Apr 1 2011 2:20pm

A Read of Ice and Fire: A Game of Thrones, Part 3

A Game of Thrones by George R.R. MartinWelcome 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 3 of A Game of Thrones, in which we cover Chapters 4 (“Eddard”) and 5 (“Jon”).

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, The Powers That Be at have very kindly set up a forum thread for spoilery comments. 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!


Chapter 4: Eddard

What Happens
Ned watches the king’s entourage enter the gates, and is shocked to see how much weight Robert’s gained since the last time Ned saw him nine years ago. The Starks welcome the king’s family and introduce the children to each other, and Robert immediately wants to go to the crypt to pay his respects. The queen begins to object until her twin brother Jaime takes her arm, silencing her. Ned and Robert head down into the tombs underneath Winterfell. Robert complains about the cold and the emptiness of the North, and extols the virtues of living in Highgarden. They visit the grave of Lyanna, Ned’s sister, who was supposed to marry Robert but died when she was only sixteen; Robert is upset that she is buried in such a dark place. Robert comments that he vowed to kill Rhaegar Targaryen for what he did to her, and Ned reminds him that he did; Robert answers “only once.”

They discuss Jon Arryn’s shockingly swift decline and death, and Robert opines that grief has made his widow Lysa mad; he doesn’t understand why she fled with her son Robert (named for the king) rather than let him be fostered with Lord Tywin Lannister. Ned thinks “a pit viper” would be a better choice, but does not say so. Ned is shocked when Robert mentions that he is replacing Arryn with someone else as Warden of the East rather than letting his son inherit; Robert answers that he needs a war leader there, not a boy. Then Robert finally brings up why he came to Winterfell: he wants to appoint Ned Hand of the King. Ned isn’t surprised by this, but he doesn’t want the position at all. Robert also mentions that he plans to wed his son Joff to Ned’s daughter Sansa. Ned asks for a day to consider, which Robert grants impatiently. Ned feels foreboding at the idea of leaving the North.

So I’m a little confused here, because Ned remembers in this chapter that Lyanna died of a fever, and I’m unclear on how Rhaegar could have been responsible for that. …Of course, I just realized I’m assuming that whatever Rhaegar did had to do with her death, which may not be the case at all. There are several things he could have done without killing her to inspire that level of retribution from Robert. If it’s the obvious alternate option, I think I agree with Robert about one death not being good enough.

That’s about the only thing I like about the king so far, though. He strikes me as one of those characters who aren’t evil or even unsympathetic, but instead are just dangerously oblivious. It’s a very common thing in authority figures in fiction, mostly because their positions of power enable them to make their obliviousness stick, and ergo screw up everyone else’s lives, and ergo create conflict. Yay? Yeah, probably not.

Ned himself, on the other hand, is very likeable despite clearly not being the warmest guy ever. There’s something fundamentally appealing about fair-minded people who just get their jobs done and don’t waste everyone’s time complaining or grousing about it. Probably because these people tend to be rarer than you’d think.

Ned’s thoughts about Theon’s father make Theon make a little more sense, too. I suppose if I were a sort-of hostage to the man who had participated in taking down my father, justly or otherwise, I might have something of a chip on my shoulder, too.

The Lannisters are going to be trouble. This statement has been brought to you by Noshit Sherlock and the letter Duh.

Robert Arryn: Man, is this going to be one of those Wuthering Heights-type things where half the characters all have the same name? I hate that. Also, his father Jon (see, already two of those, too) was totally poisoned. Sick, my ass. This I Foretell.

The Lords of Winterfell watched them pass. Their likenesses were carved into the stones that sealed the tombs. In long rows they sat, blind eyes staring out into eternal darkness, while great stone direwolves curled round their feet. The shifting shadows made the stone figures seem to stir as the living passed by.

I don’t have anything to say about this, I’m just quoting it because it’s cool.


Chapter 5: Jon

What Happens
At the welcome feast for the king, Jon is glad that he was sent to sit at the end of the table with the younger squires instead of with the king’s family, as this means he can drink as much as he wants. He thinks of his impressions of their visitors: the king (disappointing, fat), the queen (beautiful, fake), Princess Myrcella (timid, probably stupid), Prince Tommen (plump), Crown Prince Joffrey (pouty, disdainful), Jaime Lannister (regal-looking), and his deformed and dwarfed brother Tyrion (fascinating). Jon feeds his direwolf Ghost half a chicken, and watches the pup silently face down another dog three times his size.

He is joined by his uncle Benjen, who is sympathetic to Jon’s awkward position in the household. Ben is impressed at Jon’s perceptiveness and skills, but when Jon entreats him to let Jon join the Night’s Watch, Ben demurs, telling Jon he doesn’t understand the enormity of the decision. Angered, Jon jumps up and rushes out, fighting tears, and runs into Tyrion Lannister in the courtyard, sitting on a ledge above a door. Tyrion asks to be introduced to Ghost, and startles Jon and Ghost both by leaping down with a somersault into a back handspring. Tyrion asks if Jon is “Ned Stark’s bastard,” and seeing Jon has taken offense, comments that dwarfs don’t have to be tactful. Tyrion opines that Jon has more of the North in him than his half-brothers, which pleases Jon, and advises Jon to make his status as a bastard, which he equates to his own as a dwarf, a strength rather than a weakness.

Cool, a Jon POV. I continue to like him. He is clearly much more a fourteen-year-old boy here than he appeared to the much younger Bran earlier, but that’s only to be expected, since Bran obviously worships him, and Jon is still cool even so. His perceptive (and unflattering) appraisals of the royal family were pretty amusing.

It must really suck having no real place in a society where pretty much everyone does. Have one, I mean. I agree with Ben, though, that Jon shouldn’t go to the Night Watch. It seems like a pretty grim fate, even compared to the plethora of other grim fates this world apparently has to offer. At least have sex first, kid, seriously.

Ser Jaime Lannister was twin to Queen Cersei; tall and golden, with flashing green eyes and a smile that cut like a knife. He wore crimson silk, high black boots, a black satin cloak. On the breast of his tunic, the lion of his House was embroidered in gold thread, roaring its defiance. They called him the Lion of Lannister to his face and whispered “Kingslayer” behind his back.

Jon found it hard to look away from him. This is what a king should look like, he thought to himself as the man passed.

From the mouths of babes… With a title like A Game of Thrones, it’s not hard to guess what the central conflict is going to be here. Unless I’m wrong, of course, but this, put together with the little foreshadowing, er, shadow of Tyrion’s at the end of the chapter makes me pretty sure I’m right. Fat King Robert might want to watch his back, is all I’m saying.

Speaking of Tyrion:

“Too hot, too noisy, and I’d drunk too much wine,” the dwarf told him. “I learned long ago that it is considered rude to vomit on your brother.”

I won’t lie, this made me laugh out loud. Tyrion’s clearly got a chip on his shoulder that makes Jon’s look like a paint flake, but I feel like he and I could get along. And, can you blame him for being bitter? Being physically different and/or handicapped is still a major stigma here and now in the real world, so for this decidedly Darwinist medieval fantasy world I can only imagine it’s exponentially worse.

Especially with Mr. Pretty brother Jaime to compare himself to constantly. Ugh, Jaime hasn’t even had a line yet and I’m already predisposed to despise him. I guess we’ll see if I’m right to do so, eh?

And that’s about what I got for this one, kids. Have a delightful weekend, and I’ll see you with a fresh new AGOT installment next Friday!

Dorothy Johnston
1. CloudMist
Congratulations on Brandon Sanderson doing a Leigh Butler Re-read Re-read. (I almost bought it until I remembered the date.) :)
2. cisko
Leigh, I love these SOIAF re-reads. It's great to hear your thoughts on what's coming up, because it really highlights where GRRM has either foreshadowed... or set up false expectations. Either way, the analysis is perceptive and you catch undercurrents that I've glossed over in a couple of reads of the book. You're about to reach the point where Plot starts happening, which should be even more fun.
Marcus W
3. toryx
There's so much about these chapters that I just can't say anything about. But I will say this:

I love seeing the response to these scenes from a first time reader. I've been able to do that before, to a degree, when making friends read them. But this is far better than just talking about it. It makes me remember what it was like to read it for the first time too, and I get all the more excited for how good the whole novel is.

Oops, that's a spoiler isn't it? Oh well.
Kat Blom
4. pro_star
Thanks for the wicked read Leigh! Hope your surviving the aftermath of the move alright!
(I don't want to say anything further for fear of potential letting of cats out of bags....)
5. Aloisio Junior
Yeah... Jaime is .. not likeable...

The read is great, by the way...
6. andNowMyWatchBegins
I am following this now after just catching up on a totally different read which has a newbie and a re-reader both providing opinions on chapters as they go.

Fascinating to see the spectrum of reactions this book can evoke, be they proved right or wrong down the line. I will say this: always be prepared to be surprised by a character
Brian Vrolyk
7. vyskol
"The Lannisters are going to be trouble. This statement has been brought to you by Noshit Sherlock and the letter Duh."

Love it!
Marcus W
8. toryx
Oh, awesome news was just announced on GRRM's Not a Blog!

Since A Dance with Dragons is getting cost prohibitive due to its size, the publishers have decided to split the book up. They're going to turn it into five separate books, with the first still to be released on July 12th.

This is actually better news than Scalzi's new book. I can't wait!
Nathan Martin
9. lerris
I find your comment interesting on the differences in the perception of Jon based on the differing viewpoints. Perhaps this many-viewpoint approach ( which continues throughout the series ) is a big part of why GRRM is finding the writing to be such a challenge lately. There are a lot of filters to keep track of.
Rob Munnelly
10. RobMRobM
Nice post, Leigh.
- You predict the Lannisters are going to be trouble? Nice crystal ball there.
- Give thought to how the Queen must feel that the first thing her husband does is pay respects to the grave of his old love. Walk a mile in Cersei's shoes, eh?
- One minor correction - King doesn't live in Highgarden - just another beautiful place down south not far from Kings Landing.
- "So I’m a little confused here, because Ned remembers in this chapter that Lyanna died of a fever, and I’m unclear on how Rhaegar could have been responsible for that. …Of course, I just realized I’m assuming that whatever Rhaegar did had to do with her death, which may not be the case at all. There are several things he could have done without killing her to inspire that level of retribution from Robert. If it’s the obvious alternate option, I think I agree with Robert about one death not being good enough." Perceptive comments and question, Leigh. Rheagar, Lyanna, Robert facts are unclear to reader at this point. Consider coming back to this discussion once you have more facts in hand.
- "He strikes me as one of those characters who aren’t evil or even unsympathetic, but instead are just dangerously oblivious." Nicely put. More to come on this front.
- Note the King's sigil and it relates to Bran chapter.
- "Robert Arryn: Man, is this going to be one of those Wuthering Heights-type things where half the characters all have the same name? I hate that." To some extent, yes. Bran named after Ned's brother, Rickon named after Ned's father, Jon possibly named for Jon Arryn. There's a reason Kings in Westeros always have the title "The First of His Name" or Second or Third.
- Really nice thoughts re Theon. I didn't pay him much heed on my first read through. Good idea to take a quick look at Iron Islands on the map to get why King and Starks combined to take action.
- "I won’t lie, this made me laugh out loud. " First of many: this I foretell.
- "Being physically different and/or handicapped is still a major stigma here and now in the real world, so for this decidedly Darwinist medieval fantasy world I can only imagine it’s exponentially worse." What you said.

tatiana deCarillion
11. decarillion
Each of the characters is presented to us with multiple facets (which is not always done by writers), giving each of us a chance to form some kind of affinity with each character.

Your observations of the characters, thus far, are based on other characters' viewpoints as well as your own. It's fun to think about how much one's one perspective of a character is colored by the point of view of the other characters and how much is based solely on the narration of the character's thoughts and deeds.
Olivia Ryan
12. Clyard
Hi Leigh, I'm really enjoying your read - you're very perceptive! Love Jon's comments on the King's party.
Re 8: Toryx - what day is today? Nearly had a fit when I read your post!
13. Patrick C
Totally agree. Jon needs to experience sex so he knows what he would be giving up!

I love how a character can seem so different when viewed through the various points of view (including that character's own). That has to be very difficult to do as an author. And as there is no omniscient narrator, everything we "see" or "hear" is through the eyes and ears of the character, so we aren't necessarily getting a reliable narrator either.
Rob Munnelly
14. RobMRobM
13. Regarding points of view and seeing things through a filter, Ned's in many respects is even more interesting than Jon's, IMHO.
Matthew B
15. MatthewB
I didstinctly remember getting a chill down my spine every time the Stark family motto made an appearance in this book. "Winter is coming." It still does it to me.
16. Gentleman Farmer
I also liked the pick-up on the differences in perception based on differing viewpoints. In my view this is another key to the success of the series and its complexity.

Even though things are narrated and not explicitly in first person, each chapter describes the viewpoints only based on the knowledge and biases of the individual for whom it is named.

As a result, the reader needs to contend with the possibility of unreliable narrators and those who believe something, or tell themselves something even though their actions or an objective truth is different.

I think this is brought home to the reader with the first words of the chapter, to the effect of "There were times when Jon didn't mind being a bastard, and it occurred to him that this might be one of them". This statement is demonstrated to be false within the chapter, but Jon may nonetheless have believed it to be true.

Combined with potential differing perspectives from Daenerys and Robert as to the role of the Usurper in the previous two chapters, the reader is put on notice that not only are characters shown in shades of grey, but the reader may need to work (or even be unable) to determine the objective truth of a situation.

As to the names... there's not a lot of duplication amongst living persons. Where there is, usually a nickname is adopted. For Robert Arryn, I think he's the only character whose name had to be changed for the television series to "Sweet Robin" to distinguish him.
17. Edgewalker
Two chapters at a time is going to take forever.
Mouldy Squid
18. Mouldy_Squid

Regarding your confusion, I cannot say more than this: all will be made clear(ish). There is so much more yet to be revealed about the questions you raise concerning Eddard. Of course, this is going to take about 3 more books or so for that to happen (or some deductive reasoning on facts you haven't yet been provided).
19. Fredweena
"Promise me Ned, promise me." I have long had a theory about that promise, which I will elaborate on when Leigh has gotten further in the book. (Disclaimer: I have only read the first two books, and it was eons ago, so I have no idea if my theory is correct/has been confirmed/denied/or elaborated on).

Tyrion - I kinda really like him.
Antoni Ivanov
20. tonka
dangerously oblivious .That was actually very spot on I laughed a litte If there are two words to describe every character these would be one of the best for Robert Baratheon aka Robert of the House Baratheon, the First of his Name, King of the Andals and the Rhoynar and the First Men, Lord of the Seven Kingdoms and Protector of the Realm.
I am writing it because that's one of my favourite styling of a Monarch in literature. It's just so cool... .
(a bit geeky of me? :0)
David Thomson
21. ZetaStriker
Edgewalker @17: Yes, yes it is. As has been pointed out many times, ASoIaF is broken up into many more chapters than WoT or the Malazan books, and the re-read needs to cover a larger page count in order to compensate. As much as I like reading Leigh's thoughts, I'm more annoyed by their brevity in this situation than I am able to enjoy them.
Valentin M
22. ValMar
RobM @ 10

Hate to nitpick but Highgarden isn't so close to King's Landing.
23. ksh1elds555
Yay Tyrion! My favorite...
24. Patrick C
Has anyone played the Game of Thrones boardgame? It's very much like Risk, but anyway, that game is the reason I know the maps, otherwise I would be totally lost. (And it is also an excellent game, if you're a fan of Risk or similar strategy games, I highly recommend it.)
Rob Munnelly
25. RobMRobM
@22 - true - not close but much closer than Winterfell, of course. Storms End, also mentioned by Robert, is much closer.
Chin Bawambi
26. bawambi
This comment brought to you as well by the letter DUH...
Is there an online/flash version of that boardgame Patrick

Rob Munnelly
27. RobMRobM
Leigh - a bit surprised you didn't mention that Ned was only a fill-in for his older brother in marrying Catelyn, following Brandon's murder by Mad King Aerys only days before their planned wedding. Adds an interesting element to the marriage.

Steven Halter
28. stevenhalter
The whole tomb visit did seem to add an appropriate feeling of gloom to the king's visit.
Rob Munnelly
29. RobMRobM
A great bit: "'How many cups have you had?' Jon smiled. Ben Stark laughed."

Another one: "I'm not your son.... More's the pity."

Good idea to keep track of Targaryens mentioned in these chapters.
- Rhaegar - goes toe to toe with Robert, the fiercest warrior of his generation. A better showing than one could expect from his little brother Viserys, eh?
- Daeren - Jon's hero who conquered Dorne at age 14.
This is one of the reasons to read the Dunk and Egg stories, which give more info on Targaryens from 80 or so years before.

A name to put in a file cabinet for future reference - Howland Reed, the little crannogman, who helped Ned with Lyanna. (And, no, I'm not going to explain what a crannogman is at this point.)

Cassandra Cookson
30. cass
I think I might have read one more chapter before concluding that the book was the English War of the Roses redux and deciding to quit. Given the intensity surrounding this series perhaps that was a mistake?
Endless series syndrome a la Jordan was also on my should I try again?

Julian Augustus
31. Alisonwonderland
Leigh and Patric:
Despite what the vows say, being a member of the Nightwatch does not preclude one from having sex, as we'll find out later from several different characters.
Claire de Trafford
33. Booksnhorses
@30. Cass, the series is excellent which makes the wait even more frustrating. I guess it is up to you to decide whether it is worth it (I think it is). Many fans seem to become bitter and twisted about the wait. I say 'better to have loved and lost'.

There are so many layers Leigh here - so much to come back to, so many different ways to change your mind. One of the delights of the series IMHO.
someone else
34. Naraoia
The Lannisters are going to be trouble. This statement has been brought to you by Noshit Sherlock and the letter Duh.

No, really? ^_^

Robert Arryn: Man, is this going to be one of those Wuthering Heights-type things where half the characters all have the same name? I hate that.

Oddly enough, I never had trouble remembering any of those characters.
Probably because they tend to have little in common except the name.
OTOH, there are ones with totally unique names that made me go "wait,
who the hell is that" every time they showed up on my first read.

Also, his father Jon (see, already two of those, too) was totally poisoned. Sick, my ass. This I Foretell.

*chuckles* I think we should keep a record of these Foretellings. It'll
be interesting to look back on them from the vantage of a few more

Ugh, Jaime hasn’t even had a line yet and I’m already predisposed to despise him.

I think that's kind of the point. :P

I guess we’ll see if I’m right to do so, eh?

Presumably ;)
lawrence henderson
35. justinius23
i can distinctly remember this is when i realised these books REALLY weren't going to be your average fantasy series.
Julian Augustus
36. Alisonwonderland

Though there are several obvious parallels between the War of the Roses and aSoIaF, this story goes a whole lot deeper. For one, aSoIaF is a six-sided struggle as opposed to two contending houses in the WotR, and is therefore a whole lot more complex. For another, there is the element of the fantastical - magic, dragons, frozen zombies, zombiemakers, and green men - which introduces a whole new level of complexity into the mix. Whether or not you choose to try again is up to you, and I grant that the long long waits between books are a major put-off, but you shouldn't avoid the story merely because you think it is a WotR redux. It is a whole lot more than that.
37. ksh1elds555
Yes, the board game is fun! My hubby is a huge fan of it, and the series of books. I'm more of a book fan. I think the game is best with about 4 people. I like to play the Starks and consolidate my northern power base while the Lannisters and Baratheons battle it out in the center. Although it is hard to get the required number of cities without making inroads to the south...
someone else
38. Naraoia
cass@30: if I were you, I wouldn't put it down because the story doesn't seem interesting. For me, the characters make the books. That, and I love GRRM's style.

Basically, if you couldn't care less about the plot, there are still things to be enjoyed about the novels. In the end they may or may not be your cup of tea, but I think it's very hard to know that just from a few chapters.
someone else
39. Naraoia
Hey, what gets a comment marked as spam here? I didn't even have a link in mine, nor a single mention of love life-enhancing products :(

Oh well, let's hope the powers that be aren't fooled by my supreme spam-imitating skillz... Not that I had anything important to say, mind you >_>

ksh1elds555@23: He's also the author's favourite, isn't he? I'm... ambivalent about Tyrion myself. Can't deny that he can be funny as hell, though.
Cassandra Cookson
40. cass
Thanks for the comments about my putting the book down. I did like what I was reading, but I was just worried I knew where it was all going. Penman's wonderful _The Sunne in Splendour_ was still fairly fresh in my mind. It's good to know there is more going on and that there is movement in finishing the series. I think I will try again with Leigh's reread.

41. JoeNotCharles
Leigh, I'm sure you've realized this by now, but you'd better not read anything RobMRobM says. He seems to be addicted to seeing how close he can toe the line to posting spoilers. "Be sure you pay attention when X happens" is a huge spoiler! Part of the fun of these books is looking back and realizing what was going on under the surface that was SUBTLE at the time!

I found it pretty easy to keep track of all the people mentioned the first time around, but not to understand the significance of all the places. (Such as exactly why the Iron Islands or Highgarden are like.) A lot of them become much more vivid later on, and it would have been hard to make them real upfront without a lot more infodump. But right now they're just names that it's easy to dismiss, and sometimes somebody being in one castle as opposed to another can have a lot of significance.
Elena Amici
42. Elena
Leigh, i do hope you are not watching the tv show, or you'll spoil everything, watching before your read.

I loved this recap, this is exactly what i thought during my first read.

And, IMHO, Jon is always more... i don't know, more kick ass when it's just a character in somebody else's POV. Er, i mean, jon is always cool (yep, im a jon fangirl. And a jaime fangirl) but he just looks older and wiser when is a character than when he is a POV.
Lisa Schensted
43. heylisarenee
so i just started reading this for the first time too! definitely excited to journey with you through this nerddom.

in related news, i dont' get quite what they're trying to say about Joffrey, but it's skeeving me out already. SO excited.

in more related news, Jon is already my fave. followed closely by Tyrion. let us hope for more development and lolz from their neck of the northern lands.
Elena Amici
44. Elena
wait a while.. if you like jon, you will love arya :)
(they are my favourite characters along with jaime)
someone else
45. Naraoia
Isn't saying Jaime is your favourite a big spoiler in itself? ;)
Pirmin Schanne
46. Torvald_Nom

Ugh, Jaime hasn’t even had a line yet and I’m already predisposed to despise him.

You're most assuredly not alone with that sentiment at this point of the story.
And this just goes to show how well GRRM plays his audience. :)
Elena Amici
47. Elena
@naraoia: why?
i actually liked him since that first jon POV. Then i hated, loved and hated again. Now i'm in a love phase, but i don't think this is a spoiler :D
Rob Munnelly
49. RobMRobM
JNC @41. I don't know whether to be honored or insulted. On reflection, probably the latter. Definitely the latter, actually. Even more than that. I'm pretty pissed that you're telling Leigh to categorically ignore my posts.

I'm not telling Leigh who my favorites characters are (which is a spoiler- sorry elena); and I'm not mentioned facts that don't come up into later books (which may be viewed a spoiler- sorry Alisonetc); and I'm not mentioning theories I might or might not have about particular points (sorry, Fred). And, no, I'm not telling anyone "Be sure you pay attention when X happens"- read my posts, please.

I'm working hard to avoid spoilers, and I appreciate you acknowledged I've succeeded so far. At the same time, I am trying to help Leigh and others understand the factual points raised by GRRM in the text. They are fair game. Moreover, if Leigh makes an strong observation that is well grounded in the text, I don't have a problem with acknowledging that and saying "Nice job." So, what's the problem? Mentioning Highgarden and Iron Islands - give me a break, please. I haven't explained anything about why or why not Highgarden, Iron Islands or Storm End (to name three I mentioned in posts) are important to the story. I've just suggested that if they're mentioned in the text it is often a good idea to read the freakin maps that are provided in the front of the freakin book and see where they are, so you can better understand GRRM's world. Metioning Howland Reed as a name to file away for the future - please.

Unless you show me specifically where I'm crossing the line, I'd appreciate it if you would back off.

50. BarbaraJ

Believe it or not, it's spoilery to point out which details are important and what aren't. "Consider coming back to this discussion once you have more facts in hand" or "More to come on this front" are pointing out which details become important or are mentioned again. That is a spoiler. Confirming guesses or extrapoliations -- that is a spoiler. It doesn't matter if you mention WHY places are important -- if you say that they are, that is a spoiler.

By highlighting these details, including names to file away for the future, you affect the way someone reads the book. They pay more attention to clues GRRM sprinkles in, looking for confirmation or refutation rather than letting the story flow as GRRM chose to write it.

Please, just stop.
Rob Munnelly
51. RobMRobM
And, back by popular demand, the Blog of Ice and Fire posts for these chapters.
We finally learn the significance of the antler-in-wolf from the first
Bran chapter: the stag is the symbol of the King's house. Ruh roh, scary
foreshadowing detected. In this chapter, Bob Baratheon finally arrives.
He has let himself go a bit, and I don't blame him. If I had just won a
kingdom I'd take it easy too. We learn a bit more about geography:
Eddard's lands are huge, scarcely populated, and largely inhospitable.
King Bob raves about the south, where it's girls gone wild fat drunk
party 24/7 and there's a distinct lack of executions, frostbite, and
undead ghosts.

Bob makes a beeline for Winterfell's #1
attraction: the crypts, where the love of his life is buried. Lyanna
must have been smoking hot, because Bob won a kingdom for her and still
pays his respects after nine long years. If only she was alive! Bob
should just get one of those Others to "Waymar" her, problem solved.
Robert ends up offering Ned the Vice King position, sealed by marriage
between their kids. The last time Stark and Baratheon got married, the
guy in power was overthrown, so maybe he should reconsider.

the antler-in-wolf sign and the dead ancestor foreboding, I assume Ned
accepts the position, because if he doesn't, the plot stops and the book ends. 700 pages left means the Starks are going south. Warm weather and naked chicks here we come! Wooo spring break!

next chapter opens with Jon Snow drinking away his problems.
Predictably, the bastard does not like the pretentious royal Lannister
kids. We learn that his direwolf Ghost is awesome, and that Jon wants to
join the Night's Watch. Uncle Benjen tells him that with great power
comes great responsibility -- the responsibility of not having sex, not
owning lands, and fighting supernatural monsters. But Jon doesn't want
to father bastards, and emo rages his way out of the hall.

he meets Lannister dwarf and Cirque du Soleil acrobat Tyrion, who makes
some witty quips and gives him advice. Hopefully he gets Jon to stop
taking his heredity so seriously, because nobody likes whiners. It's
cool that Martin isn't making the Lannisters out to be wholly evil. I
actually really like Tyrion -- his line about Jon's mother being "some
woman, no doubt" was great.
Sandy Brewer
52. ShaggyBella
I did get a chance to play the Game of Thrones Board Game at the GameStorm Convention in Vancouver last weekend. It was fun, kinda complicated, with lots of alliances, and a little back stabbing, etc. Though I don't think my family would like to play it, since it takes a real "Gamer".
Great to be back home...1600 miles, too high gas prices, 16, 19 & 21 year old boys as traveling companions. Fun times!
53. toosoon
RobM, please keep your posts in the specific spoiler area, not here!

Posting which points newbies must consider for future reference, events to keep track of, the significance of certain symbolism, how certain characters react to other characters -- these are all spoilers! I can't cite specifics you want because they are spoilers in and of themselves.

Your posts sound like an English teacher trying to guide the student in a paper towards conclusions you already know.

You seem to want to monopolize Leigh's first read as your own re-read discussion. This isn't your post.
Rob Munnelly
54. RobMRobM
Toosoon - so, a serious question to you: what are people supposed to post about in the nonspoiler area? If it's just "Good job, Leigh," this isn't going to be a particularly interactive or fun re-read experience.

As a background point - I'm not a newbie on this site. I've been an active contributor to Leigh's WoT re-read virtually since its inception, been posting in Malazan since its inception, and I'd like to do so here. I'm not trying to monopolize anything I'm getting a mite techy about being singled out. Not to go all "English teacher" on you but I've looked back over my comments and they are almost entirely innocuous in the context of the overall story line. I patted Leigh on the back for a couple of text based observations. I made a text-based point that Cersei's life ain't all beer and skittles. The antler sigil is highlighted Bran's, Cat's and Ned's chapters and is hard to miss.

Notwithstanding, I'll watch myself more closely in future posts, especially in the "note for future reference" type of comment which, I agree, can in some cases go too far. I do appreciate the constructive feedback I've gotten from some in this group. It is a hard line to draw. Group re-reads of this type are intended to be interactive, and to go beyond enjoying Leigh's perceptive commentary into a deeper analysis. I've found this to be rewarding on other re-reads, each with different spolier policies. We're still finding our way on this one.

Thomas Keith
55. insectoid
Great post, Leigh... hope your move is turning out well.

Read the post earlier, just now getting around to commenting. Don't really have much to say, except that I do enjoy the character-building in these chapters (not too much; don't want to get too attached to them). I also pegged the Lannisters as rotten eggs from the start, and Tyrion as... well, unusual and interesting at the same time. Speaking of which:

The Lannisters are going to be trouble. This statement has been brought to you by Noshit Sherlock and the letter Duh.

ROFL!! XD That made my day, Leigh.

@many: Stop picking on RobM², guys/gals. I know he's already said quite a bit in his own defense, but I'd like to add that I don't think his posts are particularly spoilery, and if they are it's very vague. As he points out, this is supposed to be an interactive blog, and criticizing Rob every time he says something even remotely spoilery (e.g., "file this name for future reference") is just silly and nitpicky.

Theresa Gray
56. Terez27
I came by to see how this was going - I didn't realize Leigh was reading for the first time.

For all those calling out RobMRobM...I'd say his posts were more or less in line with the 'non-spoiler' reviews that Leigh does for WoT. They tease, but they don't reveal too much. They might help lead you in the right direction for theorizing, but you won't know for sure until you read. We really get into that sort of thing in the WoT fandom - those little details like the Rhaegar bit, etc. The tease makes it more fun, and it rarely ruins everything. Leigh is a smart girl but if I had to guess I'd say she's not going to spend hours overanalyzing stuff like that. She'll just file those comments away in her brain somewhere and keep them in mind as she reads, and she'll appreciate it because it will save her the trouble of a re-read just to pick up those little details. I imagine others here who are reading for the first time would do no more than the same. If someone is that cautious about spoilers it might be good to avoid the comments.
Maiane Bakroeva
57. Isilel
Cass @40:

I did like what I was reading, but I was just worried I knew where it was all going.

Heh-heh. Believe me, you don't! Really, even we old hands can't be sure where it will go eventually. And yes, the books are excellent, IMHO, so it is very worth it to read the series, even though it is unfinished.

I also don't get ganging up on RobM. There are far less spoilers in his posts than in some others and something is needed to enliven discussion of these early chapters.

Funny, at this deliberate pace I notice that GRRM took his time to introduce the setting. When I read/gulped AGOT for the first time, it seemed to me that he hit the ground running.

Not much else to say here, except that yes, there is a lot of dissonance between how the characters are seen from the outside and their own POVs, which really contributes to the charm of ASOIAF.
lawrence henderson
58. justinius23
@57 the only series of books i've ever been completely dumbfounded (in a good way) at some of the events.

spoilers: hard line to walk here.
stefan warsink
59. grubber
hey guys, I won't post to much, because I'm reading up a storm myself in the series (just started book 4, 3 weeks in).

regarding the spoilers, I get that it is hard as a veteran to keep quiet about the future, but try to just make sure to comment only on what has happened already. any foreshadowing/points of attention/etcetera is a spoiler to a noob.

and as to the specific case of rob: I love your input in the WoT-thread, and am happy to see such a active poster here as well. however, your posts here have a tone IMHO not completely suited to the read. as you asked for specific points which can be considered spoilers: post 10, first and second to last point are definitely spoilers. whiteout text: the lannisters being trouble could be a red herring. it's not likely, but it's a spoiler to confirm this. furthermore, saying that tyrions funniness continues, kind of sets him up as a major character, which has not been established at this point. end whiteout. all in all, they're no big points, but still. as a final note, and keep in mind that this is just my feeling/opinion about this: is it really necessary to write such long posts? it increases the risk of slips.

I love reading the comments people, nice to see I'm getting a lot of things right on first read!
Rob Munnelly
60. RobMRobM
Grubber - your whiteout text didn't work. Best to edit if you can.

I'll keep your spoiler thoughts in mind in future posts. We can discuss your specific points in spoiler forum if you like.

Tricia Irish
61. Tektonica
Hi Leigh and all. I am so enjoying your take on this book and most of the comments. It's been a long time since I've read these books, and I'm loving the recaps.

This statement has been brought to you by Noshit Sherlock and the letter Duh. Made me LOL!!

I'd like to add my "quit ganging up on RobM" vote. All he's ever done is either confirm something Leigh has surmised, or given a slight hint to pay attention to something. To me, that enhances a read...makes me smarter while going through the chapters, and "teaches" me about the writers' style. I think he's being very careful and judicious. And he obviously loves these books! YMMV.
Galadriel Johnson
62. GaladrielJohnson
I am still enjoying this read very much.

I would like to weigh in on the RobM controversy. I do believe that he walks a fine line, but I think only those that have read the series past this current read would really catch on to the spoiler effect. That being said RobM I dont think you should stop commenting and your willingness to pay closer atttention to what you post(which is a phenominal accomplishment considering the care you already take) affirms my opinion. To those of you that do not like RobM's approach we are far enough into this now that you can stop reading his comments. I feel like he would have been reprimanded by the blog powers that be by now if he were indeed ruining the process.
I am not sure why I felt the need to weigh in, but there is my humble opinion.
I would like to address the mentioning of the HBO series that is about to be released. I am super excited to see this series and I realize that many of you are too. I would like, however, to not have it encroach on this read. I really feel like when a book is adapted for the screen things change. There is no way around this fact. I don't think the series will have any valid effect on this read except to confuse and spoil. Leigh has made it clear that she will not be watching the show until she has finished her read. I hope that the HBO series can be kept in its place and off this blog. (That sounds a bit harsher than I intended. I am leaving it as is though)
As for the read itself I am really enjoying the level of insight Leigh has into the story so far. I am sure that the first time I read GoT I did not get nearly as much out of it as she has, especially at this point in the story.

-And finally some incentive for those questioning whether or not to take on this series. (I use the phrase "take on" as literally as possible. This series is a commitment.)
Every single time I reread this series (I'm on read 5 or 6) I find new and interesting things that I did not notice before. I really think that is the mark of a fine story teller. Huzzah, GRRM!!
Bill Siegel
63. ubxs113
Love following the newbie on this. Although I'm still not sure whether to be pissed or not about how this will stretch out the WoT reread.

Can we all agree that no matter how creepy Jaime seems it was totally badass when he took on Rand al’Thor in the Suvudu Cage Match last year!

Here there be spoilers:

And in regards to spoilers, and RobM in particular: I would say you’ve been violating the spirit if not the letter of the law and sounding incredibly sanctimonious about it. But that’s just the opinion of someone who has been following Leigh since day one of the reread.
Jim Burnell
64. JimBurnell
I don't know what it is about online forums that brings out the "gripe" in people, but it's really unfortunate, IMHO. Lighten up, y'all.

Here's the thing: Leigh is a veteran of these read-alongs, and I'm certain she knows that people are chomping at the bit to talk about stuff that she hasn't read yet. IMHO, people have been pretty good about keeping the conversation limited to what she's posted, and avoiding stuff that would ruin anything that comes later.

If it's verboten to remark that she's very perceptive about such and so, to analyze her analysis in effect, then the only thing that's left to talk about at this point is her writing style, because 6 chapters into ASoIaF is the first bite of the appetizer for a 5-course meal. And at the rate of 2 chapters a week, it'll be 2012 before she's read enough to really start making the deep incisive comments that are the reason we love her WoT re-read.

Thus far, though, she's doing a great job at highlighting the key points that GRRM wants us to notice! Confirming that she's right to think the Lannisters are going to be trouble is not a spoiler; it's merely acknowledging her ability to read between the lines, to understand the message that GRRM is trying to send the reader.
Rob Munnelly
65. RobMRobM
@all - I'm going to drop the meta talk about whether my statements or others' statements constitute spoilers or not, and urge others to do the same. If you have specific issues, I'd appreciate that they be raised in the proper place - the spoiler forum - so that we can openly debate what is or not fair comment and perhaps actually come to a meeting of the minds.

Amir Noam
66. Amir
justinius23 @58:

the only series of books i've ever been completely dumbfounded (in a good way) at some of the events.

Try Malazan :-)
Amir Noam
67. Amir
ubxs113 @63:

Can we all agree that no matter how creepy Jaime seems it was totally badass when he took on Rand al’Thor in the Suvudu Cage Match last year!

Jaime wasn't so much a badass in the way that Suvudu wrote the match, but GRRM's version of this fight has plenty of badass to go around.

Warning: spoilers galore.
Alice Arneson
68. Wetlandernw
RE: the spoiler debate... (I know you said to drop it, Rob, but I gotta say my piece.)

As one who has also been with the WoT reread since the beginning, I appreciate both the job Leigh has taken on and the effort everyone is making to keep the spoilers out of it. Neither is easy, by any stretch of the imagination.

As one who has never read this series, I'd like to make a few comments about what I would perceive as spoilers in this forum. When someone says "I did/didn't like that character/family/arc downstream" - that's a spoiler. It prejudices my expectations of the character/family/arc. When someone says "just wait until he and so&so get together - that'll make your eyes pop" - that's a spoiler, because it tells me a specific event/moment to be watching for.

When someone says "good catch, Leigh!" it isn't a spoiler to me; Leigh has already pointed it out, and if I didn't want that sort of thing I wouldn't be reading even her comments, much less everyone else's. (Also, if I were the one who "caught" something, I'd love the confirmation that I'm thinking in the right direction. Oddly enough, the converse is not true: I wouldn't want someone to tell me "forget it, that's not going to matter ever again.") When someone says "that person/place/event will be of note later" it also doesn't "spoil" the story for me, because I have no idea how or when it will be important, but I know it's a good thing to actually file in memory. It's a really fine line, though, and I can see how for some, that would come mighty close to spoiler territory.

All that said, I think Rob's done a pretty good job of staying on the sunny side of the line, but that's "my view as a noob" and not anyone else's. If I were just starting to read this series, I would not find his posts a problem. What Leigh thinks about it, we'll only find out if she joins in on the comments. (Leigh? Any thoughts?)

(No, Rob, I'm not reading it, and I'm not reading quotes, either. But it's raining in Seattle, and it's always fun to read Leigh's writing and people's reactions to it. If the sun ever comes out, I'll probably show up less and you can all be rid of me, but for now I'll keep poking my nose in. :p)
Rob Munnelly
69. RobMRobM
Wet - keep poking in. Nice way for you to get some sense of the compelling and some sense of what you have referred to in the past as the apparent "grittiness" of the tale. You might be able to see whether the benefits of the former outweigh your concerns with the latter.

Peter Leventis
70. PL1
So I started my reread of AGoT (my second time through) to coincide with Leigh's read. And it worked great for the first two chapters. Then I found it hard to put the book down and keep it down; I've just finished chapter 64 (by which time a lot of things have happened). I suppose I can always re-reread the two chapters weekly. *sigh*

Anyway, to echo others, I've also been struck with how well GRRM uses the different POVs to advance the plot and also reveal history. To be honest, it's a better read the second time through.

I love how these early chapters supply details that layer upon each other. The way the POV characters view the other characters colours our view of those characters -- they create a strong first impression that may or may not change later. Sometimes these POVs are conflicting, for example, is King Robert the great, fierce old friend that we meet in Ned's chapter, or the disappointing, fat, boorish drunk from Jon's? Or a bit of both? (Or is he Leigh's dangerously oblivious character?)

'Tis a complex web GRRM weaves...
Teresa Nielsen Hayden
71. tnh
The Wars of the Roses weren't a unique episode; see, for example, Taira vs. Minamoto. Fights between warring clans, where issues of power and legitimacy are embodied in individual members of relatively small kinship groups, are a recurring feature of world history and world storytelling.
Cassandra Cookson
72. cass
Yes, I know there was nothing particularly unique about the War of the Roses in terms of world historical conflicts, but the parallels just happened to jump out at me. The names, the personalities, the events of the next couple of chapters (I don't remember which one, but it concerned Bran). Obviously this is a much appreciated series with more to it than a historical novel in fantasy trappings, but that's how it appeared to me when I decided to put it down years ago. As one commenter said upstream, the series is a commitment. I was already waiting for an end to the WOT series and just didn't want to start another unfinished one.

Right now I'm convinced enough to re-read with Leigh and watch the series on HBO. I'll probably get hooked.

TNH, I started EotW in graduate school back when it looked like the first book of a trilogy. Many years, professions, moves, children later, I'll finally get to read the ending. I'm very happy about that.
lawrence henderson
73. justinius23
amir@66: don't worry, it's on my to-do list.
74. Elfy
If you enjoyed Tyrion and he made you laugh in that chapter, then you'll continue to enjoy your first experience of AGoT.
75. MickeyDee
Fantastic re-cap Leigh. You got me started on my own read and I'm 200 pages in already. Very addictive. I have to say I am getting very fond of GRRM's writing style. It's almost like re-discoveriing an old friend that you didn't recall having met, but know that you know. Sorta.

"Being physically different and/or handicapped is still a major stigma here and now in the real world, so for this decidedly Darwinist medieval fantasy world I can only imagine it’s exponentially worse."

LOL - I love it when people use the word Darwinist along with medieval and fantasy. I just gotta say Leigh that today, right here, right now, them dwarves ain't having any better a time of getting laid. Unless of course it's just that I don't get invited to the right parties. ;)
76. Patrick C
@26 - Bawambi - As far as I know there is no flash or online version of the game, but to be honest I never looked. The boardgame is worth seeking out if you can get a group of 4-6 together to play.

@37. ksh1elds555 - I enjoy playing as the Starks also. The expansion packs are good and make it easier to have up to 6 players. Problem with the Starks is exactly what you said, trying to advance south past the Neck!
Jennifer Fiddes
77. junefaramore
Ugh, Jaime hasn’t even had a line yet and I’m already predisposed to despise him. I guess we’ll see if I’m right to do so, eh?

This is exactly how I felt the first time through. Never been much for pretty boys though. Thanks for doing the first read. It's inspired a reread for me, at least through Game of Thrones.
Karen Fox
78. thepupxpert
Rob @ 60 et al - where is the spoiler post? I'm finding all this banter about spoilers quite taxing. If I have to be so careful about accidentally posting a spoiler that someone is going to get upset about, I'd rather go to a forum where people have read the books. Can someone send me the link? Thanks!
Karen Fox
79. thepupxpert
BTW nice reviews Leigh, enjoying your perspective.
80. Patrick C
@thepupxpert - The spoiler forum can be found at:
And please do join in! You have to register to post, but we could use more people in the spoiler forum discussing the series. Like you, I'm afraid to post in the main comment thread for fear of inadvertantly mentioning something another reader will take as a spoiler.
Rob Munnelly
82. RobMRobM
One interesting, somewhat off topic, point. Friends at a cable company arranged to send me three large promotional GoT posters - Ned (with Ice), Dany, and a Jon/Bran scene shooting arrows. My son claimed Ned, my daughter Dany and I have Jon/Bran hanging in my office at work. Tres cool.

Curious to see how many here watched the 15 minute preview on HBO on Sunday night (in US at least) and are planning to watch starting on April 17 (other dates in other countries). The preview clip is available on HBO's web site.

Tricia Irish
83. Tektonica
Saw the clip online the next day. Will be recording the series on my DVR.
It looked great! Sean Bean in anything really.

For those of you attending Jcon, there will be room Sunday night for the first episode, so you can watch it with friends!
Rob Munnelly
84. RobMRobM
Apparently, there's a making of GOT show on HBO tonight at 10 pm. EST. Be there or be square. The marketing beat for the show goes on.

I should also note that GRRM had one of the best April Fools posts ever at his Not a Blog site - claiming that DoD was so long it had to be broken into five separate sections. Brilliant! Some websites treated it as actual news.

Marcus W
85. toryx
RobM @ 84:

I posted about GRRM's April Fools post waaaay up at 8.
Marcus W
87. toryx
It was an awfully good joke. I wonder how many people freaked out over it? He's always been good at those.
Hugh Arai
88. HArai
toryx@87: Hard to say how many people would have freaked: A lot of the people that would care also know April Fools is a serious tradition with GRRM.
89. Shard
I love this review Leigh, your very insightful and I can't think of anything to say that isn't spoilerish, but I love what you said about Jaime.
90. golux13
This statement has been brought to you by Noshit Sherlock and the letter Duh.

I am totally stealing this line.
91. Carolyn H
I know I said it was totally cool that Leigh didn't know what was going to happen in this series and I DO, but I'm having a hard time saying anything about what's Leigh's posted so far that isn't a spoiler. Still, it's great fun to see the perceptions of a first time reader of this series. Much of this reminds me of the things I thought as I was reading it for the first time. Some things are..there I go all spoilier-ish again. Argh!
92. Patrick C
Go to the spoiler forum and post away!
Rob Munnelly
93. RobMRobM
Don't be too jealous but in addition to the posters mentioned above, my industry contact is sending me (1) tee shirts and (2) the full advance review copy of Episode 1. Re the latter, I need to review and return so that the copy can be destroyed - so no handouts for all of you, no sir.

Marcus W
94. toryx
And now who's the show off, Mr. RobM? :)
Rob Munnelly
95. RobMRobM
@94. Guilty as charged. Winter is coming to Massachusetts sooner than one would normally expect.
Marcus W
96. toryx
Well congrats. It's awesome that you're getting all the cool stuff.
98. Patrick C
If anyone lives in/around New York City you should definitely check out the HBO store. They have great props and costumes from the show, and they sell the t-shirts. I got a House Stark shirt when I was there over the weekend. Very cool stuff.
Tess Laird
99. thewindrose
I am looking forward to some more Tyrion chapters, like Jon I find him fascinating:) I have some thoughts on who Jon's mom is, but I will take it to the Spoiler board.

100. D-Mac
Just a little fyi...If you loved this book, and would like to experience it in a different way...GET THE AUDIO BOOK!!! The unabridged dramatic reading by Roy Dotrice is unparalleled in the realm of audio book narration, and i'm one who knows audio books. He does such an amazing job at giving each character a distinct voice, and presents GRRM's story in such a compelling manner it BLEW...ME...AWAY! WOT's audio voice of Kramer/Reading? no comparison, not even close. Harry Potter's audio voice Jim Dale is an excellent narrator, but still has NOTHING on Dotrice. I got the first 3 books on cassette a few years ago, they are hard to find now, but i'm sure with the new HBO series, they'll re-master them on CD soon. The 4th book is available on CD, but because of scheduling conflicts another narrator did the 4th, and while he's good, it cannot compare to Roy Dotrice, but i've heard they've signed him up for the 5th book coming out this summer!
Lisa Schensted
101. heylisarenee
@elena YOU WERE SO RIGHT. loving her so much.
102. Dolphineus
The Lannisters are going to be trouble. This statement has been brought to you by Noshit Sherlock and the letter Duh.

OMG LOL. Thank you for that Leigh.
I like reading your impressions of ASoIaF on your first read. I've just finished re-reading in anticipation of next months Dance with Dragons (and of course the HBO series!).

Buckle your seatbelt, but enjoy the ride. GRRM does like it bumpy.
103. felcandy
I'm doing a game of thrones first time read through too, but mine isn't neatly as insightful or well written as yours... Its funny to see us pick up on the same things though! Love it :) I'm reading each post after I write up my own to see what I might have missed
104. Mhysa
I'm reading a book and then after every two chapters I check out your review.
About Rhaegar, you probably got it later, him and Lyanna were in love. I think it's said on page 40 or something when Ned says "He died in waters of *whatever* for the woman he loved.", was was fought around Lyanna, and Robert killed Rhaegar, right? So that means he died for Lyanna. Plus, later Robert says he died with woman's name on his lips. And Lyanna was never Robert's.

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