Friday, August 1, 2014

[Re-read] Davos VI: A Man with a Plan


Fans all over the Internet are telling themselves that Martin is close to completing The Winds of Winter. Why else is he revealing small tidbits all the time? The latest news to hit us is that the book's prologue will include the character Jeyne Westerling, whom we haven't seen much since 2000. Fourteen years later we will finally see what becomes of her. Martin is quick to point out that Jeyne might not be the POV of the prologue, thus she might survive it, but if you ask me, Jeyne will be the POV and she'll have a knife in her gut. I'm spoiled by the Game of Thrones show. As weird as it is, that a minor character's appearance in a prologue provokes such reactions and discussions, I am even more surprised by the amount of people putting so much hope in Martin, to the point that some fans wonder if he is finishing book seven at the same time. This is still the author who has published two books in the last fourteen years, right? The author who hasn't shown his editor more than a hundred or so pages of the next manuscript and that was a good while ago? And now he's said no to writing an episode of Game of Thrones: Season Five and everybody's happy because that means around thirty days he can spend on the book instead. However, with all the cons he visits and all the trips he takes, I wonder if priorities could have been different. It matters not. One way or the other, it's up to Martin to deliver the book when he feels satisfied with it, and all we can do is to continue this third long wait (I know, it isn't near as long as the waits for the two previous books were - not yet, at any rate).

Speaking of prologues, here is my list of the five existing prologues in the order that I like them.

A Game of Thrones
A Clash of Kings
A Storm of Swords
A Dance with Dragons
A Feast for Crows

I'm not going into the hows and whys of this opinion right now, but as you can imagine I hope the next prologue is as tense and interesting as the first prologues were (admittedly the one in Clash was a little long), and with Jeyne involved it might just happen. All right, the main reason why Feast has my least favorite prologue is because it introduces too many characters at once, is technically less well written, and, since it is set in a completely new environment (Oldtown) I'd love the place to be more...unique. Well, I'll get to that hopefully when I'm done reading this tome. A Storm of Swords, here we go. Davos' fourth and last chapter in the novel, he doesn't have many chapters but they are needed for Martin to show us what is going on in Camp Stannis, and I still think Davos should show more smuggler-like qualities in order to not be so bland. Not one of my favorite characters, I do like many of the characters who he interacts with though, so it doesn't hurt that much to re-read the Onion Knight. 

***

Sheesh. Summer and all that. I began writing this post almost a week ago, and then, a lot of other things that had to come first. But here I am and with A Storm of Swords at hand. Incidentally, I finally - finally! - finished Mark Lawrence's King of Thorns last night, but the book deserves its own post so I am saving my thoughts on that one for the next time. I can reveal that I immediately bought the third and final book in this trilogy (The Broken Empire Trilogy, they call it, and yes, it's fairly broken one might say) and am pumped to get on with Jorg's story when I dive into bed tonight. But first, Davos Seaworth, the Onion Knight, the loyal adviser, the man with a plan (after this chapter, at any rate). While listening to a couple of new CDs. And trying to get a splinter out of my foot after some very handy sandbox-building in the garden, for the Second Son. You can call me many things, but handy is (unfortunately, I think) not such a..thing. Concept. Whatever! And in dire need of something cold to drink...mmmm...checking refrigerator...(that's such a great word)...mmmmm....Beeeer.

***

Immediately, Martin launches into a metaphor that has me frown, which I seldom do reading these books, to be honest (but boy do I frown when I struggle to read another paragraph of R.A. Salvatore). "Their voices rose like cinders" is ... wait, that's not a metaphor really, is it? Or is it? Now I am confusing myself and I am five words into the chapter. Anyway, I thought it a strange comparison. Not that cinders don't rise, fluttering from a bonfire or whatever, but how do voices rise like that? Are they sitting and they sing as they rise in a jittery style? No matter. What Martin wants to show us here, is a little bit of good old R'hlorr worship. Chanting, Melisandre's voice is loud and clear above the others, leading the sermon. In the song, she first pleads to her god for his wisdom in the sense that he can lead his people "from the darkness, fill our hearts with fire, so we may walk your shining path." It's not unlike your regular routine prayer really, perhaps with a little more emphasis on flames. I like the image of the gargoyles on the walls of Dragonstone seeming to stir and shift in the glow of the nightfires. It gives a spooky contrast and might just suggest that this R'hllor is a threat (to the already established religions of Westeros).

Davos is watching the proceedings from a window above. Melisandre's plea becomes a passionate glorifying of the deity: "You are the light in our eyes (how romantic) the fire in our hearts, the heat in our loins. Yours is the sun that warms the days, yours the stars that guard us in the dark of night." Also a typical part of a prayer, I suppose, almost as if there is a need to placate this god (which suggests he is a god that could, potentially, turn your back on you, or get real angry with you). Finally, Melisandre asks for his protection, rounding out the chant with the classic line, "The night is dark and full of terrors." It makes the godhood somewhat ambiguous, if you ask me. He seems to be both a protector (he guards through the stars that light up the darkness of night) and a destroyer (the fire, the sacrifices, and that the night is full of terrors) - which, in my personal opinion sounds a bit like that deity who runs the show in the Old Testament - or any other of the many vengeful deities found in mythologies around the world. Anyway.

Queen Selyse leads the response to Melisandre's utterings of holiness, in one sentence showing us / reminding us how devoted Stannis' wife has become both to the red woman and to the foreign god. Davos sees Stannis clenching his teeth, knowing that the king himself is not quite there. Stannis is only using Melisandre, and R'hllor, for his own purposes - to win the war. Pragmatic fellow. Remembering the first time I read this, when Martin takes care to describe Princess Shireen between the two royal parents, I was 100% sure we were going to see the little greyscale princess thrown on the flames as a sacrifice. A nail was bitten off in suspense. Davos sees the king staring into the flames, wonders whether Stannis sees something there. Personally I have a feeling he is just thinking really hard: "Is all this hogwash really worth it?" Melisandre gives us more insight into R'hllor - apparently this is the creator deity, making sure we understand this is a monotheistic religion so to speak, what with R'hllor having breathed life into humans, and given the sun to warm and give light. Davos thinks there are fewer people responding to her now than the night before; is she losing her audience already?

Next voice belongs to Ser Axell Florent, standing barrel-chested, being loud. It is implied that Davos and Florent have some kind of plan that will hopefully come to fruition the following night, but clever as Martin is, he doesn't reveal too much to us yet. Now I'm tired of Melisandre's praise and thanksgiving, but she drones on. Reminds me I have to go to church tomorrow for a wedding.

Davos thinks of his boyhood, when he was taught the religion of the Seven, which leads to him now praying to the Mother to keep his son Devan safe from R'hllor. He is interrupted (uh oh! This could actually be a very small foreshadowing of Devan's death in a literary sense - as if Davos' can't finish his prayer to the Mother, hence no protection for Devan; not saying there is a Mother, but in the literary sense). Ser Andrew touches Davos' elbow and calls him "lord", which sounds queer to Davos' ears. In his mind, he is still a smuggler.

Davos follows Ser Andrew Estermont and a few other characters away from the nightfire mass; the awesomely nick-named the Bastard of Nightsong, and Ser Gerald Gower, Sir Triston of Tally Hill, Lewys the Fishwife (that's a less cool nickname). They each receive a one-sentence description which tells me they aren't all that important to the plot. Also, if Davos' plan doesn't work out, they'll be dead anyway. As they walk, Davos is once more lost in thought, thinking of Melisandre trying to explain seeing things in the flames. What the memory seems to tell us is that there's a trick to seeing in the flames, but if you want to see something there, you can see it - in the sense that people see Jesus in toast, dog behinds, or in the clouds. In other ways, Martin is telling us that this religion might not have any more "real" power than the other religions in Westeros (except, perhaps, the Old Gods, who we get explained later to be something...different). 

Davos has gathered these men to fulfill his plan. They are arguing about killing Melisandre, Davos reminds them how easily Maester Cressen fell prey to her.

They arrive in the chambers where Edric Storm is doing sums, being tutored by Maester Pylos. The maester is in on the plan; Edric is surprised. Pylos tells him to fetch his cloak, he is going with Davos. Edric says he was about to go pray to the Warrior, because he too, hasn't fallen for Melisandre's propaganda. Pylos reminds Edric that Davos is the King's Hand, and so Edric joins Davos. Davos had been uncertain of Pylos - like myself, really - but now the young maester is risking his life for the cause. They take the boy to the water, where one of Salladhor Saan's ships await. Ser Andrew placates the young boy (and cousin), telling him he will go with it. Edric is sad and wants to say goodbye to Shireen, but they won't allow it. The idea of her being sacrificed is disproved when Davos, through his thoughts, reveals that they are taking Edric away because he is the one scheduled for sacrifice by burning. Edric becomes more and more opposed to the whole idea of being smuggled (aha!) out of Dragonstone, and begins to argue, demanding to see his father Stannis. Which would be only natural, of course. I really think the chapter's beginning is really boring with all the religious droning, but now it takes on a suspenseful, secret escape and my eyes are basically glued to the paper, making it hard to write down my thoughts. Also, my head is full of other matters (a flooding river has taken away half our garden, among other things). Davos needs to lie to Edric to threaten him, which works.

They cross a yard, another conspirator is revealed (one Omer Blackberry, whose name feels entirely new to me, though he must have been present fourteen years ago when I read this chapter for the first time). Omer Blackberry. What an anonymous fellow. The ship is named Mad Prendos, which Davos thinks is fitting, as what they are doing is kind of ... madness. Defying the king, defying Melisandre. "Think of this as an adventure," Davos tells Edric before getting him off, and one wonders: when, if ever, will we see Edric Storm again, and what has be doing in the meantime, and how will his continued survival affect the plot still to come? The group follows Edric, except Davos and the Bastard.

Martin continues to build up the expense as Davos now knows he must face King Stannis and explain what he has done: "Dragonstone had never seemed so dark and fearsome. He walked slowly, his footsteps echoing off black walls and dragons." You kind of have to feel for Davos in this situation - he is doing what he thinks is right and good - which it is, he is saving an innocent boy's life - and when you know how harsh Stannis can be...Martin takes his time letting Davos think through his life up to this point, as if he is expecting it to end now, which of course builds suspense. He decides that if he survives, he will sail home to Cape Wrath. He feels he has overreached. Which, as a smuggler turned King's Hand, you can't really argue.

The Chamber of the Painted Table, still one of my favorite chambers in the series, is dark, so he puts on some fire to drive out the darkness and the cold, ironically doing just what Melisandre was harping on out about at the sermon (using fire to keep the darkness and cold at bay). He looks for the Mad Prendos but she is lost in the darkness, so he doesn't know if Edric Storm has gone already. Love that little bit of uncertainty, both for Davos and for the reader. When he thinks of the Targaryens, a wind sighs through the chamber, as if the memory of Old Valyria stirs...rather ominous. Then he hears Stannis and Melisandre approach; they are talking about Melisandre seeing "him" die and hearing "his" mother's wail - Joffrey and Cersei. Stannis is not so sure of this vision.

However, Davos steps forward and can confirm the death of the king. Melisandre, then, is right again. Stannis, kind of tongue in cheek, as if the author is breaking the fourth dimension wall (or whatever it's called) for a quick moment, says that weddings are more dangerous than battles. Melisandre states that now, Tommen will be the next king in King's Landing. Which is of course an annoying thing to hear for Stannis. "Save them sire," Melisandre says (talking about the people of Westeros), "Let me wake the stone dragons. Give me the boy." I am not sure what she means by waking the stone dragons in this scene; she has done her three leeches = three royal deaths thing, is stone dragons another trick that can make her long-distance murder someone?



Davos then reveals that Storm is gone. And Davos notices Melisandre's uncertainty, realizing he has been able to cheat her, because she never saw this coming! That is quite a potent and important revelation, of course - Melisandre isn't as powerful as she makes herself out to be. Stannis becomes rather angry, but most of it seems to build - and stay - inside the confines of his mind. Davos has prepared a speech, so he knows what to say, hoping it is good enough for Stannis to see the reason behind his action. Melisandre tries to tell him the importance of this sacrifice, but Davos has the words to counter. It's an interesting three-way conversation, for sure, with Azor Ahai mentioned, and it ends with Davos kneeling and offering himself up for execution as punishment; it is revealed that Davos has learned to read and write, and he presents Stannis with a piece of paper even as Stannis pulls out his sword, glowing in the chamber.

And that's how this chapter ends! Now, of course, we are fully aware of what Davos starts to read for Stannis that will change his mind; but it was a nice little cliffhanger once. Of course, the more devious of mind probably realized immediately what it was; I surely did not. I feel that this chapter could have been even more suspenseful; instead of starting out with the nightfire prayers and the droning, what if the chapter opens with Davos already moving Edric Storm, then passing the nightfires to overhear; and perhaps we should have seen them taking out those guards, have some more banter with the other fellows in the kidnapping, I don't know, just feels like it could have been an even stronger chapter, although I like it well enough.

Next up is Jon Snow again.

4 comments:

  1. "his father Stannis" should be "his uncle Stannis"

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  2. I don't think george will release the final 2 books in one go, no way. But that would be great. But no wat. Are people really thinking that?

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  3. There's something strange going on with the comments - I know I published two comments on this post, but they seem to be lost. Maybe they show up again. Anyway, thanks for the headsup on me attributing Stannis wrongly (he's Edric's uncle, not his father of course); and yes, even Martin mentions the fans that believe he has everything ready for publication and is just sitting on material (in this interview: http://winteriscoming.net/2014/08/01/george-r-r-martin-obligation-fans-involvement-game-thrones/)

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  4. I see book Edric hsd more luck than TV-Gendry: not only an oarman, but also a ship waiting for him =D

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