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 Dance With Dragons, in which we cover Chapter 9 (“Davos”) and Chapter 10 (“Jon”).
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, please note that the Powers That Be have provided you a lovely spoiler thread here on Tor.com. 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 9: Davos
Bound as a prisoner, Davos is led to Lord Godric Borrell of Sweetsister, one of the islands making up the Three Sisters. Borrell looks at his maimed hand and recognizes him as the onion knight, and asks what Davos is doing there. Davos tells him he is on his way to White Harbor with a message from King Stannis to Lord Wyman Manderly. Borrell asks why he is here, then, and Davos answers that he was stranded on the islands by storms. He doesn’t add the part where Salladhor Saan, furious at the losses of his fleet and convinced that Stannis will never pay him the gold he was promised, abandoned Davos to row ashore after Davos refused to defect with Saan and resume piracy.
Borrell muses that he should turn Davos over to Lord Sunderland, the lord of the Three Sisters, who would sell Davos to the Lannisters. Davos counters that Sunderland is sworn to the Eyrie, and should by rights turn him over to Lady Arryn. Borrell tells him that Lysa Arryn is dead, and that Lord Littlefinger rules the Vale now. He asks if Stannis would ransom Davos; Davos is privately unsure, but answers that Borrell should send to him and ask. Borrell asks if the Imp is at the Wall as well, which confuses Davos, who had last heard Tyrion was to stand trial for murdering his nephew. He is shocked to learn that Tyrion had murdered Tywin Lannister and escaped.
Davos begs to be allowed to send a raven to the Wall to inform Stannis of this development, but Borrell is not inclined to get involved, and refuses. He invites Davos to sit and eat with him, and Davos is slightly reassured that even a “robber lord and wrecker” like Borrell would not violate guestright for at least one night. Borrell then tells Davos that Manderly will not ally with Stannis, for a shipload of Freys passed through on their way to White Harbor, and told Borrell that Lords Wyman and Walder have made a pact and intend to seal it with a marriage. Davos is further stunned, considering the Freys killed Wyman’s son, and then despairing, for Stannis desperately needed White Harbor. He begs Borrell to let him go to Manderly, and Borrell tells him about the time Stannis personally threatened to hang him unless he stopped wrecking.
Davos tries to think of what might sway Borrell, and then points out that with Tywin Lannister dead, a child king rules, and Davos declares that he will not prevail against Stannis. Borrell counters that Tommen has the wealth of Casterly Rock and the might of Highgarden, as well as the Boltons and Freys, but he is uncertain. He muses thoughtfully that Ned Stark had once been shipwrecked on the Sisters, at the beginning of Robert’s Rebellion, and that their maester had urged them to send Ned’s head to Aerys, saying that Prince Rhaegar was sure to defeat the usurper.
That was when Stark said, ‘In this world only winter is certain. We may lose our heads, it’s true… but what if we prevail?’ My father sent him on his way with his head still on his shoulders. ‘If you lose,’ he told Lord Eddard, ‘you were never here.’ ”
“No more than I was,” said Davos Seaworth.
Before I even start reading the chapter: Ooh! A Davos POV! Which means he is alive to give one! Hurray!
And then I remember we’ve rolled back on the timeline, and ergo Davos might still die, as was reported at the end-ish of AFFC to… someone. Cersei, I think?
Ugh. Okay, actually reading chapter now.
And: Hah, Ned saves Davos from beyond the grave. Kinda neat. And ironic, all things considered.
BUT THAT IS NOT THE IMPORTANT PART. This is the important part:
“Ned Stark was here?”
“At the dawn of Robert’s Rebellion. The Mad King had sent to the Eyrie for Stark’s head, but Jon Arryn sent him back defiance. Gulltown stayed loyal to the throne, though. To get home and call his banners, Stark had to cross the mountains to the Fingers and find a fisherman to carry him across the Bite. A storm caught them on the way. The fisherman drowned, but his daughter got Stark to the Sisters before the boat went down. They say he left her with a bag of silver and a bastard in her belly. Jon Snow, she named him, after Arryn.”
Man, is this really the way we find out who Jon’s mom is? Some offhand comment from a random lord who couldn’t care less to another dude who only cares a tiny bit more? Really?
I am… oddly affected by this. I wouldn’t have thought one could experience intense annoyance and a sort of impartial indifference at the same time to the same piece of information, but apparently you can. Who knew.
Maybe because, if true, this makes Jon’s origins exactly as boring and uninteresting as I never expected them to be, and I find that both frustrating and unsurprising, in the context of this series.
Of course, maybe that’s a tad unfair of me, because I’m sure that the fisherman’s daughter found it all quite momentous when it happened to her, but… well. Okay.
Even so, I wonder if we ever get to meet her? Or if Jon ever gets to meet her? Or is she dead by now? Probably dead, all things considered. Sigh.
Stannis so doesn’t deserve Davos’s loyalty, man. But then again, if Davos did defect, he wouldn’t be Davos anymore, so there’s that. But I really wish Davos could have managed to find someone actually worthy of his devotion. Even if I can’t really think of who that person would be. Dany, maybe, but I’m still not even sure of her.
[…] the rocks of Skagos, the isle of unicorns and cannibals where even the Blind Bastard had feared to land
*tilts head* Now there’s a pairing of nouns I have honestly never seen before.
So, uh. Do the unicorns and cannibals, like, gambol together in the meadows, or is it more of a deadly enemies thing? Do ASOIAF unicorns condone cannibalism? Do ASOIAF cannibals condone unicornism? Wouldn’t it be better to eat unicorns and skip the whole cannibal thing? Or to eat cannibals and skip the whole unicorn thing? SO MANY QUESTIONS
Melisandre had given Alester Florent to her god on Dragonstone , to conjure up the wind that bore them north.
Well, of course she did. Why do things the boring mundane way when you can just chuck a dude on a pyre and get your Things delivered Express, with Satisfaction Guaranteed? What’s a little murder compared to getting what you want when you want it? The Customer is Always Right, dontcha know!
“I had the Freys to supper. One sat just where you’re sitting now. Rhaegar, he named himself. I almost laughed right in his face.”
I might not have laughed in this dude’s face, but I certainly would have given him a very weird look. Since when are the Freys giving themselves Targaryen names?
Chapter 10: Jon
Mance Rayder is brought out to the courtyard, where Melisandre has had a great pyre constructed with a cage dangling over it. Jon had tried to convince Stannis that Mance would be more useful to them alive, but Stannis had not listened. When Mance sees the cage, he begins begging for mercy, shouting that he is no king. Ignoring him, Melisandre makes a speech to the assembled wildlings about choosing life or death, light or darkness. Then she brings forth the Horn of Joramun and causes it to burst aflame, before tossing it into the pyre, lighting it. In the cage, Mance appears to go mad with terror, and then screams as the flames reach him and he burns. Val watches in stoic silence, and Jon thinks that the women are the strong ones. When he can bear it no longer, Jon orders his men to shoot Mance with arrows, putting him out of his misery. He ignores Stannis’s scowl.
Melisandre exhorts the wildlings to abandon their false king and embrace the true one, meaning Stannis. She has Stannis draw Lightbringer, and its light is so bright now that everyone has to shield their eyes. Stannis tells the wildlings that their choice is to kneel to him and live, or go and die. Slowly, they come out of the pens, and though some go back to the forest, most kneel to Stannis, and are led away to be fed and clothed. Jon had urged Stannis to not make them kneel, but Stannis had not listened. Jon thinks that the free folk choose their own kings, and they had not chosen Stannis. He also thinks that this will not change that the Watch is badly outnumbered should the wildlings come against them again.
After the show is over, Bowen Marsh asks if Jon thinks the wildlings will be loyal. Jon answers that some will and some won’t, but they have a common enemy now, and the Watch must make common cause with them. Marsh thinks they should seal the gates in the Wall and leave the rest of the wildlings to their fate. Jon points out that if they seal the gates they cannot send out rangers, and will be blind, but Marsh counters that Mormont’s last ranging expedition cost the Watch a quarter of its men. Jon replies that Stannis will not allow it, and Marsh tells him rumor has it that Jon is getting too close with Stannis. Jon replies that guestright and debt protect Stannis, but Marsh says that he a rebel doomed to failure, and the Watch with him if the Iron Throne decides they supported him. Jon says he is not as sure of the outcome as Marsh seems to be, but Marsh points out that Tommen is loved better than Stannis with his “red shadow.”
Jon misses Aemon and Sam, and decides to go eat with the men, but when he gets there he immediately has to chastise Pyp and his other friends for mocking Melisandre. Grenn invites him to eat with them anyway, but Jon realizes that he can’t be their friend anymore, and politely declines. Ghost joins him as he leaves, and Jon is angered that he tastes the kill Ghost had made earlier, telling himself he is a man, not a wolf.
He goes to see Clydas, and mentions that he’d read the passage in the Jade Compendium Aemon had marked for him, which talks about Azor Ahai and his sword Lightbringer. The book had claimed that after the sword was anointed with Azor’s wife’s blood, it was always warm to the touch, and blazed hot in battle. Clydas comments that a sword that generates its own heat would be a great thing to have on the Wall. Jon agrees, and says it’s a pity Stannis’s sword is cold, then, and leaves. He goes to his rooms and writes two letters, one to Ser Denys Mallister at the Shadow Tower and one to Cotter Pyke at Eastwatch. Both have been asking Jon for more men, and Jon sends Halder and Toad to Mallister and Grenn and Pyp to Pyke.
When he finally put the quill down, the room was dim and chilly, and he could feel its walls closing in. Perched above the window, the Old Bear’s raven peered down at him with shrewd black eyes. My last friend, Jon thought ruefully. And I had best outlive you, or you’ll eat my face as well. Ghost did not count. Ghost was closer than a friend. Ghost was part of him.
Jon rose and climbed the steps to the narrow bed that had once been Donal Noye’s. This is my lot, he realized as he undressed, from now until the end of my days.
Jon Snow has ALL THE FUN in this book.
No, seriously. Who’d want to do awesome fun things like have a tax audit, or a root canal, or listen to the Eyes Wide Shut soundtrack on repeat, when you could have Jon Snow’s life?
Hmm. Looking at that sentence, I’m not actually sure whether I implied Jon Snow’s life was better or worse than a tax audit/root canal/ding ding ding ding ding ding DING DING DING DINGDINGDINGDINGDING AGGGGHHH—but I’m sure you get the gist.
Point being, this boy’s life? SUCKS.
In other fictional worlds I might have argued whether it was really necessary that Jon send all his friends away, but in this one, sure, why not, it’s not like we can have a silver lining here, right? Mo’ misery mo’ problems, yo!
Of course, at least Jon isn’t Mance Rayder, because that was a truly horrific way to die. There probably are more painful ways to die than being burned alive, but aside from those of the “slow torture” variety, I’m hard-pressed to think of any. Eesh.
(Wow, I just Googled “most painful way to die,” and the top result was the phone number for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. That was… startling. But good, I guess?)
So, aside from all the general misery, we have Stannis being intolerant and stubborn, and Melisandre being theatrical and murderous, and everyone else being suspicious of Jon’s everything. So, business as usual, then.
Well, except for the destruction of the Horn of Joramun, which I had to just laugh at, because in any other fantasy story that thing would have been sounded eons ago, whether for good or for bad, but of course ASOIAF has to go and frickin’ melt the Chekhov’s Gun down instead of firing it, because that is how this thang rolls. No trope too fundamental to subvert, apparently!
So I guess we’ll never get to know whether it would have actually knocked the Wall down, huh. Probably for the best, all things considered. But even so, I had to laugh.
Also, I guess Mance was wrong about not being a king, judging from the wattage upgrade on Stannis’ alleged magic sword after Mance got burnt up. Or maybe burning up any random dude would have done the same, and Melisandre is just failing to mention that bit. Or she doesn’t actually know it. Because, given all the other fantasy tropes Martin has spent this series picking apart like a roasted deli chicken, I find it hard to believe he’s planning on actually upholding the one that says royal blood is actually different from/more specialer than any other kind of blood.
(I mean, okay, some royal blood is slightly more full of, say, hemophilia than your average non-royal blood, but I don’t think that’s the kind of thing the trope is generally going for.)
Jon’s comments re: the curious coldness of Stannis’s alleged magic sword, when the historical-ish records of it indicate it should run hot instead, were interesting, but I feel like we’ve either heard some version of that observation before, or there have been other hints that Melly’s conviction that Stannis is Azor Ahai reborn is, shall we say, misplaced. Or I just never bought it in the first place, based on how Stannis is kind of a dick.
Which, granted, is not a good enough reason, especially in this series, where pretty much everyone is a dick to greater or lesser degree, but whatever, I am a product of my cultural consumption in many ways, and Stannis is a dick and I don’t want him to be the savior of the world, no, no, no!
Although, it’s actually kind of hard to tell which avenue would be more trope-subverting of Martin: to make Stannis not The Chosen One, or to make it that he is The Chosen One. I’ll go ahead and hope for the former, because ugh.
I also still have to wonder how much Stannis is complicit in the deception—and, actually, whether he is possibly more complicit in it than Melisandre is. I’m still sort of on the fence regarding Melly’s sincerity, but it is certainly possible that she really is a True Believer in this Azor Ahai thing. Just as it is possible that Stannis doesn’t believe a word of it, and is going along with the whole charade because it might nab him the throne.
However, I’m not sure that really jives with Stannis’s general inability to think outside the lawful box. I mean, going along with the Azor Ahai thing even if he doesn’t really think he is the dude would be dishonest.
But hey, I guess everyone’s a hypocrite at one point or another. Though I don’t think many of us get to be hypocrites on quite this grand a scale. Yay?
The Giantslayer and his mount were armored in silvered steel inlaid with niello.
TIL that niello is a word, and means “a black metallic alloy of sulfur with silver, copper, or lead that is used to fill designs that have been engraved on the surface of a metal (usually silver) object.” Cool.
[Melisandre’s] voice made Jon Snow think of anise and nutmeg and cloves.
So… a hot toddy? That’s kind of hilarious.
Or, okay, something like “sweet and cloying, with an underlying bite,” which… seems about right.
“It was a relief to see that horn burn, my lord,” Edd said. “Just last night I dreamt I was pissing off the Wall when someone decided to give the horn a toot. Not that I’m complaining. It was better than my old dream, where Harma Dogshead was feeding me to her pigs.”
“Harma’s dead,” Jon said.
“But not the pigs. They look at me the way Slayer used to look at ham. Not to say that the wildlings mean us harm. Aye, we hacked their gods apart and made them burn the pieces, but we gave them onion soup. What’s a god compared to a nice bowl of onion soup?”
What indeed, Dolorous Edd. What indeed.
And that’s all the post fit to blog for now, my chickies! Have a glorious week, as per the usual, and I’ll see you here next Thursday, same bat time, same bat channel. Cheers!