Friday, December 9, 2016

[Re-read] A Feast with Dragons, Chapter 20: The Kraken's Daughter

My posts usually do not respect spoiler boundaries. I'm talking about stuff from all over Martin's canon, including spoiler chapters from books that never seem to be published.

You know (forgive me if I've mentioned it before), when A Feast for Crows was published, one of the things that really irked me was the out-of-the-blue change where Martin suddenly gave some chapters titles. It actually took me a good while to realize that these titles were actually titles in more than one sense: they were descriptions, titles, related directly to the POV character of the chapter; so in a sense, Martin did continue the tradition of having each chapter named for its POV; only with the many new minor POVs he gave a description instead of just a name. Once I understood this, and how it helped differentiate the minor added POVs from the more "proper", established main characters. Now, eleven years after its publication, I can say I am finally good with this abrupt change (weird how it still feels as if this is something new) and that in many cases I actually like the titles. "The Kraken's Daughter" is one of them. It's a cool title in itself, and it also gives us a description of Asha Greyjoy in the role she has in this particular chapter, as the daughter of Balon Greyjoy, King of the Iron Islands. Now it's almost like I'd wish all chapters in the saga had titles that refered to the POV character's state of mind/status/whatever, because it's cool - and this is actually what Martin ended up doing with Arya and Sansa's chapters in these two last books, where the author is playing with character identity and this is reflected in their changed chapter titles. An interesting experiment, at any rate. Some part of me (the compulsive disorderly one I suppose) still thinks it would be the neatest to have names only; but some actual chapter titles that give away more than who the POV is, is nice too. Come set sail with me as we go to the Iron Islands and Theon's sister, Asha Greyjoy! If you're a TV-only fan, you are probably already aware who Asha is; they changed her name to Yara in the TV show, I suspect because the name was too similar to Osha's. Personally I think it was an unnecessary change - Osha is barely seen after Yara's introduction, and there are other characters whose names are at least as similar (Bronn/Bran, Jon Snow/Jon Arryn).
What is dead may never die, but rises again, harder and stronger! 

While we're at it, let's look for any...shades of HP Lovecraft while we're at it as well; I've been reading a few theories trying to link Martin's setting - and in particular the Ironborn culture - with H.P. Lovecraft's Chtulhu mythos. This link seemed to become very obvious with The World of Ice and Fire in which Martin introduces a lot of Lovecraftian elements. All right, hit the "Continue Reading" button below and we're good to go.










All right, before diving into the chapter proper I have to say that I really, really adore the actress playing the role of Yara Greyjoy in Game of Thrones, a wonderful casting. Many show characters actually look a lot like their book counterparts; Gemma Whelan doesn't really look like Asha at all, yet she improved the character in my opinion; Yara feels more realistic as a character, while Asha is a bit of a cartoon character at times (I'll probably get back to that). Anyway, I think Gemma does an outstanding job. I really buy into her performance, short and few as her scenes are. Voice, mannerisms, walk, costume, I really like it. It's toned down a whole lot from the larger-than-life half-crazed pirate queen of the books, much like they toned down Euron Greyjoy (even more). In the books, the Iron Islands were properly grey and dismal up until Feast where it suddenly became a little tooA colorful and a little too forced (coming back to that as well); a wise move then, HBO, to tone down the Ironborn in the TV series (although this might become a problem if the TWOW spoiler chapter 'The Forsaken' is anything to go by). Dammit but I ramble. So much to discuss and I haven't even found the chapter yet. What I'm trying to say is, I have always been fond of the Ironborn. Always had a soft spot for the villains in stories, for some reason; and I count the Greyjoys as villains (at least so far). I love the setting - the Iron Islands - very dramatic and cool, wouldn't mind more chapters taking place here; I love the cultural detail that really sets them apart. I don't like that they feel a little tacked on; the placement of their islands on the map is kind of similar to the placement of the Greyjoy characters n the narrative - to the side, seemingly not part of the main narrative (but I assume they absolutely are; and Theon, of course, has always been part of the narrative. I remain entertained by his first appearance in the first chapter of AGoT, which so clearly shows what kind of character he is at that point.)
And now we're actually good to go!

THE KRAKEN'S DAUGHTER.

Of the many things that makes this saga such a great, entertaining experience is Martin's incredible amount of detail to make as much as possible coherent; in short, I love how he makes sure there are certain logistics that complicate characters' lives - military matters (army size, fatigue, numbers etc), interpersonal matters (Robb's wedding leading to.grave consequences, the conflicts between Tyrion and Cersei), and political matters, such as the power vacuum after Lord Balon Greyjoy's sudden demise in A Storm of Swords. In many other novels, especially in the fantasy genre and before Martin changed the playing field, the authors just threw whatever they felt like out there; Martin explored his world more as if it were populated by real people. More often than not, it feels as if these characters' decisions actually affect the outcome; how they deal with others, with logistics, is what determines the consequences. Usually a consequence feels like it was coming regardless of what characters say or do. It's one of the most important ingredients in the success of I&F, in my opinion: Martin makes his characters come alive partially because they need to make some very tough decisions, and those decisions have some form of consequence that is usually entirely believable (yet often quite surprising). It's hard to explain - I guess you understand what I'm trying to say.

I'm mentioning this to explain why I admire the opening of this chapter. We find ourselves with Asha in a hall full of drunken, distant cousins. This is but one detail that makes the story come alive - of course a character would have a lot of relatives; in most stories characters have at most one living relative. A hall of distant cousins adds to the realism. Ironborn lords' banners hang from the walls, and Asha thinks there are too few. This is another detail that sells Asha's plight; instead of Asha having whatever fleet she needs at her disposal, she faces the more realistic fact that she has too few allies. Logistics become a vital part of the narrative, causing endless online discussions about army compositions, battle strategies etc. but also leading to a deeper, more complex setting.
Wow, I notice I'm really gushing today.

Ten Towers, Seat of House Harlaw, from the FFG card game
This is top-notch Martin, though, the way he gradually lets you understand the situation and setting without pure exposition. Instead of telling us "Asha was in her uncle's castle and there were too few others who had come", we get well-written stuff like this: "Qarl the Maid has said as much, when the Black Wind was approaching from the sea. He had counted the longships moored beneath her uncle's castle, and his mouth had tightened." In these two sentences we're told so much! We now know there's a Qarl the Maid (or are reminded of him; can't say I remember having seen his name before), who is close to Asha, whom she probably trusts; they came aboard the Black Wind, and they are at her uncle's castle, and she'd like it if there were more ships anchored outside it. Awesome. Also, I can totally see a bunch of longships moored on a strip of beach beneath a rocky cliff with a castle on top. Actually, Martin could have fleshed out the description a bit here for inner visual awesomeness.

Asha worries she has too few friends. This is immediately followed by a list of present lords, thus effectively telling us who she can count on as friends: House Botley, House Stonetree, House Volmark, House Myre, and a number of Harlaws. All probably invented after A Storm of Swords, I remember being surprised to see that the Ironborn followed the feudal system of mainland Westeros so closely; I still feel it doesn't gel well with the Ironborn culture, though I suspect Martin tried to show that the Ironborn's culture had been infected/influenced by/changed by Westerosi culture. Still, I find that it doesn't make entirely sense for the Ironborn to be adapting the feudal model from the mainland, mainly because, you know, they do not sow. Martin clearly loves describing heraldry, so we are treated to some sigil descriptions. A few of the Harlaw cousins are given names too: Boremund and Sigfryd Silverhair (both names perhaps a tad too obviously inspired by vikings? I never saw the Ironborn as pure vikings, it's only their longships and attitude to plundering that feels viking-ish), and I admit when seeing Sigfryd's name I lose my focus for a bit there. Oh, and there's a guy simply called The Knight. Is Martin running out of cool nicknames...or is the Knight actually a pretty cool nickname?
We also learn more about the harlawest Harlaw of them all: Lord Rodrik. His sigil is a silver scythe upon a night-black field, which suggests badass to me (turns out to be a bookworm, though); he's Asha's favorite uncle, and is also called The Reader (okay...Martin might be running out of cool nicknames after all...), the Lord of the Ten Towers, Lord of Harlaw, Harlaw of Harlaw. This is the fellow who is opening his castle for Asha and the others, and giving us a setting for the chapter to unfold. Thanks, nuncle!

Rodrik's seat is vacant; the tables of the castle hall are littered with bones and greasy platters; the feast is over before the chapter has begun, and now there's only the drunken party going on. Rodrik himself has left the party because, well, he's a nerd who prefers retiring to read a book over partying hard. And I mean hard. The Ironborn drink themselves stupid listening to Slayer. No doubt! Yeah, from the get go Rodrik doesn't sound like your typical islander of iron.

And here we have it - I believe - the moment where George decided to change 'uncle' to 'nuncle', without any forewarning. Asha meets up with an old woman called Three-tooth (for obvious reasons), and asks her, "My uncle is with his books?" The woman confirms this to be true; Asha knows her uncle well. He's a party pooper. She also tells him Tristifer Botley is with him. We don't know who that guy is yet. When Asha thinks of a different Botley, she says that "I had heard my nuncle Crow's Eye had old Sawane Botley drowned" (she believes Three-tooth is talking about Sawane) and there you have it! From uncle to nuncle during this conversation. Now I admit I may be mistaken; or maybe there's something I'm missing: for example, could 'nuncle' be used only for uncles on her father's side? Cause then it works, as she calls Rodrik her favorite uncle, and not her favorite nuncle. I am confused. Much like the suddenness of chapter titles, I had a hard time accepting this sudden change. This one I still have a problem with though, as 'nuncle' sounds so... childish, kinda. Not something a warrior princess like Asha would say. Anyway, there's nothing we can do about it now, nuncle came to stay. Martin drops a hint to keep us hooked into his narrative; we understand there's some history between Asha and this Tristifer Botley. Asha also asks for her mother, now that's kinda interesting 'cause who remembered there was a mother involved in this family as well?

Oh, and an aunt - speaking of keeping it real. There's this tower here called the Widow's Tower and it's named after Asha's aunt who is still actually living there. Lady Gwynesse is Rodrik's seven year old sister and thinks that she should be the Lord of Harlaw. A minor detail, but it foreshadows in a sense Asha's own plight: She also sees herself as the natural heir of Balon Greyjoy despite being a woman. Anyway, now Lord Rodrik has two old women to contend with; sister Gwynesse, and Asha's mother, now also a widow after Balon's mysterious death, Lady Alannys. (And people think the Game of Thrones show is complicated and has many characters). We learn that when Asha left for Westeros and war, she had worried that she might never see her mother again, because Alannys was weak and frail. Iron(born)ically, her strong father had died while she was away instead. Reading slightly between the lines (not really, it's quite clear) we see that Asha suspects daddy Balon didn't die by accident. It is also clear, from Asha's memories, that Lady Alannys was traumatized by her youngest son being taken away from her to serve as a ward at Winterfell. Yes, she grieved for losing Theon Greyjoy. Know what I mean about details and coherence? Wow. Also, if you feel sorry for Theon it's nice to know his mother really cared about him (as opposed to his father). Alannys was already mentally ruined by the loss of her two oldest boys by the way, but still. Asha tells herself she will visit her mother the next day (weird how we're still, technically, standing next to the old Treetooth woman in the hall, surrounded by drunken Harlaws - there's much inner monologue going on here, one of the reasons books four and five feel slower I suppose). For now, Asha wishes to see her uncle Rodrik. We're also reminded Asha has brought captives (Lady Glover and her children), and we also get to see Asha being Asha, because Threetooth isn't very forthcoming until Asha pinches her nose and tells her to obey. It's one of Asha the character's main traits, innit; leadership and decisiveness, gotta love her no bullshit attitude. Yeah, Asha is one of my favorite characters in many ways.

**** ~~~~****

All right, as described in furious detail I basically had to restart my life (=reinstall everything on the PC, my life) but of course I had already started this post and it lay secure on the Interwebs awaiting my return.

QGU (Quick Geek Update): Still reading The Last Wish (a Witcher short story collection), slowed down a lot as I began to lose interest for reasons yet to be disclosed; started reading, of all things, poetry by Lord Byron, watched a film for the first time since who knows, The Grimsby Brothers. Very childish film featuring a very childish humorist (Sacha Baron Cohen) featuring some absurdly childish scenes. Couldn't stop laughing. Before the great Windows 10 Anniversary Update crash I tried the latest Star Wars Battlefront DLC, I was naturally curious as it features Rogue One characters and locations and weaponry. Got blasted to shreds every second meter of movement. Pretty sure the film will be more entertaining. Also, before the crash, reached level 16 as Geralt of Rivia, the awesome Witcher-guy I had no faith in before getting hooked. Now he's level 0 again I suppose. DAMMIT. Good there are other great characters out there. One of them being ASHA GREYJOY whose name is cooler than YARA. Who thought Yara sounded like a cool Ironborn name?! Sounds like some fruit you pluck from an orchard in Volantis. Boo/hiss at will. Right. Let's leave everything behind us, and delve back into that alluring world of violence and tragedy, where none of us would last longer than I do in Battlefront, a world in which Asha has arrived at Ten Towers, seat of House Harlaw, whose lord is her uncle. Nuncle. Not much has actually happened so far, just some talkin' and a lot of thinking back on stuff. Also known as exposition. Will Martin be able to get some motion into this chapter? One way to find out.

Right.

So Asha's brought some "wolf folk" captives (love that moniker - wolf folk) and it's important to her they are treated nicely (I guess to show she's planning ahead; and that she's not like your average Ironborn who's like to plant an axe into anyone they don't like). We are told through Asha's memories that she's been at Ten Towers before - and that she spent "days and nights lost among her uncle's wealth of books" - she's like a female Samwell Tarly?! What? How did she not turn soft and plump? Curious. All book readers are soft and plump. It is known. (Actually in the same paragraph Asha remembers breathless races up and down the castle stairs, so there's the answer). We are given more exposition on the Ten Towers - how and when it was raised (it's fairly young, for a Westerosi location) - and why: Because the family's original haunt, Harlaw Hall, was too damp and the air to noxious (killing three babies). For some reason we need to know Theomore Harlaw, who built the new ten-towered castle, had six wives. At a guess, just a minor medieval flavor. Good. All right, so we learn even more - the Book Tower is the fattest (and again I'm reminded of Samwell), and this is where Lord Rodrik likes to spend his time. Actually, he's basically never seen without a book. Must be a very distracted guy. Even when he's on deck of his boat Sea Song he's reading. I wouldn't pick him when going reaving, that's for sure. Everybody's plundering and raping and pillaging but the captain is still standing with his nose in Pride and Prejudice.

Right, so Asha finds him - Lord Rodrik Harlaw - "hunched over a table by a window" in the Book Tower ... you have to kind of wonder...is Lord Rodrik really George R.R. Martin? Did George write himself into the story here? He even has a book tower, I believe. An ordinary man, Lord Rodrik, with a love for written words, "which so many ironborn found unmanly and perverse". Asha wonders what he's reading that's so interesting he leaves his guests. The Winds of Winter?!?!?! I'd abandon anyone for a read in that book. Turns out the book, interestingly, is Archmaester Marwyn's "Book of Lost Books". A goofy, Tolkien-inspired title? Your decision. The interesting part is that it was written by this Marwyn fellow, whose name keeps cropping up. More and more. When we actually meet the guy he doesn't seem like the kind of man to write books, but then again Marwyn is quite unusual in many ways; more on that (much) later. For now, Rodrik is surprised the day has already become evening, suggesting a man who really can drown himself in books, forgetting time...a very unnatural leader, if you ask me, and it is hard to believe that the Ironborn would follow such a man, or allow such a man to retain leadership. He's like the opposite of what a quality Iron Islander is supposed to be. It makes it harder to buy this character and by extension this setting (the Book Tower).

Asha explains why she is late; she is concerned about her captives, Robett Glover's wife and children; there's a baby among them who needs milk. She also reminds us that Deepwood is important to Asha's "plans" (though at this point, I can't pinpoint exactly what those plans are supposed to be). Rodrik tells her she must change her plans, and that she is too late. Not able to resist, Martin squeezes in the description of a random book lying around, allowing him to mention the Poor Fellows (and Maegor the Cruel's war on them); foreshadowing in an obvious form, but I am fine with it. Kind of blunt, perhaps. Good thing Martin didn't go overboard and describe five more books, each some kind of foreshadowing or wink or nod. Asha consistently calls Rodrik nuncle now, and I am sorry but the descriptor just makes me chuckle. It sounds so... I don't know, it's such a child-like word in a way, not something badass amazons would use. Nuncle. Shrug. After some more back and forth Asha comes to a point: She asks Rodrik if her father was murdered. The blunt answer: "So your mother believes."

Asha is quick to point out the coincidence of another uncle's sudden return - Euron Greyjoy - suggesting the Crow's Eye is behind the death of Balon her lord father. Martin began so easy with the Stark family; easy to keep track of who's who, never even mentioned Ned's mother; now, with the Greyjoys (and the Tyrells and Martells etc etc) family complexities has taken on a whole lot more depth and I understand if people get confused with all the uncles and aunts and cousins. In the case of Asha it's perhaps smart to just think of her uncles as either bad (on her father's side) or good (on ther mother's side). ANYWAY! Gotta love Asha cleaning the dirt from her fingernails with a dirk; such a pirate-y thing to do. A small neat detail that tells us that Asha is no meek lady.

Angry, Asha wonders where the rest of her support is (initially she saw how few ships were moored at Ten Towers); how is she supposed to throw Euron of the Seastone Chair (which he obviously has taken for himself)? Most Harlaw bannermen are present, but from the other islands...not so much. Where, she wonders, are the ships from Saltcliffe, Orkwood, and Wyk? Wait a minute orkwood?!  All right, back before Feast was published I was an avid collector and gamer of Fantasy Flight Games' A Game of Thrones: Collectible Card Game. Because of this game I was sometimes privy to names that we hadn't read about yet in the books; it's how I knew about a lot of Iron Islands Houses long before they were mentioned on paper. It's how I already knew names like Saltcliffe before reading this book; and it didn't feel as if Martin was just piling more and more Houses for each book, somehow it felt more organic when I was already...attuned to these otherwise entirely new inventions. What am I trying to say here? I don't know. Something about the fine line between retroactively adding stuff and you don't notice and stuff that is added and it just feels wrong...there's a feeling Saltcliffe "always" was there, but also the feeling that the word "Nuncle" came from out of nowhere and disrupts the flow... If only I was eloquent. Thing is, Martin is expanding his world here, a LOT, and mostly I feel that's cool (although in the case of the Iron Islands, I feel he kind of forgot how outsider the culture is supposed to be when they suddenly had the same feudal system as mainland Westeros). With years and years between books, it becomes perhaps even more obvious when the flow of the story is interrupted to retroactively introduce story elements that you are expected to imagine 'were always there' while you know it's a new invention added to expand the setting. If I write more about this now I'm going to ensnare myself forever, so enough. Hope this paragraph made sense. Somehow.

Baelor Blacktyde came, though! That's a good thing. "...and just as soon set sail again." Ooooh.... awesome name, though, for a character. Say what you will about Mr. Martin, he knows how to come up with striking names (not always). And now for the actual news. Baelor, you see, went to Old Wyk and that's related to the chapter's single most important revelation: "Aeron Damphair has called a kingsmoot." 

Aeron of course is yet another uncle of Asha's (on her bad father's side), brother of fallen Balon and usurper Euron. Asha laughs at this new, not taking it seriously at first. Everyone else is taking Aeron seriously these days though; he's a prophet now, after all. Martin mentions a few sea captains by name just to show off how good he is with (nick)names (Blind Beron Blacktyde, Tarle the Thrice-Drowned, Old Grey Gull), astonishing Asha (not the coolness of the names, the fact there's going to be a kingsmoot). Now the moot is one of the cultural elements that link the Ironborn to the good ol' vikings, perhaps, but I still find them to be at least as similar to, say, the Anglo-Saxons. Not that it matters. What matters is the game. Rodrik goes on to explain he has no idea how Euron has reacted to this idea (and we learn Euron wanted Rodrik to pay homage to him, and Rodrik hasn't). Asha corrects herself when she thinks this is something new - the kingsmoot is in fact a very old cultural ceremony. In case you thought she didn't have enough uncles, Victarion gets mentioned too. Still reeling from the surprise news, Asha listens as Rodrik launches into a quick summary of the history of the kingsmoot concept, the exposition blunt as you get ready to take in some information needed to make sense of the plot. And if you're anything like me you're distracted right away by the mention of an "archmaester Rigley" who said that history is a wheel; a very, very clear nod to Robert Jordan and his Wheel of Time series. Too obvious, perhaps. Rodrik tells Asha they probably shouldn't be going to the Kingsmoot, because, uhm, Rodrik believes history will repeat itself? It's a bit unclear. Asha of course isn't interested in missing the first Kingsmoot in four thousand years. Gotta love this line from Rodrik the Reader, it is very relevant not only to this story but to humanity at large.

"This dream of kingship is a madness in our blood." 

Favorite line in the chapter. Rodrik suggests they need more land (i.e, they need to settle Westeros), not crowns. In other words, the Ironborn shouldn't squabble among themselves to see who's got the biggest dick (right, show!Euron?!), they should unite in order to win more land to settle. The Iron Islands are full. He also suggests allying with one of the two major Westeros forces - either Stannis Baratheon or Tywin Lannister (so he's still alive here, or has the news traveled so slowly?); Lord Rodrik Harlaw is in no way much of an Ironborn, eh. Why hasn't he been fricking keelhauled yet?! Gotta love Asha's response, though: "That might be worth some thoughts, once I sit the Seastone Chair." Love it cause we finally get her ambitions laid bare, and the casual way she replies after Rodrik's serious talk of politics and war. Like, "yeah whatever maybe baby we'll see meh".

The Reader sets her straight: She won't be chosen, because she's a woman and "no woman has ever ruled the ironborn." Is this signalling, as it would in any other fantasy story, that we'll see Asha end up a queen? Or will Martin subvert another trope / expectation? He who reads, learns (Rodrik-approved statement). We learn that as long as Asha has Rodrik's support, she has the island of Harlaw and while not the largest, it is the richest and most populous. Which should obviously count a wee bit more. And the Harlaws have many vassals who would be forced to support any decision Rodrik makes (or will they? I mean, he's so unlike them all). Vassalage means nothing at the kingsmoot, though, and so the Reader warns her again, "Do not sail into this storm. Your fight is hopeless." Love the Ironborn-ish way of saying "do not pick this fight". Do not sail into thi storm (also, cool that Euron will be associated with storm). Ah, and here we actually do have a point re: Rodrik being different. It's rather Balon Greyjoy and the Greyjoys who are different, who are still leaning on the Old Way, while the rest of the Iron Islands perhaps have moved on and become more similar to mainland culture. It's a cool twist, honestly; here you go thinking this and that about the Ironborn, yet it is only from the perspective of Greyjoys so far. The Reader brings another perspective to the table, and the Ironborn become that much more colorful because of it; there's an old conflict of identity at play here. Love it. Even if this chapter is slow as fricking roasted snails on a platter. Asha too knows her father Balon had been blind to how things have changed; but she also has his stubborness. So she tells her (n)uncle there's a "third course": She's going to hold a moot on her own, a queensmoot. Now, my Kindle version of Feast has the following highlighted no less than 2206 times, so I suppose it's a pretty good line (again, by Rodrik): "I prefer my history dead. Dead history is writ in ink, the living sort in blood." I don't know, people, I prefer the one I quoted above with madness in the blood. Like Asha I'm thinking this Rodrik is a tad too cowardly, but he's got a point - if he dies in battle or whatever, how is he going to be able to read more books? He truly is a curious, inquisitive, calm and intelligent man, someone born in the wrong time and on the wrong island.

Asha may be a badass pirate, but she's also given some humanity when we realize she's been postponing asking about her mother out of fear - afraid to hear bad news. That's cute and realistic and makes Asha less cartoonish (and we need some grit here, especially after we meet the quite colorful Euron). Rodrik assures her her mother is stronger, which is good. Alannys is a truly haunted soul, one ruined by the loss of so many children; it is almost as if she is already a ghost when she spent her last years on Pyke wandering the halls with a candle, looking for her dead sons. Evocative, dark, and with just a few words Martin makes me feel sorry for Alannys Greyjoy, whom I hardly know. Asha decides to visit her next morning (still postponing the hurt a bit, I see - cause she knows Alannys will ask for Theon; and Asha believes him to be dead --- this is rather different in the show amirite? Reading this, I was sure Asha knew all about Theon's pain and missing parts but that's in the show of course where she goes to rescue him and all that stuff that is not in the books).

Rodrik, not content with cool quotes and highlighted dialogue, manages to kind of namedrop the title of the book as well, explaining its meaning: "(...)all I see are crows, squabbling over the corpse of Westeros." The Reader. He knows how to express himself. Probably because he reads books. Books help increase vocabulary, among other things. It is known.  Now suddenly Rodrik is worried Alannys is going to die soon (moments before he's like, "She'll outlive us all") - an authorial mistake? Exceptionally well written and subtle humanity, of a man who wants to comfort Asha but also wants her to stay away from trouble, ending up saying conflicting things as he tries to do his best? Asha, however, is compelled to go anyway - she doesn't want to spend the rest of her life wondering what would've happened if she didn't go. I like Asha. Love her jab at Rodrik's sister to make her point, too (she doesn't want to become another Gwynesse). Rodrik, surprisingly, offers Asha to become the heiress of Ten Towers (a pretty damn good prospect for an Ironborn woman) if only she will stop her mad plans of queensmoots and defeating her bad uncles. Stop! More cool names incoming because you know why not. Also, adds to the illusion of a living, breathing world. Sigfryd Harlaw the Silverhair. Humpbacked Hotho Harlaw. The Tower of Glimmering. Ser Harras Harlaw, the Knight. Grey Garden. Boremund the Blue. Harridan Hill. Martin sure bandies them about, but even though these characters and places are given zero description, they still somehow seem to come alive. I feel like I want to run an RPG with characters living in the Tower of Glimmering, reavers one and all! You know... all these places merely alluded to, they all ignite the imagination because of Martin's knack for evocative names. You can call me a fan of that aspect of A Song of Ice and Fire.

"It's my father's seat I want, not yours." And that's how simple it really is, eh. It's a solid offer, but it's the wrong one. Asha has decided. Asha is stubborn. Asha is probably my favorite Ironborn. Love Rodrik's retort too: "Then you are just another crow, screaming for carrion." So Martin went with the title 'The Kraken's Daughter' for this chapter, which is how Asha sees herself, but if Rodrik had been allowed to choose, who knows maybe this chapter would have been titled 'Just Another Crow'. Rodrik will never change, Asha decides, but she also thinks that he'll support her anyway, even if she's going against all his suggestions.

Leaving her uncle, she wonders how she's going to gain enough support to become the first queen of the Iron Islands; who must she win over, who are already won. Her victory at Deepwood Motte is a good boast to have, and her crew aboard the Black Wind are very proud of her; in short, Martin lets us in a little more on the plan, allowing us to wonder whether Asha could actually pull it off or not; I am already invested, though knowing Martin, I can't hope for a quick and easy solution, or even a victory for this wannabe queen.

..a shadow steps out from behind a well (she's out in the courtyard but I didn't notice). Another ghost, she thinks - and I am reminded of my own comment about her mother Alannys - but it's none other than the already mentioned Tristifer Botley; a new character but one of the earliest introduced in the chapter. His sudden presence now doesn't come as a surprise at all; he was signalled with a heavy hand. Anyway, no big deal. He wants to see her, and Asha wonders which part of her - simple as that and Martin establishes what kind of relationship we have here. He's so good when he's good! Tristifer is too sweet for the Iron Islands, Asha thinks, and I'm like, uhm, have we actually met a character in this chapter who is "true" to the Ironborn stereotype? (The answer is no.) Tris was sent away to be a ward for Baelor Blacktyde, similar to how brother Theon served Ned Stark; Tris gives a lengthy update on his political status, which feels a bit unnatural. Here you meet a woman you are attracted to after who knows how long and you're like "When my father denied his claim, Euron drowned him and made my uncles swear fealty and he took half our lands and blah blah". Sure, we get it - Euron is bad news...but it doesn't sound like someone talking, you know what I mean? More a recital. Anyway, MINOR nitpick. Wait a minute what happens now. Who's this Iris all of a sudden? "Your uncle bought him," Iris said. Who? Which Iris? Isn't Asha talking to Tris? Did Martin mention anyone else nearby? Am I not reading close enough? One moment, I have to retrace.

Confused.

Oh! Oh, wait. It's a damned typo, is all it is! It's not "Iris" it's supposed to be "Tris". In a world of typos, that's one weird typo. I just didn't understand where this Iris woman appeared from. What the hell, kind of. Right. Confusion cancelled.

The chat with Tris seems mainly to exist to allow Martin to explain to us the current political situation on the Iron Islands, primarily how Euron gained power so fast. All well and good, but how about some action or plot developm... oh, Tris was the first to squeeze Asha's boobs. That's distracting. Also, when they were old enough, Asha allowed Tris access to her body; but the way it is worded, it is clear she was exploring, figuring out her body, not preparing a future with this fellow. To be honest Tris Botley does not in any way seem like a good fit for Asha Greyjoy, anyway. When Maester Qalen "found them at their play" Tris was sent away to Blacktyde. It seems obvious that Tris is romantically interested, and always was, while Asha doesn't really give a shit (as evidenced by the fact Tris sent her letters, and she never wrote one). He had already begun to bore her when he was sent away. Yeah so Tris isn't a very interesting character, but that's kind of the point. Giving Asha and Tris this backstory adds depth; it's not necessary at all for the story, but it makes for deeper characterization. I approve, though I wouldn't mind if Tris Botley was a tad more interesting.  Once more Asha is told how strong Euron has become (politically). It's vital of course for us readers to really see Euron as a threat; it must have been quite a challenge for Mr. Martin to indeed set up Euron like this, when we never met him or knew about him before. I admit it took a long time for me to warm up to Euron and his story; it wasn't until this year with the premature ejaculation of the "The Forsaken" chapter that I really began to appreciate what Martin is doing with this character.

More cool names! Lists of them. And more important info: Euron brought back "monsters from the east" (huh, what monsters?) and "wizards" (sure, remember those...Pryat Pree?); Asha sounds like she only half believes it, and she certainly doesn't seem intimidated or threatened. Tris promises to support her at the queensmoot she's imagining is going to happen. And he's like, "You shall have all of me. I am your man, forever. Asha. I would wed yo--" WE GET IT. Whoops! Asha's mother has kind of promised her to this weakling! Haha. A nice little wrench. While tv!Yara is either lesbian or bisexual, Asha Greyjoy seems to be decidely heterosexual: "I have touched more men than I can count." You have to kind of laugh at Tris' surprise, though; he's like WHAAAT DID YOU HAVE SEX?! while she's like the most sex-relaxed ever. Simply put: You're a sweet boy, Tris Botley, but Asha's no sweet girl. The vibe is cool and perhaps just maybe a touch too...adolescent. Anyway, like Asha I have had enough of this shit, I didn't come to Westeros for awkward romance, I came for the brutality and dragonforce and breastplate nipples.

He isn't quite finished with her, though, grabbing her arm and...man, did he really stay celibate in her absence? No wonder he gets a bit aggravated when she shows how little she cares. She has to pull out her dirk and force him off her. She tells him she'll arrange for some whore in his bed, and that he can imagine it is her, but she is his queen not his wife. So what's up with this scene as the end of the chapter? I think it's to solidify in Asha's mind who she is; and where she is going. Threatening this "sweet boy" is deciding to let go of the past, and embrace the future, uncertain though it may be. She is the Kraken's Daughter, not some lesser woman.

Why Martin wanted to add that last line describing Tris, I do not know: "Asha sheathed her dirk and left him standing there, with a fat drop of blood slowly creeping down his neck, black in the pale light of the moon." It's very descriptive, evocative, whatever - but why? What is the purpose of this description?

It's not a very exciting chapter. It is mostly setup, and characterization. I like Asha, but I wouldn't mind if this chapter was written in a, I don't know, more action-y way. Like, could something exciting be happening as she learned what she needed to learn? I don't know. It's a lot of writing about what's going on elsewhere and what will happen next; but it is not immediate, with most of the text either being Asha's thoughts...basically there's two encounters. One with Lord Rodrik who's reading a book and the other with Tris Botley. That's it. I feel like there's something missing for it to be more memorable. It just doesn't...it's like, man it's hard to explain. I feel like we're skirting around the story instead of diving deep into it; there's a world of difference between being at Catelyn's shoulders in A Storm of Swords and Asha's here; but of course, Asha's POV is brand new (was brand new)...I want to be more immersed, I'd like more description of Ten Towers perhaps, I don't know.

But I'm not complaining.
It's just not as wonderful as books I-III; and maybe it's better than I remembered from the first time I read it. Today's key word, I suppose, is "(slightly) undecided". Which, incidentally, describes me very well...I believe.


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