Monday, July 27, 2009

Jon • Bran

Ghost didn't find Uncle Benjen. The severed hand belonged to the corpse of a guy named "Othor" who was a member of Benjen's party. Yes, that was his actual name -- Othor. Very subtle, Martin. Why don't you just name the guy that went after Bran "Lannistor." The Nights Watch men bring the corpses back to the castle because there's something weird about them. The bodies don't rot, and no animals but Ghost will go near them. When Jon gets back to the Castle Black, he finds out via raven letter about all the crazy stuff that's been going down at King's Landing. He can't believe that Eddard is a traitor, and almost knifes Ser Alliser when the knight makes fun of Ned.

Cue "Thriller" music! Darkness falls across the land, at midnite crawls a zombied hand. "Othors" crawl in search of blood, to terrorize Jon's neighborhood. And whosoever shall be found, but Jon's great white wolfhound. Jon and Ghost hear the horn's call, to face undead south of the Wall. The foulest stench is in the air, the funk of several thousand years. And grizzy ghouls from every tomb, are closing in to seal Mormont's doom. And though Jon fights to stay alive, his body starts to shiver. For no mere mortal can resist, the evil of "the Others."

And just like that, Emo Jon was no longer emo. Fighting disfigured, undead zombies justifies infinite whiny blog posts. As Othor attacks, the words of Jon's favorite band Dashboard Confessional echo in his mind: "let it end in flames; let it burn."

Back at Winterfell, a huge army is massing to march south. I thought the Starks were badass, but their neighbors make them look like pansies. Everyone is huge, bearded, and fierce. But the loyalty of Eddard's bannermen was not a sure thing. Robb had to earn every bit, including having Grey Wind bite the fingers off Greatjon Umber's hand. All seem to hold honor, duty, and strength in high regard, the same qualities that doomed Eddard down south. Robb receives Sansa's letter, which is even more infuriating than her actions: it summons him to King's Landing so he can swear fealty to Joffrey to spare Eddard's life.

Bran goes to talk to Osha, the woman who tried to kidnap him a few chapters back. She's Stark-ified now, and dispensing cryptic northern wisdom. She warns that the old gods have no power down south, and that Robb is marching in the wrong direction. At that moment, naked Hodor comes sprinting out of woods. Hodor is the retarded giant stableboy. His "manhood swung long and heavy," and Osha comments, "now there's a big man." It's nice to see Martin isn't above penis humor, but it doesn't lighten the mood in Winterfell. Robb is leaving and may never return, and the two younger brothers remain crippled, Bran physically and Rickon psychologically.

Will the Starks get their happy ending? I hope Robb marches straight into the Red Keep. Remember when Joffrey said that sparring with tourney swords was a children's game? He told Robb to come see him with real steel. Well, he's coming now, and he brought the North with him.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Arya • Sansa

Arya practices parrying in her final session with Syrio. No wonder Arya was so reluctant to go home to Winterfell -- she was learning "true seeing" and was just a handful of lessons away from telekinesis. Eddard should take Syrio home and have him train all his guards. Syrio tells the story of how he became the first swoard of Braavos -- the king there had a cat, and everyone thought it was amazing, even the cat itself. But in reality, it was a normal cat, and Syrio was the only man to speak the truth to the king. He's teaching Arya to not over-think, to trust her senses and her instincts. That's the lesson of his story. That, and people in Braavos can't identify an ordinary cat. Perhaps its also a convoluted metaphor for how Catelyn isn't special at all and is just an ordinary fat woman?

Lannister men burst into the room, interrupting their lesson. Intent on capturing Arya, they haven't taken Syrio's "true seeing" lesson, so they just see an old dancing master, but its actually a dude that can kick their asses. Syrio takes them all on with just a stick, beating down the guards easily. Next up is the heavily armored Kingsguard knight Meryn Trant, and Syrio seems outmatched. However, if Petyr = Peter and Eddard = Edward, I conclude that Meryn = Mary Anne. Thus, even though its left open ended, I have faith that Syrio pulls out the win, because Ser Mary Anne is doomed by his girly name.

Arya doesn't stick around to see the end of the fight, using her special skills to flee the castle. On her way, she evades a stable boy who tried to grab her. And by "evades," I mean "brutally kills." Just like that, Arya adds to her long list of very adult things experienced at a very non-adult age. She watched her friend be cut in half, was forced to ditch her childhood pet, was trained in survival skills and swordfighting, witnessed her household guards be killed, and now actually commits manslaughter. "Loss of innocence" is obviously a big theme in this book, as just about every child POV involves kids dealing with issues beyond their age, but an eight-year-old stabbing and killing another kid exceeds even Martin's extreme standards. Arya killed someone, but at least she escaped, and thats something to cheer about. Stupid stable boys should keep their hands to themselves.

Sansa waits in her room for the fighting to finish, praying for her father, her guards, and her Lannister boyfriend. It was such a Sansa thing to do, to sit passive and clueless, hoping that everything just works out. Cersei tells her that Eddard was a traitor, and we learn that Sansa was the one who informed Cersei of Eddard's plans. Are you freaking kidding me? By leaking this information, Sansa endangered the lives of her family, effectively sentenced her household guards to death, and screwed over everyone who truly loves her. All because she has a crush on dumbass Joffrey who treats her like crap anyway. Sansa: destined to be the abused druggie escort of King's Landing.

The council is threatening to break her engagement, reasoning that traitor blood runs through her veins. If that were true, Joffrey should just marry Myrcella now, because they are inclined to be ultra-incestuous. They can have a threesome with Tommen, and if you throw Tyrion in the mix and record it, you could sell the tape to a dozen different niche fetish groups. Lannister porn: something for everyone, and keeping the house wealthy for the next thousand years.

Cersei should be opposed to a Joffrey-Sansa marriage solely because her grandkids would be dumb as bricks. She might as well marry Myrcella to GREGOR, and then all her grandkids can take the same bus to school (the short one). Of course, Sansa is devastated that she might not marry Joffrey, but the council won't listen until pedo Petyr chimes in, suggesting that Sansa resembles her mother more than her father. I'm not sure which is worse. Would you rather be the inept, humorless guy who can't think his way out of a box, or the bitter woman who falsely arrests the only innocent member of a rival house? Cersei and the council convince Sansa to write letters to convince the rest of her family to surrender. Sansa actually buys it, partly because she wants desperately to believe everything will be fine, but mostly because she is 100% grade-A stupid. The difference between Sansa and her sister could not be more Stark.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Jon • Eddard

Lord Commander Mormont speaks at Jon’s graduation from lowly trainee to prestigious black brother. Thanks to Jon, Sam is graduating with them, on the way to becoming a steward. Jon watches as his friends join the rangers, only to have his name called to be a steward as well. Suddenly, Emo Jon is back, and oh how we’ve missed his tantrums, martyrdom, and superiority complex. Jon looks ready to put on his black eyeliner and blog about his woes, but Sam tells him that by making him his personal aide, LC Mormont is actually grooming Jon to be his heir. Jon says he never asked for this, but I’m sure he never asked to be a bastard either. You don’t always get what you want, Jon. Plus, being Mormont’s bitch is like being a Supreme Court clerk: you gain a ton of subtle power and experience in exchange for waiting hand and foot for some old guy. Grooming Jon makes perfect sense from Mormont’s standpoint: Jon has all the positives of a highborn upbringing and none of the Waymar Royce pretentious douchebaggery.

Jon and Sam say their vows and become official Night’s Watchmen. I must admit the NW oath is pretty badass, complete with epic words and powerful sayings. The vows better be awesome if you’re forswearing women and personal property for the rest of your life. They are about to head back when Ghost finds something in the snow. It’s a hand. Not Jon Arryn, or Eddard, but a real, human hand. Did they just find Uncle Benjen?

Eddard slowly makes preparations to seize power from Joffrey. He presents to the council King Bob’s dying wish to make him the “Protector of the Realm,” but Cersei simply rips up the royal decree. Both sides tensely face each other, and Eddard calmly tells the city watch to arrest the Lannisters. Instead, they kill Eddard’s men, because that double crossing Benedict Arnold slippery snake Littlefinger betrayed him! Poor Fat Tom, speared through the chest without warning.

Eddard may be surprised, but there’s no way his plan could have worked. He warned Cersei days in advance, refused Lord Renly’s offer of help, and put all his trust into the man who has a lot of reasons to dislike Starks. Littlefinger was almost killed by Eddard’s brother, loves Eddard’s wife, and creepily stalks Eddard’s daughter. What makes Ned think that this guy was going to be loyal to him? Plus, LF is all about the bottom line dollar-wise, and House Lannister is by far the richest family. Tyrion said it best to Bronn: the Starks are not made for this type of stuff. They can be honorable and dutiful and extremely badass, but they suck horribly at being deceitful or cunning. You want the Starks on your side when you play football, not chess.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Daenerys • Eddard

Dany is busy eating a horse heart, because if she doesn't, her fetus will be born weak, deformed, or (GASP) female. She manages to finish the entire heart and keeps it down, much to the satisfaction of the Dothraki crones. They proclaim that her kid will be the "the stallion that mounts the world." Dany will be so proud, since not everyone's son gets to be a gigantic horse that humps planet earth. She names him Rhaego, a cross between her brother Rhaegar and her husband Drogo. Rhaego is the Dothraki version of Darth Vader, destined to fulfill some crazy prophecy.

While this is going on, Viserys is frequenting the local markets, getting wasted on wine. He finally shows up at the ceremony, but he's drunk and carrying a sword. It's forbidden to have steel in Vaes Dothrak, so obviously Viserys built a time machine and returned with a plastic sword, because nobody would be so stupid as to directly defy the law of a vicious, war-centered race who wouldn't hesitate at all to kill an annoying beggar king. Viserys then draws the sword, waves it around, and threatens Dany's kid. Yes, the same kid who the Dothraki see as their future planet humping, prophecy fulfilling, Darth man-horse. This is obviously not a smart thing to do, but Viserys was never the smartest of men. In response, Drogo calmly kills him by pouring molten metal over his head. Finally, douche Viserys gets whats coming to him, and Dany severs the last binding tie to her old way of life.

Robert is dying, gored by a boar during his hunting trip. This is far too convenient timing, and I subscribe to the Varys-hinted theory that the Lannisters were behind it. Before Bob dies, he names Eddard protector of the realm, very similar to what that old emperor did in Gladiator. Eddard doesn't want the throne, and that's why "it must be him." King Bob's decision isn't going to sit well with the Lannisters, and Ned will probably be enslaved and forced to fight in the Colosseum for the amusement of the King's Landing mob. Then he'll reveal his identity as Eddard Stark, Warden of the North, Lord of Winterfell, Hand of the King, loyal servant to the true King, Robert Baratheon; father to a crippled son, husband to a boring wife, and he will have his vengeance, in this life or the next.

On his deathbed, Robert makes Eddard promise to take care of his children. Ned can't bring himself to tell Bob the truth about his kids, so he silently thinks of all of Robert's true children, scattered around the realm. Can you imagine Catelyn's face when Eddard brings back ten more bastards to take care of, even if they aren't his?

Eddard plans to crown King Bob's eldest brother Stannis, beacuse Joffrey isn't his true heir. Robert's younger brother Renly offers his help to grab power by capturing Cersei's kids, but that is too dishonorable for Eddard. Let me repeat that: it's too dishonorable to temporarily capture the kids of a woman who not only has kids with her brother but also attempts to kill crippled, comatose children. Littlefinger suggests a different plan, recommending that they make peace with the Lannisters, bide their time, and reveal the incest later on. Eddard can't stomach playing nice with the Lannisters, because they killed Jory and tried to kill Bran. However, Eddard isn't stupid: he knows he needs more swords than he has, so he arranges with Littlefinger to purchase the City Watch's support, just in case.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Sansa • Eddard

Sansa is puzzled that her father sent the "too old" 22-year-old Beric Dondarrion instead of Loras to deal with GREGOR, explaining to her friend Jeyne that Eddard's injured leg was probably impairing his decision making. No you stupid girl, the reason he didn't send Loras was because GREGOR would absolutely destroy pretty boy. Sansa needs to learn that in a fairy tale, the hero may slay the monster and marry the princess, but in real life, being eight feet tall, angry, and ridiculously strong easily trumps magical flower powers. In addition, Sansa still has no idea that pedo Littlefinger is only nice to her because he wants to proxy-fuck Catelyn by getting into Cat's daughter's pants.

Amazingly, Sansa is still in love with Joffrey, conveniently forgetting that his family executed her pet, attempted to assassinate her brother, and killed several of her household guard after severely wounding her father. She reasons that it wouldn't be fair to blame Joffrey for something his uncle Jaime did, because that would be like "blaming Sansa for Arya's actions," conveniently ignoring that Cersei did exactly this a few chapters ago. Sansa gets into yet another argument with Arya about Mycah's death, prompting Arya to nail her in the face with an orange, adding yet another badass skill (throwing accuracy +10 points) to Arya's growing list of badass skills. Unable to cope with Arya's awesomeness, Sansa retreats to her room, where Eddard informs his daughters that they will be sent back to Winterfell. The two girls finally agree on something: they love King's Landing, albeit for vastly different reasons. Sansa is in full fledged teen freak out mode now that she won't be marrying Joffrey, her dreams of being queen crumbling right before her eyes.

I feel pretty stupid that I didn't see that Joffrey, Myrcella, and Tommen were products of incest. In retrospect it seems so obvious. George mentioned hair color a dozen times and kept calling them "lions," but the most obvious clue was that they all acted like prissy, pretentious jerks. Now that Eddard knows the big secret that the previous Hand died for, he just needs to wait until Robert gets back to smash some Lannisters. Instead, Eddard decides that it's a good idea to tell Cersei that he knows her secret. Since there's no poison lying around and no window to push Eddard through, Cersei admits to the whole thing. We also learn that Robert and Cersei don't have the healthiest of marriages. They barely ever have sex, and in the rare instances they do, Bob is always drunk. Once, he even called Cersei "Lyanna" in bed (hahahaha).

Cersei then busts out her version of the Godfather offer: don't tell anyone and I'll have sex with you. Eddard's response:

Eddard says, "Did you make the same offer to Jon Arryn?"
She slapped him.
"I shall wear that as a badge of honor," Ned said dryly.
Somewhere in the King's Landing, the sun is shining bright; the knights are jousting somewhere, and somewhere hearts are light, and somewhere wolves are howling, and the treasury is broke; but there's shock in the godswood -- Eddard Stark has cracked a joke.

Cersei doesn't think it's funny, and hits Ned below the belt, making fun of his bastard son. If I had three kids with my brother, I'd probably refrain from making fun of the pedigree of other peoples' kids. Also, if I was Hand and I found out the secret that got the previous Hand killed, I wouldn't warn the person that did the killing.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Game of Thrones Halftime Report

I felt it was necessary to write an entry with more generalized comments about the book that wouldn't fit in a standard two chapter entry, and also answer a few common questions that appear in the comments.

* I'm really enjoying the book thus far, and I'd like nothing more than to tear right through the rest of the book to find out what happens. However, when I started this blog, I made a promise to my friend (and myself) to see it through to the end. That means not reading ahead and completing entries on time. But those that worry that I don't love the book and won't finish, fear not, because as I said in my first post, if I've gotten this far, I'm in for the long haul.

* The relatively slow pace of blog posts is not because I don't want to read. As I said, I'd love to just blow through the rest of it. I can read very quickly. However, I'm reading this book differently because I write entries for it. It may hurt my first experience a bit, but after I'm done with the whole series, I'll probably be very happy that I did it this way. Also, there's a million characters in this book and many have multiple nicknames. I don't have the luxury of just shrugging my shoulders and reading on, because if I confuse characters, locations, or events, it's obvious to anyone reading the blog and doesn't make for good entries. Thus, I do a lot of appendix flipping, and often ask my friend to explain things in a non-spoiler way when I don't fully understand. For example, I was at page 300 before I realized Jaime was the Kingslayer.

* I don't read all the comments because I have an extreme fear of spoilers. I have someone who screens them and forwards me the ones that contain no spoilers. He errs on the side of caution, so I might not have read your comment even if you think it isn't spoiling anything.

* To those asking me to focus more on what's going on and make fewer jokes, I'll keep your suggestions in mind, but I can't really change how I write. I'm going to miss things (sometimes important things) and I'm also going to make silly jokes and stupid comments. This blog is as much for me as it is for anyone reading. I know that this book is over a decade old and has been discussed to death, so I'll leave the serious analysis to those that are better than me at it.

*For each book, I'll do one halftime post like this with general thoughts, and one big summary post when I finish.

I hope this clarifies (and reassures) a lot of those who posted comments. This blog already has far more readers than I expected, and I'm thankful for all the feedback. If you want to talk to me directly, feel free to email me at blogoficeandfire (gmail), but make sure you don't spoil anything, or I will hunt you down and kill you, Sandor style.

More Game of Thrones halftime bullets:

* If it wasn't clear already, my favorite POV thus far is Arya by a mile. She's hilarious and awesome and she's the mischevious little kid sister I wish I had. Also, she's basically been leveling up on Nu tech points ever since the Starks landed in King's Landing, and I am excited for what she'll learn next

* My least favorite POV would have been Sansa, but more than half the time she just watches Arya do stuff, so I don't really mind her chapters. Other than her, I find the Catelyn and Eddard chapters somewhat dull. I understand they are necessary for plot exposition, but those two don't have much personality. Even Eddard's super hardcore manly northness was worn away by the bureaucracy of the Hand desk job. I'd say the Bran chapters are kind of boring too, but the kid is already crippled there's no need to pile on him more.

* My favorite non-POV character is GREGOR, and as awful as this sounds, I wish George would cut him loose more. GREGOR rage is always entertaining. But rearrange the letters in "George R.R. Martin" and you get "Restrain Gregor." Free the beast, George. Free GREGOR.

* I also like Littlefinger, because he symbolizes the American dream: person of modest birth works hard and moves up in society, only to creepily stalk the underage daughter of the woman who spurned his advances years ago.

* I like Tyrion's chapters, but I don't sympathize with him. Yes, it sucks to be a dwarf, but I doubt he'd trade his smarts or wealth or powerful bloodline for average height. If you offered Tyrion the choice between being himself or being some dumbass knight, which would he choose?

* My favorite place is the Eyrie castle, despite it being the home of fat Lysa and her annoying kid. I like the Vale's wholehearted embrace of marijuana culture, calling their bastards Stoners and being "high as honor" on the high road. Lysa and little Rob Arryn seem to be heavy users, as the side effects of pot include increased risk of infertility (check), impaired judgment (check), paranoia (check), psychological dependence (check), and intense anxiety or panic attacks (check). They really shouldn't smoke up so much.

* Why are the heroes (the Starks) so dumb? Is it something in the northern air? Most of the decisions that Cat, Ned, Sansa, Jon, and Arya make have been ridiculously stupid. While Jon and Arya are receiving excellent guidance from their peers and teachers, Cat and Ned continue to make idiotic moves left and right.

That's it for now. I could probably go on forever, but this entry is long enough already. The pace of the blog updates should pick up over the next month, as I have less real-life commitments now that the holiday weekend is over. I'll try to post once every two days or so. I hope you guys are enjoying the blog and I look forward to the rest of the books!

Monday, July 6, 2009

Tyrion • Eddard

Tyrion and Bronn attempt to sneak by all the mountain clansmen that harassed them on their way into the Vale. From their banter you can tell there’s no genuine love between these two, who travel beside one another for necessity and mutual benefit. Tyrion lets Bronn know that the Lannisters are a bottomless pit of gold, and will always match the price of anyone trying out-bid them. This also explains the reason why Tyrion paid Mord even though he hated him: to show Bronn that Lannisters are good for whatever debt is owed. Tyrion doesn’t want Bronn to have any doubts about getting paid when they reach wherever they are going.

However, despite the quid-pro-quo atmosphere, the two do bond a little. Tyrion tells Bronn about his first love, a story that puts Sam Tarly’s childhood to shame. His father Lord Tywin had a whore pretend to fall for Tyrion to teach him a lesson, and makes him watch as an entire barracks of soldiers screw her. Tywin then makes Tyrion do her one last time, which gains his son closure, newfound wisdom, and a dozen STDs. It was a good deal for his fake whore wife though, as she probably made out like a bandit. Martin can check off "gang bangs" and "virgin dwarf sex" in his list of deviant sexual practices that appear in this series. I am half scared and half curious as to what’s next on that list.

Tyrion decides not to hide from the mountain clans, lighting up a fire and openly roasting a goat. Sure enough, the mountain clansmen arrive and seem ready to kill them. But Tyrion makes an offer to their Scandinavian chief Gunthor: allow them safe passage, and Tyrion will give them the Vale of Arryn. I wonder how he plans to do that, given the imPREGnable defenses. Maybe Tyrion will buy it from Lysa?

Eddard sits on the throne, listening to the village folk’s tales of brutal attacks by well-equipped brigands. They identify GREGOR as the leader, ordered by the Lannisters to terrorize the Riverlands villagers. A bunch of Lords and Sers that I do not recognize are pissed about this, and Eddard appeases them by sending an army of knights to deal with it. What can they really do though? Can’t GREGOR just demand trial by combat? Who would fight him? Loras tries to be a badass by volunteering for the job, but Eddard denies him, probably for his own good. Eddard really should have sent Loras, because you never know when a jousting tournament or a trial-by-jousting could break out.

This chapter is disappointing because nothing really happens. All the men of action like King Bob and Jaime are out of the city, leaving wet blanket Eddard to sit on the throne. Boring!