Nov 4 2011 2:00pm

A Read of Ice and Fire: A Game of Thrones, Part 31

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 30 of A Game of Thrones, in which we cover Chapters 64 (“Daenerys”) and 65 (“Arya”).

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 64: Daenerys

What Happens
Dany watches Drogo worriedly as they ride. He had taken off Mirri Maz Duur’s poultice six days ago, claiming it burned, and replaced it with a mud plaster from the Dothraki herbwomen instead, and had grown increasingly fevered and drawn since. Now, he suddenly falls from his horse. Dany runs to him, and orders his bloodriders to make camp and find Mirri Maz Duur and bring her. Qotho balks at obeying commands from a woman, but Dany threatens him with Drogo’s wrath, and he goes, furious. Dany tries to be hopeful, but knows that the news that Drogo fell from his horse will be all over the khalasar in no time, and a khal who cannot ride cannot rule.

Jorah soon enters the tent where Dany and her maids are tending to Drogo. He sends the maids away, and examines Drogo’s wound, which is suppurating and full of pus. He tells her Drogo is as good as dead, and urges her to flee with him quickly before he dies. Dany refuses, but Jorah explains that there will be fighting to replace the khal, and whoever wins will kill her son as soon as he is born. Dany is frightened, but still refuses.

Mirri Maz Duur enters with Qotho and Haggo, and on seeing Drogo, Qotho accuses her of being maegi, and responsible for Drogo’s wound rotting. He beats her, and proposes to stake her out. When Dany defends her, Qotho says it is Dany’s fault as well. Jorah warns Qotho that Dany is still khaleesi, but Qotho says, only until Drogo dies. He leaves, and Dany sends Jorah to don his armor.

Dany begs Mirri Maz Duur to save Drogo, but she tells Dany that it is too late. Desperate, Dany asks if there is magic that can save him, and at length Mirri admits that there is a spell, but it is bloodmagic, and thus demands a death for Drogo’s life, though she assures Dany it is not her death. Dany tells her to do it.*

Mirri has them put Drogo in a bath and bring his stallion inside the tent, where she slits the horse’s throat and bathes Drogo in its blood. Jhogo tells Dany this is forbidden, but Dany insists that she allows it. Mirri makes her leave the tent, and warns her that once she begins singing, no one must enter the tent.

“My song will wake powers old and dark. The dead will dance here this night. No living man must look on them.”

Dany agrees and leaves. Outside, Jorah returns in his armor, and calls her a fool once he realizes what she has done. They can all hear Mirri wailing in the tent, and the shadows show she is not dancing alone. The Dothraki are filled with fear; Qotho, Haggo, and Cothollo appear, and Cothollo spits in Dany’s face. Qotho goes to kill Mirri, killing Quaro when he tries to stop him at Dany’s command. Then Jorah duels with Qotho; Jorah is wounded in the fight, but bests Qotho.

Fighting breaks out among the others, and Dany feels a pain in her belly and fluid on her thighs. She cries for help, but no one hears her. Some in the crowd begin throwing stones at Dany, and Cothollo almost slits her throat, but Aggo kills him first. Eventually the Dothraki disperse, scattering, and Jorah picks Dany up and roars for the birthing women, but they are gone. Someone suggests taking her to the maegi instead, and Dany tries to tell them they cannot, but is in too much pain to speak.

Inside the tent the shapes were dancing, circling the brazier and the bloody bath, dark against the sandsilk, and some did not look human. She glimpsed the shadow of a great wolf, and another like a man wreathed in flames.

[…] Please, no. The sound of Mirri Maz Duur’s voice grew louder, until it filled the world. The shapes! she screamed. The dancers!

Ser Jorah carried her inside the tent.

*Okay, I’m not even all the way through this chapter yet, but I had to pause in order to yell NOOO YOU FOOL at Dany, which is a first. Because oh my God, how on earth does she let that bargain go forward without knowing whose life it demands?

Because I have a horrible feeling I know the answer, and I really hope I’m wrong. Okay, I’m reading the rest of the chapter now.


Dammit. Frickin’ cliffhangers.

Please don’t let the life taken be the baby. Please let that be premature labor and not what I think it is. Because really, how much more shit can be rained upon one character, for the love of Mike? And jeez, I’m pretty sure that’s not even the first time I’ve asked that on Dany’s behalf, too.

Also, holy crap. I think this chapter is what they should use as an example next to the definition of FUBAR. Talk about a situation snowballing out of control — at light speed, no less. It was like watching the world’s goriest domino set-up.

I am still not speaking to Jorah, but damn if Dany shouldn’t have listened to him. I get why she didn’t run, but really, girl, the Dothraki culture is fucked in the head, and this chapter is the proof, and the sooner you get the hell out of there the better.

Assuming the chance hasn’t been lost, of course. I don’t think Dany herself will die, but I’m currently giving very low odds on anyone else in this chapter getting out alive. We’ll see.



Chapter 65: Arya

What Happens
Arya kills a pigeon, and tries to trade it for a fruit tart, but the vendor chases her off. She is still trapped in the city, for the gates are too closely guarded for her to slip out of them. She has been listening for days to crazy contradicting rumors about the king’s death and the possibility that her father is responsible. All of her possessions except Needle have been lost or stolen, and she is having increasing trouble remaining fed and unmolested.

She tries going to the wharves, and finds to her astonishment that the ship her father had commissioned to take her and Sansa away is still there; she almost goes for it, but notices at the last moment that though the guards there are in Winterfell livery, she does not recognize them. The summoning bells begin to ring, and a street urchin tells Arya that the Hand is being brought to the Great Sept to be executed, even though executions are never held there. Arya hurries with the crowd to the sept, falling down and injuring herself on the way.

Frantic to see, Arya manages to climb up a plinth in the plaza before the sept, and sees her father on the pulpit before the doors, looking gaunt and in pain, facing a crowd of nobles which includes Joffrey, Cersei, Varys, Littlefinger, and Sansa; Arya scowls to see that Sansa looks well and happy. Her father begins to speak.

“I am Eddard Stark, Lord of Winterfell and Hand of the King,” he said more loudly, his voice carrying across the plaza, “and I come before you to confess my treason in the sight of gods and men.”

The crowd screams taunts at him as he continues confessing that he plotted to depose and murder Robert’s son and take the throne for himself. He declares that Joffrey Baratheon is the true heir to the Iron Throne. The crowd throws stones at him, to Arya’s horror. The High Septon declares that the traitor has confessed, and asks Joffrey what to do with him. Joffrey answers that his mother asks that Lord Eddard be allowed to take the black, and that Lady Sansa has begged for mercy for her father.

He looked straight at Sansa then, and smiled, and for a moment Arya thought that the gods had heard her prayer, until Joffrey turned back to the crowd and said, “But they have the soft hearts of women. So long as I am your king, treason shall never go unpunished. Ser Ilyn, bring me his head!”

The crowd roars. Varys and the queen seem to argue with Joffrey, but he shakes his head. Sansa screams and sobs as Ser Ilyn Payne mounts the pulpit, and Arya jumps off the plinth and tries to fight her way through the crowd to her father, but she cannot get through. She sees them fling her father down, and that Payne is wielding Ice, her father’s sword. Then someone grabs her and yanks her away, and commands her not to look, calling her “boy.”

Dimly, as if from far away, she heard a . . . a noise . . . a soft sighing sound, as if a million people had let out their breath at once.

Arya recognizes the filthy man holding her as Yoren, the black brother who had visited her father, and he takes her out of the plaza. She follows him numbly, and he hands her back Needle, which she had lost in the press, and tells her he hopes she can use that. She begins to tell him she isn’t a boy, but he shoves her into a doorway and yanks her head back.

“—not a smart boy, that what you mean to say?”

He had a knife in his other hand.

As the blade flashed toward her face, Arya threw herself backward, kicking wildly, wrenching her head from side to side, but he had her by the hair, so strong, she could feel her scalp tearing, and on her lips the salt taste of tears.


What, uh. Um.



Holy — did they — are you — but.

I don’t — Really?

Ned’s dead? For real, no lie? Like, D-E-D, dead?

But. Uh.

I feel like we need a ruling on this.

…Seriously? Because, uh.

Look, I honestly don’t even know what to say. Holy shit doesn’t even remotely do my flabbergastedness justice, y’all. It’s been a while since a book made my jaw physically drop, but congrats, Martin, slack-jawedness has officially been achieved.

I’m too stunned to even summon up an appropriate level of rage at Joffrey for pulling what has to be the dick move to end all dick moves. I’m just going to make a little sticky note for that later, because oh my God that little prick needs to be killed, a lot, but I’m not done being completely fucking floored over here.


How positively… Hitchcockian of Martin, to kill off the character I had personally been convinced was as close to the protagonist of this series as we were going to get. All we need is a shower, a bad wig, and some screechy violins and we’re set.

(His murderer even has mommy issues!)

Sooooo. Wow. Okay. I’m guessing this is not so much Ned’s story, then, is it? Never mind then!

(holy crap they killed him poor ned what is this i can’t even)

Well, it’s not Ned’s story anymore, except in how the repercussions of his murder, I predict, are going to be EPIC. I might not even be too far off to speculate that this one act may end up being the driving force behind everything else that happens from here on out.

For one thing — well. I’m realizing I’m not entirely clear on the timeline of events, here, since this was from Arya’s POV and she has no clue what’s been going on in the wider world, but I’m relatively positive that Joffrey and Cersei do not yet know about Jaime’s capture here, for the very simple reason that there’s no way (in my opinion) Cersei would have let Joffrey go through with Ned’s execution if they did. I mean, it seems like she did try to stop him here anyway, because one thing I’ll give Cersei is that she’s no fool (unlike her inbred ASSHOLE of an offspring), and thus she clearly knows that killing Ned is an idiotic move when exiling him would bring all the benefits of getting rid of him without any of the downsides killing him would (like, say, the Starks going apeshit and the entire kingdom going even more out of control than it already has), but I bet she would have tried a lot harder if she knew Jaime was in Catelyn and Robb’s hands.

Well, too late now, eh? So does this mean Jaime’s toast as well? I really kind of hope so. I’m not normally a big fan of the eye for an eye approach to life, but in this case I think I’ll make an exception.

I also have to take a second to note that wow, I was totally wrong about Ned, too. I was sure that he would refuse to impugn his honor by falsely confessing treason, even for the sake of his children, but apparently, not so much. Which just makes his death even more a kick in the teeth than it would have been if he’d been executed for refusing to confess.

I mean, shit. The man sacrificed everything, up to and including his most prized possession in life — his honor — for the sake of, well, everyone else, but especially his children, and this is what it gets him. Martin evidently does not believe in rewarding virtue. Or rewarding the lack of it, either.

Actually I think it’s a general disinclination toward “rewarding,” period, that we’re dealing with here. Shit happens in ASOIAF, and the question of whether there is any karmic justice to that shit really just doesn’t apply. It’s disturbingly similar to real life that way.

On further reflection, I think you could have quite the debate about whether Ned’s false confession here is actually an act of dishonor, or if it is in fact the opposite.

Because on the one hand, he lied. He lied egregiously and publically, and his lies had nation-changing (possibly, world-changing) repercussions, by depriving the rightful heir (i.e. Stannis Baratheon) of his throne and further bolstering the total clusterfuck of lies (I repeat: CLUSTERFUCK of LIES, over) that is Joffrey’s reign. Furthermore, the reason he lied was, essentially, an act of self-preservation — not in the sense that he was trying to save himself, but in the sense that he was trying to save his legacy — i.e. his children. Which from a certain point of view could be considered extremely selfish — putting his small family before the needs of an entire nation. So in that way, Ned’s act could be considered dishonorable.

On the other, refusing to lie could also be considered dishonorable, as it would have meant sacrificing his own life and the lives of his children, who are innocents in all this, in the name of clinging to a code of honor that has, to all appearances, saved nothing and helped no one, and in fact has only made things worse. And since Ned could not have anticipated Joffrey’s (IDIOTIC) renege on their agreement, from Ned’s point of view you could argue that deciding to lie and bolster Joffrey’s reign, and nip Stannis’s claim (and, therefore, the war to claim it) in the bud would save more lives than declaring the truth would, and therefore is actually the more moral choice.

Argh. Gray morality, indeed.

Sigh. Well, I guess it’s kind of a moot point now, but it’s still an interesting, if grim, conundrum Martin’s set us here. Would Ned’s epitaph legitimately be able to read “He Died Doing the Right Thing,” or not? What do you think?

Also: Arya! Poor amazing resourceful darling, I’m so sorry. I think this chapter tries to leave us in doubt as to whether Yoren is going to kill her, but I don’t buy it for a moment. Why shield her from seeing her father die if he’s just going to slit her throat two minutes later? Nah.

(I bet no one shielded Sansa’s eyes. Damn. Oh, the world of hurt that girl’s got to be in right now….)

Okay, so I don’t believe Yoren is going to kill Arya, but I honestly have no clue what he is going to do with her. Take her to the Wall, maybe? Hey, does this mean that Arya’s going to get to see Jon? That would be awesome. I mean, everything sucks right now, so “awesome” seems like a fairly inappropriate term to use, but you know what I mean. At least she’d get to see her favorite brother again. Ooh, maybe she can be the first girl to join the Watch! I still like “lady pirate” better, but I’d take that too.

And… yeah.

So: Ned’s dead, baby; Ned’s dead. Wow.

And thus I, the reader, am given official notice that the gloves are off, if they were ever even on, and no character is safe. Characters are cattle, Alfred, got it. Duly noted.


And that is all I have to say for now, kids. Give yourself an internet cookie if you caught all the references in this one (there were four, by my count, though I could have accidentally made more), and have a good weekend!

Kat Blom
1. pro_star
Yep. Set your faces to stunned ladies and gentlemen. The ride's not over yet. Leigh, I know it's been said before, but damn! How do you stop reading?!?!
2. Noblehunter
I've been waiting all book for this chapter. Your reaction did not disappoint.

Hmm... Now might be a good time for me to reread, so I can remember what's the next jaw-dropper lurking in store.
James Whitehead
3. KatoCrossesTheCourtyard
I was not pleased when he killed off Ned as I liked him a lot. I know Ned had his problems & his adherence to honour was trying at times, but I felt I could relate to him a lot more than other 'main' characters; and definitely root for him & his cause.


PS - Ned's dead, baby; Ned's dead. :-(
4. Kadere
HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!! I have been waiting FOREVER for you to get to this point! Welcome to ASoIaF.
5. Delafina
This was the point in the novel when I realized just how serious Martin was about deconstructing the high fantasy "Man of Honor" trope. I mean, it was fairly clear until this point in how Ned's honor just made things worse, but for Martin to underline it with such a stark "HONOR GETS YOU KILLED" moment really brought it home.
6. edsmedia
> Would Ned’s epitaph legitimately be able to read “He Died Doing the Right Thing,” or not?

Love this question! I think the answer is that Ned had bollixed everything up so profoundly by this point that either there *was* no right thing to do, or it didn't matter.

Sports analogy: If your football team is down 56-7 with three minutes to go in the fourth quarter, is a run or a pass the right call? Neither, really, or at least not enough to matter--you lost that game already and probably quite a while ago.
7. Tenesmus
Nice... Ice, Ice, Baby!
8. Carolyn h
Leigh, you are so good at picking up the nuances in these chapters. The first time I read the Arya chapter, I so couldn't believe that Ned was dead that I thought that whole "soft sighing" passage could somehow be read another way. Maybe Ned wasn't dead, somehow. After all, we didn't see the sword fall, did we? Arya's eyes were shielded, weren't they? How on earth could Ned be dead? I thought he was the main guy, the official protagionist here, the guy I could root for, the one who would become the wise(r) older man when the kids came to the fore of the story in later books. Blehh! How wrong could I be?!

I think the only reason I kept reading the story at this point (instead of tearing the book into teeny tiny little pieces or dashing it against the far wall) was because I kept thinking there was a way, some way, that Ned really wasn't dead.

I still miss Ned.
9. Natenanimous
It's no stretch to say that I've been waiting weeks for you to reach this point. I was never certain how much further you had to go. I would load up the post each week and curse inwardly that you hadn't reached it yet. But now here we are. Vicariously reliving that shock at Ned's death is glorious.

This really is the moment when Martin calmly informs us that he is not in any way screwing around. No one is safe. Nothing can be taken for granted. And the story might not ever go in any of the directions a person thinks it should.

This is my first comment on your re-read, so I just want to thank you for so many highly entertaining and interesting posts. Keep up the great work!
Joel Cunningham
10. jec81
I, too, have been waiting forever for this installment. The pace of this reading (enjoyable as it has been) is monstrously slow... I really wish there were at least two posts a week. Nine months is a long time to spend with one book!
Roberto Burtoni
11. MadCardigan
Finally get to post this! (it was referring to the show, but pretty much the perfect reaction shot).
12. Ned's Head
Welp, been waiting for months to read this. Congrats for making it through alive.
13. Helen_Joan
Have been waiting a long time for you to get to this chapter, Leigh. And I was not dissapointed! Now you truly know why we love this series.
14. Kimmi
*hugs* Ned's dead...
15. Leon Lawton
I'm glad this wasn't spoiled for you! I echo the comments above, your reaction did not disappoint. Re Cersei, Jaime's capture, and the timeline, keep reading!
17. RyanA1084
I'll join the chorus and say that I have been waiting a long time for you to get to this chapter, and I'm glad you managed to remain spoiler free so you could get the full impact.

I'm really enjoying these posts and am continually impressed at all the subtle hints that you do manage to pick up on that I blew right past when I first read the book.

Keep up the great work!
Jeff Weston
18. JWezy
This was the point for me where I invoked the reverse of the Eight Deadly Words. I found that I cared what happened to these people, but I was in no way certain that the author did.

And I found that I could not decide who to care about after this. It was very hard to get invested in any character, knowing that they could be taken from me at any time.

Later on, there are a number of incidents wherein a character appears to be dead, or is reported to be dead, and you must read and wait to find out if it is true or not. Sometimes yes, sometimes no.

In some ways, I'm not sure why I am still reading. I am in book 4, and it is certainly holding my interest, but I find the emotional distance I have to try to maintain is a little weird.
Vincent Lane
19. Aegnor
Yeah, there's no way Cercei even lets him be sent to the wall if she knew they had captured Jaime. As far as killing him? Forget about it. It just goes to show you what a bastard Joffrey is, and also how stupid he is. This is a stupid STUPID move. But Joffrey has such a psychopathic bloodlust that he lets it control him. His grandfather Tywin would kill whoever he felt he needed to, to ensure his power. He has already order Gregor to bring blood, death and fire to the Riverlands, to rape and murder women, children, whoever. And he has no sense of guilt over that whatsoever. But he is not stupid, and he doesn't kill for no reason.

Joffrey on the other hand, is a fool. Killing Ned is disasterous for the Lanisters even before you take into account Jaime's capture.
20. Shakerag
@Delafina (#5): "but for Martin to underline it with such a stark "HONOR GETS YOU KILLED" moment really brought it home."

Pun not intended?
22. carolynh
Okay, I can breathe again. Reading Leigh's reaction to this chapter just brought back all my own reactions of the first time I read this book. I don't think I'd ever been so pole-axed by a fictional death as I was by this one.

Eventually, my thinking brain took over from my emotional brain, and I began to process the event and the book a little bit more. No one is safe. Yeah, I get that. Being honorable gets you diddly-squat. That's not a nice thought, it is? Well, I mean I knew that but I'd like to think that the good guys are good and the bad guys will eventually get their comeupance, even if it's only in a work of fiction. Cuz heaven knows, that so rarely happens in real life. From what I can see, in real life the bad guys make lots of money and make life miserable for anyone who isn't as bad as they are. The wrong person always gets promoted/elected/all the money. On some level I'd love to believe that isn't so, at least not all the time. And if I can't find that in real life, I will enjoy finding it vicariously in my fiction, which heretofore had not been a problem. But then along comes GOT and GRRM who just slaps me upside the face with this. Now, no place is safe. There's no place to turn to for the right guy or the right side to finally win one for once.

But I didn't stop reading.
Juliet Kestrel
23. Juliet_Kestrel
I have had this sinking, waiting for the other shoe to drop, feeling since about midway through the book. Martin has an uncanny ability to keep ratcheting up the tension. To the point where I feel like this last chapter was indeed the other shoe chapter, but unbeknownst to me there is a giant shoe tree in the sky, and who knows how many more shoes will rain down on me?

Last night when I was reading this I felt much the same way Leigh did. I even cried some. I felt awful for Arya, I felt even worse for Sansa. What happens to her now? She is still in Queen C’s clutches.
I don’t think Cat can execute Jaime until she gets Sansa back. None of the major players know where Arya is, but I bet Cat and Robb assume Cersei has her.

Gawd Ned. Why couldn’t you have played the Game of Thrones better? Now I feel all icky inside. You Suck.
24. MSWallack
Like a lot of others, I've been thoroughly enjoying revisiting the story through your eyes. And the sadistic part of me has been anxiously awaiting your reaction to this chapter. Your comments were so much fun, I had to read them to one of my co-workers!

I once heard Martin speak and when asked about killing characters he gave the following analogy: When you go to see the newest Indiana Jones movie, you wonder how Indy will get out of each dilemma, but you don't worry if he'll survive. By killing characters, Martin sets a tone so that when another charcter is in jeopardy, we as readers will be able to more properly emote with that character because, unlike Indy, we don't know if that character will or won't survive.
25. ryamano
I also have been waiting a long time for you to reach this point, Leigh.

The first "gasp" moment of ASOIAF is probably Bran's fall. The second, and really most shocking, is this one. That's what set GRRM apart from others back in 1996, and that's one of the reasons I fell in love with ASOIAF and consider it one of my favorite series, along with WOT (I can't choose which one is better, it's like asking a father which of his children he prefers). One of the other reasons is the worldbuilding, but we'll comment on that later.

I think the only other fantasy series that made me have this reaction was the manga/anime Berserk. I watched the anime first, so when I got to the end of the 26th episode, I was like "WTF???". There's a recomendation for anyone who wants a good fantasy series (even though it's one that never ends, like WOT or ASOIAF).

Regarding considering Ned to be the main character of this series, you'd not be wrong if you counted Game of Thrones alone. Ned has something like 15 chapters in this book, which is way more than any of the others have and it's like 20% of the book. You know that because you are reaching the end of the book, it's hard for another character to take center of the stage when there are so many pages left (and lots of them are genealogies and appendices).

Thanks for your post Leigh, and until the next "wow" or "wtf" moment of ASOIAF.
26. dlinderholm
Regarding Yoren calling Arya "boy" and the whole knife thing, my impression was that he was "suggesting" that perhaps she should hide the fact that she is a girl. I thought he was trying to scare her (if he can recognise her, others can - and she needs to do something about it), while at the same time perhaps chopping her hair off so she would look more boyish. This is especially critical now, as I would think Cersei will be desperate to get her hands on Arya to try to make up for some of the leverage IdiotBoy just lost for her, although like Leigh I'm a little hazy on the timeline - I'm not sure whether Cersei/Joffrey know that Robb has Jaime (or if he even does) at this point.
27. Blend
I've been waiting since the beginning of this read to see your reaction to this chapter, specially when you made comments about how you expected Ned to be around for the whole series, or that he'd be the main protagonist, etc... It was worth the wait, your reaction was almost identical to mine. I had to put the book down for a bit after it happened.
28. Gnewell
I'm just curious if you (Leigh) are planning on watching the first season of the HBO series once you finish the book?
Juliet Kestrel
29. Juliet_Kestrel
On another note, how did Joff get soo messed up? I mean I get that he probably played on a little league team that kept score, and not everyone got a trophy and stuff, but even his Lannister upbringing can only account for so much. I’d say probably about 20%. What sort of horribly traumatic childhood experience did he have? Maybe his icky incest genes give him another 10 to 15 percentage points. But I mean Tyrion grew up a Lannister too, and he isn’t all psychotic and bloodlusty, Cersei and Jaime are at least SMART about their shenanigans. Maybe we have it all wrong. Maybe Joff isn’t Jaime’s, but is GREGOR’S!

Also Cersei is the queen reagent, Joff doesn’t have any actual power until he comes of age right? Why on Earth did she not stop this? Is she that afraid of her own son? What don’t we know about their relationship?
30. carolynh
@26: That was my take, too. Yoren was telling Arya "shut up about being a girl, you little fool," and she wasn't taking the hint.
31. cisko
It does my heart good to know that Leigh could make it to this point unspoiled. This is, I should say, a Sixth Sense/Crying Game/"I am your father" level of spoiler. Getting to this point without knowing it's coming would have to be risky for any internet-using reader; to do it as a public re-reader and comment-thread owner is a testament to both the quality of the community and (I'm guessing) the moderation team. Well done to all.

The best part about this moment -- which is also the worst -- is that it makes you realize that nobody is safe. If Martin will kill *Ned*... then who *can't* he kill? This ramps up the drama quotient immensely for the rest of the series. It's really painful sometimes -- too much, I think, for some readers. But for others, it makes the books gripping in a way that nothing else has really matched.
Joseph Kingsmill
32. JFKingsmill16
Welcome to the party Leigh! :-D

Also, there isn't any one character that could be considered "thier story" with this series. There are a handfull of core characters but otherwise you have been put on notice that no one is safe. ;-)
33. cisko
@Gnewell "I'm just curious if you (Leigh) are planning on watching the first season of the HBO series once you finish the book?"

I'd like to see this too, but it's worth pointing out that the last couple episodes include a few (fairly minor, to be sure) spoilers for a couple events from early parts of the second book.
Stefan Mitev
34. Bergmaniac
I knew everyone has been waiting waiting for this moment in the reread. ;)

I actually liked that Ned died. Yeah, he was a nice guy and all, but when I read it for the first time, I was so tired by the tendency of the main good characters to avoid death no matter how crucial many mistakes they make simply because they had plot armour and somehow always got out of trouble, often in really contrived ways. So this feels really refreshing.

One of the best things about ASOIF is that most characters have to make many really hard choices and have to live with the consequences. They usually don't get to have their cake and eat it too. Ned chose to be merciful and honourable, took a big risk and paid for it.
35. Direwolf Brother

you don't know how apt your comment, "gray morality, indeed" is in relation to this series. Gray morailty defines most of the story and characters. You can't take anyone or anything for granted, nor can you assume that one character's morality will remain constant.

No spoilers in this. I'm sure you've already seen that, but it becomes decidedly more pronounced the deeper you go. I hope your seatbacks and tray tables are in their upright and locked position!
36. Wortmauer
Ned: If you think you were shocked, imagine the HBO audience and critics who hadn't read the books. Ned was arguably the biggest-name actor on the show and, as in the book, he'd been set up to seem like the main character. I seem to recall there were Hollywood reporters saying HBO made a gutsy choice or whatever, as though you could actually take a book in which a central character dies and adapt it to the screen in such a way that he lives on, without completely changing the entire story going forward. Maybe some of them actually think that way, which might explain some adaptation scripts.

Agreed that Joffrey is not only a tool, he's too stupid to realise how stupid this was. As Rumsfeld might say, there are unknown unknowns, things he doesn't know he doesn't know. Leaving aside whether he thought killing Ned was a good idea: does he really think pleasing the crowd is more important than listening to his advisors? Does he not know just how very, very fickle a crowd is? Almost zero long term political effect from pleasing a crowd. Sometimes if your advisors advise you in the strongest possible terms not to do something, they might have actual reasons beyond just being soft-hearted. Crazy, I know.

Mirri Maz Duur: Anyone get flashbacks to Stephen King's Pet Sematary? Or, really, any horror novel or movie where characters don't ask what the catch is.

Drogo: Man, this is the guy who stops taking his antibiotics when he starts feeling better, even though the prescription is very specific that you need to not do that. There's definitely a case to be made that whether Mirri Maz Duur was honestly trying to heal him or not, he kinda brought his current state upon himself by ignoring her instructions.
37. RedRook
Long time reader; first time poster. I've been waiting for this chapter for a long while now, and it was satisfying. Seeing this reread through fresh eyes is like rereading the novels for me; and your reaction pretty much mirrored mine. I could not believe that Ned had died; I was so sure he was going to be the protagonist for the series. Martin definitly knows to subvert expectations; and I think that's the main reason why I love the series.
Matthew Watkins
38. oraymw
Sort of one of these moments:

Wait for it, wait for it, wait for it...

Except Tragic vs. Awesome, but it's deifnitely the moment where the serious grabbed me by the... hand and really made me pay attention. This was the moment when I realized that GRRM was doing something radically different than I was used to, and it's the reason why people always say "This series is so awesome, you have to read it!!!" and it's the reason why you had to keep putting your fingers in your ears and going lalalala...

Of course, the series continues to have Moments of Awesome, so don't think this is it.
40. label91025
Been waiting for this post/chapter for quite some time! (Seriously, I couldn't have taken Game of thrones so slowly if someone offered me $1000 to drag out the experience this long).

This is definitely one of several game changing chapters you'll (eventually) run across in this series, but it's by no means the most suprising!
41. dlinderholm
Good analogy, though I am also put in mind of Wargames - the only winning move is not to play. Once Ned decided to go down south to help out his (former) buddy, there was no right move - he had already blown the game. I remember thinking the first time I read it that he never should have come south in the first place, and he definitely should have turned his ass around once he got down there and we saw just how out of his depth he was (and how little support he was going to get from Robert).

This is just about the last bit that I remember from my first time reading the series. I remember waiting anxiously for the second book, and when it finally arrived failing to find any sympathetic characters to replace the void left by Ned's death. Hopefully this time through I'll find something to keep my interest going long enough to at least finish the second book...
42. JoeNotCharles
These two chapters are perfectly paced.

Up until this point, there were two things that seemed to be right out of the Epic Fantasy Playbook about this series: that Ned, a righteous and honourable man surrounded by evil and injustice, was the Hero (even if his tactics weren't succeeding the way they would in a normal fantasy book), and that Dany's child, heir of both the Targaryen dragons and the Dothraki stallions, was going to be a force to be reckoned with.

And then in one chapter Dany's entire setup starts crashing down and we're left with a cliffhanger, wondering how she's going to get out of this one - and in the next chapter Ned dies. And suddenly we're no longer sure if the cliffhanger is a "how" or an "if".

If Ned had died first, Dany's cliffhanger would have seemed like a retread. Or if Dany's chapter had resolved the fate of her baby, there wouldn't be any more suspense at this point. But by intertwining them this way, the reader gets to retroactively realize that Dany might lose the baby - or her life!
Mari Ness
43. MariCats
I had no problems with Ned's decision in this chapter (in earlier chapters, yes, but not this one.) He lied to save his daughter. More than understandable, and since at that point he had some reason to believe that he would be exiled to the Wall, he even had the potential distant opportunity to contact Stannis and say, look, dude, I can't say anything publicly, but here's where you can start looking.

Joffrey, on the other hand....

Setting apart the whole telling the girl you're planning to marry that yes, yes, you can save her father and then KILLING HIM right in front of her....Joffrey. You know that the kingdom is already crawling with armies and that the Starks did not hesitate to arrest your uncle. You may know that there's another potential queen across the sea (I was never sure how open a secret this was.) You know your other uncle Renly took off with some knights.

And you decide the best way to handle this is to kill your main hostage, in public???? Are you KIDDING ME? Not to mention demonstrating to your nobles that you can't be trusted to keep your word?

So, in conclusion, Joffrey sucks.
44. TG12
I join the chorus of those who have been waiting around to read your recap of this chapter! Good times, good times...

I'm also curious if you're planning on watching the first season of the HBO series once the read through is done (seeing your recap of that would be pretty cool, too). The scene of Ned's execution was very well done; it changed something wrt Arya that actually made it better (I think Martin mentioned in an interview that he thought the change was an improvement as well). There's also some great clips up on youtube of people filming their "unspoiled" friends and relations' reactions to the scene...

I so wish we could comment on the reverberations of this event, but... the spoilers! they burn!! so, no.
Matthew B
45. MatthewB
These two chapters are the turning point where every reader suddenly realises that this series is not just grim, but that the rules of epic fantasy they thought they knew do not apply here. This is where the book went from good to great.
46. carolynh
@33: There are a few more surprises in this book but not a huge number of them. Since the TV series is, what, 10 hours long? It's unlikely that Leigh could get through all 10 hours of the series before she reads to the last of the surprises in the book. Besides, the DVD isn't out yet.
48. cisko
Ack, it reposted my last comment?! That's not what I wrote...

@46 - Good points, and not having a DVD available may be the trump card. My point though was that Season 1 actually includes a few events from Book 2. They pulled in a few scenes to make the transitions more natural, I think. But I'd *love* to get Leigh's take on the HBO production at some point!
49. Jeff R.
@46 There's three weeks more worth of this book, and the scenes moved from book 2 aren't the first in the book; so figure at least two weeks of book two before she's clear of those spoilers.

There's also a major characterization spoiler that's right up front throughout the TV series but doesn't really even start to get seriously hinted at in the books until midway through book 2, so if she wants to stay absoutely spoiler-free it'll be a long while before the TV show.
Marcus W
50. toryx
Why are people talking about whether or not there are more surprises in the book? Aren't you aware that's spoiler territory?

Not to mention all the talk about "Ned's dead." Since the POV character didn't actually see it happen, at this point in the game there's no real certainty. It may not be likely that he's still alive but technically the reader has no way to know for certain. I know that when *I* read this Arya chapter, I was pretty sure I knew but there was that niggling little doubt and it took everything I had to actually read the next chapter rather than skip ahead and see if what I thought happened actually did.

Way to maintain that suspense, guys.

Anyway, Leigh's post regarding this Arya chapter was pretty much exactly the way I felt and carried a lot of the same thoughts. Same for the Daenerys chapter, for that matter. It's such a treat to see the experience from a new reader's point of view like this.
51. carolynh
@46 Oh, yeah, I forgot about the characterization spoiler. Still, that's not a world changer, is it? Or might it be? Who knows? Anyway, the DVD isn't out yet :)

I do hope we get to read about Leigh's reaction to the HBO series at some point, though.
Rob Munnelly
52. RobMRobM
We've tried to go lightly on the HBO show in this re-read, properly, but Ned's scene is perfectly staged and shot on the show (it was the one put forward as GoT's Emmy representative) and had the expected devastating impact on the show's non-book viewers. You can actually google to find postings on Youtube of the reactions of people watching Ned's death scene. (My favorite is from a blogger who goes by the name Otaku Assemble - really entertaining.)

I won't reiterate all that came before but I will say - nice job, Leigh, and welcome to the ASOIF rollercoaster. In other thoughts:

"I am still not speaking to Jorah, but damn if Dany shouldn’t have listened to him. I get why she didn’t run, but really, girl, the Dothraki culture is fucked in the head, and this chapter is the proof, and the sooner you get the hell out of there the better."
- Pretty good parallel to Ned, eh? Should have run but stayed to try to protect someone he/she loved.

“and I come before you to confess my treason in the sight of gods and men.”
- Bit easier for Ned to lie, as he believes in the Old Gods who are way up north, not the Seven celebrated by the sept at Baelor looking down at him.

“—not a smart boy, that what you mean to say?”
- Remember, Arya has been mistaken for a boy several times during GoT, including by Yoren himself when they first met. And note the start of this chapter which made clear the gates were being watched so she couldn't escape. Q.E.D.

"(I bet no one shielded Sansa’s eyes. Damn. Oh, the world of hurt that girl’s got to be in right now….)"
- She fainted. But as to what happens to her life next.... *whistles*

"Ned’s dead, baby...."
- Pulp Fiction FTW (if we re-name him Zed, that is...) ! At least that's one of your four, correct Leigh?

53. Squish
I've been waiting for you to get to this chapter since you started. I can't do the rereads for Martin like I do Jordan (which I've done almost for every new book release). Why? Because of this chapter and chapters to come. I like reliving those moments in WoT, however I don't want to think about this one again...or even look at previous POV's from Ned. They've become moot, and can't help reading them without bitterness. Don't get me wrong love this series as much as Jordan's...just can't do the re-reads myself.

I do like following along with you though, only wish you were faster. Your takes are quite different between the two. From expert to newbie, I find myself liking these better sitting from my catbird seat.
Steven Halter
54. stevenhalter
I wasn't pleased by Ned's being executed and as Leigh said I'm guesing that it is going to come back against Joffrey in spades.
On the other hand, I wasn't shocked. Pretty much the first action we saw from Ned was his executing someone so, what comes around ...
At least Ned did have the decency to carry out his own execution at the start of the book--Joffrey just calls on Ser Ilyn. I'm also guessing Joffrey going to be calling on Ser Ilyn in the future--I think he likes it.
55. Black Dread
Ha! GRRM is a stone cold killer who will drop a major character without warning anytime anywhere. I just finished the latest book in the series. On edge the whole time waiting for that sword to drop.

Meanwhile - here are the funniest reactions to Ned's execution:
56. buried treasure
Great analysis as ever Leigh, on your first read you are already debating with yourself the nuances of honour that have kept people on other forums busy for years.

My absolute favourite little detail in this chapter is that Neds confession called upon 'the High Septon and Baelor the Blessed and Seven' to bear witness to the truth of what he said. As these are not his gods, in the end he managed to keep his honour and only told half a lie.
Kate Nepveu
57. katenepveu

For what must've been half the actual book I've felt like the pieces were set up for this and I've been waiting and waiting and WAITING for them to come together. I have no idea if I felt the book was too slow in the middle when I first read it (what I remember is Bran's fall, this, and two things from later on), but it has been _very damn long_ in coming here.

. . . that was completely nonsubstantive, I realize, but still: finally!
58. nancym
Oh, I feel for you, Leigh! You are correct in that no one is safe, and nothing is as it seems at first look. That's no spoiler here. This series is BRUTAL.

I just finished the first four books in the most marathon read I have ever done- staying up half the night for weeks, on lunchbreaks and even hiding the book under my desk at work. And no series has ever held my attention the way this one has. I've cried & thrown the book across the room quite a few times, but always have raced to pick it back up again because I just COULDN'T STOP READING.

Okay, must keep my fingers quiet now.
59. Westernstorm
I was so sure that Ned would be saved somehow. In most books, the character gets saved in the last minute by a friend or news coming in. I thought there would be a bird with the message that Jamie had been captured, so they would need to keep Ned safe. My reaction was very similar to yours.
60. Delafina
@ 20 (Shakerag): Oh, it was intentional, all right. I just figured capitalizing "stark" would be too on the nose. ;-)
Rob Munnelly
62. RobMRobM
@54 - remember the book's title and motto - "you win or you die." When Ned doesn't win, should have realized the ensuing result would be upon him.

@various - while GoT is not on HBO and DVD won't be out until March 20, 2012, people with IPADs should be able to access the shows through the HBO Go service. So Leigh could watch now if she wants to. I'd selfishly prefer that she waits until later to do so.
63. Carolyn H
@56: I've always loved Ned's calling on the High septon, etc. too. It's his own little way of not really meaning what it looks like he's saying. Sort of like when he wrote "legal heir" in Robert's will (or whatever the exact wording was) instead of saying the exact words that came from Robert's mouth. I didn't catch that the first time I read this chapter. I reread the chapter a couple of times the first time I read the book, looking for possible ways out for Ned. Somewhere along the line I picked up on this. It's a small thing, compared to losing Ned, but I'm sure that once I did pick up on it that it made me smile just a little bit. And once I did pick up on it, that's the moment when I was 100% sure Ned was well and truly gone.
Tricia Irish
64. Tektonica
Joffrey sucks. And is psychotic and stupid, imho.

I watched the HBO series with my husband, who has not read the books. I thought they were excellent, but had this horrid feeling of dread and nausea, knowing this scene was coming. It lived up to my expectations. Ug. (Bob seemed to be expecting it! He's read too many murder mysteries and not enough epic fantasy, me thinks.)

Anyway....thanks Leigh. Hope it doesn't ruin your weekend.
Thomas Jeffries
65. thomstel
MatthewB@45 wrote:
This is where the book went from good to great.
Now here's something that needs a "for me" tacked on the end. Stating it as a fact is a bit much.

For me, this scene was the one that turned me completely, totally off of this series. If I wanted completely nonsensical destinies, I'll go live in real life. If I wanted to feel semi-helpless frustration, I'd go play some pinball. If I wanted a series where any emotional attachment to the characters or the plot should be valued, instead of grudgingly accepted...well, I'd keep reading this series.

I want none of those things in my leisure-time activities. Thanks anyway.

I am, however, curious to hear if Leigh's opinions on whether this sort of authorial fiat has increased/decreased her desire to continue the series?
Sky Thibedeau
66. SkylarkThibedeau
If throwing Bran out the window was not a Wake up call, this chapter certainly was. Ned's death was totally out of left field as he was whom everyone considered to be the Main Guy. He was Aragorn, Han Solo, or Jim Kirk. Now you expect anything.

Dany is a silly teenager in love. What more can you say. She loves Drogo and will make any sacrifice to save him and is blind to any consequences.

The Dothraki are really bad news. I've been reading Conn Iggullden's "Conquerer" a fictionalized account of the rise of Kublai Khan. The Dothraki are the Mongols. When Kublai's brother becomes Khan the description of the revelry in the camp with drunken duels to the death matches that of Drogo and Dany's wedding. Their Chin, Arab, Persian, and European conquests are treated the same as the Sheep People on the Sea of Grass.

Amazing how much authenticity there is about the Middle Ages in ASOFAI
67. Lurking Canadian
My shock upon first reading the events of this chapter is only equalled by my shock that Leigh has somehow managed to be hip-deep in Internet fantasy fandom for nearly fifteen years without being spoiled about it.

It's like meeting somebody in about 1995 who didn't know who Luke's father was.
68. madcow21
@thomstel - "Good" and "great" are both subjective adjectives, so the "for me" is already implied.

But honestly, why are you even bothering to read and contribute comments to a re-read of a book in a series on which you are "completely, totally" turned off? I mean, this clearly isn't a place frequented by people who have not already read or at least purchased the book to read along, so it's not like you're trying to save others from wasting their time/money on it. So what's your motivation? I'm really curious.

And for that matter, exactly where is it that you currently live that would enable you to "go live in real life"instead?

Anyways....LOVED the response Leigh. Hang in there. The best is yet to come.
69. wcarter4
Ding dong the Ned is Dead...
70. sofrina
i love rooting for underdogs and ned was the ultimate underdog. he was outmanned, outgunned, cornered and simply overmatched by more clever opponents. his death was a blow. BUT- having such a pivotal person who is incapable of/unwilling to play the game of thrones gives us a chance to see some real players go at it. you can't hate that.

danaerys and joffrey have certain parallels. they are both about 13; both suddenly, sorta, in charge; and both ignorant of how to rule. dany's choices stem from love and desperation. all she knows about dothraki life she gets from jorah and maidservants. she didn't get a "queen's" education growing up on the run with viserys. with her, there is a suggestion of destiny or at least some guidance from without.

joffrey, on the other hand, is deeply spoiled, cruel, sadistic and his father was a pretty shabby example of a king. i don't recall any mention of joffrey being included in meetings - as ned did with robb - to train him in how to rule. robert detested joffrey. and joffrey has never seen the best of robert, only the debauched, willful lout who plunged the kingdom into debt. how else would you expect him to rule? i don't know if cersei would have given joffrey any lessons in statecraft, but i doubt he would take them seriously. he has always had too few rules and no one has been allowed to try to correct his sadistic tendencies. of course the kid is going to play with people's lives. he's the king.
Jennifer McBride
71. vegetathalas
I'm impressed you can focus on the nuances of honor. When I got to this point, I had to rip through the rest of the book. A lot of people I know stopped reading because it was too depressing. So is this your last straw? Or are you, like me, suffering from Stockholm syndrome and willing to submit yourself to the great tormentor, GRRM?

One thing I didn't consider until years later was that cruelty and caprice may not have been Joffrey's only motivations. Could it have been a teenager's rebellion against an overbearing mother, or even a sophisticated political move?

Bear with me. Anything Joff did in council could be countered by others, so he had very limited power behind the scenes. The only arena where he had any kind of power at all was in front of a crowd. Ned's execution was useful to him for two reasons. 1) It sorted out who was willing to follow his lead immediately (ie Illyn Payne). Now he knows who his best allies are. 2) It sent a message to his council that he is not to be trifled with. Some of the lords reluctant to follow his wishes over his mothers now realize that he does have some power. Ned's death may have won some followers of Cersei over to him by the implicit threat.

Of course, big picture-wise, with everything we readers know, favoring these small gains over potential peace with the Starks looks dumb. But
we don't know whether Joff knows that the Freys have gone over to Robb (after all, why would Walder Frey stick his neck out for a green boy against all the might and money of the Lannisters?) Joff might not know that Renly left town with a bunch of men, since his advisors may be keeping him completely in the dark. Can we blame him for making a stupid decision when he is cozened like a child?

If the council's telling him that the war is essentially won already, (as they probably are), in Joffrey's mind, Ned's death had trivial effect on the outside political realm but was very useful in his fight against his mother. Some of the most savvy political leaders on earth have been brutal monsters. It's possible Joff was seizing the one possible action he could see to establish his own power in his overbearing mother's court.

More likely Joff was just a oaf, but it's fun to think about.
72. jerec84
I've been waiting with sadistic glee for you to reach this chapter. Always love it when someone gets up to this point and shares their reactions.
David W
73. DavidW
Yep, when I read this, it was the first time that I quit reading this series. It took an odd moment 2 or 3 months later before I picked it up again.
Vincent Lane
74. Aegnor

"Yep, when I read this, it was the first time that I quit reading this
series. It took an odd moment 2 or 3 months later before I picked it up

The first time? I wonder what the second time was... rofl.
75. Nine Quiet Lessons
This is the chapter that cemented my love for A Song of Ice and Fire. One of the big problems I have with a significant chunk of fantasy fiction is that the worlds often seem to lack versimilitude. It may say more about me than about the books, but I find it difficult to suspend my disbelief in a world where virtue is always rewarded and vice always punished.
That said, I think people often point to this chapter as evidence that ASoIaF is unremittingly grim and written to make the "good" characters look stupid or ineffectual. However, I don't think that is the case at all. Rather, I think it is reflective of the overall intent of the series, which is to evoke a world which is both mechanistic (i.e. the things that happen are logical outcomes of the actions of the characters) and chaotic (i.o.w. bad things can happen to good people, and vice versa).
I've found that this makes me much more invested in the characters rather than less, because when something good does happen, or a victory is achieved, it feels like it's truly been earned. Also, there is no guarantee that all the designated "good guys" will make it to the end, so every book leaves me wanting to know what happens next.
Finally, I think it's interesting to note that while Ned's honor, or rather, his concept of honor got him killed here, it also affects the legacy he leaves behind him in ways that continue to be a presence in the story. As for whether evil or treachery are always the smart moves, well...keep reading!
76. Kay Gee
I've been waiting since I started reading this blog (week 5) for you to get to this point. Bravo (and congrats) on staying spoiler-free!

Overall, I think fans of the books have done an incredible job of keeping their mouths shut over the twists and turns. Well done, everyone.

P. S. Someday you will understand this reference "They killed my nigga Ned!!!"
Hugh Arai
77. HArai
thomstel@65: Authorial fiat? You were expecting maybe a reader choice? "If you want Joffrey send Ned to the wall go to page 435, If you want Joffrey to order Ned's execution go to next page."
Rob Munnelly
78. RobMRobM
@76. ROFL! Maybe Leigh won't but she should.

@71. I agree with this. It is at least as much Joff strutting his stuff and asserting independence as it is senseless cruelty. He did it, however, without understanding the big picture. Dumbass.

Rob Munnelly
79. RobMRobM
OK, it's blog of ice and fire time. Because that's the way we roll....


Drogo is dying thanks to MMD's poison. It's painfully clear to the bloodriders and even half-retarded Drogo himself that the maegi is bad news, but Dany is a dumbass and still doesn't realize. She even calls for MMD to treat the Khal after he fell from his horse, which is apparently the biggest Dothraki signal of doom and death. Its like an Irishman dropping his mug or a Chinese kid forgetting his multiplication tables -- when it's over, you just know.

Dr. Jorah shows up and diagnoses in five seconds that Drogo is as good as dead. Jorah advises that they flee and hide in Asshair. The bloodriders get pissed and start smacking a Duur, but Dani stops them because, well, she's an idiot. Dany is starting to panic, because once Drogo dies, the bloodriders will turn on them. Incredibly, through massive, incomprehensible stupidity, Dany decides that their best shot is to let MMD perform another dark ritual. Yes, that's right -- she's essentially letting Drogo's poisoner finish the job. Jorah should just bitchslap Dany and take control, but instead he fights the bloodriders so that MMD can finish her crazy incantation. Then Dany goes into labor, and her stupidity was so great that it became contagious, infecting Jorah and her handmaids. They decide to bring Dany to MMD, because who better to deliver a baby than a clinically insane demon sorceress?

Arya's loss of innocence continues. She can now add bird hunting to her impressive list of skills. Knifing stable boys? Check. Neck-snapping pigeons? Check. I don't know what's more disturbing, Arya's complete nonchalance at bare-handed killing or her struggle to stay alive in the ghettos of King's Landing. I suppose her desensitized analytical mind is a key to escaping traps like the fake Wind Witch, but it also means she'll never become the typical princess. Arya doesn't bitch or moan through injury, hunger, or despair, and the universe rewards her stoic endurance of hardship with a front row seat to Eddard's confession and stoning. Where is the karmic justice!? You won't find any in Westeros.

And just when you thought things couldn't get any worse, Arya actually witnesses her father's execution. The whole sequence was very Braveheart-esque, with Arya watching powerlessly from the crowd and Sansa begging for his life on stage. Didn't Cersei understand that when word of this reaches Riverrun, Jaime's head is going to roll as well? Maybe that's what Cersei wanted all along -- Jaime was the only other person who could definitively confirm Joffrey's parentage.

Did I see Eddard's death coming? Of course! I spotted it a mile away. I can't believe Martin would be so cliche and predictable. Just kidding. I had no idea. I thought Ned would confess, be sent to the wall, and happily lead some sort of revolt with Jon's help. He's the fucking main character. He has POV chapters. You'd think Martin would at least let him die in his own chapter. Instead, Eddard dies right in front of his two daughters and his final POV words to the reader consist of a dickless spider offering him a choice between painkillers or Sansa's head. Eddard Stark: honorable, stupid, and now deceased.
EDDARDSo I finally confessed. Time to go to the Wall. Wait. Why is the executioner coming? Why is he picking up that axe? Why is he swinging it? What the f-
Even after this Arya chapter, I believed the beheading was fake using sleight-of-head. But the next chapter confirmed it: Ned was dead. He was now dead Ned. Or Deaddard Stark. Or Beheaddard Stark. When the Northern army hears about this, they are going to be so pissed. Bossman Robb and Widow Cat are going to flip out. Also, Arya is kidnapped by some weirdo creepy child molesting black brother who keeps insisting she's a boy.
Bill Stusser
80. billiam
While Bran being thrown from the window said that this book isn't like other fantasy books, it was this Arya chapter that blew that idea out of the water and said no one is safe. That is why I like this series so much.

While I can understand why that makes some people want to distance themselves from the characters, it does the opposite for me. It makes me feel afraid for them and care more about what is happening. There is no automatic thought of 'I wonder how he or she is gunna get out of this one'.

When I read the Arya chapter for the first time I thought 'WTF? did that just happen?' and had to put the book down for a couple of minutes. Then I picked it back up and went back to the beginning of the chapter and read it again to make sure what I thought happened really happened. And then I put the book down again and thought about it for a little while. When I started reading again a few minutes later I didn't put the book down until it was done, I literally couldn't stop reading (I don't know how Leigh does it).

Also, I'm not really surprised that Leigh could make it through unspoiled. Until the HBO series was announced I had never even heard of ASoIaF and I've been reading SF/F for over 20 years. I started AGoT shortly after I read that the HBO show was being shot in EW and knew absolutely nothing about it other than what was written in the article.
lake sidey
81. lakesidey
Bwahahaha! Months, I tell you! Months I have been waiting for this day. For Leigh's reaction to this chapter. And (beatific smile) boy was it worth the wait...

I had most of the same reactions; I had been reading for 4 hours stright when I hit the previous (Dany) chapter, which had me wondering "how does she get out of this?"; after this one (Arya) I elided the "how" and kept reading until the end of the book. (Also, I might have screamed a little or thrown a tantrum but there are no witnesses so for now I'm sticking to stout denial.)

Teresa Nielsen Hayden
82. tnh
The message here isn't "honor will get you killed" or "honor is worth squat." It isn't honor that does in Ned Stark; it's cluelessness, bad luck, and getting caught in the killing zone that surrounds a psychopathic ruler.

What Martin is saying is that honor doesn't confer magical invulnerability. It's never without cost, which can be very high indeed. At the same time, people who are aware of that, but still consciously choose to do what's right and honorable, are the basis of civilization. There's no good fairy who shows up to defend honorable people from the bad guys, but being one of the good guys makes your friends, neighbors, and relatives a lot likelier to give you help when you're unlucky, and give you the benefit of the doubt when you need it.

The two poles of epic fantasy are economics and mythology, or history and fairy tales. Martin's located his series closer to history and further from fairy tales than most. That's certainly how I feel when I'm reading it. Good people die for stupid reasons. Evil frequently goes unpunished. Archetypal good-guy figures like the noble barbarian, the penniless squire who rises by his own efforts, the beautiful princess, and the loyal retainer get pissed on from a great height, or ironically undercut, or both; and being the last and least of all your father's sons, but cleverer than all the rest put together, gets you less than nothing.

I like it. It doesn't offend my sense of history or causality.
Teresa Nielsen Hayden
83. tnh
Juliet Kestrel @29:
On another note, how did Joff get soo messed up? I mean I get that he probably played on a little league team that kept score, and not everyone got a trophy and stuff,
No. Joffrey has never been on an even footing with the people around him. He's the heir to the kingdom, and they all know it. That has to color all their interactions with him.

He's also been raised by two seriously irresponsible parents. His mother has undoubtedly taught him that Lannisters are better than everyone else, and above the law. Robert Baratheon has taught him that being king means you always get your way. That could warp a thoroughly normal kid; and, as I'll explain in a moment, Joffrey's been abnormal all along.
but even his Lannister upbringing can only account for so much. I’d say probably about 20%. What sort of horribly traumatic childhood experience did he have?
He didn't, but he should have. Joffrey is either a sociopath or a psychopath. He's manipulative as hell, thinks like a predator, has near-zero love and affection in his makeup, and enjoys making others suffer.

We have something close to proof on this point. Go back to the scene right after Bran gets tossed, when Tyrion tells Joffrey to go convey his grief and sympathy to the Starks. Joffrey snottily replies that he can't abide the wailing of women -- whereupon Tyrion hits him, hard, and says to do as he's told. Joffrey temporizes, so Tyrion hits him again.

Now, we know Tyrion is smart, and insightful about people. He has to have his nephew sussed, and he has to be treating him this way for a reason. We also know that we've never seen Tyrion deal with another character in this fashion. And we know that Tyrion is perfectly aware that Joffrey is heir to the throne, so he can't be doing this difficult and dangerous thing on an idle whim.

I believe the inference GRRM intended is that Tyrion already knows that there's no use trying to modify Joffrey's behavior on any basis other than "Do that and you'll get hurt." That's only appropriate if you're dealing with a sociopath or a psychopath.
Also Cersei is the queen reagent,
She has a certain chemistry.
Joff doesn’t have any actual power until he comes of age right? Why on Earth did she not stop this? Is she that afraid of her own son? What don’t we know about their relationship?
It doesn't tell us anything we don't already know. Joffrey is a manipulative little fewmet, but Cersei is too, and she's had lots more practice. If she hasn't figured out yet what Joffrey is, it's because she hasn't tried. But why should she bother? She's the Queen. If she indulges Joffrey instead of disciplining him as she should, she's not the one who'll bear the consequences. Also, that kind of discipline requires consistent handling, consistent rules, and a tiresome amount of work.

Also, Joffrey will be king in his own right someday, and when he does, Cersei wants to be his friend. Plenty of queens have found themselves effectively under house arrest in a rural backwater after their sons have come to the throne.

@46 Carolynh @51:
Oh, yeah, I forgot about the characterization spoiler. Still, that's not a world changer, is it? Or might it be? Who knows?
Yes. There are readers for whom it's a spoiler. I tell you this as information, not criticism.

Thomstel @65, what happens is tragic, but it isn't arbitrary. Nine Quiet Lessons @75 explains this better than I can.

Vegetathalas @71: On the other hand, he ordered the death of the butcher's boy on the trip south, and did it with so little fuss or complication that I have trouble believing it was the first time he'd done it.

Nine Quiet Lessons @75:
This is the chapter that cemented my love for A Song of Ice and Fire. ... I find it difficult to suspend my disbelief in a world where virtue is always rewarded and vice always punished.
Strong agreement here. Where are the heroism or the significant choices in a world like that?
That said, I think people often point to this chapter as evidence that ASoIaF is unremittingly grim and written to make the "good" characters look stupid or ineffectual. However, I don't think that is the case at all. Rather, I think it is reflective of the overall intent of the series, which is to evoke a world which is both mechanistic (i.e. the things that happen are logical outcomes of the actions of the characters) and chaotic (i.o.w. bad things can happen to good people, and vice versa).
Horrors, it's just like the world we live in! And yet, somehow we still manage to love our lives, love each other, seek justice, do as we would be done by, and try to make the world a better place. In our shared universe, good people aren't stupid or ineffectual; they just lack the bias in causality -- what some Mary Sue theoreticians have labeled the Aura of Smooth -- that sometimes accompanies major characters in works of fiction.
I've found that this makes me much more invested in the characters rather than less, because when something good does happen, or a victory is achieved, it feels like it's truly been earned. Also, there is no guarantee that all the designated "good guys" will make it to the end, so every book leaves me wanting to know what happens next. Finally, I think it's interesting to note that while Ned's honor, or rather, his concept of honor got him killed here, it also affects the legacy he leaves behind him in ways that continue to be a presence in the story.
Yes! Good and evil both do that. GRRM is brilliant at tracing out consequences without making a big deal out of it.
As for whether evil or treachery are always the smart moves, well...keep reading!
I can't imagine Leigh or anyone else stopping now.

RobMRobM @79:
Drogo is dying thanks to MMD's poison. It's painfully clear to the bloodriders and even half-retarded Drogo himself that the maegi is bad news, but Dany is a dumbass and still doesn't realize. She even calls for MMD to treat the Khal after he fell from his horse, which is apparently the biggest Dothraki signal of doom and death.
I'm not sure the text fully supports that reading. Drogo's symptoms are consistent with a bad infection, possibly septicemia. Mirri Maz Duur came to the Dothraki as a captive, essentially empty-handed. She hasn't had the leisure to find poisons or the privacy to prepare them, even assuming Drogo would let her give them to him.

That's a big assumption. We see him refusing to be treated by Mirri Maz Duur, and disliking everything having to do with her. Whether or not she has poisons, she's got no delivery system.

The impression I got when I read that sequence was that MMD knew Drogo loathed and distrusted her, so right after he'd quarreled with one of his capos, while the guy was still within earshot, she went out of her way to say that Drogo needed to have his wound cleaned and stitched. Under those circumstances, it was entirely predictable that he would react by denying that his wound needed treatment. The natural consequences followed.
David Goodhart
84. Davyd
AAAAAAAAAATTTTT LAAAAAAAAAAAAAASTTTT!!!!!!!!! My Chap has some alllooooooooooooong!

Oh glorious shock*disbelief*optimistic-by-proxy(ness)!

Huge aSoIaF fan, that only got into the re-read of WOT as I first picked up my 10-year-old-but-never-read copy of EoTW, and then promptly DL'd the audiobooks. I'm currently at Kinfe of Dreams, and LOVING IT! I have been a Leigh-fan since!

When you picked up GOT, I was stoked, and this is why! Thanks for doing this Read (and the WOT Re-Read, for which I doubt I would have stuck with WOT, at all.)

Happy Reading!
Tyler Durden
85. Balance
I disagree with the idea that Ned was protecting his legacy by choosing to lie. This is Martin’s world. Ned’s legacy is stored in Rob, Bran, and Rickton. I’m sure he loves his female children as much as the male. However, in this world, they have no direct bearing on the continuation of his house. He is actually throwing his legacy away, by publicly confessing to treason, to save the lives of his little girls.

@ 71: I think it was a little of both.

@ 77: I loved reading Reader’s Choice as a kid.

Zed’s dead, baby. Zed’s dead.
86. Xyz
As many people have already pointed out, your reaction to this chapter has been one of the things I've been looking forward to since you commenced the read. Congratulations on having the discipline to remain unspoiled for so long! For those of us who have read the series before this is one of the pivotal scenes that we always think of when reflecting on the story. To be honest it (and certain subsequent scenes) cast a long shadow over the narrative and make rereading a difficult proposition. In fact I abandonned reading the series after book three because the density of the plot and the complexity of the characters required a reread but the thought of having to experience these scenes again was too forbidding. I returned to the series when you commenced the read as I realized that, plot aside, the writing style is in itself compelling.

This is truly the moment when, as a reader, you understand that being genre-savvy is actually a hinderence in anticipating plot developments. It greatly adds to the tension, though I can share the view of one commentator above that this isn't what I signed up for in epic fantasy and if I really wanted this sort of arbitrary indifferent and stomach turning lack of destiny I'd be tempted to stick to the real world.

It should be fairly obvious to you that, with one of the major characters in the story eliminated, subsequent books will have space to develop other characters. It is one of Martin's strengths as a writer that there are no major characters who could be called Iago: no motiveless malevolences but well drawn individuals who, though they commit atrocities, do so for reasons that are frequently comprehensible within the terms of the particular character. It is astonishing how effectively Martin will take an antagonist and allow them to develop such human traits that they start to blur into protagonist - and vice versa.

Looking forward to reexperiencing the story through your eyes - I'm sure you will find compelling even if not entirely a comfortable read.
Tricia Irish
87. Tektonica
tnh@83: So nice to get such a long and thoughtful post from you! Well said.

If I remember correctly, MMD made a poltice for Drogo, which he removed after a few days, then used some mud his tribe had prescribed. I know certain kinds of mud can draw out infection (clay) but who knows what this was? Perhaps ignoring MMD caused his infection? Don't get me wrong....I do think she's an angry, treacherous mage here at the end of the chapter.....but she may have tried to do a good thing at the beginning of her captivity, looking for a position of honor with the Kal? Instead, she was reviled and threatened as he deteriorated. Just a thought.....

As someone above said, the long shadow of Ned, and his honor, colors the whole of the books. He is gone, but not forgotten. The concept of honor, presented through Ned, lives on in opposition to the guile and treachery that oppose it.

I do find myself reluctant to relax with GRRM. I don't trust him with my emotions. However, he does challenge my assumptions, and makes me see the world, even the modern world, in a deeper and less simplistic way.
88. The SmilingKnight
Mazel tow!

:breaks glass:
Philbert de Zwart
89. philbert
I distinctly remember reading that other reread, here, to be exact :

Quoting :
" but poor Ned, you guys. Poor dead Ned,"
I had to sit on my hands in order not to say anything about AsoIaF at that time.
90. mike shupp
Leigh -

Well, now, we've reached That Moment ... the one newcomers to the books might have been intuiting and dreading all along, the point all us old-timers have been gleefully (if a bit guility) awaiting, hoping to see you react in full head-smacking fury. And we have kept quiet, as best we could. We've refrained from posting our little spoilers, we've been (2 chapters a week?!) especially patient.

And why is that? you may wonder, even as the truth suddenly becomes blood-woundingly clear. Because we like you, Leigh. We want to share your simple pleasures, your anticipations, your constant joys. WE ARE YOUR FRIENDS!

Welcome to Westeros.
Anthony Pero
91. anthonypero
I remember reading this chapter and thinking to myself "That's what Robert Jordan is going to have to do if he ever wants to finish this damn series!" That was 15 years ago, now. He didn't. All of his characters are still alive, even the evil ones keep being brought back to life.
Yuriev Olmos
92. Baikala
Leigh, I think you can appreciate this now that is not a spoiler as of this chapter:
Don't pay atention to the readhead reference, is a new character in the HBO version of Game of thrones.
Katie McNeal
93. Katiya
So I was trying to post about something else, but apparently I don't understand whiteout on here, so I'll just say that I too was super excited to see your reaction, Leigh...indeed, welcome to ASoIF. No one is safe should be the official motto.
john mullen
94. johntheirishmongol
While some point to this as a highlight of the series, to me this is where it goes wrong. This is where GRRM says I am smarter and better than anyone else, and I will kill off whoever just to show it. It killed the emotional investment that I think it takes to make any book or series great. You can kill off your protagonist, but you cannot do it in the early part of the story. Although other characters are interesting, its never quite the same. It's still a good series, and there are more gotcha moments but to me this was a terrible choice. Now, I know there are a lot that love this moment, and think it makes the series but I believe the longer it goes the more wrong it goes.
Rob Munnelly
95. RobMRobM
Theresa - quick points:
- to be clear to all, the quote in your post coming from me is actually my reproduction of the relevant chapter discussion from the Blog of Ice and Fire, a witty work that I enjoy as a fan and reproduce here for entertainment purposes but to which I have no connection other than appreciation. I really wish the author would come back and continue his blogging.
- re the Blog of Ice and fire quote re MMD and whether she "did" anything to Drogo, the text is deliberately unclear. She may not have had time to poison Drogo but she is a maegi with special powers - she could have done something to him in her treatment or even in her time away from him. Or it could be as banal as Drogo not taking care of his cut and it getting infected, despite her efforts. I like the ambiguity here.
- The discussion of Cersei trying to stop Joff is illuminating but incomplete. The problem is that there was no easy way to stop him. This is absolutely a power play and act for independence for him, and he arranged in advance for Slynt and Payne to act quickly on his orders for exactly that reason. Putting aside that setting the Kingsguard or Gold Cloaks to stopping Slynt and Payne would have potentially caused irretrievable harm to Joff's standing with the people, which Cersei wouldn't have done as a practical matter, there was not enough time. Given crowd noise, she would have had to call them over, give them the orders, and they would have had to move to that side of the dais to intervene - by that time, Ned's head was off.
- re Jeff's upbringing, plus 1 to your statement that he was raised by seriously irresponsible parents and the same for the fact that he is the heir is and going to be indulged by everyone else. He also has the Hound as his longtime bodyguard who, unlike Barristan the Bold and others, is not going to try to convince him not to do evil selfish things.

Johnthe Irish - It's somewhat funny to me, since I nearly always agree with your posts on SFF literature issues, to disagree with you so profoundly here. Ned's death "worked" for me on all levels. It shocked me out of complaisance as a reader. It upheld the promise of the title - that if you play the game of thrones and lose, you die, and reinforced that decisions made by characters had real and often life-risking importance. It was a critical character development moment for all of the major characters in the book - we learned (and will learn in future chapters) how characters grew and changed as a result of this act. And, most importantly, if it didn't happen, this would be much shorter series as the Lannisters could use Ned to neutralize the north and concentrate attention on the Baratheon uncles and their allies. Then we'd just be wating to see if Dany showed up down the line.

Peter Stone
96. Peter1742
@JohntheIrish 94:

A Game of Thrones is the tragedy of Ned Stark. Ned is the main character, and the book revolves around Ned's term as Hand of the King. This chaper is the climax, and many of the later chapters show the immediate aftereffects of his execution (there are some other very important developments as well, but mentioning them would be a spoiler). If this were a mainstream novel, ending the book with the death of the main character wouldn't be at all remarkable.

What is really surprising here is that it's the first book in a series, and the later books clearly aren't going to have the same main character. Even before the other books came out, it was obvious that it was a series from the number of unfinished plotlines at the end, not to mention the amount of time spent on Dany---including her story would have been pointless if it didn't have impact on Westeros at some point.

Just because Ned Stark's story is over doesn't mean that there aren't any interesting characters left in the other books. These books have much more of an ensemble cast, although in the latest two, it looks like you can tell who the real main characters of the whole series are going to be (assuming Martin doesn't surprise us again, that is).
Bill Reamy
97. BillinHI
Haven't posted much here as I'm reading this one for the first (and undoubtedly last) time, but I have to say that I read (science) fiction and (some) fantasy to get away from real life. If I want nothing but bad news, I will read all the world news. Since I don't read all the world news (there is little or nothing I can do about it), I prefer to have actual good guys and bad guys in my reading and there certainly aren't many (if any!) real good guys in this book. I guess I will finish this one (although I gave up on Sanderson's Mistborn trilogy partway through the second book - I just lost interest), I seriously doubt that I will ever read the rest of the series (assuming that it is ever actually finished).
john mullen
98. johntheirishmongol
@Rob...Truthfully, the first time I read it, I thought it was great. It is only since the series has continued and there has been no replacement for Ned and no focus. I don't mind different POV and different important characters, but somewhere you have to have a main central character and without Ned, there just isn't.

@BillinHi...I tend to agree with you about stories. I prefer that kind of story too. Even with stories of redemption, I like it clear who is being redeemed. However, this is well written and has some other plusses that make it a worthwhile read. I just dont place it in the top stories i like because of that. I will disagree with you about Mistborn, which I thought was very clear who was bad and good. Just that they came from a different place so used different tools.
Rob Munnelly
99. RobMRobM
John - can't respond in detail without giving too much away. I will disagree with the necessity of a single "main central character" in any SFF series (I can think of many multi-polar works, Malazan being one of them, Peter Hamilton's Commonwealth series being another) and, furthermore, question the assertion that no such character exists in ASOIF. (I think I know who will be there at the end and believe this to be GRRM's plan all along, so I'm not seeing a lack of focus either.) But I like the series, so take my thoughts with the appropriate grains of salt.

Bill - there are plenty of real good guys in GoT. Based on text reviewed to date, I'd say Ned, Robb, Jon, Jory, Rodrick, Maester Luwin, Selmy, the Blackfish, Lord Commander Mormont, Aemon Targaryan, and perhaps Beric Dondarion (who went off with his 100 men to capture the Mountain) all would qualify, and there are others who will become apparent (more apparent) as the series proceeds.

Anthony Pero
100. anthonypero

Ned (dead), Robb(dead), Jon (deadish), Jory (dead), Rodrick (dead), Maester Luwin (dead?), Selmy (exiled), Blackfish (not dead?), Mormont (dead), Aemon (dead?) Beric (undead?). Geesh, apparently the good guys can also be called the body count.

Obviously whited for spoilers. For RobMRobM's eyes only.
101. mike shupp
Thomstel @ 65
Johntheirishmongol @94
BillinHI @97

I don't quite want to say "Ned Stark died for your sins."

But I think, in a sense, Ned Stark died for your sins as readers. SF and fantasy readers have gotten ... over-comfortable, let's say ... with various conventions about how novels should be plotted (you can kill off a friend of the hero, for instance, to show your Good Guy was in Serious Danger, but the hero HAS to survive, and the hero's girlfriend HAS to survive so they can Kiss And Contemplate The Future on the last page) and how realistic those novels should be in terms of plot (not very), characterization (really really not very), and naturalistic detail (again, not very).

The sad truth is, SFF readers like to praise themselves for their "courage" in their choice of reading material and admire authors who deal with their material "honestly", but in actual fact readers want fast moving stories which hit conventional emotion buttons in the correct order. They want space adventures like Robert Heinlein wrote, or Star Trek, not stories about Senate subcommittee meetings which read like rejected fragments of ADVICE AND CONSENT! even though in this worlds it's those despised Senate subcommittees which determine space policy and figure how programs will be funded rather than brave, resolute astronauts. They want Han Solo and Captain Picard for heroes, not Sarah Palin or Paul Ryan or Barak Obama. even people who are passionate about Palin or Ryan or Obama as leaders in real life.

So, all you folks who picked up this nice fat fantasy series and told yourselves, "Here's another story about Bilbo and Frodo and Sam and Gandolf with different names but it'll be fun Fun FUN just like it always is!" ... well no. George R. R. Martin just decided to kick your teeth in.

As a sometimes author myself, I have to say I admire this.
Captain Hammer
102. Randalator
anthonypero @91

I remember reading this chapter and thinking to myself "That's what
Robert Jordan is going to have to do if he ever wants to finish this
damn series!" That was 15 years ago, now. He didn't. All of his
characters are still alive, even the evil ones keep being brought back
to life.

Central evil characters (read: Forsaken) RJ has permanently killed off since 1996 (not counting BWS's continuation):

- Sammael
- Osan'gar a.k.a. Aginor

Central evil characters he killed off ever (including BWS's continuation:

- Sammael
- Osan'gar a.k.a. Aginor
- Rahvin
- Asmodean
- Be'lal
- Semirhage (BWS)
- Aran'gar a.k.a. Balthamel (BWS)

That's 50% of the original major baddies gone.

RJ certainly went the traditional route in not killing off his good central characters and he brought several killed characters back. But most of the latter are now deceased anyway and he has his fair share of minor characters that he wiped off the landscape. He is far from having all of his characters still alive or having brought back all villains...
Rob Munnelly
103. RobMRobM
AP@100 - touche! I could respond but I'm afraid I'd have to "ice" you.

Randalator - apres ToM, le deluge (of good character deaths to give us that appropriately bittersweet ending).
Colleen Palmer
104. arianrose
Leigh, I think we've all been waiting for you to get to just this chapter.

Welcome. The suck, it is sometimes overwhelming.
105. Another Sarah
This is totally the chapter that made me wish I'd read the book *before* watching the HBO version instead of vice versa. I can only imagine the impact of reading that fresh. Great commentary, Leigh!
Anthony Pero
106. anthonypero
My wife won't watch the second season because of this. She did the same thing when they (begin 24 Season 1 Spoiler)

killed Jack's wife at the end of Season 1

(End 24 Season 1 spoiler)

She doesn't like writers playing with her safe conventions of entertainment. I on the other hand, love it if it's done for a valid story reason. Ned's death is intregal to the kind of story GRRM wants to write. It has nothing to do with "shock value" or shaking up "reader complacency". This is the scene his story demanded from the moment Ned left the North. Cersi explicitedly stated this a number of chapters ago. "When you play the Game of Thrones, you win, or you die." Ned didn't win. And since we knew for a very long time that there was no way for him to win, this scene had to take place.
Vincent Lane
107. Aegnor

I can't watch Youtube videos at work, but if that is what I think it is (Hitler reacting to Ned's death), that certainly does contain a spoiler. It is the character spoiler mentioned earlier in the comments. Something that is made plain in the TV series right from the start, but that is barely alluded to in book 1 of the series and doesn't become even halfway clear until much later (and then some missed it even then).

If that isn't what that video is, then nevermind.
Anthony Pero
108. anthonypero

Actually, I'd beg to differ, most of RJs minor villians have simply been Put on a Bus. They haven't actually been killed off. And for the first 6 books, RJ killed people off, and all but two came back. That's more words than GRRM has written in his series so far. My point was that RJ envisioned a 6 book cycle, and in order to accomplish that, he would have needed to kill a lot of characters, in the immortal words of Billy Crystal, more than "mostly dead". Not that GRRM doesn't appreciate "mostly dead" characters himself, lol.

Anyway, I thought it was a fair observation, especially made when it was.
Vincent Lane
109. Aegnor

You stopped reading the Mistborn series halfway through the 2nd book? Ouch. You came so close to the plot twist of awesomeness. At least the first one. The ending of that book just rocked me.

But back to ASoIaF, based on your comments I'd probably stop reading this series if I were you. It is definitely awesome, but probably not for you. You should however, go back and finish Mistborn.
john mullen
110. johntheirishmongol
@101 Mike
I have to say that since you mentioned it, Alan Drury is one of my fave authors and Advise and Consent is an amazing book, a Pulitzer winner from back ing the day. The second real series I read, after Foundation, it really got me interested in politics and government. And Heinlein was really not that conventional, especially for his times. A lot of his stuff is still pretty contraversial.

I don't mind being out of my comfort zone, but I do like to have an idea as to at least a goal, and that has to be more than just survival. It's just all over the place, too many issues and not enough solutions. Good characters, interesting vignettes, but no real endgame in sight.
111. JesseASoIaFFan
@102 (especially) and @91 (a bit):

Really? I have to be up to date on WoT in order to follow this thread? Is there a work of literature you would like me to spoil for you?
112. nancym
I also had not heard of these books before the HBO series. Then I started reading along with Leigh, and got impatient. When I picked up the GoT book, it was emblazoned with reviews that spoke of GRRM as "America's Tolkien".

My first thought was - when I read The Hobbit and LotR as a child, I wanted to live in Middle-Earth. It sounded like such a wonderful place- dangerous, yes, and with many evils- but I dreamed of settling down in a nice little hobbit-hole. Westeros, though? Not a chance!
Captain Hammer
113. Randalator
nancym @112

I'm completely with you on that one. For me, too, this is the aspect where ASoIaF falls flat for me compared to WoT. Randland is a place where I would want to live and whenever I pick up the books it's a bit like coming home. Westeros, for all the literary brilliance Martin delivers, is just a crapsack world you should count yourself lucky not to live in.

That's why, ultimately, I prefer WoT over ASoIaF, not because it is better but simply because Randland invites you for a nice enjoyable visit with a smile, whereas Westeros breaks your legs with a hammer while you're not looking and then leaves you by the side of the road to be raped to death by a bunch of outlaws. And then it eats your dog, sells your wife to slavetraders, burns your house to the ground and spreads mean rumours about your sexual prowess.

In other words, while it's a great read, it will never be my best friend...
Juliet Kestrel
114. Juliet_Kestrel
@ 82 tnh
I guess what I was getting at was that I am curious about Joff’s back story as a character. I don’t feel like we have enough information about WHY he is such an evil evil villain. His younger siblings have had brief on stage appearances, and both seemed like pretty normal children to me. (The scenes back in Winterfell, with the princess embroidering with Sansa and the Septa, and Toman play sword fighting).

I am also having trouble believing Joff planned out this scheme in advance with his executioner. We have seen him do some pretty horrible things, but they all seem to be reactionary. He has the butcher boy killed because he witnessed Arya beat him up with a stick. Have we seen Joff perform any other pre-mediated cruelty before? Or has it mostly been cruelty in a rage?

I am not saying I think King Rob and Queen C were good parents. I just feel like even bad parents try to stop obviously cruel and reckless behavior, even if their methodology of correcting the behavior is bad, they do SOMETHING.

Side Note: Awww play nice about spell check errors, damn typos being actual words.
115. ryamano
I don't know why people consider ASOIAF pure "epic fantasy". To me it derives more from historical fiction, and that's why so many people seem to not be getting what they want (the realism, for example. Life in ASOIAF sucks, just as it sucked in medieval times). It also looks a lot like some tragedies (shakespeariean tragedies) to me (the appendix is organized the same way the dramatis personae of shakespearean plays are). This story is part political intrigue, part family drama and part epic fantasy (the zombie apocalypse and all).

GRRM not only broke away with conventions from epic fantasy by killing Ned. He also broke away from conventions from historical fiction. In historical fiction you know the outcome, who'll succeed and become king and who'll lose the civil war. In the end, if you know enough history, there isn't that much tension. You know Napoleon ins't going to conquer Russia in War and Peace, for example. The question then is which Russian characters are going to survive, but the overall plot is known. Some part of the tension is gone.

Since everyone said Ned's dead, I can make this analysis of his character, which I did in my blog. Ned is based partially on Richard III of England. Richard III was a powerful lord, who was very loved in Northern England, and who was asked by the king, his brother Edward IV, to be his counselor. After the king died, Richard III was appointed to be the regent to the two princes, the late king's sons and his nephews. The two princes entered the Tower of London but then disappeared in the next year. The Shakespearean play (and most stories) say he killed his nephews to grab power, since he became king the next year, alleging that his nephews weren't legitimate due to the illegal marriage of his brother (which was incestual in catholic law).

Ned Stark is some form of Richard III, but one that failed. He was loved in the north, he went south to help his good friend and almost brother, King Robert. After Robert died, he was made regent and was supposed to take care of the late king's two sons (Joffrey and Tommen). He discovered that they weren't legitimate and tried to get power from them (to deliver to Stannis, but still tried to take away from them). Except Ned Stark isn't as ruthless as the historical Richard III. He didn't kill the king's sons. He offered a way out to them, but didn't get enough allies to make his coup d'etat succesful. He played the game of thrones and lost.

The outcome is not decided. You don't know if Lancaster (Lannister) or York (Stark) are going to be the houses to succeed in the end. You don't know if there's going to appear another house, a Tudor, to end all things. You just don't know what's going to happen next. And that's why GRRM made the story so, in part because he was tired of historical fiction always having the same outcome (he does cite the exact example that you know the two princes are doomed when they enter the Tower of London). He said he considered making ASOIAF a world without any magic or even alternate history. But he was convinced by a friend to do otherwise (and that's why you get a world where dragons existed and helped forge one country).

Regarding the focus of the story, I don't think there's need for a main character. The story, to me, is about a bunch of families and interesting characters living in interesting times and how their lives fared at those times. I don't have a problem with the main character dying. In the play Julius Caesar, both main characters die (Julius Caesar and Bruttus). One dies in the middle of the play (Julius Caesar). That doesn't make it any less interesting to watch.
Vincent Lane
116. Aegnor
I've heard it said that some have the seed of psychopathy in them at birth. And with the proper upbringing, that seed never florishes and they often become very successful members of society. In others, with a less than ideal upbringing, that seed does florish. So it takes a combination of factors. Someone can have a lousy upbringing, and not turn out like a sociopath at all (Tommen, Myrcella) and someone else with the same upbringing (Joffrey) can become a sociopath.

So what created Joffrey? He likely had the seed of sociopathy, which was alowed to florish by an absent father and an overendulgent mother who encouraged his belief that he was better than everyone else, and no one else matters.
117. mike shupp
johntheirishmongol @110. Alan Drury ...interesting case. (I just went off to Wikipedia to brush up on this andthat.) I like Advice and Consent well enough to have read it three times, but alas once was enough for the sequels. He wrote a lot more than I recall, I can see, so I guess I'll keep an eye open in used book stores.

As for the case at hand _here_, I do see your point. I sometimes wonder myself if GRRM is really going to finish this series off in just a few more books, or if he's competing with the late Robert Jordan for some prize to be awarded in Another Sphere. Or if he knows himself. English history didn't end at Bosworth Field, after all, so why should its analogue?

Juliet_Kestrel @ 114 and Aegnor @116. Hard to tell what makes for a sociopath. I might guess that Joff got a double dose of the gene set that made his grandfather so loveable (we've met Tywin by now!) and that this missed his siblings. It's also the case that his upbringing has been sort of special -- he's royal and privileged; his mother is a viscious manipulative bitch who's been punishing Robert for 15 years now for not being the man she really wanted; his ersatz-father hates her back for not being the bride he really wanted, and probably isn't firing on all mental cylinders either. The boy's obviously made for special handling by Officer Krupke.
118. nancym
Randolator @ 113- "whereas Westeros breaks your legs with a hammer while you're not looking and then leaves you by the side of the road to be raped to death by a bunch of outlaws..."

heh, EXACTLY. I described this series to friends as "brutal". But why are you reading it, they ask. Sociopaths and beheadings and wights, oh my!

I tell them it's because there is never a dull moment in GRRM's world.
119. Phonos
I'm re-reading Wheel of Time and have almost finished The Fires of Heaven, and have been reading Leigh's commentary at the same time. I read part 24 this morning. This quote in the commentary for chapter 54 is very interesting (warning there are spoilers for people who haven't read WoT):

I’m trying desperately to remember what my initial reaction to Mat, Asmodean, and Aviendha’s “deaths” in this chapter was. As in, did I believe they were for real, or had I twigged by this point to the distinct dearth of important character deaths in WOT? I really can’t remember. I think I was reading this part so fast that I don’t know that their “deaths” actually really registered. I’m pretty sure that for Mat, at least, I was like “uh uh, no way”, but that may be hindsight talking. It’s not like anyone’s last name is “Stark” here, after all. Ba dum dum.

Comments anyone?
120. Wortmauer
Phonos@119: You're asking how it is that Leigh might make a passing reference to main characters named Stark dying, two years ago? That one isn't really mysterious. Leigh is on record as saying she has read this book before, but has forgotten most of it. But I don't know how anyone could forget something as significant as Ned's death, so that probably explains that.

Yes, I know in her introductory blurbs she says:
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.
But read closely: she is reacting for the first time, not necessarily reading for the first time. Yes, the verbiage is a bit ambiguous there and I suspect some people misinterpret it. And in any case, once we get past the first book, she will presumably be reading for the first time as well.
Julian Augustus
121. Alisonwonderland
I have been waiting for Leigh to reach this point in the series, not because I wanted to see her reaction to Ned's death, as many posters have stated, but because it brings to a head the criticism of Ned that I started some chapters ago.

During the re-read involving the events just before and after Robert's death, I stated that in my opinion Ned was a selfish hyprocrite and that I would expand on that judgement at the right time. Well, this is it.

To recap: about the time Robert was dying, Ned approached Littlefinger for help with his scheme about inviting Stannis to take the throne after Robert died because, as he explained to LF, Cersei's children were born of incest, making Stannis the rightful heir. LF gave him a pretty convincing explanation of why Stannis on the throne was a terrible idea. Without doubt, LF explained, it would plunge the nation into another devastating civil war, and he gave reasons for predicting this outcome that Ned couldn't dispute. But Ned was unmoved.

Let me repeat, Ned knew there was at the very least there was a very high probability that putting Stannis on the throne would invite a civil war that would involve much of the South, lead to a likely breakdown of social order with hundreds of thousands dead, famine, looting, rapes, cities burning, and general all-around devastation. But he didn't care. He was determined to "do the right thing", as Stannis was in his mind the rightful king.

But why was he so determined to "do the right thing" even if it meant such horrendous devastation to the realm and the people? Because he was sure he was, personally, not going to suffer the consequences of his actions! After all, he was arranging to send his children back home to Winterfell, and he intended to hand over the throne to Stannis and then head home himself with the rest of his staff and his household guards, where he'll be safely ensconced in the frozen North while the South went to hell in a handbasket. He was certain the devastation wouldn't reach him.

Why do I think this? Because he changed his tune pretty quick when he, personally, and his family were faced with the same violence that he didn't care if it fell on others! Where was his precious honor when he confessed to "plotting treason against the rightful king"? He had realised then, too late, that if he didn't bend his principles his family could be wiped out. I would have thought him misguided, but noble and principled, if he had laughed in Joffrey's face and called Joffrey a child of incest and not the rightful king, and then died for standing up for his beliefs. But he wasn't really noble and principled at the end, was he?

My point is, he didn't want to bend his principles when he thought it was only the rest of the realm, not himself, who would burn for it. But he was quite ready to bend his principles when his own family's lives were at stake. Now somebody tell me that is not the action of a selfish hypocrite.
122. mike shupp
Alisonwonderland @131

Ouch! Ooh! Those are blows indeed, but I do think you are being overly harsh with that "selfish hypocrite" label. First of all, the notion that an honorable man is one who may hold to a priggish standard of rectitude is actually fairly common in medieval and even current ethics. It was the motto of Ferdinand I, Holy Roman Emperor of about 1560, Fiat justitia et pereat mundus: "Let justice be done, though the world perish." In the form “Fiat justitia et ruant coeli” -- "Let justice be done, though the heavens fall" -- it's been cited by English and American judges since 1601.

Secondly, I would argue that any workable standard of ethics must allow that we all have divided minds. Consciously we may deliberate between bold and prudent courses of action, while our subconscious yearns for safety and comfort. We understand and do not blame the choice of prudence if enough justification can be found, but we honor boldness when it leads to meritorious behavior. Prudent men gain promotions over time; heros win medals.

Ned Stark had ways to play it safe as Hand of the King. He could have made an alliance with Cersei, confirmed Joffrey as king, and immediately retired from his office, for example. He could have proclaimed Joffrey's bastardy to the court and general public even before Robert's body was cool. He could have called together the Kingsguard and explained why Stannis should be the rightful ruler. He did none of those, because he was unwilling to smite Joffrey and his siblings and Cersei and Ser Jaime Lannister. He equivocated ... and it led to his death. He meant well. Famous last words -- and they suit him better than "selfish hypocrite" I think.

That said, I must reflect on his awful total failure. The rebellion he helped lead which brought Robert Baratheon to the Iron Throne some fourteen years earlier was inspired by the insanity and cruelty of Aerys II Targaryen. Despite his kingly mien, Robert has failed conspicuously as a monarch, in virtually every area -- most importantly in failing to provide his lands with a fit and lawful successor. Robert's failure to rule, Cersei's viciousness, and Joffrey's monstrous character have been on full display for 3/4s of the book -- MONTHS in terms of time -- when Ned makes his disasterous choices. And the end result is that Westeros is again placed in the grasp of insane and cruel rulers and Ned's precious family is destroyed because of his soft heart.

What do you suppose he was thinking about when his head was cut off?
Kevin Maroney
123. womzilla
mike shupp @ 101: "Here's another story about Bilbo and Frodo and Sam and Gandolf with different names but it'll be fun Fun FUN just like it always is!" ... well no.

It bewilders me that anyone could read The Lord of the Rings and come away thinking it was "fun Fun FUN". Obviously, people do, but a key fact about Tolkien's seminal work that almost all of his immitators miss is that The Lord of the Rings is a tragedy.

Major characters die horrible pointless deaths; magic is driven from the world; and the hero fails in his quest through his own moral weakness, from which he can never be redeemed. Frodo and Sam's trek across Mordor is clearly written by a man who was in the infantry in World War I.

I mean, sure, life in Middle-Earth has its fun parts if you're a brainless Took (but I repeat myself), but that's like wanting to live in King Lear because the Fool gets in a bunch of zingers.
Captain Hammer
125. Randalator
Alisonwonderland @121

Because he was sure he was, personally, not going to suffer the consequences of his actions!

I'll have to disagree with you on that for a very simple reason: He would not have escaped the consequences of his actions.

By putting Stannis on the throne he would have been perceived as Stannis' ally and therefore have been pulled into the civil war anyway. Do you really believe that Tywin Lannister would have gone to war with Stannis leaving himself vulnerable to a stab in the back by Stannis' ally? No way.

Tywin would have struck both north and south, so there never was any escaping the civil war, especially not for him personally. The only difference is that his family would have been reasonably safe from the war and in no immediate danger, while as things turned out Joffrey basically had a knife at Sansa's throat.
126. fanganga
I agree with Mike here. I can see where you're coming from, but I don't think Ned's being hypocritical. Varys made his offer when Ned had been thoroughly beaten, kept in a dungeon for weeks with no food and a serious wound, and Ned was still willing to pay his own life to defy Cersei. (Interestingly, it seemed to me that Varys gave him reason to be defiant by making it seem like he could still hurt Cersei. I wonder why he did that? Did he think that otherwise the offer would not seem plausible? Did he just want to watch Ned squirm?) Protecting children has always been a principle of Ned's - see his views on the Targaryen kids - in particular, when Robert was angling to have Dany killed. Pycelle argued that killing Dany would save Westeros from the bloodshed that would follow from having a viable pretender and Ned was unconvinced. Either he emotionally values individuals he can picture over unknown masses - which is a state he shares with many people, and I can't remember him pretending he doesn't, or there's moral philosophy separating actions that will certainly harm individuals agains actions which might, if other people act in a particular way lead to harm to greater numbers . It's worth noting that he only has Littlefinger's word that siding with Joffrey will prevent a bloody civil war - maybe he's right and a Stark-Lannister alliance would convince enough houses that the coalition that won the last war's still strong enough to win a second, or maybe he's being Littlefinger and using selected pieces of the truth to give a wholly false impression - it's apparent that Stannis and Lysa are already preparing for war, and Ned knows that Renly has allies and won't stand for an obvious Lannister power-grab. In any case, his decisions in the council and in the dungeon seem consistent.
127. sunnyb
@ 119 - Obviously Leigh has read the book before and did remember Ned's death scene. It is something that sticks in the mind. I first read the books when I was 16 or 17. Only the first three were published then, and I didn't reread them for a number of years. I think I was so stressed out at school that I unconsciously made a lot of unpleasant associations with the books, not to mention that I was shocked at the sexual content (having not been exposed to that previously in the books I had read). I re-read the books as an adult and enjoyed them immensely. I had forgotten many plot events in the intervening years, but not this chapter.
128. LM
@ womzilla 123
You completely miss the point of LOTR with this statement:
"the hero fails in his quest through his own moral weakness, from which he can never be redeemed"

In fact, many readers sent Tolkien hate mail for that very reason ,and he mentions this in his letters, bemoaning that they missed the point of his work. Frodo did not fail, (and I am paraphrasing it here), because he was up against ultimate evil in its stronghold, and to say Frodo failed at that moment is like blaming him for being crushed by a rock.

Tolkien is on record as saying his work is a fundementally religious and Catholic work, and the destruction of the Ring is meant to evoke the Lord's Prayer - 'forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil'. The Ring is ultimately destroyed through GRACE, and because of the pity/mercy that Bilbo, Frodo and Sam all showed Gollum at various points. So yes, Frodo fails in the sense that he cannot destroy the Ring of his own power, but it is not tragic, and not irredeemable (especially as he gets to go to the Blessed Real to be purified of his wounds at the end).

Also, Galadriel actually states something about how she and her husband had fought 'the long defeat' for centuries, which actually is echoing Tolkien once said about life - it is a long defeat with only glimpses of the final victory. Basically meaning, we live in a fallen world, and evil will always spring up again and we have to keep fighting it, with only some hope in the ultimate victory of goodness.

So to say that the Lord of the Rings is a treagedy totally flies in the face of Tolkien's worldview. I certainly agree with you that it is not just fun fun FUN escapist twattle...and that it is sad and solemn at points. But it is not a tragedy.
Kevin Maroney
129. womzilla
It might be flying in the face of Tolkien's worldview, but the fact remains that Frodo failed in his goal. His earlier act of grace allowed the mission to succeed, but his own failure left him scarred. (And I would say that the mission left him broken, as well.)

But then, I don't believe in Tolkien's worldview, in which loss and death are somehow good things for which we humans should be thankful. I'm too much of a humanist for that.
Teresa Nielsen Hayden
131. tnh
Phonos @119 et seq.: You either believe in the authenticity of Leigh's readings, or you don't. If you don't, you don't have to read them.


Yo, thread? I am not going to have much tolerance at all for speculative inquests into Leigh's probity or reading habits, now or in the future.

Don't do it to anyone else, either.

(If you feel like you're going to spontaneously combust if you don't get to talk about it, go start a thread in the forums.)
Teresa Nielsen Hayden
132. tnh
Womzilla @129, did he actually say loss and death were good things? I thought they were just inevitable.

It doesn't seem to me that the tale of the children of Hurin views them as a good.
Vincent Lane
133. Aegnor
There are parts of Children of Hurin that make aSoIaF seem like a happy fairy tale.
134. Greyhawk
tnh@131 While it may have been user error, I am assuming you pulled my comment on Leigh's status as a first time reader. Truly dissappointing. While I certainly wasn't complimenting Leigh for what I feel was and remains a misrepresentation of her approach to this (re)read, I did not think I was in any way improper. Leigh has made a BIG deal about this being her first read. She has constantly offered speculation and observations about the storylines, etc. that have engendered comments on how insightful she has been with respect to this read. Commenting on the fact that this is in fact her second reading of this book is not out of line. However, censoring comments on the fact that we a a community were surprised and dissapointed by this revelation is out of line, IMHO.

Hey, its your site and you will do want you want with it and rationalize your actions however you want to as well.
135. Wortmauer
tnh@132: Womzilla @129, did he actually say loss and death were good things? I thought they were just inevitable.
Yes, in The Silmarillion:
It is one with this gift of freedom that the children of Men dwell only a short space in the world alive, and are not bound to it, and depart soon whither the Elves know not. Whereas the Elves remain until the end of days, and their love of the Earth and all the world is more single and more poignant therefore, and as the years lengthen ever more sorrowful. For the Elves die not till the world dies, unless they are slain or waste in grief (and to both of these seeming deaths they are subject); neither does age subdue their strength, unless one grow weary of ten thousand centuries; and dying they are gathered to the halls of Mandos in Valinor, whence they may in time return. But the sons of Men die indeed, and leave the world; wherefore they are called Guests, or the Strangers. Death is their fate, the gift of Ilúvatar, which as Time wears even the Powers shall envy. But Melkor has cast his shadow upon it, and confounded it with darkness, and brought forth evil out of good, and fear out of hope. Yet of old the Valar declared to the Elves in Valinor that Men shall join in the Second Music of the Ainur; whereas Ilúvatar has not revealed what he purposes for the Elves after the World's end, and Melkor has not discovered it.

Quenta Silmarillion, Ch. I, "Of the Beginning of Days" (emphasis mine)
Anthony Pero
136. anthonypero
Of course, Tolkien's point is that after a while, eternal life on this world may grow a tad stale, with atrocity upon atrocity witnessed, no one ever learning (as a people, that is) from their mistakes, continuing to repeat them, etc, etc... Many SFF authors have taken on this theme over the years. Most recently, Sanderson in Warbreaker.
137. deebee

A quote from Leigh`s first post announcing this project at Q:

Q: So you’re going to be doing the same thing with George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series (henceforth abbreviated ASOIAF) that you’re doing with Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series? Recapping and commentary by chapter?

A: Yes, in terms of format. However, there will be some differences. The most significant one being that I have never actually read ASOIAF before. And, I won’t be reading it through before I start the blog series, either.
So this won’t be an ASOIAF Reread, so much as it will be a Read.
Obviously, therefore, this is going to have a big effect on the kind of commentary I’ll be doing, because unlike with the Wheel of Time, I’ll have no idea what’s coming next.
Q: But surely you know generally what happens in the series, right? I mean, it’s been around almost as long as WOT has!
A: Nope.

Since you`re obviously very touchy about any inclination by the rest of us to comment on whether or not Leigh has read ASOIAF before, can we at least be clear that she is categorical that she has not ever read it?

I think at the end of the book there will be a discussion about whether the first-time-read-no-spoilers format has been successful. As a long-time fan I have enjoyed reading the thread but been frustrated at the constraints imposed on it by the no spoilers policy, and feel that discussions have been superficial because it`s hard not to allow our knowlege of later events/character development etc not to colour our reaction to these events. So perhaps this has been an opportunity missed to have areally good WOT reread style debate.
138. Sourabh
I haven't been able to keep up with this blog that much, but I bookmarked it for precisely this moment, and it did not disappoint.

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