Mar 30 2012 2:00pm

A Read of Ice and Fire: A Clash of Kings, Part 13

A Song of Ice and Fire Readthrough on Tor.comWelcome 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 13 of A Clash of Kings, in which we cover Chapters 26 (“Arya”), 27 (“Daenerys”), and 28 (“Bran”).

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 26: Arya

What Happens
Arya, Gendry, and Hot Pie were in the village storehouse with the other prisoners for eight days before Clegane gave the order to march, and every one of those days he had chosen one of them to “question” (i.e. torture to death), making the rest watch. Arya sees that there is no rhyme or reason to who is chosen, except to terrorize the others with its random nature. Arya concludes that she is no water dancer, and thinks that Syrio would never have let himself be captured or stood by while others were tortured. She thinks that the Lannisters have taken everything from her, and that being brave did no good at all.

Clegane tells them they are going to serve Lord Tywin at Harrenhal. The soldiers rape all the women regularly as they travel (except for Arya, even though she had been revealed as female), and Clegane beheads one for fighting back. Arya recites all their names over and over at night so she will never forget them. The captives whisper that it will be better when they get to Harrenhal, but Arya remembers the stories of the haunted keep Old Nan had told her, and is not so sure.

Harrenhal is surrounded by Tywin’s army, and Arya is astonished at both how huge and how unpleasant the fortress is in appearance. The prisoners are made to strip and clean themselves, and two of the older female servants inspect Arya and demand her name. She tells them it is Weasel, and tries to request to tend the horses, but the women strike her for insolence and send her to be a scullery maid under Weese, who is an understeward for the Wailing Tower. Weese tells Arya and the other five who went with her that they should be grateful for this opportunity.

“My nose never lies,” he boasted. “I can smell defiance, I can smell pride, I can smell disobedience. I catch a whiff of any such stinks, you’ll answer for it. When I sniff you, all I want to smell is fear.”

Well, this is delightful.

I suppose it’s better than the alternative? I guess?

And Arya, you are a water dancer, girl. Just for not going bugshit under the nightmare conditions you’re in, you’re already braver than most of us. Man.

There were a lot of really terrible scenes in Schindler’s List (though merely referring to them as “terrible” seems almost disrespectful to the level of visceral horror they embodied, because they were true), but one of the ones that stuck with me the most is the scene where Ralph Fiennes’s character is sitting on his balcony overlooking the concentration camp with a rifle, casually shooting prisoners, for no other reason than that they happened to be in his line of sight.

He did it because he could. And more importantly, because he knew that there would be absolutely no retribution for his actions. It’s amazing what changes a total lack of consequences can wreak in a person’s behavior. For some it is the instinctive need to impose order (or justice, or aid) where there is none, but it seems like for far many more, the result is to become as precisely as much of a monster as one can.

I hope someone kills Gregor Clegane soon. I hope it’s Arya, but at this point I’ll settle for him slipping in the damn tub and breaking his neck. Of course, that would necessitate that he take a bath first. So assassination it is! Works for me.


Chapter 27: Daenerys

What Happens
Daenerys and her small khalasar enter the city of Qarth to great fanfare and pageantry. The warlock, Pyat Pree, tells her Qarth is the greatest city in the world; Dany won’t go that far, but admits to herself that it is very impressive indeed. She recalls how the Dothraki referred to the Qartheen as “Milk Men” for their paleness, and that Drogo had longed to sack their cities, and thinks the cityfolk must find her very savage-looking.

As they proceed through the city, the merchant prince Xaro Xhoan Daxos extravagantly promises her that the Thirteen shall crown her queen of Qarth, while Pyat entreats her to come to the House of the Undying and “drink of truth and wisdom.” Dany, who is sour on magicians these days, tells Pyat that the only palace she wants is the one at King’s Landing, and the means to take it. Pyat agrees gracefully and moves off; Xaro praises her wisdom and disparages the art of the warlocks. He tells Dany the warlocks were mighty once, but now they are “hollow husks” of their former glory. He moves off as well, and Jorah mutters that he doesn’t trust either man. He opines that they should not stay here, as he mislikes “the very smell of the place.”

My great bear, Dany thought. I am his queen, but I will always be his cub as well, and he will always guard me. It made her feel safe, but sad as well. She wished she could love him better than she did.

Xaro puts Dany up in a wing of his enormous palace and showers her with every luxury, promising a great feast the next day, which Dany thinks is to show off her dragons to the elite of the city. Xaro and Pyat leave, and the third seeker, Quaithe the shadowbinder, warns Dany to beware of all who come to see her dragons, for “when they see they shall lust”. She leaves, and Dany thinks that Quaithe puzzles and unsettles her. Dany then sends Rakharo to get the lay of the city, and Jorah to the docks to see if there are any ships who might be able to carry them to Westeros. Jorah protests, but she insists.

Dany bathes and thinks of how she wishes to make her kingdom beautiful again, but now that Drogo and his khalasar is gone she does not know how she will overthrow men like Robert Baratheon, Eddard Stark or Jaime Lannister. She tells herself that the Bleeding Star led her to Qarth for a purpose, and if the gods mean for her to succeed they will send her a sign.

Jorah returns with a ship’s captain named Quhuru Mo, whose ship called at Oldtown six months earlier and learned there that Robert Baratheon is dead, his son Joffrey is on the throne, and that Robert’s brothers apparently mean to claim the throne for themselves. He also says that Lord Stark was seized for treason, though Jorah snorts at the very notion that Ned would besmirch his “precious honor.” Dany is elated at the news, though disappointed to learn that Mo has no plans to sail back to Westeros for another year. She promises him a great reward for his news should he come to her once she is on the throne in King’s Landing, and sends him away.

Jorah thinks she should not speak so freely of her plans, but Dany replies that she wants the whole world to know now that the Usurper is dead. Jorah counters that Robert’s death changes nothing in practicality, but Dany retorts that it does; like Drogo’s khalasar, the once united Seven Kingdoms will fly apart in the wake of it’s leader’s death. Jorah warns her it will not be easy, and she tells him she is no longer the frightened girl he’d met in Pentos, nor is she her brother Viserys. Jorah admits that no, she is more like her brother Rhaegar, but even Rhaegar could be killed.

“Robert proved that on the Trident, with no more than a warhammer. Even dragons can die.”

“Dragons die.” She stood on her toes to kiss him lightly on an unshaven cheek. “But so do dragonslayers.”

So very little actually happened in this chapter, which indicates to me that we’re setting up for something big on the horizon in Dany’s storyline.

I confess I was a little puzzled here at all the luxury and respect being showered on Dany, who is a member (by marriage) of a people who apparently like to (or would like to) pillage the crap out of the Qartheen whenever they get a chance, and also (as Dany herself points out) has practically zero strength of arms at her disposal. And yet they’re apparently going to just crown her queen? That seems… precipitous. Maybe I’m just severely underestimating the awesomeness of dragons to them?

Or maybe, there’s an ulterior motive here we just haven’t seen yet. All things considered, that’s the much more likely scenario. Given that, though, I wonder at Dany just walking into what seems to me to be a perfect potential trap. Now that she’s in Xaro’s super-mega palace, what’s to say he ever has to let her out again?

*shrug* Or maybe I’m paranoid, who knows. But then again, Jorah seems to agree with me, and while he’s not my favorite person, one thing he definitely isn’t is stupid. And just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they’re not blah blah yadda, and all.

Re: Jorah, I caught myself thinking that Dany should just marry him, which is a tad upsetting. I don’t think Jorah actually deserves to have Dany that way, but unfortunately there’s nothing like unrequited pining from a man to soften a girl’s heart toward him. And I mean me, not Dany.

Though it’s obviously happening to Dany, too. Be careful, girl! It would really suck if you conquered the Seven Kingdoms only to find that your husband gets the throne instead of you!

(I’m assuming here that the laws of the Seven Kingdoms mirror Europe’s historically, which generally follows the right of male primogeniture; I don’t recall if that’s been established in so many words, but given the culture it certainly seems like a reasonable assumption to make. Of course, if Dany actually succeeds in conquering everyone it’s not she can’t say “fuck Salic law, I am the boss of me!”, so okay. But I definitely feel that should be covered in the pre-nup, just in case!)

Things you’re missing if you’re only reading my summaries of the chapter: porno walls! Hah. The description of the city (and its people) in general was quite lovely; all Martin’s descriptive passages tend to be elegantly worded, in fact, even when they’re describing something objectively disgusting. Which is a pretty neat trick, when you think about it.

Randomly: my deeply ingrained English spelling skills betray me! I’ve had to go back and take a “u” out of every single instance of “Qarth” or “Qartheen” I’ve typed in this entry. It’s just wrong, man! U after Q! Makes my brain itch to take it out! Fnarr.


Chapter 28: Bran

What Happens
Bran watches as Meera “spars” with Summer with a net and spear. Summer knocks her over and knocks the spear away, but gets hopelessly tangled in the net, and Jojen declares his sister the winner. Meera frees the struggling direwolf from the net, and Summer bounds over to wrestle playfully with Bran. Meera asks if he never grows angry, but Bran says, never with him. He thinks that Meera reminds him of Arya, and tells her and Jojen that he wishes they were his wards instead of the Walders. Meera tells him of her home, Greywater Watch, and Bran says he wishes he could visit. Meera tells him he would be welcome anytime, and Jojen adds that he should come now. Meera tells Bran that Jojen has “the greensight”, that tells him what will happen sometimes. Bran asks him to tell about his sight, and Jojen says he will if Bran tells him about his dreams. Bran tries to protest his dreams mean nothing.

“I dreamed of a winged wolf bound to earth with grey stone chains,” [Jojen] said. “It was a green dream, so I knew it was true. A crow was trying to peck through the chains, but the stone was too hard and his beak could only chip at them.”

“Did the crow have three eyes?”

Jojen nodded.

Jojen says the crow came to him after he almost died of a fever, and Bran blurts that the crow came to him after he fell, but that the crow had lied; he’d told Bran he had to fly, but he is broken and cannot. Meera disagrees, and Jojen says Bran is the winged wolf, and that the crow sent them there to break Bran’s chains. He says the crow is in the North, beyond the Wall. Bran asks how he would break the chains, and Jojen says he must open his third eye, the one the crow gave him. Nervously, Bran tries to change the subject, but Jojen is insistent, asking him if he’d dreamed of Summer, of being Summer. Bran grows agitated, and Summer snarls and moves to threaten Meera and Jojen, but Jojen stands his ground and asks if it is the falling that scares Bran. Bran thinks it is that, and “the golden man” too, but he cannot make himself say it. Jojen will not let up:

“It’s your anger, Bran,” her brother said. “Your fear.”

“It isn’t. I’m not a wolf.” Yet he’d howled with them in the night, and tasted blood in his wolf dreams.

“Part of you is Summer, and part of Summer is you. You know that, Bran.”

Bran tries to call the wolf off, but Summer ignores him and attacks Jojen and Meera, joined by Shaggydog. The siblings jump into a tree to avoid the wolves, and Bran shouts for Hodor to drive them off. Hodor does, and Bran has him take him to Maester Luwin.

Bran tells Luwin about Jojen claiming to have the greensight, but Luwin doesn’t believe he truly has it. Luwin says that the children of the forest used to have that power, but the First Men cut down their weirwoods. Luwin says that he used to study magic himself, but while it may have once been a “mighty force” in the world, it no longer works. Bran protests that sometimes it does, referring to the dreams he and Rickon had had about their father’s death before they’d learned about it, but Luwin assures him that “no living man” has the greensight any more.

Bran relates this to Meera later. He apologizes for Summer, but says that Jojen lied. Meera suggests that perhaps Luwin could be wrong; Bran is doubtful of this. Meera tells him of a dream Jojen had, that Luwin had served Bran a rich and savory meal while serving the Walders a meager and poor one, yet the Freys liked their meal better than Bran did his. Bran doesn’t understand. Meera says when he does, they’ll talk again. Bran assures himself that Luwin is right, and that there is nothing bad coming to Winterfell, but he is disappointed at the idea that there is no more magic.

So long as there was magic, anything could happen. Ghosts could walk, trees could talk, and broken boys could grow up to be knights. “But there isn’t,” he said aloud in the darkness of his bed. “There’s no magic, and the stories are just stories.”

And he would never walk, nor fly, nor be a knight.

Well, I’m gonna go out on a limb here and say you’re wrong, Bran my boy.

So, okay. It’s been hinted about here and there (like in the preceding Dany chapter, for instance) and said straight out too, probably, in other places besides this chapter, but it’s worth stating for the record that I do get the gist here, with why magic and supernatural happenings seem to be oddly truncated in Westeros, and actually everywhere.

Which is that apparently there used to be plenty of magic about, but for some reason it’s dwindled in recent centuries. Or maybe it hasn’t dwindled so much as it’s gone dormant. I don’t think we’ve really gotten much concrete information about why magic has gone underground, though Luwin’s comments about the concerted efforts to stamp out the old gods certainly lend a clue, but I think it’s also safe to say that Recent Events point toward a swinging of the pendulum back the other way.

Magical thingies are a-coming back, y’all, and from all indications that might be at least semi-awesome for Bran (and Dany), but it looks like it’s going to seriously suck for most of the rest of the population. Yay?

So that’s all very interesting. And now I am deeply rooting for Bran to Get It and Accept His Wolfness and run off with the Wonder Swamp Twins to go find the children of the forest before whatever bad thing that is so totally coming to Winterfell gets there. My guess is it has something to do with a certain pseudo-Viking warrior chick coming to ravage Deepwood Motte, and from there stab inland to Winterfell. Dun!

Also, whoa with the offhand ravishing of Lady Hornwood! I left it out of the summary, but apparently she’s been kidnapped and forcibly married to Roose Bolton’s bastard son. Dude, that so sucks. Can’t you damn assholes leave a woman to her grief? No, of course not, what was I thinking? Bastards. (Literally and figuratively, in this case.) We only met the lady in question for a hot second, but that doesn’t stop me from being extremely pissed on her behalf. Grr.

And… yeah, that’s what I got for now. Happy Friday, troopers, and see you next week!

Plan R
1. Plan R
Oh Leigh sometime you are so close yet so very very far away. Awesome post as usual.
2. Chrysippus4321
The Arya chapter and last Jon chapter tells you a great deal about the difference between Tywin Lannister and Ned Stark. Ned would feel like Gregor's actions would reflect upon him. Tywin doesn't care as long as it's someone else dirtying their hands and not Lannisters.
Scott Silver
3. hihosilver28
Leigh, I remember that both times reading this book that what is happening to Lady Hornwood was most upsetting to me. I always have an alternate ASoIaF world where Ned is still alive and Lady Hornwood marries Rodrik Cassel, since they were quite taken with each other during the feast, custom and land-laws be damned. That being said, I still prefer the books with the teeth that they have, sharp though they are.
Plan R
4. cheem
Re: the respect paid to Dany:

People pay respect to Dany because she has dragons, the only three in the world. Three (fully grown) dragons won the Field of Fire.

Also, remember what the alchemist said to Tyrion about dragons and magic.
Sanctume Spiritstone
5. Sanctume
Re: Dany being treated as such.

I think it is because dragons existed in the past and this is known in that part of the world. Dany has 3 new born dragons which has future power potential to anyone who can handle them.

So there is great motivation to be on Dany's good side. But I also wonder how come not just steal the dragons at sword point?

Lots of pros and cons for this sword point stealing, but is does seem the society around Qarth is above the anarchy / barbaric dragon mugging scenario.
Peter Stone
6. Peter1742

I'm pretty sure that the alchemist hasn't said it yet, which means that Leigh will not be able to remember it, and that it is officially a spoiler. Could somebody white it out?

Re: Xaro saying that the Thirteen will crown Dany queen. There are a couple of other possibilities Leigh hasn't considered. Maybe Xaro would want something in return. Or maybe he is just speaking figuratively.
Eli Bishop
7. EliBishop
Luwin's speech to Bran about magic not working is especially nice because the maester, who's always seemed like the voice of rational skepticism, admits that he really really really wanted magic to work: "I was a boy, and what boy does not secretly wish to find hidden powers in himself?" That's a nice critique of a wish-fulfillment theme that's always been huge in fantasy/SF-- which is hilarious since the kid Luwin is talking to is, unbeknownst to him, the embodiment of that theme.
Rob Munnelly
8. RobMRobM
Nice job and, agree, this is one of those posts to flag for a re-read at the end of the book. You made a few "interesting" points.

Misc other thoughts re the three chapters:

Re Arya - I kind of wish you quoted Arya's list of potential people she wants to get some day. Pretty much the inverse of Rand's repetitive list in WoT.

Note that lots of questions keep coming about Beric Dondarrion, who was the guy Ned said to hunt down Gregor back in AGOT. Looks like his group is still around and inflicting pain on the Lannisters.

Your Schindler's List point is apt. I always this of the Gulag Archipelago book, where the author makes clear they could break anyone in the Gulag. Resistance was entirely futile - better to die quickly than try to resist. I had the same sense in Gregor's village prison. Ick.

Re Dany, great point about entering the City of Qarth. Only bit in defense is that it seems to be a multi-polar oligarchy, so not clear any one person would be able to forcibly take her as hostage in the face of her limited, but still something, Khalassar. Pretty clear though - they are lusting after Dany's dragons, individually and collectively.

When reading this the first time I was very curious about what Quaithe could do as a "shadowbinder." She is appropriately creepy, and has an impact each time she appears.

"Porno walls" LOL. Did you pick up that Qartheen women dresses leave a breast bare? You should adopt that style at

In a diversity mode - the ship captain is from the Summer Islands, whose people all have dark skins. Re-read the Captain's dialogue with a Jamaican accent in mind next time, Mon.

Also in a side note to the HBO show that won't be discussed in detail on this re-read, I will say that book purists were outraged when HBO picked a black actor to play Xaro - milk men indeed...? And HBO apparently will pronounce the City as "Karth."

Re Bran - not much to say, except that I heart Jojen and Meera as presented in this chapter and the Lady Hornwood thing outraged me - a forcible rape/marriage that would be upheld as legal is Westeros? WTF!

Plan R
9. sofrina
lady hornwood seals her fate by refusing to name her late husband's bastard her heir. tragic but... a shade of catelyn's own misplaced outrage.

you have to remember that qartheen are extremely theatrical in their speech and mannerisms. here comes this blonde hottentot out of the desert with three priceless marvels on her shoulder. you could try to take them, but what if the fire-breathing dragons don't want to leave her? better to persuade their mistress to give them up and make them come willingly.
Hero Canton
10. HeroineOfCanton
Actually, I know why the folks in Qarth treat Dany so well and offer to make her queen--she's a freaking Mary Sue, people!
Dawn Boyall
11. deebee
This Arya chapter is horribly painful to read. You just wonder how anyone emerges from experiences like these with a functioning psyche.

I have to skip this chapter when I read ACOK again.
Plan R
12. Carolyn H
I mistrust these Qartheans. It feels odd to me that they would welcome Dany with such open arms, even though she has dragons.

It's hard, sometimes, to remember that Bran is just a little kid, and as such he reveres his maester and long-time teacher and fears the "melding" with Summer when someone a bit older might well embrace it. Bran has lost his father, and his mother is off with his older brother. And except for Rickon, none of his other siblings are around either. Is it any wonder that he listens to Maester Luwin, who is pretty much the only authority figure left to guide him at the moment?

And poor Arya, she might well have put her foot in it yet again!

One other thing that's so interesting to me in these books is how much building and backstory we get before the action. Many writers would gloss over or at least compress the information of Danys' ride to Qarth or Bran's meetings with the twins or even Arya's long and twisty travels. GGRM lets all the details take center stage and lets us see the action from almost every possible angle.
Plan R
13. lampwick
@8 -- Interesting that a black actor will play Xaro. It did sort of annoy me that the barbarian horde was shown to be brown, while the civilized city-dwellers were white -- it seemed like uncharacteristic lazy thinking from GRRM.
Joe Vondracek
14. joev
@5Sanctume: But I also wonder how come not just steal the dragons at sword point?

IIRC, there are several indications that Dany's dragons imprinted on her when they hatched, as many baby critters do. Kidnapping creatures that will grow up to fly, breathe fire, weigh over a ton, and have no affinity for you would undoubtably be a Bad Idea.
15. Ryamano
@13 lampwick

There are barbarians who are shown to be white, like the wildlings and the Ironmen. And there are city dwellers who are shown to be non-white, like the very black skinned Summer Islanders.

If the Asian barbarian horde is depicted near the White city dwellers, well that's kind of how it happened in the real world (Mongols appearing near Persia). GRRM takes lots of things from the real world: knights, castles, kings, trading cities, mercenaries, stewards, etc. If taking things from the real world is lazy thinking, then GRRM is actually characteristically lazy thinking. The innovations he makes (ravens instead of pigeons as messengers, seasons that last years) are dwarfed (no pun intended) by what he draws from the real world.
Plan R
16. Rancho Unicorno
@13 - Using white folk for city dwellers and brown for the nomads makes sense. The Dothraki are more apt to be outside most of the day, which would inevitably lead to genetically darker pigmentation (I think, I've never really studied the evolutionary history of man's pigmentation) as well as environmentally tanning heavily. I'm not white, but you can clearly tell when I've spent the summer outside versus the winter inside. I go from milky coffee to Starbucks classic roast.
Plan R
17. sofrina
@11 - i think this chapter is a pivotal experience for arya. i think it scars her permanently.
Plan R
18. Zizoz
I assumed they would give her a crown because she is Queen of Westeros, not of Qarth.
Plan R
19. nancym
Oh, it hurts when I read about the horrors these children have to face. They've had to grow up so quickly, but they are still CHILDREN for f's sake! I completely agree, Arya is too a water-dancer just for surviving.

Porno wall! Heh. I recently saw Michael Palin's "Himalaya" documentary (that man is unstoppable in his energy) where they show giant penises decorating buildings, and my dirty little mind flashed immediately to the porno wall.

Lady Hornwood's story is horrifying. There are some parts I'll definitely be skipping when I re-read.
Plan R
20. CassandraW
So this reminds me, you really ought to read the short stories at some point. There aren't plot spoilers, as they take place a couple generations before the books, but they give some interesting background that I think will make the later books (mostly four and five) a lot more intriguing, if you intend to read that far
Dawn Boyall
21. deebee
I don`t really want to discuss the effect on Arya in particular since this is straying close to spoiler territory. I was more thinking of the many who suffered similarly unspeakable ordeals in the concentration camps and who were able to move on to lead lives of remarkable courage and generosity.
The experience that Arya endures is prolonged mental and emotional torture which would be enough to break anyone, let alone a nine year old girl.
Eli Bishop
22. EliBishop
@15 Ryamano
Not only that, but the Qartheen (and other people we meet in the East) consider everyone in Westeros to be "barbarians."

I don't think Martin was at all unconscious of the connotations of skin color in fantasy, which so often reveal prejudices of the writer's time. Qarth borrows elements from Asian and Middle Eastern cultures, so the easiest choice would've been to make the people look, say, Persian. Instead he gives them an ethnic makeup that's not what we'd expect and that doesn't directly correspond to any real-world society. You could call them "white", but they have nothing at all in common with "white" people in Westeros (except that they're people). I think this was a deliberate choice to defamiliarize the world a little more, so the reader sees Qarth more in terms of how different it is from everything else and what it means to the characters, and less in terms of any ideas the reader (or Martin) may have about Asia.
Eli Bishop
23. EliBishop
Leigh: referring to the Dothraki as "a people who apparently like to (or would like to) pillage the crap out of the Qartheen whenever they get a chance"-- I'm not sure the Dothraki have ever been anywhere near Qarth. Dany is way out of the territory of any khalasar-- she crossed a huge desert specifically to get away from them. So I doubt the Qartheen see them as much of a threat to the home city; there's apparently been some contact since the Dothraki have a name for them, but that could just be from Qartheen traders traveling around.
Plan R
24. sofrina
@21 - that was all i had to say. the text supports it pretty firmly. and i like your word "broken" rather than my word "scar."
Rob Munnelly
25. RobMRobM
@20. Oh yes, Dunk and Egg novellas FTW. I've gushed about them in earlier posts, and I recommend them highly. I can't wait for the fourth one, due late this year in a GRRM/Dozois edited collection on the theme of dangerous women - and they encounter the lady wolves of Winterfell.
Plan R
26. FellKnight
@20 CassandraW: Can you please point me toward these short stories? Do they spoil things from th 3rd, 4th and 5th books?

Rob Munnelly
27. RobMRobM
@26. D and E stories are set about 80 years before the principal volumes, and feature a low born, very tall knight and his feisty noble squire. No spoilage of principal volumes and, to the contrary, the deep background on life in the midst of the Targ Dynasty is at least helpful, and arguably critical, to understanding elements of part of the later books in this series, especially Book 5.

GRRM apparently has planned out 8 or 9 of these, which will come out periodically. They are well done, funny and a bit less graphic then the principal volumes, so are a good entry drug for newcomers wanting to try out GRRM.

There are three of them out, compiled in various story compilations.

The Hedge Knight - in Silverberg edited Legends I and also in GRRM's Dreamsongs collection.

The Sworn Sword - in Silverberg edited Legends II.

The Mystery Knight - in GRRM/Dozois edited Warriors.

The plan is for the fourth one to appear in the Dangerous Women anthology, then to have all four collected into a single volume in the next year or so beyond that.

There is also at least one and perhaps more graphic novel done of the Hedge Knight. I've seen excerpts and they look pretty darned good.
Plan R
28. CassandraW
@26 FellKnight

The first two were originally published in Legends 1 and 2, which were sci-fi/fantasy anthologies a ways back which I think are out of print but can generally be found used on amazon; the stories are called The Hedge Knight and The Sworn Sword. They have also been made into graphic novels, which I have not seen but hear are quite nice.

The third is called The Mystery Knight, and is the in-print anthology Warriors. All of these anthologies, by the way, have some other nice stories in them. The first Legends was actually where A New Spring by Jordan (the short version) was originally published, and Warriors in particular has some great offerings.

They don't have any outright spoilers, but there are a couple sets of characters in book 4 and 5 whose motivations make more sense having read the stories, and one critical moment that I feel actually benefits from coming in with more information. I was able to sort of predict certain events in part because of having read them, though I think the lore is in the books somewhere also, just not as emphasized, but I think it actually sort of added to the experience. A few friends of mine who hadn't read them felt sort of blindsided by one of the reveals in book 5 (along the lines of "what? who the heck is that?"), whereas I was literally holding my breath for the last half-page before it was confirmed and felt super gratified that it was really true. (And I have another prediction, but it hasn't been disproved/confirmed yet). I recommend that my friends who are starting the books read the stories before book 4 or 5 if possible, if not earlier.

They take place several generations before the books, after the Blackfyre Rebellion, when Master Aemon's generation are kids to young adults. I believe all the major lore they explore is in place in the books by book 3 in terms of disastrous events of the past, but there are no reveals of the future, just hints.
Plan R
29. lampwick
@15 -- It's true that Martin draws a lot from the real world, but I think he makes up just as much -- the religions on Westeros, for example, and the fact that in this world what would be Europe and Asia are separate continents. So I was disappointed by the cliche of brown barbarians and white sophisticated city dwellers -- Martin subverts so many fantasy tropes I thought he could just as well have subverted this one.

As for the Summer Islanders -- I hope more will be done with them in future books.
Dawn Boyall
30. deebee

A new Dunk and Egg,yay!
Thanks for the info, you are a mine of information again...
Rob Munnelly
31. RobMRobM
@30. Happy to help. I love the back and forth between D and E - high comedy. And I do like the bigger themes that work their way in as both D and E grow up and acquire life experiences and judgment.
Plan R
32. The SmilingKnight
Dont belitle Aryas experience like that.
She is no water dancer - she is a mouse.

And it is very important to recognize that as truth and keep it real.
This is not that other type of fantasy and this Arya chapter is one of the essential ones that solidifies that difference even more.

And thats the most i can say, except reminding everyone about all those "Oh Sansa has it worse" opinnions.
I really think not.

Relatively good premonitions on Daenerys.
Bran chapters will surprise you yet.
I was wondering will you be able to outguess next Jojen green dream, anyway..

This reread keeps being a very interesting piece to read on my fridays and saturdays.
Dawn Boyall
33. deebee
Arya and Sansa have both had to learn that their cherished fantasies could kill them. They both have seen horrible death and are in constant fear for their lives.
Who has it worse? I don`t think the question has any meaning. Both of them are in a situation of utter powerlessness where they can be killed at a whim-and they are surrounded by people who have demonstrated in bloody detail that they will carry out those actions without a second thought.
Aric McDaniel
34. aric93
Hey Leigh! When you finish The Gathering Storm, you should do a special edition WoT Reread post on the Ravens prologue from From the Two Rivers. (I know this is the wrong series, but I had to post asap, otherwise I would have forgotten my great-new-shiny idea, and I was reading this anyway)
Bill Stusser
35. billiam
Arya was never one of my favorite characters but this is where I really started to dislike her. The whole reciting the names of everyone she wants dead every night is just disturbing, especially from a child. I'm not saying it isn't realistic or understandable in her circumstances, but I personally don't like my heroes (emphasis on heroes) quite that dark. I know I'm in the minority here.

Also, about the brown barbarians and the white city dwellers. Is it really uncharacteristic and lazy thinking on GRRM's part? It actually makes sense that the Dothraki are desribed as either copper skinned or having red-brown skin since they spend so much time riding horses outside under the sun. It is a lot more realistic than having a bunch of fair skinned, light haired, bright eyed people living in a desert.

/Cough, cough, Aiel, cough, cough.

Just kidding, I love WoT =)
Plan R
36. lampwick
@35 -- It's the white city dwellers that bug me more, actually. Now that I've learned that there's going to be a black actor playing one of them, it occurs to me that it would have been cool to make them all black, to defy convention that way. I'm not sure where all these white people come from in the middle of a continent filled with brown inhabitants of the desert -- though possibly that's been explained, or will be explained.
Plan R
37. The SmilingKnight
33. deebee

No, not really. Sansa is a Stark heiress, has definite worth, a role, a position and some protection however indirect.
Arya is dead, nobody. A mouse. Traveling with The Mountain of all bad, bad people. It is just random chance she wasnt questioned.
- Not saying Sansa has it nice so dont even try that angle.

36. lampwick
Dont be silly.
Essos continent is not Africa and was never meant to be. If it corresponds to anything on Earth, which never was an intention, it is Euro-Asia, with all its racial and cultural differences.
There are places with black skinned people. Summer isles are one such location.

I see no reason to start this silly discussion about just forcefully implanting a specific race of people anywhere just to make all of it look more like Earth.
and dont make me start demanding that Eskimos or Chinese should be faked in wherever i imagine at random.
Don Barkauskas
38. bad_platypus
The soldiers rape all the women regularly as they travel (except for Arya, even though she had been revealed as female)
One possibility is that with enough older women around, the soldiers prefer that. But also, from the text it's not clear the soldiers know. It explicitly says Hot Pie notices but that no one else bothered to look. So it's possible they just don't know.
Plan R
39. Lsana

Arya's nobody, true. The monsters she's with have no reason to protect her or worry about her saftey...but they have no reason to go after her in particular either. No one is going to try to send a message by having Arya beaten or by removing her head. Sansa on the other hand has value, so she wouldn't be killed casually, but someone could go after her quite deliberately. Sansa's position is a double-edged sword.
Dawn Boyall
40. deebee
Sansa is a hostage to set against Jaime Lannister, but she`s intrinsically worth far less in political terms. Robb can`t trade Jaime for her, having Jaime is like capturing the queen in chess. He has to get the maximum value for Jaime regardless of any personal inclination, or his bannermen won`t fight for him and his challenge will be over. So he needs to get the maximum in concessions from the Lannisters in return for Jaime's safety.
But Sansa will pay the price if Jaime is killed. The Lannisters need her to deter Robb from taking his captured prize gaming piece off the board. So they want her safe at least until Jaime is released. After that-well Robb, Bran and Rickon are the line of succession to Winterfell. So Sansa can be married off (to the Mountain perhaps?) to create some sort of strategic alliance which could be used by the Lannisters. And if she turns out to be a hindrance, she can be disposed of. Women die very easily, especially if they`re stuck in some remote castle far from court. An accident or illness could easily be arranged.

Trouble is, Joffrey isn`t a rational, logical person. Joffrey is entirely capable of losing his temper and ordering her killed because a bird splats him. And the people round him are equally capable of carrying out that order on the spot. So yes, I think Sansa could be killed casually if Joffrey gets in a rage.


You think Arya is too dark because she prays for torturers rapists and murderers to die?
I gather you don`t have kids? I think most 9 year olds pray for the playground bully to die when they`ve been on the receiving end of something . And Arya has seen scenes so horrific I`m amazed she isn`t capturing mice to torture them in her spare time. Do I think praying for scum like that to die is dark?
Nope, it seems a realistic, reasonable response to me, I`d have a job believing in a character who doesn`t respond in that way. This is what is giving her the strength to keep going and stay alive.
Bill Stusser
41. billiam
@ 40

Yes, I think Arya is too dark, I would even go so far as to say she is disturbed. Do I think that it is unrealistic for her given her circumstances? No, I don't, but that doesn't mean that I'm going to cheer for her either. I prefer for my heroes to be better than the villians.

Actually I do have kids. As a mtter of fact I have a 9 year old daughter and we just had the playground bully discussion last week. And no, she did not wish that the bully would die or that something bad would happen to the bully. I think that you are the one that doesn't know kids very well. I don't know any 9 year olds (and I spend a lot of time with my daughters class at school) who think like that and if I did I would say something to the teacher or school counselor to make sure they had a discussion with the kid. Kids wishing other kids would die is what leads to things like Columbine.
Dawn Boyall
42. deebee
No, I`m not going to get into a competitive who-knows kids-better argument. I realise I started that one and I apologise for the tone, which probably didn`t come out quite how I intended.

But kids do wish people dead sometimes-maybe they don`t mean it, and maybe it isn`t something they own up to very often-but it`s a pretty normal thing for a nine-year old.

I can`t understand how you can find a terrified child who prays for the death of torurers, rapists and murderes to be morally worse than the perpetrators. She`s seen what they do up close in excruciating detail, she is totally powerless. She`s seen her friend slaughtered in front of her and been at her father`s execution.

But she shows signs of hurting -yup. She wants them to die-well, I can`t see anything wrong with that.
Matthew Hunter
43. matthew1215
billiam@41: *blink* You prefer your heroes better than the villians. Granted, that's only rational. We'll skip the rape thing as inapplicable. So who has Arya tortured to death? How many innocents has she killed, how many homes burned?

At this point in the story, Arya has pretty much one sin: wishing that people who tormented her and killed her companions should die. Frankly, that doesn't bug me at all.

And yes, she's a little disturbed. But, importantly, that's not her fault. There is no comparison between her and even the minor villians in Westeros. And if Arya spends the last book finishing off her list by means fair or foul, I will cheer her on, because every single person on that list deserves to be on it.
Plan R
44. The SmilimgKnight
43. matthew1215
"And yes, she's a little disturbed. But, importantly, that's not her fault. There is no comparison between her and even the minor villians in Westeros. And if Arya spends the last book finishing off her list by means fair or foul, I will cheer her on, because every single person on that list deserves to be on it."

- Thats the truth. Word!
Right there witcha, shouting "Stickem with the pointy end! woo!"
Teresa Nielsen Hayden
45. tnh
Matthew, SmilingKnight, the other damage going on is what Arya is doing to herself. It's understandable, necessary, not her fault, even heroic; but it's still damage. If she lives, she'll someday have to deal with it.

I'm just glad she got to spend time with Syrio, who obviously knew what a wicked and unsafe place the world can be, yet was still sympathetic and fully human. He's a good datum to have in her knowledge-set of the world.
Matthew Hunter
46. matthew1215
tnh@45: Never said there wasn't damage. Arya is going to have a hard time finding her way back to shiny happy normalness. Maybe she never gets there (which puts her on the same level as 90% of the antihero protagonists of bad fantasy novels start AND finish -- War Shadows of the Night Assassins, etc, etc). Maybe normalness isn't all its cracked up to be once you've seen how horrible things can get.

As far as I'm concerned, Arya can spend the rest of her life as Martin's version of a holocaust survivor obsessively hunting down the camp guards and while it wouldn't be a normal life for her, it wouldn't be a bad life either. A damaged one, yes, with elements of tragedy. But I wouldn't fault her as a person for taking that path. It doesn't come anywhere near to moral equivilence.

Now, if Arya's story takes that route, I can see how some readers would look at her character and think it was dark and a bit disturbing. They can even say they don't want to read that story and I'll let that pass as a matter of taste (unless they are in the middle of "The Night War of the Shadow Assassins"...) I think the whole problem comes from the line "I like my heroes to be better than the villians", and the implied moral comparison, which I consider to be entirely invalid and worth defending Arya from.

In Leigh's other read, we get a lot of discussion on character change -- Rand and Egwene's hardening into leadership figures, Perrin's pivotal moment with the axe, and so on. This process echoes Rand's development from a country boy with hay in his hair to a hardened warrior who practices against 6 swordsman at a time and fights to a draw. Fantasy needs heroes who are at least a little larger than life, and to make it good fantasy we have to see how they become larger than life. We have to understand the process and believe in it. There's a fine line to walk between dangerous enough to win and evil; Arya's list of names is a couple steps closer to that list, but it's not anywhere near crossing over.

Spoiler Whiteout: If you want something that might well cross that line rather than edging up to it, Arya's ninja training in aDwD is a much better time to have this particular discussion...

I like Syrio, too, who has given her more survival tools than, I think, either of them realized at the time... unless certain looney theories turn out to be true, anyway.
Dawn Boyall
47. deebee

I`m not clear on why you talk about Arya doing damage to herself? This implies that a voluntary process is taking place which is avoidable. I see Arya in this chapter becoming harder, blanking out normal emotional response as the only way to survive psychologically. Martin makes several references to the callus which grows on her feet, and I think we are meant to recognise a similar process is happening to her psyche.

It`s hard to discuss Arya in a non-spoiler forum, but the Arya we see here is a victim of the evil others do, and I`m uncomfortable at anything which smacks of blaming her for the survival response she develops.

This is a dark chapter, where we are spared the detail of torture but not the fact of it - thankfully it occurs in summary rather than in scene. But it occurs repeatedly, randomly and in full screen for Arya and the others.I don`t see how any other reaction from Arya is possible or credible to the reader.

And now I`m off to research those certain loony theories, sounds promising...
Plan R
48. phuzz
When I read about the 'porn walls' it made me think of the 'erotic' murals in Pompeii:
I'd bet that something similar inspired GRRM.
Plan R
49. jojo.ziggy
Woh, I would never have expected to see Jorah x Dany shipping from you of all people, Leigh! Ha!
Plan R
50. CarpeComputer
@ 8. RobMRobM

I am so totally against politicall corectness and very much for accuracy in portraying books in movies, however making Xaro black was quite a reasonable choice, as he is portrayed there as a "self made man", someone who stared off as a low-paid dockworker from the Summer Isles and ended up as a rich merchant in Quarth. So, he lived amongst milk men, but was genetically not one of them.

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