Instead, I have been on the same book since the end of September. That's way slower than my normal reading speed. I have taken that long to read books before, but generally that is just ones that are uninvolving. WoT has been anything but for me so far. I need to concentrate more on the actual act of reading. And two and a half months on one novel is too slow, especially when I've set myself a goal of completing the series in time to attend Jordancon 2013. Jordancon 2012 seemed out of the question, but 2013 seemed doable until the last few weeks. I'd just as soon not have to wait meeting the DM community for a year beyond that. If anything has to go, the blog is what's slowing me down. Thanks to everyone that has been watching this, and for your input to what I've had to say. It's been fun doing this.
Blog Entries posted by Basel Gill
Okay, for the last few months, I've been blogging my thoughts on Lord of Chaos, and ASOIAF before then. I think I may have to quit doing so. It's turned out the blogging has begun eating too much into the actual act of reading. After I read a chapter, I sit there with the book open before me, looking for the things I meant to mention, and then I type it up... slowly. I wind up spending more time surfing through DM and waiting for updates on Facebook than I do typing up a blog entry. In the meantime, I would have signed off an hour ago if it weren't for my plan to write in my blog on any given night. Much of the time, I would have spent that hour reading.
Instead, I have been on the same book since the end of September. That's way slower than my normal reading speed. I have taken that long to read books before, but generally that is just ones that are uninvolving. WoT has been anything but for me so far. I need to concentrate more on the actual act of reading. And two and a half months on one novel is too slow, especially when I've set myself a goal of completing the series in time to attend Jordancon 2013. Jordancon 2012 seemed out of the question, but 2013 seemed doable until the last few weeks. I'd just as soon not have to wait meeting the DM community for a year beyond that. If anything has to go, the blog is what's slowing me down. Thanks to everyone that has been watching this, and for your input to what I've had to say. It's been fun doing this.
Chapter 34 (Journey to Salidar): Everything about this chapter can be summed up by the sentence at the end of it. Egwene goes into dreamland in the flesh. (Some of you may have noticed that I always call it the dream world or dreamland. My mind just shies away from trying to spell "Tel'aran'rhiod" on a regular basis, and when I used it just now I had to copy and paste it from somewhere.) She conjures up a dream version of Bela in the flesh and rides superfast all the way to Salidar. She has to dream away the welts from the whipping she took because she just can't sit a saddle otherwise. Everything in between is just a blur to her. She is like Superman riding a horse. When she gets there, she comes back into the real world and the welts return, after which she seems to mentally smack herself for forgetting that. Egwene's mind is blown when she learns that Nyn can heal stilling/gentling. Siuan is easily weaker than any of the other Aes Sedai. It's at this point that Sheriam tells Egwene why the Cabal has summoned her. They want her to be the next Amyrlin. This really threw me for a loop! Egwene is only an Accepted, she hasn't been raised to full Aes Sedai yet. She hasn't taken the Three Oaths yet, nor can she do so until Tar Valon is retaken or another Oath Rod is found. She's only eighteen, is she old enough to have the experience and wisdom that comes with being Amyrlin? Well, Sheriam and the others wanted a "biddable child", someone they could manipulate easily. I think they may be in for a shock. Egwene may not be aware at first how little authority she is really meant to have, but she will figure it out soon enough. When that day comes, she's going to start showing some backbone.
Chapter 35 (In the Hall of the Sitters): I kind of wondered if this would be okay under Tower law, but the Cabal has thought of everything. Apparently, being raised to Amyrlin is enough to make Egwene Aes Sedai. There is nothing in Tower law that the Amyrlin has to be fully raised to Aes Sedai already. Legally, it is sound, although it is indicated that the Sisters who wrote the Tower law expected that Amyrlins would come from within the ranks of fully raised Sisters. They just assumed that it would be so, and never specified it in the text. A fitting real world parallel here would be papal conclaves in the Catholic Church. While the new pope is chosen by the College of Cardinals, and generally tends to be a cardinal, it isn't required to be a cardinal, and on very rare occasions non-cardinals have been chosen. Now, while the choice of Egwene is legal, it doesn't necessarily make sense. Egwene is very young, as noted, and doesn't have the ageless look of a raised Aes Sedai. The Amyrlin is expected to meet with leaders and possibly other prominent citizens of important nations. Will these people be able to tell her youth from normal Aes Sedai agelessness? Will they take her seriously if they do so? Or will they just deal directly with Sheriam and the Cabal and realize that Egwene is meant as a puppet? Would Sheriam want it known that the Amyrlin is a puppet?
So Egwene goes to face the Sitters, who must vote on her candidacy for Amyrlin. The voting ceremony first requires that it be established that there are no men present. So all the women must lower their dresses to put their full toplessness on display and then proclaim that they are women. Is it me, or would HBO or Showtime just love to film this scene? I can't see this part being adapted as written by anyone other than a pay cable network. And that's including potential cinematic adaptations. A good deal of formal ceremony goes by before the vote, which must be unanimous. Several Sitters vote against her, so we proceed to a second round of voting. After Egwene ceremoniously washes their feet and begs to be allowed to serve. Huh? If one of them is opposed to Egwene's being Amyrlin, how is washing her feet supposed to change her mind? Do her feet being cleaner make Egwene any more fit to lead the Salidar Aes Sedai than a few minutes ago? How about doing something to make a case for herself logically, or appealing to their emotions with a speech, or something, I don't know... persuasive? We already know the Aes Sedai have a tendency to stand on formal ceremony for their official functions, but this takes the cake. No discussion ever seems to take place to get the dissenters to change their votes, just a little foot-washing. And yet, when the second vote comes, everyone votes in favor of Egwene. (Romanda and Lelaine take a little longer, as if making a point.) After the vote, Egwene asks Sheriam and the Cabal what would have happened if those dissenting didn't change their vote. Those who stand for Amyrlin and fail are normally exiled. Sheriam and the others most likely would have been exiled, although Egwene herself may have been allowed to go back to being Accepted. And Romada would likely have been named Amyrlin a few days later. I think that all would be unpleasant.
Chapter 36 (The Amyrlin is Raised): Egwene will certainly have her work cut out for her. Besides Sheriam's bunch, there are two more factions in Salidar looking to influence how things are done. Romanda and Lelaine are both giving her advice, among which is to be wary of the other... and of Sheriam, too. Egwene gives a little inauguration speech on her first official day as Amyrlin. One thing I noticed right off was that Egwene's stole as Amyrlin has seven stripes, as opposed to Elaida's having only six, with no blue stripe. Apparently the Salidar Aes Sedai are more willing to welcome the Reds if they change their minds, or maybe it's just that they consider themselves the rightful government of the Aes Sedai, while Elaida's bunch sees the Blues as traitors who must be expelled. Egwene raises Theodrin, Faolain, Nynaeve, and Elayne to full Aes Sedai, not the new rank in between. Sheriam and the others aren't happy with that, but Egwene lays out some sound reasoning which they grudgingly accept. It's not like they can undo this decree, not without publicly undermining their own choice for the position. Later on, Egwene, Nyn, and Elayne all have a reunion. Egwene gets shown Nyn's new Healing technique and Elayne's ter'angreal technique, but is hopelessly confused by both. They fill her in on everything that has happened in Salidar, and Elayne is told that Rand wants to put her in charge in Andor and Cairhien. Elayne takes this totally the wrong way from Rand's intentions. Rand feels the thrones are rightfully Elayne's, while Elayne is angry because Rand seems to think the thrones are his to give to her, or anyone else he chooses. I don't see that in any of the parts from Rand's point of view at all. Rand never thinks of the thrones as his; he is holding them for Elayne because they are properly hers. Nyn and Elayne try to get Egwene to send them to Ebou Dar, but Egwene makes it clear that she may be Amyrlin but doesn't have the authority to take that step yet. It would seem that Egwene has figured out she isn't meant to have much real power on her first day. (Smart cookie, isn't she?) She does have plans to assert herself, but can't do too much at once. And I think she used up a good deal of leverage in raising the four of them to full Sisters. Now Faolain will be even more full of herself.
Chapter 31 (Red Wax): So my suspicions about the Whitecloaks are correct; there is some discontent with Niall's way of running things. Eamon Valda arrives at the Fortress of the Light. He thinks he shouldn't have been called back to Amador; he should have been sent to fight Rand. He is sure that he would have had Morgase signing a treaty with the Children in just one day. The head of the Questioners wants to meet with him, and says that Niall will destroy the Children of the Light if left to run things his way. Valda sounds interested. So, what do we have here? A Whitecloak version of Operation Valkyrie? (I'm assuming that it won't come down to whether or not someone moves a briefcase.) Does Niall wind up beating down the revolt? And does the internal squabble weaken the Whitecloaks for dealing with their external foes, regardless of who wins? Meantime, Niall gets another report from his agent in Tanchico which he finds a need to answer.
Cut to Morgase. Today is the big day when Paitr and his uncle help her and her band to escape the Fortress. Except that Paitr was a Darkfriend when we saw him several books ago; can going with him really improve her situation much? Turns out it doesn't matter as Paitr and his uncle get hung for being Darkfriends. Now we all know the Whitecloaks are quick to find anyone guilty of being a Darkfriend. It doesn't take much to convince a Child of the Light that someone is a Darkfriend. But this time, they actually seem to have gotten it right. Gee, who'd have thunk it that someone accused by the Children of being a Darkfriend really is one. Morgase sees the execution; Niall makes sure of that. So she signs the treaty, seing that she has no choice. It seems better to her than Rand ruling Andor through a puppet. Morgase is so misinformed on Rand! And how handy of Niall to have a treaty already written out and ready to sign! Niall is a man who comes well-prepared. I think that he is actually doing a better job of running the Whitecloaks than Valda and the Questioners think, aside from the tendency to see Darkfriends everywhere, which the whole organization does. Except now that she has finally signed his blasted treaty, he isn't ready to ride off and conquer Andor for her, because Tanchico looks like trouble. Morgase just can't win. So she may as well make the time useful, and offers to play some stones.
Chapter 32 (Summoned in Haste): It looks like Berelain isn't going to be much good to Rand for a while. After he yelled at her a few chapters back, she's apparently crawled under a rock to hide. The Shaido are sending their Wise Ones, including Sevanna, and they are welcome in the Wise Ones tents, but that just makes things nervous. It doesn't seem like Sevanna has much legitimate grounds fo being a Wise One. Most likely, the real Shaido Wise Ones are her little puppets, and she is calling the shots, so if she says she is a Wise One, then she is. Egwene goes out to the Sea Folk ship but is refused permission to board and gets dumped in the river. Aes Sedai normally are refused the gift of passage; it took a while for me to recall that bit. The Sea Folk don't want Aes Sedai sensing that Windfinders can channel. Egwene gives as good as she gets and dumps them in the river too. Good for her; I didn't find the Sea Folk manners all that impressive here. Finally, Egwene gets to meet with the Salidar Aes Sedai in dreamland. They go through an elaborate formal ceremony summoning her to Salidar. Here she learns that the woman who she couldn't recognize is Siuan. Egwene thinks this is to face justice for calling herself a Green Sister when she is just Accepted, but I think RJ is pulling a fast one. The Aes Sedai have something else in mind. I'm not sure what. Maybe they do want to put her on trial. Maybe they just want to give her presents or something. They're sure being mysterious about it. After they show her the way to Salidar and everyone disappears, Rand comes out from where he was eavesdropping. He was there just to invert his booby trap weaves around Callandor, but happened to overhear some important stuff. He now knows where the Aes Sedai rebels are, and that's something he's been trying to learn for a while now.
Chapter 33 (Courage to Strengthen): Egwene sends Cowinde, one of those gai'shain who isn't willing to stop being gai'shain when her time is done, to take a note to Gawyn telling him that she must leave Cairhien. But before she goes, it's time to face up to her toh. She goes and tells the Wise Ones about her assorted lies and asks for their help in satisfying her toh. And oh, do they ever help her. They seem pretty shocked by her confession. Cut to Mat. Mat is playing Snakes and Foxes with Olver, the urchin he has taken in. This is a really strange game, in that it is apparently impossible to win if you play by the rules. I bet if Mat rolled the dice that he would win somehow anyway. Which is why Mat decides to let Olver roll; he wants the game to happen naturally. The text makes it sound like winning isn't totally impossible, just really unlikely. Rand approaches him, and makes a rather sudden change in plans. Rand is going to open a gateway and take the entire Band within easy range of Salidar, but not right in Salidar. He wants the Band to pull Elayne out of Salidar. I'm not sure why he seems to think Elayne is there involuntarily. What happens when she refuses to leave? (Which I'm sure she will, unless it's to go to Ebou Dar.) Except Rand wants Elayne in Caemlyn, not Ebou Dar (he doesn't know about the weather bowl), presumably to receive the throne there. Aviendha is going with Mat, she says she needs to talk to Elayne. ("Ummm, Elayne, I slept with the man you love, the one I was supposed to be keeping an eye on for you. Well, there was this snowstorm, and it was cold, and he saved my life... I have toh. A lot of toh.") Rand wants Mat to cut across Altara and Murandy as he goes to Caemlyn, pulling out the Dragonsworn and theoretically handing Rand both countries without any need for conquest. Except neither Rand nor Mat knows that a goodly chunk of those Dragonsworn aren't Dragonsworn at all, but Whitecloaks. So what happens when Mat encounters the fake Dragonsworn? Do they go to battle with each other? They aren't likely to follow Mat to Caemlyn unless they see an opportunity to expand their pillaging and chaos thus making the Dragon look bad. Rand warns Mat Egwene may be in Salidar, but says the main focus should be on Elayne. Mat claims he will get both of them out of Salidar. I don't expect Egwene to go willingly either. Before he leaves, Rand hands Mat a sealed letter and tells him to give it to Thom. It's the one Moiraine gave him at the end of Book Five. I'm wondering what's in it but I'm resisting the temptation to look it up.
Cut back to Egwene, who is getting soundly whipped on her bare bottom. The Wise Ones and some apprentices are meeting her toh by corporal punishment. They seem to be leaving some heavy marks, and Egwene is feeling the pain. They're all quite angry. A couple of them aren't taking part in the whipping but just came along to drink tea. So meeting your toh is a spectator event? Maybe the embarrassment is just as shaming as the physical pain. But when they've all given as many lashes as they feel necessary, they declare toh has been met, and all is forgiven. Everyone hugs Egwene and there are smiles all around. Aiel don't seem to hold grudges much. Egwene continues packing when they leave.
Chapter28 (Letters): Rand is starting to annoy the Sea Folk. There are now two different Wavefinders who have been waiting to see him to no avail. Rand senses through the Warder bond that Alanna has been crying. I wonder why, could it be his rejection of her? Sulin gives him another letter, dressed as a palace servant. This would be her way of meeting toh for speaking to gai'shain as if they were Maidens. Apparently just going gai'shain herself wasn't shameful enough. Alliandre, queen of Ghaeldan, offers him her goodwill but is concerned about Whitecloaks... and the Prophet. Little does she know that some of the Dragonsworn are really Whitecloaks in disguise. How long till Niall's plan to have his men secretly stir up trouble as Dragonsworn shows signs of paying off? And will Niall be around to see it? His standing as Lord Captain Commander still seems shaky. A Gray Man busts in, totally missed by Rand's Aiel guards, and Rand is about to deal with the Gray Man himself before Taim Travels in and kills him. The Gray Man, not Rand. Taim says he is there to report on a new pupil with incredible channeling ability who can't be a Forsaken. Lews Therin has been yammering in Rand's head the whole time, and wants Rand to kill him. Lews wants to kill everyone. If Rand manages to cure saidin, what happens to Lews? Does the voice in Rand's head go away, having just been a symptom of the madness? Or does Lews suddenly become sane, and make for a wise advisor within Rand's mind? It seems odd that Taim would come all that way just to tell Rand about one student. Rand thinks Sammael sent the Gray Man. Could it be someone else? Another Forsaken? Shaidar Haran? Or if Taim is a Darkfriend, maybe Taim sent him just to kill him and look good in Rand's eyes.
Cut to Fain. Seems Fain can now sense whether anyone is a Darkfriend. It turns out he is the one who ordered the Whitecloak attack a few chapters ago. He wants to find a way to hurt Rand, but can't think of anyone important enough to bother with that he can get to.
Chapter 29 (Fire and Spirit): I'm guessing the title of the chapter is referring to the ending, since that's what Nyn uses for the climactic weave. Nyn is generally grumpy about everything here. She is on her eleventh day of scrubbing pots for her little outburst at the Cabal a while back. But when is Nyn not grumpy, aside from when she is with Lan or at least thinking about him? Thom and Juilin are back from scouting out Amadicia, and they've heard some interesting tidbits. The Whitecloaks and the Amadician army are both pulling back everything they have to within Amadicia except for a scattered few along the borders with Tarabon, and the ones keeping back the Prophet. There's been all kinds of rumors. The entire White Tower is now in Salidar, and is expected to invade Amadicia with an army of ten thousand Warders, according to one story. Another rumor says that Morgase is in the Fortress of the Light and will lead an army of Whitecloaks to recapture Andor. Elayne thinks this one is totally ridiculous, except that we readers know that Morgase really is in the Fortress of the Light. Thom and Juilin are called off to give their report to the Sitters. Nyn is not feeling that well, because Theodrin thought getting her to relax by sipping some wine wound up getting her totally drunk instead. And her weather sense is still going crazy, saying it is pouring rain when it is still hot and sunny. Most likely, it is supposed to be raining, and it would be if the Dark One or whoever weren't interfering with the weather. Nyn wants to take off to Ebou Dar to look for the weather bowl, but Elayne wants to stay in Salidar. And they can't leave anyway, it seems that Birgitte has told Uno not to give Nyn a horse without her say-so. Birgitte is a frustrating Warder as far as Elayne is concerned. By now, Nyn is steaming, so she goes to see what she can do with Logain. She has nothing else to do, and she is mad enough to channel. She takes his head in her hands and finds that physical contact helps. She senses a hole in his mind and weaves Fire and Spirit to bridge across it. Logain's eyes go wide. Nyn tells Elayne to go find Sheriam right away because SHE HAS HEALED LOGAIN!
Chapter 30 (To Heal Again): Okay, so that last chapter had a nice dramatic close, the way Nyn announces she has Healed gentling. But it's got a bit of being anticlimactic to it. We all knew deep down that sooner or later Nyn, or someone at least, but probably Nyn, would manage to heal stilling and/or gentling. If it turns out to be as impossible as everyone keeps telling Nyn it is, then why does RJ spend time having her investigate it? If it turns out that it can't be done, then any story used on her efforts is just useless filler and a pointless sidetrack. So I had a feeling that as soon as Nyn began working on this that she would eventually figure it out. But knowing it's coming doesn't mean it wasn't well done. Sheriam leads her group and assorted Aes Sedai in and they make a show of disbelieving to keep her angry, while shielding Logain. Siuan and Leane are there, Nyn Heals them both to the general surprise of everyone there. The Aes Sedai begin discussing whether they are going to gentle Logain all over again. Carlinya points out that they can't because of Rand. They can't ethically back Rand (a male channeler who is giving amnesty to other ones, and gathering them for education in channeling besides) while still gentling men, and they risk losing his support if he learns they are still doing so. her logic seems to carry some weight with everyone else. Now here's what I don't get: if they can't gentle Logain again, how do they justify shielding him? Gentling is permanent once it's done (at least it used to be), while shielding has to be maintained constantly. But either way, it's still keeping Logain from channeling. So shielding a male channeler should have the same issues, both ethical and practical, that gentling does. Right? I'm willing to bet that when Rand finds out Logain is being held in Salidar and kept under a shield he will not be pleased.
Cut to Siuan. She gets hugs from her old friends, Lelaine and Delana. Then she goes to see Gareth Byrne, and tries to levitate him with the Power. She can't even budge him. She seems to have saidar again, but can't do very much with it. She is a lot weaker than she had been before. So is Leane, it turns out. Why? If I had to guess, I'd say that Nyn somehow tired herself out with the Power on Logain, and that by the time she got to Siuan and Leane she didn't have much left in the tank. The two women make plans to go to the Sitters and see what their status is now. Siuan thinks she should be reinstated as Amyrlin. Yeah, right, like that's gonna happen. First, there's no way they will name as Amyrlin someone who has such a small strength in the Power. Second, Sheriam and company want tier puppet, their "biddable child". Siuan was a strong Amyrlin the first time around (aside from being blind to a plot against her, that is). She was no puppet, and none of the movers and shakers in Salidar want her in charge when they can't control her.
Cut to Elayne. Siuan and Leane badger Nyn to try Healing them the rest of the way. Nyn tells them you can't Heal what has been Healed already. But they refuse to belive her, until she tries and fails, as she predicted. Siuan is stubborn.. So is Nyn, for that matter.
Cut to Delana. Siuan meets with her to try to get Sheriam to let her in on the next meeting with the Wise Ones. After Siuan is gone is where the interesting bit comes. A woman is shown in making Black Ajah secret hand signals. But Delana can't sense the ability to channel at all. She calls herself Halima, a supposed friend and traveling companion of Cabriana. You remember Cabriana, right? Tortured into telling everything she knew by Semirhage? Delana thinks she can't possibly be Black Ajah, since she obviously can't channel. Halima is to be Delana's secretary, and turns out to really be Aran'gar. You may also remember Aran'gar, one of the resurrected Forsaken from way back in the prologue. This would explain why Delana can't sense her ability to channel, because we already know the Forsaken can mask that and keep others from sensing it. But... Siuan's closest friend now that Moiraine is gone is Black Ajah. Siuan may not be Amyrlin again, but this certainly means the Salidar inner circle is penetrated (if it wasn't already, one of Sheriam's cabal could easily be Black Ajah). It also means that the Forsaken have an agent in both Aes Sedai factions. That can't be good. This made for some pretty ominous stuff.
Chapter 25 (Like Lightning and Rain): Well, it would seem that Gawyn has fallen completely for the rumor that Rand has killed Morgase and Elayne that he heard back in the prologue. Now Egwene knows why he hates Rand. Egwene realizes that she has dreamed of bonding him, and tells him she will do so when she is raised. She swears Gawyn to secrecy on her presence in Cairhien. Can he keep the secret, or will it be written all over his face so the Tower Aes Sedai weasel it out of him? She also makes him promise to take no revenge against Rand till she can find a way to prove that he didn't kill Morgase. He accepts her claim that Elayne is alive. But how can she prove that Morgase wasn't killed by Rand? My guess would be finding Mat and getting him to testify to Gawyn that Rand was in Cairhien when Morgase supposedly died. Mat was the one to inform Rand of her death, after all.The Aes Sedai embassy are playing power games in Cairhien, promising both Cairhienin and Tairens that they would be the new ruler if Rand should be out of the picture. Sounds like they plan to remove him from Cairhien whether he goes willingly or not. Meantime, the Sisters know someone besides them who can channel is in the city. They never suspect it is Egwene. They even think it could be Moiraine, refusing to believe she is dead. Well, the circumstances of her death were a bit hard to believe if you weren't there to witness it.
Chapter 26 (Connecting Lines): Rand finally inspcts Bashere's troops, which he has been meaning to get around to for quite some time. Most of the book, in fact. He watches the entire Saldean force ride in a long line past him, all between two white stones four paces apart, which Bashere placed there in the dead of night secretly. Now I have no idea what the significance of the two stones may be, but I'm sure it will come back later. Most likely whenever Rand launches the main thrust of his attack on Sammael, whatever it is that Mat and the Band are supposed to be a diversion from. I'm hoping RJ gets to that soon, he seems to be dragging it out an awful lot. Rand watches Bashere's horsemen ride standing on their saddles, some of them standing upside-down. Some are standing with one foot on each saddle; some have a man on their shoulders. Now, come on. Is this an army or a circus troupe? Nine thousand cavalry soldiers may be an imposing army, but I have doubts that any of them will need to ride while standing upside-down on their saddles in the midst of a battle. Best I can figure is that Rand wants Sammael, or any Illianer spies to see this display and think it's frivolous, when in reality there is some valuable purpose being covered up. Practice for when riding between two stones is really needed? Assorted Whitecloaks attack on the way back to Caemlyn. Rand leaves one alive to take the message back to Pedron Niall that everyone else will be executed. But did Nial actually send them? Fain has his own corrupted Whitecloaks, and I'm not so sure Niall is in firm control of the Children of the Light anyway. Some of his underlings don't seem all that happy with his decisions. Rand puts off meeting with the Sea Folk and goes back to Cairhien instead. Too bad, cause I really wanna know what the Sea Folk are doing this far inland from... you know, the sea.
Chapter 27 (Gifts): Egwene is well and truly besotted. She and Gawyn begin spending their morning in the private dining room of an inn in Cairhien city. He warns her that the Tar Valon Aes Sedai he came with are on the lookout for "a woman like you." Not her specifically, most likely they're just looking to catch whoever was channeling in their direction the other day. Who just happens to be Egwene. But so far, we haven't seen any sign that they are aware of who it is. She learns from her fellow apprentices that Rand is back in Cairhien and plans to meet with the emissaries that afternoon. So she dashes off to see him, hoping to warn him about them. Rand mentions that something seemed to be bothering Berelain; I wonder if this is from the Aes Sedai working on her to cause more dissension under Rand. Egwene and Rand are both still under the impression that Alviarin is his friend in the White Tower. She warns him, and while he fails to fully heed her warning, he doesn't challenge her basic assumption that Elaida and Alviarin are on different sides:
The Aes Sedai (three of them) arrive earlier than expected, and Rand has to hide Egwene. So he spends a good deal of time talking to Lews Therin (Egwene thinks he is talking to himself, and wonders if the taint is driving him nuts Then he channels, and turns her invisible. She looks in a mirror and has no reflection. So Rand has changed her to a vampire? She stands there in the corner of the room, not making a noise since the weave hides her from view but doesn't block sound, and observes the meeting with the Aes Sedai. They enter linked and channeling... trying to shield him right then and there? Rand says they won't channel or embrace the Source around him, and refuses to begin discussion until they let it go. I think it's interesting that he knows they were in contact with saidar at all, Neither sex is supposed to be even aware of the other side of the One Power, and can't sense the other sex embracing..They offer the backing of the Tower and an invite to Tar Valon to meet with Elaida. They offer a gift of several chests of gold and jewels, and engage in more prattle before the meeting breaks up. Egwene asks Rand how his Traveling works. He tries to explain it to her, but I don't think she fully gets it. Then he starts talking to Lews Therin again, and Egwene lets herself out.
Cut to Nesune's viewpoint as the Aes Sedai contingent is going back to Arilyn's house. They're stunned at the possibility that Rand can sense when a woman is channeling. Nesune shows she knows there was a female channeler of some sort in the room, possibly Aiel but maybe not. The other two Sisters are shocked and had fallen for the invisibility trick, but Nesune sensed the presence of a woman who could channel. I think that Nesune could be dangerous in events to come,
Chapter 16 (Tellings of the Wheel): So Rand is trying to shore up his power base and legitimacy in Andor. He has this meeting with some important Andoran nobles. Rand states his intention to only hold the throne till Elayne can be brought to Caemlyn. A couple of the nobles think House Trakand should be removed from the throne altogether, and pledge their support to the Lady Dyelin. Problem is, Dyelin promptly throws her weight behind Elayne. Now, Morgase did alienate a bunch of her longtime allies when she was under Rahvin's Compulsion, so it's no surprise that there would be a move to put a new house on the throne. But it seems like awful tactics to back someone who doesn't want it, and who furthermore supports the existing heir. Rand mentions that the wine he served them was chilled with the Power, which disturbs them a good deal. Likely being reminded of the fact that Rand is a channeling man gives them the willies. Well, it gives me the willies too, given the way the last Age ended. As they wind it up, another push for Dyelin as queen is made, and she still backs Elayne instead of herself. Dyelin speaks with Rand privately before leaving, and asks who his parents were. She thinks he bears a strong resemblance to Tigraine, who used to be Daughter Heir years ago. It seems that Tigraine disappeared and rumor has it that Gitara Moroso was involved somehow. Rand knows that Shaiel, his biological mother as the Aiel knew her, was not born Aiel, and Gitara sent her to become Aiel and join the Maidens. So it seems pretty clear that Tigraine was his mother. Rand's whole world is shaken. The sort of reaction you expect the average sheep-herder to have when finding out his real mother was royalty. before Rand can leave Caemlyn, he gets a messenger from Sammael of all people. Sammael offers a truce, which would have Sammael standing by doing nothing while Rand takes out the other Forsaken. Rand angrily refuses, and the messenger... suddenly dies. I've heard of the recipient of a bad message blaming the messenger, but not so much with the sender. I have doubts as to how much Sammael would have kept to this deal anyway.
Chapter 17 (The Wheel of a Life): Rand goes off to Cairhien. Things don't look like they have calmed down much there. The Shaido are building holds in Cairhienin territory. They mean to stay, to sort of colonize Cairhien. The Cairhienin have begun blowing winds of change. Women are inspired by the Maidens and schools of combat begin teaching them how to fight. The Aiel are offended, though, because the Cairhienin women are learning to fight with swords! As any Aiel knows, swords are bad. Worse, some Cairhienin are starting to dress in white and act as servants, and call themselves gai'shain, even though they weren't taken in battle, and haven't incurred any debt of honor to anyone. So the Aiel are just generally offended. But when it comes to all things Cairhienin, it doesn't take much to offend an Aiel.
Chapter 18 (A Taste of Solitude): Not much about this chapter leaps out at me. Rand goes off to visit the school he founded in Cairhien, and several wondrous inventions are shown off. A printing press and a telescope could be most useful in their own ways, although I suppose a six-furrow plow will help agriculture get back on its feet whenever the drought is over. Idrien's big, long-range crossbow has already shown itself useful. Rand's own school is spying on him, as they knew he was coming. Cut to Egwene, who is still being excluded from whatever the Aiel Wise Ones are up to. So she goes to Rand's rooms in Cairhien, and only finds Aviendha's sister Niella, who is gai'shain. She is unwilling to talk about Aviendha. Rand comes in after Niella leaves, and tries to use his whole ta'veren thing on Egwene to get her to tell where Elayne is. Egwene gets mad and walks off. Rand thinks about how much Egwene has changed. Now, Rand has changed a lot too. It hasn't been lost on him that he is different than he used to be. The thought of compelling Egwene - especially Egwene - into anything would be inconceivable for him back in his Two Rivers days. Not just that he would have the ability to even try, but shocking ethically as well. Never mind that he didn't try to compel her consciously; he didn't seem to be aware he was doing it. One thing I did notice here was that he says he intends to make Elayne Queen of Andor and Cairhien! Now Elayne is the Daughter Heir, so with Morgase presumed dead - as far as Rand or anyone else connected to him knows - that makes her the legitimate successor in Andor. But how does Rand mean to justify putting Elayne on the Sun Throne in Cairhien?
Chapter 13 (Under The Dust): This one was kind of frustrating for Nyn and Elayne. More Aes Sedai arrogance they have to deal with. Nyn has to deal with Theodrin's attempts to break her anger block, and this isn't all that bad (aside from getting a bucket of water dumped on here and then getting into a fistfight, it isn't that bad). She does want to break the block, after all, and realizes that she has to do what it takes. Still, Theodrin has a superior attitude about her, and this from a woman who, remember, isn't fully raised. Elayne gets worse. She has to deal with a Brown sister who is convinced she is able to construct a ter'angreal when she isn't even close. I bet she thinks that if Elayne, as a mere Accepted, can do it, then any full Aes Sedai can. Arrogant? Yup. Then she has to deal with another full Sister who winds up burning herself nearly to death. And then she has to teach a novice class. Oh, joy. One novice is a grown woman who loves to grouse about having to take orders from a girl. Bad enough that they should have arrogance from those ranked above them, but below them? Never mind that this "girl" is Accepted, Novice Keatlin, and you're not. Never mind that this "girl" also happens to be the Daughter Heir of Andor, for that matter. And then Faolain, another one of those halfway Accepted/Aes Sedai (the Salidar Aes Sedai really need to come up with a name for the new rank!!), decides that she has to throw her weight around. If I were Nyn, Elayne, or Egwene during her time in Tar Valon before heading to the Waste, I would have likely lost my temper with Faolain a long time ago. This one thought her sweat didn't stink even when she was still Accepted. I wouldn't be surprised to find that she thinks herself superior to most of the fully raised Sisters in Salidar, and Tar Valon too. Moghedien is badgering the two of them endlessly to go to Caemlyn. Here's a really good question: what's in Caemlyn that Mogs wants to go there? Is it to get closer to Rand for some Forsaken plot? Or is she just looking to get away from the Aes Sedai who could execute her at any given moment? Nyn thinks it sounds like a great idea, to get away before Mogs is found out, which would put her and Elayne in trouble. It still seems to them that the Salidar Sisters will reunite with Elaida's bunch; Nyn and Elayne must find a way to convince them otherwise and get them to back Rand. So they go into dreamland and find a dusty room in the Tower... no clue why they wind up there. Then they find themselves in Ebou Dar and find a bowl of some kind or other. And it looks like it could fix the weather. Which would be really good on its own. But what's in the room in the basements of the White Tower that's so important?
Chapter 14 (Dreams and Nightmares): So here we have Egwene in dreamland. She's been doing some snooping around in dreamland Tar Valon on her own, and even goes out of her way to avoid Elayne and Nyn. Now that's weird, why wouldn't she trust the other two? Is she listening to the Aiel Wise Ones so much that she no longer trusts any Aes Sedai, evn though she is an Accepted herself? Not to mention that as far as the Wise Ones know, she is a fully raised Sister. (That's gonna get out sooner or later.) So to get away from the two women you would think she would trust, she goes off eavesdropping on other peoples dreams. She thinks she can't even go around Tar Valon in her dream anymore at all, as she keeps running into strange women who seem to be Aes Sedai to her. One is undoubtedly Leane, and the other is Siuan, I bet. Except Egwene doesn't recognize either one of them. She has never seen them after their stilling, so she has no clue what they look like without the agelessness. Among all the regular dreams she sees is Gawyn's, and she gets sucked in, to find him dreaming about her. It would seem that Gawyn is hopelessly in love with her, and dreams of rescuing her from a Rand-monster, and then winning her heart. So Gawyn hates Rand? Is it just jealousy over Egwene? Or is it the whole Dragon Reborn thing, and Gawyn sees Rand as dangerous, just like all male channelers?
Cut to Nyn in Salidar as a bubble of evil hits. Chaos ensues. The Aes Sedai are set in their belief that this was a Forsaken attack as they wander around fixing things. One of Elayne's novices has a foretelling. Some of it makes sense and sounds like Elayne, Aviendha, and Min all tied to Rand, and the return of the Seanchan. The rest, I'm not sure what it means.
Chapter 15 (A Pile of Sand): Egwene wakes up disturbed to say the least. Not just from her time inside Gawyn's dream, but from the dreams she has herself that came afterward. Some of them make no sense. But a few can be understood. Perrin, with a hawk on one shoulder and a falcon on the other. Obviously the falcon represents Faile. As for the hawk, I'm not sure. Could that be Berelain? The sign of Mayene is a hawk, and she did try to seduce Perrin a couple of books ago. Elayne, Aviendha, and Min sitting in a circle around Rand, each one putting a hand on him. I bet that refers to Min's viewing that Elayne, Min, and some other woman, whom I'd suspected was Aviendha (but Min didn't know) for some time now, will fall in love with him. Rand, walking toward a burning mountain. Either it's the Dark One's Bore at Shayol Ghul, or Rand is gonna be the Ringbearer in a Wheel of Time/Lord of the Rings crossover event, and he's headed for Mount Doom. Maybe Rand can balefire Gollum before Gollum gets to be too much of a nuisance. One where Rand leads a pack of male channelers in the destruction of Cairhien, and they enjoy themselves. Rand's amnesty to male channelers must give her the willies. Well, until Rand manages to cure the taint, it gives me the willies too. And that's assuming Rand is even able to cure the taint! Rand hasn't seemed to take enough precautions against the basic fact that until and unless he can find a cure, at any moment, one of Taim's pupils (or Taim himself) could go wacko and destroy everything. Egwene talks with the Wise Ones after she wakes up The Aiel society is being wildly changed by the events in the last couple of books. Some gai'shain are refusing to quit being gai'shain when their time is done. Some Aiel are refusing to believe in Rand ad the Car'a'carn and defecting to the Shaido. Some are just disappearing altogether. She manages to get an explanation for how she got sucked into Gawyn's dream and couldn't escape without letting on that she has been snooping in dreamland. The Wise Ones have been meeting Sheriam's cabal in dreamland without Egwene, and the Cabal has been taking an unusual interest in her, wondering how long until they are allowed to see her, and even accusing the Aiel of keeping her prisoner. More Aes Sedai arrogance as the Sisters still have trouble accepting the basics of how the dreamland works. Carlinya gets scarlet puffers all over the inside of her dress, but never thinks to imagine them gone. Why are the Salidar Aes Sedai, or at least Sheriam and her inner circle, so interested in what's up with Egwene? She's only an Accepted, just like Nyn and Elayne. And thus far, they don't seem capable of taking Nyn and Elayne seriously, no matter how many wondrous discoveries those two put forth. Their disdain here seems to me to be based on Nyn and Elayne's relative youth and lower rank, both of which also apply to Egwene. So why is it so important that Salidar get a hold of Egwene? I feel sure that if Egwene was put in contact with them, either in the flesh or in the dream world, that they wouldn't respect anything she might have to say or do.
Cut to Nyn and Elayne in Salidar. Tarna is sent packing back to the White Tower, miffed that she has been unable to convince the rebels to come back to Tar Valon. Nyn and Elayne tell the Cabal about the weather bowl and ask for leave to go to Ebou Dar and search for it. Elayne casually mentions in a bald-faced lie that the bowl needs a man and a woman channeling to make it work to make them think they need Rand. One thing that gets mentioned here is the differences between the Cabal and the Hall in Salidar. At first, I thought that Sheriam had managed to get her inner circle installed as the Salidar Hall, but they aren't the same thing. Actually, it sounds like the Hall in Salidar has very little power compared to Sheriam and company. The Cabal refuses to send them to Ebou Dar, and instead decides to send a letter to the Sister they already have sent as an envoy there. Nyn, predictably, blows up. She blasts the lot of them for being all talk and no action, not to mention scared of the Black Ajah and the Forsaken and Rand as well, and so paralyzed by fear that they don't do anything. Nyn just isn't happy unless she has something to disapprove of. Granted, she seems to be accurate in her analysis here, but a little tact would have helped. Tact isn't a word that's in Nyn's dictionary. So the two of them get assigned to scrub pots. Worse, Faolain gets assigned to watch them and make sure they don't sneak off (which they're going to try and do sooner or later, I bet). And Faolain gripes and complains the whole time about how this is taking her away from whatever she is working on, which she makes sound important. How both of them have resisted the urge to smack Faolain all this time is beyond me. Cut to Sheriam talking with some of her circle. Rand does scare them. It's mentioned that less than two dozen Aes Sedai know what's going on. So there's a plot afoot.
Chapter 10 (A Saying in the Borderlands): Well, this chapter floored me a bit. Sooner or later, Rand was going to find some Aes Sedai in Caemlyn. It's just to pivotal a location for them to stay away from. Caemlyn is not only a major city. It also happens to be a centrally located major city in Randland, and the capital of the strongest nation. But I didn't think of Verin and Alanna stopping there, although for the reasons I just gave, perhaps I should have. I had no idea they'd found that many Two Rivers girls to take to join the Aes Sedai! I knew they found an above average number, but this is a huge number! Rand talks with Verin and Alanna alone, and learns they have only recently found out about the Tower split. Neither one is willing to tell him anything they might know about the rebel Aes Sedai, including where they are holed up. And then out of nowhere... Alanna bonds Rand without warning, without getting his consent at all! What the...? Is this even allowed for an Aes Sedai? I can't help but wonder what repercussions there will be for Alanna down the road on this. The two Sisters try to shield Rand, but he winds up shielding them instead. I suppose it helps that he has the little fat man ter'angreal in his pocket. Rand bans them from the Inner City (including the palace). Then he goes out to find that the girls have all heard about him being the Dragon, which they don't believe. Rand puts on a scary show to convince them. Happy Halloween, girls, and welcome to Caemlyn.
Chapter 11 (Lessons and Teachers): Verin and Alanna deal with the aftermath of Rand's visit. First, they have to calm the girls down. A little tea spiked with brandy helps. Here we learn that Alanna is still emotionally distraught over losing a Warder in Book Four, and Verin decides on some sort of plan to take advantage of it. Verin seems surprisingly forgiving of Alanna bonding Rand without his consent, even though it hasn't been done in centuries. Not counting Elayne bonding Birgitte, since Verin doesn't even know about it, and Birgitte was fine with it afterward anyway. I don't know just what the Aes Sedai attitude is to a forced bonding yet, just that they are rare and, according to Verin's thoughts, against custom. Whether it actually breaks Tower law is another question. Part of Verin being okay with it is explained by her thinking she has broken a few customs in her time as well. I'd also chalk some of it up to Aes Sedai arrogance (of which we've already seen plenty in this book from Sheriam and company) in believing that Aes Sedai are entitled to do whatever they think is best, regardless of however much it manipulates others or meddles in their affairs. Part of Verin probably thinks Alanna is entitled to bond Rand if she wants to bond Rand. I'd love to know what Verin has done in the past, and what skeletons she has in her closet.
Cut to Rand leaving the inn. He seems to want to get as far away from the inn as he can, but distance won't make the bond in his head go away. Rand Travels to The Farm, and warns Taim about the Aes Sedai in the city. Rand makes Caemlyn off limits to the male channelers. Taim wants to use Traveling to do his own recruiting; it seems that not only would it speed up finding men but also that Taim doesn't trust Bashere or the Aiel. I think I trust Bashere and the Aiel more than I trust Taim. He just doesn't seem to be playing straight with Rand. We have three possibilities with Taim here. One, Taim is a Darkfriend., Two, Taim isn't working for the Dark One at all, but is looking out for his own power base. This is the one that I like at this point in my reading. Taim had a sizable following up until his capture, and some of his followers even tried to break him free. He had been setting himself up for a bit of conquest, now all of a sudden he is serving Rand. He doesn't think too well of this situation, and hasn't seemed very enthusiastic about some of Rand's orders. Saying that Taim disagrees with Rand's decisions would be putting it mildly. Three, Taim is going to wind up being loyal to Rand, and quite useful to the plot as a total red herring. Maybe Jordan wants us to distrust Taim while he springs the real traitor in the ranks from somewhere unexpected. If this last option proves true, and Taim is a red herring, then I'd bet on the real traitor being either Bashere or someone highly placed among the Aiel. None of them have seemed at all untrustworthy to me yet, but Taim doesn't trust them. Maybe his mistrust is a foreshadowing?
Chapter 12 (Questions and Answers): I get the funny feeling that Moghedien isn't being fully forthcoming with Nyn and Elayne. This whole thing about detecting men who can channel, for one thing. She knows more than she has told them. Nyn eavesdrops on the Hall's meeting with the Tar Valon emissary. Negotiations sound like they are at an impasse, whatever is being discussed. Then after Tarna Feir stalks off, Nyn hears them talking about some "biddable child." Going by the previous conversation among the Salidar Cabal... er, Hall, excuse me..., I'm guessing this refers to their discussions on choosing a new Amyrlin. They talk about sending a message and summoning a "her". So they've picked someone, it sounds like, but that someone isn't in Salidar. Someone they think can be manipulated who won't have any real power, and that someone is young. Who? I think that they have taken Siuan's advice to choose someone who wasn't in the White Tower during Elaida's coup. The problem is, what Aes Sedai is young enough to make a good puppet and still be accepted by the rank and file in Salidar? Since the Tower is split, any choice that isn't respected will result in mass defections back to Tar Valon... or worse, a third Aes Sedai faction will establish itself. Theodrin catches her eavesdropping, and doesn't call her on it or alert the Hall to her presence, just takes her off to the scheduled channeling lesson around the anger block. Why is Theodrin keeping Nyn's secret? Blackmail? Or does Theodrin also have a secret or two, so she sympathizes? And who is the woman watching them from a second-floor window somewhere that they don't see?
Rand is working on some really complicated plan. Details to follow.
Chapter 4 (A Sense of Humor): As if Rand wasn't having trouble with the heat in Caemlyn (and the Aiel worry about him getting a chill!), he Travels south to meet the army massing near Illian. Rand wants to hit Sammael. He still can't get the assorted peoples in his forces to work together fully. The Tairens and Cairhienin would just as soon stay as two separate groups, both of them totally pretend the Aiel don't exist, and the Aiel still can't get over their view of the Cairhienin as oathbreakers and treekillers. We get another glimpse of Aiel humor. Then Rand tells a joke to try to show the Aiel that he has a sense of humor. Not only do they not get it, but they don't even realize it's a joke at first. The weird thing is, I found the Aiel jokes funnier. I understood Rand's joke, but it never made me laugh. Rand realizes as he goes into the command tent that he has yet to hear a peep from Lews since he yelled at the inner voice to shut up last chapter. I have this sinking feeling that Lews Therin will still be silent when Rand really needs to hear from him. Some of the Tairen nobles decide that they won't support Rand, and enever showed up to join the army. Instead they go to hide out in the forests of Haddon Mirk. From what we read, you could get totally lost in Haddon Mirk. Rand decides that Sammael is more important, and Haddon Mirk isn't the sort of territory worth chasing anyone down in anyhow. He orders the rebels stripped of their lands and titles, which pretty much floors everyone present. He still hasn't been able to break the Tairen conviction that being a noble makes you a better specimen of human being by default. Which is kind of like the attitude many have had in the real world throughout history. Weiramon, the Tairen commander, has an overall plan that isn't that good, but Rand wants to go with it anyway. Apparently the big army is just a diversion and Rand, Mat, and Bashere have a special plan of their own that no one else knows about. Then Rand meets with the AIel separately, and they have heavy objections to Rand's battle plan. They don't know it's a diversion either. So what is Rand planning? Can't wait to find out.
Chapter 5 (A Different Dance): Cut to Mat, who is in a town along the Andor-Cairhien border. The Band of the Red Hand has taken up pretty much the whole twon. Mat goes on his daily rounds, today inspecting the inns in the town. We learn that some of the Band can get rowdy, so Mat has instituted a police system of Redarms who keep the peace. The Redarms are docked for any damages caused by brawls out of their pay to motivate them to do the job well. Rand has been visiting Mat secretly in Mat's room to keep him updated on what is happening. Somehow rumors of Rand being in town have gotten out. Mat still has a bunch of voices in his head. Apparently they help him dance as well as plan battles. There's a lot of Hunters of the Horn in the town. I wonder if any of them might be spies for Sammael, or for someone else. The band moves out southward along the river at dawn the next day. All part of the plan... whatever it may be.
Chapter 6 (Threads Woven of Shadow): Here we have a tour through the Forsaken. Sammael stops in to visit Graedel. SHe isn't very forthcoming with him, trying to distract him with her Compelled pets performing a circus acrobat routine. Interesting here is that some of them are the rulers (well, ex-rulers now) of the land beyond the Aiel Waste, which we know next to nothing about. Also interesting is the little tidbit that it was Sammael that sent the Trollocs to attack the Stone of Tear way back in Book Four. The Dark One wants Rand left alive for some weird reason; Sammael thinks the Dark One might name Rand Nae'blis. Now hang on. Didn't Demandred get made Nae'blis back in the prologue? And isn't keeping Rand alive a pretty dumb move, since Rand is dedicated to defeating the Dark One? Does Professor Moriarty, in the middle of one of his evil criminal plots, make a point of protecting Sherlock Holmes? Does the Legion of Doom plot to take over the world and at the same time decide "Oh yeah, Superman, Batman, and the rest of them, let's leave them alone"? Has the Dark One ever considered how badly this can come back to bite him? Sammael thinks Rand is coming after him, and has a retreat set up, but isn't willing to leave Illian just yet. He makes a gateway back there, and cuts one of her servants totally in two. Gotta watch out for those gateways.
Cut to Graendal having asome thoughts about the meeting. She manipulated Sammael into sticking with Illian, it turns out. She wants Rand out of the picture, but isn't willing to anger the Dark One by killing him, so she tricks Sammael into battling Rand... whenever and however that happens. If Rand dies, she benefits. If Rand wins, Sammael dies, and she still benefits. Sly one, isn't she? Apparently the Dark One has also offered to make her Nae'blis. Maybe the Dark One just likes pitting his Forsaken against each other. Also, we learn that the Forsaken have an agent within the White Tower in Mesaana. I wonder who she's pretending to be? I foresee a sudden revelation down the line that such-and-such was really Mesaana all along. (Now let's find out who you really are...) Another tidbit is that the Forsaken had no idea that the modern Aes Sedai swear magically binding oaths with an Oath Rod. Mesaana found this out and accidentally passed it on to Graendal.
Cut to Semirhage. She is in some secret lair somewhere, but not her own. She has been summoned to break an Aes Sedai's will. She hates being pulled away from her charge, even though said charge is a willful child of some sort. We don't know anymore, but I guess we will sooner or later. Whatever Semirhage spends her time on normally, it is sure to be important. Shaidar Haran was the one who ordered her here. The Dark One gave her orders that a command from the new Myrdraal is like a command from him. She accidentally kills this Aes Sedai's Warder, but he is unimportant. She leaves the Aes Sedai (Cabriana, her name is) screaming in pain. Oh, one more thing. That raid on the Stone of Tear by Trollocs, the one that we just found out Sammael was responsible for? Turns out it was unauthorized by the Dark One. And the bit toward the end of the raid where some Trollocs were fighting other Trollocs? Turns out the second batch of Trollocs was sent by Semirhage on orders from Haran to stop Sammael's batch from achieving their objective... undoubtedly to kill Rand. Hmmm. No one ever said the Forsaken get along with each other. Well, someone might have said it at some point. But that person would be wrong.
OK, so I'm switching things up a little bit here. After doing two books of one series, I'm starting a book in the series DM is actually dedicated to. And yes, I know I'm starting my WoT blog in the middle of the series; it just happens to be the first WoT book I have started since joining DM. I was halfway through Book Five when I joined, and didn't think of posting my reading thoughts till I was almost done. I was going to do what I did with my coverage of ASOIAF and make the first post about the prologue and first chapter, until I got a look at the table of contents. The prologue by itself is fifty pages. There aren't any regular chapters that are even half that long. Really, RJ? Couldn't this have been split in two? I normally tend to think of prologues and epilogues and short little wind-ups and wind-downs from the main part of the book. Prologues should be short! There are several good spots in this that could have served as a dividing point, with the rest forming a first chapter. So the prologue will be covered on its own here.
But first, I want to take a few minutes on the cover of the book. The actual, physical, hardcover book. I've gathered the covers to the e-books are much better for WoT, but I'm prefer to go for real books whenever possible. The cover art is the first thing you see of a book, therefore it should be the first thing I get into. This is awful. Rand (presumably, it isn't like he's wearing a nametag... Hello, my name is Rand al'Thor) is standing in the center of the front cover, looking like nothing more than a big hunk of beefcake. I'm sorry, but the Dragon Reborn is not Fabio. Did they get someone used to doing covers for Harlequin romance novels for this? Off to the upper right, a Dragh'kar is flying. Whether it's hovering aimlessly, doing surveillance on Rand, or preparing to attack, I have no clue. I'm not sure that Darrrell K. Sweet, the artist, had a clue either. On Rand's left, we have a kneeling Aes Sedai. We know she is an Aes Sedai because she's wearing a shawl, which looks to be a bluish-gray, and the shawl has the Flame of Tar Valon prominently on the back. I'm guessing that she is either Blue or Gray Ajah, but won't wager on which of the two. I don't know who she may be specifically. The Wikipedia article for LoC (which I left as soon as I checked out the caption for the pic, to avoid spoilers) just says she is an Aes Sedai. For some WoT books the cover characters are identified on Wiki, but no help here. The Flame on the back is white with a background of... purple?? Maroon?? Now, there isn't a Purple Ajah, and the shawl doesn't look purple. Maroon could be a shade used by a Red, but again, the shawl is the wrong color. Rand has his hand facing her clenched into a fist. Is he just generally angry? Is he threatening her? Is he actually going to hit her? Threatening a channeler with your fist seems pretty ineffective, and why should a man who can channel as strongly as Rand feel a need to use physical violence (with his bare hands and no weapon!) as a threat? In the background we have some wagons in ruins. Their covering is gone and it's pretty clear they won't be used as wagons anytime soon. Kindling, maybe. There's another wagon, closer to the viewer, on the back, in similar condition, with the occupants killed by arrows. Two men that I can see, with a sword that one of them may have owned stuck in the ground. The Aes Sedai was in the wagon, I figure. In the background on the back, there's a few tents with a tattered banner of a white boar. Hey, that's Gawyn's symbol. So Sweet apparently paid attention to the details of the story. Or at least he read the appendix. And Gawyn does show up in the prologue with his white boar symbol. Whether this is meant to depict a specific scene from the book, or Darrell K. Sweet just pulled this out of nowhere, I don't know. But I'm only on page 63.
When this series began to be a big seller, couldn't they have upgraded to a better cover artist? If they wanted a consistent look, there isn't anything stopping Tor from re-issuing the older books with work by the new artist. When a sports team sucks, they don't keep an incompetent coach hanging around to maintain a consistent level of play. Sweet's covers are the work of a hack; he should have been fired from the series a few books ago. And given the way some characters change from book to book, I wouldn't even say Sweet gave them a consistent look. My personal choice would be the late Keith Parkinson, who would have been alive for most of the WoT books. At the time of LoC, there was no way to know Parkinson would not survive this far. And his work on Goodkind's Sword of Truth books blows my mind. Seriously, Goodkind's cover art is full of win.
Okay, now for this giant prologue. Demandred, who we haven't actually gotten to see yet, travels to Shayol Ghul and has a chat with the Dark One. In person. I'm figuring anyone not a Forsaken, even if they are a Darkfriend, wouldn't be able to handle being there live with the Dark One. There's a very unusual Fade present: tall, not named like other Fades, and the Dark One values this Fade very highly. We haven't seen the last of Shaidar Haran, have we? He reports that Rahvin has died, and Lanfear and Moghedien are missing, just like Asmodean. Asmodean got cut off from the Dark One at the end of Book Four, and apparently none of the Forsaken figured out what happened to him. Or at least they didn't tell Demandred. This also says to me that we can cross Demandred off the list of whoever killed Asmodean, since he has no clue what happened there. Asmodean dying came out of nowhere for me when I read it! I wonder how long it takes to solve this. The Dark One sounds like he knows Asmodean is dead. Demandred gets appointed Nae'blis, which seems to be some sort of Head Forsaken. Now, the Forsaken aren't exactly known for getting along with each other. How well are they going to take the news that Demandred has been placed above the rest of them? The Dark One lays out an evil plan, but we don't get to hear it.
Nynaeve is trying to Heal Siuan and Leane's stilling. Siuan and Leane think this is crazy to try. Nyn has an a'dam that Elayne made from "a special source" of silver, and the necklace part is around Moghedien's neck. Even with the power of a Forsaken behind her, she can't unstill them. I would think that she's nuts to try this too, but if this is a dead end, then why would RJ even waste time on it in the story? So sooner or later, stilling will be healed somehow. The only silver Nyn and Elayne would have had would be Birgitte's arrow that came from the dream world into the real world. Elayne busts in with the news that the Salidar Aes Sedai are sending an embassy to Rand in Andor, and she's quite mad that she isn't part of it. Siuan and Leane knew about the embassy all along. Gee, even stilled, Siuan knows a lot about stuff going on in the Aes Sedai. There's a rumor going around that Rand killed Morgase. That could make things interesting, even though we know it's false. Elayne isn't going, but Min is. That should make their relationship awkward! Elayne goes to say goodbye to Min, and runs into a couple of Sisters, who want to congratulate her on all the discoveries of new weaves that Moghedien has taught them. Which they've officially come up with on their own, cause Mog's true identity is a closely held secret between Nyn, Elayne, Siuan, and Leane. Invisibility. Long-distance eavesdropping. Inverted weaves so other channelers won't even know there is a weave present.. And a couple they've kept secret, hiding your ability to channel from other channelers, and disguising your looks with the Power. What do you want to bet that at least one of these will play an important role in the plot at some point? Maybe not in this book, but sometime, one of the good guys will find some of these handy when they've only been mentioned in passing. Chekhov's Gun? Or would it be Chekhov's Weave? Elayne excuses herself, finds Min, and they have a nice chat. Min agrees to take a letter to Rand, and reveals that she is being sent on the embassy to spy on Rand. One interesting bit is that Min hasn't been told who Birgitte really is. Only Nyn knows that Birgitte is Elayne's Warder, too. That includes Min.
Now we go back to the Two Rivers. It's been a whole book since we got to see Perrin. Faile is holding court, and still trying to get Perrin to accept that he is a Lord now. She even had thrones made for the both of them. Perrin, meanwhile is still trying to get everyone in the Two Rivers to accept that he isn't a Lord, and quit treating him like one. Fat chance of that. I hate Faile. Easily the most annoying character in the books thus far. Perrin feels Rand calling to him somehow. The call of ta'veren to ta'veren, or something like that. Rand may not know it, but he needs Perrin's help with... something.
Cut to the White Tower. Gawyn is commanding the Younglings, his little private army of castoffs and Tower trainees he's gathered together. It seems the Tower is getting a delegation from the Shaido while sending an embassy of their own to Rand. Gawyn thinks that the White Tower means to proclaim its support for Rand. I seriously doubt Eliada would do this. Remember them? Couladin is dead, and good riddance, but his widow Sevanna is running the Shaido now. The Sisters give the impression they are making an alliance, but really have other ideas. Gawyn hears from a peddler that Morgase is dead and Rand killed her. That rumor sure does get around! The version that Gawyn hears also has Elayne being killed by Rand. Now, we know that neither one is dead. But Gawyn is shocked to the core, and swears vengeance to himself. That should make for an interesting meeting. Meantime, Elaida and the rest of the Aes Sedai usuarpers don't want Gawyn and his bunch around because they can't be controlled, and hope that maybe the Shaido will handle getting rid of them. That way Morgase won't be angry at the Tower over her son's death. That one sentence is interesting. All those eyes and ears the Aes Sedai have, and they haven't heard what the rest of Randland is hearing about Morgase being dead? The one Sister whose POV we have here shows a classic ethnic bias, thinking of the Aiel as total savages even while she treats with them. She's Black Ajah, by the way. So is Galina, head of the Reds. Yeah, the Reds seem totally penetrated by the Blacks. The only Red I've seen who conclusively isn't Black is Elaida, and she's being manipulated by them flawlessly. Meantime, the Shaido aren't entering these discussions in good faith, either. They mean for the White Tower to be eventually looted, just like all the other wetlands. The Shaido hope to kidnap Rand from the Aes Sedai embassy and hold him prisoner. And Sevanna decides she has no intention of allowing the Shaido to send a man to Rhuidean to learn the truths there.
If she does, then he will become clan chief, she will lose her power base, and he would know for a fact that Rand spoke the truth about the Aiel heritage. Can't have that, nope. Something about a strange outsider gave her a stone cube with funky carvings, and told her what to do with it once she had Rand prisoner. Slayer? Demandred? Sammael? Keyser Soze?
Cut to Morgase, about whom we've heard so much made-up scuttlebutt so far. She is very much alive, and in the royal palace in the last place you'd expect: Amadicia. A country where the king has no real power, and the place is really run by the Whitecloaks. And Morgase is Tower-trained, and cna't even legally be in the country. She wants the King to give her soldiers to recapture Caemlyn from the evil clutches of Gaebril, who was actually Rahvin, and is actually dead, but she doesn't know that. Rand really did kill this one. The rumor mill missed the one person he really has killed. Her entourage is small. Lini, her elderly nursemaid, who is fond of proverbs and sayings, Basel Gill the innkeeper (should I refer to him in first-person?), his hired goon Lamgwin, Lamgwin's girl Breane, and Tallanvor her guard. Breane is Cairheinin, and doesn't consider herself one of Morgase's subjects, and doesn't seem to have a problem letting the Queen know about it. In fact, she's quite snotty. Pedron Niall comes in, tells her (truthfully, I think) that the King can't do squat to help her, but the Children of the Light can... for a price, no doubt. It's from Niall that she finds out Gaebril is dead, and Rand killed him while conquering Caemlyn, and thus Andor along with it. She doesn't sound unhappy about Andor being in Rand's control. After Niall leaves, an Andoran shows up and offers to help her escape the Whitecloaks. Seems like Morgase has gone from Rahvin's trap to Niall's. Niall goes back to his Fortress and arranges for the Whitecloaks to leave the Saildar Aes Sedai alone for the time being. Not that he likes them, but he doesn't want his struggle to be seen as just a fight with the Aes Sedai.
Quick cut to Demandred, who fills in the rest of the Forsaken on the Dark One's plan. The reader's still don't know what the plan is. Sammael doesn't show up for the meeting, and so it gets determined he won't be told anything. I think Sammael has decided to go with his own plans against Rand; he wants all the Dark One's favor and the glory for himself and wants nothing to do with Demandred's plans. Another cut to two new Forsaken, who we are told were resurrected from the dead by the Dark One in new bodies and new names. The man is Osan'gar, the woman is Aran'gar. Aran'gar apparently used to be a man, and isn't happy with the change. Shaidar Haran shows up again and makes it plain that he doesn't have to obey them. A Fade ranked higher than the Forsaken? A Fade that shows a sense of humor and smiles? What is this thing? Haran tells the both of them to deal with it, they still serve the Dark One, or they can die for good this time. Now the Dark One told Demandred that he can't resurrect anyone from balefire, so that leaves few options as to which Forsaken these used to be. Aginor and Balthamel died through other means toward the end of Book One, and Ishamael died after Rand stabbed him with Callandor at the end of Book Three. I don't think I'm missing anyone, but can't be sure. Whichever of the three isn't included here could be brought back later on.
Whew! Okay, that's done. Next installment should be of a more manageable length with shorter chapters.
This is where the train pulls into the station and I switch books (and series).
Chapter 67 (Tyrion XV): Okay, so Tyrion isn't dead, but he is heavily wounded. He has some very odd dreams, no doubt brought on by the poppy milk they're filling him with. Assorted people come to see him while he floats in and out of consciousness, but he assumes it's a dream. Tywin shouldn't be there, he thinks, nor should Petyr. But it was real, right? So He finally wakes up and asserts control enough to stop some Maester he doesn't know from giving him more poppy stuff. When his bandages come off, he gets a look at his face, and it's not a good picture. Much of his nose is gone, he has a broken rib, arrow damage to his shoulder area, and a big diagonal scar across his face. The makeup people should have a challenging time with Peter Dinklage for this scene. I mean, you can make someone's nose bigger and uglier with prosthetics, but a prosthetic adds material to your face, it doesn't subtract from it. How can you take away a nose with makeup without making it look like you're piling stuff on? Maybe they will just do the scar. It would be mighty expensive to CGI away his nose every scene he is in from then on! He has the maester bring him Pod, who fills him in on what happened with the battle and the aftermath. Tyrion has trouble buying into Renly's presence at the battle (well, duh, Renly is dead). He can't be taken back to his old chambers; Tywin is using them now that he's taken up the Hand position. Bronn has been knighted; now that he has gotten some official recognition I wonder how well Tyrion can rely on him. I also wonder what part Tyrion can still play in King's Landing. Tywin is easily capable of pulling off the role of Hand, does he need Tyrion for anything? Cersei would be glad to get him out of the way. She did try to have him killed in the battle, after all! Add to that the fact that Tywin has never really accepted Tyrion as a member of the family. He set his son up to be killed in battle during the first book, and part of Tywin still blames Tyrion for Joanna Lannister's death. Is Tywin even willing to keep Tyrion around as part of the inner circle? So I think Tyrion could become something of an outsider from the circles of power after this.
Chapter 68 (Jon VIII): So it's down to just Jon and Halfhand up north, out of the five that started this little party along the Pass. The others they went with are all dead. The eagle that's been watching them seems rather angry. Qhorin gives Jon some orders that took me by surprise. If they are captured, Jon must yield and go over to the enemy as a mole. A bunch of wildlings catch them, including Ygritte. Remember Ygritte, the wildling that Jon allowed to go free? I suspected at the time that she'd be back, and she is. She explains the eagle is a warg, inhabited (permanently, now) by the wildling Jon killed in the same chapter where he met Yrgitte. Now wonder the eagle is pissed. Being a human trapped in an eagle's body, with no human body to go back to would make me mad too. Jon yields, and the wildlings demand he prove his new loyalty by fighting Qhorin to the death. Qhorin doesn't show any sign from the text that he is fighting to lose on purpose. Halfhand gives it his full effort, but Jon has a brief opening. Maybe Qhorin gave him that split second to make the killing blow deliberately, I don't know. But Jon manages to kill Qhorin Halfhand (with Ghost's help) and after a little more argument and Yrgitte making a case in his favor, the wildlings spare him and head off to join Mance Rayder... who is marching on the Wall even then. So in Book Three, the wildlings are going to invade the North of Westeros? I wonder if Jon will run into Bran or Rickon, or maybe some of the Greyjoy forces?
Chapter 69 (Bran VII): Okay, so Bran's third eye is full open now and he can go into Summer's mind whenever he wants. Bran, Rickon, Hodor, Osha, and the Reeds have been hiding in the Stark crypt all this time? Oh yeah, remember the bit in the story Ygritte told Jon about hiding in the Stark crypt? Foreshadowing, anyone? Shaggy and Summer have been checking out Winterfell. The castle is in ruins, and bodies are all over the place. Getting the lid off the crypt takes a bit of work, and it's really hard even for Hodor. Eventually, they come out, and Osha figures out that Theon isn't responsible for the burning of Winterfell. Too many Greyjoy corpses. The body of a man wearing the Bolton sigil makes it plain who did this. They go to check out the godswood and come across Maester Luwin, who is still alive but doesn't have much left in him. Deep down, he knew the bodies Theon had presented weren't Bran and Rickon. It only hits me now, as I type this, that only a healer would notice how healthy and muscular the legs are on the supposed corpse of a boy who has been paralyzed below the waist. Luwin was the only one not involved in the switch who saw the ruse, but he was also the only person even capable of seeing it. Osha and the Reeds decide to split up at Luwin's insistence, her taking Rickon, and the Reeds taking Bran and Hodor. Well, I'm assuming Bran is going to remain a POV character, but will we know what happens with Rickon through a new POV? Osha, perhaps? Or will what's up with RIckon and Osha be an ongoing mystery, like with Barristan through most of this book? Osha declares her intent to follow the kingsroad for a while (presumably not all the way to King's Landing), and Jojen says they will go north. So it does seem like they could encounter Mance's army, and have a reunion with Jon. I'll leave you with the last lines, which I just loved. As Bran looks back on Winterfell, possibly for the last time in his life, he reflects on the ruins of a once-great castle.
Coming up sometime in the next few days... Lord of Chaos.
Chapter 63 (Danaerys V): It looks like Dany's time in Qarth is coming to an end. As magic is returning to the world, the warlocks of the city are growing stronger. And Dany has burned down their house. So she's made some powerful enemies. The magic users want her dead, a couple of the merchant guilds want her dead, and the Thirteen would like her dead but haven't acted upon their wishes due to Xaro's efforts. She isn't on good terms with him anymore either. She turns down his marriage offer, and he finally gets it into his head that she isn't interested in him. Geez, it's only taken the entire book. She isn't willing to sell him a dragon, either. So he tells her that her time in his house is done, and she has to take her people and go. For most of her time in this book, she has been on the virge of becoming something she hated about Viserys, a beggar monarch. And she's been well aware of it at times, unlike her brother, but hasn't had a way of of her predicament. Now she has to find a ship that can take her dragons and her people out of Qarth. Easier said than done. Some won't take the dragons, some won't take the Dothraki, some want too much money, and so on. Ser Jorah sees a couple of men following them. Some Qartheen tries to kill her with a magic scarab that disguises itself as a piece of jewelry. But what happens? Those suspicious people following her around the docks? They bust in and save her! Just when we thought we couldn't trust them (although in this series, don't trust anyone). They say they've been sent by Illyrio. And one of them is, by appearance and speech, from Westeros, and calls himself Arstan. Wait a sec... Barristan? I never had any specific theory as to where he disappeared to, but I had been assuming that wherever he was, it was somewhere in Westeros. Now he turns up all the way in Qarth. One thing is, has Jorah been in contact with Illyrio all this time, letting him know they were in Qarth, or has word of the Mother of Dragons spread all the way to Pentos? Either way, that's where Dany is going. Back to where she began Book One.
Chapter 64 (Arya X): Arya is getting cooler and cooler. At first it seemed great to have Roose Bolton in charge of Harrenhal, and compared to the Lannisters it certainly was great. But now Roose is starting to show his true colors. This is Ramsay's father, after all. Like son, like father. And really, what could you expect from a house that chooses a man with his skin cut off for its sigil? The Brave Companions are despicable, when tasked with rooting out Lannister sympathizers, they just find their former helpers and kill them. The Freys are convinced that Robb should end his rebellion and surrender to Tywin. Well, Robb's situation does look grim. Then she finds out that Roose will be leaving soon, and putting Vargo in charge of the castle. She doesn't like that one bit, and contrives to make an escape for Riverrun after she looks at a map. She gathers Gendry and Hot Pie, having to tell a couple of lies to convince them to come along. She kills a guard, and they make their way through a gate. She didn't take the map with her; I hope they don't get lost. Filming a minor slitting a man's throat should be interesting.
Chapter 65 (Sansa VIII): This chapter made me think of the music from the medal ceremony at the end of A New Hope. All the mighty lords and ladies come to the throne room to mark the saving of King's Landing. It's a grand and splendiferous occasion, and everyone goes out of their way to look grand and splendiferous. Tywin makes the best entrance, riding in on his horse (indoors, mind you) in shiny and gaudy armor, with his horse being dressed in shiny and gaudy armor. Tywin's horse isn't as pleased with Joff, or at least isn't willing to hide its feelings. The horse leaves a grand and splendiferous pile of its feelings right at the foot of the throne. I so hope that part makes it into the TV show. Tywin is confirmed as Hand of the King (never mind that he was really Hand all along, Tyrion was just interim Hand). The Tyrells get nicely rewarded, with a spot on the council, Loras joining the Kingsguard (where he doesn't have to marry or show any interest in women), and Margaery is betrothed to Joff... thus freeing Sansa up. For which Sansa is overjoyed, but can't show it. Other rewards get dished out. Petyr gets confirmed as the new liege lord of the riverlands and given Harrenhal, thus making it official what Tyrion promised him. Then they have to anoint six hundred men as knights, one by one. That takes a long while. Then the prisoners come in, and get dispensed with depending on how well they accept Joff now. Joff embarrasses himself by cutting an arm on that godawful throne. (Badass to look at, but godawful to sit in. You think Robert would have had it replaced with something more comfortable once he got rid of the Targaryens.) His reaction is telling; it says to me that he may be a king, legitimately or not, but he's still an immature little boy of thirteen. After all is said and done, Sansa sees Dontos, who tells her that she isn't out of the woods yet. She still has value as a hostage, and Joff may still take her to bed if he wants, he just won't be wed to her. So things are still bad for her. But he gives her a nice-looking amethyst hairnet to wear to Joff's wedding, and says that will be the night she makes her escape. I sure hope so. I wouldn't be surprised if Varys or Littlefinger (or both) are onto Dontos and have plans in motion to stop her from getting away.
Chapter 66 (Theon VI): Well, I knew sooner or later Theon's folly would come back to haunt him, and it does. Winterfell is surrounded by Ser Rodrik's forces, and only seventeen men are willing to stand and fight with Theon. All of the men Asha left him choose to desert. Wise men. Maester Luwin tries to get Theon to surrender, but to no avail. Theon tries using Rodrik's daughter as a hostage, but Rodrik sounds like he is willing to attack anyway. He feels honor-bound to take back the castle; the othas he swore to House Stark take priority. Luwin suggests he would be allowed to take the black and join the Night's Watch if he surrenders, and Theon gives the idea serious consideration. He seems to be leaning toward taking the black when someone else leads a force against Rodrik's. And it's... Reek? Reek, who Rodrik and the others took to be friends, but pay for it with their lives. The Boltons are here, and they beat the Stark forces easily despite being outnumbered. And then Reek isn't Reek, he's actually Ramsay, who switched places (and clothes) with the real Reek, who then got killed as Ramsay. Ramsay hasn't actually been in that many scenes, but he has become a really effective villian. Except since Ramsay has not only brought two or three times the number of men he promised, but took the victory, he feels entitled to change the terms of the deal. When he left he asked for Palla the kennel girl, now suddenly that's not good enough for him. He acts all slighted at being offered a kennel girl (ummm, dude? You specifically asked for her, you even said you had quite the fancy for Palla) and demands Kyra instead. Now Kyra was taken by Theon for himself as soon as he took Winterfell, so naturally he doesn't react well. When Theon objects, Ramsay just whacks him with his fist still in armor, knocks him cold, and does significant damage to his face. Theon wakes up to the Bolton army rampaging the whole place. Ramsay calls for the Walders to be spared (interesting, since there were a few Freys prominently with Roose at Harenhal) and everything else burned. The we get a "The last thing Theon Greyjoy saw" sentence. So Theon's survival into Book Three is ambiguous. Kind of like Jamie's survival. Or Arya's survival after Book One, for that matter. GRRM seems to enjoy leaving us hanging from book to book as to whether someone just got killed.
Chapter 50 (Theon IV): So Theon wakes up in the middle of the night, bu isn't sure why. It takes him a few minutes to realize that he can't hear the direwolves. It's not a noise that woke him, it's the lack of one. He rouses the castle and finds out that the wolves are gone, and so are Bran, Rickon, the Reeds, Hodor, and Osha. Theon is especially mad about Osha, since she swore allegiance. Here we learn about Winterfell's septon being murdered, as a sacrifice to the Drowned God. Theon takes a bunch of people, including Reek, Maester Luwin and the Walders, out into the woods to track the trail, but has no luck. He's totally lost them. Lost things are always in the last place you look. Reek has been carrying a sack for some weird reason all through the chapter, now he shows Theon what's in the sack while suggesting they're hiding at some mill. Bran's direwolf brooch, but nothing else we get to see. I'm a bit lost here. What could possibly be in the sack that connects the boys to the mill?
Chapter 51 (Jon VI): Qhorin, Jon, and the others come upon three wildlings guarding a ledge looking down upon their path. They need to get past them to keep going. So Jon and the best climber, Stonesnake, go up and ambush the wildlings from behind. The first two die after a short fight, but the third one yields and turns out to be a woman. Not a bad-looking one by the description. I'm interested to see how she is played in the TV series, because I have a feeling this chapter isn't the last we see of her. The other's in Jon's party aren't willing to take her as a captive, though. It means splitting the food, and having to keep an eye on her.So Jon has to choose between killing her, and letting her go. He lets her go, after she tells him a story of Winterfell's past. How true this story is, I'm not sure. It might just be legend, but there is more likely some grain of fact, however distorted through the centuries. And the information imparted is somehow going to pop back up again. As will the woman Ygritte.
Chapter 52 (Sansa IV): Sansa is apprehensive. In her situation, I'd be apprehensive too! Battle is coming to King's Landing. Pretty much anyone in the city can figure it out. Tyrion has ordered the burning to the ground of everything outside the city walls, depriving Stannis of anything he may use to get some advantage. Stannis's advance parties are trading shots with the defenders. Dontos tells her a ship is on the way to take her out of the city. Later that night, Sansa has a horrible nightmare about being caught in the riot again, except in the dream she takes a worse beating than in real life. Then she wakes up to find herself and the bed all bloody. It takes her a couple of minutes to realize what's happened: she's become a woman. She doesn't take it that well, trying to burn her sleep clothes, sheets, and even the bed itself, just to cover up the signs of her first period. Since this makes her officially eligible to sleep with Joff, I think it's understandable. Sleeping with Joff is something worth putting off as long as she can. Even though I'm a guy, I bet having a period hit during your sleep, in medieval times, must not have been a pleasant experience. They wouldn't have what it takes to get the stuff clean. (And even in modern times, blood is a really hard stain.) Nor would their feminine products be as good. The servants manage to get her under control, cleaned, dressed, and bundled off to Cersei for breakfast. The Queen gives her assorted unpleasant advice about womanhood. And she also mentions that none of her kids "with Robert" took well to being held by him. (Gee, you think they knew at that age instinctively that he wasn't their father?) This whole chapter just serves as another part of Sansa's wake-up call that life isn't all happiness and songs. One thing I wonder here is, how Sansa's period will be handled for the TV series. Bear with me here: Sansa in the books is about thirteen at the point of this scene. But for the TV series (which I haven't seen yet), I've gathered that GRRM moved all the kids' ages up by about three years or so, and has indicated that these are the ages that he should have written the kids at all along. That would make the TV Sansa about sixteen at this point in the story. Which means that she will be considerably older than average for her first period. Old enough, in fact, that it would strain believability. (Wikipedia seems to indicate that having it happen this late is pretty rare.) They could always change it so that this isn't her first one, but that takes away from the scene. If this has been going on for a while for Sansa now, she shouldn't be so distressed over it. She would have been legally beddable all along, with one more period doing nothing to change the situation, and she would be well aware of how to handle a period by then. Or they could just lop out the scene altogether. But this is HBO, would they really pass up a chance to be graphic about anything sexual? Sounds like the producers could be between a rock and a hard place.
Chapter 53 (Jon VII): This was a weird chapter. Jon has a discussion with Qhorin about Mance, and learns some interesting stuff. Mance used to be a ranger of the Watch, but deserted because he couldn't handle the discipline because he was born a wildling north of the Wall. Jon goes to sleep, and has... a wolf dream? Apparently the warging ability is hereditary, since Jon and Bran both have it. So far there hasn't been anything about Robb, Sansa, or Arya experiencing anything like this. Granted, Lady is dead, and Arya did everything she could to drive Nymeria away for her own safety. Jon, inside Ghost, seems to make contact with Bran inside Summer. So wargs can make psychic contact with each other through their animals? Interesting bit there. He finds out that Bran and Summer are in a dark place, filled with death. That sounds significant but wasn't anything I could put a finger on. Jon was in Ghost while Ghost was sleeping, it seeems, so Ghost wakes up and sees a huge army organizing. Then Ghost gets hits by an eagle and wounded badly, but the rangers patch him up. They pass back where they met Ygritte and leave one behind to hold off the wildlings, but a hunting horn comes soon. I see a fight on the way.
Chapter 54 (Tyrion XII): Tyrion isn't getting everything right. Most things, but here he slips up a little bit and lets Cersei get a jump on him. She has dinner with him, and once again shows that she isn't right in the head. Tyrion makes it perfectly clear that Joff will be well away from the fighting and well guarded, but she still is convinced he is trying to kill Joff just because he wants a couple of the Kingsguard in the battle, and Joff visible on the walls surrounded by a dozen gold cloaks and two white cloaks. So then Cersei mentions that she has Tyrion's whore. Except it happens to be the wrong woman. Cause you know, those medieval prostitutes are so tough to tell apart. All this time he has been going to Chataya's and using a secret passage from one's room to go to Shae, and he never thinks once about the danger he is putting Alayaya in. But he never lets on to Cersei about her mistake, and this time around not only threatens to avenge any hurt to her, but manages to stop Cersei from slapping him for once. The queen has such a winning personality. Not.
Chapter 55 (Catelyn VII): This looks like a cliffhanger chapter to me. It's not the end of the book, but we don't see Cat or Jaime again before the book ends, so what happened is left unresolved. Cat manages to get Jaime nicely drunk and has a not-so-friendly chat with him. They aren't on very good terms anyhow, and she has just learned that Bran and Rickon were killed by Theon. He offers up some information, but not much of it is directly useful to Cat. He confirms Tyrion's version of the story about the dagger, and adds the interesting bit that Robert had it after that tournament. That is something she could use. He also confirms that he is the real father of Joff, Myrcella, and Tommen, and admits pushing Bran. Then he tells the story of how Ned's father and brother died. One cooked by fire inside of his own armor, and the other left to strangle himself trying to save him. If we ever doubted King Aerys was a monster, I think this story puts those doubts to rest. But then there's the ending. Jaime begins tossing around insults as he finishes off the last of the wine Cat sent him to loosen his tongue. Cat calls out to Brienne, who came down to the dungeon with her and has been outside the cell, and says "Give me your sword." What does Cat do with the sword? Is Jaime still alive at the end of this chapter? After everything he has done here, and in the first book, not to mention betraying his sworn oath to defend Aerys with his life, I think Cat could kill him without any moral qualms at all. She wouldn't lose any sleep over this afterward. The only reason she has to leave him alive is to keep her daughters safe (remember, no one on the Stark/Tully side knows Arya isn't held hostage). Cat isn't exactly in a good frame of mind right now, so she might kill him anyway. If she isn't meaning to kill him, then what? Does she just mean to give him a pretty new scar? Or is she going to chop something off? She's never met Shagga, but she might still independently think of cutting off his manhood. Maybe she would even feed it to the goats.
Chapter 31 (Catelyn III):
Stannis and Renly meet the day before battle to have a little meeting, but they are both too stubborn. Neither one is willing to give up his claim. Cat is there to try and mediate, with hopes of getting them to join forces and accept the Lannisters as the greater enemy. It's at this point that she first learns of Joff's true parentage, since she hasn't seen or heard of Stannis's letter while she's been on the road. Renly enjoys a nice, juicy peach.The whole meeting is a failure, and Renly returns to his camp with Cat. Renly orders that battle will be joined the next day. Cat wants to go back to Riverrun now, but Renly refuses to let her till the battle is done. Brienne wants to be by his side in the battle, but he sends her to fight with Loras. She then asks to at least help with his armor before the fight, and Cat figures out that she is totally besotted with him. Cat then asks to at least be allowed to go and pray at the nearest sept in a village close by, and Renly allows this much. He then asks Loras to stay and help him "pray". So that's what they called it in medieval times. I think that if Brienne has a crush on Renly, she is going to be sorely disappointed. You can't much more hopeless than being in love with someone who isn't even interested in your gender. And then there's the little issue that Renly has a wife already. Renly tells Stannis that he will have Margaery with child within a year. I wonder how serious Renly is about his "royal duty". One thing that struck me about this chapter was that when telling Cat about Joff, Stannis mentions how he developed suspicions and took them to Arryn. Odd... I'd always figured Arryn took what he'd found and alerted Stannis, not the other way around. Not that it matters, since Arryn died and Joff took the throne anyway. But it was still pretty stunning for me.
Chapter 32 (Sansa III): Well, since Cat and Robb have been separated by a goodly distance, and Theon is no longer part of Robb's army, we aren't going to see what's going on with Robb's fight ourselves for a while. So we have to hear of the latest Stark battle secondhand through Sansa's ears. Joff is mad about the beating Ser Stafford's army has taken, including Stafford's death. He has a pretty strange idea of how the battle went, though, saying Robb hit them with a whole army of warg direwolves.(I'm guessing wargs are along the lines of what Bran has been doing with Summer in his dreams.) So Joff decides Sansa must have a beating in exchange as punishment for her brother's victory. Oh yeah, Joff is scum. Good thing Tyrion shows up to stop it before it gets really bad. Sansa could have been hurt a lot worse if he hadn't come in right then. Tyrion has his men bring her to the Tower of the Hand and clean her up, and then give her a potion to sleep. In Arya's old bedroom, by coincidence. Afterwards he tells her a truer-sounding story of the battle, and offers to keep her here for her safety. She decides she'd rather have the chance at escape with Dontos, and asks to return to her old chambers. Oh yeah, Joff is scum.
Chapter 33 (Catelyn IV): So Cat goes to pray, and reflects on Stannis's claim about Joff. It makes sense to her, and she figures this is why Bran was pushed out a window. She returns to Renly's tent, where he is consulting with his lords while Brienne is dressing him in armor. They want him to attack right away, but Renly wants to wait till dawn, being honorable because it was the chosen hour. Never mind he would have his forces, those he brought with him, heading into the sunrise. Renly isn't much of a strategist. Renly orders that is Barristan is fighting alongside Stannis, to allow him to live. Except he isn't with Stannis either, we know this from Davos's chapters. Whenever Barristan shows up, he has some explaining to do as to what he's been up to all this time. None of Renly's orders matter, though, cause a gust of wind blows the door open... and a shadow walks in without an owner. Cat thinks it's Renly's shadow at first, but by the time she figures it out, it's too late. The shadow drives a shadow sword into Renly's neck (through his armor) and kills him. Brienne screams, and two of the Guard burst in and assume she did it. Cat has to plead for her life, and gets her away, sure that Stannis is somehow responsible. The Stark party flees, knowing that Renly's forces will go over to Stannis. So much for Renly having the bigger army.
Chapter 21 (Bran III): Okay, so Bran is Lord of the Castle. Now he has to act the role, and play host to the big harvest feast at Winterfell. A big, fun party is had, with drinking, lots of food, music, dancing, and assorted sexual stuff. It's part state dinner and part medieval kegger. As always, the descriptions of the food are great. I got a kick out of Bran's lordly duties include him sending assorted dishes to assorted people. He sends good stuff to the lords, a giant lobster to Joseth the master of horse (who later on, snags himself a different sort of dish...
) and beets and turnips to Big and Little Walder. I think this pretty much says what Bran thinks of the Walders. Rickon is still a problem; it's mentioned here that he is growing his hair really long, and bites anyone who tries to cut it. So then two more guests show up, Meera and Jojen Reed from the swamps. Frogeaters. Jojen expresses an interest in seeing the wolves. That night, Bran has the wolf-dream again. He dreams he is Summer in the godswood, and Jojen and Meera go to visit the place. Shaggy is there too. Earlier it seemed like Bran was just dreaming that he was Summer. But now it's starting to seem like Bran is actually in Summer's head, experiencing Summer's thoughts, while his human body is asleep. The dream doesn't last long, though. When Jojen approaches, Bran falls out of Summer's head.
Chapter 22 (Catelyn II): Catelyn arrives at Renly's court... such as it is. To say she is unimpressed would be putting it mildly. Renly is supposed to be at war, but he has been plodding along in a general northerly direction. We've heard in previous chapters that he is moving slowly, but now we see it in action (or inaction, as the case may be). Renly has been stopping at every castle he passes and been feasted by some loyal stormlord or other. Not only that, but he stops his army's progress to have a tournament in the middle of a war. At least Joff's tournament we saw earlier was back at King's Landing, and the best fighters weren't involved because they were off fighting. Not so with Renly. We get to see Brienne of Tarth for the first time, and I'm betting it isn't the last time. She may not be all that good-looking, but don't tell her that, cause she'll wipe the floor with you. I wonder if GRRM was watching Xena when he conceived Brienne. Renly offers Brienne any reward she asks, and she asks for a spot in his Rainbow Guard, which he grants. (Rainbow Guard... fanciful concept. Certainly up Renly's alley, he seems very flamboyant. Which leads into me wondering if there's something between Renly and Loras, who seems to get more of Renly's attention than anyone else, even the new Queen.) Renly asks Cat if Barristan has joined Robb's cause, which baffles her since she hasn't heard that he was booted off the Kingsguard. Which means that Barristan isn't with Renly, or Robb, or Stannis, or Joff. Where is Barristan??? Sooner or later, we find out, I bet. When Cat brings up Stannis being the elder brother, Renly mentions that doesn't matter, because he has the bigger army, and means to take the throne the same way Robert did: by force. Renly thinks Stannis would make an awful king. Based on what we have seen so far of Stannis, I think this isn't too far off. But I don't think Renly would be very good either. He seems to have Robert's love of tourneys and all the fun stuff (well, not the womanizing that Robert did). I exepct Renly would wind up being an absentee monarch just like Robert was, leaving all the government to a Hand without really doing much ruling. No doubt driving the realm deeper into debt with tourneys and such all over the place, too. At the end of the chapter, we learn that Storm's End, Renly's castle is under siege... by Stannis. (DM folk who are also on Westeros: Is Renly having a "Little Mac" attack?)
Chapter 23 (Jon III): So the rangers have finally found signs of human life beyond the Wall. Craster's Keep isn't much of a keep. It's basically one big hovel, and it doesn't provide much in the way of shelter for the large force of men come from Castle Black. Most of the men have to sleep outside, much the same as they'd been doing since leaving the castle. Craster is a very unlikeable man, and we learn that he marries his daughter and has children by them. The boys get given to the Others. Maybe it's those sacrifices that keep the Others from overrunning the keep, but it leaves Craster without defenders if Mance Rayder decides to hit the place. There seems to be no love lost between Craster and Mance, who we have yet to actually see. There certainly is a lot of incest going around in this world. One of the wife-daughters wants out because she thinks her baby will be a boy, and Sam tells her he will help her. Jon is mad when he finds out. After they leave in the morning, Jon tells the Old Bear about the sacrifices. Mormont already knows. He feels nothing can be done about it, and Craster has been enough of a friend to the Watch that it isn't worth losing him. Then he mentions that Mance is readying an attack force in the mountains. Things could get ugly.
Chapter 24 (Theon II): Well, in his last chapter Theon learned that his return to the Iron Island wasn't as good as he hoped. Now it gets worse for him. He has a ship of his own to command. While he is checking it out, he meets a woman and makes passes at her, and she rides with him back to Pyke. It's only then, and several fondlings by Theon, that he finds out this is his sister, who is considerably more attractive than he remembers, and has a ship of her own as well. A ship with a fearsome reputation, in fact. Later on, there's a feast at the castle. Theon is humiliated when he finds out that just about everything Asha told him is a lie, and she, not him, has the place of honor by their father's side.All indications are that Lord Balon has no intention of letting Theon succeed him, and is likely to name Asha as his successor instead. Theon considers himself the true heir under the law, so he is pretty steamed. The icing on the cake is when Balon unveils his strategy. Asha is to take thrity ships and capture Deepwood Motte, Theon's uncle Victarion will sail up a river and capture Moat Cailin. Robb will be stuck in the riverlands, unable to head back North, and if he makes an attempt the Lannister forces are going to pounce on the diversion provided and destroy him. Theon, meanwhile, is to take eight ships and conduct raids along the coast as a distraction. Eight ships, making a diversion, for the person who thinks of himself as the lawful heir to the Iron Islands. And he has to take Aeron and Dagmer Cleftjaw along, making his command of the diversion in name only. Now Theon is downright insulted. Hell of a way for Balon to treat his son.
Chapter 9 (Arya III): The band of recruits for the Wall is starting to run into trouble. Hot Pie was brave before, but now we see he still has his moments of fear. They have to leave the Kingsroad for safety, and forage for food. That proves difficult, since those they meet on the way are unwilling to help them, and make a point of running them off. Yoren is disgusted by this behavior. Ayra runs into some wolves in the woods, and they leave her alone. I wonder if they're part of Nymeria's pack, and she still cares enough for Arya to make sure she is left alone.
Chapter 10 (Davos I): Yay, a new POV character! In a couple of ways, I'm not surprised by this. First off, the story sort of needs a new POV to replace Ned, cause one less POV means events aren't as varied in how they are viewed, and a full breadth of what's going on across the realm won't be available. Second, the prologue with Cressen gives us our first glimpse of what's going on with Stannis's part of the fight, but then Cressen has to go and die on us. I figured at the time that GRRM wouldn't have bothered showing us events on Dragonstone for one chapter if he didn't mean to follow up on it. Therefore, there needed to be a Dragonstone POV brought in for longer than Cressen was around. Stannis is burning the statues of the Seven, and it isn't going over so well. The septon get locked away, along with a few lords and their sons who stay loyal to their faith. Other lords stand by Stannis but are clearly uneasy. The people present at the burning are confused at best, alienated at worst. Umm, right. Forcing a religion on a populace generally has unpleasant consequences for the ruler, the populace, or both. The Spanish Inquisition comes to mind, except that was the faith of the majority imposed upon a minority of the population. More fitting might be the pro-Catholic reign of James II in England over a Protestant realm, or the Catholic government of South Vietnam trying to rule a Buddhist nation. And don't get me started on the Thirty Years War, when differences in religion became the excuse for untold miseries. "Because God said so" has been used to justify so much bad stuff in human history, and it seems like Westeros isn't immune to this. The kicker here is how Stannis doesn't even believe in his new religion; he is just using R'hllor as a means to an end.
Stannis has all the ravens in Dragonstone sent out to deliver the news of his claim to the throne, and the reasoning behind it: Joff, Myrcella, and Tommen are all illegitimate, and aren't Robert's kids but Jaime's. Which goes with my earlier guess that Ned had no need to inform Stannis in a letter that he was the true king, Stannis already knew from Jon Arryn taking him to those brothels to meet Robert's bastards. I bet Jon showed him the big lineage book before dying, too. Now while I'm presuming Cersei is telling the truth about not killing Jon, that doesn't change the fact that he was onto something with the whole bastard issue. It may even still be why he was killed, even though it wasn't by Cersei like we were led to believe in Book One.
Chapter 11 (Theon I): Now I wasn't expecting two new POV characters in this book. Theon lands on the Iron Island and is met by his uncle, who has changed considerably since Theon last saw him. Before, Aeron was quite the party animal, loving women, ale, drinking songs, and all-around good times. Now Aeron has found religion, and he's really into it. Yay, another unlikable religious zealot. Not that all people of faith in the series are unpleasant, Septa Mordane was likable, and the other Septons and Septas have been okay. I wouldn't mind sticking Aeron and Selyse in the same room just to see what happens between them. Lord Balon basically wants nothing to do with Robb's plan, and sees it as Robb wanting him to bend the knee to Winterfell while nominally being a King of the Iron Islands. He doesn't seem to think it strategically sound, either, scoffing at Theon's plan to capture Casterly Rock. Instead, now that Theon is no longer a hostage of the Starks, he has plans to go ahead and seize a crown for himself. He isn't hitting the Lannisters, but we aren't told what he is going after. Theon figures it out, but the readers are left to muddle out what is implied. I have this feeling he wants to hit Stark territory while Robb is occupied fighting a war in the riverlands. Maybe Robb should have heeded his mother's advice, and sent someone else instead of Theon after all.
Sitting here at a motel desktop the day before a cousin's wedding, and found some time to record my thoughts.
Chapter 6 (Jon I): This chapter seemed to me to be just there to fill in the background. You have to have those every now and then, or your story is a bunch of characters running around through an empty, boring, undeveloped world. Which doesn't work for single novels, let alone sprawling multi-book series. The Watch is planning a huge ranging up north, commanded by Mormont himself. This has raised some hackles, it would seem. The acting First Ranger, who considers himself to not be "acting" at all, thinks he is entitled to take the command. This guy doesn't like Jon much; it seems he was on good terms with Ser Alliser. We get a whole lot of backstory concerning Maester Aemon and his place in the Targaryen royal saga. When you inbreed to the extent the Targaryens have, you wind up with heirs who think they can turn into dragons by drinking flammable explosive liquids. Ummm... yeah. Riiiight. Jon is told all this to test how he feels about his vows with Robb becoming King in the North, and events involving the Starks heting up a bit. Jon sounds more loyal to his vows than he had been. He's found that his rightful place is among the Watch.
Chapter 7 (Catelyn I): Speaking of Robb, let's see what's going on with him. He's losing manpower at a rapid clip as assorted lords are going off to defend their own personal territory. Robb is going to offer the Lannisters terms for peace. Sansa and Arya must be returned (except the Lannisters don't have Arya), Ned's body must be returned, Ice must be returned (and Ser Ilyn will not be happy about that part!), etc. Lord Karstark is disgusted and leaves the room; he'd much rather have revenge for his dead sons. A lot of revenge. He won't be happy until the Lannisters are beaten down like a red-headed stepchild. Cat is learning slowly that raising her son to command, and now to be a King, doesn't always mean he will make decisions that agree with her. He is sending Theon off on his own to enlist Balon Greyjoy's aid. It seems Greyjoy has some ships which will come in handy. Cat thinks Theon is the worst person to send. Robb is willing to let Greyjoy take the Iron Islands off on their own, if they will join his side in the war. So instead of one kingdom, we may have three. Cat has a chat then with her Uncle Brynden, who tells he bad news: more Lannisters are on the way. They need to find a way to force Tywin to leave Harrenhal before they are caught between two armies... Cat suggests an alliance with Renly would do the job nicely. What I wonder is, will Renly be any more willing to accept a shrunken kingdom than Stannis? Or will he think of himself as the rightful ruler of the whole land just like his brother?
Chapter 8 (Tyrion II): It would seem Tyrion has been busy as the acting Hand. He's getting Lord Slynt royally soused in this installment, and consulting with him on who should replace him as commander of the City Watch. I'd been under the impression that Janos would have been continuing in that capacity, he'd just be doing it as a lord now. The City Watch has knights and sers in its ranks, why can't it be headed by a lord? Janos gives Tyrion six names worthy of replacing him, but he holds Allar Deem in the highest regard. It seems Allar Deem was sent to a brothel to kill a woman and her baby. This must be Barra and his mother from Book One. Tyrion suggests Jacelyn Bywater, who Janos isn't too keen on. Then it turns out Tyrion is stripping Janos of his lordship and giving Harrenhal to someone else, and shipping Slynt off to the Night's Watch. Janos's son will be Lord Slynt now... I hope his first act is to change that sigil. It would look fine if the blood were removed from the spear point. Tyrion says the new lord will be given other good lands, and be allowed to build them into a proper seat, with the other sons becoming squires somewhere... never let it be said House Lannister doesn't reward those who serve it well. Actually, that's just the sort of message that exiling Janos to the Wall sends. He was instrumental in stopping Ned's plans to help Stannis take the throne and keeping Joff's position as King. Now Tyrion is making it look like you may be rewarded for serving Lannister well, but whatever you are given may be snatched back from you anytime. Janos didn't do too much to prove himself worthy of being a lord, though. I think he would have kept his status and title if he hadn't been such an ostentatious buffoon since being elevated. Tyrion arranges for Bywater, who is indeed the new head of the City Watch, to arrest Janos and his six favorites and ship them all north to the Wall, although Allar will be lost at sea. Tyrion is mindful of the needs of the Night's Watch, so he sends them a bunch of loathsome, corrupt oafs.
Then Varys shows up to talk to Tyrion, after Janos is carted off. Here we learn it was Cersei's order to kill Barra. As well as Gendry, who it turns out Varys put in the Watch to save his life. I'm not shocked that Cersei would have more of Robert's bastards killed, but I was a bit surprised to see Varys showing some conscience. Tyrion is feeling sure of himself now that he has control over the City Watch (taken from Cersei and Littlefinger), plus the clansmen and a bunch of sellswords. But who really controls the Watch... Tyrion or Varys? This worries the Imp just a bit.
All right, I had meant to save this for next weekend when I go out of town and have a four-hour car ride each direction. But it's a thousand pages in paperback, so I think I'll have plenty left by then.
Prologue (Maester Cressen): So now we finally get to see what's going on with Stannis after having it shrouded in mystery for all of AGOT. Cresen has official confirmation that summer is ending in the form of a white raven. Not just an albino, but a raven that was bred to be white. Special bird. I fee sorry for Shireen, and I hope there are good things in store for her. The rest of the family I don't care for as much. Lady Selyse is an annoying, preachy woman who doesn't seem to understand how fighting a war works. I think she'd be right at home in the American Bible Belt, from her attitude concerning her new god R'hllor. Stannis, according to what we have learned from both him and Davos, is having trouble convincing people to declare for him. What Stannis seems to have trouble understanding is that he is very bad when it comes to being an inspiring leader. He seems convinced that because his case for the throne is right and just, then that should be all he needs to get everyone on his side. Having a just cause is useless when others in the fray (Cersei, for one) are motivated by greed, avarice, and a lust for power. Plus, Stannis is just such a sourpuss that no one likes him enough to follow him. Davos himself is a good example of what's wrong here. The chapter mentions how Davos, as a smuggler, once saved Stannis's bacon by sneaking food through a siege at Storm's End. Stannis knighted him, gave him a keep, and some good lands... and then chopped off the first joint on four fingers for smuggling. With friends like this, who needs enemies? Why should anyone declare for a man who maims his saviors? It was because Davos was a smuggler that he pulled this off, right? Then we see Cressen working to kill Melisandre. Her blathering about R'hllor was annoying too, but she can back it up. Pylos is the new Maester for Dragonstone. I bet Selyse and Melisandre were behind that decision. Pylos himself probably had a hand in his own promotion, too. And R'hllor does have some power! We've seen magic before, but this is the first real sign of any of the gods being more than stories. Not only does he make Melisandre immune to the poison, but she is aware the wine is poisoned to begin with. Although Cressen was a bit obvious, I thought, you don't need a god on your side to figure out what he is up to.
One thing this chapter did for me was to solidify something I'd been suspecting though much of the first book. Stannis is referred to repeatedly, by himself and others, as the rightful king. Now remember Ned's letter to Stannis, the one that informed him he was the rightful king and invited him down to King's Landing to take the throne for himself? The one that never got delivered and was used as evidence against Ned? Ned's letter was totally unnecessary; Stannis already knew he was the rightful king. Why else would Jon Arryn be taking him to meet Gendry, and taking him to all those brothels? Arryn discovered that Joff was illegitimate, and showed the one person (other than Robert) who most needed to know.
Chapter 1 (Arya I): Arya's alive! I thought she seemed a goner after what happened with Yoren in her last chapter in AGOT. Now it looks like Yoren was saving her life. He's chopped her hair off and has gotten her out of the city. She had been having some trouble getting out of the city, you may recall. But it isn't all that pleasant traveling with Yoren, thanks to the other Watch recruits he's taken from the dungeons. Arya knows how to stick up for herself, and the boy with the bull's head helmet is willing to stick up for her. (Gendry??!!) Yoren disciplines her; just cause he is saving her life doesn't mean he's willing to have the boys fighting. I hope he disciplined the other boys too, or did something to send a message that. Their teasing is causing just as much of a ruckus. Yoren has told Arya he will stop at Winterfell en route to the Wall, and let her slip away there, with no one in his party having a clue. I have some doubt as to how honest he is being there.
This should be my last installment here till I crack open Clash of Kings. That won't be for another several days.
Chapter 68 (Danaerys IX): So Drogo isn't doing so well. Mirri's techniques have left him pretty much a brain-dead invalid. Mirri has taken her revenge, Dany's child has been delivered stillborn. This was where it got weird for me. I could understand her magic killing the baby, she'd already said that death would be the price for Drogo's life, and that no one should enter the tent while she was weaving her healing spells. But leaving the baby looking like it has been dead for years (much longer than it's been in the womb, mind you) and with a physical description that isn't even human??? The way the baby was described, it sounded like it was some kind of dragon. Now are you telling me Dany had a whole different species in her oven? From a real-world point of view, this is probably so Dany can bill herself as "mother of dragons" later on. Literally. No matter what she does, she can't bring Drogo's consciousness back to what it was. So she takes a pillow and smothers him with it. I liked Drogo, and had been hoping to see him around longer. But considering Jason Momoa is starring in the reboot of Conan, which may turn into a franchise series of films, I figured he wouldn't have signed onto the GoT series if it was for more than one season. Unlikely he could have devoted the time to both. Granted, I have no idea how things play out with Drogo on TV. I'll be glad when it comes to DVD.
Chapter 69 (Tyrion IX): So now we have the Lannisters dealing with the consequences of getting soundly clobbered in battle. Tywin is not what I would call a happy man. Nor does it sound like the Lannister clan is all that unified right now. Tywin has nothing but disdain for the way Cersei and Joff have been handling things. He scoffs at being issued commands by Cersei to do stuff with his forces, scoffs even more at Joff wanting to lead the City Watch into battle as an army (leaving the city totally undefended), and wonders whose idiot idea it was to make Slynt a lord. I bet it was actually Slynt's idea.... when Littlefinger offered him and the Watch six thousand gold to betray Ned and side with Cersei and Joff, Janos said it wasn't enough, and named his own price. So Tywin decides to put his own stamp on Joff's reign by sending Tyrion to King's Landing to take charge. The new Hand has appointed a Hand of his own. Tyrion is told by Tywin not to take Shae to court, but he tells he that he is taking her to King's Landing anyhow. Well, his father didn't say anything about bringing her to the city, just don't bring her to court. Nyah nyah nyah, Father. Meantime, Renly has declared himself king from Storm's End, and the Tyrells have sworn themselves to him. I'd love to know just what law of succession Renly is basing his claim on. Even if he doesn't know that Joff isn't Robert's son, he remains the youngest of three Baratheon brothers. Stannis is the eldest, and has a much closer claim. And I'm guessing that Renly and Stannis together would have a better shot at winning than if they each fight their own war.
Chapter 70 (Jon IX): Jon has had some doubts about his future in the Watch the last few times we've seen him. Now it comes to a head. He follows through on his plans to desert, leaving Sam as the only one who knows. Sam goes to the other boys, and the bunch of them ride off to bring him back. All sorts of craziness is going on up north. Elk and mammoths (mammoths are still around in ASOIAF world? Cool!) are fleeing south and Mance Rayder is gathering his forces at a new spot. It'll be interesting when and if we eventually get to see Mance in the flesh. Mormont wants to take a large force north and investigate, and hopefully find Ben. They said it best in the Star Wars movies: "I have a very bad feeling about this."
Chapter 71 (Catelyn XI): So now we get to see Riverrun up close. The assorted lords gather and try to figure out what to do next. News comes of Tywin making for Harrenhal (Slynt will be unhappy to see the fate that is befalling his new estate in this war) and of Renly's claim to the throne. A big argument breaks out over whether they should declare for Renly or Stannis, or make peace with Joff and see who wins between the other factions. In the end, they decide on a new possibility... secession. So the North is going to try and secede from the rest of Westeros, with Robb as King. I'll love to see how this plays out in Book Two.
Chapter 72 (Danaerys X): This chapter was pure awesome sauce. Dany gives the bloodriders her bride gifts back, and asks for their oaths, which thy refuse. Jorah does give her the oath, but os convinced she means to die on Drogo's pyre. Instead she gives that role to Mirri, who claims she won't scream. Riiiiight. When you get tied to a funeral pyre, covered in flammable oil, and then set aflame, you're gonna scream. And she does. The dragon eggs go on the pyre too... cue the dramatic music there. THe fire burns and burns, and Dany walks into the fire despite Ser Jorah's best efforts to stop her. But when the fire dies, she is unharmed and has three living baby dragons hanging onto her, two of them nursing from her breasts.
Aside from the fact that dragons are supposed to be reptiles in just about every fiction they've ever been in, and therefore shouldn't need to nurse (that's a mammalian thing), this is an image to behold. The bloodriders, and all the other Dothraki who haven't deserted by now, change their minds and swear oaths to Dany as their new khalasar. Because when a hot naked chick (who is only fourteen in the book but thinks and behaves much older, and from her physical description seems much older) comes out of a huge fire totally unhurt, covered in ashes, and has three fire-breathing lizards (who were thought to be extinct!) draped over her body, you better swear loyalty to her. I don't know if the Dothraki had a custom that says "swear fealty to beautiful women who are impervious to fire and are attended by dragons", but they do now. The final line of the book is powerful: "... for the first time in hundreds of years, the night came alive with the music of dragons." Wow. I didn't think the first line of the book had much weight to it, but the ending packs a punch.
I'll be back in a couple of weeks to begin the second book. Till Then,
Chapter 2 (Sansa I): Oh, poor Sansa. Stuck in King's Landing surrounded by evil types, forcibly engaged to a psychotic monster who can (and does) order others to beat her, and now she has to watch a pathetic, sorry excuse for a tournament. The last one she attended, she actually wanted to be at, and it was well worth watching. This tourney, however, is a total farce. The field has no excitement to it, and no big names. The sparse attendance, part because of it being held inside the protected Keep, and part because so many people are off fighting a war, gives further indication of how unworthy this event is. I noticed how someone (likely Joff) has gotten it into their head to force the Redwyne twins into fighting. Joff is a sick, sadistic person. Cersei is pretty angry about Tywin setting up his forces at Harrenhal instead of coming to the city like she ordered. Fine, Cersei, if you think you know how to fight a war better than your father, why don't you go command the Lannister army yourself? Tywin is doing what he has to do, and I think she would be better off trusting someone who knows about strategy and tactics. Tommen proves you wouldn't want him on your side in a fight. Even at his age, he shouldn't get smacked down by a straw dummy. Then Tyrion and his band of merry men gatecrash the party. The Imp makes fun of Joff, treats Sansa better than the rest of his family has treated her, and heads off to find Cersei.
Chapter 3 (Tyrion I): I do so love Tyrion's wit. If Westerosi tournaments had a debate competition, Tyrion would win handily. And his way with words is prominently on display in this chapter. He uses it to establish himself as Hand in his father's place, although Cersei is a bit resistant. Time to stick a pin in her ego, being regent has inflated it somewhat. Not that she wasn't full of herself before Robert died (see the incident with Nymeria and Lady in AGOT), but now she is worse. She and Tyrion manage to come to a mutual understanding of sorts, until one of them no longer finds the other useful. She is persuaded that if anyone can put Joff in line, it is Tyrion. The really interesting bit here is that Cersei has no idea (or claims not to, at least) who killed Jon Arryn. On the one hand, she hasn't proven herself all that trustworthy so far. Cersei is a manipulative schemer, so how honest is she being with Tyrion? On the other hand, I don't see what she would gain from lying to him about this, and she tells him the whole story about her part in Robert's death a few paragraphs later. If she is going to lie about one murder, she shouldn't be honest about the other. So despite a really good motive being established in Book One, I'm leaning toward Cersei having no part in Jon's death. Doesn't make me any less shocked by the revelation, since AGOT pretty much left the readers to believe it was a mystery solved. The funeral feast for Robert sounds good. The boar that Robert died to kill, cooked with mushrooms and apples. Inn at the Crossroads should do this one sometime. Actually, I hate mushrooms, but it still sounds good. On his way out, Tyrion takes the first action as Hand that will anger Joff: he orders the decaying heads of everyone who got executed taken down. Joff was leaving them up till he killed the last three people he wants: Robb, Renly, and Stannis. Odd how he had exactly the right number of spikes for all the traitors who needed killing. Tyrion reflects that it will be hell matching them with the bodies after all this decay, which only raises the question... what did they do with the bodies? Meantime, it seems that in preparing the city for an attack, Cersei is driving the realm even further into debt than Robert did.
Chapter 4 (Bran I): Things are still unpleasant for Bran at Winterfell with the rest of the family away. All except for little Rickon, who is adjusting to life with both parents and Robb all gone a little better. Something still has to be done about Shaggydog, though.I'm betting that by the end of the series, he is either put down as a wild menace, or someone manages to civilize him to the extent where that isn't necessary. Bran's dreams are getting more and more interesting. Every time he dozes off, he has some sort of psychic episode. This time, he dreams that he is Summer, and even has Summer's thoughts instead of his own. Come to think of it, wasn't the potion Luwin gave him supposed to result in a dreamless sleep?
Chapter 5 (Arya II): Yoren brings his recruits to an inn in a village somewhere to eat and wash up. Arya seems to be having problems keeping a low profile. First she speaks up about whether a she-wolf would eat a baby (it was good hearing some word of Nymeria, if that was her), and then she gets into an altercation with the three worst criminals of the bunch. And that's on top of the fight she got into during her last chapter. Enter the gold cloaks. Far from their jurisdiction, aren't they? Arya hides with the Bull while Yoren argues with the gold cloaks that they aren't allowed to take any of his men. Shockingly, all the other recruits are willing and ready to fight alongside Yoren, even the ones who tormented her before. Except... they aren't after her in the first place. They want the Bull, who it turns out is Gendry from the previous book. Yoren drives them off, and the leader drops his sword. Hot Pie gets it; I'm expecting significant things for Hot Pie later on. I'm not shocked that Cersei sent men out to find Gendry. It fits the pattern of her eliminating Robert's other bastards in the past that was alluded to in AGOT. What I'm wondering is, those gold cloaks are eventually going to get back to King's Landing and report their failure.Not they they want to, since Cersei strikes me as the sort who would execute them for not accomplishing their mission. But they have no choice, since they obviously don't have the boy. The curious bit is, what happens when they report that there was a different boy, several years younger than Gendry, who thought they were after him? If they describe this "boy" to Cersei, will she put two and two together and realize it's Arya?
I'm finally coming into the home stretch here.
Chapter 64 (Danaerys VIII): Like I said, there was just about no chance that Drogo would follow Mirri's instructions, no matter how good for him they were. And that's even assuming that she is being honest here (more on that later). He's just too prideful, too macho, to do what a strange woman tells him, especially if it involves not doing things he likes. So the poultice fails to do any good cause he tore it off after it burned. I'm guessing it was meant to do the same sort of thing a fever does: heat up the body, or at least the infected area, and kill off unwanted pathogens. Instead, he shows all the signs that his wound has gotten infected. When he falls off his horse, his people show signs of losing faith in him. There's a big fight scene after Drogo is taken into the tent, and Dany goes into labor. The only person around who can do the midwifing is Mirri. Now, you don't have to have read any further to know that can't turn out well.
Chapter 65 (Arya V): This one is interesting. Arya has been barely surviving in King's Landing, eking out a peasant's existence. She finds the ship her father arranged for, but figures out that it's a trap. (Too obvious for me? Naaaaah.) She can't get out of the city any other way, either, as it's too well guarded. A bell summons everyone in the city to the Great Sept, and Ned confesses his treason publicly in front of Joff, Sansa, and assorted officials. Joff notes that Cersei wants Ned to be allowed to take the black, and Sansa has asked for mercy for her father, but Joff orders him beheaded anyway. Ser Ilyn does it with Ice, Ned's own sword. It looks like Ser Ilyn Got what he wanted out of this. I bet he wrote a message (since he can't talk, after all) that said something like, "Janos Slynt is getting his price, a lordship and estate and all that. All I want is Stark's Valyrian sword." Arya fights to get up there and stop it, but really, she's having to fight through several hundred people, so it isn't happening. Yoren pulls her to safety, calls her "boy", and then... scalps her? Kills her? I ended this chapter not knowing if we will see Arya alive again. Yoren seemed more likable up till now.
Chapter 66 (Bran VII): This chapter isn't noteworthy for what happens so much as for the backstory contained within. We finally get an in-depth explanation of the religion involved, and what the deal is with godswoods, the First Men, and the like. Both Bran and Rickon have had dreams of speaking with Ned after he died. So psychic dreams aren't limited to bran, but they apparently run in the Stark family. Rickon is still not doing so well psychologically, and neither is Shaggydog. News arrives of Ned's death, and Maester Luwin announces they will need to find a stonecarver who knew Ned's face well. I found this last bit to be a very moving moment.
Chapter 67 (Sansa VI): This chapter is where Sansa gets the cold splash of water in her face that she has been so badly in need of the whole book. She has grown a bit and gotten more mature as events around her have taken a turn for the worse. Joff pretty much forces her to attend him, and has Ser Meryn hit her to make her comply. She watches Joff hold court, and it's quite grisly. Most of the cases he shows no interest in and lets the council handle, but GRRM feels a need to mention that when Joff does take part in rendering judgement, not even Cersei can change his mind. This is both interesting and rather odd. Interesting, because this is the second time that we see Joff going against the will of his mother and regent. I get the feeling Cersei was hoping to install Joff as a malleable puppet king and retain all the real power for herself. Tyrion noted as much when he is told that his nephew rules the realm now: "My sister, you mean." But Joff is sowing some independence. Cersei no doubt isn't pleased to see her son has a mind of his own. I expect a mother/son showdown at some point in Book Two, or at least one (or both) of them will begin plotting against the other. Joff also seemed to show a bit of a psychotic side in his rulings. But it's all odd because Joff is still underage and Cersei has been named regent. Doesn't this mean that until he comes of age, that monarchical power is vested in her? The reason regents are named in the first place is because a king who is still a child isn't yet deemed fit to rule. Robert, for all his doltishness, recognized this much on his deathbed. His decree naming Ned as regent was torn up, but the fact that is felt a regent was needed at all is important here. So how does Joff, at the age of twelve have the legal authority to override his mother? Then he shows her all the heads of the people he has ordered killed. Including Septa Mordane. I don't know how any sane person could se her as a traitor, but I have doubts that Joff is entirely sane. Another good question here is, why is Joff keeping the betrothal to Sansa? Sansa still has value as a hostage, yes, but with the Ned dying in dishonor as a traitor, and the rest of the Stark family has been condemned as traitors, any political advantage from this marriage is gone. Wouldn't Joff be better off finding a girl about the right age from a more friendly family, and securing (or at least tightening) a dynastic alliance there, while sending Sansa off to the dungeons, or at least some form of house arrest in the Red Keep? I bet anything Walder Frey would have switched to the Lannister side if Joff offered to marry one of his daughters or granddaughters.
In the end of the chapter, Sansa has learned that life is not a song, just like Littlefinger warned her. It no longer seems like a fairy tale of sweetness and light, instead it seems like a Brothers Grimm fairy tale before Walt Disney got his hands on them. The Grimms wrote some dark and disturbing stuff. Check out the Sigourney Weaver version of Snow White sometime if you can find it. Sansa's current situation is a dark reflection of the songs she grew up with, and it isn't pretty.
Chapter 57 (Sansa V): This is one of those chapters where all kinds of things happen. Sansa has been given freedom of the castle, but is plainly still a prisoner in all but name. Joff holds his first session of court and comes in after being introduced as Joffrey of the Houses of Baratheon and Lannister. So in this, he is keeping to the preference he set with his coat-of-arms. He seems to pretty much think of himself as only a nominal Baratheon. I still wonder if he knows about his real parentage, or if he simply feels a closer connection to his mother's House than he does to his "father's" House. Joff has a long list of people who are ordered to either swear fealty of be named traitors. Pretty much everyone who has already made it known they stand in oppostion to the Lannister coup, plus a few others. Rickon is named... they want an oath of fealty from a four-year-old boy, and expect him to be able to commit acts of treason at that age? Walder Frey has yet to commit himself either way, and at this point in the book could very well join with Cersei if he is offered a good enough deal, knowing that he prefers to only back a side he knows is already winning. The Arryns are named and also have yet to take any action either way. Most likely, Lysa and little Robert and all her bannermen will hole up in the Vale and try to wait out a siege. The Eyrie is impregnable, after all. Tywin is named Ned's replacement as Hand... no surprise there. Cersei is named to the small council to replace Stannis. The decree actually says "in place of the traitor Stannis Baratheon". Huh? Didn't they just issue a decree ordering Stannis to report and swear fealty, or be named a traitor? Except now they're already making him a traitor? And exactly what acts of treason is Stannis accused of, when he has been doing nothing but bide his time on Dragonstone all this while and has yet to make any attacks? Janos Slynt is raised to a Lord and given Harrenhal as his estate. Well, it had been surrendered. This seems to raise considerable hackles among the assembled lords. Lord slynt takes a bloody spear as his sigil, and his sons carry in a big huge shield. From the reactions of all present, I guess it isn't normal for a Lord to have his sigil put on a shield that two people have trouble carrying between them, and then have that shield lugged around wherever he goes. Maybe Janos isn't lordship material. Then Ser Barristan is relieved of command of the Kingsguard and forced to retire. No doubt this is retaliation because Barristan was the only one to voice any objection when Cersei tore up Robert's will and proceeded to do whatever she wanted. Jaime is named the new commander, and Barristan objects to appointing the Kingslayer to head the King's bodyguards. Funny, he never said anything about having Jaime as a member of the Kingsguard during Robert's reign, why is it only dishonorable now? He stalks off and Joff orders him seized, but we haven't seen the last of Ser Barristan. I bet he pops up some more during the series. Finally, Sansa begs for mercy for Ned. Cersei and Joff agree to be merciful if he confesses his crimes. We'll see about that.
Chapter 58 (Eddard XV): Ned is rotting in a cell somewhere in the dungeon of the Red Keep. He hasn't been fed, except for the occasional drink of water, and doesn't even have any light from a cell window. He just has his memories and hallucinations. He recalls the tourney at Harrenhal when he was young, with Rhaegar winning. Rhaegar left the crown of flowers he got from winning with Lyanna. Odd, considering that he wound up raping her later on. Varys comes in, gives him wine,and delivers news of the offer from Cersei: confess, and be freed, but only if you join the Night's Watch. Or Sansa dies. Not much of a choice there, is it?
Chapter 59 (Catelyn IX): So now we get to the bit where the Freys must choose a side. Robb's forces come to the Twins, and have to cross the river here or nowhere. Predictably, Walder isn't willing to let them cross unless he somehow profits by it, even though he is a sworn bannerman to the Tullys. A pretty useless bannerman, as things would have it. So Cat goes inside to meet with him, and he spews insults at everyone he can think of. This is the first time we've seen Walder Frey, and I found him to be a thoroughly unpleasant man. So after a bit of haggling, Winterfell has a couple of new wards, Robb suddenly has a squire, Arya, whenever she is found, is to be betrothed to a Frey, and Robb has to take a Frey wife. Robb thinks that Arya really is going to hate this. I think she will too.
All right, so now I start playing catch up. Having completed the first book, I have a good deal of blogging to do.
Chapter 47 (Eddard XIII): Robert is back from his hunt, and things don't look good. He is pretty badly wounded. But he got the board, and orders them to serve it at his funeral feast. Robert knows he won't survive. But in the end, he finally recognizes his mistakes, and admits he has been a bad king. Too little, too late. Robert dictates his will and names Ned as Joffrey's regent. Ned doesn't have the heart to tell Robert the truth. So then we find out that the Lannisters seem to have had a hand in Robert's death: his squire Lancel was the one keeping him supplied with wine during the hunt. No surprise there. Ned already knew that Cersei was plotting Robert's death; he was warned that something would happen during the melee. He doesn't seem to have heeded the warning very much. While I earlier mentioned how letting Cersei know that he knows the truth of Joff's parentage was unwise, it seems Cersei had already launched her plan by that point, since Robert was already off on his hunt. Keeping quiet wouldn't have saved Robert's life. It might have put Ned in a better position after Robert's death, though. Then Ned refuses an offer of troops from Renly, who would seize the children and firmly establish Ned as Protector. Ned turns him down because he feels Renly's proposal is dishonorable and just plain icky, in a moral sense. Never mind that it leaves him on even shakier ground than before. Then he begins making preparations to see that Stannis becomes king, including the letter that he gives to Tomard to deliver. Littlefinger's game is getting twisted, and at this point in the book we still don't have any idea where his loyalties lie. Actually, I thought at this time that he was on his own side, rather than Ned's or Cersei's.
Chapter 48 (Jon VI): In which Jon and the other new recruits take their oaths, and become full members of Night's Watch. Jon is successful in getting Sam assigned as Aemon's personal steward, but winds up assigned as a steward himself. I sure wasn't expecting that. Ser Alliser sure is a smug one when he hears this. I keep seeing Gunny Hartman from Full Metal Jacket playing Alliser, except with genuine malice. Except then it turns out that Ser Alliser had nothing to do with Jon's assignment. I really was surprised by that turn. Mormont personally asked for Jon as his steward, and wants to send him into command! Well, it's like I'd figured all along: in the Watch, it doesn't matter that Jon is a bastard. If he has what it takes, he will be (and has been) given a fair shot. Now we're seeing that come to pass. Jon goes to swear his oath before the old gods, and Sam decides to accompany him. I found the oath scene to be moving, in a sparse and solemn kind of way. It isn't a big huge ceremony, but it works all the same. Ghost decides they could use a hand.
Chapter 49 (Eddard XIV): Now here's where things totally fall apart for the good guys. Ned allows Arya to have one last lesson with Syrio before she goes back to Winterfell. Good thing, too. More on that later. Varys tells Ned that Renly and Loras headed south (which just happens to be toward Tyrell territory, and Renly's home of Storm's End) that morning. Ned thinks to himself how he had counted on Renly's support. Gee, that's funny, I bet Renly had been thinking the same thing. He seemed rather miffed when Ned refused to back his play. Ned thinks So much for Renly and his hundred swords. Renly likely now sees Ned as unreliable when it comes to doing what it takes to get the job done. He doesn't see a need to put his hundred swords behind a man who is bound to lose by fighting clean when everyone else is fighting dirty. The small council attends Joff and Cersei, and Ned learns just how badly he has bungled things. Littlefinger was right about two things: Ned was wrong to trust him, and the gold cloaks will follow whoever pays them. He was probably even telling the truth about how much gold it took. Tomard dies. That's one letter that's not getting delivered.
Well, I've been a bit lax in keeping the AGoT stuff going. Preparation for a weekend vacation has taken a good deal of my time when I wasn't reading, and over the last few days I've done a lot of reading in airports and on planes. I haven't had much time to get online to continue posting my impressions. I actually finished the book yesterday afternoon, and bought A Clash of Kings today. I don't think I will be reading it for a few weeks, though. I'm planning to set it aside for my next trip out of town, in July. I still intend to post what I've thought of the story, though. Another part of the reason for the backlog is that I came to feel 3-4 chapters is the ideal posting length, but that wasn't always the amount that I had read between opportunities to post.