Jan 6 2012 2:00pm

A Read of Ice and Fire: A Clash of Kings, Part 1

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 1 of A Clash of Kings, in which we cover the Prologue and Chapter 1 (“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!



What Happens
Maester Cressen watches the comet in the sky above Dragonstone, and tries to tell himself it is not a bad omen. A white raven has arrived from the Citadel in Oldtown, announcing that summer is officially at an end. His assistant Pylos shows in the princess Shireen and her fool Patchface. Shireen, who is nine and disfigured by greyscale, wants to see the white raven. Pylos goes to get it.

Shireen is worried about the comet, which “the red woman” had called dragonsbreath, and the coming winter, and Cressen tries to reassure her. Pylos brings the raven; Shireen is delighted, but Patchface’s nonsense song (The shadows come to dance, my lord, dance my lord, dance my lord) upsets it. Cressen contemplates Patchface’s sad history, how he had almost died in the same shipwreck that claimed Stannis and Renly and Robert’s father’s life, and had been “broken in body and mind” ever since. No one understands how he survived two days in the ocean without dying.

Pylos comes in to tell Cressen that Ser Davos Shorthand has returned and is in counsel with the king (Stannis). Cressen is upset that he was not summoned, and has Pylos help him on the arduous route to Stannis’s council chamber. On the way, he runs into Ser Davos, who tells him that his mission to gain support for Stannis from the storm lords was unsuccessful. Cressen is not surprised. Davos also informs him that Renly has created his own version of the Kingsguard, the Rainbow Guard, with Loras Tyrell as their Lord Commander. Cressen thinks this is typical of Renly’s flamboyant nature.

Davos had refused to sugarcoat to Stannis the fact that without the storm lords, he does not have the numbers to confront the Lannisters, but tells Cressen that Stannis will not heed him. Cressen continues on to the council chamber (which has a table carved in the shape of Westeros). Stannis tells him bluntly that he had not summoned Cressen because he is old and sick, and that Davos failed him re: the storm lords, who either are sitting the matter out or are declaring for Renly, which infuriates Stannis. Stannis complains that he got stuck with Dragonstone while Renly got Storm’s End; Cressen points out the circumstances that had made that necessary, but Stannis only insults him in return.

Cressen tries to encourage Stannis to treat with either Renly or Robb Stark, but Stannis is contemptuous of Renly, and intensely bitter that Robert had obviously viewed Eddard Stark as more of a brother than he did Stannis. Cressen suggests allying with Lysa Arryn instead, and marrying Shireen to Lysa’s boy; Stannis seems to be seriously considering the idea, but then his wife Lady Selyse enters and taunts Stannis, asking if he really going to beg aid from “widow women and usurpers.” She offers her family’s support, but Stannis thinks the Florents are too close to Highgarden to risk Mace Tyrell’s wrath.

Selyse, fervent in her new faith that the red woman, Melisandre of Asshai, has converted her to, urges Stannis to accept “The Lord of Light,” and all the swords he needs will come to him. She suggests that the storm lords would come to him if Renly should die, and adds that Melisandre has “gazed into the flames, and seen [Renly] dead.” Cressen is horrified that she is hinting at fratricide, but Stannis is clearly considering the idea, and kicks Cressen out.

Cressen returns to his rooms, and decides that Melisandre’s madness must not be allowed to spread beyond Dragonstone, and finds a rare poison which he intends to slip into her drink at dinner. He wakes later to find that no one has summoned him for the meal, and goes down alone. He trips over Patchface and falls, and to his shock Melisandre helps him up. But then she takes Patchface’s tin bucket helm and puts it on Cressen, making sport of him, and the diners all laugh. Cressen then sees that his place at the table has been taken by Pylos, and Stannis tells him that he is “too ill and too confused” to be of any use anymore, and Pylos is replacing him.

Stricken, Cressen asks if he might at least have a place to eat, and Davos offers to have him sit by him. Cressen is dismayed, as this puts him too far away from Melisandre, but accepts. Davos tells him Melisandre has predicted their victory, and so Stannis means to press his claim despite the numbers. Cressen speaks again to Stannis and tries to advise him to ally with the Starks and Arryns, but Stannis declares them as much his enemies as the Lannisters, and Selyse says the only ally Stannis needs is “R’hllor, the Lord of Light, the Heart of Fire, the God of Flame and Shadow.“

Cressen declares that R’hllor has no power here, and at Melisandre’s instigation Selyse makes him wear Patchface’s helm again for speaking “folly”; Stannis agrees to the humiliation. In desperation, Cressen puts the poison in his own wine cup and offers to share it with Melisandre as an apology. Melisandre agrees, and puts her hand over his, telling him it is not too late to spill it. When he refuses, they both drink.

“He does have power here, my lord,” the woman said. “And fire cleanses.” At her throat, the ruby shimmered redly.

Cressen tried to reply, but his words caught in his throat. His cough became a terrible thin whistle as he strained to suck in air. Iron fingers tightened round his neck. As he sank to his knees, still he shook his head, denying her, denying her power, denying her magic, denying her god. And the cowbells peeled in his antlers, singing fool, fool, fool while the red woman looked down on him in pity, the candle flames dancing in her red red eyes.

Aw, poor Cressen. And that makes two Prologues in which the POV character doesn’t survive it. I wonder if that’s going to be the tradition for all the books?

Also, damn but I apparently suck at compression. WHYYYY can I not summarize these things more succinctly? Argh. Though, this Prologue was pretty long, and also very exposition-heavy, so maybe it isn’t totally my fault.

Sometimes when the world grew very still and silent of a night, Maester Cressen fancied he could hear Lord Stannis grinding his teeth half a castle away.

*wince* Well, that about sums that up, doesn’t it. I’m about 95% sure that we never actually met Stannis in AGOT, and I’m made more sure by how I’m convinced I would have remembered meeting someone so fundamentally unpleasant. And you know, for someone’s unpleasantness to stand out in this crowd makes you pretty darn unpleasant, you guys. The way he treated Cressen was just nine kinds of shitty. The guy practically raised you, and you can’t show even the smallest bit of compassion, dude? Yuck. What a dick.

Of course, other than Stannis being an obtuse jerk (in a way delightfully different from the way his brother Robert was an obtuse jerk – thank God for family traditions, not), obviously the big thing here is the introduction of The Red Woman, Melisandre. Because we all know how generally well it goes when the monotheists get all Manifest Destiny with the pagans even when there isn’t real magic around to further complicate things!

Yeah. So I’m gonna go ahead and say she’ll be Trouble. You know, just in case the red symbolism wasn’t enough of a tip-off all by itself. Good to know that this whole mess is likely to turn into a religious conflict as well as a political one. Since it wasn’t nearly complicated enough as it was, heh.

Though I have to say I found Patchface and his Not At All Portentous jingles to be much creepier than The Red Chick, at least for the moment. This might be because, oddly for Martin (at least based on what I’ve seen so far), Melisandre really didn’t seem to be quite set up right as a character. I mean, yes with all the ominous references before we actually meet her, and obviously having Lady Selyse under her theological thumb is not a good thing (I’m of the opinion that theological thumbage is a Bad Thing across the board, actually), but Cressen’s decision to outright assassinate her seemed… abrupt. And not completely justified by the things he thinks about her before he makes the choice – especially since he made that decision even before he saw Stannis apparently buying into her crap at dinner.

I can only assume that this is because whatever it is that she did do before this scene to justify Cressen trying to kill her is something we the readers can’t know about yet. At least I hope so, because otherwise that was just kind of weird.

(Although, now that I think on it, people coming up with cuckoo rationales for killing people when religion is involved is… not exactly uncommon. Blerg.)

Also, this will make no sense to you if you haven’t read the Kushiel books by Jacqueline Carey (though you should totally read them if you haven’t), but the name “Melisandre” is causing me some serious cognitive dissonance at the moment. Blink blink blink.

(It does not help that even though I’m sure “Asshai” is meant to be pronounced “Ah-SHY,” every time I see it I mentally hear “ASS-high,“ and then I giggle. Because I am twelve. Sigh.)

“The dragons cannot come to life. They are carved of stone, child.”

Well, maybe they wouldn’t have, but now you said it, so obviously it’s totally going to happen now! Sheesh.

(Or not. I don’t know. But hey, Dany’s eggs were stone before they hatched, so it’s not like there isn’t precedent here! I’m just saying.)

Speaking of Not At All Portentous Things, here, have a comet! I love that Melisandre is all claiming it for her god, because you just know Dany is all convinced it’s for her and her dragons. And really, that would make more sense anyway. I mean, assuming comets are actually omens and/or dragonsbreath, and not just splodges of ice and rocks flying around in space, which in this world they very well might be – the former, I mean. That sentence made a lot more sense in my head.

Also, Winter Is Coming, No, Like, For Real This Time. Well, after autumn, of course. Heh. Which I’m guessing must be a two-to-three year affair at least. Seriously, I do not get how this climate is supposed to work at all. I mean, so, there are crops which get ripe in the summer, and then more, other crops in the autumn? There must be, because otherwise you would have the fairly ironic proposition of everyone starving in the decade-long summer because there are no harvestable crops!

I’m probably overthinking this, but really, agriculturally speaking it is nuts. Also, it will be hilarious if I get to the end of all the currently published books in this series and winter still hasn’t shown up. I will laugh and laugh and laugh.

Randomly: a table shaped like a continent is an AWESOME idea. Map tables, I love it. When I’m rich enough to be obnoxious in my decor I’m totally getting one. No, seven – one for each continent! (Australia is obviously the coffee table.)


Chapter 1: Arya

What Happens
Arya thinks on how Yoren had cut all her hair off in the alley after her father’s execution and told her that she was “Arry the orphan boy” until his convoy of recruits for the Wall reached Winterfell. Yoren had warned her not to slip up in their company lest she find herself betrayed, and probably raped into the bargain. They left King’s Landing with no trouble, but now Arya is being tormented by two of the boys in the party, Lommy Greenhands and Hot Pie.

Lommy calls her “Lumpyhead” and taunts her that she can’t possibly know how to use her sword, and that she probably stole it. Hot Pie demands she give the sword to him, ignoring another boy (called the Bull) who says to leave her alone. Arya tries to placate Hot Pie by offering him her wooden practice sword, but he tries to take Needle anyway. Arya knocks him off his donkey and proceeds to beat him until he soils himself. Yoren drags her off him before she kills him, and drags her off to give her a whipping.

Yoren tells her, after, that the pie boy didn’t kill her father, and hitting him won’t bring her father back. He also tells her that there was apparently a change of plans, as Yoren was there to bring Eddard Stark back to the Wall with him.

Joffrey,” Arya breathed. “Someone should kill him!”

“Someone will, but it won’t be me, nor you neither.”

Lommy and Hot Pie stay away from her after that, and that night she watches the comet in the sky, which makes her think of her father’s sword Ice, and how it must have looked when it took her father’s head. She dreams of home, but thinks of Jon Snow more, and wishes they could go to the Wall before Winterfell so she could see him again.

Yay, Arya!

Hopefully it does not make me a terrible person that I can cheer for her in this situation. Because make no mistake, her situation is shitty, but (a) it could be SO much worse, and (b) she is still kicking ass anyway, and I heart her for it.

I kind of wish Yoren hadn’t told her Ned was meant to take the black, though. That’s just rubbing salt on a fresh wound at this point. Though I guess it’s a good thing that Arya understands just how much of an utter tool Joffrey really is. Yoren’s opinion aside, it would be ten kinds of awesome if Arya got to be the one to kill him, but I’m still banking that it’s going to end up being Mommy Dearest who offs the little snotstain, so unfortunately Yoren’s probably right. Woe.

I’m also kind of oddly disappointed that the plan is apparently to drop Arya off at Winterfell, and not to take her to the Wall. I recognize, by the way, that my disappointment on this score is totally crazypants, because, Jon’s presence notwithstanding, why the hell would Arya want to go get inevitably outed as a girl in Rapist Central when she could be at home?

But the thing is, I guess, is that I have this hope that she has Great Things in store for her, and unfortunately, Great Things pretty much never involve taking the easy road and going home. It just don’t work that way, pilgrim.

Plus there’s my whole feeling that Jon and Arya as a team would be ridiculously awesome. Together, they fight frozen zombies! Whoo!

Well, we’ll see. Great Things could just as easily result from my earlier Arya prediction, which was that she’ll end up joining up with Robb. Actually, where is Robb now? He could be at Winterfell by now, right? Okay, then. I’m good.

Also, I am imagining going through life being called “Hot Pie,” and am vaguely inclined therefore to even maybe forgive that boy some of his rage issues, because damn.

And that’s what I’ve got for this one, kids. I hope your holiday season was lurvely, and that the Mayans were totally wrong about 2012, because I’ve got a lot of epic fantasy to get through this year, y’all. See you next week!

1. carolynh
Hooray! New year and a new read!
2. Faiz
Your're Back!

Rob Munnelly
3. RobMRobM
Happy, happy, Leigh.

Couple of quick points
- In AGOT, Tywin mentioned Stannis (as you recall, no doubt) and said he was gathering sell swords, building ships and bringing a Shadowbinder from Asshai (non-12 year old pronounciation). Dun Dun Shadowbinder.
- Illyrio in Pentos (Vis and Dany's old friend) also prayed to R'hillor.
- Take another look at the Bull. You might have met him in AGOT.
- Ser Davos Seaworth, not Shorthand. Also, isn't it nice to have a new considerate character for once, eh?

4. andNowMyWatchBegins
Welcome Back Leigh

I never picked the similarity (being a bit of a jerkface) between Robert and Stannis, because as you can probably already Guess they are pretty much polar opposites in almost every way.

I have been looking forward to this since you finished book 1, was so glad I checked this page yesterday to find out you started today!

Happy Readings
5. carolynh
Leigh: The name Melisandre did the same thing to me, too. Weird. I think Martin's use of the name came first. But when I started reading Carey's books I wondered, momentarily, if I'd gotten my fantasy novels mixed up in some weird publishing conglomeration.

I tend to just zone out over prologues--anyone's prologues. Authors appear to love them, but they are invariably tangential to the main story, and I just can't make myself care about them or read them at a speed that's slower than lightspeed. On rare occasions, I've returned to a prologue after I've finished the book, and usually they still don't thrill me or shed any light on the rest of the story. I'm always left thinking, "why did they bother?" It may just be me. I'm willng to accept that.

I was thrilled that the first character POV in the new book was Arya. I was worried about her, and here she is kicking butt already. With two new nemeses to taunt her, I am fearing it will be a long trip north for her. Nothing ever comes easy in these books, and certainly nothing ever comes easy for Arya.

Great start to a new book. Has anyone done the math yet? How long will we be reading this one??
Sanctume Spiritstone
6. Sanctume
I enjoy reading about your predictions about our characters Leigh. Please keep including them along the way. Happy New Read!
7. Lsana
Leigh picked up on something I completely missed on my first read; namely the fact that were being asked to sympathize with a crazed killer here. Nothing Melisandre has done justifies killing her, but because we're in Cressen's head, and he isn't obviously a psychopath like some other characters, it obviously seems the "right" thing to do.


As far as I can tell, Martin's prologues are all meant to say the same thing: "Yes, this is a fantasy novel, I promise there is magic if you just hold your horses and be patient." I think that was probably a good idea in the first book, less important in the second and third, and not terribly interesting at all in the fourth and fifth (though the fourth book prologue had other points of interest).
8. andNowMyWatchBegins

Looks like were on the hook for 35 weeks, so sometime around the end of August (depending on Holidays breaks and ramping up towards the end)
9. carolynh
@7: It's not just Martin's prologues I take issue with. I've never found one I liked. The ones in WOT are just as bad (in my opinion). I guess I just don't do prologues.

@8 Thanks for doing the math! Likely we should figure on sometime in September to finish off this one. ...unless Leigh decides to try 3 chapters a week???? Something always comes up at some point to push the read back a bit. You know, life and all.
Tricia Irish
10. Tektonica
Hi Leigh! Hope you had a good holiday and break.

I just have to say that you are truly one of the funniest people I have ever ever read. You have a most unique way with words and metaphors. The BEST. Just a few of today's faves:

Because we all know how generally well it goes when the monotheists get all Manifest Destiny with the pagans even when there isn’t real magic around to further complicate things!

(I’m of the opinion that theological thumbage is a Bad Thing across the board, actually)

Speaking of Not At All Portentous Things, here, have a comet!

re: map tables: When I’m rich enough to be obnoxious in my decor I’m totally getting one.

As for Asshai...I've been pronouncing it "Ass-a-hee" the beer.
Not at all telling.

Great to have you back, Leigh!
11. cheem
@9, prologues done well can be awesome. I mean, I thought that the prologue of tEotW was a great setup. And straying from GRRM/RJ, who can forget the prologue to A Fire Upon the Deep?
Juliet Kestrel
12. Juliet_Kestrel
Re: Melisandre
I also read the Kushiel books and find them awesome. Between these two series that name has gotten super glued to a beautiful and cunning, but evil connotation.

Melisandre has convinced Stannis to throw his hat into the war too, which I can only imagine will result in an even bloodier war. (It is what now a 4 way war (Joff, Robb, Renly, Stannis), and soon to come ice zombie apocalypse and Dragon air invasion?)

This chapter made me think about actual history, and some occasions when governments have opted to take out dangerous people to avoid bloody wars (Delta Force style) and how it has occasionally been very effective, and occasionally it has caused giant international blunders.

I have totally mixed feelings on this, governments, or powerful people, quietly taking out other powerful people the first group finds threatening, just seems so….evil. Yet, how is carefully killing a small number of people (who will and have done very bad things )more evil than having large groups of innocents killed in war over the same cause?

Like I said mixed feelings.

In this fictional situation, however, it has this exciting “and the plot thickens” feel to it.

Glad to have you back Leigh.
Chris Long
13. radynski
Yay, Leigh is back! I totally wasn't expecting this until next week so that's a treat. Anyway, this is one of my favorite introductions.

I love the characters of Stannis and Melisandre (not to mention Davos) and this is a great introduction. I look forward to your impressions as we continue, cause shit is about to go down.
Chris Long
14. radynski
Oh, and I think that Cressen was already very concerned that Stannis would follow Mel's advice when he got kicked out of the council room. And he felt the only way to deal with a zealot was to off her.

Remember, he thought he was convincing Stannis to go to the Arryns, until zealotry rears its head. I think he felt killing Mel was the only way to get Stannis to listen to reason.

Made sense to me when I read it.
15. Rancho Unicorno
@3 - I'm sure she got the Bull reference. I got the reference and I'm one of the slowest people I know at picking up these things.

For example, when Yoren grabbed Arya at the beheading, I was sure that the next reference to her would be the finding of her raped and broken dead body (which would only serve to further incite the Starks once Robb found out). I had forgotten we had previously met him as a generally honorable crow. And that was in the same book. This one was a total gimme.
16. Mike Tempest
It's funny how much of our attitude is shaped by our experiences. Because I have to listen to audio books to get any "reading" done, I always end up hearing the voice of the narrator - in this case Roy Dotrice - in my head, re: that Asshai thing, as well as in other places. I guess maybe it would have helped if he (martin) had spelled Asshai with one "s" instead of two... but who knows? As someone remarked somewhere else, he has a tendency to use too many letters in names.

Also, is this the first time the name "westeros" is mentioned in the series? Or just the first time you mention it? I can't tell.
Justin Epstein
17. RedFlag
I'm so glad that Leigh and the read are back!

The 1st book had lots of mentions of Stannis, but we never actually saw him "on screen". So I was glad to see him show up right away in the prologue. As Leigh points out he's pretty much a dick, but I like his character in a Doylist sense - I can see where his decisions and attitude come from even if most of the time he's 100% wrong.

Also, Aray yay! Sure she's not in the best situation but seeing her get out of King's Landing made me happy. Walking back to Winterfell would be a stroll in the park compared to spending time with the Lanisters like Sansa has to do.
Juan Avila
18. Cumadrin
Good to have you back Leigh. I don't have much to say yet about this book since you just started other than you get a lot right. The Baratheons especially you illuminated a little for me here in a way I hadn't noticed before. Robert, Stannis and Renly are like three pieces of a finely crafted sword. Blade, guard and handle. It's a real shame they were not close siblings. I think they would've complimented each other well if they could've worked together.

And Arya is my favorite character in the series. In my experience most people are surprised at that. I guess I'm special. But so is she.
20. mlbolton
Thanks - good timing , I hope you are finished by the time the HBO series starts - I just don't have the time to re-read it myself --- much appreciation
21. TBGH
And it begins!

Prologue) Even though he is a pain, I was still rooting for Stannis at this point in the series. I figured he was as close to a 'rightful' king as there was left on the continent and I also figured he would fare much better leading the resistance to the ice-zombie apocalypse than anyone not named Stark or Snow. (Excluding Dany too of course, but she's not even on the right continent)

Ch 1) I remember thinking, "I hope Arya finds her wolf again on the trip North."
22. Pheran
Leigh, I am totally with you on Asshai. :-D
23. sofrina
@17 "Walking back to Winterfell would be a stroll in the park compared to spending time with the Lanisters like Sansa has to do."

not hardly. there's a civil war on. the roads are extremely dangerous. they see this as they are setting out on the kingsroad. last book it was made clear that the mountain and his posse were harrying the peasants, and the lannister army was pillaging and burning crops as they moved. wholesale rape is a foregone conclusion.

sansa's jeopardy is no more harrowing than arya's. she's a valuable pawn to the lannisters. arya is practically cash on the hoof.

@12 - "Yet, how is carefully killing a small number of people (who will and have done very bad things )more evil than having large groups of innocents killed in war over the same cause?"

hunh. that is almost a direct quote from book 3. if you haven't read it yet, you should put that quote aside. i'd love to know what you think of the speaker and what prompts the question.
Sky Thibedeau
24. SkylarkThibedeau
The Prologue introduces two of my favorite characters. The Red Priestess Melisandre and the Onion Knight. One thing I like about GRRM is that his characters (at least some) do evolve as they are hit with all the crap life in Westeros has to offer. I've enjoyed watching these two especially over the course of the series.
Juliet Kestrel
25. Juliet_Kestrel
@23 sofrina
Nope I am reading along with Leigh. I have never read a book this slowly, and am sort of enjoying the experience of stopping to think about every chapter instead of just plowing through entire books in a weekend. I have an excellent memory and so am not having the problem of forgetting what happened, but I am having self control issues, as well as some problems with emotional hangovers from Mr. Martin’s hit you in the face style.

I am the tiniest bit spoiled for the series, as I went to World Con in Reno this year and went to GRRM’s reading when I was only partway through the 1st book. He read a chapter he cut from a Dance with Dragons that will be in the last book. So far I haven’t seen a single one of those characters yet, so I am still waiting on the significance of events of that reading.

The thoughts in comment 12 were inspired because I recently discovered the How Stuff Works podcast and am listening to the back episodes in the car on my long commute. They have an episode on Delta Force and their involvement in many things real world political things I won’t get into here because they are, ya know, real world political things.

But it doesn’t surprise me that GRRM would have his characters discuss thing of an assassination nature, with such a large civil war of course someone would at least think of that as an option, but shh less talk of future books, we aren’t there yet.
Anthony Pero
26. anthonypero
Leigh, there is an absolute gem in your recap that, alas, due to spoiler policy, I am not allowed to point out. I swear, this is maddening. Argh. Welcome back.

What the heck, here it is in white, for those who want to know:

Also, it will be hilarious if I get to the end of all the currently published books in this series and winter still hasn’t shown up. I will laugh and laugh and laugh.

Really, really, really funny stuff.
27. AO
I've heard a lot of good things about the Kushiel books, but the single element that makes me wary is that I also hear that there is a lot of submissiveness in them. If I've heard wrongly then I'd be happy to give it a try, but if that is correct, then it doesn't sound like a series that I'd be comfortable reading.

No offense intended to anyone who enjoys the series, or that lifestyle.
28. Mouette
Yaaay! New reread! *squees*

And Davos. I heart Davos in a serious way. *gets out her Onion Knight banner and starts marching around, chanting Da-vos Da-vos Da-vos*.

Poor Cressen. Maesters are definitely shown as sneaky, behind the scenes, potential-for-advisor-misusing-power possibilities. Which he shows by unilaterally making a decision that could have Long Term Effects for The Whole Damn Continent. And while, yeah, he makes a cold-blooded decision to off Melisandre, that somehow made sense to me from his point of view. Whether that's a character flaw in me or in him, well... eh. :P I still kind of wish he'd succeeded... not a Melisandre fan here.

Ran out of steam/words. Glad to have the read back. Here, have hot chocolate.
29. EmmaPease
The name Melisandre may evoke or be related (via among other things Melisande in Peleas and Melisande) to the legendary Melusine who was the half woman half serpent wife of an early Lord of Lusignan who built for him a magical castle and left him when he broke his promise and spied on her (at which point he discovered she was half serpent). Make of that what you will.
Rob Munnelly
30. RobMRobM
Ah Davos. With all the self involved, weasely little sh*ts littered across Westeros, it's refreshing to see a character whose first move it is tell a difficult bit of news to his boss without spin and twice go out of his way to show kindness to a man being treated poorly by self-same lord.

Ah Selyse. I get a fingers scratching on chalkboard feeling whenever she does anything. Brilliant characterization by GRRM to make her this unappealing, this quickly. No wonder Stannis is a grump.

Speaking of that - ambitious, battle tested brother of the King and is given as his reward a rock in the middle of the ocean as opposed to the rich and powerful storm lands given to his little brother; is married to Selyse (see immediately preceding comment); he has no male heir and his daughter does not appear to be the sharpest sword in the scabbard and has a disfiguring disease on her face to boot. (Also, can you imagine his daughter and Sweetrobin as a married couple, LOL). No wonder he's ticked off and looking for new allies.

And Patchface - very much looking forward to your thoughts on him and his crazy cat gibberish songs that may mean more than they appear. When reading this the first time, I read right by his passages. I'm intrigued by your instinct that he bears watching. Dig in, as far as i am concerned.

Rob Munnelly
31. RobMRobM
Liegh - you asked where Robb is. At end of last book, somewhere in the Riverlands being elevated to King of the North status. and gettting to watch Jaime Lannister rattle his irons in the gaol. What will he do next?


Claire de Trafford
32. Booksnhorses
I think that everyone should be entitled to map tables - I'm surprised we can't buy them in IKEA frankly. I'm going to go off and search Etsey for some. Spat my drink out at the thought of Australia (current residence) being the coffee table!

If no one does these I might start a line in fantasy map tables (Pern, Middle Earth, Four Corners etc) there are certainly enough maps to go around!
Mo -
33. Astus
You've forever ruined the pronounciation of Asshai for me, haha. I naturally just thought it with a 'sh' type of sound. Now, I won't be able to look at it the same way again! :P
Anyway, nice to have you back and nice to know you consider my country good enough to be your coffee table, ha.
34. LM-Mage
Enter "The Red Woman"

Seriously, I hate this chick. Also, Cressen didn't try to off her merely because she's a raving psycho. He knew that her "madness could never be allowed to spread beyond the Dragonstone". It's a really pity he didn't hit home.
Birgit F
35. birgit
Posting statistics for AGoT are up on the last AGoT post.
jon meltzer
36. jmeltzer
Our favorite grouch has taken the stage. Welcome, Stannis. I just hope the actor does him justice.
37. randomguyudontknow
Melisandre is also the name of a Companion of Pug the magician in several of Raymond E Fiest's books
Rob Munnelly
38. RobMRobM
I was intrigued by Mel in this chapter and, especially, the confirmation that she appears to have some form of special powers that go beyond religious fanaticism (i.e., drinks poison without dying; and knows ahead of time that Cresson is doing it). Creepy stuff.

I can understand why Cresson would want to bump her off. Immediately converted Selyse into a fanatic follower of Rhillor; gained another believer in Stannis; and he (reasonably) read her talk about her visions that Renly would be killed to indicate a plan on her part to kill Stannis' brother, a man Cresson raised as a virtual son and which, if it occurs, would have serious consequences for trying to figure out a less violent way of resolving the differences among Lannisters, Baratheon's and Starks. Entirely understandable, from his perspective.

Eli Bishop
39. EliBishop
It's interesting to contrast Davos to Ned in their roles as "guy who tells the King what he doesn't want to hear." They have similar personalities in some ways-- family men, uninterested in aristocratic games, able to understand the King's weaknesses and work around them. But Davos has none of Ned's credentials; he's relatively powerless and commands no one's respect, and he seems to have accepted that. You get the feeling that every time he talks back to Stannis, he wouldn't really be surprised if Stannis chopped his head off. Ned on the other hand kept expecting other people to do the right thing and to see common sense, and he got angry when they didn't-- which is more like Stannis, and they're both bad at politics because of it (although Stannis is certainly much more of a dick; being obsessed with what everyone owes to you is just not a likable quality).
Eli Bishop
40. EliBishop
And I agree with RobM @38 that what tips Cressen over from "Mel makes me nervous" to "Mel must die" is hearing Stannis seriously consider assassinating Renly, with Selyse egging him on. Cressen's internal narration makes it clear that that scene has badly freaked him out, that for one of his almost-sons to kill the other is the worst thing he can imagine, that he feels powerless to change Stannis's mind, and that he blames Melisandre for all of it. He decides to poison her right after that.
41. between4walls
The name Melisandre sounds a lot like Melisende, the Frankish queen of Jerusalem who ruled in her own right from 1131-1153.

@AO 27- You should probably avoid the Kushiel books since the protag's submissiveness plays a big part in the story.
42. AO
@ between4walls, Thanks for the reply, I apprecaite it.
Rob Munnelly
43. RobMRobM
here is the blog of ice and fire - first a truly excellent wrap up of AGOT and then it's into the corresponding chapters of ACOK. Note that the blog author discusses what would happen if he doesn't finish the Blog - this would be funny except that, sadly, he does some strong work in the weeks ahead and then stops once he gets a full time job, so enjoy these while you can.

I've started reading Clash of Kings. I was going to wait until summer, but instead decided to start now. Since I'm in school, the pace will be very slow. Very, very slow. Like Fat Sam running a marathon slow or Sansa taking the SAT slow. I may die of old age before I write the last entry. Don't worry though, if that happens, I'll have Brandon Sanderson finish the blog for me. That way you'll get three more blog entries and my blog gets triple the hits. Everybody wins.

It's been three months since I read the last book, and I had to study the appendix for quite a while to re-familiarize myself with some of the more minor characters. Here's my all-knowing, Varys-esque summary of the major POVs._

Bran watched Jaime and Cersei have sex, got pushed out a window, and now can't walk. He has weird dreams and is boring. He has a wolf named "Summer." I know that's a girl's name, but the wolf is a dude and not girly at all.

Catelyn arrested Tyrion for attempting to whack Bran, which started a chain of events that ended in her husband's death. She's hanging out with her son Robb, the newly crowned "King of the North."

Daenerys was formerly a princess but was sold to The Rock in exchange for a large army. She lost her warlord husband and unborn son to dark magic, but managed to hatch some dragons.

Eddard went south to help his buddy Bob rule the kingdom, but due to his low political IQ, he failed miserably. He confessed to all these crimes he didn't commit... and got beheaded anyway.

Jon is the bastard author of the most popular emo blog in Westeros. He's at the Wall, adopting fat lordlings and protecting the realm from the magical dudes from the prologue.

Arya was training to be a Jedi but had to flee the castle when her father got arrested. She's on her way north with Yoren.

Tyrion narrowly escaped execution in the Vale. Now that his brother Jaime is captured, his father Tywin sent him to King's Landing to rule. Tyrion brings his whore, because that's how he rolls.

Sansa is the only Stark left in King's Landing. She's regularly abused by Joffrey and she doesn't escape because she's basically useless. The Hound has a crush on her, kind of like Beauty and the Beast. Only the Beast is a tall murderer with a burned face and Beauty is a vapid preteen.

The prologue opens at Dragonstone, home of King Bob's brother and rightful king, Stan. Though that doesn't really make sense to me, because Bob had that blacksmith son right? Anyway, we meet Stan's ugly kid, his annoying clown, and his smuggler knight all through the eyes of his old maester. Cressen sees a big red comet in the sky, but he's not that worried. Why should he be? It's not like the comet is an omen of the return of a vengful princess with three newly hatched dragons or anything.

Stan does not have the men or resources to challenge the Lannisters, but he refuses Cressen's advice to seek allies and aid from the other declared "kings" like Robb. But Stan does have his very own Pocahontas, a "red woman" who is hot, magical, and fanatically devoted to her religion. To Cressen, a man of science, this can only mean one thing: that bitch is crazy. Naturally, the only solution is to assassinate her at dinner. But weak old Cressen oversleeps. He really should have told Pylos to wake him, but Pylos was probably busy doing things old men like Cressen can't do. What Cressen needed were some additional Pylos.

Cressen shows up late but still goes through with his plan to poison Melisandre. Both of them drink the spiked wine. But she isn't just an ordinary red woman from Asshair, she got some skills. Around her neck is a mint condition Mox Ruby, and depending on the set, she could ebay that thing for at least 500 bucks. The ruby somehow protects her from the poison, but rubyless Cressen is not so lucky. R'hllor 1, Citadel 0.


Arya is traveling north with Yoren. This guy is either her guardian angel, or just someone who really, really likes boys. Yoren has to go all the way to the Wall with the dregs of King's Landing. I'm sure it makes everyone sleep easy knowing that criminals and orphans are standing guard against the ghosts with superpowers. The other orphans make fun of Arya, but she kicks one of their asses with a wooden sword, drawing a spanking from Yoren. Sometimes, it's easy to forget how young Arya is. At age nine, she has already seen so much. Her brother was crippled, her friend was murdered, and her father was executed. She's killed someone. But she's also a scared little girl who just misses her family. The road won't be easy, and the Wall is cold and unforgiving, but at least Jon will be there.
Anthony Pero
44. anthonypero
It's funny how the blogger has nothing but distain and sarcasm for every scene in these books... except for Aryas scenes. I really, really would have liked to see this blogger continue through Arya's entire story arc...
Maiane Bakroeva
46. Isilel
Cressen has very good reasons to bump off Melisandre, IMHO. First of all, she urges Stannis to throw himself into the fray with just his meagre force and without seeking cooperation from such apparently natural allies as Robb Stark and Lysa Arryn.
From any reasonable PoV that's nothing short of suicidal - and Stannis is Cressen's surrogate son.

And secondly she urges fratricide - and kinslaying is one of the most heinious crimes in Westeros, sin in the eyes of gods and men. It is a much, much stronger tabu than in iRL history, for whatever reason. Personally, I suspect that it may be because of long seasons, that families that tend to kill off each other rarely survive those long Winters ;).

Cressen is unable to prevent Stannis from falling under Melisandre's sway, so from his PoV, his only option to save Stannis both physically and spiritually is to remove her. At any cost.

Re: map tables, my grandparents used to cover their kitchen table (where most meals were taken) with those huge laminated maps intended for geography classrooms at schools.
Someties they were political maps, sometimes climate or resource ones, etc.
That made eating at their place very entertaining and rendered the whole family unbeatable at the game of "cities" ;).
48. The SmilingKnight
Wait... you delete comments too?
Only complimentary comments allowed eh?
Why dont you write that on the start of the page? People should know what to post.

Youre going to be like Martin soon.
Skip Ives
49. Skip
"... I have this hope that she has Great Things in store for her, and unfortunately, Great Things pretty much never involve taking the easy road and going home."
Je ris mon mauvais rire.

(I laugh my evil laugh.)

I know how the name thing with Melisandre can be confusing. There is a town in the Kingkiller Chronicles named Imre, to which I always add "Stand" everytime I read it.

Davos is cool, I won't say anything else though. Martin does a great job populating his stories with characters, so even if the plot line is something that you may not care for, you read to see how the characters react or manage.
Irene Gallo
50. Irene
The SmilingKnight: We delete disrespectful comments. Please feel welcome to add to the conversation, postive or negative, as long as it engages our community in a respectful manner.
51. The SmilingKnight
It was a bit rough joke at worst not disrespect.

Btw she is mean and disrespectful towards my pal King Bob and now doesnt even like Stannis. Or old Cressen. Whats that kind of behaviour towards elderly eh?
And she makes wise cracks about Winter.

Thats just hillarious. Not everyone is fortunate not to have read all books like she didnt!

Well... Ill have my day! Smiling Kngiht will be all "hahahaha is it funny now eh, eeeh?" - very soon! On multiple accounts!
Steven Halter
52. stevenhalter
We saw references to Asshai in AGoT that mostly seemed about dark things, but I find it very interesting that they seem to represent another religion than the two we have seen to date.
As Leigh said, things seemed complex already with all the spare Kings wanting to kill each other, now we have a possible religious war intruding also.
I also really liked that Arya was our first PoV chapter. Nice.
53. Joel Prophet
As to the religion parallel to Europe as I see it.
The Old gods = Druid/pagan
The Seven = Christianity (the seven are really one vs trinity, 3 are one)
The Red god = Islam

Martin is making this story as confusing as European history. No good guys either...just like history.
Joel Salomon
54. JCSalomon
Because we all know how generally well it goes when the monotheists get all Manifest Destiny with the pagans
I don’t think there are any monotheists in the SoI&F universe. There are several monolatrist cults (your reaction to one of them later in this book is something I’m particularly looking forward to) and the Red Priesthood is more similar to dualist Zoroastrianism than anything else.

(In Real Life, monotheists and dualists stand about equal in the great game of Convert the Infidel.)
55. Wortmauer
carolynh@5: To each his own, but what's not to like about prologues? Particularly one like this — the comfort of a familiar world and a familiar story, but a fresh point of view, a fresh take on everything. As a bonus, though it's part of a larger narrative, it's also basically a self-contained short story, more so than most chapters.

What a gloomy setting, though. It's like the anti-fairy tale: nobody is beautiful except the wicked witch. Everyone else is not only plain but pitiable. I even have to feel sorry for Selyse, who I think wants to be Cersei but can't quite muster the energy. Growing up down in Highgarden, marrying a major southern lord — and then ending up in a rocky fortress next to a restive volcano on a rocky island. I suspect that's been hard on her — much like Ser Jorah's wife whom he brought from a lively southern court up to lonely, frozen Bear Island. And Selyse is married to a guy who "does his duty" once or twice a year but doesn't seem to enjoy it.

Spankings: What the ... who are you and what have you done with Leigh? You barely mentioned Arya's spanking!

shalter@52: Two religions? I count 5 religious traditions so far. There's the old gods of the north, the Seven of the Andals in the south, the mysticism of Vaes Dothrak, Mirri Maz Duur's temple in the city of the lamb men, and now the red priests of Rh'llor, the Lord of Light. I think we did get some references to the red priests in Book 1, though they may have been more subtle. They're not entirely unknown on Westeros itself, I believe.

Asshai: I am apparently the oddball, having always pronounced it in my head as \ahss-hai\, thus avoiding both the "sh" and the "ass" sounds that everyone else discovered. It sounded pretty strange when Magister Illyrio called it "ah-shai" on the HBO show. I thought it was an odd choice for either the actor or the writers. But maybe they were actually following a more canonical source like GRRM or Roy Dotrice.
56. Asa Zernik
@54 The Faith of the Seven, though it might appear polytheistic, doctrinally is monotheist. While the uneducated might indeed worship the Seven Gods as separate entities, the educated are taught that the Seven are aspects of a single God (compare this seven as one to the Three in One of Catholicism and the Seven-Pointed Star to the fabled three-leaf clover used by St. Patrick to explain the Trinity).
Juan Avila
57. Cumadrin
I've always pronounced my fantasy nouns however I like. and Martin has gone on the record saying that's just fine, so I say Asshai like 'a sigh.' Luckily there's not that many confusing words in aSoIaF, especially compared to other works.

I'm much worse when it comes to WoT, but luckily I'm the only one I know in person who reads the series. I still pronounce Aiel as ale, Faile as fail, and Egwene as 'egg-win,' and ain't nothing anyone can do about it. I've only recently stopped calling Nynaeve 'nin-a-eve' even though I still like saying it that way, but forced myself to adjust because my uncle was partly put off attempting to read tEotW way back when because I said it my way and he thought that was way too complicated a name.

My worst undoubtedly used to be Aviendha, though, because apparently I never read her name very carefully my first couple times through the series. On the third or fourth I finally noticed it was spelled completely different than what I thought, and thus wasn't said exactly like the diabetes drug Avandia, although I was saying it and realized my mistake long before the drug was ever released. Heh, I even wrote a very bad and very foolish book report in high school spelling her name Avendhea or a close derivative to that. It was foolish because the report was on Lord of Chaos, which I was rereading at the time.

Long story short, Martin says you can say it how you want, so I say it how I want.


Arya is ten... so it's perfectly reasonable for Yoren to use corporal punishment to get his lesson across. If you believe in the practice, which I do.
Rob Munnelly
58. RobMRobM
@52 R'hillor is not just worshipped in Asshai - as I noted in my initial post above, llyrio of Pentos gave a prayer to R'hillor.

@55 Agree strongly re the prologues. Love them.

Selyse is a Florent, so grew up in Brightwater Keep rather than Highgarden. Near Highgarden but not in it. I have no sympathy for Selyse, who is at least as much as grouch as Stannis is in this initial character introduction.

Yes, beaucoup de religions. A veritable cornucopia thereof.

"Spankings: What the ... who are you and what have you done with Leigh? You barely mentioned Arya's spanking!" Well played, sir! LOL.

@56 Agreed. Good catch.

@57 I started out with idiosyncratic WoT pronunciations but I'm now on more or lessWoT standard (Ay-EEL, Fai-EEL). Re misspelling/thinking someone's name - for some reason, I misspelled by a mile the tag of Isilel (see @46 above) on WoT posts for over a year until somebody pointed out how far off base I was. It happens to the best of us. (EDIT - Although I have tried to black it out of my memory, I believe I referred to her as Lsiel or some such.)

Vincent Lane
59. Aegnor
As mentioned by others, Cressen's actions in seeking to assasinate Melisandre aren't that unexpected. He sees Sannis as begining to move towards her council. Cressen sees this as an absolute disaster for Stannis and Renly. It involves pursuing a course of action that he sees as suicidal, and also pursuing the assasination of Renly. Sitting back and watching someone he loves as a son assasinate someone else he loves as a son, is too much for him.
Joel Salomon
60. JCSalomon
@56: The Seven have distinct enough roles in worship that, whatever the theologians of Westeros may claim, the religion of the septs is significantly less monotheistic than Trinitarian Christianity. The septons also seem to acknowledge the existence & power of the old gods.
Vincent Lane
61. Aegnor

I don't know if I agree with you. For the simple peasant folk, they may consider it seven different gods, as a 7 aspects of a single god is to abstract a concept for most illiterate peasants. But for the semi-educated clergy of Westeros, there is no doubt about the 7 in 1 concept.

And while proponents of the Seven may accept that others worship the old gods, I don't think they consider it valid, or would think that they exist. For these reasons I would consider the Seven a monotheist religion, not monolatrist. It is more a case of tolerating and coexisting with what they would consider false religions.

The old gods religion is definitely a polytheist religion. The
R’hllor religion is not really a monotheist religion either. In that religion there are two gods, Rhillor, and him who must not be named (no, not Voldemort). This is different than say, Christianity, where Satan (although a supernatural being) is not a god and was actually created by God. R’hllor is dualist in that there are two gods, equal but opposing.

So Leigh's comment on monotheists interacting with pagens isn't really accurate. This would be a dualist religion making war on a monotheist religion (and a pagan religion as well of course).
62. LM-Mage
A small interjection, The Seven don't support or accept so much as grudgingly coexist with the Old Gods, back when the Andals first invaded they burned the Gods Woods wherever they found them and made war on the Children Of the Forest and First Men. Eventually they made a treaty and the Northermen could keep their faith, but there is no Heart Trees anywhere South of the Neck except in Storms End and Riverrun (and the Isle of Faces but that hasn't really come up yet).

I would also call The Seven polytheistic, but not pagan.
Anthony Pero
63. anthonypero
I think he was saying the Old Gods are a pagan religion, but you are right, the Seven are most definitely not a single monotheistic God. There are branches of Christianity that consider the doctrine of the Trinity to be polytheistic as well. Apostolic Pentecostalism, for one.
Vincent Lane
64. Aegnor
They "most definitely" are not a single monotheistic god? Interesting take. Are you saying that the clergy of that faith are wrong? Because they certainly consider it a monotheistic faith. One god, with seven aspects. I need more info on exactly what your position is.
Anthony Pero
65. anthonypero
Let me rephrase, I was agreeing with the opinion that the 7 are sufficiently different in personality and purpose to constitute separate deities. My overstated "most definitely" should be construed as "I most definitely agree with this position."
Anthony Pero
66. anthonypero
Do I think the clergy of the 7 are wrong? Yeah, I probably do. Whatever the 7 are based on, assuming there is a real truth behind the myth, it probably wasn't a single deity. Of course, it has not been revealed if there is any substance at all behind the 7, unlikely nearly every other faith we've encountered in this series.
Vincent Lane
67. Aegnor
Well...we are talking about an imaginary religion in a novel. So what is in the series is the only thing we can go by. In that series we have no "extra" knowledge about the Seven that the clergy don't have. In fact, they know a lot more than we do. So I don't believe it is possible for you to say they are wrong UNLESS there is something in the text that leads you to believe they are wrong. But really, anything that could do that would be something that would also point to their actual existence (in the series of course).
68. Antinomic
Here's how you do your coffee tables, all in one!,14481.html
69. Asa Zernik
@66 When I'm talking about at the Faith of the Seven as a monotheistic religion, I'm asking the same question I ask about real-world religions: what kind of a belief system and an organization is this? Whatever truth there might be in the idea of the Seven as a single god or multiple gods in ASOIAF, the Faith as a belief system is, in its most organized and socially esteemed version, monotheistic.

That belief system might be revealed to be mistaken, but that'll only be relevant (if at all) when we get to the mythology and magic arc; when talking about the conflicts between groups of people, it's their beliefs that matter.
Anthony Pero
70. anthonypero

So, we're not allowed to have opinions based on gut instinct and intuition?
71. Skyweir
Well, I would say that you are allowed the opinion, it is just not worth much when founded in your gut (a important organ, but thinking and instinct is not it's function) and not on factual data and experience.
As Carl Sagan has put it: I try not to think with my gut...
Opinons can be wrong (and often are).

Urrght, the spanking sceen real makes me cringe. Violence against children by adults is one of my greatest hatreds, and I am a bit put of by the causal way Leigh treats it here.

Fun fact, acting on your belief about corporal punishment were I live would get you a few years in prison and likely loss of all parental rights.
Anthony Pero
72. anthonypero
Isn't everything on here an opinion? I'm a bit confused. I said that my gut is telling me this based on the fact that the 7 are the only religion we've seen which apparently has no power at all, or has not yet been revealed.
Vincent Lane
73. Aegnor
What does the fact that it hasn't been revealed to have any power have to do with whether it is monotheistic or polytheistic? In any case, it isn't so much that it is opinion, it is that there is no basis for that opinion. The only way your opinion on this is correct is if The Seven turn out to be real, and that they are 7 distinct and separate entities, and not one god after all.

But even that isn't necessarily true, if you think about it. Even if the Seven are real, and are 7 distinct entities, and not one entity with 7 aspects, the religion itself still considers them one, and their whole belief system is based on one god with 7 aspects. That the religion doctrine of the Seven is wrong (in this scenario) is really irrelevant, as the doctrine itself (and hence the religion) is monotheistic and not polytheistic.

Now one caveat to that. It might be true that a numerical majority of the adherants to the religion may worship the Seven in a polytheistic way. Especially the uneducated and illiterate masses. One god with seven aspects is a very abstract concept and may be beyond the abilities of the average illiterate dirt farmer to comprehend. That, however, doesn't change the fact that the doctrine itself is monotheistic.
Teresa Nielsen Hayden
74. tnh
I like GRRM's religions because they're not a matching set. It's more like every one of them was done by a different designer who was working from an inadequate set of specs and descriptions, just as in our own world.


The precise metaphysical status of The Seven hasn't been revealed. All we know is what the characters say about them, and that's more than a little bit ambiguous.
Debbie Solomon
75. dsolo
I'm getting a late start reading the CoK commentary, obviously. I go even further back with the name Melisendre. MZB used it in her Darkover novels. I'm not sure (need to google), but I think Melisendre was Nero's wife or mother.

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