Welcome back to A Read of Ice and Fire! Please join me as I read and react, for the very first time, to George R.R. Martin’s epic fantasy series A Song of Ice and Fire.
Today’s entry is Part 24 of A Storm of Swords, in which we cover Chapter 42 (“Daenerys”).
Previous entries are located in the Index. The only spoilers in the post itself will be for the actual chapters covered and for the chapters previous to them. As for the comments, please note that the Powers That Be have provided you a lovely spoiler thread here on Tor.com. Any spoileriffic discussion should go there, where I won’t see it. Non-spoiler comments go below, in the comments to the post itself.
And now, the post!
Scheduling note: The fifth annual JordanCon, and my duties as its Toastmaster, doth frighteningly rapidly approacheth! Therefore! The Read of Ice and Fire will be on hiatus! For the Fridays of both April 19th and 26th! Take note!
Chapter 42: Daenerys
Dany observes the five thousand soldiers barring her way to the city Yunkai. Jorah tells her that though the Yunkish slave soldiers are not nearly the equal of her Unsullied, they will not defeat this army without significant bloodshed. Dany orders that the leaders of the two mercenary groups as well as the slavers be brought to her to talk, but not together. She goes then and speaks to Grey Worm, the Unsullied the others had decisively selected to be their commander, and tells him when they fight, to let go any slave who runs or surrenders. She moves on, observing the ragtag camp of the tens of thousands of new freedmen who’d chosen to follow her rather than stay in Astapor. She knows they are “more burden than benefit,” but cannot bring herself to abandon them.
Soon Jorah brings the three leaders of the first mercenary group, the Stormcrows, to Dany’s tent. Their spokesperson, Prendahl na Ghezn, tells her Yunkai will not fall as easily as did Astapor. Dany observes that she has ten thousand Unsullied to the Stormcrows’ five hundred, and wonders what will happen to them when the other mercenary group (the Second Sons) turns against them and joins her. She offers them a share in the plunder and more rewards later if they join her. Prendahl calls her “a horselord’s whore” and declares he will “breed her to his stallion,” but Dany merely smiles and says she needs their answer by the next day. She notes that the third captain, Daario Naharis, looks back and nods to her as they leave.
The captain of the Second Sons, Mero aka the Titan’s Bastard, makes crude and overt sexual advances to Dany. She ignores them and urges him to either take his gold and flee the field unharmed, or come fight for her instead. Mero replies that he has made oath to Yunkai, but would consider it in return for Dany’s favors in bed. Jorah grows angry, but Dany only asks him to consider her offer, and also gifts him with a wagonful of wine to take back to his men. After he leaves, both Arstan and Jorah urge Dany not to trust Mero, and opine that there is no hope of turning the Stormcrows either.
The Yunkai arrive in the evening, led by a man named Grazdan mo Eraz, who tells Dany that she will be deafeated and made a slave herself in a pleasure house if she attacks, but offers her fifty thousand golden marks if she retreats. She replies that she gives them three days to release every slave they have, and in return she will not raze Yunkai. He calls her mad, and she has Drogon set his clothes on fire. Arstan puts the flames out, and she kicks them out. Once they are gone, she gives orders to mount an attack that night; Jorah is shocked as the others initially, but then remarks that she is Rhaegar’s sister.
Near the time of their attack, Jorah brings her Daario Neharis, who’d been caught sneaking into their camp. Daario declares that he has brought her the Stormcrows, and as proof shows her the heads of Prendahl and the third captain. He declares his prowess in flowery language and pledges his devotion and love to her. Dany answers that he will fight for her that night, then, overriding Jorah’s objections. After Daario leaves, Jorah continues to protest until Dany loses her temper and tells him that she respects him but will never desire him, and she will no longer tolerate his efforts to make sure she is the only man she relies upon. Jorah goes stiff and cold, and leaves.
Unable to sleep while the battle goes on, she summons Arstan and asks for stories about her brother Rhaegar. Arstan tells her that Rhaegar was a great warrior, but seldom entered the lists for tourneys, preferring his harp to the lance. He says, however, that Rhaegar won the greatest tourney of them all, at Harrenhal in the year of the false spring. Dany recognizes it as the one in which Rhaegar crowned Lyanna Stark as the “queen of love and beauty” even though his wife Elia and Lyanna’s betrothed were both there, and later stole her away. Dany says Viserys told her it was her fault, for being born too late to be Rhaegar’s wife and make him happy, but Arstan opines that Rhaegar was not made for happiness, but rather had an air of doom about him his whole life.
Jorah returns to report that the Stormcrows turned coat as promised, and the Yunkai surrendered with no more than a dozen losses on their side. Dany is pleased, and orders that any who wish to pledge her their faith may do so. The next day she rides to Yunkai’s walls, to watch the freed slaves leaving the city. The slaves begin shouting a word she does not recognize, and Missandei explains that they are calling her “Mother.” The chant spreads among the thousands of slaves exiting the walls until it becomes a roar, and they throng about her; her riders grow nervous, but Dany laughs, remembering her vision from the House of the Undying, and tells them these are her children.
“Mother,” they called from a hundred throats, a thousand, ten thousand. “Mother,” they sang, their fingers brushing her legs as she flew by. “Mother, Mother, Mother!”
Well, that’s not symbolic or anything.
I should probably go back and look at that chapter where Dany had all the visions so I can know which one this refers to, but I think I’m going to refrain from that just yet, and maybe instead go back and look at them once I’ve gotten to the end of this book.
So, Dany did two things here of which I approve wholeheartedly in principle but am getting pretty leery about from a practical perspective. The first is her apparent crusade to free all the slaves in what is apparently the least human-rights-friendly region of this world (which is really saying something). Which I am very glad of, on the one hand, because, you know, fuck slavery. Nor did I miss Dany’s thoughts about her own barrenness and how these are the only “children” she’ll ever have, which, well, there you go.
But on the other, Jorah’s concerns about the problem of dealing with an ever-growing population of completely untrained and underequipped “soldiers” who meanwhile still have to be fed and provided for is a very valid concern. She’s going to have to come up with a viable solution to that situation, stat, and I for one have no idea what it could be.
The second thing, of course, is Dany’s blowup at Jorah himself. Which again, on the one hand I applaud because EXACTLY, but on the other makes me very nervous about the future disposition of Jorah’s loyalty. Dany recalls the prophecy saying that she will be betrayed twice more, for gold and for love, and my money’s still solidly on Jorah for the latter.
The saying is that “hell hath no fury like a woman scorned,” but I’ve never understood why that proverb singles out women, because have you seen what men do when they think they’re being humiliated over love? Going batshit crazy about jealousy/cuckolding/unrequited love – going batshit about love in general, actually – is most definitely not a gender-specific trait, is what I’m saying.
Although men’s propensity for immediately going straight to the “you’re a whooooooore” insult bin anytime they are confronted with an Uppity Chick Who Doesn’t Know Her Place™, that’s… actually, no, women do that too, never mind. In fact it’s sort of more upsetting when other women do it, because really?, but it’s definitely more rampant – and threatening – coming from men.
So I have to give Dany super-kudos for how well she handled the absolute avalanche of that bullshit she received in this chapter, because wow. Her playing up the “Oh, I’m just a poor stupid girl” thing was hilarious, in fact, and she got off some pretty decent zingers in return. You go, girl.
Also: Oh ho! Sneaky Dany, attacking in the night! Underhanded, yes, but I’m pretty sure what she did actually assured the least amount of life lost on both sides possible, so I’ll take it.
I was going to be upset that we didn’t get to see the battle, until I realized that I actually didn’t give a crap about seeing a battle that was pretty much a foregone conclusion. The info we got instead about Rhaegar was much more interesting.
…if not too terribly informative, at least not as far as I can tell. Because c’mon, I already knew that Rhaegar stole Lyanna from Robert, and that that was basically what precipitated Robert’s uprising against the Targaryens, or kickstarted it anyway, but I want the DETAILS of this whole thing. Mainly, why I seem to be getting hints that Rhaegar is not the two-timing douchebag the bare facts of the situation make him out to be. ‘Cause, you know, on the face of it, this is a dude who threw over his wife and mother of his children, in order to snake another dude’s fiancée, right in front of him AND HIS OWN WIFE. In public. Which is about the textbook definition of How To Be A Massive Dick, And Not In The Good Way.
So, either there is a hell of lot more to this story than we’ve been told so far, or – no, you know what, that is totally what it is, and I am getting a wee bit annoyed that I still don’t even understand how or why Lyanna died, much less exactly what went down at this tournament, except that it was apparently the equivalent of about seven years’ worth of Days of Our Lives plotlines crammed into one weekend. Or week, or however long tournaments take. Somebody just needs to cough that story up already, seriously.
Other, more random notes:
“Yunkish”: Is it terrible that the first thing I thought of on seeing this word is how it would be a great portmanteau of “young” and “hunkish”? Yes, yes it is terrible? Yeah, thought so. Sorry!
On reading the descriptions of the crazy fashions of the Yunkai’i and sellswords in this chapter, I am rather bemused at the notion of soldiers whose toilette is not as simple and easy as possible. Like the nail polish; if I can’t keep nail polish from chipping immediately to save my life, when generally the most strenuous thing I do with my fingers is type, then how does that work for dudes who fight for a living?
And this is not even mentioning the hairstyles. Does no one care about lice in this world? And isn’t it a tactical disadvantage? Like, isn’t having a beard that goes down to your chest, for example, just an invitation for someone to grab it in battle and pull you off balance? Because that might not sound like a big deal, but in close quarters combat that’s more than enough to get you killed. All it takes is a moment.
That said, I totally want to see a guy with his hair in a unicorn’s horn, because that is awesome. Giggle-worthy in the extreme, but also awesome. Screw mohawks, y’all, this should totally be the next big thing in alternative men’s hairstyles. MAKE IT SO.
Also, Dany talks in this chapter about how big her dragons are going to grow, and maybe I’m just focusing too much on stupid details but the only thing that made me think of was yes, but how are you going to feed three dragons when they’re each the size of a house? Because, damn. The Internet tells me that a lion – which is a hell of a lot smaller than a house – eats on average 15 pounds of meat a day. So according to my completely scientific and totally non-pulled-from-ass extrapolation from that, your average house-sized dragon would probably need to eat, like, at least a whole horse a day, right? So that’s three horses a day, or twenty-one horses a week, or
thirty ninety horses a month! (Math is hard!) What I’m saying is, that’s a lot of fucking horses.
Or cows, or whatever, you get my point. That just does not seem like a viable diet plan for Dany’s current situation, financially. This is something that is actually worrying me right now, what is my life.
On the other hand: riding dragons. Aw, yeah.
And that’s that for now, y’all! Happy Easter weekend, if that’s your denominational groove, and I’ll see you next Friday!