Ideally I would have liked to create a detailed write-up of my first read of the combined “A Feast for Crows” and “A Dance with Dragons” as one mega-book, the #FeastDance, just like I did for “A Storm Of Swords” (SPOILERS for TV viewers!). Unfortunately due to time constraints and lack of patience, I can’t do a detailed write-up like that. So instead I will be writing random thoughts about random chapters and see where it goes.
This blog-post contains SPOILERS for TV viewers. If you haven’t read all five books, STOP READING NOW! This is the last warning! This is the last warning! This is the last warning!
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The Chapter numbers are those of the Kindle e-books. I am sort of following the unified Feast + Dance combined reading order, but sometimes I do not. I must needs have more discipline 🙂
QUILL and TANKARD
1) Alleras the Sphinx, name given to him by Leo Tyrell, buying drinks to celebrate his Copper link. Half-Dornish, half-SummerIslander. Leo calls him “lord’s son” but he denies it. Mother a trader he says. Has expensive bow (carved from rare goldenheart wood from the Summer Isles) and drinks expensive wine (from the Summer Isles). Fast learner. Interested in dragons.
2) Mollander, son of a knight who died at the Battle of the Blackwater, getting drunk every night since then, his chances of knighthood ruined by clubfoot. Believes in dragons and while drunk, toasts to Queen Daenerys (“our rightful Queen deserves another round”). Nicknamed Hopfrog by Leo.
3) Roone, youngest of the group, observes a pattern, The Sphinx often misses his last shot. Wants to see dragons.
4) Armen the Acolyte, uptight and status-quo-ish, freaks out Varys may learn of Molander’s toast to Daenerys. Does not believe in Dragons.
5) Pate, the POV, not very good at learnings, five years at the Citadel and still a “pink neck” (no chain earned). In love with Rosey. Must needs get a golden dragon to take her maidenhead. Dreams of a life with her away from the Citadel. Arrived from the Westerlands. Accused by Maester Gormon of being a thief and breaking a lock on archm. Walgrave’s chest. Pate says the forgetful Walgrave broke it, not Pate.
6) Lazy Leo Tyrell, spoiled entitled rich kid, son of City Watch commander Ser Moryn Tyrell, cousin to Mace Tyrell of Highgarden, trained in fighting yet he is at the Citadel for some reason. Grounded but used family connections to get out of it. Claims to have seen the Glass Candle in Archmaester Marwyn’s chambers.
1) archmaster Walgrave, very old, losing his wits, they are letting him keep his title out of respect. He can’t even award chains to students. Pate discovers this too late, he is more of a maid than a trainee. Walgrane wants to be eaten by his white ravens when he dies. Dragonstone’s Maester Cressen may have been his student? – he calls Pate “Cressen” sometimes.
2) archmaester Benedict points out that the “War of the 5 Kings” is inaccurate because Baelon declared after Renly died
3) archmeaster Vaellyn, nickname Vinegar says it all
4) archmaester Embrose, gentle but his sighs cut to the bone
5) archmeaster Marwyn the Mage, returned after 8 years in the East, mapping and learning from warlocks and shadowbinders. Nickname given by archm. Vaellyn. Allegedly sacrifises to queer gods at temples, speaks Ibbenese and Summer Islanderese, has connections with whores, hedge wizards, mummers, singers, sellswords, beggars, visits the undercity (rat pits, black brothels), allegedly killed a man with his fists.
6) archmaester Raym preaches separation of religion and science
7) archmaester Gormon, substitude for archm. Walgrave whose wits are abandoning him
THE GLASS CANDLE: according to drunk Leo Tyrell, Marwyn the Mage has a glass candle burning in his chambers. There are allegedly four of them at the Citadel, three black, one green, arriving here a thousand years before the Doom of Valyria. They are tall and twisted allegedly. Leo said he saw one, never flickers even when wind blows, brighter and queerer than typical candles, casts strange shadows.
DRAGONGLASS vs OBSIDIAN: Pate thinks there is an important distinction between dragonglass and obsidian. Is obsidian the mineral and it becomes dragonglass after something happens to it? Dragons blow on it? Wizards do wizardy things to do it? Or is it the other way around? Dragonglass the mineral and obsidian the after-product? Or something else?
ACOLYTE VIGIL a SECRET TEST FOR SPECIAL POWERS? they say all acolytes, the night before they say their Maester vows, must needs need stand vigil with the Glass Candle. This has a detailed symbolic meaning as outlined in the chapter, but is it also a secret test to see whether any of the new recruits have special powers that can control or manipulate the Glass Candle? Some try to turn it on, but with no success.
THE BLACK KEY: Pate found Walgrave’s black key which allegedly can open any door at the Citadel, and he is selling it to an unknown alchemist for one gold coin. The gold coin he hopes to use to buy Rosey’s maidenhood. The alchemist is cryptic, does not reveal why he wants the key, and does a mummer’s trick with the coin and his hand. The alchemist has an ordinary young man’s face with full cheeks and a shadow of a beard and a faint scar on his right cheek. So now my task is, search all the #asoiaf books for the word “scar” to see if anyone else matches this description. Assuming of course this was his true face and not some mummer’s trick and such. He has a hooked nose, a mat of dense black hair tht curls tightly around the ears.
WHAT HAPPENED TO PATE? Pate bit the coin, even though he had no way of knowing what to expect. Then he fell down. We can assume perhaps that the coin did this. Did he die or just get knocked out so he wouldn’t follow/pester the alchemist? Some of the clues point to possible death, “his heart hammering” and the alchemist told him “and never will”. Now, “never” may have been a zinger, telling him you are too dumb to figure it out. Or you are going to die right now.
TIBDITS: the catchphrase du jour among the popular kids at the Citadel is “sweet”… Is this the first foot-fetish in the book series? (Pate and Rosey)… Apparently Archmaesters wear some kind of mask during sometims? (“Maester Gormon sat below the iron mask in Walgrave’s place”)… Oldtown is a more organized and civilized city than King’s Landing, even though King’s Landing is relatively newer… Lord Leyton Hightower has allegedly stayed up in his tower for over a decade, ruling the city from above
DANCE #13: BRAN
Bran and crew are heading towards their destination, attacked by Wights. Bran once again goes into Hodor to slash at the Wights. In the end, we have a big surprise, help arrives from the mouth of the cave, and so does a very welcome infodump!
GRRM presents, the Children of the Forest, or as the giants like to call them, “woh dak nag gran” or in the True Tongue, “those who sing the song of earth”.
And we finally meet the Three Eyed Raven. The Greenseer. He is an almost-corpse sustained by the weirdwood trees. He has one remaining eye. He was a former member of the Night’s Watch (“black of garb, black of blood”).
He says he has been following/spying Bran’s life, from birth to tower push and in-between. Watched with his 1,001 eyes.
Bran’s hopes of getting “fixed” are crashed when the 3iR tells him that he doesn’t have the power to fix him, but he says Bran will fly. Now this may have two levels of meaning. One is the obvious, fly through warging. The second possible meaning, physically fly on the back of a dragon! Since Bran has special powers, what if he could bond/control a dragon and ride him? He has already taken over a human which very few are able to do!
Question #1: Who told/controlled the tree to drop its snow on Bran and hide him from the Wights? Or was it just randomness?
Question #2: What happened to Coldhands? The CoF says he is already dead, they can’t kill him. But they can dismemember him and cut him to pieces. Can they also “convert” him to their side? The magics of the cave do not allow him to cross, just like they don’t allow him to cross the Black Gate. And a repeat of the obvious question, is he Benjen Stark?
Question #3: the 3iR (short for three-eyed raven) says “though the hour is late”. What does this mean? Late for what? Too late? Late enough that whatever plans the 3iR had must needs be changed? Late but salvagable?
FEAST #21: THE QUEENMAKER
GRRM has been relatively gentle so far in the early stages of these two books in the killing of named and well-known characters but that streak ends in this chapter as Ser Arys Oakheart of the Kingsguard foolishly gets himself killed, perhaps a way out of his situation, caught between a rock (duty) and a hard place (infatuation).
The big cliffhanger is what happened to Princess Myrcella? Did she just fall of her horse when Ser Arys was killed or did the mystery person who run away tried to kill her on his way out? We don’t know who is the guy who run away (there are three candidates, Garin, Drey, and the Darkstar). Of the three, in an earlier chat with Arianne, Darkstar said a sword is the way to start a war, and Arianne countered no harm to Myrcella.
The mystery is which one of the three run away and why?
Doran’s Captain of the Guards is pretty good at this, he managed to scoop up all the Sand Snakes and now the Arianne conspiracy. If it wasn’t for Ser Arys the Foolishness, it would have been bloodless even.
* news of the world: Grey Plague in Yi Ti, a new Corsair King in the Basilisk Isles raiding Tall Trees Town, Rulore followers rioting in Qohor
* Tyrion’s gift: picking a handmaid for Myrcella that could also serve as a body double
* ouch: “Ser Arys was pleasant company abed, but with and he were strangers”
DANCE #26: THE WAYWARD BRIDE
The nameless POVs burned me on this chapter. If I knew it was an Asha Greyjoy chapter, I wouldn’t have read the next Davos chapter which revealed the outcome of the battle 🙂 Still, a very dramatic chapter regardless!
From this chapter we can assume that Stannis convinced the Northern Mountain Clans to join him. And in retrospect it makes sense, the hard men of the Mountain Clans would find common ground with a hard man like Stannis. Stannis is not exactly a fluffy lordling of the flat lands.
This also brings into question how much did the TV show spoil from the books? I almost read half of the combined #FeastDance chapters, yet the end of the TV Season 3 appears to be still ahead, with Asha climbing on a boat to rescue Theon. I suppose this may be the next step from here, Asha can convince Stannis that she can rescue Theon and along the way, create a mess at The Dreadfort which would work in Stannis’ favor. It’s a good thing Stannis is obsessed with defending the Wall, otherwise if he learned most of the Ironborn fleet was gone in search of dragons, he would have probably tried to take the Iron Islands.
Speaking of Euron heading East to Find the Dragons, wow, the Meereeneeese Knot is turning into a melting pot of every character heading there! I thought Tyrion, the Golden Company, the alleged Targareyn Prince, and the Dornish Prince and Qarth and the Dothraki and the other Slavers were more than enough to create a knot but obviously not for GRRM! The Ironborn must needs get there too!
FEAST #27: JAIME back at HARRENHALLLL
* Jaime and Cersei continue to drift away
* can a religious man of the Faith of the Seven hold back the Curse of Harrenhall with his 86 holy warriors?
* Raff the Sweetling is here? aka Rafford?
* Jaime has an army of nearly 1,000 (including 200 heavy horse) with Addam Marbrand and Ser Ilyn Payne as his all stars
* Ser Ilyn Payne is very professional – never botched an execution, seldom needed a 2nd stroke
* Jaime is building up his own “Cripples Bastards and Broken Things” with Ser Ilyn Payne by his side
* Jaime is training Rocky style with Ser Ilyn and already used his golden hand to his advantage
* shipping alert! Jaime punches Big Connington for dissing Brienne!
* more The Hound references, so what happened to him? did he survive or did he have his own R-word???????
CRACKPOT THEORY HATCHED and RUINED: when they mentioned Tyrek Lannister again, a new crackpot theory flashed before my eyes! Tyrek Lannister is actually the Aegon Targareyn the 6th that is marching in Essos! Such a great theory – except it got quickly ruined because Tyrion saw him and he would have recognized Tyrek/Tyvek if he saw him. So now the leading Tyrek theory is that Varys scooped him up for spidery purposes (Tyrek was one of Robert’ squires).
DANCE #27: TYRION in VOLANTIS
I first suspected Ser Jorah’s plan for Tyrion was to take him to Daenerys instead of Cersei at the end of the previous Tyrion chapter when Jorah said “Queen” without being specific. In GRRM-speak, that’s a sign of trickery. Then while shopping on the Long Bridge, Jorah was window shopping gifts (jeweled tiara) for Dany. Another sign before it was finally revealed.
Meanwhile, it looks like Griff and alleged Aegon Tarageryen and the Golden Company are indeed heading to Westeros, with Volantis offering them ships (“half the captains in Volantis are racing upriver”) and even escort (12 warships) to see them safely to the Stepstones. Tyrion’s plan. Which he calls now “bait”. Presumably to cause more trouble for Cersei by bringing 10,000 sellswords to Dorne!
Ser Jorah the Perv is not so nice to our beloved Imp! Punch in the face, chained all the time, no bed! At least he feeds him, although I suspect the only reason he feeds him is so that GRRM can describe even more foods! But our beloved Imp’s tongue is out of control as Tywin astutely observed in the previous book. And our beloved Imp is no innocent creature. He now wants to r-word, not just kill Cersei!
Vogarro’s Whore must be in league with the Red High Priest? She knew what he saw in the flames about some random ship! He surely wouldn’t be preaching random ship prophecies to the flock, so Vogarro’s Whore must have gotten this from the inside circle? And her last line, it looks like she is probably part of it, wishing/planning/hoping (?) for slave liberation in Volantis! But is hoping enough? They should probably help Dany since she is now going to get squeezed from all directions. And they don’t even know Euron and the Iron Fleet are heading there too!
This is getting a little bit too much. It’s like this world is a small village. One of the two jousting dwarves from King Koffrey’s wedding happened to run into Tyrion in Volantis! Too many pairings of unlikely people – that’s kinda standard fantasy fare! *GASP*
* the Temple of Rulore in Volantis is 3X the size of the Great Sept of Baelor!
* it looks like this Red High Priest Benerro is also a player in the Game of Religious Thrones. He has 1,000 loyal swords and it looks like he is winning more and more of the slaves
* talk about world building, even the bridges (the Long Bridge) are full of buildings and such. Mayhaps GRRM loves world building slightly more than the food. At least half of this chapter was a Volantis travelogue!
* GRRM is so full of japes, mistaking Magistrar Illyrio for a dwarf elephant
DANCE #28: JON & MELI
Nine rangers were sent in three parties to scout North of the Wall and Melisandre has a prophecy for them. Will one of them be Ser Alliser Thorne??? At the start of the chapter he told Jon “I’m coming back Lord Snow” *cringe* I hope we don’t lose Dywn with his wooden clacking teeth!
MELISANDRE and GHOST: Melisandre overpowers Jon for control of Ghost???????????????? Ghost did not respond to “Ghost, To me”. Wow! “looked at him as if he were a stranger”. Wow!!! Is that foreshadowing that Varamyr Sixskins or some other Warg will try to take Ghost away from Jon or perhaps someone else from one of the remaining Starks?????… And Ghost actually liked Melisandre??? Truly liked her or some kind of sorcery???…
One Extra Thought: when Melisandre asked Jon Snow for the wolf’s name and she said “Ghost” in her unusual way, is that a magic thing, calling by their true name or something like that? I thought GRRM did not like this type of magics?
Melisandre has a prophecy that Arya Stark will flee from her marriage on a dying horse. But will this be the real Arya or the Tywin-Bolton Arya? (Sansa’s little friend Jeyne Poole). Melisandre can’t see or won’t tell him the difference???
Wow, Melisandre wants to make a shadowbaby with Jon Snow??? “in our joining there is power. power to make light, power to cast shadows”. Oh my!!!
And what about Jon Snow mistaking Melisandre for Ygritte? Another Melisandre trick/magic or Jon’s confusion? Given everything else Melisandre said and did in this chapter, I wouldn’t be surprised if this too was her doing!
Another reminder of the power of the Wall, “there is power here… Power in you, and in this beast. You resist it and that is your mistake. Embrace it. Use it”. Oh my!!! Yet despite of all that, Melisandre never gives us any details! We want details! Not just statements and prophecies!
Is Rattleshirt and Jon Snow slowly becoming BFFs?
FEAST #28: CERSEI & THE NEW HIGH SEPTON
Holy Wars are coming? The new High Septon was willing to forgive nearly 1 million golden dragons in debt and bless King Tommen! His price was simple: allowing the Faith to arm itself again like the old days (Sword and Star, The Faith Militant) – undo King Maegor’s laws that prohibited that. So all the Sparrows hanging out in King’s Landing would presumably usher out in search of Enemies of the Faith! Potential targets: Stannis and his Rulore Followers, the Ironborn and their Drowned God, the Northerners and their Old Gods!… Forgot about The Freys, I can imagine breaking Guest Right is something very offensive to the religious? [NEW! – added after initial post]
But perhaps Maegor (the Cruel?) was wise in this, giving religious orders weapons would make them more dangerous to his rule and the establishment.
Cersei is giving the three Kettlebacks all kinds of titles and responsibilities! And Littlefinger things they are his creatures deep down! Gold Cloaks, Acting Lord Commander, Margaery charmer, Jon Snow assassin!
Some book readers said that Margaery was a simple girl thrown in the Game Of Thrones, not as cunning and seasoned as the TV version of her character portrayed. However, based on some of the glimpses we see in the books, she is far from simple. She may not be as cunning/seasoned as the TV portrayal, but she is not a simple game piece either!
So excited to have Cersei POVs in Feast! That was one of the characters I want to see inside their head! Thank you GRRM!
* Cersei is slowly losing the war for Tommen to Margaery and the Tyrells?
* did Cersei decide at the end of the chapter to have Margaery killed? Or does she think something incesty goes on between Loras and Margaery (as hinted by Teana her “friend”?). Or at least to start spreading rumors of that regardless?
* did Cersei poison the previous High Septon (the one selected during Tyrion’s reign as Hand?)
* has Pycelle switched to being a Tyrell puppy?
* Cersei is funny, “she looked forward to hearing men speak of her father as a “she””
CRACKPOT THEORY: Taena Merryweather is only playing Cersei’s friend and ally but in truth she is spying on Cersei and feeding her information and misinformation! On the other hand, her husband is the new Hand, so maybe not? Feeding the crackpot theory? she does not want to bring her son to King’s Landing even though both she and her husband are here and it would be great honor for a kid to be associated with the King, especially if they were to become boyhood friends.
CRACKPOT THEORY II: [NEW! – added after initial post] This came to me the day after I read this chapter. In Feast #27 (Jaime back at Harrenhal), we learn that Jaime hands on Harrenhal to Bonifer and his 86 devout warriors. In this chapter, Cersei will legalize religious militia, and the Sparrows will be ushered out of King’s Landing. With Bonifer holding Harrenhal, will Harrenhal turn into the center of power of the Sparrows and Faith of the Seven militia???
FEAST #29: The REAVER – SHIELD ISLANDS
The Ironborn take the Shield Islands, creating an interesting new situation for the Reach and Highgarden and the Redwynes, they have to deal with the Ironborn again!
Meanwhile, Euron decides he will not actually go to Slaver’s Bay, but he is instead sending Victarion with the Iron Fleet. So now both brothers have dreams of having both Dany and The Dragons. Just don’t tell Ser Jorah – he will get angry!
* mild surprise, The Reader went along with them – he did not stay on his island reading!
* Damphair is borrowing a page from the “Sparrows” – he is going to raise the smallfolk in the Iron Islands against Euron (assuming Euron did not secretly kill him or stash him away)
* the man who blew the Dragon Horn died, with “his lungs charred as black as soot”
* Euron had a dragon egg and the fool threw it in the sea! Wow at so many levels!
* Euron’s claim of a Valyria visit was questioned but he did not answer it!
* Euron drinks nightshade like the warlocks in Qarth (this explains his blue lips!!!)
* Euron is bringing back slave trading with him, not part of The Old Way
* it is claimed/rumored that Euron’s wizards are able to change/affect/control the weather
* Unicorns are real! Euron brought back “horns of unicorns” with him!
* Victarion suffers from ED! “but found himself unable” (granted, it was the third time, drunk and after a battle)
* battle count: the Ironborn captured 38 ships and lost 6 vs the Shield Islands
FEAST #30: JAIME and LANCEL The Praying Lannister
Confession time! Lancel confesses to Jaime that he was sleeping with Cersei. So inadvertently Tyrion saved Lancel’s life but telling Jaime of this at the end of Storm of sWords. So Jaime had a few weeks to process it. He didn’t even slap Lancel. In his turn, Jaime confessed to Ser Ilyn Payne that he slept with Cersei and he confessed to us readers that back in Book #1, when Arya run away after the Joffrey by the River incident, Cersei sent Jaime to kill or maim Arya if he found her first! And apparently Jaime was willing to do this. Thankfully for Arya, Jaime did not find her first. Wow, Jaime was willing to do this just shortly after he pushed Bran out the window! Kingslayer, Kidslayer!
So in parallel with the Davos plotline, Jaime sent Red Ronnet to return Wylis Manderly back to White Harbor. So this solves the mystery/questions of how exactly did the Manderly son end up at White Harbor. It was Jaime’s doing!
It looks like this religious thing is getting bigger and bigger. The new High Septon put out a call for volunteers and Lancel will abandon his new wife and Darry and go back to King’s Landing to join the holy cause. He has about 100 Sparrows in his castle, so we can assume some of them will be heading down with him… We also see more signs of radicalization, the three Sparrows used weapons to block Jaime from entering Lancel’s Sept?
* Storm Epilogue callback! Merrett Frey’s daughter is married to Lancel!
* Black Walder was among those chasing the Brotherhood responsible for the Petyr Pymple and Merreett hangings
* Lancel indirectly got his beloved Tyrion-appointed High Septon killed by confessing his Cersei-sin! So that left Cersei no choice but to get rid of him!
* Jaime is a shipper too! He is shipping his squire with the Harrenhal recreational consultant. Shipping them in his own bed!
CRACKPOT THEORY: we have very little to go by so far, but what if this Hound they are mentioning is just someone who found the real Hound dead and picked up his stuff and he is just putting on the Hound’s helmet and pretending to be the Hound? Since we haven’t seen any Hound book close-ups (or even from the distance), this opens up as a possibility as well!
DANCE #30: DAENERYS
The Meereeneesee Knot is tightening around Dany. Around 25 ships are blocking her access to the water, and armies are marching North towards her, including three Sellsword companies, four legions from Ghis, plus armies from other cities and there is even a possibility of Dothrawki khalasars joining in the attack. If GRRM thinks he has it bad with his writer’s knot, Dany has it worse! One dragon is MIA, the other two are uncontrollable and locked in the dungeons!
* OMG, Dany was willing to let people with the Bloody Flux from Astapor roll into the already overcrowded Meereen? She needs a science and medical advisor at least! Even a child would know that would be a very bad idea!
* we rarely have passage of time updates, but in this chapter we are told 26 days passed without a Sons of Harpy killing in the streets. Looks like our Husband to Be is part of it?
* Barristan approved the burning of the list of names/targets as hostages, but is that really a wise thing to do considering the situation?
* at least Dany remembers what Quaithe told her and warned her!
* factoid: 200 leagues between Astapor and Meereen
DANCE #31: MELISANDRE
Oh my! GRRM gives us a Melisandre POV! Lots of juicy tidbits here, although it is more clues than answers or in-depth details. We even get a John Madden play-by-play of a fire-reading session!
NOTE: if you are reading the book for the first time, do not read this blog chapter write-up until you finish reading Dance Chapter #34 in the book (Bran). Some of the background information is cross-referenced/cross-speculated.
So one of the overarching questions both book readers and TV viewers have been trying to figure out is who/what is Melisandre and what is her agenda? Is there a sinister plan behind her actions (some dark/evil force) or is she going along as things happen or is she an opportunist making things up as she goes (and more clueless than not)? Based on this chapter, it looks like perhaps she is somewhere in between, perhaps towards the middle, give or take.
Melisandre says “she had paid the price” and “there was no one, EVEN in her order who had her skill at seeing secrets half-revealed … in the flames”. So this suggests that she is part of an advanced or elite order and she is the best of them at fire reading?
Melisandre did not fear for herself, “R’hllor would protect her”. In parallel she says that the first thing she checks in the flames is whether any harm is coming her way. She learned to do that a long time ago, even before the went to the Asshai.
More evidence that she is sleeping with Stannis? “with Stannis gone, her bed saw little use”.
Melisandre analyzes Jon Snow’s skills as a Lord Commander and gives him credit for skillfully avoiding her and ignoring and stonewalling her. But she also sees the “false humility of youth” (itself a sort of pride) and the importance of the “trappings of power”. So we get Melisandre the Guru here.
We also learn that she has a chest from Asshai, 1/4th of it left, with all kinds of powders for tricks and poisons and potions. Meli can make more herself but ingredients are hard to find on the Wall. She calls these “feeble tricks of alchemists and pyromancers”.
But she also says, “my spells should suffice” and states that she is stronger here at the Wall, stronger than even at Asshai! And she can do things she wasn’t able to do before! Which brings up a very interesting potential cage match: WALL SHADOW-BABY vs WHITE WALKER! (“such shadows as I bring forth here will be terrible, and no creature of the dark will stand before them”). So she will have us rooting for the Shadow Baby!
The book gave us multiple clues that there was something unusual with Rattleshirt. They are more obvious on re-reads. On first read, I noticed there was something, but the forward-reading-momentum pushed the clues aside.
So it is revealed that Melisandre used a spell of “shadow and suggestion” to switch Mance Rayder with Rattleshirt, and Rattleshirt was the one she burned. Ironically she too was getting roasted from her own fires, presumably because of the magic link between her and her magics on Rattleshirt that kept the spell going.
1) she doesn’t need to eat, but she eats so people don’t ask questions
2) “blood trickled down her thigh” while she was reading the fires (“the fire was inside her”). So she is human at some level? Is blood a side-effect of the exertion? Blood magic? Moon blood?
3) “her throat was raw and parched” after reading the fires and asked Devan for some water
4) “her muscles sore and stiff” – so she’s not a robot/shadow/mist
5) she needs to sleep, but most nights she never more than one hour. That’s not very normal for the average human?
6) why doesn’t she want fried bread? Fried is fire, Lord of Light’s approved cooking method!
7) while she was burning Rattleshirt, “she had feared her own flesh might start to smoke and blacken”. So she is not like Daenerys who can survive funeral pyres and dragon fires?
VISION #1: the eyeless men, then dark tide sweeping over crumbling towers by the sea, rising from the depths and then shadows in the shape of skulls turning to mist and locking/wreathing/rolling/clawing. And finally, dragons (?) – great winged shadows. There are many towers by the sea on all coasts, so it could be Eastwatch or any other place. She said it didn’t look like Eastwatch.
VISION #2: the next Bran chapter (Dance #34) probably explains this, the “wooden face corpse white” is Bran’s mentor with his 1,000 red eyes and Bran the wolf boy. And it looks like this was two-directional? “he sees me” she said.
VISION #3: snow and ash, flaming arrows over a wooden wall with dead things shambling (shooting at Wights?), and then this links up to the Bran chapter, “the wind rose and the white mist came, impossibly old, and one by one the fires went out”. Assuming the “great grey cliff where fires burned inside a hundred caves” is the home of the Children of the Forest. So if the wind/winter gets colder/stronger, they will be able to penetrate the entrance? The CoF said they lived there for a thousand thousand years, so I am assuming that cave survived The Long Night? And if yes, shouldn’t it be able to survive whatever was coming? Unless whatever is coming is worse?
VISIONS #1 and #3 mention “mists”, so if we combined them, mists are White Walkers or Wights?
VISION #4: Jon Snow surrounded by Skulls, and morphing between man and wolf. He is a warg although he is shying away from it. “enemies all around him, daggers in the dark”.
VISION #5: she asked to see Azor Ahai and Rulore showed her Jon Snow! So, is Jon Snow Azor Ahai? Especially if his father is Rhaegar with all the “prince that was promised” prophecies that even Maester Aemon believed in. Where was Jon snow born? Was there salt and smoke?
THE IMPORTANCE OF ACCURACY in VISIONS: because men are by definition freaking out at sorcerers from faraway lands, especially women in male-dominated societies, Melisandre understands the importance of being accurate. So that drives some of the things she is saying when asked about what she sees in the fires. “many … before her had been brought down by false visions”.
THE PRICE OF MAGIC: “they need never know how difficult it had been or how much it had cost her”. It would have been nice if we were given more information here! “The more effortless the sorcery appears, the more they fear the sorcerer”.
MELISANDRE’s SHOW OF POWER: we see her Mance Rayder spell in action. She touched her ruby and then spoke a word that Jon and Mance heard differently and it was a different word from what she spoke. And then Jon Snow saw behind the glamor/illusion.
MELISANDRE THE CLUELESS? she says none of the Free Folk mattered and she thinks the Children of the Forest vanished. Yet in the next Bran chapter, we see otherwise. They have been around for thousands of thousands of years. Yet, in very small numbers, but still around. One was wondering the 7 Kingdoms for 200 years. The Old Dwarf Lady is at High Heart. And based on the KotLT there’s more of them at God’s Eye.
THE SOFTER SIDE OF MELISANDRE? Melisandre had been tough on Davos, yet here, she went out of her way, out of her own free will, to ask Devan Seaworth to remain with her, because Davos already lost four sons, and she didn’t want him to lose another one. Or maybe she loves a fanclub (“he fears me, he wants me, he worships me)… She saves Mance Rayder by asking him to stay in her chambers and not risk his life facing the wrath of the Rangers when they see the returned blind heads.
STANNIS COMPROMISED: oh my! Stannis compromised, “the last one should have been hanged” but because he came from a noble family and his other family members had been stalwart, Stannis did not hang the craven. Instead, he added him to Melisandre’s Cripples Bastards and Broken Things Security Detail.
QUESTION #1: why does she must have a fire burning non-stop in her quarters to the point of paranoia? What will happen if it stops? Does she draw her power/energy/life from a burning fire?
QUESTION #2: why is Melisandre afraid to sleep and afraid to dream? “Sleep is a little death”, “dreams the whisperings of the Other”. Do they not teach the equivalent of Biology 101 at Assshai University of Magic?
QUESTION #3: So who/what does Melisandre consider herself? She says “his champions, as Stannis was hers”. So if Stannis is Azor Ahai and her champion, then who is she? What is there above Azor Ahai and below Rulore?
QUESTION #4: So why did she spare Mance Rayder? Did she want to “save” his Kingsblood for some future usage? Is that why she didn’t do anything special with the alleged Mance Rayder’s King’s blood? And why didn’t anyone ask her about this? She made so much fuss about the Edric/Gendry leeches and their complete sacrifice, and now she don’t bother with King’s blood?
QUESTION #5: why did Mance Rayder call Thormund “The Old Fraud”? Is that a Wildling saying or is there more to this comment?
QUESTION #6: why does Melisandre want to win Jon Snow’s trust? She is going through a lot of trouble with this song and dance with Mance Rayder and Faux Arya.
QUESTION #7: why does Melisandre want Jon Snow to see that the ice begins to melt where she walks?
QUESTION #8: why must she not walk too close to Jon Snow? “she walked as close to Jon Snow as she dared”. Is she in danger? Is he in danger? Or is it simply the unmagical comfort zone in her presence?
QUESTION #9: how was Melisandre able to take over Ghost? And Ghost didn’t even recognize Jon when she did? And if she can do it, can others do that too? Does this link up to the Varameer Sixskins prologue chapter noting that Jon was an inexperienced warg and Varameer was confident that he would able to “steal” his direwolf? [this happened in another chapter I think]
So overall, this Melisandre chapter was very exciting. However, it didn’t go into a lot of depth, and it didn’t provide any specific answers. So this may also bring up the question, perhaps Melisandre is not as an important character in the series as she may appear, so that’s why GRRM is not giving us more details? Or she is such, that any further details would give away the game?
DANCE #32: REEK Witnesses Father & Son Reunion
We have a Hallmark moment, a Father and Son reunion! Roose Bolton reunites with his son Ramsay with Theon-Reek as a witness! After the Melisandre POV, GRRM now gives more insight into Roose and Ramsay Bolton!
But first, we have the first wholesale Red Wedding revenge act. As he told Davos in a previous chapter, Daddy Manderly made the Freys that were at White Harbor “disappear” as they were marching towards Barrowton to answer the call of the new Warden of the North, Roooooooose Booooooooolton! Roose probably knows this, but what will he do? Ramsay spent two weeks looking for the missing Freys but found nada.
A Stannis Trap is being set up! Roose will move the Ramsay-Faux-Arya wedding to Winterfell to draw in Stannis for an attack. Roose has an ace up his sleeve, Arnolf Karstark will turn on Stannis at an opportune moment. Didn’t Ramsay use a similar technique when he took Rodrik unawares while trying to take Winterfell away from Theon? Will Stannis lower his guard? Will the Karstarks go on with this after they witnessed Stannis liberating Deepwood Motte and winning the Mountain Clans to his cause? Only Starks in the past had been able to win over the Mountain Clans, so that should count for something among Northerners.
New player emerges? Lady Barbrey (why not Barbara or Barbra?) Dustin who holds a grudge against the Stakrs, blaming them for the death of her husband. Or something like that. And now Theon is brought before her, freed [allegedly] from the hold of Ramsay. So what are they planning to do with Theon? The Ironborn are now mostly driven off the North, with Moat Cailin falling and Stannis taking Deepwood Mote. Will Roose make a power play for the Iron Islands? The TV show spoiled it, but here it is only tangentially mentioned that Ramsay cut off Theon’s manhood, so he is the heir to the Iron Islands but he can’t produce an heir.
Someone should get a panel of psychologists to analyze the Roose and Ramsay interaction in this chapter! There’s enough material for a new Ph.D in psychology!
* Roose wisdom: “boy lords are the bane of any House”
* Roose distilled: “before you make me rue the day I r*p*d your mother”
* Roose is well aware that Ramsay killed his true born son, but since he doesn’t have any other son yet, he has no choice but to keep him around
* Reek trained his dogs to kill wolves (direwolves) – ouch!
* the dogs like Reek-Theon. That’s a consolation because if they didn’t like him…
* Reek carries with him his small curved flaying knife – because you never know when the opportunity may arise!
We have a mini vision/prophecy about Tyrion, the fat Red Priest on the ship says “Dragons old and young, true and false, bright and dark. And you. A small man with a big shadow, snarling in the midst of all”. False Dragons? —> Griff’s Aegon? Old Dragon —> Maester Aemon in Braavos. Dark Dragon? —> Jon Snow?… Red Priest Moqorro sees others heading for Dany, most of all someone who sounds like Euron Greyjoy, one black eye, sea of blood, tall, twisted. He calls him “thing”. Has he transformed into something else during his trips in the East/Valyria? We already have multiple signs that Melisandre is not quite the same as most mortals!
Tyrion distills Ser Jorah the Perv: “twice exiled”, “cold, brooding, sullen, deaf to humor. And those are his good points”. Ouch! More Tyrionisms, “but what if there is a hell and my father’s waiting for me?” Count this in the 2015 edition of the Wit & Wisdom of Tyrion Lannister!
It looks like Littlefinger sent one of the Kettlebacks in Pentos to find and sign up the jousting dwarves. Tyrion thinks it was Cersei’s doing.
We get yet another incidental reference of Gerion Lannister. Another sign that at some random point, he is going to pop up! Tyrion is after all near where he was last seen (Volantis heading to Valyria).
We get perhaps the most detailed account so far of the Doom of Valyria, it looks like some sort of a geological/geothermal event, no magic or foul play?
This ship wants to bring the word of Rulore to Daenerys, so it will be interesting to see how the Rulorians would react ih Daenerys shows no interest in Rulorism?
We get some more concrete info on the Old Gods. They are the Weirwood Trees, and when the Children of the Forest die, they go into the Weirwoods and “become part of that godhood”. Weirwood trees can live forever unless they are cut/uprooted/etc.
The 3iR reveals his name was Brynden once. Based on what we were told a couple of chapters ago (GRRM wasn’t trying to hide it), he is Brynden Rivers, a previous Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch. And before that, Bloodraven. I still haven’t sorted out Bloodraven from Bittersteel and all those wars and rebellions and such, that’s for the “post game show”.
Over three score CoF live in this secret place. That’s not a lot, but their lifespan is longer. They lived here “for a thousand thousand of your man-years”. Are they GRRM’s version of the Hobbits? They have nut-brown skin, dapppled like a deer’s, large ears and big cat’s eyes (both outperfoming humans), hands with 3 fingers and a thumb and sharp black claws instead of nails. They are well aware that they are on the decline, on the way to extinction, yet Bran is impressed that they are sad not angry/vengeful like humans would be in their situation. Maybe because they know they have guaranteed after life?
Melisandre is preaching about the night and dark and terrors and The Others, but here, the 3iR tells Bran “never fear the darkness”, “strongest trees are rooted in the dark places of the earth”, “darkness can be your cloak, your shield, your mother’s milk”, “darkness will make you strong”. Should we be worried that the 3iR is not a benevolent wise teacher/guru for Bran?
Bran finishes Level One of his training as he is able to get into ravens and fly around, as promised in the previous chapters. Bran’s training wheels raven was so polite, even after Bran crashed it into a wall, it came back nice and friendly for another ride.
Then Bran goes to Level Two, going into the trees, starting with a delicious weirwood seeds paste dish to awaken his gifts and wed him to the trees. During his first assignment, Bran visits the Winterfell weirwood and sees all kinds of scenes from centuries and centuries of Starks. I don’t know who the older ones are, but there might be some reveals there (or not). Re-reads and Google may know 🙂
So once Bran masters this level (1-10 years), he will be able to data-mine everything a tree has seen through its lifetime. Weirwood trees with carved faces are easier for a beginner Greenseer – “but in time you will see beyond the trees themselves”. However, this is like a DVD, you can watch it but you cannot talk to the actors in the movie. History is Read-Only!
This is a great history vehicle for GRRM. Now he can give us background stories on every character in every place and in every time period. Simply through a Bran POV while he is exploring the trees!
Bran discovers that the Ravens are not empty! There are other people inside them! More specifically Children of the Forest aka Singers. All their ravens have them. He also says that part of Bran would remain in Ghost if Bran happened to die. “a shadow on the soul”.
Bran is keeping it a secret from everyone that is going into Hodor and exploring. Is that an acceptable practice for the CoF, taking over other humans? “Hodor would curl up and hide whenever Bran reached out for him”.
Jojo Reed is not doing well, after he delivered Bran to the 3iR he is having the blues (“my part in this is done”). He wants to return back home, which is crazy considering where they are now and what stands between them. He is even sitting at the cave’s mount looking at the outside world. Meera says he doesn’t want to fight his destiny, whatever that means (he is going to die trying to go home?)
Bran the Boy has a Disney Channel fantasy, all his brothers/sisters would be ravens, living in Maester Luwin’s rookery. But Bran continues to mature, realizing this is as good as it is going to get, he is not becoming a knight any time soon. (“some stupid child’s dream”). Bran is also continuing his teenage crush on Meera.
Question #1: if they knew Bran was coming, why did they only send one Children of the Forest to help them in? It was too close to call as it was. And why didn’t their Air Force (Ravens) attack? Or maybe it happened but the POV did not see or mention it?
Question #2: what did Jojo Reed mean when he said: “he is not the one who needs to be afraid?” (he = Bran)
Question #3: is it safe for Summer and his new mini wolfpack to eat the flesh of the Wights? Any side-effects? Can they turn into wights if they eat enough wight parts?
Question #4: one chamber was full of singers enthroned like Brynden in nests of weirwood root, but “their eyes would open and follow the light of his torch” and one of them open/closed his mouth. Are these former greenseers? And in what state are they? Not quite dead but not quite alive? Tell us more, tell us more!
Question #5: what is Bran’s job here? Why do they need a greenseer? What is he supposed to be doing and why?
INTERESTING FACTOIDS: Only 1 in 1,000 skinchangers can be a greenseer, and only one in 1,000 men is born a skinchanger. In other words, a best chance of one in a million in greensers. Notice he said “can be a greenseer”, not “is”… Among the Children of the Forest, Greenseers have green eyes, while the rest of the CoF have golden eyes. Greenseers have short lives though [foreshadowing for Bran?]. Short lives relative to the CoF, whose lifespans are much longer than humans… In the early days, the Ravens would actually speak the messages, not just deliver the papers. The CoF taught the First Men how to do this, but over time, the knowledge got lost. More historian-cred for Old Nan, another one of her stories verified by independent party… No human can speak the True Tongue. Is that a physical restriction?… the weirwoods can sustain the Greenseers for longer (eg the 3iR), so in theory, Bran will outlive everyone he knows/knew…
FEAST #31: BRIENNE
I am now starting to see some of the Feast for Crows complaints. The Brienne story is unfolding in slow motion and with half of the characters not in this book, no wonder some readers were frustrated with Feast. Reading it as a combined #FeastDance counters this issue for the most part though.
The big reveal here is that Sandor Clegane, The Hound, died of his wounds where Arya left him. But the Elder Brother who found him did not bury his helmet with him, so whoever is running around with The Hound’s helmet is an imposter!
I was already suspicious Septon Meribald was involved or at least connected with the Brotherhood (recall his 99%-center speech in the previous chapter). Is the Elder Brother involved as well? We can assume that what he knows about Arya and the Hound he learned from the dying Clegane or from his sources in the Brotherhood? He is advising Brienne to give up the quest and go back home. Again, hard to tell either way. This would certainly be a very nice and safe place for the Brotherhood to treat their wounded or hide those that need hiding!
They may have found Rhaegar’s rubies? GRRM has mentioned them enough times throughout the books that I am starting to think that there might be more to them?
We get some funny moments, “I hope you have some better sins than last time I came through…. Even Dog was bored!”
We see here some of the fallout from the fall of the Shield Islands. The Reach is freaking out but Cersei won’t let them have the Redwyne fleet unless Dragonstone falls. So Ser Loras volunteers to go there and take it by force. The Tyrell and Redwyne approach had been siege and snooze and wait until they starve and surrender.
With the Redwyne blocking Dragonstone, we can assume that Stannis has no way of receiving dragonglass shipments any more, so perhaps, dragonglass-wise, it doesn’t really matter whether Dragonstone falls or not – as long as the blockade is there, nothing can come out.
With Loras out of the way, it looks like Cersei is indeed planning to get Margaery killed? She told Taena she is worried about the Tyrell army at Storm’s End! Oh my!
So both Loras and Margaery are in mortal danger of sorts!
Cersei is complaining about all the incompetent people around her, but she seems to be forgetting that she chose many of them for this very reason – so they wouldn’t counter her and they would do her bidding without resistance! She did not want to have a Team of Rivals. She wanted a Team of Doormats. And she is getting Doormat-quality advice and service!
Just like that, with Euron taking over the Shield Islands, the Ironborn have become a factor again, apparently they have multiple targets now to strike on the west/southwest coast. With Victarion taking the Ironfleet on his Dragon Quest though, it will be raids, they wouldn’t be able to stand up to the Redwyne fleet.
We are getting more in-depth insight into Cersei. Call the psychologists and the psychiatrists! She “ate” Robert’s “heirs” as a spiteful thing, not as a sex act. She “took” Taena like Robert was “taking” her. But she found no joy. Kinky Taena the Myrish Beauty on the other hand, she was on 7th heaven.
Bron-Bron is rising! The stupid Stokeworths challenged Bron in single combat instead of “taking him out” like Cersei suggested. And now he has their castle. And poor Lady Falyse is now becoming yet another “dungeon project” for Qyburn’s experiments.
Speaking of Qyburn, what is he up to? He asked for an armor that “no man is strong enough to move and fight in such a weight of plate”. And he promised a “champion”, “tenfold in devotion”, “no living man will be able to withstand him”. Has he managed to re-animated the Mountain’s corpse? From what I recall, the Mountain’s head was sent to Dorne, but Qyburn kept the rest of the body? We had previously been told how heavy the Mountain’s gear was.
Quotables: “it pleased her to think that hse made a better king than Robert”.
DANCE #35: JON swears in new recruits
Jon takes his new recruits North of the Wall to say their vows before the Old Gods, while Stannis writes a long letter. He has 5,000 men now with more joining in and he plans to march on Roose Bolton. Another Battle for Winterfell coming? Arnolf Karstark and some of the Umbers will join Stannis. Roose thinks he has Arnolf Karstark in his pocket and the element of surprise. But Stannis will hang the captured Ironborn. The Wall could use more fighting bodies, perhaps send them to Eastwatch where an Ironborn rules!
Har! “a surprisingly tender sentiment from Stannis”.
On the way back, Jon picked up his first giant. It may not be a bad idea to start recruiting giants! They can be very helpful at the Wall. New recruit Leathers proved his worth by preventing bloodshed and convincing the Giant not to fight.
Meanwhile, the Mance-rescues-faux-Arya plan is in progress, all based on Melisandre’s visions.
FEAST #33: JAIME RETURNS to RIVERRUN
Jaime returns to Rivverun and we get a nice helping of Genna Lannister! Yet another interesting character out of the gate! Genna is Tywin’s sister, married to Walder Frey’s second son, now granted Riverrun by King Tommen-Tywin. She is the mother of weasely Cleos (TV Tion ish) Frey. Genna gives a one paragraph teardown of the shortcomings of the Cersei Administration (arming the religious fanatics, picking incompetent people for key positions, refusing to pay installments on the Iron Bank of Braavoos loans until the war ends, etc).
Nobody likes the Freys. The new Warden of the West Devan Lannister is not fond of them and he is to marry one of them! (“if my choice is Freys or freckles…”). One of the silly Freys has Edmure ready to hang day after day but does not actually hang him. Yikes! The Blackfish has his own hostages of sort, including the three Westerlings (including Robb’s wife, Jeyne-not-Talysa Westerling)
This siege too could go on forever, apparently Riverrun has enough supplies for two years, and the Freys/Lannisters would have trouble finding enough food/supplies for that long, since the Blackfish picked everything around clean. Jaime was sent in here as The Closer, and his first step is a meet with The Blackfish (who Jaime admired as a youth – I’m sure GRRM told us that for a reason – it will come into play I am guessing).
Kevan has fallen on hard times, Lancel is abandoning everything to become a holy warrior, so now Kevan is left with Martyn Lannister as his sole heir. He was last seen heading west, presumably returning to the Lannister lands.
Jaime notices that the riverlords are supportive of the Crown/Freys just enough as not to get in trouble, but no more. Some, including the Mallisters, Rygers and Paeges did not contribute any troops to the siege. I am sure GRRM did not mention this randomly. It will probably come into play at some point!
Red Wedding Revisited Now: Edmure was bedding Roslin during the Red Wedding and left her pregnant with child, further complicating succession/claims for Riverrun. A child of tragedy! Genna wants to patch that up by marrying her son to Roslin’s daughter (if it’s a daughter)… More complications, the Freys are not very happy Petyr Baelish is the Lord Paramount of the Trident, and not them! Especially now that their importance and reach expanded!
GRRM is such an evil genius, after spending the whole chapter convincing us of the mad skills of Genna Lannister, giving her a lot of credibility, she ends the chapter stating that Tyrion is/was the next big thing in the Lannister family, and Tywin had a blindspot not to see it! Wow! Combine that with the I’m-on-a-boat-Red Priest in Dance telling Tyrion he is snarling with dragons, and it looks like our troublemaking Imp has more excitement coming up!
FEAST #34: ARYA drinks WARM MILK
This was an early spoiler from Season 1 that I failed to forget about, that at some point Arya would go blind. I did not know any more details, but now I do! Based on this chapter, it is not certain that this is a permanent situation. It could be a temporary lesson/punishment to teach Cat/No-One/Arya a lesson. She did after all kill Dareon the Singer, the Night’s Watch deserter! Wild Arya! On the other hand, she is at the mercy of the House of Black and White, so they may feel it is within their rights to do so if it best serves the Many Faced God.
I suspect this may be the last Arya POV in this book (???), which would mean book readers were waiting for five years to find out more!
And if there was any doubt who this Many Faced God is, this chapter straight up points him to The Stranger of the Faith of the Seven.
The other revelation in this chapter is that Arya’s Wolf Dreams include Long Distance Plans! She continues to get them nightly, even though she is soooo far away.
And yes, that was of course Arya who run into Samwell in a previous Samwell POV chapter.
We get a Saladhor Saan update, he attempted to pirate a ship near the Stepsones, so he is alive and kicking after that Northern storm ruined many of his ships.
Some quotable/funny lines: “”could not lift anything heavier than a tankard of brown ale”… “told her true tales of Braavos and lies about their lives”…
FEAST #35: SAMWELL: Goodbye Maester AEMON
Samwell gets a reality check from the Captain’s daughter (yet another interesting character out of the gate), while we finally say goodbye to Maester Aemon, dying at sea, but at least with his dragon hopes and dreams alive!
On the soap opera front, Samwell broke his vows by having sex with Gilly, and then having morning after awkwardness issues. Cue the reality check from The Captain’s Daughter!
On the mythology front, Maester Aemon was convinced now that Daenerys is the Prince that Was Promised. We learn some Dragon Biology – dragons are neither male or female, so the prophecy interpretation/translation looking for a male prince only was not accurate. We also learn that a comet was seen when Rhaegar’s son Aegon was born. Maester Aemon does not know that he survived, so he is now certain the prophecy is about Dany. Of course we don’t know for certain that the kid claimed to be Aegon is actually Aegon. Griff may be honest in what he says, but how can he tell for sure the kid in front of him is actually Aegon? It’s not like Varys is the most trustworthy person in the 7 Queendoms! Assuming Griff is honest too.
We also learn that the Baratheons got their Targ connection through Egg’s daughter (Rhaelle; Egg of the Dunk and Egg book series).
We also learn that Maester Aemon was lingering around and watching and waiting for signs. We already saw signs of this in earlier chapters based on his words and actions. Recall his thorough proxy-examination of Lightbringer.
Maester Aemon also rings the alarm bells on Melisandre, is she is misguided or is she intentionally leading them down the wrong path? Her first POV chapter in Dance does not provide a clear answer either way!
An important character like Maester Aemon must needs leave us with some visions/dreams/prophecies, so we are left to ponder on a glass candle that could not be lit (wasn’t there something about this in Qarth?), and eggs that would not hatch (Euron? previous Targareyns in Westeros?) and “the sphinx was the riddle not the riddler”.
This whole plan to go to Oldtown was co-hatched and co-signed by Maester Aemon. Should any blame should go to Jon Snow for this? Or did he try to make the best of a messed situation? There was no telling whether Melisandre would burn Maester Aemon or Mance’s baby. We now see that she actually saved Mance Rayder. But perhaps saved him so she could burn him later?
Gilly closes with a good point, “there are no trees here. Only water”. Given what we are learning about the Trees and the Old Gods in the Bran chapters, Gilly is more on the point perhaps than we know!
FEAST #36: CERSEI the FROG
When Cersei revealed the complete Maggy the Frog story we previously got in random sentences, I started wondering whether this might be the last of Cersei and she would die by the end of the chapter. That’s why GRRM is giving us the full Maggy the Frog dream. Not so, it looks like Cersei is going to stick around!
On the war front, Ser Loras managed to take Dragonstone very quickly but he is dying from multiple wounds and burns. Cersei is very excited on so many different fronts because of this, but it is still not enough. The Maggy the Frog prophecy is driving her crazy, so it looks like she is pushing ahead with her scheming to get Margaery killed. But what Cersei perhaps doesn’t consider is that the prophecy may not be about Margaery but someone else. Perhaps Daenerys? Cersei can’t possibly kill all younger and more beautiful high born ladies just to be safe! Although she wouldn’t mind doing so…
The Ironborn are not shy, they are causing all kinds of troubles in the Southwest, with the Redwyne fleet gone. But with Dragonstone falling, Redwyne is sailing back, so perhaps we can get naval battle chapters?
In the words of Admiral Waters Rhaegar-look-a-like, “he (Loras) turned what could have been a bloodless victory into a slaughter”. Almost 1000 men and most of them on the Crown side. Redwyne was building a tunnel to take the castle by surprise but it was not fast enough for Ser Loras.
Cersei the Fierce needs someone to sleep with, she can’t sleep alone! Interesting. She also has some sense of justice, the people who kill innocent dwarves for a shot at the lottery get sent to Qyburn Labs. Interestingly, the last of the three informers was probably talking about the High Heart Old Dwarf Lady! Cersei The Paranoid has a strange reaction to the Ser Gyles Rosby sickness, seeing conspiracies and then commanding him not to die (!). Cersei the Mother gives Tommen yet another lesson in Cersei-style “obedience”.
More craziness, the pyromancers want to hatch dragon eggs, assuming they can find any in Dragonstone or nearby.
Prophecy: Maggy the Frog’s bloodmagic gave Cersei a bonus prophecy, all three of her kids will be crowned and all three will die (Joffrey is already dead; Myrcella potentially on a cliff-hanger in the Queenmaker chapter). And then the “valonqar” will choke her to death. Cersei interprets that to be Tyrion.
Yikes, Pycelle has been Grand Maester for 42 years, exactly half of his life! Cersei keeps bleep-slapping him yet she forgets that he is the one who gives her all her potions and medicines. You don’t want to piss off that guy!
Child Count: Robert had 16 bastards and Cersei had 3 twincest babies
HBO TV Development Idea: strange as it may sound, HBO may be able to create a spin off Kids show out of Game of Thrones: Tommen and His Kittens!
FEAST #37: BRIENNE
Ouch! I guess GRRM must start killing characters as we near the end of Feast. Things don’t look good for Brienne as of the last sentence. Biter is literally eating her flesh bite by bite. And the chapter started so well for Brienne, with Brienne PI piecing together the Gendry puzzle and just as she was about to tell Gendry that he is King Robert’s bastard, Biter and his associates, with the Hound’s helm in tow, arrive.
Apparently the Brotherhood (?) is hot on the heels of the Biter group, Brienne and crew found them hanged on trees along the way. Only seven of them remain (religious reference?) and some are injured.
We also learn that Gendy is now a belieber in Rulore, and we get a brief history of the most happening Inn in Westeros, the Inn at the Crossroads. It looks like perhaps that’s where Brienne’s journey will end 🙁
Brienne PI was also curious as to who this Willow girl might be. Brienne was suspecting Arya, but we know she is not Arya. But could she be some other high born girl MIA? With so many characters and storylines, I can’t think of any candidates.
Apparently Gendry and The Kids thought the people returning where the Brotherhood and got caught by surprise when the Biter group showed up?
Brienne distills men: “that was men wanted, wasn’t it? soft helpless women that they needed to protect?”
I can’t keep track of them all. Is the one Brienne killed the one that captured her and Jaime in the books, before they were taken to Vargo the Goat? Or is it Rorge?
FEAST #38: JAIME’s SIEGE
Jaime takes charge and makes the siege his own! We see some of Tywin and some of Tyrion here. The plan is to send Edmure back to Riverrun so he can yield the castle and end this mess without bloodshed. The Blackfish will definitely not yield. So it is up to Edmure to save the day.
Jaime goes in Tyrion-mode by suggesting he will first send the Riverlords against the Castle, then the Freys, and only after them the Westernmen will join the attack and be spared most of the pain.
Jaime also bleep-slaps the Freys. He sends Lord Walder Frey’s heir (Ryman) home for lack of institutional control and gives his son Edwyn command. He also demands that the Freys send him all their hostages. That will certainly not go well with Lord Walder Frey.
The war council also shows this is a fragile alliance, with no one liking the Freys, and blood already between the Westernmen and the Riverlords.
Is the singer singing to the bathing Edmure the one he made the embarrassing songs about him? Is that why Edmure said “not him”?
FEAST #39: CERSEI plans a SEX SCANDAL
Cersei’s priorities are a bit out of whack. The Ironborn are storming the Southwest, Riverrun and Storm’s End under siege, War in the North, Financial Crisis with Braavos, and Cersei’s #1 priority is getting rid of Margaery because of the Maggy the Frog prophecy!
The Cersei sex scandal plan is moving along faster and faster. After “interrogating” the Blue Bard with the help of Qyburn, she has to bed one of the Kettlebacks to convince him to confess his sex crime to the new pious High Septon.
Meanwhile, poor Pycelle gets humiliated even more by Cersei, while our beloved Ser Gyles Rosby is finally dead. Cersei shuffles her cabinet, with Ser Harys Swyft becoming the new Master of Coin and Taena’s husband becoming the new Hand of the King. I forgot that he was only in the Council before, not the Hand. Now he is the Hand. Ser Harys Swyft is that memorable as a Hand! Or maybe I got that mixed up with talk of his grandpa being Hand after Tywin – or something like that. The side-effect of instant reaction write-ups 🙂
So one big question is whether Taena is truly loyal to Cersei or she is continuing her “embed” role. Taena testified in Tyrion’s trial that Tyrion put something in King Koffrey’s drink. So this cuts both ways: did she do it primarily to win favor with Cersei or did she do it primarily to make sure no fingers were pointed in the Tyrell/Olenna direction? The latter would also have the benefit of winning her favor with Cersei. That perhaps sounds like something the Queen of Thorns would have thought/plotted.
On the other hand, Taena’s husband is now the Hand of the King. No higher honor than that for her family. Is her loyalty to the Tyrells that strong? How about her husband?
And why did Margaery get “Moon Tea” so openly from Pycelle knowing that everyone is watched in the Red Keep? That doesn’t make sense given all the other precautions she was taking! She could have easily gotten it through some of the many people in her entourage.
Meanwhile, while we said goodbye to Ser Giles Coughsby, Ser Loras is holding on to dear life, but can he survive? And if so, will he be a shell of himself like Lancel was after the Battle of the Blackwater wounds?
Uniform Factoid: Qyburn’s official uniform while working down the Qyburn Labs is roughspun wool and a blacksmith’s leather apron. Such a dedicated professional!
FEAST #40: The PRINCESS IN THE TOWER
GRRM teased us for a few pages before revealing that Princess Myrcella survived, perhaps saved by her horse the last moment, with a nasty cut across her face and one ear gone. She was slashed at by The Darkstar.
This chapter was saved by the last part. The “stuck in a box” part was just going and going and going, sprawling unnecessarily. I understand authors sometimes like to do this, frustrate the reader as a way for the reader to “feel” the frustration of the protagonist. But you don’t do this type of a thing at the end of a book! Maybe GRRM was short a few pages and he kept going and going?
We still have an open mystery. Who betrayed them? Ser Arys, as a way out? The Darkstar, to force a confrontation? One of Arianne’s besties? Spotted Sylva was not punished by Doran-Doran but her dad made her marry an old man (Estermont). Drey was sent to serve her mom in Essos. Garin was sent to Essos as well and there was talk of hostages. Whose punishment was the least? (if it was one of the three). And that’s assuming that it was one of these who told and Doran-Doran did not find out by other means.
We also get another backstory reveal: Arianne was meant to marry Viserys to unite House Targareyn with Dorne once again. But Viserys got a “golden crown”, so Doran-Doran’s new plan is to marry Quentyn (the Quentyn in Defiance died; does not bode well for him here) to Daenerys. What they don’t know (at least not yet) is that Griff and the Golden Company and the alleged-Aegon are allegedly heading to Dorne. With this whole Myrcella kerfufle, they couldn’t be coming at a better time! Doran-Doran is trying to delay the revelation of what happened to Myrcella, but they can’t keep Balon Swann distrated for ever. Unless they kill him too 🙂
So all the Dirty Old Lords he was match-making for Arianne were a reuse. Yikes, he even tried to match her with Lord Walder Frey!
It is interesting that most people age faster in this world, but Arianne is acting like a 23-year-old fifteen-year-old here. And Doran-Doran as the suburban father who likes to agree with everyone and avoid conflicts and never raise his voice.
FEAST #41: ALAYNE GETS A WEDDING PRESENT
This chapter follows a similar pattern as the previous one. It starts slow, with lots of world-building *cough* boring *cough* we already got in Book #1 when Catelyn climbed up the Eyrie with Tyrion as captive. But it gets better at the end with a very interesting reveal. Littlefinger’s plotting and scheming at the Vale will eventually lead to the Lord of the Vale marrying Sansa Stark and helping her reclaim Winterfell! Littlefinger’s plan is so deviously evil, even Bronze Yohn Royce will have to warm up to him since he was among the leading voices demanding from Lysa to declare for Robb Stark.
If this actually happens, it would add another layer of the High Heart prophecy. We saw that fulfilled when Sansa (the maiden) slew the giant (Robert’s doll) at the Snow Winterfell up at the Eyrie at the end of Storm of Swords. But if Littlefinger’s new scheme works out, with Littlefinger “getting rid of” Robert-Robyn Arryn-Tully at a convenient moment, the prophecy would play out again, Sansa (the maiden) getting the Lord of the Vale (giant in terms of his position) killed!
Sansa haters may point out that Lord Robert-Robyn Arryn-Tully is acting like a little Sansa. Sansa even notices that he has pretty hair, just like Sansa! Plus it only took a couple of minutes before Sansa Big Mouth spouted out “Jon Snow” when Nestor’s daughter mentioned a Stark bastard was the new Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch.
Sansa fans will vehemently disagree and point out that her Eyrie experience has changed and matured and humbled Sansa-Alayne. Sansa is even a Maester now, deciding what’s the best treatment option for Robert-Robyn and she even conquers her fears to help him down the mountain. Plus Sansa has to deal with all the uninvited physical contact with pervert “Father” (“innocent and experience make for a perfect marriage”) and annoying Baby Robert. Sansa fans will also point out that Sansa even remembered Jon Snow after a long while, and even sympathized with his bastard status, so you see, she is making progress!
Do we have another Littlefinger conspiracy with Lothor Brune wanting Mya Stone? Being Robert’s bastard and with Littlefinger knowing (presumably) the truth about Cersei’s kids, Mya Stone would be a great “asset” for LF to have within reach.
Littlefinger thought he would have 4-5 years to plot and scheme from a distance, but according to his latest analysis, Cersei is screwing up so badly, “so fast”.
Bonus points if you memorized the Arryn family tree storyline that explains how Sansa’s husband to be is the heir to the Vale if/when Baby Robert-Robyn “Milkface” Arryn-Tully (his name is almost as long as Dany’s!) dies.
DANCE #36: DANY in DEEP TROUBLE
Ouch! Our poor Day is way deep, way over her head. She starts the chapter by risking all her important commanders and her Unsullied too on an empty feel good trip to feed the dying Astapori. Touching the sick because “have you ever seen a dragon with the flux?” completely ignoring the fact that everybody else around her is not a dragon. Then ignoring all kinds of contamination protocols by repeatedly sending healthy people in the middle of the bloody flux mess. And then taking those back in the city, increasing the chances of it spreading inside Meereen which may soon be under siege. With a bloody flux outbreak, the siege would just have to wait until they all catch it and die.
Bad news on the war front too. Brown Ben turned cloak and his Second Sons joined her enemies. Is this one of the three in the House of the Undying prophecy? And what does it say about her Dragons? They liked him. Unlike the Direwolves of the Starks, her Dragons do not appear to be able to “tell”. More bad news, more armies arrive for her enemies, some going up river to cut off her escape/help from/to the Dothraki/Lazharene side.
So now the only option is for her to marry the local guy and let him broker peace with her enemies. But she may even sabotage that as she ends the chapter with Daario romance. Will she go love-crazy and cancel the wedding for Daario-love? Or will she put the needs of her people ahead of hers?
We have already seen how the Mhysa turned from a glorious moment earlier on, to a horrible human tragedy now with many of her children dead or dying outside her walls and Dany helpless to help them.
Meanwhile, the Dorne plan is perhaps progressing, according to Daario, the Westerosi turncloaks from the Windblown have joined him But did the Dornish survive? The number Daarioo mentions is smaller than the one that the Windblown send out. So we’ll have to wait to find out.
As if we didn’t have enough religions, we learn that The Unsullied have their own secret Goddess that only the Unsullied are allowed to speak of. World-building or more to it too?
The irony of such phrase, read in the 21st century: “the disruption of the slave trade has caused great injury throughout the civilized world”. Civilized?
Dany and GRRM as a proxy for the readers are asking: “what good are prophecies if you cannot make sense of them?”. Har!
DANCE #37: THEON – another wedding
And so we have another wedding, this one eventless with no dramatic happenings. We find out what secret purpose Roose and Barbra had for Theon – to give away the bride during the wedding, giving their sham more legitimacy in the eyes of the other Northern lords. The actual wedding ceremony in the Godswood was an opportunity for either Theon or Jeyne to shout out the truth but neither one dared.
The Godswood has a very atmospheric feel to it, described quite well by GRRM (“grey and ghostly, filled with warm mists and floating lights with whispered voices that seemed to come from everywhere and nowhere”), it was like some of those slow moving foggy indie movies that win awards at Film Festivals but the general population finds utterly boring.
Old Gods presence? We are given many subtle hints, and these are coming hot on the heels of the previous Bran chapter that had all kinds of revelations about the Children of the Forest and Ravens and Old Gods and the 3iR… The ravens were watching the wedding, talking to each other in their ancient tongue (?), the thickest at the Heart Tree… Then a voice whispered “Theon” in the Godswood, “as cold as hate”… And when Ramsay asked Theon to become his fluffer, “a raven screamed”. Coincidence or the Old Gods or 3iR are finding all these very disagreeable?
BARBRA DUSTIN’s INSIGHTS: Barbra gives us lots of insights and clues and theories here. First up, he trusted no one so she had both faux-Arya and Theon travel with her from Barrowton to Winterfell… She analyzes Lord Manderly, he is craven deep down, all the jolliness is a facade. Cravenism is in their blood, that’s why they fled the South to White Harbor. Barbra thinks Mandrely wants to kill them all but doesn’t have the guts/nerve to do so. She probably doesn’t know that he “disposed of” three high-ranking Freys on their way from White Harbor?
BARBRA DUSTIN on ROOSE: Very cautious, never eats or drinks anything that Lord Mandrely hasn’t tasted yet (but what if Mandrely took an anti-poison, so it might be safe for him to eat, but not the rest of them – do we have anti-poisons in Westeros?)… Roose sees everyone as his playthings, even his own bastard and wife… Roose has higher ambitions now, he wants to become the King in the North now that Tywin is dead and the Lannisters in disarray. Frey would not object since his daughter would become a Queen… Theon’s flattery reveals that Barbara is perhaps keeping her options open with regards to her alliance with Roose. At the moment, their interests are aligned however.
BARBRA DUSTIN on MAESTERS: our beloved Maesters are so well liked and loved by many, but Barbra has quite a different point of view. Who is serving she asks. How much influence do the maesters have over their lords? What agendas do they have?… She also reveals/suggests/theorizes that Lord Rickard Stark’s maester, Walys Flowers, a bastard of an archmaester in Oldtown, was pulling the strings and the Tully marriage was his idea she says…
THEON WISDOM: “when you have known the kiss of a flaying knife, a laugh loses all its power to hurt you”
TIDBITS: Theon notes that faux-Arya (Jeyne Poole) has the wrong eye color, brown, not gray of the real Arya, but no one noticed or at least dared to bring it up… It looks like Theon is keeping the existence of Bran and Rickon a secret, short of being flayed… Theon observes, weddings go faster when you don’t have priests around… Our beloved Roose Bolton made the people who were sheltered at the ruins of Winterfell work and rebuild crucial parts and as a thank you, he hanged them!… Theon on Neddard: “he was kind to me, but never warm”… Theon observes the singer’s family looks not alike… Roose is such a party pooper, who ends their toast to the groom and bride with “many of us shall not live to see the spring”? Try it the next time you go to a wedding and see what happens :)… Big Fork Rankings: #1 Manderly with six slices and #2 Fat Walda Frey-Bolton with three slices… We are reminded once again that Arnolf Karstark is planning to betray Stannis… Ramsay’s possie is such a mess, one of them wants a piece of the wedding night bloody sheet as “mark of special favor”… Ramsay himself takes his psycho to the next level, as he uses Theon as a fluffer on his wedding night…
SPECULATION: Theon ponders on where camp-followers/whores come from. Tyrion in his chapters is pondering where whores go. So do we have an answer on Tysha then? She became a camp follower?
DANCE #41: THEON THE TURNCLOAK
This is only a crackpot theory and prediction, not a proper chapter write-up. In this chapter, among other things, Theon and Barbra visit the Starks Crypts underground. Once again, GRRM gives us wisps of foreshadowing. Here’s the crackpot/prediction:
Item #1: in previous books and this book, we get various subtle hints of something rising up from the Starks crypts. I believe there was even a dream or vision in one of the earlier books, I don’t recall the details. Here, Theon notices the absence of a few swords (the ones taken by Bran and Friends). Theon thinks: “he had always heard that the iron in the sword kept the spirits of the dead locked within their tombs. If a sword was missing…”.
Item #2: Ned’s bones were sent North. They are apparently somewhere in the swamps. Given the Reeds love for Ned, they would probably keep them there safe until it was safe to go North again? Barbra is so psycho she is actually waiting for them to come out of the Neck/swamps, because she wants to feed Ned’s bones to her dogs. We all have our vices, don’t judge 😉
The Crackpot: when Ned’s bones are brought back in the Crypts in Winterfell, they will be the trigger that causes the Old Kings in the North to rise from their graves and start avenging. I imagine Boltons and Freys will be popular targets. GRRM also reminds us, “The North Remembers”.
DANCE #42: THE KING’s PRIZE (Asha)
Another Asha POV! This is a frozen one. The desperate march of Stannis from Deepwood Motte to Winterfell. The Mountain Clans have no problem with the snow but the Southerns armies are in deep trouble, unaccustomed to this type of weather. This also points to a philosophical divide, the Mountain Clans insisted on taking Winterfell now.
Stannis is as described. He will break but not bend. A siege/attack on Winterfell in this situation does not sound like a good idea. Things look rather bleak for both his army and even himself. Asha notices that he is getting skinnier and skinnier. And they don’t even know of the potential trap by Arnolf Karstark. Assuming he can find them in the snow.
Stannis gets more 21st century sensitivities awards (Asha was “blessedly unraped”). But only nine (!) remain of Asha’s force, but her favorites Qarl and Tris are still alive and left behind in Deepwood Motte as Glover’s prisoners. Which means they may survive.
More She-Bear excitement! Some of the Mormont ladies joined Stannis and one is guarding Asha. Unlike our beloved Brienne, the Mormont She-Bears are very comfortable in their own skins, literally and figuratively.
As far as the TV show, with Asha having no men with her, and Stannis ignoring her suggestion to “recruit” Dagmar Cleftshaw of Torrent (ha!) Square, how are they going to reconcile the story lines? Perhaps there is going to be some kind of Asha-Theon covert operation that could open the door for Stannis to take Winterfell? Let’s not forget there is a secret way inside the walls. I don’t know if Theon is aware of this or even remembers this.
We also get some classic Stannis lines, such as “I will have no burnings. Pray harder!”.
DANCE #43: DAENERYS – another wedding
Here comes the Bride! Yes, another wedding, and this one without any trouble! GRRM gave us a Red Wedding scare when Dany noticed one of her friendlier Graces missing (Ezzara), but she was probably sick or otherwise unavailable. No Red Wedding here!
We have the conclusion of the Dornish Journey! Prince Quentyn and his two associates find Dany and reveal themselves. Just hours before her wedding, so no chances for a Dany-Quentyn match. Dany’s Cosmo Teen first impressions evaluation of Quentyn doomed any little chances he may have had. Barristan on the other hand thought this changed everything (abandon Essos, go to Dorne). But Dany did not. And she is right, without Peace, her chances of leaving Meereen alive and with her armies intact are pretty low.
Dany once again plays back Quaiths’ prophecies and visions and senses that something is wrong or something is about to go wrong. And it probably will! I was expecting something to go wrong during the wedding, but nope, not now.
Another revelation, the Mad King had some interest in Tywin’s wife (also his cousin) back when the Mad King was a Prince. He went “hands-on” during the bedding ceremony even. Is this enough to strat us thinking whether any of Tywin’s kids are Targaryen bastards? Cersei/Jaime? Tyrion?
And another revelation. A secret pact between the Red Viper and Ser Willem Darry with the Sealord of Braavos as a witness (wow!). The Arianne-Viserys secret match. There’s something more to this but Dany cannot (yet) remember the missing link. The revelation here is the involvement of the Sealord of Braavos. We heard very little of Braavos involvement before. Unless he was not part of it, he just offers “Witnessing Services” for a modest fee?
GRRM puts on his romance novelist hat here too, with the last few days of the Dany-Daarriooo fling. The sellsword is quite a character. Mildly surprising he is still alive given his wild nature. Ser Grandfather (great nickname for Ser Barristan) does not approve of him.
FEAST #42: BRIENNE
The Tully Sisters were “touched” in their own ways while alive. Dead, ouch! The Old Dwarf Lady at High Heart had it right. She is a hate machine! Poor Brienne of all people. The alive Catelyn, Tully-touched as she may have been, she would have understood Brienne’s situation. Brienne wouldn’t even have to explain. But this is Catelyn Psycho Squared! Jon Snow better make sure he is not in the same zipcode as her!
So Brienne survived the Biter attack, Gendry killed Biter and other members of the Brotherhood arrived just in the nick of time to save the rest of the party. The priest, as suspected, was let go, probably one of them But they also hanged the knight and even poor Podrik! Even more so since Brienne and her group just saved the Brotherhood kids at the Inn!
We haven’t seen the bodies though, so it is always possible that something happened in the nick of time. Highly unlikely though. Poor Brienne and her squire Podrik Payne, they survived all that to be hanged by Angry Cacklyn.
Brienne has some trippy dreams, and one of them starts a bit like Jaime’s head-on-weirdwood dream right before he decided to rush back to the bear pit to save Brienne. The part with their Dead around them.
We also learn how the R-word happened! It was a Two God Project! The Old Gods (through alleged-Nymeria) pulled her to the shore and the Red God revived her – Beric D (who wanted out) transferred his life force into her. We don’t know why Beric D did this (other than wanting a way out?). Thoros did not want to give her the kiss of life.
Thoros poses existential questions about the Brotherhood without Banners. And based on the rest of the chapter, he does a pretty good job summarizing it all in a single paragraph.
So R-word Angry Cacklyn’s goal is to kill as many Freys and Boltons as she can. Plus apparently almost everybody else they run into (unless they are one of them).
Apparently Angry Catelyn has Robb’s crown with her, and now, with Oathkeeper, she has half of Ned’s Ice. I don’t know if she knows this or Brienne told them off-camera or she can “sense” it?
I was so looking forward to more R-word since that Arya chapter in Storm of Swords, but now that we got it, yikes, it is Psycho Catelyn to the Nth Degree!
What was the last thing Brienne said when “she screamed a word” at the end? Jaime?
Brienne once again tried to tell Gendry about his father, but circumstances did not allow it. So if GRRM put this in, it will probably come into play later, either as a what-if or as part of the story.
And a coup d’etat of sorts! Ser Harys Swyft and Pycelle took control of the Small Council and are begging Kevan Lannister to return as regent. The other Kettleback no longer commands the City Watch. The new Admiral Bastard Waters took the brand new ships and disappeared! Both Mace Tyrell and Randyll Tarly are marching on King’s Landing!
Cersei’s own scheming limits her Trial by Combat to the Kingsguard, so she can’t use the mystery unbeatable warrior Qyburn claims he has. (it has to be something Mountain-related?). So she wants Jaime to come back and defend her. What if the other side uses this unbeatable warrior of Qyburn?
Jon Snow should sleep easier tonight, the Kettleback plot to kill him is whipped to pieces. Kettleback just confessed he killed the previous High Septon on Cersei’s orders and slept with Cersei – among many other things.
Taena and her husband bolted out of the capital and returned home. Cersei is happy because she would be more evidence to be used against her. Question is, was Taena playing Cersei along the way and help set this trap within a trap with the Sparrows?
The Sparrows now hold both Queens. Margaery is well aware of Cersei’s scheming to have Tommen and the regency for her own. The Sparrows are not as nasty in their torture as Qyburn. Just good old fashion whipping and psychological torture (every hour on the hour). So far only 100~ people are protesting Margaery’s imprisonment – will we get the “Free Margaery” riots?
Cersei also confesses to loving Jaime – if the Sparrows were listening in on her chat with Qyburn or if Qyburn talks or if they get his message…
FEAST #44: JAIME @ RIVERRUN
Compared to the previous chapter, this is a normal chapter. Riverrun is transitioned to the Freys, the Blackfish escapes, and Jaime ignores Cersei’s raven-plea for help (oh my!). The old Maester at Riverun probably knows about them, he read the “I love you 3X” message thinking it was administrative stuff.
We still get more Red Wedding updates. Young Jeyne (don’t call me Talisa) Westerling is still madly in love with Robb, one of her brothers died trying to help Grey Wind, her mother indeed plotted and schemed with Tywin and made sure her daughter did not get pregnant. Jaime is not shy about telling her how he really feels: “scheming turncloak bitch”.
Edmure is heading to The Rock as a prisoner, with 400 men guarding him (Jaime doubled the guard twice). Emmon Frey is holding Riverrun with a garrison of 200. Jon Snow will be pleased to know that he might be getting two very seasoned veterans, the Riverrun Master at Arms and Captain of Guards. Assuming Raff the Sweetling can be trusted to deliver them safe.
Meanwhile the brotherhood hanged a high profile Frey, the drunk Ryman Frey, who was the current heir. However his son thinks it was Black Walder who had him killed or had a hand in his death.
The Brotherhood is perhaps infiltrating – Tom Of Sevens is the new singer at Riverrun. When later on Jaime woke up to find his window open, I thought Tom Of 7s or the Brotherhood were coming in to get him or kill him. But it is also possible that Tom Of 7s quit the Brotherhood and is going …solo!
Of all the characters out there, it is Jaime that puts the question to words: is the big direwolf leader-of-the-pack the same one that bit Joffrey in early book #1? (Nymeria!). At this point, it is probably at least 95% certain. What will happen if she runs into Angry Catelyn and they join forces???
Jaime is doing some back of the envelope politicking, thinking Hand candidates, and separating Tommen from Cersei, “before the boy became another Joffrey”. Tommen and his Army of Kittens?
We get another Jaime dream that is not a dream. He has one hand in this dream but two in all his other dreams. Who is this mystery woman? His mother? Or ???????
FEAST #45: SAMWELL arrives at OLDTOWN
I had to re-read the Prologue to remember the various characters mentioned at the end of this chapter. Sam is back at Oldtown, but he is intercepted by Archmaester Marwyn’s associates before he talks to the establishment. Marwyn is the one who believes in the higher mysteries, magic, and such.
On their way in to Oldtown, Sam & Cinnamon Wind saw how much damage the Ironborn had done to the surrounding areas. The Cinnamon Wind was armed so they scared away a single longship that neared them. Oldtown itself is fairly safe, but the surrounding areas don’t have the resources of Oldtown.
Sam’s plan is to take Gilly to his mother at Horn Hill after he settles his affairs (Maester Aemon’s body on the ship) and such.
Interestingly enough, Samwell runs into a person named The Sphinx and he immediately recalls the “the sphinx is the riddle, not the riddler” (one of the things Maester Aemon was saying while he was dying at sea).
Did Marwyn have a way of hearing what Sam was initially telling The Sphinx? Because he seemed to know what he told him and there was no time in between.
Now that we know more about the Old Gods, it is not a surprise that the ravens are clustering around the living parts of the weirwood tree, probably spying on the Citadel too! We also learn that the Black and the White ravens don’t get along.
Marwyn has a Dragonglass Candle which has many magical properties, including communication across vast distances, ability to enter dreams and send visions (AHA! is this how Quaithe is visiting with Dany in her dreams?), ability to see far away, and light up a room. Because we all need light!
GRRM once again through yet another character tells us about the nature of prophecy, “prophecy is like a treacherous woman”. But GRRM is the one writing the prophecies in the books! Yes, he loves to drive us crazy 🙂
We met these in the Prologue and we meet them again, Alleras the Sphinx, Leo Tyrell (son of the City Watch commander, relative to Mace Tyrell), and *drumroll* Pate (there was something about the pale soft youth that he misliked”).
WAIT, what happened to Pate at the end of the Prologue? Did he get killed or did the alchemist just put him to sleep so he wouldn’t follow him and pester him? I am assuming the delivery mechanism was when Pate bit the coin. It’s hard to tell conclusively from the end of the Prologue, but it read more dead than just knocked out?
Marwyn says the Maesters “might have had to kill him” (Maester Aemon) if he talked of Dany and her dragons. But Marwyn refuses to tell Sam why they would do that. He also warns Sam he might be poisoned if he starts talking of dragons and prophecies. He says the Citadel would not make Maester Aemon T. archmaester because of his blood. And then he says “no more than I can”. Is he Targaryen too or ????
So Marwyn wants to rush to Dany in Meereen, and get there before the official representative from the Citadel goes there. Add even more to the Meereenese Knot! So despite all that, the Citadel would still send someone to Dany. But for what purposes? And what are Marwyn’s purposes?
DANCE #44: JON – Faux-Faux-Arya Arrives
So we have another sign that Melisandre does see something in her fires, but they are nowhere near as accurate as her predictions/speculation make us believe. The Arya was obviously not Arya, not even Faux-Arya, but Alys Karstark, escaping her uncle who wants to marry her and take her claim. So she is Faux-Faux-Arya.
Faux-Faux-Arya also reveals to Jon Snow that Arnolf Karstark is indeed planning to betray/kill Stannis. Part of the reason he joined Stannis was to provoke the Lannisters to kill Alys’s brother (and rightful heir), so they can grab the Karstark reigns. So what will Jon Snow do? Will he pass the information to Melisandre and the Queen’s Men? Can they get to Stannis in time? And even if they do, will the snow or an assault on Winterfell doom Stannis regardless? And what will Jon Snow do with Alys Karstark? Hide her among the wildlings in Mole Town? Send her North of the Wall? Hide her in one of the other newly opened castles?
Interestingly, Jon Snow thought the best thing to do would be to send Arya to Braavos or the other Free Cities to be safe/safer while this war continues.
We also have Queen Selyse and her entourage arriving at Castle Black on their way to The Nightfort. We even get a context-sensitive Patchface line. Who/what is Patchface? Who is controlling him? There’s obviously a method to his madness!
The Iron Bank of Braavos is seeking Stannis to discuss Westerosi Debt after Cersei decided to stop paying them. Jon Snow notes that if the Bank of Braavos reaches an agreement with Stannis, his chances of winning the Iron Throne will skyrocket. And that’s before you factor in the new situation in King’s Landing with Cersei imprisoned by the Sparrows. Apparently the Iron Baank of Braavos is moore poowerful thaan aall the oother baanks coombined! Westeros does not have a bank like that, but Cersei was thinking of starting one after the War.
Jon Snow will indeed go ahead with his plan to shuttle Wildlings from the Bay down to The Wall. He makes a good point, when they die North, they will give the Others even more zombie soldiers!
Jon Snow has also signed up for a loan with the Iron Bank of Braavos to help fund the Wall and his Wildling Immigration Experiments. He doesn’t really have much to lose. What is the Iron Bank going to do? Support the White Walkers if they fail to pay? Sell the Wall and their ruined castles?
Did Melisandre have other plans for Mance Rayder in addition to saving faux-faux-Arya? Did , she know she wasn’t the real Arya but played it along because it served her other plans?
A funny moment amidst the snow and gloom, one of the devout Lord of Light Queen’s men accidentally said “Seven save us!”…
DANCE #45: ARYA – The Temporarily Blind Girl
As suspected, Arya was only made temporarily blind. This was part of her training anyway, but it happened to her earlier on, partly as penalty for killing Dareon the Deserter without approval.
Arya continues to have the Nymeria dreams (but she won’t tell the Kindly Old Man about them) and she is now able to see through a cat’s eyes, the cat not fooled by her new Blind Beth disguise.
We get North of the Wall updates, the Wood’s Witch was correct, two ships came at Hardhome and pickup some of the women and children, but they were Lyseni pirates (part of Saan’s fleet disbursed by the storm?). With Dany disrupting the Slave Trade in Slaver’s Bay, now the poor Wildlings at Hardhome are going to be a hard commodity. One of the Lyseni ships escaped south, so they may bring more of them. Jon Snow is also planning to send ships to save as many as he can. Collision course with the pirates?
In earlier chapters, Arya “heard” Syrio Forel voices in her head at critical times. In the last Samwell chapter in Feast we learned of the Dragonglass Candle. Was the Syrio voice just Arya playing back his lessons or did Syrio have a Dragonglass Candle or something similar?
The House of Black and White doesn’t have a lot of residents according to Arya, but others come and go through secret passages… The plan for the Arya Blind Training was six months. I don’t know if the six months passed or Arya graduated early?… Catelyn was such a horrible mother, she never called Arya pretty. She only told her “you could be pretty”. No wonder she is now Angry Cacklyn!… Karaoke was invented in Bravos, at the Outcast Inn…
DANCE #46: THEON – Ghost in Winterfell
It looks like the singers are the ones killing random soldiers in Winterfell? Abel and the Lady Singers! Why? Pattern? Reason? Personal vendetta? Stannis allies? Theon’s turn is coming?
Theon appears to be having a conversation of sorts in the Godswood with the Old Gods. Bran and his Teacher perhaps?
Meanwhile, goofy Stannis is going to storm the castle in the middle of this never-ending storm? Well, no soldiers were seen, only the sound of the horn and drums.
We get a subtle reminder of the previous Theon chapter reference that the swords are what keeps the dead Starks in their crypts, and some of them are missing their swords (the ones Bran/Osha/etc took when they left the crypts). Probably GRRM misdirection, giving Stark fans some kind of false hope.
We also get a mention of the Horn of Joranum. What if Stannis saved it and burned some other thing? But how could they make a similar horn to fool everyone? The horn was allegedly destroyed in public together with the burning of Mance Rayder. They already cheated on Mance Rayder, so why not cheat with the horn as well?
Stannis may be screwed out in the snow, but things are not that much better for the Roose crew. The Red Wedding is hanging over the Frey – Northmen alliance and being locked up inside with nothing to do is not helping. Theon noticed some uneasiness “even a hint of fear” in Roose’s eyes.
Steelshanks Walton makes a return – he led Jaime’s personal escort when he was returned to King’s Landing.
DANCE #47: TYRION – Slavery
A new chapter in the wild adventures of Tyrion. He and Penny and pigs and dog are now slaves, performing for a big fat Yunkai master who has a grotesquerie and he is also slowly dying. As a last minute thing, Tyrion “saves” the utterly despondent Ser Jorah (his Dany is married to another man).
At the end of the chapter, we learn that a peace agreement has been reached between Meereen and the Masters, and Tyrion and Penny will perform in one of the Stadiums/Pits. Presumably in Meereen. So perhaps an opportunity to escape?
Interestingly enough, Brown Ben was one of the bidders for Tyrion, probably knowing who he has and hoping for a big payday from Cersei. Unlike Dany who adored him, Tyrion quickly “analyzed” the sellsword and “saw” underneath his “jolly uncle” antics.
It’s not a Tyrion chapter without some classic Tyrion lines: “whores or priestesses… this far east it was hard to tell the two apart”.
DANCE #48: JAIME – the Return of the Brienne?
A world-building chapter through and through, on the history of the Brackens and Blackwoods dating back to before the Andals. The Blackwoods apparently keep the Old Gods. Jaime easily ended the six month siege by getting a fairly easy compromise between the two feuding lords. And what a coincidence? The Hostage was a history major, so we got even more world-building.
Except for the last page! Brienne (!!!) is back, and she looks ten years older since Jaime last saw her in King’s Landing. In the last Brienne chapter, she was getting hanged. She screamed one last word. Did she change her mind at the last minute? Or did she die and then R-worded? Other than the “ten years older” we have no other clue. We obviously know the Hound is dead and Sansa is elsewhere, so it is definitely a reuse. The only question is whether this is the living Brienne or the R-word Brienne?
I thought GRRM was fond of killing characters. In these two books, they seem to refuse to die. Even the ones he kills (Mance Rayder, Aegon the 6th allegdly) turn out to be alive!
DANCE #49: JON – another wedding
And another wedding, this one Rulore style, officiated by Melisandre! Jon Snow is one of the matchmakers, Alys Karstark is marrying the Magnar of the Thenns, while her chasing uncle is captive in the ice cells. Alys is grateful to Jon and this brings the Thenns closer to the Night’s Watch (they were not very warm to Jon and the Night’s Watch even after the other Wildlings started joining in).
The Operation Rescue Hardhome Wildlings is underway. Melisandre warns Jon Snow again of skulls around him. Messages were sent to Stannis but no one knows where he is or what’s going on. The Queen’s Men are annoying top to bottom (“begun to understand why Stannis had left them with his queen”.
Patchface! Wow! Melisandre is not fond of our beloved Pathface! “That creature is dangerous”. Under the sea, I know I know oh oh oh!
Jon also wonders what two of the old Mountain Clan men with their warriors are doing at the Wall. But he is grateful they brought with them two wet nurses for Gilly’s real son.
The chapter ends with two blasts of the horn. Jon is hoping it is Val and Thormund. But they don’t know yet. Might be Weeper or other Wildlings!
DANCE #50: DAENERYS – more wedding action
GRRM loves his weddings. More wedding celebrations and peace treaty formalities. Dany starts thinking how to sway the other three sellsword commanders because she don’t trust them Yunkaiz and she is not very happy with the compromise and she feels defeated. Slave trade is back (except not within Meeree), the fighting pits are re-opening, the siege is not lifted but her ships are permitted to travel/trade. And a Dothraki khalasar is likely heading in her direction to trade slaves for gifts, outside the walls of Meereen. What if it is one of the Khals that hates Dany or has Dany issues? She also shows Quentyn Martell her two dragons.
Twice now Misandei comes to Dany’s room thinking she heard her cry. Dany thinks otherwise. Hmmmm. Something going on here? GRRM wouldn’t have mentioned it twice for no reason?
Did Dany ever get her lady parts checked by a doctor-equivalent after the Miri Mazz Dhour incident? She keeps going back to that but perhaps she could get a better answer/diagnosis/prognosis if she actually talked to a specialist? MMD was not exactly an MD!
Dany is secretly a Bolton! “I am drinking and smiling with men I’d sooner flay”.
DANCE #51: THEON REEKS – the Great Escape Attempt
Aha! Abel and his women! Mance Rayder’s secret plan is revealed! They were sent to free Arya and deliver her to Stannis! The moment one of them said “kneelers”, GRRM’s cover was blown! This explains why they were so successful in killing random men. Hardened spearwives! But why did they need to kill all those men? It increased their risk and it didn’t really help their escape plan?
Having seen the other guy jump and survive, Theon decided that jumping off the walls was much better than being captured.
The death of one of the Walders brought White Harbor and the Freys to swords, and forced Roose’s hand, he sends them out to go fight Stannis in the snow. I am assuming he is going to keep his own men within the Walls.
The Wildlings insist it wasn’t them who killed the squire Walder. Was it the Manderlys revenge for the Red Wedding or a Stark sympathizer or a Stannis agent who did it, to drive a bigger gap in the fragile alliance? Perhaps that was Mance Rayder’s strategic doing? Given all that happened, what if White Harbor turns on the Freys as they start engaging Stannis’s host?
From Stannis’s perspective, real or fake Arya would serve well. Fake Arya would expose the Boltons and give cover to the other Northern lords to abandon Roose or at least withdraw.
Theon claims it was his moments in the Godswood that gave him courage to go through with this crazy Mance Rayder plan.
DANCE #52: DAENERYS at the Fighting Pits
They wanted a show. They got a show. More than they bargained for! They woke the dragon! Finally, after 4.67 books, Dany rides one of her dragons, but not before she does some instant-quasi-taming with a whip, shortly after she came within instances of getting dragon-killed. She may have fire resistance, but dragon teeth are still dragon teeth!
What about his injury? We know very little of dragon biology and so does Dany and her entourage! How much of Drogon’s wildness was a result of the injury and how much was it his nature wild nature?
Dany saves Tyrion and Penny! Oh my! That’s why the fat Master was sad to see his dwarves perform. They were going to unleash lions on them! And they would have wooden swords to fight them off. Dany’s kind heart saved them from certain death!
GRRM must not like hot dogs or hot dog vendors, “unborn puppies on a stick”. That sentence creates new vegans from every 1,000 new book readers
DANCE #53: JON – the compromise
Val is back with Thormund and 4,000 wildlings in tow. A compromise is hammered out to let the Wildlings cross south and be saved. No one is happy with the deal, which suggests a fair deal as they suggested. Apparently very few of the leadership of the night’s watch and the Westerosi Lords remember/understand that the real enemy are The Others and they are still freaking out about the Wildlings.
Val’s role and importance is rising, but she also springs a surprise, she is freaking out about Princess Shireen’s greyscale and she is worried Gilly’s son will get it. Interesting.
Mormont’s raven is following Jon even north of the Wall!
DANCE #54: CERSEI – a New Hope
There is hope for Cersei! Confessing to some of the lighter accusations got Cersei some breathing room and visitors! She did not confess to the more serious crimes however. The Qyburn Champion plan is on again, as news of Arys Oakheart’s death arrived. So Cersei is going to demand trial by combat and her super-champion will set her free?
A new cabinet is in place, Ser Kevan is the Regent, Mace Tyrell the new Hand, Redwyne the Admiral, and Randyll Tarly the Justicar. Swyft and Pycelle also remain.
One of the Septas said something that may have been hinting at Loras’s condition but if he had died, Kevan would have mentioned there are two openings in the Kingsguard?
We also learn that Jaime indeed went with Brienne, but they don’t have any more details.
Cersei is convinced Tyrion is behind the Myrcella attack and injury, seeing a nose for an ear as further evidence – since she knows/assumes that Tyron knew Cersei was behind the nose-cutting during the Battle of the Blackwater.
Wow, Cersei slept with all three Kettlebacks or is she “over confessing” to be the on safe side? In a way, Littlefinger had a hand in her downfall by bringing her the Kettlebacks. She also slept with Jaime the morning of her wedding with Robert, way back when!
Kevan appears nicer to Cersei now, almost a kind uncle. Perhaps because he is now the Regent and Cersei is powerless and in deep trouble? “whatever the outcome, your rule is at an end”.
Cersei’s scheming to get Margaery in trouble won’t get her much – Margaery was freed under the protection of Randyll Tarly and most of the case against her is crumbling. The Kettleback confessed that he made it all up. The Tyrells are the ones with the largest army in King’s Landing at the moment and I am sure the Sparrows are well aware of that.
DANCE #55: THE QUEENSGUARD – Old Geezer Blues
It took almost five books but we finally have a Barristan Selmy POV! An “Old Geezer Blues” edition. Why is Barristan POVing (verb)? Because our beloved wild and crazy Daniella is MIA! She was last seen on her dragon flying away while the Meereenese where shooting and hitting the dragon. On his way out, Drogon killed over 200 people and injured 600+. They were shooting arrows and spears at him, so you can’t blame the dragon for self-defense! This as the dragon was gaining altitude outside the stadium/pit. Speaking of which, the Pit in Albuquerque is canon and GRRM lives in New Mexico! Add it to the list of crackpot conspiracy theories! Yes, you heard it here first, there are dragons chained underneath The Pit in New Mexico!
The Yunkaiii have now set up a “missile defense system” around the city in case Dany and Drogon dragon return. They essentially repurposed their siege equipment. Barristan says it’s hard to bring down a dragon in flight. But this is a young dragon with an inexperienced rider who knows very little about dragons.
Things get more complicated in Meereen as the Shavepate is convinced (with a witness) that Dany’s new husband was trying to poison her during the fights. He was encouraging her to eat the honeyd locusts but hungry Strong Belwas accidentally saved Dany because he grabbed the whole bowl and was eating and eating and eating. Strong Belwas is at the hospital, allegedly because of the poisoning. Perhaps if it wasn’t someone so big and strong as Strong Belwas, he might have been dead already? (eg skinny Dany?)
So Dany saved Tyrion+Penny and the good karma of that got her saved by Strong Belwas and possibly Drogon the Dragon. Just in case you forget what Drogon is, it sounds almost like Dragon 🙂
Which brings us to another question: was Drogon’s return random or was he drawn there by himself or by some other outside force (Quaithe and her dragonglass candle?) to save the day for Dany?
In addition to Dany’s poisoning attempt, the Shavepate tells Ser Barristan that an army from Volantis is coming and they did not sign a peace deal with Meereen. Dany’s King husband is going to let them stroll in and enslave the freedmen once again.
Ser Barristan does not like to play the game of thrones (yes the phrase is mentioned once again), but there’s no one else to represent Dany’s interests. Dany did not have a very good inner circle, only warriors and locals of unknown loyalty. She was at war, so her inner circle was not as bad as Cersei’s Team of Doormats. And Dany is an inexperienced young girl. Cersei spent years learning from Tywin and plotting and scheming in King’s landing.
But Ser Barristan has to dance this dance since there is no one else. So the Shavepate wants Ser Barristan to talk to the Unsullied (Grey Worm, who remain loyal to Dany despite her disappearance). Shavepate thinks the only way out is to launch a surprise attack and break the siege before the Volantene fleet arrives.
I don’t know if the Volantene fleet is on its way or the Shavepate is making it up to force Ser Barristan and Greyworm to attack. The Shavepate hatorates Dany’s King husband with a passion. We know the Golden Company sailed from Volantis heading to Dorne. But from the Voltanis chapters we also learned that Voltantis had an election and was gearing up for war. So the Shavepate may be telling the truth.
As book readers we also know that Victarion with the Iron Fleet (around 100 ships or so) is heading to Slaver’s Bay as well. There’s only so much room in the Bay, so if they are going to land in Meereen, they may run into the Volantis fleet. They will definitely run into the fleet that is currently surrounding Meereen from sea and river.
From this point on, I am not allowed to even see which characters have POV chapters next, so I don’t know if the previous one was the last Dany POV chapter. In a way, it could be an interesting place to leave it off, Dany riding her dragon into the great unknown.
On the other hand, the title of this book is “A Dance with Dragons” and so far we had very little of Dragons. So there has to be some “dragon dancing” in the remaining 20 chapters to to justify the title? Unless the dancing is not by Dany/Drogon, but Ser Barristan decides to launch/ride the other two chained up dragons???
If this was a conventional fantasy novel, Dany and Drogon would have run into a big Dothraki khalasar, and a display of power by her dragon would somehow convince the khalasar to bend the knee to Dany. And just in the nick of time as Meereen was geting squeezed, Dany and her dragon and thousands of Dothraki screamers would arrive and save the day. But GRRM is writing this, so it’s perhaps more likely that the Dothraki will kill and eat the dragon.
Ser Barristan delivers a scathing critique of our 21st century metrosexual sensitivities, “a man should smell of sweat, not flowers”. Take that Beauty and Fragrance Industrial Complex!
In between all the happenings, Ser Barristan is having multiple “Old Geezer Blues” moments, looking at his current skills versus his glory days. He also blames himself for this whole mess – if he hadn’t gone commando-style to save the Mad King at Duskendale, the Mad King would have likely been killed, and Prince Rhaegar would have taken over as the King. With Rhaegar in charge, the whole rebellion might have been avoided (although if he still did the Lyanna thing, who’s to say Robert/Neddard would not have rebelled anyway?)
DANCE #56: the IRON SUITOR
Iron Fleet POV with Victarion Greyjoy! Nearly 100 ships started out of the Shield Islands but only about half of them made it to the Isle of Cedars, as they are about to enter Slaver’s Bay. It looks like the Iron Fleet is ahead of the Volantene Fleet which is estimated to be 300-500 ships. So the Shavepate was right, Volantis is gearing up for war against Dany and her Mircales.
The Iron Fleet is apparently 100 ships that belong to the King/Lord of the Iron Islands. Their ships are larger than longships but not as large as Westerosi mainland ships.
This is a Medical Procedural drama, with Victarion dealing with a hand injury that refuses to heal. Did the knight who gave it to him use a poisoned blade? Was the maester secretly poisoning him? It ended with the Maester getting killed and thrown overboard.
What a coincidence, they found a Red Priest floating in the seas, the Red Priest that was on the same ship as Tyrion, heading out from Volantis. The Red Priest tried to “cure” Victarion’s hand and presumably the Red Priest suggested/verified the Maester was poisoning him?
The Ironborn don’t typically sell slaves, but the nature of this trip led them to sell captives as slaves in Lys. Victarion didn’t like it but had to be done apparently?
Victarion is a bit of a “dumb jock” Iron Island style. He doesn’t like jokes and laughter because he thinks everyone is making fun of him and he can’t tell.
Speaking of jokes, GRRM introduces monkeys raining feces on the crew of the ship. Because, why not? He has written about almost everything else!
We have some more “magic” incidents. The monkeys freaked out and jumped into the water screeching after the Red Priest started his Red Priesty thing to heal Victarion’s hand… Victarion had dark and disturbing dreams the one night he spent on the Isle of Cedars which was allegedly destroyed by a 300ft wave after the Doom of Valyria with hundreds of thousands of people dying.
DANCE #57: TYRION has a plan
Never a dull moment in Meereen. Tyrion’s masters are dying or died, so Tyrion plots a way out, taking themselves to the Second Sons and Brown Ben Plumm. Can Tyrion convince them one way or another? We will find out soon.
As suspected, the Yunkai are only using the peace treaty as a delay tactic. They are waiting for Volantis to arrive and then attack. Others want to attack earlier. Tyrion’s master is one of the few who wants to honor the peace agreement.
Tyrion is turning into a cold blooded killah. He killed Nurse! “with slivers of mushroom in the broth”. As you may recall, he saved poisoned mushrooms in his shoe – when in Magistrar Illyrio’s mansion.
Ser Jorah the Perv is getting punished for his sins and pervesions with constant beatings from the slave masters.
Tyrion figured out the “feed them to the lions” part based on clues (another reminder that Tyrion is a smarty pants), but he is protecting Sansa-Penny, who is more innocent and naive than she should have been (according to Tyrion)… More Tyrion observations, noticing the not-as-many differences between slaves in Essos and servants in Westeros.
Tyrion was tempted to reveal himself to Ser Barristan Selmy when he spotted him next to Dany, but hesitation and circumstances got in the way. Considering how fond of the Kingslayer Barristan was, perhaps not a bad idea?
We get a little bit more Dragon Biology 101. The eyes are a dragon’s vulnerable point. Unless it’s a hit in the eye, other injuries are not likely to bring down a dragon. Tyrion also confirms that Brown Ben’s two drops (not one) of Targaryen blood is why the dragons liked him. He doesn’t elaborate.
Tyrion and the Art of War: Tyrion also notes that the Ghis legions are not as good as the Unusullied. The Unsullied are for life, while the men of the Ghis legions serve three year terms as free citizens… He also notes that Dany should have poisoned all the wells outside Meereen, making it harder for the siege to find fresh clean water.
Foreshadowing or not? Tyrion says “I have gone as far east as I intent to go”. He is probably going to spend the next two books traveling east and east and east 🙂
DANCE #58: JON – Thormund arrives
Thormund and over 3,100 wildlings arrived and crossed under the Wall to the safe side without any major issues. Mildly (or wildly) surprising that it went so smooth. Perhaps the fear of the Others was enough to get the Wildlings to behave – at least on Day #1. Who knows what will happen later on? Considering that they just ushered in 3,100+ new wild wildlings, it makes sense that there will be some trouble in the future.
On the other hand, Jon’s plan to ferry Hardhome wildlings by boat turned into a major disaster. Almost half the ships toast, dead things in the woods and dead things in the water too! Yes, apparently in the water too! Cotter Pyke is asking for help by land, but who is going to go all the way in this crazy snow to save them? They probably have to fend off for themselves and hope the storms soften up.
Revelation? Thormund says the giant horn they destroyed was not the Horn of Joranum but some random horn they found in a giant’s grave. So what is lying? Mance or Thormund? And how would they know which is the Horn of Joramun anyway? Short of blowing it and knocking down the wall.
We have another skinchanger, this one with a boar, and there seems to be some kind of connection between him and Jon Snow. To what end, we will find out when we find out.
But the chapter begins with yet another dream, Jon Snow is the only one left at the top of the Wall fighting Wights and killing many familiar dead faces including Ygritte, Robb, Noye, Qhorin, etc. Before his raven woke him, “a gnarled hand seized Jon”. Hmm, a weirwood hand?
Interesting enough, the raven this time said King Jon Snow, using Jon’s full name quite possibly for the first time. This is not the first time the raven said “King” in the presence of Jon Snow. As book readers, we know that on paper, he is the King in the North. Or at least named as the King in the North since his vows preclude him from such office. But is that what the bird/whoever is hinting at or perhaps King of the whole of Westeros?
One perhaps mistake, Jon Snow is sending all his loyal earlier friends elsewhere. Granted, he needs people he an trust at all the other castles he is opening, but it may not be a bad idea to keep some of the “original band members” around him! They would be the last to betray him.
Jon shows some diplomatic skills, he included Leathers, the wildling Master at Arms in his elite guard, to show the new Wildlings that there is no glass ceiling. Just a giant wall 🙂
Thormund is quite pragmatic and even even-keeled for a wild wildling. When they were two hostages short, he handed Jon his own son to fill the quota! Jon says he is going to make him his own page.
DANCE #59: THE DISCARDED KNIGHT
Some of these POV names are a bit irritating. Already one of them was a spoiler, when GRRM called a Theon chapter “Theon”. It spoiled that Theon would act as Theon instead of as Reek. Putting “A Ghost in Winterfell” in between was not enough to cover it up. So just reading the chapter title you kinda knew what was going to happen.
So this is a Game Of Thrones chapter, Ser Barristan (age 63 he revealed) watching as King Dany’s Husband held court and had a face-off with the Yunkaii who brought them Admiral Groleo’s head and returned three of the hostages (the Meereenese ones).
Barristan advices the Dornish to keep a low profile now that Dany is away, if nothing else they may become the fall guys for the poisoning attempt. Ser Barristan is not sure now, maybe both Dany and her Husband were the targets, to create a mess and give the Yunkaii an excuse to attack. Barristan also remembers that Quentyn is the Red Viper’s nephew, so he may be schooled in the poisoning arts. Based on what we learned from the Dornish chapters, this doesn’t sound as likely – Quentyn spent most of his time with the Yronwoods, he wasn’t part of the Red Viper inner circle like the Sand Snakes and Arianne?
The Reznak mo Reznak is their Varys. He even wears similar perfumes (“heavy floral perfume from several yards away”).
This is turning into a Meereen and Wall book. Everything else is almost forgotten. Yes, there are plenty of POVs elsewhere, but they haven’t been getting many chapters lately.
DANCE #60: THE SPURNED SUITOR
Dornish gone wild! Quentyn Martell now wants to hire the sellswords to help him steal one of the two dragons that remain in the pyramid dungeons. He is asking this of the sellsword company they played/deserted to get in front of Daenerys. That’s crazy. They will be lucky if they survive this meeting in the undercellar with the sellswords. The sellsword’s price is Pentos. How is Dorne going to be able to deliver Pentos?
We also learn that Tyrion’s master was close to getting selected the new leader of the Yunkaaiii, but the pale mare got him. So now the leadership rotates since they cannot decide on a new leader. With him, Peace might have been a possibility. With the others, it looks like there’s gonna be war!
DANCE #61: THE GRIFFIN REBORN
Breaking news alert! The Golden Company has landed in Westeros. They did not head for Dorne. Instead they headed to Cape Wrath in the Stormlands, near Connington’s ancestral home. With the element of the surprise they captured or they will soon capture a number of castles in Cape Wrath. From what I recall, the wife and sons of a certain Davos Seaworth lives in this area!
They also captured the island of Estermont by chance, relatives of Stannis and also where Arianne’s Spotted friend was “sent” to marry an old Lord.
So far only about half of the Golden Company is accounted for. Some of the Volantene ships were just randomly dropping them off the coasts, not necessarily at the precise rendenzvous points.
We get some more details about the Battle of the Bells. Grif did not want to be a butcher and burn the whole town, so that allowed Robert to slip away and Neddard and Hoster to bring their armies and win an important victory.
The half-maester suggests it would not be a bad idea for Griff to offer himself for marriage in order to win another alliance, but his grayscale is slowly progressing. He knows he doesn’t have a lot of time and he doesn’t want anyone to know.
The Griffs next two targets: 1) win over Doran Martell, 2) take Storm’s End. With Mace Tyrell rushing back to King’s Landing to save his daughter from the religious fruitloops, there is an opening. He plans some kind of a scheme to get the actual Storm’s End. Probably he will attack the Tyrell token force and then present themselves as friends of Storm’s End and take it by surprise?
But Prince Aegon is trouble, he wants to lead the attack! As the wise Roose Bolton said, Boy Lords are a Bane!
Is there more to the Rhaegar-Elia match? Different people are saying she was not worthy of a match to Rhaegar. Is there more to that story that we haven’t been told yet?
Skulls! Melisandre’s fires see Jon Snow surrounded by skulls. The Golden Company uses skulls! Is that what it means? (probably not, but skulls are skulls!)
DANCE #62: THE SACRIFICE
Back to back Westeros chapters. This time we visit the Stannis’ frozen camp. Asha seems to be making friends with the She-Bear and the less-than-Rulore-faithful Ser Justin Massey.
The most excitement is at the end, the Braavosi banker of all people with his outrageous hat found Stannis in the middle of the frozen nowhere. I am sure there is a bankers/loan-sharks joke somewhere in here. Still, it is quite interesting how the bankers are so adamant and persistent.
And with them they brought Theon and Faux-Arya. Do they understand the importance of Faux-Arya? Because they were “dumped rudely in the snow before her”. They wouldn’t do that if they thought they had Arya Stark? Do they and will they bring the message that Arnolf Karstark plans to turn cloak? Even if Stannis is promising him Winterfell?
We should also not forget that in earlier books we were told how Winters break non-Northern armies in the North. This is winter weather. It’s a good thing Stannis has his Mountain Clans and other Northern lords, but he also has Southerners!
The disappearance of faux-Arya though may still cause troubles in Bolton’s camp. Some of the remaining Northern lords already don’t like and don’t trust Bolton. With faux-Arya disappearing, they are only going to think the worst.
We have another canon misspelling of Rulore, this one is Red Rahloo per Big Bucket Wull! On a more serious note, he says all the Rulore noise will make the Old Gods Angry. Are the Old Gods Angry like that? The remaining Children of the Forest in the previous Bran did not seem to have that type of a mentality. But maybe that is before they die and merge with the Old Gods Aggregate?
Red Ralhoo got a sacrifice today, four cannibals! GRRM won’t leave any detail out, it was crucial that we were told that one’s pubic hair caught on fire.
So now we have a Theon-Asha reunion. It will be interesting to see how the TV show is going to bring them together. Asha is on a boat trying to save Theon who is kept at the Dreadfort (as of the end of TV season 3).
How exactly is Stannis going to capture Winterfell? They have under 100 horses, they are starved and frozen and dying, and they have been stuck in the snow for 19 days, three days away from Winterfell. If the outgoing Freys and Manderlys run into them, it’s gonna be pure massacre. Unless the Freys and Mandrelys start fighting with each other before they even reach Stannis.
Unless the Braavosi Banker has some kind of a trick? Perhaps he can promise Stannis all kinds of support if he can pull back and avoid a disaster?
The alleged betraying Arnolf Karstark found them 8 days ago. He arrives with 500+ men. He hasn’t done any treasons yet, but he is encouraging them to push on for Winterfell. But the other Northern Lords have been saying that all along anyway. Is it possible that he is playing both sides?
Asha calls out male chauvist pigs: “it was odd how men like Suggs used that word to demean women when it was the only part of a woman they valued”.
Someone has a flying pigs sigil? Wow 🙂
DANCE #63: VICTARION
Back to back Ironborn POVs! Victarion’s Fleet is heading into Slaver’s Bay, scooping up ships and treasures along the way. Next chapter should be confrontation with the Yunkai and Allies Fleet?
We see yet another Red Priest exhibiting measurable powers. We have already seen Melisandre show both mental (seeing things) and physical powers (burning Orell’s eagle, camouflaging Mance Rayder). We also saw Thoros of Myr reading fires and resurrecting Beric D. multiple times. Now we see Tyrion’s Red Priest show both mental (seeing multiple things in the fires accurately) and physical (“fixing” Victarion’s hand). Although, I am not sure “fixing” is the right way to describe it, it is smoking and that’s probably not a natural thing. Did the Red Priest read Victarion the list of side effects and show him the results of the clinical studies before “fixing” him? “sometimes when Victarion closed his hand the skin would split and smoke yet the arm was stronger than it had ever been”. The birth of a new Superhero! Agents of the Red Priest Shield!
Inspired by Dany, Victarion is freeing the slaves in ships they take over. Kinda freeing them. They still have to row row row, but at least they will get paid and get some profit sharing as well. But at the same time, in addition to the standard Ironborn atrocities, he also sacrifices seven beautiful young women, a double-sided sacrifice to both Rulore and the Drowned God.
We see some more War of the Gods, with the Ironbron freaking out about the Red Priest and his magics, and the Red Priest calling their Gods false Gods. Victarion is the only one who embraces both Gods, inspired/jealous of Euron who had his own wizards and magic.
But wait, there’s more! The Red Priest is able to read the writing on the Dragon binding horn, aka Dragonbinder. No mortal man shall sound it and live, it says. Victarion is upset that this is yet another poisoned gift by Euron but the Red Priest says that he doesn’t have to blow the horn himself, he just has to “claim the horn”. With blood of course. Bloodmagic! Who is going to volunteer to blow it though?
So the timing of Victarion’s attack may be just what the doctor ordered for Ser Barristan’s and Shavepate’s plans. If the Yunkai and Allies are attacked from both sides at the same time, the chances of success increase. As long as the battles finish before the fleet from Volantis arrives, otherwise it will be the Ironborn getting squeezed on both sides. And that would bring Victarion Stannis flashbacks.
DANCE #64: ARYA – The Ugly Little Girl
Arya starts thechapter attending a staff meeting and ends up completing her first Gift/Kill and graduates to the Acolyte level by the end of this chapter. she is now about to start her first Internship. The killing was not so violent, just a poisoned coin, but still, Arya did not hesitate. This was probably the first time she killed someone that did not threaten her or was not a revenge kill. Valar Killeris!
The Priests are well aware that Arya is holding on to Arya, but probably that’s part of the path of almost everyone who joins the House of B+W until they “graduate” to the “no one” level. It is human nature. Arya is probably already well ahead of most people given her circumstances. But at the rate characters are dropping in Westeros, she may run out of people to kill in her Prayer List! On the other hand, once she has the skills, the House of B+W is probably not going to allow her to leave and go to Westeros and pursue her agenda.
GRRM keeps reminding us of the interplay of ebony and weirwood and even carved faces in the House of Black and White. Is there a connection to the Old Gods of Westeros and their Weirwood Trees with the Carved Faces?
For the first time, we visit the lower levels of the House of B+W, and we see the room of a thousand faces among other things. So we learn there are three ways to change your face, Mummer’s Tricks, Sorcery/illusions/light-bending, and Skin Overlay (whatever they gave Arya). That too is magical though, it’s not just a face on top of her face (obviously). Apparently the faces have “skin memory”, they remember some of their original owners violent/painful memories. Once again we see that animals are not so easily fooled as humans, the seal/walrus probably recognized Arya.
Out of the blue, some mild comic relief, “I can be humbler than anyone”, bragged Arya.
Red Bull is so popular in GRRMlandia it has its own religion! The Temple of Aquan the Red Bull. They use slightly different ingredients in the Braavosi version of the Red Bull beverage though 🙂
DANCE #65: CERSEI – Walk of Shame
Cersei does her naked Walk of Shame and finally reaches the Red Keep. GRRM gave us some misdirection foreshadowing by repeatedly mentioning Ned Stark and his fate at the Sept of Baelor (“they looked at Ned Start the same way, though”) and the Myrcella Farewell Riots, but Cersei survived and advanced. The whores call it
payback, for the ones Tywin made to walk naked across Lannisport and King’s Landing.
And as promised, Qyburn’s champion, “Ser Robert Strong” is now a member of the King’s Guard. His face is covered with a greathelm and he has taken a vow of silence. And he is 8 feet tall. Nina Gold will have a hard time filling this role canon-style. This has to be in some way linked to The Mountain plus some magic? Probably not an actual human in his present state?
Along the way, Cersei gives us some tidbits. Both Varys and Littlefinger worked on hammering out a deal with Ned Stark, a deal that Joffrey and Janos the Frog ruined. Littlefinger voluntered to marry Sansa when Cersei was trying to find a husband for her, but Cersei thought he was too low born. Did Littlefinger tip his hand there by making this offer? Is Sansa Littlefinger’s weak point that will be his undoing?… Meanwhile, Cersei spots Lancel as one of the Knights of the Faith that were guarding her during her Walk of Shame.
But the sellswords are not dumb, they task Tyrion working the books with their paymaster. With Tyrion promising in writing lots of money to the leaders and top members of the company, they are all motivated to keep him alive, otherwise their chances of collecting are significantly diminished. Smart Imp! Or they can always take him to Cersei and collect that reward.
The sellswords have detailed books of everyone who was with the company. Tyrion will probably be reading these books and GRRM will use this as an opportunity to give us more background information. So many tricky ways to sneak in histories and backstories and clues!
Tyrion’s last line in the chapter probably made Ser Jorah’s day, he will try to convince the sellswords to switch to Dany’s side!
Ser Barristan is playing the game of thrones and so far, and he survived Act I. GRRM gave us multiple foreshadowy clues that Ser Barristan was about to die. He forgot his helmet. He gave us a lot of new backstory information. Yet he survived.
Barristan’s part is successful so far, but he wonders if the Shavepate succeeded because Reznak was calling the King to the terrace and Reznak was supposed to have been captured. Can the Shavepate be trusted? He has his own agenda, revenge and clan wars but at the moment his interests seem to coincide with those of Proxy-Daenerys/Barristan.
There was a mention of something catching fire during the fight, but there were at least 3-4 servants, they should have been able to put it out. The King’s quarters are in the middle of the Pyramid but GRRM pointed out all the tapestries on the wall and all the wood.
And another surprise, the dragons are allegedly free, and judging by the invitation to go to the terrace, probably flying around the City. So who freed the dragons? 1) the Quentyn Martell attempt? 2) Dany or her sympathizers? 3) they freed themselves? 4) the Shavepate? 5) someone tried to kill them and they escaped?
With Dany gone, GRRM needed someone to give us live updates from Meereen [will she return dramatically by the end of this book?], so Barristan is convenient for that. And since he is talking he is also a great source of material on some of the mysteries and secrets of the past.
We get a few pages full of juicy tidbits. Bittersteel and Bloodraven both loved Shiera Seastar. I didn’t know they were contemporaries/linked. I knew Bittersteel founded the Golden Company, Bloodraven is Bran’s Teacher and former Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch. Maybe some of this backstory was given before, but GRRM uses multiple names for many of these characters, and sometimes they are describes as “son of this guy” or “brother of that guy” or dad of the other guy”, so unless you have a detailed notebook, or google them (too many spoilers), it’s hard to keep up.
So once I finish the books I can google all that, but I am not sure if Bloodraven and Bittersteel and the Prince of Dragonflies are the three sons of Aegon the Fifth (the unlikely? Maester Aemon’s father?), or are those three others? Was Jenny of Oldstones part of Summerhall? Barristan describes it “sorcery, fire, grief”.
Wow, Ser Barristan would have been a Kingslayer too! He admits it! “if I had seen him (Robert B.) smile over the red ruins of Rhaegar’s children, no army on this earth could have stopped me from killing him”. The Thought Police has now declared Ser Barristan a Conditional Kingslayer!
Barristan says Rhaegar did not trust him as much as Arthur Dayne, and Harrnehall was proof of that. What does he mean?
Ser Barristan had a love interest! He was in love with Ashara Dayne! He never confessed his love, but he was head over spurs! Dany’s eyes remind him of Ashara’s. Oh noes, we have another Ser The Pervert in the making! Does this mean Ashara is a Targaryen? Or related to Dany? We have multiple witnesses that Dany was born on Dragonstone, but we were not there to wintess it. We were told! Ashara had a alleged stillborn daughter, but I don’t think the ages match? The Ashara alleged suicide happened over 20 years ago?
But Selmy also mentioned Ashara and Ned Stark and also mentions “the man who had dishonored her at Harrenhal”. Was that Neddard? Did they have sexy times together? And later because of Robert’s rebellion, Neddard had to marry Angry Cacklyn, so Ashara jumped off a tower in combined disappointment? And who was the father of the daughter? Neddard? Selmy says “might she looked to me instead of Stark”. Looked for what? A one night stand? Romance on the side?
What is Varys’s game? Here we learn that he was encouraging the Mad King to think that Rhaegar was planning to take his throne and the tourney of the false spring at Harrenhal was a pretext to plan it all out. So that’s why the Mad King decided to leave King’s Landing and go to Harrenhal. Leave KL for the first time since he was taken at Duskendale and rescued by Selmy.
Selmy also blames himself for not unhorsing Rhaegar at the Tournaments finals. If he won, the whole Lyanna Queen of Love and Booty would have been avoided! Although, that may have delayed, not avoided the inevitable Rhaegar and Lyanna great escape?
Surprisingly, Selmy disses a lady in a very unchivalrous way, “though compared to Ashara Dayne, the Dornish princess was a kitchen drab”. Meow!!! Who knew he is one of the Mean Girls? And who was the “young maiden not long at court” that Selmy was planning to name Queen of Love and Booty?
The Many Gods forgive but Shavepate does not! The codewords he chose were “Groleo” and “Locusts”.
Speaking of Varys, we haven’t heard from him or of him since the Tyrion Great Escape at the end of Storm of Swords. That feels like a looooong time ago!
Recruiting News! The Rivals Top 100 is revealed! The #1 ranked recruit in the Class of 320 After Conquest is Tumco Lho of the Basilisk Isles. The #2 ranked recruit is Larraq the Lash. #3 is the Red Lamb the Lhazarene. Rounding out the Top Six are three low born Ghiscari former slaves, brothers.
DANCE #68: QUENTYN THE DRAGON TAMER
And now we get some of the explanation of the Dragons escape. Goofball Quentyn convinced the sellswords to go along with the dragon stealing plan, and he paid for it. He was trying to imitate Dany’s taming of Drogon, but he forgot one crucial detail: Dany was the dragon’s mother and the dragon was familiar with her. Quentyn was some random dude with very thin Targareyn blood lines and the dragons were very frustrated being locked up and chained for so long.
Goofball Quentyn even thought that Dany showed him the dragons as a challenge, to see if he could rise to the occasion and be one of the riders.
We learn that cautious Doran-Doran Martell did one rash thing in his life, he married his Norvosi lady wife for love, but that marriage did not go well.
The Martells have another loss now, in Storm they lost the Red Viper, now they lose Martell’s first son, the #2 heir behind Arianne.
We get dragon biology confirmation that the pit is slowing the dragon’s growth, just like it did in the old Targaryen days.
There is risk for the dragons too now, since the Yunkaii set up a missile defense system against the dragons.
One of the sellswords has one of the very few Valyrian steel arakhs. There are many Valyrian steel swords but very few Valyrian steel arakhs.
As we are down to now just a few chapters left, math dictates that over half of the POVs have already seen their last chapter in this book! Maybe even more since the action appears to concentrate on Meereen with multiple Meereenese POVeesee.
DANCE #69: You KNOW NOTHING JON SNOW
GRRM hadn’t killed a Stark since the Red Wedding in Book #3. Book #5 is almost over. Can it be, two books without a dead Stark? Nope, Jon Snow was killed as Melisandre warned him. Skulls all around! She kept telling him to keep his wolf around, but Ghost is only one and a determined group would be able to kill him regardless (eg stewards poisoning his food). One of his last thoughts the “stick them with the pointy end”. The book #1 faux-foreshadowing of finding Arya dead frozen in the snow holding needle is not likely to happen now (unless Jon becomes Ghost, in which case, it is on again).
When Ghost and Mormont’s raven were freaking out, I thought that the White Walkers or the Wights were going to attack the Wall. Or maybe the two in the freezer would rise up. But no, the freakout was apparently Jon Snow’s upcoming death.
So what will happen to Jon Snow? Will he partially go into Ghost? Is there anything Melisandre can do?
From the Night’s Watch perspective, you can’t really blame them for killing Jon Snow. In this chapter, he was going to get them in deep trouble. The new rescue mission at Hardhome was suicide, especially when you consider what happened to The Old Bear and his 300 seasoned men – and that was before the snow storms. And then the mess with the Bastard of Bolton, getting the Watch deeper and deeper into the War of the Five Kings and worse yet, getting them involved with the losing side.
On the other hand, Jon Snow had the vision to see that they needed an alliance with the Wildlings if they were to stand a chance against the Ungrateful Dead and the White Walkers. Most of them were blind to this reality. The wildlings were the only new source of new human capital since the rest of the kings and lords ignored the night’s watch. And the more wildlings die north of the wall, the bigger the Ungrateful Dead army gets.
The alliance with the wildlings was very fragile, the Jon Snow and Val/Thormund relationship was one of the things that made it possible and gave it a chance. With the killing of Jon Snow, there is no telling how the wildlings are going to react, and how the new Night’s Watch leadership will want to do with the Wildings.
The wildlings went wild at the thought of marching with Jon Snow to take down the Bastard of Bolton. Another emotional/foolish notion, how is he and a few hundred undisciplined wildlings going to take a castle like Winterfell? It’s one thing to go for it if you have a good chance, but what are the chances of this group?
But Jon Snow is not the only one who died in this chapter. According to the letter by The Bastard of Bolton, after seven days of battle, Stannis and all his troops were killed to the man. Or is it a lie? Or a partial lie? Theon and Faux-Arya were with Stannis, yet The Bastard doesn’t have them. It is possible they were killed during the battle and no one noticed – considering the snowy mess. Or Stannis sent them away. But the Bastard may be bluffing, to get Jon Snow to send him hostages he can use against Stannis? And what of the Braavosi Banker?
The Boltons uncovered the Mance Rayder conspiracy, so that much is true, so they have that for sure. Given the state of Stannis’s men, it make sense that they would have lost. It is strange though to kill Stannis off the page, in a letter! Dark wings, dark words!
Selyse continues to live in her bubble, marrying three of her knights to three of the daughters of a more presentable wildling, Gerrick Kingsblood, who is related to the younger brother of a famous Wildling King-beyond-the-Wall. She and other Southerners refuse to understand that the wildlings don’t work the same way with kings and queens and such. But the biggest disaster was Ser Patrek who tried to get to Val, but he run into the Giant and was rose-petaled. Again, Silly Selyse thought she could just order Val to marry random knight dude.
Not sure what Melisandre is doing or what she will do if Stannis is indeed dead. She couldn’t even find Stannis in the snow with her fires. Even though we’ve seen Victarion’s priest have better success with his Slaver’s Bay predictions. And Melisandre was saying that her powers were at an all-time high at the wall.
Melisandre also predicted that all the ships that went to Hardhome were doomed (“not a man shall return”). Jon thought that Melisandre almost floated. What are we to make of this?
Perhaps that’s why Melisandre was guarded with her predictions, because men already don’t trust her, so a mistake is enough for them to justify dismissing her altogether. Jon Snow here said “a fool’s hope” because of the wrong faux-Arya prediction. Melisandre asks Jon to come to her when he got his answer from the sky (Bolton’s raven). But he didn’t. He was planning to but he didn’t go right away.
The Bastard of Bolton is quite a piece of work, signing as the “Trueborn Lord of Winterfell”. Har! He doesn’t just want his faux-Arya wife back, he also wants Selyse, her daughter, Melisandre, Val, Gilly’s son, and Theon-Reek.
So what will happen to the Selyse crew? With Stannis dead, whoever is now in charge of the Night’s Watch will probably want to ship them all to the Bastard of Bolton? Isn’t that part of the reason why they killed Jon Snow, so they could stay out of Bolton’s hair? Jon spotted Yarwyck and Marsh and their men slipping out of Shieldhall after Jon Snow convinced the attendees to march south. So perhaps we can assume that was the decision point.
But the biggest surprise perhaps was Patchface answering a question, “I will lead it!” he said. “It” = the ranging to Hardhome. Patchface also gave us another big clue in the Varys Origins theory, “under the sea, men marry fishes!”
It’s not just food. GRRM spent almost a full Kindle page listing sigils on shields in the Shieldhall. Wow and why? Lulling us to sleep before the shocker?
Despite the drama of this chapter, Thormund is on a roll, “I always wanted me one with a mustache”…
So there are plenty of cliffhangers in this chapter, what will happen to Selyse/Melisandre/QueensCrew? What will happen to the Wildling and Night’s Watch co-operation? How will the remaining men of the Night’s Watch react to the killing of Jon Snow? What about Ghost? Will part of Jon go into Ghost? Is Stannis really dead or was the Bastard of Bolton bluffing?
Back to back chapters the POV dies! I fear for whoever has the next POV chapter!
DANCE #70: SER BARRISTAN THE QUEEN’S HAND
Ser Barristan continues to be stretched out of his comfort zone, now he is the Queen’s Hand, dealing with so many crises. But it looks like it is going to be war, which is Barristan’s comfort zone! The Yunkai’i “sent” the corpses by trebouchet. Are these random dead people or the hostages Yunkaii had? If the hostages, Dany’s beloved Faabio Daario, Unsullied #2 and one of Dany’s Bloodriders are dead?
The Dornish prince survived three days after the incident with the Dragons, with Missandei, the brains behind the Barristan Handship, taking care of him. The other two Dronishmen were sent to treat with their old sellsword company on behalf of the Queen. If the hostages are dead though…
Barristan insecurities: he is afraid to go to sleep because he worries he may die in his sleep due to old age. And he wants to die with sword in hand. Which may happen soon.
The Dragons turned Meereen into a Scifi Original Movie, burning pyramids and making them their lairs. The Mereenese filled three stadiums/pits with sheep and other dragon foods to keep them from attacking humans and such.
Hooray, Strong Belwas survived the poisons and he is strong enough to join the Small Council!
The tile of this book is “A Dance with Dragons”. Will we get that in the remaining chapters or was the Dany and Quentyn taming of the dragons a “dance” too?
DANCE #71: DAENERYS in the DOTHRAKI SEA
GRRM loves to torture us. A “clip show” chapter with Dany wandering and wondering in the Dothraki Sea and thinking/dreaming/hallucinating. So Drogon built a lair north of Meereen in the Dothraki Sea, and that’s where he went with Dany after the Pit Incident. Just like the end of book #1, the fire did not hurt Dany, except for her hair.
Quiathe visited again (with her Dragonglass candle?), and this time Dany took to heart the “to go forward you must go back”. So back North she went, on dragon-back, seeking the Dothraki. She found them, Khal Jhaqo. And that’s where the chapter ended.
We get another tidbit, in Old Valyria dragons were controlled with binding spells and sorcerous horns. So it looks like the one in Victarion’s possession would work!
DANCE #72: EPILOGUE: Winter is Here!
Kevan Lannister got his POV but it proved fatal. The even-keeled Kevan was a calming voice in the Realm and for that, he paid the bolted price! Varys! And he still wore those slippers. And what are those “children”?
We start at the King’s Council, trying to figure out how to deal with these raiders on the Storm’s End coast. With a pending trial for Margaery, Mace Tyrell does not want to move until his daughter is free again. So that buys the Griff more time to build alliances. Mace is rather obnoxious, he made a throne chair in the shape of a Hand for his arse, and he wants to rebuild the Tower of the Hand, twice as tall as before. Their Master of Coin is almost as big of a disaster as Ser Gyles Robsy – and he is Kevan’s father in law.
So we have two trials coming up: Cersei will have a trial by combat with the Qyburn Champion while Margaery will have a trial by the Priests. More people are starting to suspect there’s something foul about this Champion Ser Robert Strong (couldn’t Qyburn find him a less obviously fake name?)
If she survives the trial, Cersei is going to be sent to Casterly Rock, and she is going to have no say in Tommmen’s education or the governing of the realm. They don’t want her to turn him into another Joffrey. How could Tommen the Knight of Kittens turn into Joffrey? It is impossible!
Kevan notes that Cersei is changed, defanged, subdued after her humbling Walk of Shame. Given the previous Cersei POVs, some of it is probably Cersei playing along until her trial is over, and then, “a Lannister always pays her debts”. She stills wants Taena back after her trial.
Speaking of cats, the old angry black tomcat wiht a torn ear (perhaps the kitten Princess Elia’s kids had) was growling outside Tommen’s window and his kittens. This cat also bit Joffrey and stole Tywin’s food at a feast making him subject to laughter (and we know how much Tywin loves being laughed at). Arya was chasing this one all over in book #1 during her Syrio training.
Princess Myrcella is coming back with one of the Sand Snakes coming along to claim the Dornish seat in an evenly divided Small Council. How long is the Sand Snake going to last before she kills or gets killed?
Why are they so slow in appointing temporary members of the Kingsguard? This is ridiculous. Kevan is too seasoned to let this be! They only have three available to guard the King, and Boros Blount is not so well. He is Tommen’s official taster. Is there a link between the two?
Winter is not coming. Winter is here! The White Raven arrived from the Citadel! And the realm is a mess. Snow in King’s Landing. Not enough food. Etc, etc, etc. They may all be dead by the time the White Walkers arrive!
The Return of the Varys. Ever the thespian, he killed Kevan the same way Tywin died, crossbow to the guts! Pycelle died differently, “deep red gash in the old man’s spotted skull”. And he wore his Varys uniform, “soft powdered hands”, “silk slippers”. He probably used the secret tunnels to get here.
Varys is such a reader-friendly killer, he gives us so many details. He had to kill Kevan to stop him from rebuildling the King’s Landing alliance. Because Varys declaed for Aegon the Sixth! Partly because Aegon has real-world experience, while Tommen is a pampered little prince. Varys knows details of Aegon’s upbringing. Kevan’s killing will also start another round of Cersei vs the Tyrells. Varys gave no reason why Pycelle had to be killed. Maybe he was needed as the bait?
And what are Varys’ associates? “the eunuch pursed his lips and gave a little whistle”, “a child emerged from a pool of darkness”, “another rose behind GM’s chair”, “half a dozen of them white-face children with dark eyes”. With daggers, finishing him, Freys-style?
So what does this mean? Who is Varys working for or with? Or is he the mastermind?
I recall people saying that Varys would do something surprising at the end of a book, but II had thought that something was helping Tyrion escape at the end of Swords. It turns out, this is a bigger surprise! So this brings back the question, did Varys intentionally take Tyrion through that route in the dungeons, being an enabler in the downfall of Tywin? Varys was protesting yet he continued giving Tyrion detailed directions on how to get to Tywin’s room
And now the long wait begins for the next book that was promised!