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 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. 

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