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 10 of A Dance With Dragons, in which we cover Chapter 15 (“Davos”) and Chapter 16 (“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, 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 15: Davos
Disguised as a common sailor, Davos arrives at White Harbor in a manner quite different from his original planned entrance. He notes new fortifications along the shore, as well as new jetty walls which he speculates may hide warships. He thinks of how the brothers at Eastwatch had assured him that Lord Manderly would never ally with the Boltons, but Lord Borrell had told him that was exactly what he was going to do. As his ship docks, he sees a warship bearing King Tommen’s banner, and his heart sinks, knowing the Freys are already here.
He goes into the city, which is crowded with refugees. He learns from an apple seller that Lord Manderly is recruiting troops. He goes to a vile dive to listen to sailors’ gossip. He mostly hears things he already knows, but also some new things: that Robett Glover is in the city trying to raise men without success, and that the Dustins and Ryswells are joining Roose Bolton to fight the ironmen at Moat Cailin. One sailor opines that Manderly had better join Bolton too, but another reminds them that the lions have Manderly’s son. Davos says he thought the Freys had killed the son, but the other tells him they killed one son, Wendel; the other, Wylis, is still a prisoner. Davos is deeply dismayed by this news, knowing what he himself would be willing to do for any of his own sons.
They argue about rumors of dragons, and Davos corrects them on the name of the Targaryen princess, Daenerys. Another sailor tells how he talked with the steward of the Sloe-Eyed Maid in Pentos, who told him how a silver-haired girl with three dragons tried to book passage with them to Westeros, but the captain turned her away. Davos knows that captain’s voyage ended badly, but thinks to himself he will go with his remaining sons and see those dragons someday.
He leaves the dive and considers what to do. He thinks he is too late, and debates whether it is even worth making the plea to Manderly. He remembers the story Ser Axell Florent had told at the feast before his departure from Eastwatch, where he slyly compared Davos to an ape in prince’s clothing, and decides he has gone through too much to get to White Harbor to not at least attempt to fulfill his duty. He climbs the hill to Lord Manderly’s keep, and sees the twenty-three new warships in the inner harbor.
The gates of the New Castle had been closed, but a postern opened when he shouted, and a guard emerged to ask his business. Davos showed him the black and gold ribbon that bore the royal seals. “I need to see Lord Manderly at once,” he said. “My business is with him, and him alone.”
So, this was certainly a chapter with words in it.
I mean, it was very descriptive and mise en scene-y—Martin is kind of extraordinarily good at getting you to picture a place—but as a general thing I like at least some plot movement to go with my scenery, you know?
I mean basically what happened here was that Davos arrived in White Harbor, listened to a bunch of gossip about stuff we already knew, and then agonized for a while before doing exactly what we all knew he would do anyway. No, I’m sorry, starting to do what we knew he would do; he didn’t even get as far as actually doing it. Blah, boring.
The only thing during the “gossip” section of this chapter that really caught my eye at all was this:
Sandor Clegane had turned outlaw and was plundering and killing in the lands along the Trident;
Which, since I’m pretty sure I remember that Sandor is currently legally dead and peacefully shoveling horse dung in a monastery somewhere (or something like that), this has to be someone else (she says, duhfully). Maybe it’s Sallador? Dunno.
Down past where Old Fishfoot’s trident pointed was an alley where they sold fried cod, crisp and golden brown outside and flaky white within.
[…] Inside the Eel, time stood still. The barrel-vaulted ceiling was stained black with soot, the floor was hard-packed earth, the air smelled of smoke and spoiled meat and stale vomit.
Martin has a remarkable facility for making one thing sound incredibly appealing in just a few words, and then following it up with something equally as disgusting a moment later. It’s a gift, I suppose.
Steffon and Stannis were thousands of leagues from the fighting and safe from harm, but Devan was at Castle Black, a squire to the king.
Wow, he even named one of his sons after the guy who cut off his fingers. Davos Seaworth, what even are you.
And, yeah. There was nothing else worth talking about in this chapter, so let’s move on, shall we?
Chapter 16: Daenerys
Xaro Xhoan Daxos has come to visit Dany from Qarth, bringing erotic dancers and other gifts. Dany hopes to persuade him to trade with Meereen, whose formerly slave-based economy is suffering. The end of the dance makes her think of Daario, who is returning to the city with an alliance with Lhazar. Xaro plies her with outrageous flattery and tearful worries about her safety, as well as an insincere proposal of marriage. But he soon moves on to the subject of slavery, and tries to convince her that slavery is a necessary evil. She is shaken by his arguments, but does not accept them. He asks to speak to her privately.
She takes him to her chambers, but keeps Barristan with her. Xaro tells her baldly that he is not interested in trade with Meereen, and that she will only bring the city to destruction as she did with Astapor. He tells her Yunkai is gathering forces and allies to bring against her, and if she goes to meet them, Meereen will rise up behind her. He tells her that he has brought her a gift: thirteen galleys to carry her home to Westeros, as she had originally asked him for in Qarth. She asks for what price, and he insists that there is none, only her promise that she will go. She asks what will happen if she decides to wait, and he tells her he does not expect her to last very long if so. He says the Yunkai’i are not her only enemies, and reminds her of the existence of the warlock Pyat Pree. Dany tells him she will have the ships inspected before giving her answer.
After Xaro leaves, she asks Barristan’s opinion. Barristan is all for it, but Dany thinks that there must be some kind of trap here. Nevertheless she wakes up the next day full of excitement at the idea of leaving Meereen behind and going back to Westeros. At audience, she once again tells Lord Ghael that she will not send aid to Astapor, and he spits on her. Strong Belwas breaks his teeth, but Dany stops them from doing worse, and sends him away. Later she meets with her council, and Admiral Groleo tells her the ships are sound enough to make it to Westeros. Reznak wails that she is abandoning them, then, to be raped and slaughtered, and Dany says they can come with her. Symon Stripeback, one of her new mercenary captains, points out that thirteen ships are not enough to transport all of Dany’s people, and Rommo says the Dothraki will refuse to ride in a ship. Grey Worm suggests they could go overland with the ships following the coastline, but the Shavepate says the foot troops would not survive traveling the demon road. Reznak moans that the ones she leaves behind will suffer even worse fates. Finally, Dany orders them all silent, and decides that she cannot leave Meereen just yet. Barristan begs her to reconsider, but she says she will not abandon Meereen as she did Astapor.
Xaro brings her a huge tapestry map as a gift, and Dany tells him she will accept the ships and use them for trade, but she cannot leave for Westeros yet. Xaro weeps crocodile tears and says if she does not, she will surely “die screaming”. He says he should have killed her in Qarth; furious, she warns him never to threaten her again, and orders him gone by morning. He leaves the city, but leaves the thirteen galleys behind, decorated with long red streamers.
And when Daenerys descended to hold court, a messenger from the ships awaited her. He spoke no word but laid at her feet a black satin pillow, upon which rested a single bloodstained glove.
“What is this?” Skahaz demanded. “A bloody glove…”
“…means war,” said the queen.
And Dany continues unbroken her trend of making me simultaneously super proud and super exasperated at her. I mean, objectively it’s awesome that Dany is standing on her principles and refusing to cut and run… but Jesus, she had a chance to get out of this clusterfuck, and get on with what she was supposed to be doing.
Sigh. But, from a moral-ish point of view she is right, I guess… assuming her decision doesn’t get them all killed anyway, of course. But then, it’s not like invading Westeros with thirteen ships is exactly a risk-free endeavor either, is it?
Basically, I suppose if all of your choices are crappy, you should probably just go with the one that will make you feel the least guilty?
Bleh. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: ruling things SUCKS.
Either way, what an interestingly devious ploy on Qarth’s part, eh? Dany was convinced there was a trap in Xaro’s gift, but I think that there really wasn’t one. They wanted her gone, pure and simple, so as to restore everything in the slaver cities back to the status quo, and I think if Dany had actually taken the ships and left to go harass Westeros instead, that really might have been the end of it.
Of course, I also think that Xaro shot himself in the foot a little by making the offer so niggardly. If Qarth had provided enough ships that Dany could have taken all of her people, instead of presenting her with such a logistical quandary, the chances she would have accepted would have been much higher.
Well, too late now, isn’t it, either way. And now Dany is officially completely surrounded by enemies. Great.
Oh, except the Lamb Men. Greeeeaaat.
Well, this should be an interesting situation for the various suitors to blunder into, won’t it. Just in case it wasn’t quite enough of a giant mess already to qualify for Official Clusterfuck Status, right? HAHAHA
Assuming that’s actually going to happen at some point, of course—the suitors showing up, I mean. At this rate I’m not very optimistic about the chances of that happening in this book, but hopefully I’m wrong about that.
“Ask yourself, if all men must grub in the dirt for food, how shall any man lift his eyes to contemplate the stars? If each of us must break his back to build a hovel, who shall raise the temples to glorify the gods? For some men to be great, others must be enslaved.”
Despite knowing perfectly well that, even today, there are in fact an appalling number of people who think this way, in the sense of truly believing that some people’s lives are inherently worth less than others, based on what is (objectively) completely arbitrary criteria, it still fills me with what I suppose is a naïve bafflement and… sorrow. People are people; where or how or with what aspects you were born with does not change that. Or shouldn’t.
But then, I think that for quite a lot of these people it is not so much that they genuinely believe this, but rather that it is to their advantage for things to be that way, and screw whether it’s actually true or not. Greed trumping principle, and all of that. Which is probably even more contemptible than being a true believer, actually.
Look, I know perfectly well that true equality has never been a reality in human history thus far, but I don’t care. And I also know that deep down everyone, including me, has at least a trace of that same self-serving bias, otherwise I wouldn’t have also been instinctively exasperated at Dany for not leaving Meereen. That truth doesn’t mean that aiming for achieving true equality is not still a worthy goal.
And it also doesn’t mean that taking advantage of that inequality for one’s own gain isn’t a thoroughly loathsome practice. Because it is. And if it makes me naïve to say so, so be it. Better that than the alternative.
The old knight took pains not to look at her bare breast as he spoke to her. Ser Jorah would not turn his eyes away. He loved me as a woman, where Ser Barristan loves me only as his queen.
I love how Dany seems to regard this as a flaw on Barristan’s part, when if you ask me that makes Barristan possibly the most awesome person in her entire entourage. Jeez, Dany, having people look at you as a ruler first and a woman second is the frickin’ dream. Appreciate it where you’ve got it, damn.
But speaking of breasteseses (and other sex organs!), I totally burst out laughing at the “dance” at the beginning of the chapter. Because of course Martin would go to the logical extreme of having erotic dancers just straight-up fuck on the dance floor. Ha! So ridiculous. So… ASOIAF.
This story, I swear.
And that’s all for the nonce, kiddies! I’m off to see the parades, literally, and I’ll see you next Thursday! Happy Mardi Gras!