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 6 of A Clash of Kings, in which we cover Chapter 11 (“Theon”), and Chapter 12 (“Daenerys”).
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 11: Theon
Theon admires his father’s castle from aboard ship, as well as the comet in the sky, which he thinks is for him, before taking the ship’s captain’s daughter below to bed her as he had been the entire voyage, though he thinks she is stupid and unattractive. She asks him about the Iron Islands, and Theon tells her they are bleak and unforgiving; he is not surprised the ironmen turned to raiding. She offers to go with him and be his “salt wife” (as opposed to his “rock wife,” or true bride), but he ignores her in favor of teaching her how to give a blowjob, and thinks to himself that those days when the ironmen kept the Old Ways are long gone.
It had been to bring back the Old Way more than for the empty vanity of a crown that Lord Balon had staged his great rebellion. Robert Baratheon had written a bloody end to that hope, with the help of his friend Eddard Stark, but both men were dead now. Mere boys ruled in their stead, and the realm that Aegon the Conqueror had forged was smashed and sundered. This is the season, Theon thought as the captain’s daughter slid her lips up and down the length of him, the season, the year, the day, and I am the man.
He brushes off the daughter cruelly and goes above, noting how the damage from the rebellion had been repaired, and also that there are a large number of longships in port, including his father’s. He wonders if his father could possibly have anticipated his message from Robb, or if he was just taking precautions. He is surprised that no one from the keep is there to welcome him, but then a priest of the Drowned God announces he is there to escort Theon, and Theon recognizes his uncle Aeron Greyjoy. Aeron is cold, unlike the merry man Theon remembers, and forces him to kneel and reconsecrate himself to the Drowned God on the spot.
Aeron tells him that his mother is living elsewhere for health reasons, and his sister Asha is carrying messages for their father on her ship Black Wind. He also mentions that he, Aeron, almost drowned, and upon surviving found it had “washed my follies and my vanities away.” Theon tries to find out why his father is gathering the ships, but Aeron says they are forbidden to speak of it; Theon insists that he is his father’s heir and entitled to the information. Aeron replies, to Theon’s shock, that that is yet to be determined.
“You have forgotten more than you know. And you are a great fool if you believe your lord father will ever hand these holy islands over to a Stark. Now be silent.”
Incensed, Theon insists to himself that Theon had never been part of the Stark family or accepted by them, though he admits to a certain amount of affection for Robb. Aeron drops him off at Pyke unceremoniously and leaves. No one is there to greet him except an elderly servant, who shows him to a suite of dank and unaired rooms. His attempts to get the servants to bring him amenities meet with limited success, but he eventually dresses in his finest clothes and goes to meet his father in the Sea Tower.
His father Balon is not any more welcoming than Aeron, and mocks Theon’s fancy clothes; he tears off the gold chain Theon wears, which Theon had forgotten was against tradition for ironmen to wear unless they took it off the corpses of their enemies. Balon comments that he’d vowed to live to see Eddard Stark and Robert Baratheon dead, and now he has, but takes no joy in it. He mocks Theon for being “the Stark pup’s” errand boy, but Theon insists that the offer Robb’s letter outlines was Theon’s idea, and that if implemented could bring down even Casterly Rock. Theon opines that he could lead the attack himself, and asks for Casterly Rock as his reward for success.
“The pup says nothing about a reward. Only that you speak for him, and I am to listen, and give him my sails and swords, and in return he will give me a crown.” His flinty eyes lifted to meet his son’s. “He will give me a crown,” he repeated, his voice growing sharp.
“A poor choice of words, what is meant is”
“What is meant is what is said. The boy will give me a crown. And what is given can be taken away.”
He throws Robb’s letter into the fire, backhands Theon, and tells him no man gives him a crown; he will take it. Angered, Theon retorts he will only be king until the victor of the wars bothers to take note of it. Balon laughs and replies he gathers the ships, but not for the boy Robb, nor to attack the Lannisters, which he regards as futile.
No. I hunger for a different plum . . . not so juicy sweet, to be sure, yet it hangs there ripe and undefended.”
Where? Theon might have asked, but by then he knew.
Rassa frassa goshdurn stupid cliffhanger chapter endings blarg.
King’s Landing would be my guess, but who the hell knows. I imagine I’ll find out in due time, grumble mumble.
So the Greyjoys are delightful people. Really just super special awesome, oh yes. I want to go live with them RIGHT NOW. Their castle is totally my next spa vacation destination.
Yeah, well. I will try to contain my shock to find that they do not spew glitter and rainbows at every juncture, in keeping with, uh, everyone else in the series thus far. ASOIAF: Not A Significant Daily Source Of Glitter. Whoda thunk it.
Anyway! So I thought Theon was a jerk pretty much from the moment I met him, and getting to be in his head does not change that much, really. I have a certain amount of sympathy for him and his caught-between-worlds-ness, but if I were him I’d take being the Starks’ hostage over being Balon’s son any day. However, family being what it is, it’s not like logic has a great deal to do with it.
Enh, Theon’s probably screwed either way: his father thinks he’s all squishy and Stark-like now (and really, the idea that anyone could find the Starks soft is utter crazypants if you ask me) and will probably cut him out of whatever victories the Greyjoys may or may not procure, and Robb will be after Theon’s head the moment he breaks his word and fails to come back.
Assuming he does that, of course; it’s possible Daddy Dearest will manage to be enough of a dick to him God knows he started trying from the moment Theon set foot in the joint that Theon will come to see the light and go back to Robb. One can hope, anyway.
War was an ironman’s proper trade. The Drowned God had made them to reave and rape, to carve out kingdoms and write their names in fire and blood and song.
I doubt the parallel is meant to be one-to-one, but there is certainly a very strong flavor of the Vikings of old in the Iron Islands’ culture as described by Theon, whose view may be a little warped by childhood idolization and nostalgia, but probably not by all that much. Rape and pillage and institutionalized piracy, oh my! Just my idea of fun.
Although I couldn’t help but notice that apparently Theon’s sister Asha gets to have her own ship (her own PIRATE ship, hello), and could even theoretically be allowed to inherit her father’s demesne, which suggests some interesting inconsistencies in the ironmen’s otherwise apparently atrocious cultural practices re: women. Although Balon’s contemptuous-seeming comment about Asha (“My daughter has taken an axe for a lover”) seems to suggest her situation is not typical, so maybe not.
(I mean, I’m assuming I’m not supposed to interpret that remark literally. Right?)
Or maybe they’re just atrocious to women who aren’t, er, ironmen. Ironwomen. Whatever. You know you’re analyzing a grim culture when you have to seriously consider whether murderous xenophobia trumps galloping misogyny or not.
“What is dead may never die,” his uncle echoed, “but rises again, harder and stronger.”
Um, I am detecting that there is maybe, possibly, a logic flaw or two in that credo?
Or the Greyjoys worship frozen zombies, one of the two. Whee!
Chapter 12: Daenerys
The Dothraki call the comet shierak qiya (the Bleeding Star), and mutter it is a bad omen, but Dany is convinced it is to herald her coming, and show her where she must go. Doreah quails and tells her the way it points leads to the red lands, a grim and terrible place, but Dany is sure, and in any case, there is no other direction her weak khalasar can safely travel. Jorah warns her that her three dragon hatchlings are “beyond price,” and anyone who sees them will want them. Dany thinks of everything and everyone she has lost, and declares she will die before losing her dragons.
The red lands are as harsh as advertised, and soon the old and weak in her party begin dying off, horses and people both, as their supplies run low, and even the healthy become gaunt as the days pass. Dany discovers that the dragons will only eat cooked meat, and marvels as they grow bigger and stronger. She explains to her bloodriders her names for the dragons: the green is Rhaegal, for her valiant older brother, the gold Viserion for Viserys, who she says was cruel and weak, but his dragon “will do what he cannot.” The black dragon she names Drogon.
A third of the khalasar dies as they travel, including her serving girl Doreah, and just as Dany begins to lose hope they come upon an abandoned city in the desert, which provides them with food, water and shelter, though the Dothraki fear that it is haunted. The first night in the city, Jorah comes to visit her, and tells her the story of his second wife Lynesse, and how his mad love for her eventually drove him to ruin and exile, as he tried to keep her in the style to which she was accustomed and which Jorah could not afford. She left him for a merchant prince in Lys. Dany is saddened by the story, and asks what Lynesse looked like; Jorah replies that she looked like Dany, and leaves. Dany realizes that Jorah is in love with Dany too, but cannot imagine giving herself to another man besides Drogo. She vows to give Jorah back his home and honor instead.
She sends Aggo, Rakharo, and Jhogo out in different directions to find whatever may be found near them while the rest of the khalasar recuperates in the city. Aggo and Rakharo return relatively quickly, and report nothing but barren wasteland and more abandoned cities; Jhogo returns last, coming from the southeast, and brings three strangely-garbed riders, two men and a woman, from a city called Qarth. The strangers introduce themselves as “Pyat Pree, the great warlock,” “Xaro Xhoan Daxos of the Thirteen,” and
“Quaithe of the Shadow.”
“We come seeking dragons.”
“Seek no more,” Daenerys Targaryen told them. “You have found them.”
And heeeeere’s Dany!
Who yep, concluded the comet was for her. Just like just about everyone else has concluded that the comet is for them. Hah.
Except for those who think it signals apocalypse, of course. There’s always that one guy with the tin foil hat, I swear.
And everything continues being fun for Dany, I see! Hopefully Jhogo’s new friends will help reduce the level of suckage in the near future, but I ain’t holding my breath just yet.
I feel it should be mentioned that while I of course left out all the descriptive passages in the chapter, you should go back and read them if you haven’t recently. The imagery was extremely effectively evocative of the khalasar‘s plight:
There was little forage in the red waste, and less water. It was a sere and desolate land of low hills and barren windswept plains. The rivers they crossed were dry as dead men’s bones. Their mounts subsisted on the tough brown devilgrass that grew in clumps at the base of rocks and dead trees. Dany sent outriders ranging ahead of the column, but they found neither wells nor springs, only bitter pools, shallow and stagnant, shrinking in the hot sun. The deeper they rode into the waste, the smaller the pools became, while the distance between them grew. If there were gods in this trackless wilderness of stone and sand and red clay, they were hard dry gods, deaf to prayers for rain.
Just, nicely done.
I’m a little shocked that Dany named one of the dragons after Viserys, but I suppose in a certain way it makes sense. If I were superstitious, though, I would definitely be wary of it as an ill-omened name. Hopefully the dragon will not take after its namesake.
Of course, I have no idea as yet whether these dragons will actually be sapient enough for things like character flaws. I have the (extremely vague) impression that dragons in this world are probably smarter than your average horse or dog, but maybe not much more than that. Like, smart enough to ride, and to be able to take direction on who or what to set on fire/eat/rend/destroy/etc., but not smart enough to be an actual person, if that makes sense.
(And now that I’ve said that, one of them is probably going to start doing differential equations for fun in an upcoming chapter. Or at least start talking. Though I know from experience that having the ability to talk doesn’t necessarily imply the ability to think, ba-dum-dum.)
Jorah: I mostly elided his story about Lynesse because it really did boil down to what I said in the summary despite being pages long. I think I’m probably supposed to feel sorrier for him than I do, but, well. Yes, love is blind and a many-splendored thing and all, but the main impression I took away from it is that Jorah ran his estate, his name, and his integrity into the ground for a whiny, spoiled brat of a girl who evidently didn’t even have the sense to stop her sanity-impaired husband from getting into human trafficking so she could have pretty things.
And yes, I know I’m being very judgy here, and that I probably don’t know the whole story and etc., but even so, ugh. She so wasn’t worth that, dude. And I can’t help but think less of Jorah for not realizing that in time to keep himself from pissing everything away for her.
Unfair? Probably. But damn that’s some seriously poor judgment, there.
Last and quite definitely least, “Xaro Xhoan Daxos”? Really? ‘Cause, wow. Between that and “Pyat Pree” and “Quaithe,” it’s like they’re trying to win every Scrabble game ever. Sheesh.
(And yes, I know you can’t use proper nouns in Scrabble, leave me alone, neener!)
And on that extraordinarily mature note, we out! Have a great weekend, y’all, and see you next time around!