Thursday, February 27, 2014

[Re-read] Tyrion V: Darkly Awesome [Part I]

Wow, just wow! I definitely don't feel like I'm twenty anymore, after three full days of total partying and listening to the most ear-crushing metal bands available. This, followed by a surprise visit by family, has taken its toll on my geekery the last week or so; no gaming, no writing, and almost no reading - though I did find myself re-reading two chapters from A Dance with Dragons last night, which brought me right in the mood for another A Storm of Swords chapter!
While I was gone headbanging and drinking myself sillier than usual, there's been big news in the world of Ice & Fire - Martin has fed us, like the drooling dogs looking for a scrap from his table that we are, a whole new paragraph from an upcoming Tyrion chapter! I'm ecstatic. It is from his first or possibly second chapter, I suppose, when things are going down in Meereen. It features a dying man screaming for his mother, which I remember is a character we have already met before (at least, there's someone screaming for his mother in some other battle in the series). I wonder if Martin will use this battle to contrast Tyrion's first battle experience way back in A Game of Thrones when he was given the vanguard position with his Mountain clansmen. If Martin is still on top of his game, he will. All right, I admit it; though I am being sarcastic about being given a paragraph it does make me excited for The Winds of Winter all over again.
Last night's re-read chapters of Dance confirmed that I still don't like Tyrion's, but the Theon chapters are rather good, even though the constant Reek rhymes are getting on my nerve. Nerve rhymes with horse d'oeuvre. Yay!

Speaking of Tyrion Lannister, whom we also know and love as the Imp, here we have a chapter featuring just the short fellow, and if I'm not mistaken it is also the chapter that introduces us to Oberyn Martell, whom we also know of the Red Viper, and I remember vividly the first time this character was introduced and I was thinking, How does Martin come up with all these cool characters all the time?! Because Martell is a cool character; a short role, but shows a lot of coolness in the few scenes where he is present, much like Boba Fett became a fan favorite in the Star Wars series. Unfortunately later Martells introduced into the story don't reach the Viper to his knees when it comes to being a breath of cool, fresh air. Let's start at the beginning, and remember this is about Tyrion, not Oberyn. Though Oberyn tends to steal scenes, the sneaky viper that he is.

I love how this chapter opens with a "close up" (so to speak) of a horse whickering, and as a reader you have no idea where this horse is or whatever, and then Martin 'zooms out' so that we get the full picture. Almost like how they did it in old movies, know what I mean? So as the camera (also known as "the mind's eye", in this case) zooms out, we see Lord Gyles (always with that cough), and Ser Addam is there, and good old Jalabhar Xho, and a whole lot of people - it's a group, then, with Tyrion obviously among them, and we learn that they are awaiting the arrival of Doran Martell. Tyrion thinks that Joffrey, as the king, should have been here to greet the prince from the south, but maybe it's for the better this way, as Joffrey has been joking a lot about the Dornish recently. Love that little bit of realistic culture-building; here in Norway we make jokes about the Swedes (and the Swedes about us), the Dutch joke about the Belgians (and the Belgians about the Dutch) and I suppose this goes on between many borders - and apparently, in Westeros too.

The riders - the Martell entourage, that is - emerge from the woods (and I can already see this so vividly that I kind of don't want to see this scene on TV because then the image in my head might disappear boo hiss), so many banners waving in the wind that Tyrion thinks half the lords of Dorne are coming up toward him. However in the very next paragraph Bronn counts only nine banners so I'm not that impressed. Pod comes up to help Tyrion identify the various banners (and to allow Martin to indulge in his fetish of describing heraldry, which I understand - I have devised a veritable host of heraldic designs for my role playing campaign). And so we get to learn a little Dornish heraldry. Love Tyrion's quip when the first banner recognized is Martell's own; "My horse would have known that one." 

And here they are, for your convenience. Colorful for the most part, with colors mostly reflecting that "feeling" of Dorne. Man, Martin really made me fall in love with heraldry. I even bought a book on the subject, teaching myself about tinctures and fields and so on and so forth. Anyway, we learn that Podrick - on Tyrion's orders - has become something of an expert in Dornish heraldry. Maybe that will come in handy later in the story? This part also shows us how Tyrion is growing fond of Pod in an almost father-like way; he wants the boy to feel good about himself (which, incidentally, TV-Tyrion did in a radically different way wink wink nudge in conclusion: penis).

These are the most formidable of Dornish lords, Tyrion notes, and he realizes that this means something more. He wonders if it had been a mistake shipping Myrcella off to Dorne (I wonder if TV fans even remember her?) and I wonder why Tyrion doesn't immediately link this to what everybody knows - how the Lannisters were responsible for some rather bad deeds done to House Martell. I mean wouldn't it be obvious that Tyrion swallows a lump in his throat and thinks, "They haven't forgotten?" I don't know. They realize that Doran Martell, the Prince of Dorne himself, actually isn't coming - his litter isn't present, and he always travels in a litter. I simply love how Martin doesn't expand on this issue - it's just stated that Doran always travels like this, and only later will we find out why. Exposition is kept to a minimum here with regards to the prince. Oh wait. Tyrion does think of Doran's gout. Still, we're not being told excessively the whys and hows of the Dornish.

And then to my favorite line of the chapter (not really), which just jumps off the page for me. This waiting was intolerable. THIS WAITING WAS INTOLERABLE. Martin, you're such a troll. You knew all along. I kid, I kid.

After some more exposition on the Dornish people (there are three types of them; the salty coastlanders, the sandy desertmen, and the stony ones - I love these details to make the Dornish so culturally distinct not only from the rest of Westeros but also between themselves; makes them become more real), we finally get to the fateful meeting between Tyrion Lannister and Oberyn Martell. If Tyrion and Bronn was a great duo I could have followed for countless books, Tyrion and Oberyn together would be a nice fun read too. Even the Viper's horse is cool: "A stallion black as sin with a mane and tail the color of fire." Martin really gives Oberyn a nice introduction, with a full description that gives the reader the definite impression that we're meeting a fellow you don't want to start a fight with. A fantastic buildup which I dare say fooled most of us, am I right? With this kind of buildup you could really believe that this guy at least would be good enough to slay Ser Gregor Clegane - thus, a surprise twist when things turn out differently. I loves it so much! Tyrion seals the deal (making us expect trouble) when he thinks, "This will mean blood in the gutters." Martin really builds up expectations here. We are also introduced to Oberyn's paramour, Ellaria Sand. If you're not expecting trouble yet, Tyrion realizes that bringing her along will certainly be seen as a slight by Cersei - more trouble, then.

The people in both parties are introduced by name, but Oberyn himself makes it clear that it is an insult that it is Tyrion Lannister who represents King's Landing. Tension in the air. Martin is so masterful at getting that imaginary tension to feel so real. Martin sneaks in a little tale of how Oberyn had poisoned the old Lord Yronwood (so that we may expect him to use a poisoned weapon later in the story) as the two groups turn toward King's Landing and refreshments. Tyrion wonders what to do with Oberyn Nymeros Martell (did you remember he had a middle name? I had forgotten). We get more dark tales of Oberyn's past, just to make sure we really get how darkly awesome the guy is. And to brew even more trouble, Oberyn was the guy who crippled Willas Tyrell, and aren't the Tyrells currently ingratiating themselves with the Lannisters? Martin skillfully builds up the political tension. It's riveting.

Oberyn tells Tyrion they've met before, mockingly saying that Tyrion was even smaller then than he is now. Not the most jovial of people, this Oberyn. Apparently he had paid a visit to Casterly Rock when Tyrion was born (which Tyrion thinks is queer, which incidentally is a nice choice of word re: Oberyn). I would like to learn more about this particular part of the immense puzzle that is Martin's backstory. But look. Here, Martin is at the top of his game as he foreshadows Tyrion murdering his own father. Breathtaking really.

"You were small, but far-famed (...) all the city talked of was the monster that had been born to the King's Hand, and what such an omen might foretell for the realm (...) your father's fall (...)."

Prince Oberyn (by Amok)
According to a begging brother back then, Tyrion was a punishment from the gods for Tywin had made himself greater than the king (Aerys); it's all very interesting really, but I kind of can't reproduce the entire dialogue between the two here. But if you're like me, you re-read it again and again, enjoying this meeting between two formidable (in different ways) characters. Tyrion, at first taken aback by the arrival of Oberyn (instead of Doran) soon finds his voice again - when Oberyn tells him that as a baby, nothing could make him quiet but a woman's teat, Tyrion quips, "Still true, as it happens." And then Oberyn, for the first time, laughs, and we can see a relation developing between them from this point onward. Oberyn's story also shows us one of the (early) reasons for Cersei's loathing of Tyrion - no doubt having heard it from her father, she blames Tyrion for their mother's death. I hate it when Oberyn tells Tyrion that Cersei twisted Tyrion's thingy hatefully; I hate violence against babies and children. In fact I hate everything that affects children negatively. Especially after I had children myself. Most of all, I hate adults who abuse children. But I'm veering off track. Like Tyrion, I wonder why Viper chose to bring up this tale and elaborate so much. This story certainly doesn't help the theory many fans have that Tyrion is no Lannister, or am I missing something?

Oh, a lovely exchange here. I had forgotten about it, but I do love it (but then I love most of Tyrion's replies):
Prince Oberyn had a chuckle. "You've grown more amusing since last we met."
"Yes, but I meant to grow taller." 

I have to call it quits here, but will try to get the rest up soon. I can't even write one blog post these days without interruption. But reading this chapter does make me even more excited about Season Four!

Wednesday, February 19, 2014


I've been meaning to get into the next chapter of my A Storm of Swords re-read, but I've been distracted by the Season Three blu-ray. Many nifty extras on it. I particularly like the vignettes where actors - in character - speak about past events such as Robert's Rebellion or explain more about themselves, like Thoros of Myr's backstory, very nicely done material.
There's been a lot of work to do, as well, so reading hasn't been high on my priority list (though I did manage to get in a chapter of King of Thorns last night). And tomorrow I'm off for a three-day long music ('noise' to many) festival, so the geek half must lay dormant as my metalhead half goes bananas. Next week though I want to get chopping on A Storm of Swords and get my speed up.

Daenerys arrived today. She was much taller than I expected (I expected a figure the size of a Star Wars action figure), and the image shown on Amazon's page looks a lot more like Emilia Clarke's Daenerys than the figure I got in the mail does (for some nefarious reason), but still...she'll be a nice muse on the shelf, next to Boba Fett about to get swallowed by the Sarlacc, Gandalf the Grey, and a knight of the templars. Four muses, for the many chapters of A Storm of Swords still to re-read.

In other news, my second book Waiting for Winter is selling, and I hope that people notice the effort that went into it (compared to Waiting for Dragons). I didn't get rid entirely of the 'bloggish' feel, but it should be much more consistent. If you haven't picked it up yet, you could try a sample (though I have no idea what that sample actually includes - maybe I should try it myself).

...and now I'm going to watch a little bit more bluray extras before going to bed. Have a nice weekend. May the Winds of Winter soon be upon us.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Game of Thrones Season 3

I got the Targaryen one by chance. 
This Saturday, a copy of Game of Thrones Season 3 arrived, in blu ray format. I've taken a look at the extended/deleted scenes and some of the other bonus material, and it looks so good in HD. I am looking forward to watching the episodes in this best possible quality when I find time (pension?). 
I watched the first half of episode 10 last night ('Mhysa') and it struck me that the makers of the show are possibly even crueler to the characters than Martin is. I mean, did they have to make Arya see her own brother decapitated, his head replaced with his wolf's? And if that's not enough, did she have to ride past a group of men talking crap about her brother and mother? Very powerful scene when Arya goes for the stabbing, by the way. I had the feels. 
Here's to season four and its new trailer. I have a feeling they are giving it everything this year.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Even more action figures?!

Wow, looks like Funko have decided to go the proper action figure route as well (I must say their bubbleheads aren't all that appealing). Head over to Winter is Coming and check out the upcoming action figures Jon Snow, Tyrion Lannister, Eddard Stark, Daenerys Targaryen, White Walker and the Hound, the "first wave" of Game of Thrones: Legacy. I don't think they look as good as the two I discovered yesterday (and yes, the Daenerys figure is on her way by mail if not dragonback) - but the good thing is that I don't mind if the figures don't look very much like the actors who portray them in the television series. Hopefully these figures sell well, so that they become inclined to make figures of more obscure characters. Not Kennos of Kayce-obscure, but you know, the secondaries as I like to call them. Theon Greyjoy with removable body parts, Varys with removed body part, Littlefinger with sly smile, Tywin Lannister, etc. Not that I could afford buying them all. And it's not as if I would be motivated to get down on the floor to actually play with these things. But a few cool figures on a shelf would be nice. Thinking about it, here is my top ten list of characters I'd love to have on a shelf staring at me, telling me to do another post on A Storm of Swords:

1. Theon Greyjoy (with bow)
2. Aerys Targaryen, the Mad King (because you know, the nails)
3. Robert Baratheon (with warhammer and breastplate stretcher)
4. Ser Gregor Clegane (in full battle armor)
5. Cersei Lannister (in green gown)
6. Ghost (or one of the other direwolves)
7. Oberyn Martell, the Red Viper (with spear and preferably electronic voice: "You murdered...")
8. Lord Roose Bolton (with flayed man cape)
9. Arianne Martell (because)
10. Jaqen H'ghar (with coin)

I'm such a geek...

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

This and that

One day early, but you can now find Waiting for Winter on Amazon. I'm happy to see it finally available, and I do hope that people give it a shot, obviously, if only to see that it is a much more interesting book than the first one. Yes, it only covers half of A Clash of Kings, but it is still a larger and more thorough work. No, there won't be a printed edition of this one (not that I am aware of, anyway). If you do end up reading it, please feel free to leave a review at Amazon. Feedback is always appreciated.

In other Ice & Fire-related news, I just realized that a decade+ long dream is coming true: A Game of
Thrones action figures! I've been wanting those for a while. Slightly (but only slightly) disappointed that the figures bear the likenesses of the television show versions of the characters, it was about time. Of course, for now the choice of characters is limited, but in time maybe we'll get some less famous characters in action figure format. Still, I'm looking forward to having Daenerys standing on the office desk reminding me, when I procrastinate, to get busy or Dracarys! 

And later, hopefully, I will be able to add some of my favorite characters - Ser Jaime Lannister, Roose Bolton, and of course the ever delightful Janos Slynt.

Man they announced this back in July 2013, and now I know. That deluxe Daenerys figure does look impressive, though. The Jon Snow figure I'm not all that interested in, but I see that there are several more figures slated for release next month: Khal Drogo, Ned Stark, Tyrion Lannister and a terribly expensive Arya Stark statue. Of these, only Ned's figure looks like a figure I'd like to have on a shelf (but he does have a very shelf-ish pose); I think it's weird they aren't producing the figures to scale with each other (Tyrion will be just as tall as Ned, unless I'm mistaken). Peter Dinklage is a fantastic actor but he just doesn't look like Tyrion; Khal Drogo, too, I find not bearing enough resemblance to the book character; and I would never shell out so much money for an Arya Stark figure. It's a small girl with a knife. Now, a statue of Ser Gregor Clegane in full armor, that would be interesting to me personally; or Melisandre, striking a spell-slinging pose. Maybe Jaime, complete with hand-on-a-string around his neck. Could be cool. Or the direwolves. Oh well, I suppose that statue will sell out fast enough.

Soon, Game of Thrones: Season 3 will be released on DVD and Bluray (and maybe it has already released where you live, I think we're getting it a little later here in the North). I've been avoiding the teasers featuring some of the bonus material because I want to save it for the day I can actually enjoy the actual discs, but I am looking forward to this as well.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Waiting for Winter on Thursday

From The Tower of the Hand:

New eBook and Exclusive Hymn for Spring Essay

What to do while waiting for George R.R. Martin's The Winds of Winter to ship?

Easy - re-read all the older books.

That's what blogger, author, and teacher Remy J. Verhoeve has done, going through his tenth read-through of A Clash of Kings and documenting every observation and every insight - and every quip regarding King Kong - he has along the way. Remy parses through the giant, 900-page text essentially paragraph by paragraph, indexing every instance of foreshadowing, deconstructing every character beat, and cataloging every question that has yet, even 16 years later, to be answered.

And perhaps of even more value to breathless fantasy and sci-fi fans waiting for that next jolt of narrative ecstasy is Remy's near-constant stream of comparisons to and recommendations of other genre work. Having read - and re-read - a whole plethora of novels and novellas, standalones and epic series, Remy is a veritable treasure trove of nerdy cross-references and back-catalogues, ensuring that your nightstand will have a book on it for months to come.

But this isn't just the most thorough deconstruction of Clash of Kings you'll ever read - it's also a nostalgic trip down memory lane to a time when HBO's Game of Thrones was just beginning and A Dance with Dragons, the most recent release in the series, was about to come out. Even going to the extent of re-watching the same episode three times in a row, Remy will help you relive the majesty and wonder that was Thrones's first season - and the trepidation over whether the second season could pull it off again.

At this rate, Winter truly can last for several (more) years.

Come along with Remy as he:
Reconsiders the characters of Cersei and Stannis in light of their character development in the most recent books (even comparing Stannis to Satan in a literary sense)
Explores George Martin's "writing tricks" that make his books must-reads, including one of the golden rules of dialogue
Forces you to completely rethink the psychology and personality of Tyrion Lannister
Explains what the best music to listen to is while reading
Initially rejects A Dance with Dragons and then slowly comes around to embracing it within the overarching narrative
Defends Martin's brutality - and reconsiders its scope and effect
Investigates the psychological reason why people read - and obsess over - fantasy literature, film, and videogames
Makes some of the most out-there theories you can possibly think of, such as the Arya Black Swan Theory - which will have you picking up the book instantly to re-read those chapters

And, best of all, the next full-length sample of the anticipated anthology book Tower of the Hand: A Hymn for Spring is included. Entitled "The Patriarchs of Westeros: Examining the toll the great lords exact from their families, their smallfolk, and from progress," and written by TOTH's very own Stefan Sasse, the essay can only be found in this release.

Waiting for Winter: Re-Reading A Clash of Kings, Part I releases on Thursday, February 13, for $3.99, exclusively at Amazon.

Season four is actually coming quite soon

Man, this preview has me really excited, no matter the changes they will inevitably bring to our beloved A Storm of Swords. The enthusiasm of the crew, Jaime and Tyrion's little dance, Oberyn Martell ... it all looks very, very entertaining. Can't help but think of how we're seeing scenes from A Dance with Dragons (I am sure we saw the scene where Daenerys is presented with bones) and hearing about scenes from A Feast for Crows (Brienne versus Biter) already, and what this could mean George's progress on book six, but still. Even though I know I have to realize this teaser obviously is made to get us excited, it does look and feel as if it is actually going to top even the rather excellent third season.
I know, I know, you've all seen it already (and probably more than one time), but ... wow! 

Yes, I know that dance was for fun.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

[Re-read] Jaime V: Do the math, Jaime & Brienne in a bath

SER JAIME LANNISTER, the Kingslayer if you will, is not among the most fortunate characters at the moment. One moment you are the leading swordsman of the entire fricking realm, the next some slobbering lackwit cuts off your hand, blood spraying, and packs you off to Harrenhal and the foreboding presence of Lord Roose Bolton. I have to hand it to Benioff & Weiss, the scene where Jaime loses his hand was done in a fantastic and shocking way in the TV series. Even I was a little bit shocked. Something about the camera angle and Jaime pulling away his arm and the hand not following. Awesome. I remember reading this the first time and I was like WTF IS THIS NOW and then you kind of accept it, because it's George and somehow I forgot that George can take it even farther and next time you meet Jaime someone's actually gone and put his dismembered hand around his neck as a fricking adornment. Depravity. You can find it in Westeros, if you're looking for some. Fortunately, Martin sometimes gets all nice and cozy with his characters to, and in this particular chapter, he's so kind as to provide Ser Jaime Onehand with a bath. You have to take these small moments of luxury and rest and hold on to them. They do not come up very often. But can Martin write a good scene when there's no backstabbing, outright murder or depressing rape? Why, yes he can.

HERE, the TV creators have pretty much copied/pasted Martin's first paragraph: the scene does indeed take place in a low-ceiling room with great stone tubs, and Jaime does indeed tell Brienne not to scrub her skin off. Jaime muses that her hands are as big as Gregor's (which I personally find hard to imagine, perhaps the TV series has changed my image of Brienne too much, because she's a great-looking shapely woman here). She wonders what Jaime is doing here, to which Jaime responds dryly that Roose Bolton had invited him for supper, but Jaime's fleas were not. He lost a hand, but not his wit.

Jaime needs help to get undressed, and "the man" obeys grudgingly. Here, the editor should have given us a hint beforehand that there's a man standing next to Jaime (initially he only writes hat "they led Jaime in"). Oh, and there's a hatchet-faced (of all things) woman attending Brienne too; both are told to leave by Jaime, however, and I suppose that this shows us that Jaime still has a commanding air about him. Jaime decides to share Brienne's tub even though there are more tubs here. Does he, without thinking it, yearn for comfort, even if it is from his captor? The scene above continues to stay really close to the source material, which I am grateful for as a fan of the books. Lines like "If I faint, pull me out" and "You swore a solemn vow" are kept largely intact. Said it before, saying it again - Martin's dialogue is already good enough for TV, no need to tinker overly much with the material.  Said no Benioff or Weiss ever.
Moments of awkwardness - Brienne trying to hide her body from his eyes, him telling her there's nothing to be worried about - he's seen it all before, and he has no desire for her bruised body. I wonder how many clouts I would have gotten if I were as straightforward and sarcastic as Jaime Lannister. Of course, he's a noble Lannister, he's used to be able to talk as he wishes and others will just have to defer to him and accept his verbal slaps.

Jaime begins to scrub himself, the mud dropping off his skin. He tries to aggravate her, telling her that she should be happy he lost his hand. It was, after all, the hand that slew the Mad King; the hand that pushed Bran out of the window; and the hand he used to, ahem, explore Cersei's secrets if you catch my drift. "No wonder Renly died, with you guarding him," Jaime finishes and ouch! That's not a really nice thing to say at all. Jaime knows she loved him. That's just mean. But so is pushing boys out of windows, of course. She rises then, forgetting her nakedness, ready to go at him,  and Jaime catches a glimpse of her "blonde bush", and he feels himself getting horny (which he thinks of as "absurd", and thus, unexpected). I think Jaime is lying a bit here, by the way, about "having seen so much" - he's always been loyal to his sister, and his sexual experiences begin and end with her. Jaime decides to go all humble, asking Brienne to forgive him for that comment. And here we have a first hint of Brienne's relationship to Ser Duncan the Tall (the Hedge Knight):; when she believes Jaime is mocking him, he says, "Are you as thick as a castle wall?" He does want to apologize to her, telling her he's tired of fighting with her. Brienne argues that she cannot trust Jaime, and with that, we are led into a section where we get to learn more about Jaime's view on how things went down back when he killed Aerys Targaryen, the Mad King. And it's quite interesting, to finally get to hear his version, which kind of twists your perception of Jaime. It should have been obvious - history is subjective. He became the Kingslayer, yes, but why did no one call Robert an oathbreaker? "He tore the realm apart, yet I am the one with shit for honor." Yes, Jaime, the world - history - is unfair, and you've been punked.

The heat of the water and his pain make him dizzy and faint, and as he talks he goes into a dream-like state, remembering... And we get a longish account of what happened after the Battle of the Bells (a battle that we'll hear more about in subsequent volumes), which is pretty interesting because Martin keeps it short and to the point, crafting a nice 'historical' scene that I guess most fans would love to experience as an actual narrative complete with POVs. Martin could lease out his backstory for other writers, perhaps? We hear about Lord Chelsted, and Rossart the pyromancer-become-Hand, and how Jaime stood there, passive, at the dais of the Iron Throne, watching the Mad King do all these vile things to people. And eventually Jaime had enough, and killed him. That was the really short version. But the point is important - Jaime's act was more heroic than vile; his Kingslayer monniker is rather undeserved; and it reinforces Martin's point that you must consider everything from many angles, to find, somewhere, that kernel of truth. Great writing, that, and seldom seen in fantasy literature. Martin toys with a number of respected literary themes, if I can call it that, easing them into a fantastical tale seemingly without effort. 

To further rub it in - that we shouldn't see Ser Jaime as a villain but more a flawed character - the Mad King asked Jaime to kill his own father, Lord Tywin - "Bring me your father's head, if you are no traitor," which we as readers most likely find a bit much too ask of your bodyguard. When Jaime opens his eyes, the water has grown cold, and he looks at his stump, thinking that he has lost his glory, but also his shame. He wonders who he is now, which I suppose is rather profound, because it underlines the fact that he has lost some of his identity now and has to establish a new Jaime Lannister. One could argue that this bath tub scene is the turning point in his development; from here on, we'll gradually see a new Jaime emerge, the one he could have been if not circumstances like a mad king came in the way. 

Brienne wonders why no one knows the true story of what went down in the Red Keep, and he explains that as a Kingsguard, he was sworn to secrecy (again, showing us that Jaime does have notions of loyalty). Jaime also manages to make us reconsider the man Lord Eddard Stark was, which is also quite interesting, of course. "Such an honorable man. He only had to look at me to judge me guilty." Yes, maybe Ned was a bit holier-than-thou. I can certainly understand Jaime's feelings on this. I wonder how Jaime felt when they visited Winterfell in the beginning of A Game of Thrones. Man, now I wish we had Jaime's POV all along. Not really, but still. Getting angry over the memories of Eddard's judgement, he slams his stump against the rim of the tub, and Brienne barely manages to catch him before he falls as the room begins to spin around him. Rage!

Funny though, how small Jaime ends up in a kind of embrace with strong (but gentle, Jaime notices) Brienne. Brienne calls for the guards, and we move to the next scene in the chapter. 

Jaime's on the floor, with Qyburn standing over him, concerned look on the ex-maester's face. Qyburn is adamant that Jaime must be ready for dinner with Roose (suggesting to us what kind of power Roose wields), and Brienne volunteers to clean and clothe Jaime. And here we see a change in Brienne too, feeling sorry for Jaime and maybe a hint that she buys Jaime's version of things. It's so awesome! I want to write characters like this. Qyburn hands Brienne a tattered gown, the only female clothing he was able to find that she might fit into. Jaime can think of many cruel jokes when he sees her in this outfit, but decides to stay silent - deftly, Martin makes the two characters, who initially were like two opposites, draw closer to each other. He tells himself that he best not make her angry because he can't fight her one-handed, but I'm not buying it; slowly, he is coming to a point where he simply doesn't want to hurt her feelings. She is becoming a person in his eyes. Some droll humor when Qyburn brings Jaime a potion of extra-healing licorice steeped in vinegar with honey and cloves - Jaime asks for the potion that grows new hands instead. I chuckled.

All dressed up, we come to the crucial plot-moving scene of the chapter. The bath tub scene, I suggest, is "Roose Bolton's eyes were paler than stone, darker than milk, and his voice was spider soft." Now, in this brief description, we have 'pale', 'dark', and 'spider' (the last word already associated with a character who thrives in the shadows of intrigue and deception). A guy to be wary of, then, our Roose. They are invited to sit down and eat, and Jaime goes for red wine, the color of the Lannisters - so proud of being a would he react if he learned that he wasn't a Lannister after all? Or a bastard? 
more of a character building scene. The two are brought to the Great Hall of Harrenhal, a hall larger even than the one in the Red Keep, where they meet the Lord of the Dreadfort, Roose Bolton. And this is the point where I truly knew that there was more about this man than another bannerman of House Stark. The most obvious hint lies in the description through Jaime's eyes:

Jaime is clumsy when he tries to drink from the cup of wine, a scene seemingly designed to make me feel sorry for him - or to strengthen the idea that Roose Bolton realizes just how weak Jaime has become. Anyway, they banter back and forth, and Jaime learns there's a price on his head - Edmure Tully has offered ten thousand dragons for his capture - and Lord Karstark has promised his daughter to whoever brings Jaime to him. "Leave it to your goat to get it backwards," Jaime dryly comments. I chuckled. I admit I love how the fate of Alys Karstark is so casually mentioned here - if Harrion Karstark, her brother, dies, Alys will be the only living heir of House Karstark, a point that will come back much later in the series. If I recall correctly, that is.

Roose explains that he married Lady Walda Frey of the Twins - so here we have this follower of Robb Stark and he goes off to marry himself into House Frey? I am convinced I never paid attention to this detail the first time around, but seeing it now...I love how Martin builds the story toward Edmure Tully's wedding so masterfully, dropping small bits of information for us, and most of us (I hope) blindly ignoring it so that when the wedding occurs, it still comes as a shock and a power narrative change in the story. Roose tells them that he's off to see Edmure wed to Roslin Frey, and Brienne initially does not believe what she hears - Robb would never break his vow and marry someone else (and a Lannister bannerman's daughter at that), but Roose asks her to not question him in a way that suggests he is certain of this knowledge. Roose is commanded to attend the wedding, which is a lovely touch from the author - Robb inviting the serpent, so to speak. Roose further explains how his "good father of Frey" (that's a rather nice way of naming him for a Stark loyalist, no?) broke the betrothal of Arya Stark and Elmar, Roose's servant present in the chamber, which leads into Brienne asking after the girls (not for the last time). Brienne is relieved to hear Arya is alive; Roose tells her he means to see her "safely to the north". 

Some dramatic irony, certainly, when Jaime threatens Roose over this, and also echoing his killing of Aerys, and Roose simply states, "'Tis scarcely chivalrous to threaten your host over his own cheese and olives (...) In the north, we hold the laws of hospitaly sacred still." Rub it in, Mr. Martin! This Bolton must surely have an impassive face, being able to say this while at the same time knowing what is going to go down up at the Twins (at least that's how I read it - I know there's some discussion as to when Roose becomes part of the betrayal of House Stark, but to me it seems he's already in the know). 

HOWEVER, Roose calms Brienne down (because she's getting mighty agitated here) telling her that he does mean to send Ser Jaime on, just as she and Lady Stark desires. Wary of a twist - knowing Mr. Martin - we read on, wondering what Roose is actually planning...lovely. There's surely some symbolism at play here, too, with the roasted meat for Jaime and the bloody meat Roose cuts methodically for himself. I know the meat has been mentioned in the discussion re: Jaime's possible Targaryen blood. The problem, for Roose, however, is that Vargo Hoat cut off Jaime's hand - it seems that Hoat is more cunning than we knew, because by cutting off Jaime's hand he would buy himself into the gratitude of Stannis Baratheon. Unfortunately for Hoat, Stannis lost the battle of King's Landing, and the Starks need to win over the Lannisters if Hoat is to save himself from Lord Tywin's wrath. Roose Bolton tells them that Robb has won every battle, but lost the Freys, the Karstarks, Winterfell, and the north...had to italicize that one. In Roose's mind, Robb has already lost. Nice touch. He doesn't speak very highly of Robb, anyway; but the point is, Hoat knows he's screwed if the Lannisters win. So Hoat removed Jaime's hand to diminish his Roose. And so, Roose manages to convince Jaime to tell Tywin that the loss of his hand was in no way Roose's fault. So here we see Roose wishing to stay in Tywin's good graces. Interesting developments indeed. 

This makes Jaime elated. He is told he will leave with Qybyrn and a strong escort of men under the command of captain Walton Steelshanks. They will see him safe to King's Landing. Brienne interrupts, "Provided Lady Catelyn's daughters are delivered safe and whole as well," she says, oblivious to the fact that she's not really included in the conversation at all. She does learn that Sansa has been married to Tyrion though, and even Jaime is surprised though he just thinks that it will make Tyrion happy, not really considering the political implications. And it does get a little convoluted by now. It doesn't matter anyway, Roose tells Brienne, "(...) Least of all to you." So cold, so calculating. Up until this point, I believe, I was uncertain about Bolton. I thought he was a cool character, with his icy detachment and commanding presence, but these words made me realize he wasn't a very nice person at all. And so he tells Brienne that she's not going anywhere - Jaime is going to King's Landing, because it serves Roose's political agenda. Brienne will remain the prisoner and plaything of Vargo Hoat. It isn't the best of fates.

The chapter ends with Roose Bolton's rather distressing (to Brienne, I mean) cold line: "Were I you, my lady, I should worry less about Starks and rather more about sapphires." Ominous. Menacing. Devoid of empathy. Roose Bolton. 

So. A rather nice chapter. Backstory, character development, underlying currents of tension and threat, and we're left, as so often in these books, wanting to know what's going to happen now

Ah! Today's it's the 6th of February. Exactly two months until Game of Thrones Season 4 airs. I admit I am excited. And I am most excited to see how Jaime and Brienne's stories will turn out, actually. While there are a few glaring changes in the TV show compared to the books (perhaps most notably Vargo Hoat's absence), I feel they stuck quite close to the core matter when it comes to Jaime and Brienne's characters and experiences. 

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Random post is random

Behold! The wrath of the Norsemen \m/
Busy preparing for the launch of Waiting for Winter: Re-reading A Clash of Kings: Part I - and all the demands of work and home. Will be back with another A Storm of Swords-post soon. Gotten the groove back with King of Thorns, if only a few pages a day. It's kind of nice when the days are brimming with stuff that needs to be done, because there's no time to be bored but I wouldn't mind a break. Which I'll be getting soon, as I'm so lucky to have the right to take twelve weeks (!) off to be with my second born who is approaching his first year. I like welfare. I wish more people could live in a welfare society. Of course, from what I've learned, we'd need another three planets or so for that. So I wish we had more planets. Maybe if we somehow had escaped the Dark Ages, we'd already be there. But if we hadn't had the Dark Ages, Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire wouldn't be quite as appealing. I can imagine King's Landing as a lawyer's office but I wouldn't like that. So thanks Dark Ages for inspiring Martin for us. 

Monday, February 3, 2014

Of Dice & Men

Just finished Of Dice and Men which I, despite my attempts at setting up a proper reading schedule, slipped in between "proper" novels. Some books are just too interesting and I tear into them straight away. This one I was curious about, because it tells the story of Dungeons & Dragons, which I've had a soft spot for since being introduced to it back in '92. A good role-playing game session, regardless of system, is one of the finer things to experience in life; I've always loved it. The book felt woefully short, I could read about this stuff infinitely, especially the recaps from adventures played. The text is mostly about the actual history behind the game - a look into how Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson became the originators of the role-playing game, and how their work resulted in big business. It's well written and easy to read, weaving stories from game sessions into the historical narrative successfully. When it was over, I wanted to read more. I love reading "war stories" from RPGs, imagining what it would have been like to be part of this or that campaign. Speaking of RPGs, it's been awfully quiet around the A Song of Ice and Fire role-playing game. 

The author of Of Dice & Men, David M. Ewalt, correctly (I assume) reasons that these type of tabletop games have lost a lot of ground to computer games, but if you want to really live the adventure in Westeros, there's (still) no good game based on George R.R. Martin's novels, so you pretty much have to go for the Green Ronin RPG. For 2014, Green Ronin has planned a 160-page long adventure, Dragon's Hoard (a lost Targaryen treasure?) which would help fans of the series along building a great experience. There are too few people role-playing in this world right now (correlating with increased violence! You heard it here first). Oh man, you have no idea how much I crave a good, all-night role-playing game session right now. Instead, I'm stuck with a pile of articles to correct. I could always pretend they are ancient scrolls of lore... 

A good friend and one of the two people I still play actual tabletop role-playing games with (times do change - my original gaming group from the mid-nineties and well into 2000s was eight people strong - but also, of course, we've all moved to different parts of the country) is also stuck wanting to play more than he can. He's taken his role-playing into the world of Skyrim, where he plays a female Nord named Ylva. He chronicles her adventures in a journal right here, for you to peruse. May we soon sit around the table laughing and geeking and rolling those dice again :)