Fri
Aug 10 2012 1:00pm

A Read of Ice and Fire: A Clash of Kings, Part 30

Welcome back to A Read of Ice and Fire! Please join me as I read and react, for the very first time, to George R.R. Martin’s epic fantasy series A Song of Ice and Fire.

Today’s entry is Part 30 of A Clash of Kings, in which we cover Chapters 63 (“Daenerys”) and 64 (“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 Tor.com 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 63: Daenerys

What Happens
Daenerys goes down to the docks, dressed in Dothraki finery; she tries to reject the bell Jhiqui braids into her hair, but Jhiqui insists that she has earned it for destroying the Palace of Dust. She reflects that her whole life has been fleeing from something, and now she was doing it again, for some of the factions in Qarth are looking to kill her now, including the surviving warlocks. She had laughed at this at first, but Xaro tells her, troubled, that magic seems to be working much better than it had previously.

She thinks of how Xaro had entreated her to marry him again, and she had refused; coldly, he told her to leave the city, then. She tried to bargain with him for a ship, but the only thing he wanted from her is one of her dragons. She told him that not a third of all the ships in the world would be worth one of her dragons, and Xaro left and did not return, and began demanding his gifts back, and Dany knows it is time to leave.

She discusses the things she saw in the Palace of Dust with Jorah on the way to the docks, noting the repeated use of the number three; Jorah points out that the sigil of House Targaryen is a three-headed dragon, meant to represent Aegon, Visenya and Rhaenys. She asks what the vision of Rhaegar meant by “His is the song of ice and fire,” but Jorah doesn’t know. She notes that Rhaegar’s son had been named Aegon, and he’d had a sister named Rhaenys, but there was no Visenya, and both the children had been murdered by the Lannisters in the uprising.

At the docks, Dany rides down to where the ships from the Summer Islands, Westeros, and the Nine Free Cities are docked, hoping to find one to hire, but none of them are willing to take on a hundred Dothraki and/or dragons. At length Jorah warns Dany that she is being followed, by a white-bearded old man and a huge swarthy eunuch. They pretend to be shopping at a brass merchant’s booth while discussing whether their tail means them harm.

They move away from the booth, but a Qartheen stops them and offers Dany a jeweled box. Dany opens it to find what she thinks at first is a costly scarab brooch, but it comes to life as a poisonous manticore. The box is knocked from her hands and the manticore is crushed, and Dany realizes it is the old man and the eunuch who saved her. She prevents Jorah and her bloodriders from killing them, and the old man introduces himself as Arstan Whitebeard and the eunuch as  Strong Belwas.

Belwas tells her they were sent to her by “the fat man with sweet stink in his hair,” and Dany realizes he means Magister Illyrio. Arstan reveals he is from Westeros, and tells Jorah he saw him joust at Lannisport. Belwas comments he has killed many “horse boys” in the fighting pits, and Dany warns him to speak with respect to her people. Arstan tells her they were sent to bring her back to Pentos, and that the Seven Kingdoms are “bleeding,” with Robert the Usurper dead and four kings vying for his throne. He plans to hire three ships for them; Dany remembers her visions, and instructs Arstan to rename them.

Vhagar,” Daenerys told him. “Meraxes. And Balerion. Paint the names on their hulls in golden letters three feet high, Arstan. I want every man who sees them to know the dragons are returned.”

Commentary
Errrrm. I would feel a lot more pleased on Dany’s behalf at this development if Illyrio weren’t behind it.

Wasn’t he one of the guys Arya saw skulking around the bowels of the Red Keep a million years ago? And didn’t he basically sell Dany like cattle to the Dothraki? Yeah. He may not hold the gold medal for untrustworthiness in this series (if only because we haven’t gotten any firm confirmation that he’s Up To Something, and there are far too many candidates with much uglier credentials in contention), but he’s definitely made it to the finals. In My Opinion.

Of course, my opinion may not be worth much, since it turns out Xaro isn’t really a traitor after all. I mean, he’s a greedy dick out for his own advantage, don’t get me wrong, but compared to most other people Dany’s encountered in her life, his brand of petulant passive-aggressiveness at not getting what he wanted was positively benign. Which is kind of sad, but hey, I’ll take it.

Of course, getting back to Illyrio’s possible traitorousness, it’s perfectly possible that his diabolical plan is as simple as wanting to put Dany back on the throne in Westeros and get a dukedom out of it or something. In which case the diabolicalness of his plan is much more a matter of perspective. (But then, it always is, I suppose.)

I guess this also means I should consider whether I am actually rooting for Dany to get the throne back, or if I think someone else should have it. And… I really don’t know that I am, honestly. I really like Dany as a character, and I’m rooting for her survival and happiness as a person (even as I acknowledge how slim the chances of the latter at least might be, because I’m relatively certain by this point that Martin is actually physically allergic to happy endings), but in a weird way that’s sort of why I don’t want her to get the throne. Because seriously, at this point winning this damn game of thrones isn’t a fate I’d wish on anyone I liked!

But, that’s kind of counterproductive, since it means only people I hate would get the throne, and obviously giving absolute power to someone I don’t like spells disaster for everyone, because that is just how good a judge of character I am!

Yes, you can go ahead and roll your eyes at me now. I’m doing it myself, don’t worry.

But there is also another consideration in my general tendency to not be rooting for Dany to get the throne, which is that everything I’ve absorbed thus far seems to point to the fact that the Targaryens as a whole were horrible people and worse rulers, even if specific members of the family did not/do not suck, and I kind of think it was a good thing in the aggregate that they got punted off the throne. And even if Dany herself would make a good ruler, I’m not at all convinced that Targaryen name should be allowed back in the building on general principle, if that makes sense.

But then, the Targaryens weren’t the ones smashing infants’ heads against walls, and all the other delightful things that happened during Robert’s usurpation, so maybe my thoughts on this make no sense, comparatively speaking. Yes, everyone sucks, Martin, thank you, message received.

Whatever. At this point as long as it’s not a Lannister on the throne, with the possible exception of Tyrion, I’ll call it a marginal win.

As usual, Martin manages to mention food a lot in this chapter, but I found remarkably little of it to be appetizing this time. Maybe I’m just not adventurous enough, but cold shrimp and persimmon soup sounds really gross. Not as gross as honey-roasted mice (!!), of course, but I should think that would go without saying. Sheesh.

The warlocks whispered of three treasons . . . once for blood and once for gold and once for love. The first traitor was surely Mirri Maz Duur, who had murdered Khal Drogo and their unborn son to avenge her people. Could Pyat Pree and Xaro Xhoan Daxos be the second and the third? She did not think so. What Pyat did was not for gold, and Xaro had never truly loved her.

Okay, so I’m not sure yet who’s going to betray Dany for gold (because really, that could be just about anyone), though Illyrio is a possible candidate, but I bet all the money in my pockets right now (which is, er, five dollars, I need to go to the bank) that the betrayal for love is gonna be Jorah.

Also:

“What is a mummer’s dragon, pray?”

“A cloth dragon on poles,” Dany explained. “Mummers use them in their follies, to give the heroes something to fight.”

Ser Jorah frowned.

That? That is a thing, right there. I don’t know what the thing is that it is, I just know that it is one. So There.

Of course, so is the blue rose and the dead man in the ship and everything else they brought up from Dany’s visions in the magicians’ house, but I’m just saying, this one in particular jumped out at me.

 

Chapter 64: Arya

What Happens
Arya pretends the heads on the walls of Harrenhal are Joffrey, instead of the people Roose Bolton had had executed for collaborating with the Lannisters. She also tries to ignore the women who are staked out naked in the ward, “free for the use of any man who wanted them,” as punishment for sleeping with Lannister soldiers. Gendry has asked if she was admiring her work; he is angry because they’d executed Lucan, and accuses her of giving them all to the likes of the Mummers and Rorge and Biter. She can’t really blame him, and wishes sometimes she’d left with Jaqen. She angrily throws away the coin he gave her, but then goes and gets it back.

She brings water to Bolton’s rooms, where he is having a strategy meeting while simultaneously being leeched. Ser Aenys Frey is worrying about being besieged at Harrenhal by Lord Tywin, but Bolton assures him that Lord Tywin is far away, dealing with King’s Landing. Aenys points out that Stannis had thought Tywin was far away too. Ser Harys Haigh asks how their boy king will prevail against Tywin when Stannis Baratheon could not, and Bolton replies that Robb has beaten the Lannisters every time he has faced them.

“He has lost the north,” insisted Hosteen Frey. “He has lost Winterfell! His brothers are dead…”

For a moment Arya forgot to breathe. Dead? Bran and Rickon, dead? What does he mean? What does he mean about Winterfell, Joffrey could never take Winterfell, never, Robb would never let him.

Ser Hosteen insists that Robb needs to bend knee to the Lannisters, and Bolton asks with a smile if he would like to tell him that. His dismisses the meeting, and has Arya remove his leeches. Qyburn (rumored to have dabbled in necromancy) reads Bolton a letter from his wife, which Bolton ignores to send orders to Ser Helman Tallhart, who has taken the Darrys castle, to execute the captives and burn the castle down before striking east toward Duskendale. Arya remembers the Darrys castle was where Cersei had made her father kill Sansa’s wolf, and is glad. Bolton also announces he intends to hunt down the wolves that have been getting bolder in the area, attacking men’s camps in the woods.

Bolton and the others leave, and Arya assures herself that if Bran and Rickon are really dead that Robb will avenge them, and wonders, if Winterfell is fallen, if she is still a Stark. She cleans Bolton’s chambers and sees that there is a map of the region among his papers. She goes and practices her “needlework” in the godswood, reciting her list all the while; after, she salutes the trees and says “Valar morghulis” to them.

Bolton returns with several wolf corpses and orders dinner. Arya brings it to him, and dares to ask him if he will take her with him when he leaves Harrenhal. Bolton tells her he means to give Harrenhal to Lord Vargo when he leaves, and “Nan” will stay with him, and calmly threatens to cut her tongue out if she questions him again. Arya leaves and goes back to the godswood, where she kneels and prays for guidance. She hears a wolf howl in the distance, and then seems to hear her father’s voice, telling her “the lone wolf dies, but the pack survives”. Arya protests there is no pack anymore, the Starks are scattered or dead.

“You are Arya of Winterfell, daughter of the north. You told me you could be strong. You have the wolf blood in you.”

“The wolf blood.” Arya remembered now. “I’ll be as strong as Robb. I said I would.” She took a deep breath, then lifted the broomstick in both hands and brought it down across her knee. It broke with a loud crack, and she threw the pieces aside. I am a direwolf, and done with wooden teeth.

That night she goes to Gendry, and entreats him to wake Hot Pie and meet her at the gate by the Tower of Ghosts with provisions and weapons, lying to him that Vargo intends to cut off the left foot of all the servants once Bolton is gone. She goes back to Kingspyre and steals Bolton’s map and dagger, and then goes to the stables and lies that Bolton has ordered three horses saddled. She manages to get the horses to the gate without being seen. Gendry and Hot Pie eventually show up, and Gendry points out there is a guard on the postern. Arya tells them to wait for her, and slips ahead to the gate. She notes the guard is too tall for her to reach his throat, and lies to him that Bolton has ordered all his guards receive a silver piece. She pulls out Jaqen’s coin, but lets it fall to the ground, and when the guard bends to get it, pulls out the dagger and slits his throat, whispering “Valar morghulis” as he dies. Hot Pie and Gendry join her at the gate.

“You killed him!” Hot Pie gasped.

“What did you think I would do?” Her fingers were sticky with blood, and the smell was making her mare skittish. It’s no matter, she thought, swinging up into the saddle. The rain will wash them clean again.

Commentary
Well.

So, Arya just took a level in… whatever you call it when you become capable of slitting someone’s throat in cold blood. “Badass” is both completely accurate and horribly inappropriate at the same time, which is a bit of a trick.

I dunno, I’m very conflicted right now. (Shocking. In this series? Never!) I’m glad for her in the sense that being able to be that cold will greatly increase her chances of survival, but I’m sad that that’s what it took to do that. I mean, she’s, what, ten years old, and already a semi-skilled assassin? And she’s only going to get better at it, to boot. That’s… disconcerting, to say the very least.

Also, I really want to know what Valar morghulis means. Arthurian legend and Tolkien assure me that words/names that start with “mor-” are Bad News, but I want to know what bad news Arya’s spewing around, because I’ve Got A Bad Feeling about it.

Also also, I’m not 100% on this but I’m pretty sure that whoever was talking to Arya in the godswood, it wasn’t Ned. Xaro and others have been pointing out that magic has been getting… magickier lately, so hey, maybe the old gods are waking up from their dirt nap too, eh?

(“Dirt nap,” hah. Because they’re trees, get it? And their roots are in the SOIL, which is DIRT, and it’s FUNNY.

… Guys? Hello?)

Also cubed: leeches. EEEEWWWWWWW

“It is queer to see the common wolves of the south so bold.”

BECAUSE NYMERIA IS TOTES THE BOSS OF THEM, THANK YOU. And now she and Arya are going to be reunited, y/y? And it is not going to go horribly, y/y? Right, Martin? RIGHT?

*glares*

Also, the direwolf thing in ASOIAF specifically aside, a lifetime of reading fantasy novels has trained me to be automatically horrified when wolves are hunted as game, in fiction or in real life. I’m not anti-hunting as a general thing, but killing wolves other than in self-defense is just – wrong. Because they’re wolves, and they deserve better. Don’t ask me to explain it better than that.

I was a little surprised that Gendry was pro-Lannister, but I suspect that’s more a situational thing than a real political stance – things were better for him before the coup, is all.

I’m having trouble remembering how much we saw of Roose Bolton before this, but I suspect everything was second-hand until now. And as usual, Martin has pulled his trick of having the man seem one way from a distance (reliable, loyal, a good warrior) and quite another up close, i.e. a guy who would totally mutilate a serving girl just because she dared to speak to him. Jesus.

Also, the kind of guy who would order the extended torture and rape of women – as punishment for being raped in the first place. (Don’t EVEN try to tell me Pia and the rest freely consented to jack shit with the Lannister soldiers, because I will seriously cut you.) That’s… I don’t even have words for that.

In other words, Roose Bolton: DO NOT WANT.

Ugh. Yet another one on the list. If you were to play seesaw, and have all the sympathetic characters in ASOIAF sit on one side, and all the varying-degrees-of-horrific characters sit on the other… well, let’s just say, that will be a supremely uneventful playground event.

Randomly:

The carrion crows wheeled about the gatehouse in raucous unkindness

Isn’t “unkindness” the name for a group of ravens? I thought it was a “murder” of crows.

(Also, this. Because I am easily amused.)


And that’s the game, kids! Have a lurvely weekend, as I hope you always do, and I will see you next Friday!

55 comments
Deana Whitney
1. Braid_Tug
I always love the Arya chapters. Wish there were more.
But if she was my 10 year, I would be scared.

Edit: Wow, first! Nice.

For some reason every time a Daenerys comes back up, I have to go re-read what happened with her last time we saw her. For the others I’m able to keep track, but she just keeps slipping.

RobM, I’ll see you on the spoiler thread.
George Jong
2. IndependentGeorge
Waaaaay back at the end of GoT, when Cat suggests that the Greatjon's reckless courage was not what was needed in leading the van, Robb immediately went to Roose Bolton for his 'cold cunning'. More specifically, Robb said that Roose frightened him, and he hoped he'd have the same effect on the Lannisters. In effect, Roose is both Robb's best general, and a scary mofo in his own right.
Max E. Lybbert
3. Max E. Lybbert
As for the bad Targaryens, you may consider reading the short stories about Dunk and Egg. Those stories take place a century or so before the current series, and things were very much different then.
Tricia Irish
5. Tektonica
Spoiler?? Definition of Valar Morhulis...In white below, just in case.....
Valar morghulis: High Valarian for "All men must die."

Thanks Leigh! I think I missed last weeks post, as I missed the timely arrival of Roose Bolton. Good instincts there, Leigh.

It is hard to see Arya become an assassin at age 10 or so, but she has not been put in the best of circumstances. I'm glad she's becoming proactive anyway....let her adventures, er, begin...again.
Rob Munnelly
6. RobMRobM
Good discussion re Dany chapter - I like the Dotraki dress and bells part of it as a good visual. I also enjoy the Abbott and Costello visual of Strong Belwas and Whitebeard. I have other thoughts here but can't add for fear of spoilage. May have to do some ....stuff... in the spoiler forum.

Re Arya - good summary, as far as it goes, but you left out some....stuff .... that could have been mentioned and given that awesome Butlerian touch. I know, it's hard to deal with these wide ranging chapters, so you're forgiven and I can't and won't give any details. No doubt we'll have yet another party in the spoiler section to discuss ....stuff. Re the analysis, you are correct that Arya is being written in a way that likely makes the reader be a bit uncomfortable, if not more so. And Bolton - beheadings, staking out the women, leeches, telling Tallheart to execute prisoners and go off reaving, threatening Nan - eek. What a peach.
Rob Munnelly
7. RobMRobM
Trying to think what are your Targ data points that have been given in text so far. Dany - pretty good (and potentially very good). Viserys - bad. Rhaegar - depends on your perspective. Rhaegar's young kids killed by Lannister - incomplete. Aemon (at the Wall) - good. Aerys - not looking good (Mad King and all) but not clear whether he's Viserys bad. Not clear that we have enough to judge the others (Aemon's brother Aegon, Aegon's son Jaharys and other kids, etc.)
Scott Silver
8. hihosilver28
@Leigh-
Regarding Bolton- The sigil of the Bolton's is the flayed man. So...yeah, the family is pretty blatant with making everyone around them uneasy.
Scott Silver
9. hihosilver28
@7 RobMRobM. Regarding Aegon, it depends on whether you count the Dunk & Egg stories open game for this. I'm guessing no, and that if Leigh is still interested once she's up to speed on the rest of the series that she might read the novellas.
Rob Munnelly
10. RobMRobM
hi@9 - yeah, I don't see D and E as fair game until Leigh reads them. Then there are substantially more data points re all the Targs.

Note that I did a quick post in spoiler land re a couple of points, one in particular.
Vincent Lane
11. Aegnor
Cold shrimp and persimmon doesn't sound that bad. I can't say if I've ever had persimmon before, but from what I can tell, it is supposed to taste somewhat similar to tomato. A cold shrimp and tomato soup actually sounds like it might be good. Cold shrimp with cocktail sauce is very good.
Max E. Lybbert
12. TG12
Re: Targaryens-- as someone has already mentioned, I don't think it's fair to say that they were uniformly bad news, unless we're taking the more poly.sci./philosophical view that monarchies are always per se bad. The backstory (both in the series, and more in the Dunk & Egg novellas, which predate our story by a hundred years or so) I think makes clear that there were plenty of competent, even good Targaryen rulers. My personal opinion is that the narrative, at least the Dany portions of it, is attempting to show Dany's tumultuous struggle towards becoming, possibly, one of the "good ones."

And you're right, you wouldn't wish the burden of the Iron Throne on someone we like as a character (although I understand that there are plenty of readers who don't like Dany), but I would rather see someone up there with 1) some sort of moral core, and 2) competent with exercising the levers of power.

Re: Arya. Oh girl. I recall during the discussion of Storm of Swords, right after it came out, observing something along the lines of "love your spunk, girl, but damn! not so much with the incipient sociopathy". She's in a hard place in a cruel world, so. Arya's definitely one of the most interesting characters, and justifiably a fan favorite.
Steven Halter
13. stevenhalter
Interesting that both Dany and Arya are heading out into the world at the end of the chapters.
Arya certainly seems to have few illusions left. Interesting that as she walked to kill the guard she:
felt as though Syrio Forel walked beside her, and Yoren, and Jaqen H’ghar, and Jon Snow
Of all of her family, it is Jon she picks at this point.
Max E. Lybbert
14. NotInventedHere
@11: Persimmon doesn't really taste anything like tomato. Very sweet, kind of spicy; hard to describe. But definitely not anything like a tomato.
Steven Halter
15. stevenhalter
I'm going with Valar morghulis meaning something like "honored death stuff", "through death, honor", or "to death I give honor". Something along thiose lines. As Leigh said, the root words are steeped in fantasy (and English and ...) tradition.

(No, Tek I'm not falling for highlighting your text--good try at temptation though.)
Max E. Lybbert
16. fudgyvmp
I kind of stopped reading ASOIAF a while ago because it kind of makes me feel like Martin wants us to slit our wrists... but I like your reads so I read them, and being completely out of context having stopped maybe a quater of the way through clash of kings, I thinks a Mummer's Dragon is a shoutout to the Wheel of Times False Dragons :| since they're both fake.

ps, Though I understand and appreciate what captcha does for us with spam, I hate them since you can't read them just as much as a spammer can't OCR them... as I reload I think they're appearing upside down
Rob Munnelly
17. RobMRobM
Shalter - I checked and Valar M is not given out anywhere in the text to this point, so can't help you. You must wait.

"Mummer's Dragon" -relates to dream so I'll have to take a passs.

Jon is, pretty clearly, Arya's favorite brother. No surprise she has him listed in her core support dream group but I didn't recall that being in the text. Good pick up on that, Shalter.
Matthew Smith
18. Blocksmith1
Leigh-

If you think Roose is bad, wait til we get up close and personal with his bastard son. Maybe an apt comparison is Roose Bolton is too Charles Manson as his bastard son is to...Pol Pot? Both evil but one takes it to the next level. .
Steven Halter
19. stevenhalter
RobMRobM@17:Yep, thanks for not helping. I'm just jotting down my guess no words of confirmation or denial needed.

(Although, if it turns out to mean Sunny Marigolds I'll be surprised. But wouldn't that be a hoot. Arya's shouting sunny marigold's as she slits throats. Well, a demented hoot anyway.)
Vincent Lane
20. Aegnor
Blocksmith1,

Roose Bolton's bastard son is dead. The last that was heard he was killed by Ser Rodrick when his servant Reek was captured..

Seriously? Spoiler much...
Vincent Lane
21. Aegnor
The reason the mor- prefix is usually a negative association is because of latin. The word mortal retains that latin prefix.

"Middle English, from Anglo-French mortel, mortal, from Latin mortalis, from mort-, mors death"
Max E. Lybbert
22. Lsana
Must agree that on general principle I don't want to see the Targaryens regain the thrown. I agree that the history at least has suggested that there have been some really good Targaryen rulers--but there have also been some catastrophically bad ones, the late unlamented King Aerys being just one of them. And while Dany doesn't really seem like one of the bad ones (though I don't like to see a daughter of Aerys burning any one alive), putting Dany on the throne means putting her family on the throne (unless Mirri Maz Duur was right and she's barren, in which case it means countdown to civil war).
Skip Ives
25. Skip
@Leigh
Randomly:
The carrion crows wheeled about the gatehouse in raucous unkindness Isn’t “unkindness” the name for a group of ravens? I thought it was a “murder” of crows.
A group of crows is a murder, they are carrion crows because they have been feasting on the heads on the walls; and the bodies, wherever they were heaped. A group of ravens can be called an unkindness, though I've also seen congress and constable. One would assume that carrion crows are also unkind though.
Sky Thibedeau
26. SkylarkThibedeau
In High Tolkein Sindarin Valar Morgulis would be something Like "Gods Dark Sorcery".
Rob Munnelly
27. RobMRobM
Lsana - but who would you like to see on the Iron Throne that would be better than the Targs? I'll grant you Robb but he's in a tough place to make it happen, so what's left. Joff's line? Stannis and his sickly daughter? Robert Arryn? Ick.

Edit - I think it's made clear in text (and certainly in family trees) but the Baratheons were part-Targ as well. So Robert - not very good either, LOL.
Max E. Lybbert
28. Black Dread
That Arstan Whitebeard seems like an interesting fellow.
Rob Munnelly
29. RobMRobM
As I think about it, the Arya chapter is one of the most detailed and info dumpy in the entire ACOK. Leigh has a long summary but lots of details didn't make the cut. Remarkable.
Max E. Lybbert
30. Black Dread
I always pictured Roose Bolton as a medivel Hannibal Lecter. Brilliant, cold, very scary, and a complete sociopath.
Max E. Lybbert
31. Tenesmus
Really thought you might have a comment or two about some of Arya's other interactions in this chapter. Granted, it was a long chapter, but given the narrative structure of the series, 3rd limited, when a POV character observes something, the author intends for the reader to observe it also.
Chris Long
32. radynski
Ravens are in a congress, or sometimes it's called a conspiracy.
Max E. Lybbert
33. IamJoseph
Now, it's not really a spoiler since it comes from the last book (chapter 59 "Catelyn"), but we were told about Elmar once before. He's also listed in the appendix of this book --ELMAR, betrothed to Arya Stark, a boy of nine,
Pat .
34. dolphineus
Wolves deserve better. If it isn't a trope, it should be by now. But tottally agree :)

Arya ... yeah. Never has seeing a favorite character take a level in bad ass felt so sad. At a mere 10-11 years of age she has seen enough of the big bad brutal world she lives in to realise she is completely screwed. Bold move by her, and I love it. But aw, you poor kid :(

Well, at least she is out of that awful place now, and nothing bad can happen to her, right?

Valor morghulis.
Vincent Lane
35. Aegnor
@32,

I haven't heard them named a congress before. The three different names I've heard are unkindness, conspiracy, and constable. Though constable I've only heard in reference to the Tower of London ravens.
George Jong
36. IndependentGeorge
Yeah, Arya's chapter had my jaw dropping on my second read. I can't reveal more without spoiling, except to say... no I really shouldn't say that, either. Suffice to say, there are lots of THINGS in this chapter, some of which have already been revealed, but it's very subtle.
Max E. Lybbert
37. Tenesmus
Boltons and Freys hanging out talking about Robb, what could possibly be wrong with that?
Max E. Lybbert
38. David B
Part of the fun of reading this the first time was trying to figure out exactly *what* Valar Morghulis actually meant. We have no idea at this time, nor any clue.

Rest assured (and I sure hope this isn't a spoiler), we do find out eventually. (One hint: It doesn't mean "Don't take any wooden nickles.")
Matthew Smith
39. Blocksmith1
Aegnor@20

Didn't think it was much of a spoiler...if it's one thing we have learned from reading Mr. Martin, there is always another character coming up that is worse than the last. Now had I given a specific example...completely agree.

That said, I will try to be more...circumspect...in the future.
Vincent Lane
40. Aegnor
@39,
I don't know what you mean. You were entirely specific, and it is a significant spoiler for the short term. Look at the now whited out text below for why.

As far as anyone knows, that has only read to this point, Ramsey is dead. Your post was a spoiler that he was not dead.
George Jong
41. IndependentGeorge
Let's not anthropomorphize too much; for an agricultural society that has to contend with decade-long winters, wolves that eat your livestock is more than a nuisance, it's downright lifethreatening. A small army of wolves that aren't afraid of armed men is a sign of the apocalypse.
Birgit
42. birgit
Gendry isn't pro-Lannister, he just shows the perspective of commoners who don't really care which noble they serve but get killed when there is another fight between nobles.
Max E. Lybbert
43. GonSmithe
Just fyi, the Targaryens were not all awful leaders. Yes, they took over with force and yes they were creepy incestuous people, but there were hundreds of years of "peace" under Targaryen rule. Then Aerys ruined that.
George Jong
44. IndependentGeorge
I'm going to try and answer this without spoilers, but the Targaryens tended to be either great or godawful. These are the prominent Targaryens we've heard about thus far (most of this was in Mormont's speech to Jon early in COK):

Maester Aemon, Daenerys, Viserys, Daeron (Aemon's grandfather), Aegon V (Aemon's younger brother), Aegon IV("The Unworthy"), Maegor ("The Cruel"), Aerys II ("The Mad King"), Aerion Brightflame ("The Monstrous", Aemon's older brother). Thus far, we've heard contradictary things about Rhaegar, but even if we categorize him as one of the "good" Targaryens, the sheer number of guys with nicknames like "Mad", "Monstrous", or "Unworthy" is a pretty good indication of what generations of sustained incest will do to you.

I'm personally anti-Targaryen, and actually don't want Dany to be Queen largely for that exact reason. Even if she's a good ruler, it would take several generations of outcrossing before I'd be comfortable with any of her children as a ruler.
Rob Munnelly
45. RobMRobM
@44 - Thanks for avoiding spoilers. As noted above, Leigh can get more data points if and when she reads D and E novellas - and I recommend that she does, before we dive into Dance with Dragons. Very useful background on a whole bunch of fronts. I personally can't wait for the fourth one, due early next year.

Birgit - nice point.
Max E. Lybbert
46. My Amyrlin > Your Amyrlin
@44 - Isn't there THE SPOILER for D&E #1?
George Jong
47. IndependentGeorge
#46 - I haven't read the D & E stories, so I'm not sure who you're referring to; it's very probably I left someone out, as I only compiled my list by doing a kindle search for the names I remembered. All of those blurbs were taken from GOT or COK, so I know those are spoiler free. At this point, Mormont's speech at the end of COK:6-Jon:1 (how weird is it that ASOIAF references are starting to look like biblical references?) is probably the biggest infodump on the history of the Targaryens thus far.
William Fettes
48. Wolfmage
Felt a little odd that Leigh didn't quote "I'm so sorry".

Re: Arya

A very tricky issue.
Bill Stusser
49. billiam
Never mind, I can't get the white out to work :(
Lindy Brown
50. lbrown
@47 & 49
Yes, I am partway through the first Dunk and Egg story, and that definitely caught my attention. I did not know that.
Jakub Wrobel
51. ptyx
@47
Egg's identity is not revealed until halfway through The Hedge Knight, so your post might be considered a spoiler for this particular story.
Rob Munnelly
52. RobMRobM
I should note that Leigh's review has a line or two that gain special resonance in light of developments in the latest book. Yet another of those "We'll look back someday and chuckle at Leigh's foresight" moments. I'll be clearer in the spoiler forum.
George Jong
53. IndependentGeorge
#51 - crap, I didn't realize that. I've removed the offending part.
Max E. Lybbert
54. My Amyrlin > Your Amyrlin
@53 - Thanks!
Max E. Lybbert
56. Jlbmuse
Just wanted to tell you, Leigh, how much I'm enjoying this blog. You are incredibly insightful, funny, and, a good writer... I've read ASOIAF a number of times already and really can't seem to get enough... Been trying to get some of my friends to read it so we an discuss. The blog is almost better, cause I can read your reactions to the things I found so compelling and surprising without having to worry I'll spoil something for you... All I have to do is just read and smile... Thanks and keep it up. You're the best!!!

Jeff

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