And it's back! My "Where did it all go wrong?" quest, aka my "A Dance With Dragons" reread! If you're new, this is not a reread of unabashed enthusiasm, but neither is it a hatchet job. That's not me. Really. So if you're expecting a slaughter you're gonna be disappointed. At least for now. As with last time, spoilers aplenty.
The Second Tyrion Chapter - Well, it's a lot better than the first Tyrion chapter. More Ilyrio, who I still don't like, but at least the conversation is interesting. He and Tyrion are leaving fair Pentos, and it's quite the beautifully described journey, with lots of interesting sights and history. They chatter a lot on the way. Tyrion can't figure out why Ilyrio wants to help Dany. I'm wondering if he's related to the Targaryans. Of course, if he's really so concerned with helping Dany, one wonders about "I did not think Daenerys would survive for long amongst the horselords" and then blaming his "gift" of her to Drogo on Viserys ... (granted, better than letting Viserys marry her. that was a sure loser proposition if ever there was one!) Yeah, I see why I don't like him. He and Tyrion agree that Viserys was a fool. I think this may be one of the few things the entire asoiaf readership can agree on. Ilyrio tells Tyrion he's going to be hanging out with a sellsword named Griff, who Ilyrio trusts like a brother. POssibly a hint as to why he wants to help Dany but doesn't care *that* much about her? He really wants to help Griff?
We finally get the lowdown on Varys, and how Ilyrio got rich. Since the dude lies like he breathes, I figure this story has a 25% chance of being mostly true, tho I think we can rest assured the part about who Varys recruits for spies is entirely true. Or maybe we're supposed to think it's all true, and I'm just disgrunteled because my theory of Varys being an Unsullied looks kinda shot down here. Tho I'm not giving up on it just yet.
We get plenty of background detail on both Tyrion and Ilyrio, most of it interesting. We also firmly establish that Tyrion clearly knew Tysha was not a whore Jaime had purchased for him (which seems to more ore less flatly contradict other parts, but maybe Tyrion has contradicotry thoughts i his head; I can buy that) when his 13 year old self went along with Tywin's command to take part in her gang rape, just as the past chapter established that he did indeed know it was rape and did not think she was willingly giving herself to Tywin's gaurdsmen for coin. So my retcon-so-I-can-stand Tyrion that I pulled way back in the first book is now in ashes. Yeah, it's hard to stand up to your parents when you're 13, and harder still when you're a dwarf whose father would love an excuse to kill, but COME ON! Envisioning that scene even for a split second makes me want to tear up. Really. WTF is wrong with Tyrion? Seriously. How do you NOT try to stop this? How do you TAKE PART in this? Yet, this same instance causes everyone else to feel sorry for him. It's clearly being used by the author here to make people feel sorry for him. This? Is why I wish I could claim kinship with a different species. No, I'm not getting past it.
The Merchant's Man - aka Quentyn Martell, chapter the first. I like Quentyn. He's one of my favorite characters. He's as smart and self-aware as Tyrion but MUCH nicer and thankfully much less mean-spirited (and I mean nicer if you leave aside the whole NOT-A-RAPIST advantage, since I get the idea that we're supposed to somehow ignore this about Tyrion, despite repreatedly getting hit over the head with it), about 18, I think, neither comely nor ugly, a Dornish prince sent by his father to offer Dany an alliance of marriage and Lannister-killing. He seems well aware that she might not accept, wondering why the most beautiful woman in the world would wanna marry him. This is part of his whole actually liking and respecting women and taking their wishes seriously (despite being rather extremely shy), which is pretty much standard for people with last name Martell, and confirms that the Martells, along with the Starks, are the other-than-Dany royal family to cheer for in these books. He started his secret journey with 5 companions but three are dead. Of the two remaining, while both are older, neither seems wiser, or even nearly as wise. They have gotten to Volantis, which is where Tyrion is going, but can find no one to take them to Mereen, where Dany is besieged. This chapter is full of bad smells. Its first sentence is sort of a keynote for not just the chapter, but arguably the whole book, "Adventure stank." (you could argue that this is the keynote for the whole series, except "adventure" would need to be changed to "life", which reminds me of this t-shirt I saw as a kid and really liked, "Life's an Adventure--Live it!")
Jon, Chapter 2 - I wish Jon could have gotten rid of Gilly without being so mean to her. But hey, whatever works. He's sending her and Sam and Aemon away with Mance's kid so Melisandre doesn't burn the brat to give Stannis an extra dose of magic sword. There's a lot of strategy and talking with lots of people about lots of things. Then there's giving Janos Slynt command of a newly re-opened watchtower, because "A man does not rise to command of the gold cloaks without abilty... Lord Janos cannot be as great a fool as he seems." Hee! Hee! Hee! Wheeeeee! Cause, YES HE CAN!!! In front of a large audience, Janos, previously best known for betraying Jon's dad and helping hack off Ned's head, tells his new Lord Commander, and (at least as far as anyone knows) bastard son of the man Janos recently helped murder, "You can stick your order up your bastard's arse." Jon orders Janos hung. Then changes his mind, and personally chops Mr. Slynt's head off. Did anyone NOT mentally cheer when this happened? Sometimes, life is good. =)
Tyrion, chapter 3- Tyrion's back. Oh yay. He hooks up wit the sellswords. We are introduced to Haldon, of whom I was initially unsure, Duck, who I liked right away, and Griff, who I initially disliked. Ilyrio leaves. Not much else happens.
Example of how this book can be well-written and off-putting at the same time- A paragraph about Tyrion pissing folllowed up by "He pisses well, at least," a voice observed. Then Tyrion shakes off a few drops and replies "Pissing is the least of my talents. You ought to see me shit." Okay, it's witty. It's funny. But there's a LOT of piss and shit in this book, it seems like. Yeah, I get it, same as with the disease and the bad smells—there's a thematic point. This book is a dungheap--errr, no, wait, that's not quite the thematic point--the world of this book is a dungheap. But excretion is necessary to fertilize growth! And it's a dungheap full of maggots!!! And we all know what comes from maggots!!! Yes, aDwD is full of maggots just *waiting* to hatch into butterflies!!!!
Davos, Chapter 1 - Our intrepid smuggler turned Hand of the King (that would be King Stannis) continues to profit from his loyal service by getting tossed into the ocean in a rowboat by his good friend and fellow smuggler-turned-King's Man Salladhor Saan, who is irritated that Stannis hasn't paid him in a few years and that he's lost half his ships and crew and all of his money.
Saan: Come smuggle with me, friend Davos, and let's get rich again!
Davos: Stannis is the one true king! Knighted me for saving his ass, at merely the cost of my fingertips! He even knighted my children, some of whom haven't died yet as a result! I owe him bigtime! He'll pay you one day, when he overcomes impossible odds to become the sole king of Westeros and has lots of kingly money. Sometime after the land recovers from war and the multi-year winter is over! Then you'll be slightly richer than you used to be!
Saan: ... ... ...
Davos: But the cause is just! The other wannabe rulers suck more! Giving Melisandre people for burning is just a phase! He'll make an honest man of you!
Saan: Go row yourself!
Davos: But Winter is Coming! And Stannis is trapped up in the far north with no food, no money and no allies! He needs you!
Davos washes up all alone on Sweetsister, a poor and bleak spot where the Lord of the Isle is known for disemboweling people he doesn't like. While they hang. Skagos is mentioned, isle of unicorns and cannibals, where everyone is afraid to land. It's a throwaway line that becomes enormously important later. Nice. Lord Godric of Sweetsister and Davos catch up on gossip, then Godric decides not to kill Stannis, and help him sneak over to White Harbor, where he was going in the first place, to try and get much-needed aid for Stannis. (I like Davos, btw, tho it may not be apparent from this description.)
Jon, Ch 3 -- A busy chapter. Stannis and Melisandre burn Mance Rayder, cause he's a kinda sorta king, and king's blood burning will make Stannis' sword more shiny. They also burn the Horn of Joramun, which Mance said he never found. But there's a horn, and it's big, and they burn it. Mance's wife Val gets to watch him burn. Mance begs and pleads and says no one made him king of anything and then starts burning. Jon orders people to shoot him with arrows so he doesn't suffer too much. Stannis gets pissed off at the mercy killing but at least doesn't threaten to behead Jon for the five millionth time. He draws his sword and Lightbringer is, in fact, even shinier than before. All the wildings who will acknowledge Stannis king are let through the Wall, where they are safe from the Others and the wights and now get to help man the Wall till they freeze, get slaughtered or starve.
Bowen Marsh tells Jon of various objections to various decisions of his that various of the Night's Watch have raised. He says "the men complain. Jon points out that they complained about the previous Lord Commander, too, which shows how silly such complaints are, since Mormont was wise and good and did the best job anyone could have. He does not stop to think about how Lord Commander Mormont was killed by his own good and brave men of the Night's Watch. This is what happens,I say, when you stock a military command with 9/10 criminals, at least half of whom are truly awful people. Then again, looking at the rest of Westeros, okay, point. At least half of everyone is truly awful. Probably more.
Dolorous Edd talks a lot, which is wonderful, since he has some of the best lines in these books. Better yet, John joins old friends from his recruiting class at dinner, and Pyp mocks Melisandre and her R'Hollor worshippers, who constantly say "For the night is dark and full of terrors," by praying in a priestly voice for venison, and adding "For the night is dark and full of turnips." I cannot tell you how much I love this line, tho various small clues may have already tipped you off. Book after book, I read about good people burning or dying in some other way while some red priestess or fan thereof intones "For the night is dark and full of terrors." For years now, every time someone says that phrase I want to take an axe to them. So this? Priceless.
And that's all for now. We'll pick back up next time with Dany, which makes me think there's been a paucity of female pov's thus far, yes?