Wednesday, November 27, 2013

December's In, November's Out

Wow, NaNoWriMo.
With only 1,000 word shy of 50,000 and three days to go I feel elated. Elated because I was able to push myself to do this. Exhausted and tired of the story, which isn't so much a story as lots of talking heads. The draft needs some seriously violent tweaking, but still, I have written all that stuff and I did it in under a month. It gives me the idea that I can write a long story if I want to do it enough. It would take much longer to write something that would be actually worthwhile for anyone else, of course, but still.
I did need an outline which I had beforehand, though, to be able to push through when it dragged. Several times I found myself mindlessly turning outline to flowing text without changing much - at other, more inspired times, I changed things around, gave the wording some thought.
All in all, a really interesting experience which I feel has taught me a lesson or two on time management and the writing of words (I do know a little bit about the writing of words, of course - Waiting for Winter: Re-reading A Clash of Kings Part I, out on December 22nd, comes in at around 100,000 words I believe) - but writing fiction is an entirely different matter, of course.

In the meantime, I sucked up J.W. Rinzler's The Making of Return of the Jedi like a sponge and finished it at record time (me being a slow reader) - only other books that urge me to read that voraciously are, of course, the volumes that make up A Song of Ice and Fire. I put up a few thoughts about Rinzler's book on the making of Jedi in my silly new Star Wars corner.

Which has brought me back to Mark Lawrence's King of Thorns. At first I was like, mmph, this doesn't really grab me like the first book's beginning did, but a few chapters in and we're getting some fun dialogue again. The black humor that made the beginning of Prince of Thorns so entertaining is back. While Prince disappointed as it developed, it's still a pretty fun romp. It's not in the league (by which I am referring mainly to Martin, Abercrombie and Erikson, and perhaps Rothfuss - oh, and Tolkien, kind of) but it certainly lingers close to books like The Painted Man and Throne of the Crescent Moon. The B-list, as I call it. Good, at times perhaps even great, but not consistently awesome.

I've been enjoying a few casual forays into the wilds from my home base in Nashkel in Baldur's Gate: Enhanced Edition. I don't know what reviews say, but I certainly find this enhanced edition does really enhance the game in many ways. It's lovely to be back in Baldur's Gate. I played the heck out of it when it was released. Now I park my characters in Nashkel and then occasionally take them out to clear a map. A bit more of a casual way of playing it than what I did the first time around. Highly recommended for fantasy fans of any stripe and probably the best computer RPG ever built. There is so much more story in this game than more recent RPGs. Even though I am ordering a couple of tiny characters around a 2D environment the game is very evocative and captures the flavor of the Forgotten Realms well. And boy would I love more games like this. Sigh.

Monday, November 25, 2013

My new Star Wars blog.

As you may or may not know, not only am I very fond of A Song of Ice and Fire, I have always been weak for the original Star Wars trilogy as well. Instead of writing about that particular saga here on Stormsongs, I have set up a blog where I can blabber on about Star Wars and the upcoming Episode VII specifically.

In this blog, which I have called Star Wars: The Dark Legacy I will post musings on news as it comes out from Lucasfilm/Disney, and try to build my own vision of what a seventh Star Wars episode could look like. Feel free to drop by, or ignore it like Cersei versus other people's feelings!

Could you imagine a space epic like Star Wars only instead of stylistically going the high fantasy route it went Martin's grim'n'gritty route? Maybe that's the next big thing: Game of Thrones in space.

[Re-read] Tyrion, IV: Of gold and mud - Part II


This post contains a heavy spoiler from the end of 'A Storm of Swords'. You have been warned. Sincerely, Bowen Marsh.

All right, where was I? I was pretty confused reading this chapter two days ago, but in my defense I was very tired and not really focused. But that's how it is, sometimes, isn't it? The chapter never seemed to end, nor did it have scenes that really grabbed me by the, uh, attention. Let's see if, upon finishing the chapter, we get some juicy stuff to rattle our sensibilities. Speaking of sensibilities, it seems I am not the only one who finds The Wit & Wisdom of Tyrion Lannister a somewhat useless product for which actual trees have paid with their lives. On Amazon.com's page, the book's current rating is a cool two stars, with 28 reviews giving it one star and 4 reviews awarding it with five stars. Not out of spite or anything, but I do hope that this brings home the signal that people will buy Ice & Fire stuff, but that we're also reasonable human beings who won't buy everything with Martin's name on it. If not, we may have to face further titles such as The Back-and-Forth Considerations on Ruling of Daenerys Targaryen, Fabulations on my Sister by Jaime Lannister, The Various Conquests of Gatehouse Amy, Etiquette & Protocol as Defined and Refined by Shitmouth, Where Honor Gets You: A Guide by Lord Eddard Stark, Things Bastards Say: A Collection of Quotes from Luminaries in the Realm of Bastarddom, Quotes that Suggest Varys Feels Less Manly, and of course The Complete Collection of Hodor Quotes.
So here I am complaining about a book about A Song of Ice and Fire while I'm writing books about A Song of Ice and Fire myself. There's a difference, though, isn't there? I've spent years writing about these books, while I could have copied/pasted quotes from the books in half an afternoon. Same goes for many other fans who are writing about Martin's works and worlds, engaged in activities which show our affection for the series. There's a lot of these kind of books available these days, and all of them are more worthy of your attention as an Ice & Fire-devotee than a book of quotes you already know full well. The worst part of it is that when taken out of context, the quotes aren't even that great and some of them are definitely not the kind of lines of dialogue you want to have lying around on your coffee table. And now I shall stop ranting about this publication for ever and ever!

SO, Tyrion was having a chat with his delightful father, Lord Tywin Lannister, who has just told his son that it is useful to show off your wealth because he equates this with showing off the power of his family - but he is not going to forgive the throne's debt to his house to make it easy: Tyrion just has to conjure up the money needed for the expenses of the royal marriage. And again, thanks dad. You are the best. How can you not be the best dad ever when you casually throw in a request to get it on with Lady Sansa Stark, a young girl who has been living in hell since forever, possibly on the brink of suicide who has but recently become a woman (in practical terms, that is).

Tywin is, perhaps interestingly, "puzzled" by the fact that Tyrion has no problem 'bedding whores' but doesn't want to force himself upon Sansa. Interesting because this icy man is always shown as being above petty lust, yet here he is puzzled - in other words, he does show a certain understanding of lust. I mean, here we have a tiny hint that he thinks more like Tyrion than he would ever admit. We'll see where that gets him toward the end of the novel. Tyrion tells him Sansa is too young, but Tywin doesn't want to hear it - because, once her brother is dead, which Tywin says with an absolute certainty (and thus it could be seen as foreshadowing in a way) she will be the Lady of Winterfell. He tempts Tyrion here - "claim her maidenhood and you will be one step closer to claiming the north" - note that he says 'one step closer', thus not promising his son that he will actually become the Lord of Winterfell, I love that insinuation from the author that Tywin isn't really thinking of Tyrion as a future lord. Another possible foreshadowing, or at least a clue that may lead to a separation - the High Septon or a Council of Faith have the authority to annul a marriage if the wedded haven't had sexy-time all night long. Will we see this happen? Maybe. At least the author has put it in there for us to read, so that we can believe it when, in the future, we'll see an annulment of a marriage.

Next up Tywin tells Tyrion that Mace Tyrell has refused Tywin's offer to marry Cersei to Willas. Cersei, however, does not know - and Tywin reminds his son that he is not going to tell her. Again, the TV series departs drastically here, where Cersei knows she is to be married to a Tyrell. In the book, she is never to know about the offer, as Tywin states clearly that for all practical purposes, there never was made an offer in the first place.
That is kind of funny, and juicy, and another game-changer that kind of flies under the radar. This lightens Tyrion's mood, though. He likes that his sister, who thinks so highly of herself (at least the way Tyrion sees and knows her) has been refused. Tywin suspects Lady Olenna - the Queen of Thorns that is - for interfering and forcing her son Mace to refuse. Tyrion has to laugh, and I kind of feel good for him, that he can still laugh - but usually it is at the expense of someone else, often his sister. It is quite a dysfunctional family, no doubts there.

Pycelle enters the room, giving Tyrion the evil eye (Tyrion had his beard shaved off back in the good old days when he was still the most efficient Hand of the King in the annals of Westeros). He wishes to speak with Lord Tywin privately, but Tywin says Tyrion can stay. This of course makes me curious and interested because if we know our Mr. Martin, Tyrion will learn something possibly shocking or revealing or something that twists the plot or his fortunes. Excited, I flip the page (actually I just click a button as I'm reading this chapter in a Kindly way) -- but it's "just" news from the Wall. One would wonder why it's so important to Pycelle that Tyrion doesn't hear this - did he plan to tell Tywin something else and when Tyrion doesn't leave he just improvises on some useless news from the frigid upper north? Even Tywin tells Pycelle that "this warning isn't new" (the warning being that wildlings are moving in great numbers beyond the Wall) - however, there is news of Lord Jeor Mormont's death, which is news. Tyrion, having met the man in person, had liked the gruff Lord Commander but he does not express any outright grief. Pycelle proffers Tywin a letter addressed to all "five kings" (you just know Tywin has to take that as a slight) which states that the Wall is expecting an all-out assault from the wildlings. Of course, this takes (once more) the focus off the reality of the threat as Tywin gets annoyed and begins complaining that there is only one king and that's Joffrey Baratheon. This makes Tywin less interested in dealing with the Night's Watch simply because the Watch isn't acknowledging that there is only true king of Westeros.

Tywin suggests that the Night's Watch needs a better Lord Commander who can bring some discipline to Castle Black - and I would so so so love it if the story had taken Tywin to the Wall instead of the privy! Imagine Lord Tywin Lannister forced to take the black! That would be hilarious and interesting all at the same time and could provide for some very interesting story developments. Of all the characters Martin removes from the game of thrones, I feel Tywin is the one that weakens, rather than enhances, the stories to follow; Ned Stark's death set into motion a fantastic and dramatic story - Tywin's demise just kind of leaves a hole. /sad Slynt.

Oooh! /happy Slynt! Slynt is proposed as the next Lord Commander of the Night's Watch. An all together fitting role for one of the most misunderstood and loyal men under the lion banner. Pycelle seems to suggest Janos Slynt mostly to wex Tyrion, though. And Tywin can just enforce this decision because if the Night's Watch doesn't accept Slynt, well, then Tywin doesn't send them more men. Simple as that. Might makes right. Tyrion tries to tell his dad Slynt is the wrong man; but Tywin won't have it. "There is a tool for every task, and a task for every tool." Couldn't have said it better myself. With that, Tywin orders Pycelle to send a letter to the Watch: they cannot spare any men for the Wall right now, but behave and install Slynt as Lord Commander, and we'll see. What a man, Tywin Lannister. Cunning and cold, enigmatic and ruthless. Truly a loss for the story, if not for the realm.

Tyrion regrets not having killed Pycelle and Slynt, but thinks to himself that at least now he has learned (by ordering the murder of Symon Silver Tongue), and thus ends the chapter with a last reflection: See how fast I learn my lessons? It's not a WOOWIIIEEEWEEBAABANG cliffhanger ending but it is quite chilling in its foreshadowing. Martin is almost spelling it out for us. You know what I mean. Their later confrontation featuring crossbows, poop and whores.Among other things.

And that wraps up Tyrion IV, not the most brilliantly written Tyrion chapter but still a decent read with some interesting politicking and a few funny lines of dialogue. I am not sure I understand Pycelle's motivation toward the end here, is it just to wex Tyrion that he suggests Slynt for Lord Commander or is there more to his agenda here?

Next time: Samwell Tarly, darling.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

[Re-read] Tyrion, IV: Of gold and mud - Part I


It's Tyrion Lannister, people! The Imp. The dwarf. A fantastic character and clearly the most beloved among Martin's many great characters. He is in fact so beloved that, what I at first took as a joke, he has a number of his lines of dialogue reprinted in his own little book, The Wit & Wisdom of Tyrion Lannister. I wonder how well it sells? The publication's main attraction I suppose is the artwork (because we already have all those quotes - some of us in multiple editions, even) but the artwork has its own peculiar style and doesn't really look or feel Westerosi at all. I also kind of have my doubts about some of the chosen quotes this book presents. If this book is supposed to help sell more volumes of A Song of Ice and Fire, I'm not sure a quote like "With whores, the young ones smell much better, but the old ones know more tricks" can convince someone that these books are actually awesome in most every way. Taken out of context, much of Tyrion's 'wisdom' becomes rude and lewd, and I'm not saying that has to be bad, it's just that...I don't know, it just feels more gratuitous when you read the lines standing there all by their lonely selves occupying an entire page for themselves. In other words, this is not the most ingenious of Ice & Fire products I've seen, and not one I'd be desperate to buy. I would plop down money this instant for an online computer version of Fantasy Flight Games' board game, though; I would probably buy a good strategy PC game too (but I don't really have to, since the A Game of Thrones-mod for Crusader Kings 2 is free). The best Ice & Fire - stuff we already have, of course. The books. Those fine yarns of medieval fantasy, of which A Storm of Swords is the third. Nothing can obviously beat just reading the books, but for "living the fantasy", a computer game would come a close second. No, wait, third, actually - there's the role playing game, of course. That would be the second. And on a well-earned fourth spot, blogging about it ;-D

This fourth Tyrion chapter opens with a grim reminder of the battle between Lannister and Baratheon, in case we had forgotten the effects of war upon society, which Martin always is keen to explore. While the city itself got through relatively unscathed, the areas outside its walls have been reduced to "mud and ashes and bits of burned bone". Again we can admire Martin's incredible attention to detail and not forgetting to show us consequences. He could just as easily not have mentioned it, but a quick description makes the world become a little more real (until he begins overdoing the description, especially in A Dance with Dragons, that is). He also shows us how life tries to rise again, with people already returning to live there in the shadows of the city walls. People give Tyrion hostile stares as he rides past, but he's got bad-ass Bronn at his side - without his protection, Tyrion imagines that they pull him off his horse to smash his face in. When Tyrion likens them to rats ("they come back quicker than the rats" doesn't exactly liken them but the line does give me that impression. Interestingly, Bronn then comments that he could round up a few Gold Cloaks and kill them off, because, "Once they're dead they don't come back" which is an ironic line, of course, where Martin kind of winks at us and goes "tee-hee see what I did there?" Not only Lord Beric Dondarrion and the wights in the North, but a central character will come back after death in the epilogue. Tyrion thinks the people can stay there as long as they don't build hovels against the wall, because they burn easily or can be climbed I suppose. He tells Bronn he's seen enough, a neat way for the author to tell us that Tyrion has been doing an inspection round without stating it directly. He tells Bronn they'll return the next day with the guild masters "to go over their plans". He thinks for himself that he burned most of it so it's only fair that he rebuilds (which is kind of the opposite of Mad King Aerys in terms of, ah, taking responsibility for flames). Is there more to these thoughts? Did Martin actually write this sentence with the idea to contrast it to Aerys? Or did he just want to show us that Tyrion has a conscience? Or will the line actually be even more meaningful later in the story (imagine if Tyrion, say, had a dragon to ride and had it burn down a city - in such a case, this could also become ironic in its meaning).

We learn that Tyrion's uncle, Ser Kevan Lannister, is consumed by grief (his son has been murdered, his other son is a captive of the Starks, and his third son, Lancel is still grievously wounded) - nice to see some nice human qualities present in a Lannister, and also a reminder that war affects everyone. We are reminded that Littlefinger has sailed off to the Eyrie to wed Lysa Arryn. Tyrion knows he has to open the river for trade, and rebuild all that was destroyed in the battle, to return King's Landing to its former strength. No longer the Hand of the King, it seems he is still acting as one. Actually, you could say that of all the Hands we've seen so far (Jon Arryn, Ned Stark, Tywin Lannister) and of those we have yet to see, Tyrion is the only one who is actually good at being the Hand of the King. Also, he survives the title. Maybe he should've died - his story after A Storm of Swords really isn't nowhere as interesting, or it might just be me not able to adjust to a different kind of storyline. Throughout the first three books, he meets characters and challenges that make Tyrion shine; in A Dance with Dragons, not so much.Anyway, before I get off on another ADWD rant, I'll recalibrate my thoughts and return to the chapter at Hand (aha!): Tyrion and Bronn ride through the Mud Gate, where they see the Three Whores still dominating the market square. While still war machines, they are now used as a playground for children, of which I approve (as long as they don't hurt themselves climbing, eh). Oh! Tyrion worries about the same, and he wants guards stationed here so that no kids break their neck on the things. Heehee. Oh again! He changes his mind when one of the children throws manure at him.

He's in a "black mood" (wants to join the Night's Watch?), mainly because of his marriage to Sansa Stark. She might be beautiful, but she is also still a maiden. The bad thing isn't really that he isn't having his way with her, but the ridicule he gets because everybody knows they aren't being intimate with each other. He could almost imagine that the horses were sniggering as well. He wonders how everybody knows, and though he isn't sure, he thinks it must be either Sansa herself having told someone, or it is Varys and his little birds. There is one person who isn't amused by his failure as a married man, though, but that is of course Shae. Sansa is miserable, and he knows she hates him, so he's miserable too. They were clothes in bed, and he can see in Sansa's eyes how she is reviled by his appearance. He admits to himself that he is sexually attracted to her, and he wishes that she could like him. It really is a sad relationship, especially since we (or at least, I) as readers kind of know that Tyrion isn't all that bad and that she could probably be happier with a witty, intelligent guy like him than some gay flower knight or what have you.

We stay inside Tyrion's mind as he travels through King's Landing; he thinks back to when he told Shae about his marriage - but she already knew. Here we get a very different take on Shae's reaction than the one we see in HBO's Game of Thrones. There, Shae is angry and mad with Tyrion. In the book, which obviously takes precedence, Shae doesn't really seem to care, at least initially: She pulls her dress off, shows him her nakedness, and tells him she doesn't care. Tyrion had hoped for a little less indifference, which could be seen as a hint that Shae does indeed not love Tyrion but keeps herself attached to him for the gold (and glory of being a Lannister's concubine). I've never been sure about Shae's motives and her character as a whole; the books never really tell us where she stands, and I prefer that instead of the rather blunt way they deal with her reactions to the wedding in the TV series. We, along with Tyrion, remain unsure about Shae; does she love Tyrion or not?

Tyrion tosses coins at hungry children, prices in the city are high even though the Tyrells are bringing in food (which can be read as: the Tyrells are taking advantage of the situation, economically, by keeping prices high for their own coffers - and I choose to read it as that, the Tyrells are even sneakier than the Lannisters, if the Lannisters ever were that sneaky aside from Tyrion); also, Martin once more excels at giving us brief glimpes of the cost of war on civilians, as we see the Muddy Way's poor and huddled masses through Tyrion's eyes. I remember when Martin said he wanted to show more of the results of the civil war of Westeros when promoting A Feast for Crows I thought, 'but he's already done that in A Storm of Swords', not only here in King's Landing but also through Arya's chapters - there's misery and fallout everywhere. Tyrion is on some secret business, we realize, as he looks back over his shoulder to see if anyone's following him. Martin, of course, can't resist the urge to give us suspicions - anyone could be a spy: A carter beating his horse, an old woman, two little boys, three gold cloaks with a captive. They maneuver through the city in a way that suggests they are trying to shake off any followers, but Martin doesn't explicitly state they are doing this. Finally, they arrive at a dismal tavern. Here, they find a dark back room where a man is seated; a short fellow, with thinning brown hair and pink cheeks. In his hands he holds a woodharp "more deadly than a longsword". This is Symon Silver Tongue. Another example of my failing memory, I cannot recall anything about this character but that he's bard-like and his name (because he had his own card in the A Game of Thrones: Collectible Card Game from way back when I still collected those). I better go check him out at Tower of the Hand.
By the way! Stefan Sasse, who occasionally leaves a comment on this very blog, and who now also is a colleague of mine as he is also a writer for Blue Buddha Press (who will publish my Waiting for Winter, the sequel to Waiting for Dragons), has written a book on the third season of Game of Thrones. You can buy his It is Known: Season 3 Deconstructed (or at least give it a look to see) for the Kindle right here. I'll be throwing him a few of my hard-earned coppers, myself, once the salary arrives.
Oh, Symon Silver Tongue.
Oh again, this is kind of funny - notice how George R.R. Martin is signing a copy of A Flight of Sorrows: Collector's Edition. That's the book with my foreword in it. The self-same Slynt who time and again has been targeted as a "detractor" and "enemy". Heh. Note: I'm not.
Oh, Symon Silver Tongue.
*Checking*
Mmmmm. The otherwise excellent resources at Tower of the Hand can tell me that Symon is a singer and that he's short, stocky, with thin browning hair and pink cheeks.
Oh well.
Symon calls Tyrion "the Hand", so Tyrion has to tell him he is no longer the Hand, not even a finger. "You shall rise again, I am sure," Symon says, and I am thinking here we have yet another hint from the author that Tyrion is destined for great things. Greater things than being a Hand, even. They are to be found around, these hints. The most obvious one being early, early in A Game of Thrones with Tyrion's tall shadow and all that. He'll be tall when he's sitting a dragon, I tell you.
They did meet before, and I dimly recall it, but not what they were meeting about. Anyway.
Tyrion wants this man out of the city, that's for sure. He wants to pay him to leave Westeros, in fact; wants him to go to the Free Cities and perform there. So what have I missed? Does Tyrion believe him to be a spy, and therefor wants to bribe him off the continent? Feel free to enlighten me, as always.
The man objects, saying Tyrion has never heard him sing, and then he, well, begins to sing. The lyrics to the song he sings to Tyrion are obviously about Tyrion, and there's even a nice little bit of irony there ("and a chain and a keep are nothing...") for those who have read the books before, and I wonder why Symon chooses this song, because it is about Tyrion and Shae, which of course Tyrion doesn't want anyone to hear. Oh; Symon sings this on purpose as a threat. He could sing the song for Queen Cersei, or Lord Tywin. In other words, he's telling Tyrion he could go squeal about Tyrion's secret - Shae, the whore ("funny" is only in the TV series, right).
Tyrion offers to pay more for the man's silence, and Symon says his price is modest. Symon isn't interested in gold - he is interested in becoming one of the singers at Joffrey and Margaery's wedding! Honestly, this is the tenth time I'm reading the book, and yet I had forgotten about this little bit. A few years, maybe more, since the last time I read this chapter, but still. Obviously Symon is disappointed at not having been invited to sing at the wedding (or he has a hidden agenda much like other characters, or is paid by the Tyrells or what not); Tyrion believes this can be hard to arrange, because the number of singers chosen - seven - is important. Because, that's the number of gods in the south. Seven kingdoms, seven vows, seven gods, seven challenges and seventy-seven dishes (that's a lot of food); so what will the High Septon think if there are eight singers?

I think this whole bit is rather strange. I admit to being a little confused. Symon seems to take Tyrion's meaning so easily, why hasn't he gone and whispered in the Queen's ear already? He could be scared of her, of course, or not believing he would gain an audience; or he likes Tyrion more. Anyway, without stating anything bluntly, there is an agreement that Tyrion will see to it that one of the seven appointed singers disappears, opening a spot for Symon. Symon has more prophetic lyrics too: "For hands of gold are always cold..." Could this Symon be more than he seems? I have entertained myself with the thought lately that the Seven are walking among the mortals of Westeros - just for kicks, of course - and I was reminded of this now with Symon's song, how does he know so much and how come his song seem to perfectly match events later in the book (I know, I know; Tyrion links the song's words to the events and as such it is more like a self-fulfilling prophecy, but still...) - could Symon be a being of greater power, an avatar? I'm saying no to my own question, obviously, but the thought is entertaining. There are gods walking about in all sorts of fantasy novels, why not this one? Still confused, though. It seems like such a hassle for Tyrion to try and treat with this fellow when he can have Bronn just drop by and slice the man's throat. Why does Martin spend this time on Symon, showing us this seemingly insignificant character who somehow has a sort of control over Tyrion? I'm tired and hungry. And I'm kind of struggling to express my exact thoughts on this matter. I just find this meeting to be ... odd.

AH! Tyrion was just playing the man! And me, obviously. Once outside the winesink, he tells Bronn that he is not taking Symon to Duskendale; instead, wait three days, tell Symon that one of the other singers has broken an arm, which will make him go with Bronn and then Bronn can kill him. Still, lot of effort, but it seems then that the point was to lure Symon out of that tavern. Bronn, ever the charmer, suggests having Symon end up in a "savory bowl of brown", which is...disturbing. "All kinds of meat in it, I hear," yummy.

When Tyrion comes back to his chambers, Pod tells him that his father - Tyrion's father, that is - expects him at the Tower of the Hand (not the website). My interest is immediately piqued; a meeting between Ty and Ty is always bound to be interesting. Right now I can't recall what meeting this is going to be but once there I'll remember and re-enjoy it, I suppose. Let's see. When Tyrion arrives, his father is busy planning the wedding. It is no coincidence that Tywin wants rubies for the eyes of a row of lion's head studs - ornamentation for the gift he is going to present his grandson - a sword. Notice that the blade shimmers red and black, the Targaryen colors - and that rubies are, in the context of the story, related to Rhaegar Targaryen. "That's too much sword for Joff," Tyrion says, and I chuckle. If more people viewed Joffrey the way his dwarf uncle does...

Turns out the sword is of Valyrian steel (that's the third Targaryen-link), and we get a little history on blades of Valyrian steel which is always interesting to the fan/geek. Apparently there are two hundred Valyrian weapons in Westeros that are accounted for, but the Lannisters - until now- haven't had one. Well, way back the Kings of the Rock had owned one, Brightroar, so maybe we'll see that blade turn up later. Tywin has tried to buy Valyrian weapons but apparently no one has wanted to sell him one. You'd think that the mighty Tywin should be able to procure a Valyrian blade if he really wanted one. Tyrion thinks that the colors rippling along the steel are "wrong", and the armorer excuses himself, says that no matter what he tries the steel won't do what he wants it to do. I am quite convinced this will be of import sometime, why else spend half a page telling us that the red in the blade keeps darkening? Again, I am confused. If I read this correctly, Tywin wanted the blade to be Lannister crimson, but the armorer, whatever he tries, can't keep the blade from darkening, "as if the blade was drinking the sun from it". What is going on here? Is Martin simply trying to show us that you have to be a real good bladesmith to produce a perfect Valyrian weapon? Sometimes the simple answer is the right answer. I am not going to fry more brain cells over this.
Tywin is, perhaps uncharacteristically, pleased enough anyway.

Mmmm! Tyrion says that he likes this blade better the way it is! A (very) subtle hint that Tyrion will join the Targaryen side of things - or that he is, in fact, a Targaryen himself (of which there are many rumors on the endless Interwebs)? Or are we reading foreshadowing - will Tyrion end up owning this blade? Oh, and now the armorer reveals a second longsword. Thicker and heavier. Share the same distinctive color, "the ripples of blood and night". "It is meant for my son," Tywin says. Yeah don't get your hopes up, Tyrion. And he doesn't. But what a father, to say "meant for my son" when he has two sons, one of them standing right before his nose! The armorer, incidentally, is the same guy who had Gendry as his apprentice. When the armorer - Mott - leaves, Tyrion climbs up a chair and, spurned as he is, asks why he isn't getting anything. Tywin suggests he go to the armory where, according to Tywin, Robert Baratheon left "a hundred daggers". Besides, he didn't have enough material for three swords. Okay, thanks for trying dad.

They start discussing Tyrion's observations of the city. Tyrion suggests a few things that need to be done and that it will be costly, giving us another little gem that works so well after having read the book before: "If you do shit gold, Father, find a privy and get busy." No wonder these books are so eminently re-readable when Martin works in lines like this. Tywin tells Tyrion to find the gold that is needed to rebuild the city. Right now most money is being spent on Joffrey's overblown wedding. Tywin, however, thinks that a display of extravagance demonstrates the power of House Lannister - to which Tyrion suggests that maybe Tywin should cough up the money; they begin to argue over the costs of the wedding, it's all rather well written but I'm not awed or heavily invested in the banter. One fantastic line from Tyrion though: "I understand that a marriage can be just as binding without a dancing bear." It's about appearances - Tywin doesn't want the Tyrells to see him as a niggard. The wedding must be pompous. A display of power and wealth (so why doesn't Tywin pay a little bit from the coffers of Casterly Rock? - because he is a niggard, which is funny).

I need a break. How long is this chapter? I'll come back with the rest of my thoughts on Tyrion IV tomorrow. Slynt must sleep!

Monday, November 18, 2013

Karma

I suppose many readers think its only appropriate that my new publisher, Blue Buddha Press, has decided to split my book Waiting for Winter: Re-reading A Clash of Kings in two parts. 
It sounds oh so familiar, doesn't it? Karmic, even. 

So the book will be split roughly in half, with the first half covering the first thirty-five chapters of A Clash of Kings. It will be published as an e-book only (as opposed to Waiting for Dragons, which is available in both e- and print format), on December 22 and can be bought at Amazon. Waiting for Winter: Re-reading A Clash of Kings - Part II will then be published at a later date (spring 2014 or thereabouts).




A little of this and also that

So, did I end up buying one of those Making of... books for the Kindle? Well, yes. Yes, I did. I ended up with The Making of Return of the Jedi because that is the film I have the least knowledge of. I'm not sure there's anything new in the other two books for me. I have devoured half the tome already and it is infinitely interesting to me as a long-time fan of the original trilogy and there are indeed things I didn't know, and things that get clearer about the production of Jedi. Highly recommended to Star Wars fans, or for those who are curious about what goes into such a massive production as Jedi was. Of course this has led to me abandoning reading any other books and the rest of my precious spare time has gone to writing for NaNoWriMo 2013 - and yes, I am still on track to my own surprise - with the exception of maybe half an hour of Baldur's Gate: Enhanced Edition and fooling around with some lyrics for my angry metal band Nefarios. I am still convinced I have written the greatest pile of dung ever for NaNoWriMo but at least I'm on target and can fiddle with it later if I should go back to it and think it may be worth something after all. The best thing remains that I have learned that I can write a lot in a short time and this may just push me to try and produce something actually worthwhile. I do like stories. Maybe I'll let you read through my piece too, as it is pretty heavily influenced by Martin.

Anyway, I'd like to alert you this Ice & Fire related announcement: 

No other news of interest for the fan of all things Westerosi, unfortunately, unless you count no news as good news. 

As an aside, did you know that the last time George R.R. Martin used this picture on his blog was in December 2012?



Hope to find time for a new re-read post soon, as well as some more news on the upcoming release of my second book Waiting for Winter: Re-reading A Clash of Kings.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Temptations of the Dark Side

So tempted to buy these reportedly detailed and beautiful Star Wars behind-the-scenes books, even though I probably know 90% of the stuff already. No, not the horribly expensive print editions, but the more reasonably priced e-book versions which also contain links to audio and video material...but I already have such a huge to-read pile... can I resist the pull of the Force? It has always been there, the Force, keeping me addicted to this stuff...but not so much now as when I was younger, before the dark times, before the prequels...but they look so good...and the reviews are so favorable...must...resist...Must not throw more money at this franchise...but Star Wars is a part of your life and will always be...NoooOooooOOOoo! Meh. Yes. No! Yes! Dude, you spent a nauseating amount of money on tickets for a metal festival yesterday. You can't go off and throw more money at George Lucas now. But it's Star Wars! I loves! NoOOo! Ack. Only one of them then. But you know that will only make you want to buy the other two as well! Nah, you think so, gollum gollum? BAH!




Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Just rantin' a tiny lil' bit.

It's hard to find time for the blog these days, what with NaNoWriMo (I am actually still on track which is kind of weird all by itself), real life and everything.
Last night, instead of following my carefully planned to-read list I ended up reading a chapter from A Dance with Dragons. It's the chapter where a certain exiled knight walks a certain fled kinslayer through a city. I was hoping that it would enlighten me, engage me, draw me in, but alas, it didn't. Compared to the first three books, this stuff is so lackluster, event-less and simply less believable. Essos just isn't anywhere near the splendid medieval brutality of Westeros. I am sorry for this. I wish it was just as good. But even objectively speaking (as objectively as possible with regards to entertainment), this is technically not so well written either. It flounders. It bores. The dialogue doesn't feel natural. The characters they encounter seem less real. The fact that these characters meet (with a third character that has been met before) feels wrong, somehow, maybe because in the previous books characters were certain never to meet (Arya/Sam excepted, but even that one was just an 'almost' event). The third character may be the least interesting of Martin's creations, too, for reasons that would take too long to delve into right now. There's no sense of urgency. Me sad. It's so much harder to buy into this chapter than any given chapter in books I - III for me. 

That being said, I hear there's a new sample chapter from The Winds of Winter doing the rounds, one featuring a certain former Kingsguard Commander. And it sounds as if people think it is good and that it builds up to actual excitement (which frankly, is lacking for most of the two last books). Ten years ago I'd buy a paperback A Dance with Dragons for it, Mr. Martin. Now? /shrug

In other Ice & Fire-related news, there really isn't much, is there? A few new faces cast for Game of Thrones Season IV. No news about that MMORPG (maybe it's dead). Nothing on the blog. Which is kind of weird, it's almost like a dry spell after years of something icy/fiery coming up. Oh, Dangerous Women is getting closer, of course. Can't wait to read that treatise on Targaryen history. 

And with that rant, I have to do the fricking dishes before I'm off to represent my work at a quiz evening. Sometimes I wonder what I'm doing. Or rather, why. Teehee! I should have had Tyrion with me.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Writing

Still ahead of schedule. Never written so much in such a short time. Will be interesting to see if I can keep this up, and what it eventually will look read like. It's fun though.
You know, even Patrick Rothfuss (of The Name of the Wind fame) participated in NaNoWriMo, in 2011. Read about his experience on his blog; quite interesting. And I agree with the one important thing you get out of it - it's fun, and it helps.
So, I have come to a battle in my own work this month, writing the lead-up this morning. And while I write I cringe at times knowing this isn't good but force myself not to look back, just march on and worry about that stuff later.
It helped to pick up the middle part of a story instead of a beginning. I went straight into action mode, and haven't worried about putting in exposition to explain the many characters, the backstory or anything. It also helped that this story already exists in notes, so from now on I'll be a better outliner.

In A Song of Ice and Fire-related news, uh, Martin is still showing moving pictures at his cinema, is giddy with joy over some team winning over another team in some sport, and he is going to Australia and Middle-earth New Zealand not writing. Maybe the landscapes there will fuel his imagination. One can hope, of course. I do wish to see Zero Charisma, though. Looks like a fun story. A game master who likes heavy metal. Sounds familiar.

Waiting for Winter: Re-reading A Clash of Kings is coming. Be on the lookout.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

[Mini-review] Prince of Thorns

Still chomping at NaNoWriMo. Still ahead of schedule. Not as enthusiastic as I was a few days ago, but refusing to let go. Must.finish.50.000.words.

Almost finished reading Mark Lawrence's Prince of Thorns. I don't know what to think about it anymore. It's entertaining, but also a bit strange. And could need a little more descriptions, maybe. It's sometimes a bit hard to envision the environments. The big deal with this book is the main character, it is the main character who sets Prince of Thorns apart from other contemporary fantasy, but there are still similarities to other recent fantasy novels (by recent I'm thinking the last five years or so). The writing reminds me of novels like Throne of the Crescent Moon and The Painted Man and perhaps particularly The Steel Remains. What these novels have in common, they also have in common with Prince of Thorns - shorter narratives, fewer characters, more direct and less flowery, perhaps. These books also have protagonists that are somewhat different from the norm, but the Prince of Thorns beats them all. Imagine Joffrey Baratheon having wandered into a thin Patrick Rothfuss novel. Or something like that.
The setting of Prince of Thorns is somewhat more unusual too, although it isn't new either - think Jack Vance's Dying Earth. Kind of. Some of the dialogue would fit Abercrombie's work as well.
And yet the book also falls into some clichés I didn't expect from this story; but there's a flow to it, anyway, so I'll just continue to let myself be entertained for what it is - a quick fantasy fix. Not something to obsess over, something with the enduring power of a The Lord of the Rings or A Song of Ice and Fire, but something to enjoy in the moment. Not saying it's bad or anything, I wish I had half the flair Lawrence has. But it's not so much "in the vein of George R.R. Martin" as it wants to be.

Just a few more chapters, and then it's on to the sequel, King of Thorns. And then I have an ambition to pick up The Way of Kings again. I'm sick of seeing it on my nightstand. It's been there for three years. And then then the next title on my list is The Red Knight And then the plan is to follow this up with three Forgotten Realms novels I've had on my shelf for a while, Cormyr: A Novel, Gauntlgrym, and Evermeet: Island of Elves, though I suspect I have to put some other literature in between to be able to deal with these books (if they are of the same level of quality as previous Realms novels I've read).

And there is this urge to finish my re-read of Deadhouse Gates and then follow that up with Memories of Ice, House of Chains, Midnight Tides, The Bonehunters, Reaper's Gale, Toll the Hounds and The Crippled God. Sigh. And I have this urge to re-watch the two first Game of Thrones seasons as well. And there's a bunch of too-watch movies waiting, too. I actually saw a movie from beginning to end last Friday, Prometheus. Yeah, I'm that far behind. And what about computer games? I still have to finish Neverwinter Nights and Neverwinter Nights 2 with all their expansion packs, Baldur's Gate: Enhanced Edition and Skyrim, to name a few. Say one thing about Slynt, say he has need of more hours in the day.

Still, today I watched Return of the Jedi with my son and that's a great re-watch experience in itself, although I have seen it, say, 500 times before. But watching it with the kid kind of renews the experience, but it finds me wanting to make time for my Star Wars love, as well. Double sigh. And now I will probably mull over Episode VII the rest of the week, wondering what the heck is going on at Disney Studios/Lucasfilm and what the story could be. Jedi is terribly final, as Tyrion Lannister might have argued. Could the clues to the next trilogy therefore lie in the prequel movies? I dare not think about it. 

In conclusion, I want to put forth (again) Steven Erikson's Reddit AMA which shows just how fantastic he is as an author with regards to fan relations. Night y'all.

Do I intentionally set out to frustrate the reader? What an outrageous notion. Of course I do. ~ Steven Erikson

Sunday, November 3, 2013

[Re-read] Jaime IV: To Bravely not use a Hand Joke


I have to admit that I'm excited about finally getting my re-read of A Clash of Kings published in e-book format through Blue Buddha Press, mostly because I thought it would languish forever on my computer when I suddenly didn't have a publisher anymore. Because, you know, this second book I honestly believe is a worthwhile read for a fan of ice and fire. Waiting for Winter: Re-reading A Clash of Kings is scheduled for a December 22nd release (it was originally slated for April 2012, so it's been a while). There's a Q&A piece in Blue Buddha Press' Preview 2014 e-book where I talk a little bit about this stuff, and there are also two sample chapters from it, in addition to samples from other books they will be publishing in the near future including an, in my opinion, very interesting piece on ruthlessness versus honor in A Song of Ice and Fire, an essay that will see the light of day in one of the publisher's other Westeros-related books (these are the guys running Tower of the Hand so you should be expecting Westeros-related material from them, but there's also a book coming out about Nintendo gaming and gamers).
I love writing about stuff I love, so hey, here we go again. And now that whole preview e-book re-kindled my enthusiasm for Martin's work and what else is there to do then, but write a new re-read post? (Alternatively I could read posts like these, but I am not sure they keep the flame of Westeros alive in the same way...) Good thing I'm ahead of schedule with the annual NaNoWriMo contest, as you can see in my little screenshot. According to this overview, I'm scheduled to finish my 50,000 word novel in eleven days! Yeah right. I was lucky to have an opening yesterday (and this morning), I can't possibly keep up that pace. If I do, I'm going to buy myself a new pair of socks. That would mean that with enough determination I could produce a 100,000 word draft in a month! That's just crazy. But that's what they said in a mail I got from the organizers of NaNoWriMo; that you have to be a little crazy to do stuff like this. So there you go. It's official.



I am so happy I got off to a good start, and you know, last year I failed because I was kind of directionless but this year I have a complete outline, and that really does make it easier - and it makes me think of George R.R. Martin's comments about being a gardener, not outlining much, and it makes it easier to relate to his struggles with his bewilderingly complex tale (well, at least it's more complex than, say, Winnie the Pooh) if he doesn't have a real outline of scenes, characters arcs, plot points etc. NaNoWriMo helps me write better, but it also helps me understand George R.R. Martin better. It's a win-win situation. As is reading a Jaime Lannister chapter. Great character with great quips, suitably arrogant and with interesting challenges to face. Let's roll (and yes, if I recall correctly, Jaime's smart-ass arrogant style may not really come to the surface here).

This picture from HBO's series, to my mind, is a near-perfect impression of the book character, look-wise.
The chapter opens with three simple words that convey everything you need to know about what is occupying Jaime Lannister's thoughts at the moment: His hand burned. Well, actually, it's the stump that burns, because the hand isn't there anymore, is it? Martin is quick to point out that in Jaime's mind he still feels the hand as if it is there, can still feel his fingers twisting in the metaphorical flames of agony. To be honest I find the opening to this chapter written in a way that makes it a little confusing: At first you learn that they had used a torch to sear his bloody stump (so there is actual fire involved here) but then he could still feel his fingers twisting in the flames, which is kind of weird because those fingers were already off when they seared the stump (this is why I wrote 'metaphorical flames' before I began thinking about this in all its glory). So is the burning pain the pain of his stump being seared, or is it the agony of getting his hand cut off, or is Martin being deliberately obtuse because Jaime is having cognitive difficulties (I don't blame him)? 

It really hurts though. So much in fact, that Ser Jaime Lannister has never felt such pain before, and it's so bad he begins praying old prayers he learned as a child. This little detail makes me think of that saying I've seen flung about the web, there are no atheists in foxholes. I suppose in Westeros, they say there are no atheists with one hand. It also tells me that Ser Jaime is desperate, he wants to get rid of the hurt, the agony; in fact this bad boy actually weeps. That's not the Jaime we have come to know. No more badass? Well, he'll change, and the loss of his sword hand is the physical representation of his change, but he'll fortunately retain some of his badass qualities. When the Mummers laugh at his grief, though, he forces himself to stop crying, but he does continue to pray. Their derision makes him think that now he knows how Tyrion has felt when people laughed at him. It's a minor detail, but it's necessary because we'll see Jaime standing more up for his dwarf brother later, and thoughts like this support those decisions. Quite a horrible situation to be in, and Martin pulls it off magnificently. I love how this whole ordeal makes the reader (this reader at least) shift perception on the character. 

We're told how he has fallen off the saddle once, and the second time they bind him tight to Brienne of Tarth"The lovers," Shagwell sighed loudly, "and what a lovely sight they are. 'Twould be cruel to separate the good knight and his lady." There is definitely a good amount of cruel mockery in this series, with various characters being the target thereof (from the top of my head, Tyrion Lannister obviously, Brienne of Tarth, Jaime Lannister, Ser Barristan Selmy, Arya Stark, Daenerys Targaryen... they all face mockery to varying degrees). Could this be Martin's way of getting back at those who mocked him when he was young for being such a nerd? I don't know. I don't even know whether he was mocked as a child. Now that I'm thinking about it, there is a lot of mockery in this series, some of it truly depraved, and I wonder... It's an interesting thought at any rate; how is Martin able to come up with so many creative ways of mocking characters? In some scenes he takes it so far I get angry, like in this very scene where Jaime not only has lost his hand, but also has to endure this mockery from the Brave Companions (the most ironic name in the series?). Bah! Wait! It gets worse, of course. Just as Jaime consoles himself with the fact that at least Brienne's presence keeps him warm, she has a really bad breath to boot. Oh, and they have hung his rotting detached hand about his neck on a cord. Now, really. And it slaps Brienne's breasts. Man, I hate Shagwell and Urswyck so much for doing this. Are they even human? And then I realize that some people would actually do stuff like this, and I get even angrier. There is no dignity, no regard for human life, no compassion, no humanity. They enjoy the suffering of others. And yes, Ser Jaime Lannister pushed a ten-year old boy out of a tower window and I should be hating him for it, and yet here I am totally rooting for him in the face of this outrageous mockery. I wonder how it would feel to read it "the other way": What if this happened before he pushed Bran out of the window? How would it change my perception, if at all? It's an interesting thought experiment. Would I blame his maltreatment at the hands of the Companions when he tried to murder Bran?
on the same horse, face-to-face. Say one thing about Martin, say he knows how to mock.
Anyway, as you may have guessed, I find this a bit hard to read. Not in the "I'm offended" kind of way but in the "life is full of misery" way. NO, not the "Jets have lost, life is full of misery" way! "The world is cruel and unjust and there are no gods and we all die alone and there is so much needless suffering all over the globe and there's nothing I can do about it" kind of way, rather. Enough about the pain, already.

Oh. 
Slipping in and out of consciousness. Blood and pus seeping. Throbbing phantom hand. Throat too raw to eat. Quaffing down horse piss for the amusement of the Companions. Retching it all back up. Soils himself in the saddle. 
I get it, George. His dignity is gone, his pride is torn to shreds, they are breaking him and you are breaking me. Layer it on some more, if you can. 
Oh.
Reaches for a sword, wrenches it from the scabbard, tries to fight, but trips and is kissed on the top of his head by Shagwell the fool. Now that kind of hurts in an entirely different way because what Jaime now experiences is the complete loss of his identity as the realm's greatest swordsman. Vargo Hoat in a fit of madness forgives Jaime this feeble attempt, but promises to hack of the other hand (or a foot, perhaps) the next time he tries. Great.

That night, Jaime stares at the night sky, trying not to think of the pain. The night was "strangely beautiful", and we realize that Jaime knows his astrology/astronomy; he sees the King's Crown, the Stallion, the Swan, the Moonmaid; I am not sure whether Martin is putting in some hidden message here (one could of course try to interpret these constellations as literary devices) but I think the point here is that Jaime, by gazing at the stars and thinking he's never seen so many, is looking at the world in a new manner; the whole bit smells of symbolism - now is the time for Jaime to find hope elsewhere; there is light in the world, but darkness between; Jaime must now open his eyes (and mind) to a new reality, a reality in which he no longer is what everybody else sees him to be. This is supported by the following exchange between Brienne and Jaime, where she asks him what he's doing, and he replies, "Dying", and she tells him to not be a craven and live instead (great little bit of overlooked dialogue by the way) - and then he thinks that no man had ever called him craven. He's been called an oathbreaker, a liar, a murderer; cruel, treacherous and reckless - all the bits of his identity gone with his hand. And a little later he comes to the realization that maybe he was just a "sword hand". In essence, he's thinking that he has nothing to live for anymore - it's quite sad, actually. Also, interesting how he doesn't factor in Cersei in his thinking. Two books ago, he would have Cersei to live for. She doesn't seem that important anymore now. Oh wait, see, sometimes I should stop writing and read on a little bit instead of blather-writing. Flipping the page, Jaime realizes he can't die just yet - Cersei is waiting for him; and Tyrion, too. Oh, and his enemies. Revenge is always a nice motivation. His list is short: Robb Stark, Edmure Tully, and the Brave Companions. Dear Mr. Martin, I won't mind at all a scene where the Companions get there comeuppance in some way. 

And so, the next morning, Jaime has decided to shoulder on (he can't hand on, can't he - oh wait, I promised myself no hand jokes..); he forces himself to eat (a mush of oats and horse food - yummy). He tells himself to live, live for Cersei and Tyrion, to live for vengeance. He decides that when he gets to King's Landing he'll have a new hand forged of gold, and that he's going to use it to rip out Vargo Hoat's throat. Or someone else's throat, valonquar? Who said that? It was not I, oh no it wasn't. When I read this the first time around, I remember thinking it was just some fever fantasy and that in no way would it be possible in this setting to have a hand forged of gold which you could attach to your body. Random thought incoming: I wish we could see Casterly Rock up-close before the series ends. Aaand back to Jaime's chapter.

Pain, pain, pain. Blurred. Haze. Stinking rotting hand. Hard ground. Waking nightmare. All bad bad bad. He thinks of Brienne as a big dead cow lying next to him. He thinks she has "built a fortress inside herself" and that she'll be raped sooner than later. Cheery thoughts for a cheery chapter. Jaime doesn't have any interior walls, though. He is nothing. He is whipped in the face. He is punched and kicked. They are going to Harrenhal which Jaime finds amusing in all its irony (he was never allowed to joust there at Whent's great tourney, but now he's going back there). Rorge slams a boot into his stump. Jaime faints. It's all horrid, but if you know Martin, you know he can always be trusted to pile more bad upon the pile of bad.

At night, three of the worst (worst of the worst, then) come skulking, bent on raping Brienne. Just for depravity Jaime overhears them discussing whether they will take her at the same time front and rear, and then they begin fighting over who gets the front and who gets the rear. It's a gratuitous moment for sure. Did we really need to overhear that? Did Jaime? Will it help him become a better man overhearing this? The sheer insolence of these characters talking so casually about another person. Really. It's both annoying me and at some level I am intrigued by the text as well (I suppose I wouldn't have bothered finishing the book if not), because Martin lays it so bare. It bothers me in one way that Martin adds these details, and in another way I think it adds to the story because it's brutal and the brutality adds a dimension of adversity that makes scenes like this more poignant, sharper .. I find it hard to express just what a scene like this does to me as a reader. But it does something, and most fantasy books don't do anything. So there's that.

All right, so if things aren't bad enough at this point, George threatens to give us a rape scene as well. I'm sure a lot of people turned their eyes away, then after a moment turned back because you just have to read on, don't you? Will they get out of this mess? If you think Indiana Jones was good at getting into trouble...Seems Jaime beats him severely in that department. Things are getting progressively worse here - when will their luck change (or come into existence)? Brienne is defiant, of course, and Jaime tells her to "go away inside", and we learn that this is precisely what he did back in the day, and as such it's an important character moment to notice. The Starks - Lord Rickard, Ned's father, and Brandon Stark - Ned's brother - murdered by the Mad King. We don't get her response to his suggestion as Rorge comes over telling her who she is the ugliest woman he's ever seen (he doesn't watch the TV series then - she doesn't look bad there at all) but by the old gods and news how despicable can you get, threatening a woman like that? Tolkien's orcs are faeries compared to Rorge. I mean, come on (here I go again). Rorge tells her he's going to pop out one of her eyes and make her eat it, and then pull out her teeth - to which Shagwell replies that it will make Brienne look like his mother, whom he always wanted to, ah, penetrate by the backdoor. Yes, this is certainly vile and filthy language, no doubt. In that regard, it's quite an achievement that so many people are reading this stuff now. I thought so much as a nipple on the screen was offensive, and here Martin just doles up the depravity. Anyway, before I start to over-anal-yze this stuff, Jaime interrupts, shouting as loud as he can, "Sapphires!"
Rorge kicks his stump in anger, Jaime howls, and faints in agony. His ploy worked though - Vargo Hoat heard him, and has come to stop Rorge and Shagwell (you think Martin got that name from Austin Powers? I'm not sure myself) from "damaging the goods" so to speak. Whew. The trick of course is that Hoat believes Brienne's father can cough up a big bag of sapphires to pay for her ransom, and that's what Jaime is counting on. I'm glad Martin stopped himself here, so to speak.

Two nights later, Brienne asks why Jaime shouted. What we get is the first small glimpse of their relationship developing, and it's great because you have to read it between the lines. He's still cocky in the way he talks her down - "You're hard enough to look at with a nose" - but underneath we realize that Jaime simply cared about Brienne enough to take a chance and interrupt Rorge and Shagwell's gruesome plans. Also, something of real honor comes forth; "A Lannister pays his debts. That was for the river, and those rocks you dropped on Robin Ryger." He wants to pay back. While he's not the most chivalrous man in Westeros yet, we're seeing a distinct change here.

Hoat wants to make a show of Jaime's capture, so he's forced to walk the last mile with a rope looped around his waist, the ends tied to Hoat's saddle; together with Brienne he stumbles along next to Hoat's zorse (while I maintain that Martin is a master of names, he kind of flunked this one didn't he). During this "walk of shame" (that might mirror his sister's walk of shame in A Dance with Dragons) he keeps telling himself he's strong, he's still a Kingsguard, he's alive, and he's going to get his vengeance. Reading between the lines (again) I am feeling that he is occupying his mind so he doesn't have to worry about what will happen once he enters Harrenhal's gates. That's my interpretation, though. Brienne senses hope when she sees that the walls of the castle fly the banner of House Bolton, who are bannermen to the Starks. Jaime remarks that the Boltons skin their enemies, and that's all he really remembers about this House of the North, but probably a thing worth remembering..

So, according to the text the "castleton outside the walls had been burned to ash", and excuse me while I go off to find out what a castleton is. The dictionary provided with Kindle certainly doesn't recognize a castleton. And I must know! And maybe I have checked it out before, and I have forgotten. I love how Martin puts in these archaic words.....What? Four places in England? Oh! Now I realize it, that's just stupidity on my part. The "-ton" ending gives it away of course. Castle-town. The town that once stood around the castle walls. It is burned to ash. Right. Let's move on. I envy the first-time reader this scene so much. You just don't know what the fuck is going to happen now. It's a pretty interesting moment. A little more background on Whent's tourney (not much though; he had knelt before the king here to say his vows, but he wasn't allowed to have any fun; it was duty, right away). Brienne turns back Jaime's attention to the banners, as she now also spies the twin towers of House Frey (and isn't that an interesting combination - great and very subtle foreshadowing of the two Houses' alliance, this). And the direwolf banner mentioned as an aside. Interesting.

Martin sure keeps us in suspense, detailing the thickness of Harrenhal's walls, how the outer ward is full of curious people...and then Hoat proclaims to have brought the Kingthlayer to Harrenhal, and someone jabs a spear in Jaime's back, sending him sprawling. Right, Indiana Jones would have hung up his hat a long time ago. Put his whip in a container. But Ser Jaime, who of course falls forward and tries to stop himself with his hands, realizing he has only one so he smashes the ground in blinding pain, somehow "managed to fight his way back on one knee." He's really going through hell, isn't he? Almost an inverted messiah, if you take my meaning. A sufferer, scorned. As he looks up, he notices he is being watched by five knights and a northman - Ser Danwell Frey, Ser Aenys Frey, Ser Hosteen Frey, three of Lord Walder's sons who Jaime knows by sight. Lannisters tells them Cleon is dead, immediately blaming Urswyck. He's a quick thinker, our Jaime; if he convinces them these bandits holding him captive killed Cleos Frey, well maybe they will have no mercy on Vargo Hoat and his band. His attempt is interrupted by Brienne, however, shouting "My lords!" to get their attention. When she tells them she is likewise sworn to House Stark, Aenys Frey spits at her feet, saying that they had once trusted Robb Stark and that he repaid their faith with betrayal. Now this is interesting, Jaime thinks, and of course it is. It's all so intricately detailed with the betrayals and intrigues and complexities of loyalty and fealty, once again I must commend Martin on his unique ability to keep a story running while at the same time keeping it so true to medieval realpolitik. Amazing.
So while Jaime tried to shift their focus onto the Brave Companions, Brienne tries to invoke their loyalty to House Stark - and both fail. 
Brienne tries to explain that she was sent by Lady Catelyn to bring Jaime to King's Landing (you could almost forget that's what they were up to, it's so long ago kind of - well at least with the speed I'm re-reading), and Urswyck comments that they found Brienne trying to drown Jaime, which is so annoying yet also entertaining because it's true. What a reader can glean from the discussion here on the wide stairs in the courtyard of Harrenhal is that one can no longer be certain of the Freys and the Boltons' loyalty to the Starks.

Hoat finally has enough of the banter and tells them that Jaime is his prisoner, "and not for the bear". And then, ladies and gentlemen, Roose Bolton. Roose Bolton spoke so softly that men quieted to hear him. Bolton smacks down on Hoat, telling him he is not the master of the castle before Bolton leaves. I kind of wish they had made Roose in the TV series a bit more like the Roose in the books. I mean, Bolton's silence was a hundred times more threatening than Vargo Hoat's slobbering malevolence. Pale as morning mist, his eyes concealed more than they told. This quick sketch says so much about Roose, doesn't it? And then we get a laugh-out-loud moment and for a moment we see the "good old" Jaime - when Roose tells him he's lost a hand, Jaime dryly replies, "No, I have it here, hanging around my neck." That's just awesome. Seriously, Indiana Jones, go do the dishes or something. Bolton snaps the cord and throws the rotting hand at Hoat, who says he's going to send it to Lord Tywin (and that Tywin will get the rest of Jaime for a mere 100 000 gold dragons). The Brave Companions find this amusing, but Roose is all calm and icy cold, saying it's a fine plan before giving Jaime and Brienne some needed information on the things that have changed since they left Riverrun. This is also called exposition. So they learn that Joffrey is going to wed a Tyrell instead of Sansa Stark; they learn that the Tyrells aided Tywin in destroying Stannis Baratheon's fleet; that Tyrion was wounded in said battle; and that Robb beheaded Rickard Karstark for treason. I know if I were Brienne at this point I'd feel pretty bad about my situation. Jaime, however, realizes that the Lannisters are once again in control. And he learns that Cersei is alive and well, and realizes that Bolton knows that he's Joffrey's father (and Cersei's lover). Bolton orders Hoat to untie Brienne and bring Jaime to Qyburn.
Brienne tells Roose that these men tried to rape her, I'm assuming in the hopes that Roose is a just northerner like the Starks and will punish them accordingly. "Did they?" Roose asks, turning his eyes on Hoat, and this is brilliant, because now Martin kind of twists our perception a bit on this Roose and I know the first time I read it I was unsure of this man, but this scene made me believe, if for a moment, that in Roose we had a character who was menacing but nice at the same time. He tells her, politely, that she will have no need for armor at Harrenhal, and tells Amabel (who kind of pops up from nowhere as we've had no mention of an Amabel hanging around, just the Freys and Roose) to find her "suitable rooms". A gracious host then, and we all love Roose for he's nice and displeased with Vargo Hoat. Surely this must be a man of honor and integrity, if a little bit spooky with those pale eyes and quiet voice of his.

Jaime is brought to Qyburn, a former Maester of the Citadel, and we get some fun dialogue. The maester cuts the linne from the stump, and by his reaction, Jaime has to ask if he's going to die. The corruption has spread, and Qyburn thinks it best to take off the whole arm. "Then you'll die," Jaime says, and I nod with approval at the coolness of Jaime Lannister. It's a good thing, then, that Qyburn has specialized in rot (although I technically can't know this yet - I believe it isn't revealed until the next book).

Qyburn was taken aback. "There will be pain."
"I'll scream."
"A great deal of pain."
"I'll scream very loudly."

Eminently quotable, as they say. And then we get into some detail and let's just say that I prefer modern surgery over Qyburn's administrations. Jaime passes out (again) and when he wakes Qyburn is sewing his arm, having left "a flap of skin to fold back over your wrist". Well, thank you. Eeew. Jaime understands that Qybyrn has done this kind of work before, and Qyburn replies that "any man who serves Vargo Hoat is no stranger to stumps." That Vargo Hoat guy, people. Ugh.

As with Roose, Martin strives to give us a perception of Qyburn that will soon be tested; Jaime thinks of him as a kind-looking old man. Oh, and here we get our first background on the character, with him explaining how his chain was taken away by the Citadel. Through the maester, Jaime gets some more information on the political situation in Westeros.

The chapter ends here in Qyburn's chambers, but not before turning to Brienne. Jaime asks for news of her, and Qyburn wonders what the woman means to him; "My protector," Jaime says, laughing. But it's another part of the puzzle that is the Jaime-Brienne relationship. Then, Qyburn tells him he's going to drain Jaime's bad blood with a leech, to which Qyburn says, "Lord Bolton is very fond of leeches", which is another authorial hint that there's more to Bolton than we know (yet). He kind of gives off a Draculian vibe, doesn't he? Kind of. Pale eyes, blood, flaying, leeches...

Whew, not the shortest post I've written. And I haven't even done my NaNoWriMo for today (the first part of this post was from yesterday). Still, I can afford to "lose" a day. Or I can sleep an hour less tonight. But Slynt loves his sleep. What to do, what to do...

...I think I'll start by stopping my blathering right here, right now :-D

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Blue Buddha Press Release: 2014 Preview

So my script for Waiting for Winter: Re-reading A Clash of Kings has finally found a home and is getting published. Here is the press release from my new friends at Blue Buddha Press (the first book, Waiting for Dragons: Re-reading A Game of Thrones) is still available in online bookstores across the world.

Blue Buddha Press, the publishing company behind Tower of the Hand: A Flight of Sorrows and the It Is Known series, has brand-spankin’-new, completely free ebook out today.  Think of it more as an e-catalogue, actually:  it contains a listing, overview, and extensive excerpt from each of its releases, including those that have yet to come out.

The can’t-miss part of all this for the diehard Song of Ice and Fire fan?  The inclusion of the first, full-length sample from our upcoming Tower of the Hand: A Hymn for Spring – some eight months before the book comes out.  There’s also some other little details announced about it, as well, such as who our next author is going to be (hint:  A Podcast of Ice and Fire fans should be very happy).

And if all that isn’t enough for you, we have a Q&A with ASOIAF super-writer Stefan Sasse about his very first (American) e-book release, along with a pretty lengthy first-look at it.  And we do the same grand introduction for the controversial Remy Verhoeve, who has Waiting for Winter: Re-reading A CLASH OF KINGS coming out in just a few short weeks (his best chance for a shot at redemption?).

These are the books that you’re going to be reading to help pass the time until The Winds of Winter is out – you might as well start getting to know them now.  =)

WARNING!

Due to Amazon’s demands, we are only able to provide Blue Buddha: 2014 Preview for free for the next five days.  That means you only have until Wednesday, November 6th to check out A Hymn for Spring and all the other great titles for no money whatsoever.  After that… well, we’re working on a permanent solution, with or without Amazon.


But in the meantime, click away before you lose out!