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 11 of A Dance With Dragons, in which we cover Chapter 17 (“Jon”) and Chapter 18 (“Tyrion”).
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 17: Jon
Jon inspects Castle Black’s provisions, and Bowen Marsh informs him that between Stannis’s men and the refugees, they will be running low on food within a year. Jon wonders if food may be gotten from the Vale, but decides to leave the problem for later. He emerges from the tunnels to find himself summoned to Stannis, with the news that his “wrong-way rangers” Massey and Horpe have returned. Sigorn and Rattleshirt are there with Stannis’s captains and Melisandre, who informs Jon that they are giving Rattleshirt to Jon. Jon protests he cannot be trusted, but Melisandre shows him the gem she gave Rattleshirt, and promises he is bound to her “blood and soul” as long as he wears it, and will serve him faithfully. Jon doesn’t buy it, but stays silent.
Stannis wants to know if Mors Umber, aka Crowfood, the eldest of the Greatjon’s uncles, can be trusted to bend knee to Stannis. Jon advises him to take Mors’s oath, but Stannis is annoyed that that only brings him half the Umbers. Jon points out that half is better than none, and Hother “Whoresbane” Umber likely only joined the Boltons because the Greatjon is still held captive. Ser Godry is contemptuous of Jon’s reasoning. They discuss Stannis’s plan to take the Dreadfort while Roose Bolton is occupied with Moat Cailin; despite his misgivings about getting involved, Jon tries to convince Stannis of the reasons why his plan will not work. Stannis’s captains think him a coward. Jon argues that Stannis should leave the wildlings at Castle Black, lest their presence turn the northmen against him. Stannis kicks everyone else out except Melisandre.
Stannis urges Jon again to take his offer of Winterfell, and is disgusted at Jon’s refusal. Jon is not pleased at his notion to give it to Arnolf Karstark, but thinks it better than a Greyjoy or a Bolton. Stannis says he has not heard from Davos, and must consider White Harbor a lost cause. Jon urges him to consider, instead of using the wildlings, to recruit from the mountain clans. He warns Stannis that he will have to woo them, and play along with their traditions, but could gain three thousand men if he does so. Stannis is skeptical, but interested. Jon is dismayed to learn that Melisandre intends to stay behind at the Wall. He advises Stannis to lead the mountain clans not against the Dreadfort, but against Deepwood Motte.
Stannis rubbed his jaw. “When Balon Greyjoy rose the first time, I beat the ironmen at sea, where they are fiercest. On land, taken unawares… aye. I have won a victory over the wildlings and their King-Beyond-the-Wall. If I can smash the ironmen as well, the north will know it has a king again.”
And I will have a thousand wildlings, thought Jon, and no way to feed even half that number.
OH MY GOD SO MUCH TALKING
I love how Jon is obviously the only remotely intelligent person telling Stannis things, and yet no one listens to him, because somehow his parents not being married means his brains don’t work right, or something. Because that makes sense. I am so over absurd prejudices making people exponentially stupider this week, I can’t even tell you.
Okay, well, Stannis is sort of listening to him, which means he’s marginally better than the rest of his people. Touché. Even though I still kind of want to punch him anyway, because Stannis.
I have to assume Jon’s advice to Stannis is on the level (because otherwise why would he be having such Switzerland-y moral dilemmas about it), but at the same time I also have to wonder what the hell he’s thinking re: the mountain clans. Seriously, Jon, you’re sending Stannis McStickuphisass off to respect other people’s traditions, make friends, and influence people? Have you met him?
I will be astounded if that actually goes well, is what I’m saying. But hey, at least it leaves Jon a thousand untrained people to feed! HOORAY.
Speaking of which, the scene at the beginning was a nice little reminder of just how much shitty minutiae Jon has to deal with aside from (or as a consequence of) his personnel problems. Though I guess the one good thing about living in a frozen wasteland is that it has built-in refrigeration, but personally, I’m not sure it’s worth the trade-off. This is probably a good time to reiterate my desire to smack around everyone on this godforsaken continent for deciding to have a war right before a decades-long winter famine sets in. Brilliant planning there, guys, well-played. Ugh.
I have no idea what the hell is up with Rattleshirt and Melisandre. Is he a convert, or a thrall, or what? And either way, even assuming whatever she did to him is enough to ensure his good behavior, what good is one guy going to do Jon, especially when it’s well-established that the guy hates his guts? Shittiest gift ever, seriously.
Queen’s men, all. It struck Jon as odd that there were no king’s men about the king, but that seemed to be the way of it. The king’s men had incurred Stannis’s ire on Dragonstone if the talk Jon heard was true.
I’m pretty confused about that myself. You’d think that Stannis would keep at least one or two people about him who aren’t all up in Melisandre’s Kool-aid, but apparently you would be wrong. Lordy.
Mors loved to boast about the crow who took his eye, but Hother’s tale was only told in whispers… most like because the whore he’d disemboweled had been a man.
Really? Male prostitution is so taboo a notion that everyone is all Oooooooh behind their hands about it?
…Eh. I was going to find that odd, but I guess in such an insanely patriarchal society as Westeros it makes a certain sad kind of sense.
“My sword is sworn to the Night’s Watch.”
Stannis looked disgusted. “Your father was a stubborn man as well. Honor, he called it. Well, honor has its costs, as Lord Eddard learned to his sorrow.”
Ooh, look, it’s a THEME raising its head!
Well, at some point, somewhere, someone in this story is actually going to be rewarded for sticking to his or her honor, and then the world will end and we’ll all get magical ponies and free coffee for life. YAY.
“Wick Whittlestick” is a name straight out of Dickens. Or Rowling, for that matter. Those Brits and their funny names, yo.
“Careful of the rats, my lord.” Dolorous Edd led Jon down the steps, a lantern in one hand. “They make an awful squeal if you step on them. My mother used to make a similar sound when I was a boy. She must have had some rat in her, now that I think of it. Brown hair, beady little eyes, liked cheese. Might be she had a tail too, I never looked to see.”
Ah, lovely. You be you, Dolorous Edd. You be you.
Chapter 18: Tyrion
The Shy Maid moves through a dense fog on the part of the river called the Sorrows. Ysilla insists the fog is of sorcerous origin; Tyrion makes light of her claims, but privately agrees with her that there is something unnatural about it. They discuss the legends of the Shrouded Lord, and pass the ruins of Chroyane, which Yandry says was the most beautiful of the old cities on the river. They pass another boat going the opposite way, and learn that there is rumor of war from Volantis: “Nyessos and Malaquo go hand in hand, and the elephants show stripes.” Griff frets that Illyrio should own Nyessos with the amount he’s paid him, and Tyrion wonders if Illyrio has misjudged the situation.
They pass the ruins of the Palace of Love, and Tyrion thinks of Tysha, and how he never questioned Jaime’s claim that she had been bought. Then they come to the remains of the Bridge of Dream, and Griff warns them to fend off any stone men with the torches if necessary. Young Griff balks when Griff tries to send him below, and wants to know why a dwarf gets to stay when he doesn’t. Tyrion tells him that no one cares if he dies, but that Young Griff was “everything.” They go under the bridge without incident, and Young Griff demands to know what Tyrion meant. Tyrion says that if they lose him, their whole enterprise is undone.
“I must admit, you have noble features for a dead boy.”
The boy flushed. “I am not dead.”
“How not? My lord father wrapped your corpse in a crimson cloak and laid you down beside your sister at the foot of the Iron Throne, his gift to the new king. Those who had the stomach to lift the cloak said that half your head was gone.”
The lad backed off a step, confused. “Your—?”
“—father, aye. Tywin of House Lannister. Perhaps you may have heard of him. […] Just saying a thing does not make it true. Who better to raise Prince Rhaegar’s infant son than Prince Rhaegar’s dear friend Jon Connington, once Lord of Griffin’s Roost and Hand of the King?”
Then they realize they are passing the same ruins again, and the Bridge of Dream is somehow once again ahead of them. This time the stone men attack, dropping onto the boat. Griff, Duck and Haldon drive two of them into the river, but a third almost reaches Young Griff. Tyrion knocks the boy out of the way and attacks the stone man, driving him back to the edge of the deck with his torch, but then the stone man rips the flame away. Tyrion rams him with a shoulder, and the stone man grabs Tyrion as he falls, taking him into the river. Tyrion tries to get free, but the stone man will not let him go, and they sink.
There are worse ways to die than drowning. And if truth be told, he had perished long ago, back in King’s Landing. It was only his revenant who remained, the small vengeful ghost who throttled Shae and put a crossbow bolt through the great Lord Tywin’s bowels. No man would mourn the thing that he’d become. I’ll haunt the Seven Kingdoms, he thought, sinking deeper. They would not love me living, so let them dread me dead.
When he opened his mouth to curse them all, black water filled his lungs, and the dark closed in around him.
WHAT IS THIS HORSESHIT NO.
Hells to the no. Uh-uh.
Tyrion is not dead. Because I said so, but also because he would clearly be happier dead than alive, so obviously Martin’s going to keep him alive, because maximum suffering, right?
Shit, I’m not even dealing with this right now, so let’s move on to the other big revelation, which, OKAY, was not expecting THAT.
But hey, it means that no one’s name is actually Griff! AWESOME. I am ridiculously pleased by this news. Though if I’m supposed to have heard of “Jon Connington” before, I sure as hell don’t remember it. But then I don’t know that anyone mentioned Aerys’s Hand’s name before this? Dunno, possibly I just don’t remember. In any case it’s a hell of a lot better name than “Griff,” sez me.
Also, wow. Rhaegar’s son is alive, hoo boy. So that makes him Dany’s brother, right? No, wait, Rhaegar was Dany’s brother, so this would be her nephew. Aaand I just cheated and looked up the thing at the back of the book, so young Griff is Aegon the Umpteenth, because royalty means never having any original names ever.
And, haha, because the Targaryens are all so very Egyptian pharaoh about these things, in lieu of a brother that means a nephew is even more of an eligible suitor for Dany’s hand. Even squickier incest, yay!
But, okay, I have questions, though. If Rhaegar’s actual baby son was not the corpse Tywin “gave” to Robert, then whose corpse was it? Some random baby they found among the collateral damage, I suppose. Ew. But then, was Tywin aware that it was not the real Aegon? I have to think he was not. But how did Varys manage to switch them? Did he just come up with this off the cuff, or did someone tell him to do it? And if so, who?
Whatever the case, though, damn, Varys has been playing a seriously deep game if he’s been hiding Aegon since the rebellion. I kind of have to give him mad props now. Wowwww.
Hmm. Does this mean Y.G./Aegon the Umpteenth trumps Dany’s claim to the Iron Throne? With any other Westeros family I would be sure he does, but I’m not certain that the Targaryens followed the same rules of primogeniture. Certainly they didn’t follow the rules about not marrying siblings, so who knows. (Well, someone knows, obviously. Just not me at the moment.)
I was sort of startled that Tyrion chose this particular juncture to blow the whistle not only on ex-Young Griff, but on his own identity as well. Why’d he do that? And also, did he really deduce all this himself, or was Y.G.’s real identity the secret he’d won from Haldon?
Well, I guess I’ll find out once someone rescues him from the river. WHICH THEY ARE DEFINITELY GOING TO DO.
Also, lots of crazy other-worldly stuff going on in this chapter. How does one go in circles on a river? That’s some M.C. Escher shit going on right there. And the stone men are actually stone? Or extreme greyscale makes them look that way, but from the descriptions of how they smashed up the boat just by landing on it, it seems more like they’re supposed to be dense like real stone. Freaky.
In any case, eek, what a horrible disease. Way worse than leprosy, though I think the general analogousness of the two diseases is still there. I’m still not clear on why the “mortal” version only seems to happen to people hanging out on this particular river, but Ysilla (and Tyrion) seemed pretty convinced that the fog was Evil and Bad, so maybe you get it from that? But if so, I don’t understand why anyone would go anywhere near this section of the river for any price. It’s like presuming the Silk Road was passable as long as you rubbed bubonic plague on yourself first. How about no.
I’m also not clear if we’re meant to believe Garin’s Curse is an actual curse or just a superstitious explanation for this particular malady. In this series it could honestly go either way. But regardless of the way, Do Not Want.
When he said that he had bought you for me, I never doubted him. Why would I? He was Jaime, and you were just some girl who’d played a part. I had feared it from the start, from the moment you first smiled at me and let me touch your hand. My own father could not love me. Why would you if not for gold?
Ow, right in the feels. I really hope that Tysha is actually going to turn up at some point, because otherwise all Tyrion’s angst over her will never have any kind of resolution. And since he’s STILL ALIVE, that’s something that really ought to be addressed sooner or later, I feel. You know. With Tyrion’s ALIVENESS, and all.
And that’s what I got for now, y’all. Join me next week for Moar!