[Re-Read] A Storm of Swords – Daenerys I


ASoS

This post has spoilers for George RR Martin’s fantasy novel series A Song of Ice and Fire, including fan theories and speculation. If you do not wish for certain information regarding future plot points from this series or other related series to be revealed to you, you might want to consider not reading any further.

After what has felt like an eternity, we get another Dany chapter! This particular chapter is a long, long one and fairly discussion heavy one since it deals largely with the past and Dany’s future plans. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I have really mixed feelings about Dany’s arc in A Storm of Swords. On one hand, watching her continue to talk proactive action and topple kingdoms is undeniably awesome but it is all retroactively spoiled by how little I cared for her character’s plot line in A Dance With Dragons. Still, that’s a some distance away so there’s no need to bring it all up now; instead, we’ll focus on Dany’s heritage, Barristan ‘Arstan Whitebeard’ Selmy the Bold, Dany’s arrival in Slaver’s Bay, Jorah ‘Forever Friendzoned’ Mormont and the Unsullied. Yeah, this is gonna be a long post.

When we last saw Daenerys, she had just met Strong Belwas and Barristan the Bold, and made arrangements to depart Qarth, where she had quite clearly outstayed her welcome. This chapter opens with Dany on the high seas, en route to Astapor, one of the three main cities of Slaver’s Bay. I’ll give you a moment to locate Slaver’s Bay on the handy map provided above. Done? Good, let’s continue – this Dany chapter differs wildly from her opening chapter in Clash and not just because Clash saw her stranded out in the desert while Storm has her purposefully navigating the high seas. In Clash and, you could argue, large portions of A Game of Thrones, Dany was always in life threatening peril. Of course, the degree of danger fluctuated but her position rarely felt secure since Khal Drogo’s fatal injury. Dany in unique with regards to the other POV characters in this book in that she alone begins and ends this book in positions of relative safety and security. In fact, she alone, among all the characters whose eyes we will be seeing through, is never truly in mortal danger throughout this book and that in itself is something of a feat.

Daenerys Stormborn, she was called, for she had come howling into the world on distant Dragonstone as the greatest storm in the memory of Westeros howled outside, a storm so fierce that it ripped gargoyles from the castle walls and smashed her father’s fleet to kindling.

There is no new information in the quote above but reading it put this way, it just struck me how typical such a birth would be of a fantasy novel’s heroine. A storm that can dislodged stone is a big fucking deal and in a fantasy setting, especially, you can’t really ignore a prominent character being born in such a circumstance. Now, we haven’t been ignoring Dany, but at some point this storm will need to be a bigger part of the argument in favour of Dany being Azor Ahai. Apart from that, I wonder how much of the final Targaryen strength has been lost because of the storm. The entirety of Aerys II’s fleet has been smashed at Dragonstone before it could sail to aide King’s Landing. Now, I don’t really recall how big that fleet was but it’s also possible that the fleet could have helped set up a better resistance force when Dany and Viserys fled rather than leaving them with nothing.

Not the cruel weak man he had become by the end, but the brother who had sometimes let her creep into his bed, the boy who told her tales of the Seven Kingdoms, and talked of how much better their lives would be once he claimed his crown.

As far as the reader to this point knows, this is the first time that Viserys has ever been mentioned in a positive light. I’ve talked before about how extreme stress that Viserys must have been under since infancy and how better men than him have been ruined by constant paranoia and humiliation but it’s nice of Dany to remember her brother for more than just the incompetent fool he was by the end; certainly, the abuse he subjected her to didn’t warrant any such sympathy. Beyond that though, I’m wondering why Martin chose to change Viserys’ portrayal even a little at this point. It may seem like I’m picking up on a strange point to nitpick but at this point in the story, Viserys is little more than a bad memory, best forgotten, so Martin would need a reason to bring him back in a positive light. What I’m trying to get at here is that throughout the Slaver’s Bay arc, we will see Daenerys acting more as the ‘Mother of Slaves’ and less as the ‘Mother of Dragons’ and in doing so, she will move further and further away from Viserys and the Targaryen values he encompasses. However, those Targaryen values are what will keep the story moving forward and in order for Dany’s future actions to not seem like hypocrisy, it’s necessary to keep Viserys around in the reader’s mind to some extent at least, since he is the only Targaryen contact Dany has had.

“The maesters say it was because of the walls around them, and the great Dome above their heads.”

We can skip right along through the next few paragraphs – which are largely just logistical in nature – right to the discussion of dragon lore. Jorah, understandably, is not the most well-versed in the histories of the dragons and can’t offer Dany much beyond fables but that’s where Barristan is able to shed some light. The quote above becomes interesting when you consider the grand conspiracy in Oldtown to end the dragons and, possibly by proxy, all magic. There will be plenty of time to discuss this grand conspiracy in later chapters but for now let’s think instead of what value Dany’s Queensguard brings to her apart from their competence at keeping her safe. Jorah is perhaps more familiar with the smallfolk and the North than Barristan is and also knows the workings of bounty hunters, spies and assassins better than the honourable knight. Selmy is probably still the more skilled sword despite his age and can provide Dany with the perspective of past kings, though that will be something of a sore point in a little while. Compare these characters to the court that Dany’s supposed nephew Aegon keeps and some interesting parallels and differences emerge, though that too is a topic for a later date.

Whitebeard did his best to hide his feelings, but they were there, plain on his face. “His Grace was… often pleasant.”

Given the Targaryens’ history of madness, I can’t entirely fault Selmy for not spilling the beans and explaining to Dany just how big a psychopath her father was. Having said that, given that I just mentioned that one of the biggest assets that Selmy can provide was his experience with past kings, I have to say that Selmy takes far too long to ever come out and tell Dany just what her father was. For now though, especially with Jorah acting like a jealous, overprotective teen, one wrong word from Selmy’s mouth and Jorah can immediately paint him as a hired assassin, especially if he reveals Arstan’s true identity as a member of Robert’s Kingsguard. Jorah is obviously acting in his own best interests as he doesn’t want Barristan to reveal Jorah’s role in the assassination attempts on Dany’s life or to compete for Dany’s favour. Both are understandable motives but given Jorah’s terrible advice throughout the rest of the chapter, I am far from sympathetic.

“King,” Dany corrected. “He was a king, though he never reigned. Viserys, the Third of His Name. But what do you mean?”

Ugh. There are time when I can stomach Dany and then there are times like these. I can understand Dany calling herself Queen, because sure, you have three dragons and you’ve proven yourself; go ahead. I don’t get why Viserys gets to be posthumously become King nor why Dany is sticking up for him. Perhaps it’s just her fond memories of him acting up again but it’s annoying. It should be perfectly reasonable – even within their society – for Dany to be awarded the regal respect she’s earned without others being forced to recognize her dead, abusive, shitty brother’s non-existent authority

He walked up to Ser Willem Darry, the master-at-arms, and said, ‘I will require sword and armor. It seems I must be a warrior.

One of the biggest missing pieces of information in this series comes from the events of Summerhall. What does Summerhall have to do with this, you ask? Well, unless I’m mucking up my Westerosi history, Rhaegar was born the aftermath of the tragedy at Summerhall and the entirety of his obsession with dragons and the prophecy of the Prince That Was Promised was linked to that. Summerhall is also the single incident that connects our various timelines together – the characters from the Dunk & Egg stories meet the characters from the main series and a continuity is established fairly clearly from there. In a series where a house’s legacy matters just as much, if not more, than their current standing, such information would shed some serious light on the pieces we’re missing.

She tried to imagine what it would feel like, when she first caught sight of the land she was born to rule. It will be as fair a shore as I have ever seen, I know it. How could it be otherwise?

If this isn’t setting yourself up for disappointment, then I don’t know what is. This is a timely reminder that for all of Dany’s claims to the Iron Throne and her proclamations in general, she has yet to actually see the land she claims to rule. She has idealized it in her mind to a degree that seems pretty unhealthy – at best, when she lands on Westerosi soil, she will face guarded suspicion from the nobility and  glum indifference from the unwashed masses and at worst, she will see a land shattered by a brutal five way civil war. “How could it be otherwise”, indeed.

His obstinacy made her angry. He treats me like some child.

This might have a lot to do with the fact that Jorah is in his mid thirties and Dany is maybe fifteen. Honestly, this age issue has bothered me more and more as I got older and older; when I was nineteen and reading the series for the first time, I remember thinking, “Wow, fifteen is young but I guess they’d be generally competent” but now, at twenty five? A fifteen year old calling the shots is insane. I can see why Martin did it the way he did – a young character’s suffering earns sympathy much faster than an older character’s but the trouble is that at some point, the reader is going to have start taking that child seriously and age can make that difficult. It’s hard to go from ‘Aww, you poor dear’ to ‘Damn, you’re badass and I should definitely be listening to you’ – and that’s the reason for Jorah acting the way he is. Of course, some part of Dany’s reaction is also the timeless response of a teenager responding to a grown-up telling them what to do.

Let us see how loyal and obedient these new subjects of yours truly are. Command Groleo to change course for Slaver’s Bay.

Did you hear that sound? It was the sound of a million fans groaning when they realized that Dany would take a four book long detour just because of Jorah’s shitty advice. I can sort of understand the logic here, but at the same time not really. On one hand, it’s important to establish independence from Illyrio because you can’t start off with him thinking that he can call the shots from behind-the-scenes, but on the other hand, friend’s are in short supply for Dany – should she really be thinking about pissing them off? Also, despite Jorah’s story about the Unsullied’s feats, there really isn’t much chance – short of treachery, which is really what Dany resorts to – that Dany will be able to walk away with an army of Unsullied.

So small a force could easily have been flanked, but you know Dothraki. These were men on foot, and men on foot are fit only to be ridden down.

I’m having a lot of difficulty imagining this scenario. Unsullied, by virtue of their total and absolute castration, would have the musculature of prepubescent boys. Are you really telling me that 3000 pre-teen boys with pointy sticks defeated a savage horde of seasoned, savage mounted warrior? The Dothraki could literally throw horses at the Unsullied and still have thousands to spare. I get that Martin was trying to parallel Thermopylae, but without the narrow pass, that’s just ridiculous. Do you know how Thermopylae would have gone if not for that pass? It would have been exactly what happens when a tiny defence force of a thousand or so men (contrary to popular belief, there were more than just the 300 Spartan men there) faces off against an army of tens of thousands.

“What use are wealthy friends if they will not put their wealth at your disposal, my queen?”

Ok Jorah, now you’re just being an asshole – “These guys are being nice to us, let’s continue to shameless take advantage of them!” Also, how poorly do you need to understand an industry to think a bunch of furs and spices would buy you the most feared army in the world? No, it’s clear to me that Jorah hasn’t really thought any of this through but instead just wanted to come and talk to Dany and make a case to her. He just wanted to be seen and acknowledged as providing valuable advice and caring for her. Whether that’s to counter the threat of the influence Arstan has over her or because of his crush, is unclear and anyway, they’re not mutually exclusive. Speaking of cringe-worthy crush; that brings us to:

“And I tell you truly, Daenerys, there is no man in all the world who will ever be half so true to you as me.”

Jorah is just the worst in this whole chapter honestly. First he disses Arstan, the coolest squire and disgraced Kingsguard knight ever and then he goes on to give Dany a series of increasingly god awful advice before then losing his marbles entirely and kissing her. Given how true he has been to her, I wonder what this means for all the other men in Dany’s life, honestly. No, I’m not saying that Jorah’s half-assed, morally dubious attempts at wooing Dany are in any way prophetic; rather, I find it hilarious that Jorah is able to imply, totally un-ironically, that he has been ‘true’ to Dany. I kind of liked Jorah before this point but now that I think about it, his best days as a character are far behind him – there was once a time when Jorah seemed wise and knowledge and a good guardian to Dany. Those times seem to be done – all he is now is a liability.

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