Friday, May 29, 2009

Jon • Eddard

A new recruit suddenly appears in the practice yard. Everyone stops to stare because he's fat and rich. Samwell Tarly is also weak, cowardly, and insecure. His lord father disowned him for being such a huge wuss, and gave him a choice between taking the black and having a hunting accident. Randyll Tarly then calmly ripped the still bleeding heart out of a freshly killed deer. I take back everything I said about Southerners -- sometimes, they can be just as hardcore as the Starks.

Unsurprisingly, Fat Sam sucks at sword fighting. Ser Alliser sees an opportunity to indulge his sexual deviancy and has Halder spank Sam with a sword. Jon steps in to defend Sam, and later forms a pact with the other boys to protect him, much to the dismay of their now flaccid master-at-arms. Jon had taken Donal and Benjen’s advice to heart: Sam may be fat and pathetic, but he is still a member of the watch, and one of the few black brothers who isn't a rapist or thief.* At the end of the chapter, Jon wonders where his missing uncle went. My guess would be Benjen is busy helping Waymar reanimate dead wildlings. 

* out of context, this sounds ridiculously racist 

The big tournament brings many knights and whores to King's Landing. With them comes crime, conflict, and an appealing array of new smells. But it’s not all wasted money, as the Super Bowl-like atmosphere stimulates not only the whores but the entire economy of the city. Eddard doesn't like tourneys or brothels -- he would much rather execute deserters or stand solemnly in the cold. Maybe King Bob should reconsider his choice for the Hand position, because Ned isn't doing so well. Here’s a list of job titles, can you guess the ones that are well-suited for Eddard Stark? 1) High school principal, 2) prison warden, 3) late night talk show host, 4) pimp, 5) Hand of the King.

Eddard is investigating Jon Arryn’s death, which leads him to a blacksmith’s apprentice named Gendry. Eddard discovers that this boy is King Bob’s bastard son. “Gentry” means highborn or aristocrat, and while Martin probably chuckled at the wordplay, even Robert wouldn’t be so stupid when naming his secret kid. So Lord Arryn was about to discover and probably reveal that King Bob wasn’t faithful to Cersei, and the Lannisters whacked him before he could? Eddard’s thick, manly eyebrows furrow as he attempts to parse through all the mystery and political intrigue.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Bran • Eddard

Bran whines a lot, but it’s justified because he can’t walk. When will he not be entitled to complain anymore? According to the Eventual Mitigation of Severe Tragedy Formula Union (EMOSTFU), the grace period for a tragic event is equal to twice the amount of time you lived without the tragedy. Thus, in Bran’s case, it's two times however long he possessed the ability to walk. Assuming all Stark children could walk the instant they were born, Bran can whine until he’s at least twenty-one. That's a long time. Crap. 

He’s also a jerk to Old Nan, which is definitely not justified. She’s just trying to help and advise him by telling him about the Others. Thus far, 100% of people who have ignored wise old advice have been turned to zombies, so Bran should really pay attention. Instead, he's interrupted by Tyrion’s arrival. Despite Tyrion’s handicapped saddle gift, the direwolves still hate him. Gee, I wonder why. Tyrion is lucky that Bran doesn’t remember who pushed him, or else he wouldn’t leave Winterfell alive. 

At the end of the chapter, Robb and Bran share an intimate, non-homosexual non-incest moment, showing that their parents’ absence is taking its toll on all of them. Come on guys, get a grip. Starks don’t cry. Besides, this is the north, where tears freeze before they reach your beard.

Eddard is investigating the circumstances of Lord Arryn’s death. Why did Cersei want him dead? Is the Grand Maester in on it? These questions are far too nuanced and complex. Eddard, with all his duty, honor, and hard work, is built more for straightforward problem solving. He’s a firefighter, not a detective, whereas Littlefinger is an investment banker, Robert a washed up football player, Cersei a trophy wife, Varys a CIA director, Pycelle an elite French chess player, and Joffrey the spoiled rich kid who will one day get his comeuppance. 

Eddard sees Arya practicing hard at “dancing” before he’s summoned by Littlefinger, who leaks to him the identities of several informants who keep tabs on him. It’s like Eddard is peering down the rabbit hole of King’s Landing politics and finally realizing that he is way out of his depth. This place operates on an entirely different set of rules, the most important being “trust no one.” A wise man once said, if you can’t spot the sucker in the first half hour at the council meeting, you are the sucker. 

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Arya • Daenerys

Arya is lonely. Her father is stressed and busy with council meetings, her wolf is gone, her butcher boy is in pieces, and her sister blames her for Lady's death. Even if Sansa would talk to her, they have nothing in common. Arya likes sword fighting, horseback riding, and being awesome, while Sansa's interests include sewing, betraying her family, and reinforcing traditional female gender roles. At dinner, Arya loses her appetite, tells her Septa to suck it, and contemplates running away as she hides in her room. Eddard visits her there, and in true Stark parenting style, allows his eight-year-old daughter to keep a deadly weapon. He also signs her up for sword fighting lessons, presumably because he wants Arya to accidentally decapitate the next poor butcher boy she befriends.

Arya’s "dancing" instructor is Syrio Forel, who apparently graduated from Wise Old Master University along with Pai Mei, Yoda, and Mr. Miyagi, because he has the complete repertoire of unorthodox methods, hidden skills, and a strange way of speaking. In her first POV chapter, Arya received a uberspecial sword. This is her second chapter, and she is already on her way to becoming a ruthless preteen killing machine. I see where they are going with this. In chapter three she will gain the power of flight, and chapter four will have her stopping bullets and traveling back in time.

Dany isn’t having fun. Martin goes into graphic detail about how she rides hard during the day and gets ridden hard at night. It’s so bad that she contemplates suicide, but is stopped by some wacky empowering dragon dream. Soon, she’s beginning to tolerate and even enjoy her new life. As they travel, Dany becomes more confident, more aware of her unique situation, and more like a true Dothraki. The end of the chapter is very significant -- she is symbolically seizing control by becoming the rider instead of the mount. It’s also the first (and hopefully last) time I feel glad that a tiny thirteen-year-old was impregnated through public, animalistic sex with a gigantic horse lord.

Viserys is the exact opposite of his sister, growing more detached and delusional each day. Every time he goes off on one of his crazy wake-the-dragon rants, Ser Jorah and MC Illyrio humor him to his face, but exchange nervous, knowing looks. Amazingly, Viserys thinks it’s completely fine to discipline the Khal’s wife via boob grabbage just as he's done numerous times before. This time though, it’s not the same. This isn’t a king punishing his subject in King’s landing, or an older brother asserting dominance over his younger sister in MC Illyrio’s slave quarters. This is a pathetic pretend dragon offending Drogo's queen. This is a Khalasar crossing the Dothraki Sea, and that means egotistical little punks get choked with whips.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Eddard • Tyrion

Eddard has his first council meeting and learns that the treasury is bankrupt due to Robert's lavish spending, presumably on fatty foods. Afterwards, Littlefinger leads him to a secret rendezvous with Catelyn. Thinking Littlefinger was just stringing him along, Eddard almost punches him, but Ser Rod sans barf beard appears to confirm that Cat was there. Did Eddard really think Littlefinger took him to a secret passage that led outside the castle, then down a rock cliff, then on horseback to a brothel just to set up a one liner "your wife is inside" joke?

Littlefinger delivers zinger after zinger, taking nothing seriously apart from his feelings for Catelyn. He shrugs off the huge royal debt, suggests that Eddard fondle some breasts, and sarcastically golf claps when Eddard first recognizes Catelyn. I was disappointed that Littlefinger didn't ask about Jon, and that Eddard didn't politely request some time alone with Catelyn. Come on dude, it's been a while since you've last seen your wife, and you're already in a brothel. Eddard should have done it just to see look on LF's face.

After hearing Catelyn's story about the assassin and how Bran's wolf saved both their lives, Eddard suddenly realizes that he probably shouldn't have killed Sansa’s wolf. Littlefinger suggests that they just pretend the super recognizable Tyrion knife doesn't exist, but Eddard is too proud and too righteous to forget about something of this magnitude, even if it’s in his own best interest. The Lannisters had enough power and influence in King’s Landing to murder the previous last Hand, so Ned will ultimately hang his hopes on the King. However, Robert is politically inept and disinterested, allowing his council to run the kingdom while he requests another party.

The Night’s Watch is such a raw deal. You can’t own land, you can't have sex, your brothers are the dregs of society, and the guy training you is Alliser Thorne, an anal, humorless, tool of a man. Predictably, Tyrion mocks him so badly that Thorne is forced to leave the dining hall, much to the delight of the others. After dinner, the Lord Commander pleads with Tyrion to convince the King to send more men. Mormont continues on about abominable snow men sightings, missing uncles, and mountain people fleeing, but Tyrion doesn’t take him seriously. Maintaining the Wall is like paying for asteroid insurance -- it guards against a disaster that happens so infrequently that it’s easy to forget about it or dismiss it. Robert isn’t going to send men and resources when he can't even pay his own debts.

Before Tyrion departs, Jon gives him a few messages to deliver to Robb, Rickon, and Bran. Didn’t Tyrion recently try to whack Bran? It would be supremely stupid to return to Winterfell. Either Tyrion thinks the Starks don’t know it was him, or Jaime and Cersei acted without his knowledge.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Catelyn • Jon

Usually knights are shiny and chivalrous, but in Martin's universe, they shave their beards because of accumulated seasickness barf. Ser Rodrik seems like the perfect bodyguard who takes many precautions to keep Catelyn safe on their journey to King's Landing, but then you remember that just a few chapters ago he didn't think of posting a guard outside Bran's room. Come on Rod, you're better than that.

When Catelyn finally arrives at the city, she is greeted by her childhood friend Littlefinger, who has overcome several social disadvantages to climb quite high on the political ladder. Though he still harbors unrequited feelings for Catelyn, his personal history and his obvious Napoleon complex gives him plenty of reasons to dislike the Starks. Where Littlefinger is mysterious and clever, Varys is deceptive and scary. He's the Westeros KGB. He has an almost child-like demeanor, but the one asset he possesses --information -- is so important to everyone that he could be more powerful than the King. This contrasts quite sharply with Vary’s very fragile, very dickless exterior.

Varys knows that Bran is in a coma and that Catelyn is in King’s Landing. Varys knows exactly when she arrived and where she is hiding. Varys knows why she carries a dagger and that it originally belonged to Tyrion. Varys knows what you are thinking before you do. Varys knows you know he knows. He knows you know he knows you know. Varys was on the grassy knoll with Amelia Earhart and Bigfoot, watching the final episode of Lost which explains everything. Varys knows when A Dance with Dragons will be released. Varys knows, he just knows.

Jon whines some more about his bastardness, about Benjen, and about Alliser Thorne. He whines about Night’s Watch comrades and that it's cold near the Wall. Never mind that it was his choice to come here despite his uncle’s warning. Jon has had it so rough growing up with kickass royal siblings in a giant castle with a Lord as a father. Jon must feel so misunderstood and alone despite his supremely loyal supernatural pet direwolf who is unconditionally devoted to him. Poor Jon Snow. It's amazing he has endured such a hard life.

The sons of famers and miners are no match for Jon’s combination of sword skills and emo rage. Before Jon makes too many enemies, Donal Noye verbally beats the pretentious emoness right out of him. Jon starts to realize that when the snow hits the fan, it won't matter if your mother was a whore or if you can beat down some big kid named Grenn. Jon bonds with Tyrion some more while a bird arrives from Winterfell. Tyrion incorrectly assumes that his super expensive and recognizable dagger man succeeded in whacking Bran, but it’s actually news that Bran woke up. Jon is so happy that he extends an olive branch to Grenn. When Thorne makes fun of them, Jon fires back with his “I’d love to see Ghost juggle” zinger. Alliser is not amused, probably because he didn't get the joke. It's funny because wolves normally can’t juggle.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Eddard • Bran

A wise man once said, "thou shalt not lie, for the Queen shall kill thy pet direwolf." Perverse karmic justice is served when Lady is executed as a direct result of Sansa’s actions. The significance is obvious: Sansa ceased being a Stark in spirit when she chose Joffrey over her family, and her symbolic connection with "northness" was fully severed with Lady's death. If Arya-vs-Joffrey was a character test for Sansa, she failed in every way possible way. She betrayed her sister, lied to her father, and upset her future husband and family. Even though she did Joffrey a favor by lying, all she received in return was her innocent wolf’s corpse.

After you strip away all the royal titles and family pride, this was just kids getting into a stupid fight and receiving with a few scars and bruises. It's not like Arya pushed Joffrey off a window ledge or sent an assassin to kill him in his sleep. Despite this, Robert lets Cersei have her way because he was too cowardly and lazy to argue with her. Even though Robert is king, his life still sucks tremendously. He’s in love with a dead girl, his son is a wuss and a jackass, and his wife would rather sleep with her brother. Also, supernatural ghost men invade from the north and the Scorpion King raises an army across the sea. Lastly, he’s become embarrassingly overweight. Robert’s going to be the first king who commits suicide out of depression.

I have two final thoughts about this chapter. First, the Hound is a pretty badass cowboy with his “he ran, but not very fast” line. Second, I can't believe Martin killed off one of the direwolves so early in the book, because I felt very attached to them already. When it was revealed that Mycah was in the body bag and not Nymeria, I was relieved and happy. Repeat: I was happy that an innocent child was murdered instead of a guilty pet wolf.

I spent an inordinate amount of time and words on that last chapter because there’s hardly anything to say about the next one because it's six pages of Bran tripping out on LSD, where he converses with a three-eyed crow and possesses the power of flight. Then he wakes up names his wolf “Summer,” when “Fall” is clearly the more appropriate name, as it signals winter is coming and conveniently summarizes why he’s crippled.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Catelyn • Sansa

Catelyn is spending all her time in Bran’s room and fears that he might die at any moment. Her absence has taken its toll on Robb and Rickon. I understand her concern, but ignoring the mental health of her other children is more irresponsible than leaving Bran’s side. She can’t control his condition, so there's no need to be there. However, her irrationality saves Bran's life, because the Lannisters send an assassin to kill him. Catelyn slows the guy down long enough for Bran’s wolf to take him out. I thought the direwolves were still pups, but apparently they are strong enough now to rip out throats. The Starks are starting to see that the direwolves are special, but I wonder if Catelyn realizes that in this analogy, she's the big dead mom wolf in the snow with an antler in her throat. The traumatic event shocked Catelyn back to her senses, and now she's headed to King's Landing in search of the truth.

It was dumb of Jaime to give his goon a super expensive identifiable knife -- he might as well have written "rich people want coma boy silenced" in big neon lights. It's not surprising that Jaime or Cersei would try something so reckless and stupid. They call Jaime the "Kingslayer" but so far he's failed twice at killing a helpless seven-year-old boy. What happens when he has something difficult to kill?

Sansa gets her own chapter! I know that Eddard and Catelyn need to have their own chapters to narrate events through adult eyes in the middle of the main storylines, but I'm not sure if a Sansa POV would be interesting or necessary. Thus far she seems like the typical highborn girl, and her boringness is emphasized even more by how different Arya acts. Sansa is obsessed with Joffrey, looks down on Jon, and is embarrassed by Arya. You can't really blame her, because young girls brought up in such an environment typically only care about boys and social status. Even though this chapter is told through Sansa, Arya is the one who drives the action. I thought it was ironic that Sansa actually asked Catelyn if Arya was a bastard, because it really should be the other way around. Sansa is the only Stark child who doesn't act like a Stark.

Sansa is so excited about her date with Joffrey that it makes her completely change her viewpoint on horseback riding. Joffrey initially is very chivalrous, protecting her from the Hound and that scary Payne guy, but when they encounter Arya sparring with a peasant friend, Joffrey turns into a pompous jerk. One thing leads to another and Arya hilariously beats him up with Nymeria's help. Afterward, Sansa is horrified and tries to comfort the injured prince, but he's not having it. Sansa's dream of being a queen in a big castle is crumbling right before her eyes.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Eddard • Tyrion

If I needed someone to throw a bachelor party, Khal Drogo would be my first choice, Tyrion Lannister second, and Eddard Stark dead last. Robert is having his midlife crisis -- he just wants to bang a tavern wench or assassinate a dragon, and Eddard keeps shooting him down. Snow and hardship made Lord Stark stoic and wise, but it also turned him into a wet blanket. If Robert wants to kill kids, let him. In Martin’s world, kids are treated like adults -- Jon gave a kid a sword, Drogo married one, and Jaime pushed one off a ledge.

Eddard disagrees with a lot of what Robert says and does, and would rather be back in Winterfell. Instead, he’s trudging south with a caravan composed of people he can’t trust and a King who won’t listen. It sucks, but it could be worse -- at least he’s not Jon Arryn.

Tyrion suffers through the bone chilling trip to the Wall, and stops to read about dragonbone. I had thought Viserys and Dany were calling themselves “dragons” metaphorically -- I didn't know that dragons actually existed. Perhaps my surprise was a result of the distinct lack of wizards and magic so far in these books. Sure there are mythical creatures, like the Others or the direwolves, but a flying, fire-breathing dragon seems out of place right now in the universe Martin has created. Usually, most fantasy stories have some sort of wizard throwing lightning bolts by now.

Tyrion and Jon bond some more. I like that Martin wrote these two with such noticeable, important flaws. Every character has flaws, but unlike Robert who can stop eating cupcakes or Cersei who can stop doing her brother, Tyrion and Jon cannot choose to stop being a dwarf or a bastard. Tyrion chose to go north, and he seems far more like a Stark than a Lannister. He and Sansa should just switch families.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Jon • Daenerys

I was very curious to see how Lady Stark would treat the living symbol of Eddard’s infidelity. The contrast between the warmth and care she showed toward her trueborn children and the coldness toward Jon was huge. I was already wincing when she brushed off Jon’s consoling words about Bran, but her “It should have been you” is up there on the harshness rank. She’s essentially telling a young kid with emotional problems “I wish you were dead.” I realize Catelyn is hysterical because her son is in a coma, but did she know Jon was two blog posts and a bad dwarf convo away from slitting his wrists the other night when Benjen half-rejected him? Then again, Catelyn probably doesn’t care whether Jon is on the Night’s Watch or suicide watch, as long as he’s gone.

When Jon told Arya that he had something special to give her and to close the door, I was afraid that the present was more incest, but thankfully Martin has maxed out on that at this point in the book. Jon gets +10 cool points for giving his little sister a gift that she truly loves, but imagine Eddard's or Catelyn’s reaction if Arya accidentally cuts off her hand or decapitates Sansa. It's refreshing and enjoyable whenever Jon and Arya interact, so I'm disappointed that they are parting.

Viserys acts like spoiled, powerful prince, but in reality he’s a pathetic kid who sold the only family he has for a hollow chance at conquest. I find it hard to believe that Drogo and his khalasar would risk so much to fight for him. Even if they did, there’s no guarantee of success -- it's not like the castles in Westeros are going to just roll over. The way Viserys acts and the brutal traditions of the Dothraki don’t seem to mesh well. Less “the dragon commands!” and more “please Mr. Drogo sir” would be wise, but I don't see that happening until someone decides to slap the ego out of him.

Dany is dreading her wedding night. It’s understandable, as Drogo is a very large man and she is barely a teenager. We can all do the anatomical math. When the dreaded consummation finally arrives, Drogo is surprisingly gentle and caring, and suddenly the entire marriage seems like a good idea for all parties involved. Who would have guessed that a wedding with twelve deaths and several rapes would end happily with consensual, romantic, post marital sex? As for the underagedness, I’m just going to assume thirteen in dragon years equals eighteen or twenty-one in our century.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Bran • Tyrion

Bran hasn't named his wolf yet, and is having second thoughts about going south. He aspires to one day join the Kingsguard -- the Westeros version of the Secret Service. He does his best spiderman impression on Winterfell's walls and overhears a revealing conversation between the queen and her twin brother. Cersei is very paranoid of Ned and his motivations now that he's accepted the Hand position, especially considering Lysa's murder accusations. Then, as if to outdo Viserys and Dany, Cersei and Jaime have some good old fashioned twincest while seven-year-old Bran voyeuristically watches their "wrestling match" from the window. Upon discovery, Bran almost falls, but Jaime saves him, only to shove him off the ledge again.

My reaction, after the initial "WTF did that just happen?" was to hope that Bran's wolf ran under him and softened the impact. Thankfully, Martin does not believe in such ridiculous cop outs, because Bran survived the fall and is in a coma. I never flip forward in books to find out what happened, but I confess I did so here, just to see if there was another Bran chapter. If I didn't, I would constantly wonder if he was dead for another hundred pages. If Bran ever wakes up and explains what happened, there will a lot of people angry with the Lannisters. Thus far, Jaime hasn't been a very good Kingsguard, considering he's screwing the King's wife and tried to kill the Hand's son.

I think it's awesome that Tyrion gets his own POV. Readers rarely get the villain's side of the story, especially one as likable as Tyrion. His disciplining of Joffrey was interesting; Tyrion may not have genuine concern for Bran, but he clearly understands the politics of the situation. What I learned from this chapter was that all Lannisters are not created equal: Tommen and Tyrion differ greatly from Joffrey and Jaime.

In addition to being a dwarf, Tyrion seems to be far more intelligent and perceptive than the other Lannisters. I wonder if he knows about his siblings' incest, especially since Jaime seems so careless. Royal adultery with your sister the queen while right under the King's nose is stupid, but pushing a Lord's son out the window is even stupider. Also, after observing how Joffrey behaves, Cersei must be a very inept mother. How could these two twin idiots possibly have kept their affair a secret for all this time? I assume this isn't the first time they've secretly had sex. Judging by Robert's reaction to the Lyanna's death earlier, Jaime would not survive if his affair with Cersei was discovered.

If there was any doubt about me finishing this book, these last two chapters erased them -- I can't wait to find out what happens.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Catelyn • Arya

Catelyn has her own personal spa in Winterfell's hot springs, but Eddard rarely joins her because he is the personification of winter, right down to his business-like performance in bed. We learn a bit about Lord Stark''s history and why he's so serious: it's hard to smile when your sister, father, and brother are all dead before their time. Ned sounds like he really needs a vacation. He needs to enjoy his southern hottie wife and badass children, especially after a long day's work of executing deserters and refraining from laughing.

Via secret letter, we learn that Queen Lannister murdered Jon Arryn. I had to look up who this guy was in the appendix*. Lord Arryn was the former King's Hand, and thus his death is why King Bob came north to offer the position to Ned. To get to the bottom of the murder, Ned decides to accept the King's offer. Eddard also decrees that Catelyn must stay in the north. How many Jon and Jane Snows will he bring back with him this time? His affair makes sense though, because someone who is so intense and emotionless all the time must be prone to sudden and major lapses in discipline. Without this flaw, I would have predicted that Martin would soon reveal that Eddard Stark is actually a robot. Ned decides to take his daughters to court, while Robb and Bran stay at Winterfell with Catelyn and Jon Snow goes north to fight Zombie Waymar.

Lastly, we learn that Catelyn hates Jon Snow, and it's hard to blame her. Jon is a constant symbol of her husband's unfaithfulness, he's got an annoying matyr complex, and he makes friends with ugly Lannisters while getting drunk at Winterfell social events.

* I laughed out loud when I saw that the Arryn motto is "as high as honor" and they have a bastard girl named "Mya Stoned".

Arya's chapter is easily my favorite so far. Her personality is perceptive and hilarious, delivering several quality zingers throughout the chapter. She has some serious Ashlee Simpson-esque jealousy going on, but only because she is too young to see that her skills in math and horseback riding are far more awesome than Sansa's dancing, singing, and sewing. She named her wolf appropriately (Sansa named a wolf "Lady", what the hell), she treats Jon with respect, and she wants to go fight with the boys. I can't think of anything I dislike about her.

We also learn that Prince Joffrey predictably sucks at swordfighting and that he and his men are huge assholes. This doesn't bode well for Sansa, but it could be worse -- at least he isn't a gigantic Khal three times her age or an over-the-hill King who is still in love with a dead girl. Ned and Catelyn seem to have the only healthy, loving relationship, and even theirs is characterized by duty and adultery.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Eddard • Jon

We finally learn the significance of the antler-in-wolf from the first Bran chapter: the stag is the symbol of the King's house. Ruh roh, scary foreshadowing detected. In this chapter, Bob Baratheon finally arrives. He has let himself go a bit, and I don't blame him. If I had just won a kingdom I'd take it easy too. We learn a bit more about geography: Eddard's lands are huge, scarcely populated, and largely inhospitable. King Bob raves about the south, where it's girls gone wild fat drunk party 24/7 and there's a distinct lack of executions, frostbite, and undead ghosts.

Bob makes a beeline for Winterfell's #1 attraction: the crypts, where the love of his life is buried. Lyanna must have been smoking hot, because Bob won a kingdom for her and still pays his respects after nine long years. If only she was alive! Bob should just get one of those Others to "Waymar" her, problem solved. Robert ends up offering Ned the Vice King position, sealed by marriage between their kids. The last time Stark and Baratheon got married, the guy in power was overthrown, so maybe he should reconsider.

Despite the antler-in-wolf sign and the dead ancestor foreboding, I assume Ned accepts the position, because if he doesn't, the plot stops and the book ends. 700 pages left means the Starks are going south. Warm weather and naked chicks here we come! Wooo spring break!

The next chapter opens with Jon Snow drinking away his problems. Predictably, the bastard does not like the pretentious royal Lannister kids. We learn that his direwolf Ghost is awesome, and that Jon wants to join the Night's Watch. Uncle Benjen tells him that with great power comes great responsibility -- the responsibility of not having sex, not owning lands, and fighting supernatural monsters. But Jon doesn't want to father bastards, and emo rages his way out of the hall.

Outside, he meets Lannister dwarf and Cirque du Soleil acrobat Tyrion, who makes some witty quips and gives him advice. Hopefully he gets Jon to stop taking his heredity so seriously, because nobody likes whiners. It's cool that Martin isn't making the Lannisters out to be wholly evil. I actually really like Tyrion -- his line about Jon's mother being "some woman, no doubt" was great.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Cateyln • Daenerys

Catelyn is Eddard's wife, who used to live in a nice warm castle in the South where there were happy girly gardens. Instead, she married into a household where it snows during the summer and her backyard is straight out of Pan's Labyrinth. More Stark badassery: when Catelyn talks about how their three year old is fearful of his new wolf pet, and Eddard responds "then he must learn to face his fears." Apparently, the Starks are training Rickon to be Batman. Arya and Sansa are Eddard's daughters, and even though Jon mentioned they existed in the Bran chapter, I was still half expecting Martin to tell me in true Chuck Norris fact fashion that the Starks have no daughters, only sons.

We find out that the Other sighting is kind of a big deal, as they have never been seen for 8,000 years*. It could be a "those who see them are already dead" kind of deal, but Gared got away just fine, and could have told the story. Maybe nobody believed him.
As for the rest of the chapter, I had a hard time focusing because there were simply too many names being thrown around. We learn that an old Lord who saved Eddard's life is dead, and his widow is Catelyn's sister. Also, King Robert is coming and he's bringing his Lannister in-laws, who are cowardly and come from the south (read: wussiness^2).

* 8,000 years? Really? Right now we're on year 2009 and we have the Internet and space shuttles while poor King Robert travels by covered wagon.

I was terribly confused at the beginning of the next chapter. My first thought was that Dany was a Lannister, since she was described as a princess. Instead, she and her brother are far away in never never land, a place where it's okay to grab your underaged sister's boob and refer to yourself as a dragon. Viserys has decided, in his Dr. Evil-esque plot to conquer the world, to not marry his sister, instead choosing to sell her off to a guy who may or may not have a taste for "boys, horses, and sheep". Dany is predictably terrified when meeting this Khal Drogo, who I assume looks exactly like the Rock in The Scorpion King. Can you smell what the Khal is cooking? Statutory rape of your 13-year-old wife! Viserys wants his army though, and has no problems letting between one and forty thousand guys use his sister. Congratulations Martin, three chapters in and I already see why your series can only be made on HBO.

PS - Magister Illyrio has one of the best gangster (or rapper) names ever, and he's already in the business of human trafficking.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Prologue • Bran

You're the new guy, and you've just traveled to a harsh, inhospitable climate to serve on a wall, probably because there are things the wall needs to keep out. Scary things. Things that require this wall to be capitalized "Wall". Things like invincible sadistic ghost-people with unbreakable swords and resurrection powers. Your name "Waymar" ranks among the most non-threatening nerd names ever, on the level of "Milton" and "Poindexter". Yet despite all this, you choose to ignore every piece of advice the clearly more experienced men give you.

I was not surprised when Martin killed off the Royce. He was arrogant in a very annoying way, and committed the cardinal sin of ignoring the wise old guy. Always heed the wise old guy (unless you're six and he's asking you to get in his van). However, I was surprised when Will died too. We were following along through his point of view, so his death set quite an ominous tone for the rest of the book. As for Gared, I presume he peaced out with the horses as soon as he heard the fight.

What exactly is a wildling? I went on Wikipedia and shut the window instantly, because it seemed packed with spoilers. I still don't know for sure. I'm going to assume that it's a wild person or outlaw, just like I assume "Ser" actually means "Sir" and "Maester" means "Master". That or Dr. Aemon is actually Korean.

After Will's untimely death at the hands of zombie Waymar, we come to the first official chapter, written from the point of view of Bran Stark, son of a Lord. I assume that executee is Gared from the prologue, because there can't be that many earless deserters running around. After the execution, upon discovering the wolf, why was the party so scared of the antler? A giant wolf just gave birth while dead and the antler is what makes them uneasy? Also, this chapter confirmed that Waymar's "for Robert!" was actually a tribute to his king and not, as I presumed, one last shout out to his gay lover back home at Royce Manor.

Things I've learned about the Starks: they name their swords, live in a place where it snows during the summer, and attend their first executions at age seven. I get it George, they are total badasses. When I was seven my parents wouldn't let me cross the street, let alone keep a giant wolf as a pet. Other things I've learned: Theon is an asshole, Jon the bastard has superhuman hearing, and Lord Stark has no executioner on the payroll.

Great chapters so far. I'm very intrigued and I want to read more.


A friend introduced me to Martin after I expressed interest in the possible HBO series. I've never seen someone push a book onto me with such enthusiasm. I don't read much fantasy or sci-fi, but I did enjoy Lord of the Rings and Ender's Game. I am one of the few that has not yet read Harry Potter. I tried, I really did. The movies are good entertainment, but it was very hard for me to take those books seriously -- I felt a bit too old when reading them (I'm 25). From what I hear, Martin's series is the opposite of that, so I'm excited to read a book with more adultish, serious themes.

I have yet to read one chapter of Game of Thrones, but my friend encouraged me write about the experience. I thought that was a great idea, and much easier than being constantly pestered with "did you read any of it yet?" comments every day. She mentioned another blog (which coincidentally shared the same title as mine) whose writers stopped halfway through, so she made me promise that I would finish all of the books. I can't promise that, but if I make it through the first book, I am probably in it for the long haul.

My plan is to read one book per month or so and blog about the chapters I read. There's no guarantee that I stay on schedule or even finish, but a loose plan is better than no plan. I've done my best to stay away from spoilers, so please don't spoil anything for me. I will also rank my favorite characters and favorite quotes as the books progress. Hopefully this blog will be a great source of entertainment for fans of the series and will be a great memory for me if I finish this series.