don't know but could it be about time you learned not to judge people by their appearance? Just a suggestion, little lady. Watching Cersei charming the guests, Sansa thinks that she hates her. Let's hope that's a subtle foreshadowing. I would very much like for Sansa to be the one to give Cersei her comeuppance, though the story so far suggests we won't get that particular satisfaction.

Sansa ends up dancing, after all - with Ser Garlan Tyrell, brother of Willas and Loras. Dancing with him makes her smile and, for a moment she forgets the terrible situation she's in. It is satisfying to hear Garlan tell Sansa that the Imp might just be a great man after all, on behalf of Tyrion I am having the feels right here. Is he trying to give her hope? Just being, you know, Garlan the Gallant? Or is he trying to tell her that there's no need to go after Loras because Loras likes men? A little confusing, the Tyrells always seem to be. Their motives, always unclear. Why like Yoda do I write now?

Tommen gets a quick but fun cameo, telling Sansa as they dance that he wants to be married too, after all he is already taller than his uncle. The dance brings her face to face with Joffrey which kind of dampens her spirit a little bit. About time, she was being happy for at least a full page there. He tells her that even though he is marrying Margaery Tyrell, he is going to have whores - and Sansa. It is, after all, good to be king. When the dance is over, Joffrey shouts for bedding time (of course in a most rude and heartless manner). Tyrion refuses, slams a dagger down in the table, and threatens Joffrey. Not a smart move, politically, of course, but again, it's always satisfying when someone stands up to the boy king. Fortunately Lord Tywin is at hand to make sure it doesn't devolve into kin-slaying. But this is an important part of the chapter as it sets up Tyrion's inevitable fall. But can you imagine the humilation Tyrion feels when he has to apologize to Joffrey and, perhaps unnecessary, tells him that "(...)I envied your royal manhood. Mine own is so small and stunted." At this, Osmund laughs - showing us a different side of the man who Sansa first regarded as nice - but Tywin isn't laughing, nor is Joffrey: it's a tense, awkward moment (this is Ice and Fire after all), broken when Tyrion decides to play along. He takes Sansa by the hand and tells her its time to play 'come-into-the-castle'. I see what you did there, George.

Together they leave the Small Hall, Sansa red-faced. Fortunately no one follows. They have an airy bedchamber high in the Tower of the Hand. Once there, Tyrion asks for wine. He tells her that he is not truly drunk but now he intends to become drunk. Sansa fills their goblets, thinking that it will be easier for her as well if she drinks (thinking that he's going to drink himself courageous for the bedding act I suppose). Nervously, she asks if she should take off her clothes. Tyrion tells her to call him Tyrion, and then goes on to talk about his first wedding to Tysha. It gives us a little more description of that particular backstory (pigs as witnesses) before Tyrion asks Sansa how old she is. "Thirteen," she replies and I cringe - man, that TV series sure makes it hard to remember how fricking young these characters are in the books. Actually, she is twelve yet. "Well, talk won't make you any older," Tyrion quips casually and after a little bickering he tells her to indeed get out of her clothes. Hands trembling, she begins to undress. In painstaking description, to augment the effect on the reader - how Sansa dreads this moment, and each and every little moment stretches out. Martin is so good at this.

Once done, Tyrion simply states, "You're a child." Kind of surprising, isn't it when she just told you she's twelve. I suppose he means "You do not have a woman's body." He admits that he wants her, and oh boy is Mr. Martin treading on dangerous, dare I say taboo, ground here.. Seems Tyrion has some hope of getting laid here, telling her that in the dark she doesn't see how ugly and malformed he is, that he can be a Ser Loras in the dark, and he tries to convince her that he has good qualities as well, and Sansa realizes through all this that Tyrion too is...afraid. All she felt was pity, and pity was death to desire. Thought very few twelve year old girls, I believe. She stands there trembling, unable to comply with his desires. He orders her to come into bed, she does as he tells her. He puts a hand on her breast, and she shudders. She wonders what will happen next. But nothing happens; he has moved away from her, though she makes note of a "man's staff poking up stiff and hard from a thicket of coarse yellow hair" (and the only thing about him that was straight). So Tyrion is definitely feeling sexual desire for Sansa Stark (12), but he doesn't want to do it; his body betrays him, but his mind wins this battle. For now! He does say that he can wait, implying that there will come a time when she does have to spread her legs for him. It seems, at least from Sansa's view, that Tyrion is confident, or delusional if you will, that they will have sex and lots of it when she's just been given time enough. Until...

"On my honor as a Lannister," the Imp said, "I will not touch you until you want me to."
"And if I never want you to, my lord?"

And he reacts like he's been slapped, in other ways, it surprises him that she says this. He's always throwing coin at the ladies so no wonder it comes as a bit of a shock that somebody doesn't want him. Tyrion does in fact show here how delusional he actually is about himself. The chapter ends with him concluding that, well, then he'll just continue whoring. Quite the view on life, if I may say so! Are we men nothing but sex-starved? One can wonder after debating this very topic with various men of Westeros. Tyrion, at least, likes to sex it up, the Seven bless him for all his flaws. What a character. He does kind of blot out Sansa here toward the last paragraphs of the chapter, doesn't he? I like how strong Sansa remains before him, though; I like how the chapter flits between her being anxious, defiant, uncertain, then certain. One of those atypical chapters (considering it's billed as fantasy) that could have been part of a historical novel, where the medieval aspect of the series is dominant - by the way, now that I think about it, and I am going to keep this brief because my fingers hurt from all the writing and I am facing an up-mountain bike ride in rain right now, but one could argue that the whole thing with women being oppressed/suppressed/having no say is based on a variety of religions which support the notion - I mean, from the get-go you have Eve being subservient to Adam and made for him - and, well, maybe we just know to little of Westerosi religions so far, but I am wondering where Westeros' anti-feminism is coming from if you catch my drift? How could Westeros become such a medieval setting reminiscent of medieval England? Maybe I am just overthinking things again. Note to self. This is just someone's story. This is just someone's story. This is just someone's pretty awesome story.

Next time: Sister Arya!

Bonus points if you catch the meaning of today's post title.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Is winter coming?

Time for a little plug for Is Winter Coming?, the best Ice & Fire (and everything else under the sun) community on the Internet. 

With a new and improved interface as of today, Is Winter Coming? remains a "free place" for fans of the series who like to participate in free discussions not heavily moderated; certain sections are quite heavy on what some may call "hate", but mostly the forum is a place of much revelry (by "hate" I mean unmoderated critical and honest opinions about George R.R. Martin, his work ethics, and his books). Come over and have a look!

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Rise of the Fall

Yay, it's that time of the year again. I'm saying yay but a small part of me does not relish the fact that summer is over and that we're facing autumn - and then winter, which is icy cold and rather heavy with snow in these parts of the world. Luckily I have invested in a so-called sun lamp, because seriously, it gets dark here in the north! Anyway, the yay part is that with the fall, there's bound to be geek goodies coming our way. Not that I need more, obviously. 

This year seems to be a little more "quiet" than usual - the last few times I made a post like this, I had a lot to look forward to; this year, not that much. Which is a good thing, actually, because one day enough has to be enough. 

Still, here are a few items of interest that are supposed to be released between now and Christmas, that I keep one geeky eye on (I'm more curious than desperately anticipating, though). I know that a few of these items are already available, but I'm slow. 

In the world of RPGs, I'm curious about Murder in Baldur's Gate (yes, the Forgotten Realms city that gave its name to the two greatest computer RPGs ever), which is both an adventure and a setting rolled into one, using the rules for the fifth edition of Dungeons & Dragons (and also earlier edition rules); I am excited about this because I'm still on a Realms binge, but also because production values seem very high, with some very promising teaser material available online. Just look at this fantastic view of Baldur's Gate:

Beautiful, isn't it? I've always loved fantasy maps, and this one finally shows the city as it is supposed to be, including the Wyvern Bridge across the Chionthar River, for the first time. It looks to me like a nice book to read even if I'm not interested in the new rules. On a related note, I've well and truly gotten rid of my Magic: The Gathering (also from Wizards of the Coast) addiction, so this year I'm not looking forward to any expansion from that neighborhood. And I'm glad, because there isn't a bigger money-sink in the history of geekdom. Fun game, yes, but I'm totally unhappy having spent so much hard coin on the online iteration of the game. I shiver and am ashamed.
As to other RPGs, I haven't been paying attention. I did buy The One Ring and the "beta" release of Star Wars: Edge of the Empire but they are just gathering dust on the shelf. What's the point anyway, it's not like I have a group to play with.

In the world of fantasy literature, I really haven't been paying attention to new releases. I have no idea if there's anything cool coming up. I know my favorites aren't releasing anything (Erikson, Martin, Abercrombie, Rothfuss), and I haven't noticed any buzz around new authors coming with something this fall - but then I haven't been following fantasy literature blogs for a good while. 

Then there is the world of video games. There is Baldur's Gate 2: Enhanced Edition, but I still have to get through the first one. There is The Elder Scrolls Online, but I'm not really feeling it. Legend of Grimrock 2 is an obvious candidate for 'most exciting' but I don't think it's coming this side of New Year's Eve. Rumors have it that Dragon Age: Inquisition will be good, but again, whatever. I did download the pre-order edition of Might & Magic X: Legacy, which could be right up my alley what with its tile-based movement and stuff, but my computer isn't really up for it so I'll be saving this game for when and if I finally get myself a new gaming rig. 

So, nothing to shake the foundations of my senses, then. But now that I've written this I feel the need to go check out if there are some great new fantasy novels brewing. 

I'm still reading Wolf Hall, a few pages every night - very well written book mostly (but I think I would have been lost if I hadn't seen The Tudors), and The Crusades: The Authoritative History of the War for the Holy Land, and as a guilty pleasure the last week I've been leveling a character in Dungeons & Dragons Online, which absolutely isn't a bad game considering it's free to download and play. Also, it features lots of fun dungeons that don't take too long, which suits a casual like myself just fine. Another guilty pleasure remains Forgotten Realms RPG source books which I read on and off when I need a quick fantasy fix; and I run two play-by-post games so I do kind of get my role playing fix as well. 

Lots of new blog posts from George R.R. Martin, though! Let's see. He finally got his Hugo. Not for a novel (which the first three Ice & Fire books no doubt deserve), but still. Finally. A new interview which doesn't bring us anything new. Mr. Potatohead. Podcasters honored (well deserved though guys!). Michael Chabon. Who?!

But most important of all (fanfare!) - here we have something to anticipate, something to make this fall just as spectacularly geeky as previous falls. Perhaps the best to come out of Martin's many licensing deals. A triumph of merchandising. There is nothing I would rather have. 

Words fail me. 

At least he's back home, now let's hope he gets creative and productive. These years after A Dance with Dragons begin to take on a feel eerily similar to the Long Waits for books four and five. So far, there is no indication that Winds will take just as long (which means we could be reading it in 2015 at the earliest; oh well won't that be a great year for me with a new Star Wars film as well). 

And now to do a dungeon before sleepy.

Monday, September 9, 2013

[Re-read] Daenerys III, Part II: Daenerys Rides to Town!

Scientists, make this exist pls.
I'm terribly sorry about breaking up my re-read posts in parts; I try to avoid it whenever I can, but sometimes I just run out of time while doing them and instead of letting the text simmer in limbo while I can get back to it, I feel it's better to publish some of it. And some chapters just require more words, it seems. So here we are, still reading Daenerys III, a great chapter with lots of stuff going on. You can find the first part by clicking right here. I wrote it last Friday. And now it's Monday. How I wish it was Friday still, with the weekend still ahead of us with all the freedom it implies! I actually went out and bought myself a good terrain bike on Saturday. I need to get some fat trimmed off the old corpse. Really I do. Living halfway up a mountain should help if I have to ride it up instead of lazily driving the car. I tried on Saturday. I took the bike from the store and went uphill. I have never sweated so much or breathed so hard. Well maybe I have but I can't remember. The only problem with my decision to become more physically active is that it of course will chew off more geek time, but the solution seems to be to exercise during the day, because for some reason lady Slynt thinks it's all right if I go out to become fitter, but not drool at my female characters in various video games in front of the screen. That's for the night! And she's probably right. If you see no more posts on the blog, you can assume I started out too hard on myself and I'm lying in a ditch with a crumpled bike. Anyway. Back to Daenerys. I could bring along audio books, of course, while I'm out beneath the sky of reality. Audio books featuring fantastical tales of the imagination, keeping me going. I have to consider that, obviously. Must. not. give. in. Must. live. the. fantasy. Lovely lovely fantasy. And I'm still pondering Quaithe of the Shadow, by the way. Such a random and actually annoying character! Well, the character isn't annoying, but her timely appearances/disappearances, geez, she's kind of an obvious plot device isnt' she, so in a sense she weakens an otherwise strong story arc. Weak, is the word, I suppose. The way she just was in Dany's cabin last Friday...it doesn't ring true, somehow, not in a world so grounded in a realistic feeling. She'd be more at home in, say, The Sword of Shanarra or whatever (sorry Quaithe fans).

So it's the morning after Quaithe's sudden night-time vision (was it a dream? That's what she tells her handmaidens, but the text doesn't really make it clear if Dany thinks so; knowing she will remember Quaithe's words for a good long time, reiterating them even, I'd say we are supposed to think Dany treats it as a real visit from the woman in the lacquer mask and not some dream). 

Awesome shot from the TV show.
Daenerys finds herself entering Astapor through the harbor gates (very subtle innuendo there, Mr. Martin); she thinks of how small her entourage is (a Freudian slip, there, Mr. Martin?); we get a description of what she wears which kind of sets everything up - instead of going for the Qartheen traditional gown of one-boob-loose, she looks like the plains heroine; clad in horsehair paints and painted leather vest; her breasts are mentioned, no worries, but Martin is giving us an entirely different image of Dany here; by dressing her up like this, Martin allows us to inhale her confidence (instead of spelling it out for us). It's another hint that the girl has a plan, folks. I like how Martin handles it like this. 
People are crowding around her, wanting to see a glimpse of her dragons - and again Martin invokes, whether consciously or not, a Messianic aura. She's put the dragons on display, so she is a crowd pleaser as well. Martin spends a couple of paragraphs giving us a good description of Dany's procession so that we may soak in the "visuals", with the dragons sensing something is going on, how Aggo rides first with his great bow, the rest of her people following behind. She thinks of having a banner sewn featuring the three-headed red dragon of House Targaryen; this is mentioned in the same breath as "tattered band" and "the river's banks" which makes me think of a certain tattered band on a certain river in A Dance with Dragons (these lines here remind of Young Griff, to make myself more clear; whether there's anything to it - I wouldn't know). 

There are more descriptions as Martin stalls the chapter's conclusion. The Unsullied have been gathered in the Plaza of Punishment (sounds like a nice place - and indeed it is, as Missandei explains how this is where slaves are racked, flayed, and hanged within sight of Astapor's main gate, so that new slaves entering the city will see this first). It is quite disgusting really, when Dany sees how the slaves have been peeled, flies crawling all over their exposed flesh. 

Kraznys and his cohorts await her; Ser Jorah "barks" a command and the trade goods are brought forward Six bales of tiger skins, three hundred bolts of fine silk. Jars of saffron, jars of myrrh, jars of pepper and curry and cardamom, an onyx mask, twelve jade monkeys (reminding me of Mr. Burns every time), casks of ink in red and black and green, a box of rare black amethysts, a box of pearls, a cask of pitted olives stuffed with maggots, a dozen casks of pickled cave fish, a great brass gong and a hammer to beat it with, seventeen ivory eyes, and a huge chest full of books written in tongues that Dany could not read." See, this is one of the very few things that irks me with Martin. Sometimes he just goes overboard with detail not necessary to the plot's thrust. It gets worse later in the series, but here we have an early example. Now, you could argue that such a "laundry list" gives the reader insight into the setting, and it does. I'm just not sure when too much is too much. In this particular case, I think he could at least roll the pepper and curry and cardamom and saffron into "expensive spices" or whatever to trim it down a bit. At last we get to the one thing the reader and Kraznys are really interested in - Drogon the Dragon. Dany gives him the beast's chain, and he gives her the whip, named The harpy's fingers. Wicked name for a wicked weapon. The deal, folks, is done! And everyone not holding their breath for a moment to feel the gravity of Dany's situation read on, wondering what will happen next. And I'm sure many just can't believe Dany is giving away her best dragon. And thus expect a twist. And here it comes.
(in detail, I might add:

It's an epic moment, for sure. It was captured very well in Game of Thrones. It wasn't entirely the same, but the essence surely was. Probably my favorite moment in the TV series, while it never was in the books. Has this changed now? Nah, I actually find the TV version more satisfying. It gets the point across better, perhaps, I don't know. Still, it's great as written as well, no mistake. First there is the satisfaction of Kraznys realizing she has understood every hateful word he's uttered; I also love how she gets up in her stirrups to shout-speech at the Unsullied, William Wallace-style. 

And how satisfying is this? "He will not come," Kraznys said. "There is a reason. A dragon is no slave." And Dany swept the lash down as hard as she could across the slaver's face.

Say Martin's world is grim and dark and bereft of hope, but also recognize how great those small moments of triumph become. Witness! 

Drogon spreads his wings and roars, then fries Kraznys in the face, eyes melting and running down his cheeks for added visual connection; this is followed by blood and chaos and Martin can once again relish in a variety of ways to be hurt; obviously he can show us a little more than the TV show did (and they also have to try and keep the gratuitous violence to a certain minimum I suspect) - hands are hacked off, flesh burns, arrows penetrate bodies, blood pooling on the bricks and so on and so forth; more satisfaction as the Good Masters order the Unsullied to defend them against Daenerys and Drogon, and they do not move. Instead, they shout "Dracarys!" and join the fray on the side of the Mother of Dragons. However, Martin is actually quite quick to cut the chapter here, and the slaughter in the Plaza of Punishment (and now you realize just how ironic that name becomes) is over before you get a thorough look - just like they did it on the show. And why not? He ends it on a high, instead of descending into the barbarism that ensues. The chapter ends in triumph, one of the few in the series, no need for excoriating abdominal emanations, crepitating bowel erosions, or purulent ruptures for that matter. He doesn't even show us Ser Jorah Mormont swinging his sword - it's just not needed; but one could argue that we really see this from the victor's point of view only; that this is the history of Daenerys who wins on this day. But that's a matter of ethics and I feel decidedly unethical today and will leave it at that. 

Is it wrong of me to want french fries now? (Yes.)
I think the producers at HBO did a magnificent job with this chapter for their adaptation. It was pretty close to the text, closer than I initially thought. If all their arcs were as close to the source material as Daenerys' I suspect we might have had an even better show. Still, looking forward to season four. News is pouring in on the shooting over at Winter is Coming. The latest news being that the character Tycho Nestoris has been cast. He's not in the books until A Dance with Dragons, so it looks like they'll have him enter the story at a much earlier point. And it might mean that Tycho is an important character in The Winds of Winter. Can't say he's all that memorable to me, but then I haven't read book five more than once properly (and re-reading chapters on and off after that).

Next up, an entirely different kind of girl, Sansa Stark. A contrast, or a different shade of power? We'll see.
Until then, may the week provide you with a bountiful harvest and little to no dragonfire. 

Friday, September 6, 2013

[Re-read] Daenerys III, Part I: A World to Cross and Wars to Fight

Woo, it's Friday! Again! They just keep on coming, once a week. Since last Friday when I wrote about Jon Dungeons & Dragons Online for my never-sated need for RPG action/adventure. I've tried to get into it several times before, but it hasn't convinced me. This time I decided to go into it with some dedication, not letting myself be distracted by the ugly and clunky interface, the long reams of dry information texts, and the serviceable graphics. I needed adventure! And this time it worked a little better, once I bothered to learn the rules specific to this video game, and as such I got stuff done and, for the first time, got far enough to advance a level (in the same time I'd have leveled a World of Warcraft-character to tenth level). So I might just go back this weekend to look around a little more. I have given up on Neverwinter, and while I had a long period where I re-enjoyed Skyrim, that game too has now fallen by the wayside again, and perhaps I'll pick it up again at some point. Few games today are so enthralling that they keep me glued; I get bored with them rather quickly I suppose but then of course as a family man you can't sit for very long with a game before you have to do something else, and that's the real trick I suppose. When you have to stop frequently, the games don't keep you in their spell the way they do when you're playing hardcore and the video game world becomes more important than the real one. 
and Ygritte's explorations of the, er, unknown, I have been able to put in a little geekery here and there to sustain the quality of life, balancing it carefully with the demands of family and work (and a good night's sleep). I've tried out
In the world of literature I am currently reading two books, one made of dead trees (that would be Wolf Hall about Thomas Cromwell of medieval fame) and one using the Kindle application (that would be The Crusades, a history book written by Tomas Asbridge, but very fascinating and not dry at all - The Authoritative History of the War for the Holy Land) - and, for the usefulness of this blog, I have delved into the next Daenerys chapter of A Storm of Swords, which I shall be presenting right below this very long digressive paragraph of introductory doom.
More geekery? Mmm, got two new Forgotten Realms sourcebooks in the mail yesterday. One of them, The Moonsea, I already have on my shelf but missing the cover and the pages have been assaulted by mould, so I felt like I had to replace it with a fresh copy; the other is a short module, the second of a trilogy, The Secret of Spiderhaunt, so now the trilogy is complete in the shelf. I am still missing about twenty or so Realms source books, but the hunt continues, mainly on eBay. The novels may be made out of crap, the source books are genuine pleasures to read. Oh, and I couldn't help myself. I've always been a little curious about those D&D Miniatures Games miniatures, you know, pre-painted and ready to use in a game, so I bought a few boxes of these out-of-print things. Felt the immediate sense of "must have more" that you get with collectible card games (well I get that feeling) when you get a rare creature 1!!11!!!! and you want moar! /Shrug (kind of weird I never fell for Dark Sword Miniatures' Ice and Fire trap) I am such a child. Let's read about Daenerys. Now not just a geek's heroine, but the heroine of the people!

I really can't imagine Daenerys more the way I used to see her in my mind's eye - she had a sharper face and smaller eyes back then - but now when I open the book, all I see is Emilia Clarke with the wig looking all innocent and beautiful. She is softer in the show, I suppose, both her looks and her demeanor, but I think it works fine that way, too. The eye color being incorrect in the show doesn't bother me one fig, because the writers have reshaped Daenerys Stormborn into a real TV heroine. Of the people. No, not heroin for the people that would just create a very sad and isolated world where nobody would geek out on stuff anymore because they were too busy staring at the wall.

SO, Daenerys Stormborn, Mother of Three! Currently in the process of acquiring the so-called Unsullied, a process so excellently put to film by HBO, but even better on the written page as this post will hopefully demonstrate. Martin was really at the top of his game in A Storm of Swords, wasn't he? There is a world of difference between the writing here and the writing in the following books - I can't fathom anyone not seeing this (yet there are people who claim there is no difference; which astounds me - but I suppose that discussion can wait until I get to A Feast for Crows). 

This chapter begins with dialogue from someone who refers to herself as "worthless" (Missandei). I can only imagine what calling yourself worthless all the time does to your mental health and self-esteem. The opening lays bare two things: Daenerys has decided to buy all the Unsullied (because she has a gentle heart, I suppose..), and one of her breasts, Qartheen-style. It's a rather quirky fashion if you ask me. How many idiots would use the "She was asking for it?" excuse if women walked around with one bare breast to entice the manimals? It is also actually somewhat distracting from the text that Martin chooses to kind of 'zoom in' on Dany's breast if you know what I mean. Now I am thinking of breasts instead of immersing myself in the tale. I'm not a beast who can't keep his hands off women, but I'm still a man and breasts remain a distraction. One could argue of course that dressing up like this is something the men of Qarth wish, and that it is sexist in a way. Anyway, she's off for a meeting with the Good Masters of Astapor. Imagine going to an office meeting where all the women have one breast out. Mmmm. It could lead to less wars, I don't know. The simplest answer may be, though, that Martin is something of a breast fetishist. 

Kraznys, who never won an empathy contest in his life, is surprised when Daenerys wants to buy all the soldiers he has for sale. He confers with his fellows (who were not present in the TV adaptation, and good riddance - they do not serve the plot at all, and Kraznys is such an interestingly vile character that he outshines them anyway); they all look alike to Dany, fat and with broad noses, so yeah. There's some world building tucked in here too, where Martin explains that the fringe of a man's tokar proclaims his status; small nuggets that help build the setting. And these chunks of exposition are bite-sized, and as such do not interfere with the story at hand overmuch. So we have the Grazdans (apparently they all have the same name) discussing Dany's offer until Kraznys announces their decision. As one of the slave traders puts it, "better gold in my purse than in my future"; they will sell her the Unsullied (and deplete their "stores" so to speak). However, they want her to come back in a year so she can buy an additional two thousand (are there even puppies left in this land?!) However, Daenerys wishes to be in Westeros in a year (which is such an irony-laden and bold claim thirteen years after the book was published..). Dany offers to double the price, which makes one of them drool (almost). Kraznys thinks "the little whore" is a fool, which of course Dany understands. She's really playing him, game of thrones-style. Hey, she does have some political acumen. Where did that go? The Good Masters (what a pretentious title considering how disgusting these people are) don't think she has enough wealth for more than a thousand Unsullied, so they do not believe her when she wants to double the price; and so they begin discussing; her crown could buy her another thousand, perhaps (I had completely forgotten that she has a crown!), but the crown is not for sale. Martin gradually builds up the text so that the reader (I assume) comes to the realization that Daenerys is going to sell a dragon, which is quite a twist really when you consider it; Martin had me duped there for a moment or two. I honestly can't remember if I believed she could sell a dragon the first time I read it, but I think I was fooled. Maybe because Whitebeard protests? Gives it an air of credibility. 

The Good Masters want the biggest and healthiest of the dragons, which is the black Drogon. And so an agreement is made, to the shock of many dragon-fans reading it for the first time I suppose, and she is given Missandei as a gift as well so that she has a translator (extra touch of irony there since Dany understands everything well enough); Whitebeard is outraged as they leave the eight fat icky tradesmen. Martin forgets to mention how Dany's free breast flops in the wind as they leave, though. What?

In the Plaza of Pride, she turns on Whitebeard telling him to keep his mouth shut when she's doing the talking. Tell her anything when they are alone, yes - I find this a little strange since his protesting probably helped her more than it do harm, but from a story-writing perspective this of course adds to the reader's belief that Dany will sell a dragon. However, Whitebeard than lays it all out for us - "The Astapori have cheated you, Your Grace. A dragon is worth more than any army." A line that suggests that Dany is probably having a plan, after all. Also a nice way to remind us how important the dragons are. Dany turns to Missandei next, revealing her knowledge of High Valyrian which results in a stunned "Oh", which Dany at first takes to be the slave girl's name. She frees Missandei, but ends up as Dany's newest handmaid; we get to hear valar morghulis - all men must die,  and through Missandei Daenerys is able to learn just how miserably loyal the Unsullied are (well, she knew that, but Missandei confirms it). Missandei reveals to have had three brothers among the Unsullied. Don't know if that's important for later on, if so I have forgotten. Probably not, since the text suggests these brothers are dead.

A long (longer than usual?) and dark night follows, in which Dany feeds her dragons. She cries awhile, which is Martin trying to lull us into believing Drogon is going to be sold; it is not really resolved why she's crying, it seems to me that its just a release from pressure (of which she has some). She eventually ends up talking to Ser Jorah Mormont, remembering the girl Eroeh but really talking about destiny, and also suggesting that Daenerys feels the need to protect people from, well, other people. Finally she falls asleep, dreams she is Rhaegar mounted on a dragon, fighting against beings "armored all in ice" (in the dream she thinks they are King Robert's men, but we readers know what this is all about); quite a prophetic dream! The ice-armored soldiers melt in dragonfire, so one can say that here we have Martin telling us that the dragons will indeed roast the Others toward the end of the tale (kind of anti-climactic, so maybe he's just throwing us a red herring here). Still, there are more hints that the dragons will destroy the Others throughout the books, like dragonglass daggers. Can't really see another way out of the story; there will be a confrontation between the Others and the dragons, between ice and fire. This leads me to thinking, what if Jon Snow ends up fighting with the Others for some f**ked up reason? You know, to avoid the anticlimax of Dany arriving with three dragons, dragons roast Others, story over. 

She wakes up. Her handmaidens are sleeping. There is a voice, a woman's voice. It is Quaithe of the Shadow, suddenly appearing in the cabin (which is more than strange enough); did she influence Dany's dream as well? Anyway, we get one of the "classic" prophecies or jibbergigglebigs if you want: "Remember. To go north, you must journey south. To reach the west, you must go east. To go forward you must go back, and to touch the light you must pass beneath the shadow."
Yeah, thanks for not being cryptic at all, Quaithe. Very enlightening. Quaithe disappears before Dany can get some straight answers out of the woman, though, as all good characters of this kind do in fantasy novels. Frustrating. Still, we can guess at some of this with some certainty; "To reach the west, you must go east" suggests itself; Dany is already moving further and further east, and will eventually - if this theory holds up - end up on the western side of Westeros (the Iron Islands perhaps?) The light/shadow thing I suppose is that Dany has something to experience in Asshai. The rest? Not so sure. If I look back, I am lost. Maybe "to go forward, you must go back" means learn from the past in some sense? To get on with your invasion of Westeros, learn from how they did it the first time? Could be. With the three dragons and all. Get two more riders and then take Westeros like your ancestor did.

Who is Quaithe anyway dammit?!

Next post - hopefully before the weekend ends - Daenerys rides to town!