[Re-Read] A Game of Thrones – End Notes

End of Season Notes

Reading a series as developed and layered as A Song of Ice and Fire is always a rewarding experience. I first read A Game of Thrones in 2010; perhaps a year before A Dance With Dragons was announced. I remember very clearly just how easily the story gripped me – still new to the fantasy genre, I was wondering then whether I would still see the appeal of fantasy as I left my teens. I had read series like Harry Potter and Artemis Fowl and enjoyed them very much but after a couple of forgettable experiences with series like The Inheritance Cycle and The Wheel of Time, I had begun to wonder whether my love for fantasy had died without me even realizing it. A Game of Thrones caught my attention because it was marketed as a deconstruction of the fantasy genre, and I thought at the time that I had enough of a feel for the genre to appreciate its deconstruction and furthermore, a deconstruction might resonate with my own ambivalence towards the genre.

A Game of Thrones gripped me in a way a series hasn’t since I first watched/read Berserk. It had everything that I loved in my fiction –nuanced characters, a well-developed world and most importantly, it felt like there was no plot armour. It meant that it wasn’t a guarantee from the outset that the good guys would win, just because it wasn’t clear who exactly the good guys were, outside of the Starks and even there I can imagine there being room for debate. Anyway, this post is essentially supposed to be a quick conclusion to my re-read of the book what my lasting impressions were and so on. One of the downsides to doing these over such a long period of time is that I find myself already beginning to forget events that took place earlier in this book itself. To some extent, it’s inevitable but it does mean that posts like this one will contain more of general impression rather specific observations about the book.

I think one thing that really stood during this re-read was the way in which I looked at Catelyn’s character. Catelyn Stark previous occupied a rather unenviable position on my list of most hated characters and I will defend myself by saying that without a more careful look at her character it’s all too easy to blame her for anything and everything. This is not to say that she is blameless – she has made a pretty sizable number of mistakes both big and small and but often enough, she is one of the first to recognize that she has made one. Her character is incredibly easy to empathize despite how often I know what effects her actions will have in the long term.

Apart from Catelyn, I think I was also a lot more critical of Ned this time around. The first time I read the book, I was expecting a very different kind of result – there was younger, more naïve part of me that was expecting Ned to somehow turn King’s Landing into a proper, functioning capital and that the series itself would revolve around how he would somehow force the Seven Kingdoms to get their collective shit together. It looked increasingly unlikely and I think a part of me suspected that it flat out wasn’t going to happen once Robert died. Still, Ned’s death in A Game of Thrones was the first time I had seen a character so quickly killed off and this, among other things, is what I meant by ‘plot armour’ above. It’s easy to argue that after a few books in, it’s plain that there is indeed plot armour but at this point I feel like there almost has to be; we’ve followed Tyrion’s journey for so long that killing him off in a realistic way (say from disease, before he even sees Dany) would be incredibly unsatisfying to read. I also think I liked Jon’s story in this book too – I still think that Jon’s story isn’t particularly interesting, or at least not to me anyway but re-reading allowed me to appreciate his character’s development a lot more. In fact, some of my favourite Jon moments are in this book but I would say that ADWD is where Jon really comes to the forefront of the narrative for me.

Last but not least, I remember regularly feeling that several characters didn’t feel and sound right. Early appearances of Tyrion come to mind as do some of Tywin’s personality traits. I mentioned in passing that I think a big part of this is that Martin himself was not a 100% sure on who exactly his characters were – their personalities generally stabilized a lot more by the end of the first novel and I expect in A Clash of Kings we will see more of the ‘final draft’ version of the characters. I also want to thank any and all of you who have been reading these posts and commenting. I really appreciate it. Feedback is always welcome and I do try to respond to all of it. Whether you hate it or love it, I’m always happy to hear from you, so don’t feel shy!

[Re-Read] A Game of Thrones – Dany X

Summary:

Game of Thrones

Daenerys sends her people to find wood for a pyre. She has Aggo slay one of the best horses remaining and add it to the wood. She then lays Drogo on the pyre with all his most prized possessions. Ser Jorah comes to her and tells her not to sacrifice herself, but she assures him that is not her intent. She names the remaining Dothraki her khalasar and frees those that are slaves. She next gives Jhogo the whip that was her bridal gift and names him ko and asks him to be her bloodrider. He refuses because she is a woman, but she presses on, gifting Aggo the bow and Rakharo the arakh and asking the same, but they both also refuse. She next turns to Ser Jorah, who swears an oath of fealty to her as queen, and names him the first of her Queensguard. Next, she has Irri, Jhiqui and Doreah bathe her and dress her before bathing and dressing Drogo’s corpse. She has him placed on the pyre and then has her dragon eggs arrayed around him. Mirri Maz Duur, still bound, says she is mad, but Daenerys disagrees and then has the woman placed on the pyre too. A red comet appears in the sky right before she gives the order to light the pyre. As Drogo burns and Mirri dies, Daenerys walks into the fire, yet is not burned by it. Three large cracks are heard as her dragon eggs hatch. When it is over, Daenerys’s clothes and hair have been entirely burned away, but she is unhurt and suckling her dragons1 at her breasts. Aggo, Jhogo and Rakharo quickly swear themselves to her as for the first time in hundreds of years, the night comes alive with the song of dragons.

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[Re-Read] A Game of Thrones – Catelyn XI

Summary:

Game of Thrones

Robb and Catelyn prepare to enter Riverrun by boat. Theon and Grey Wind are in the boat with them, and the Greatjon, Lord Rickard, and Ser Brynden are in the next boat. They are greeted by Ser Edmure, Lord Tytos, and Utherydes Wayn who offer condolences to Catelyn for Eddard’s death. Edmure takes Catelyn to see Hoster, who is dying. He is happy to see her, but seems extremely disappointed that Lysa did not come too. He also asks if Brynden has wed yet, as his refusal to marry Bethany Redwyne at Hoster’s order is the main cause of their quarrel. She goes looking for Robb and finds him praying in the godswood, so she waits. When he is done, he comes and tells her that Renly has declared himself king and he must call a council to decide what to do.

The great lords all gather. Hoster is too sick, so Edmure is there for him with Ser Brynden at his side. Arrayed around him are Lord Jonos, Lord Tytos, Lord Jason, Ser Marq, Ser Stevron, Karyl Vance, now a lord with the death of his father, and Lyman Darry, son of the late Ser Raymun. All the lords of the north are there too, Robb, Theon, Rickard, Maege, Galbart, and the Greatjon. Roose has reported that he has reformed his army at the causeway before Moat Cailin, while Lord Tywin has crossed the Trident and is making for Harrenhal. There is great disagreement over what to do next. Ser Marq urges a strike at Casterly Rock, while Lord Tytos wants to finish Tywin at Harrenhal. Lord Jonos feels they should declare for Renly and squeeze Tywin between them, and Lord Jason says they should bide their time since they are blocking Tywin’s line of supply. Ser Stevron thinks they should make peace and see who wins between Joffrey and Renly, but is shouted down. Robb is undecided. Joffrey is the true king, but he cannot bow to the Lannisters with his father executed. Renly has the might of the Reach and the Stormlands, but Stannis has the better claim. Catelyn makes an impassioned plea for peace, but she is shouted down. Finally, the Greatjon jumps up and says he has had his fill of these kings; he will bow to Robb as the King in the North. Soon, all the lords of the north and the riverlands alike are rising to their feet and offering fealty to Robb.

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[Re-Read] A Game of Thrones – Jon IX

Summary:

Game of Thrones

Jon prepares a horse to leave Castle Black as Sam tries to stop him. Preparations complete, he calls Ghost and gallops past Sam into the night, nearly running Sam down before he jumps out of the way. Jon has chosen the life of an outcast for the chance to avenge his father at Robb’s side. Ghost keeps pace with him for a while and then goes off on his own and does not come when Jon calls for him. He stops to eat and hears horses coming. He gets off the road just before Grenn, Halder, Pyp, Matthar, and Todder ride up. Sam must have told them what he was doing. Ghost betrays his position to them, and they coerce him into coming back.

The next morning, Jon fetches Lord Commander Mormont’s breakfast from Hobb and takes it to him. Jeor chastises him for running, saying he knew it would happen, and he had been observed leaving. He tells Jon that the war affects everyone, and he is not special. He also tells him of darker tidings. Cotter Pyke reports elk and mammoths fleeing south. Ser Denys Mallister reports abandoned wildling villages and seeing huge fires in the night, and Qhorin Halfhand has caught a wildling who states that Mance Rayder is gathering all his people at a new stronghold. Many rangers have gone missing in the past year and now the dead have been seen to walk. Lord Commander Mormont is personally going to lead a large expedition beyond the Wall to find Benjen Stark and discover what is going on. By tradition, the Lord Commander’s steward is also his squire, but he says he will not take Jon if he just plans to run off again. Jon reluctantly lets go of his father and siblings and promises not to run again.

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[Re-Read] A Game of Thrones – Tyrion IX

Summary:

Game of Thrones

Lord Tywin and his lords bannermen and retainers, including Ser Kevan, Ser Addam, Ser Flement, Ser Harys Swyft, Ser Gregor, Lord Leo and Tyrion receive a messenger from Riverrun. Tywin has been marching south at a relentless pace, leaving many wounded along the side of the road to die, trying to reach Riverrun. The messenger reports that Jaime has been captured and his army destroyed. The north camp fell first. It started with Ser Brynden leading the van, taking out the sentries, and clearing the palisades. Then, Robb personally led the main force and the Greatjon fired the siege engines. Lord Tytos completed the trap by leading a sortie from Riverrun to take the Lannisters in the rear. Ser Edmure was freed, along with many other captives. At the west camp, Lord Andros Brax was killed trying to cross the river as his camp was surrounded. Ser Forley Prester was able to extricate his men from the south camp, but the Tyroshi sellsword leading his freeriders changed sides.

Tywin’s lords are horrified. Ser Addam wants to march against Robb, but Ser Harys and Lord Leo think that peace must be forged. Tyrion points out that killing Eddard eliminated any chance of that. Finally, Lord Tywin speaks up and commands everyone to leave save Tyrion and Kevan. Tywin reveals that Renly has married Margaery Tyrell and claimed the throne with the might of Highgarden at his back. Stannis continues to sit at Dragonstone, but Varys hears rumors of various sorts, including that he is building ships, that he is hiring sellswords, and even that he brought in a shadowbinder from Asshai. Tywin’s army is now in a precarious position. Robb holds the Twins and Moat Cailin and blocks the route back to Lannisport. With Renly massing in the south and Stannis at Dragonstone, there is a risk of being caught between three armies.

Tywin decides he must deal with Robb before Renly can march. He decides to regroup at Harrenhal. Ser Addam will screen the army, while Ser Gregor, Ser Amory Lorch, and Vargo Hoat set the Riverlands aflame. Meanwhile, Tyrion will go to King’s Landing to rule. Tywin is disgusted with the recent activities of Joffrey such as elevating Janos to a lordship and dismissing Ser Barristan. He orders Tyrion to take Joffrey in hand and deal with the small council. When Tyrion asks why Tywin is suddenly giving him such responsibility, he replies that Tyrion is his son. At that point Tyrion realizes that Tywin has given up Jaime for lost and hates him for it. Tywin orders him not to bring Shae to court and then dismisses him. He returns to his room and Shae and tells her they are going to King’s Landing.

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[Re-Read] A Game of Thrones – Dany IX

Summary:

Game of Thrones

Daenerys sleeps and has strange dreams of Drogo having sex with her, of Viserys talking of waking dragons, of her son, tall and proud with bronze skin and white hair, consumed in flame, and of Rhaegar, yet when she opens his visor she sees her own face. She awakens very weak and tries to reach her dragon eggs. Irri, Jhiqui, and Doreah are there, as are Rakharo and Mirri Maz Duur. Jorah comes and takes her back to her bed. She sleeps again, and when she wakes she asks to hold an egg before going back to sleep. The third time she stays awake and asks for Jorah. Her egg is warm to the touch, but when Jorah arrives with Mirri and Daenerys asks him to feel it, he only feels cold stone. She feels different, all her fear gone.

Daenerys learns her son is dead; he came out of the womb twisted and seeming to have died years ago. Entering the tent killed her son; it was the price for Drogo’s life. She tells Mirri to show her Drogo. When they get outside, they see Aggo, Jhogo, Rakharo, and about a hundred old men, women and children. The rest are gone. Pono declared himself a khal first and left with many others; next Jhaqo did the same with twenty thousand men. Nearly a dozen new khalasars were formed in all. They took the livestock and the slaves. Mago, now a bloodrider to Jhaqo, and several others took Eroeh and raped her then slit her throat. Daenerys says they will both pay. Mirri takes her to Drogo. He is blind, deaf and does not respond to anything. Daenerys is furious at Mirri, and Mirri explains that she did it for revenge and to rid the world of the stallion that mounts the world. Daenerys orders her bound hand and foot and carried away. That night, she takes Drogo out into the grass and uses every sexual trick she knows to try and revive him. When all fails, she smothers him.

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[Re-Read] A Game of Thrones – Sansa VI

Summary:

Game of Thrones

Sansa stays in her room for days weeping and shivering in grief and reliving the moment when Janos Slynt held her father down and Ser Ilyn chopped off his head. Finally, Joffrey comes for her with Sandor, Ser Arys and Ser Meryn to tell her she will attend him. She refuses initially, and Joffrey makes Sandor get her dressed. She says she wants to go home, and Joffrey says they are still to be married. She says she hates him, and Joffrey has Ser Meryn hit her. He leaves then, and Sansa bathes and dresses. Ser Meryn comes back to escort her to Joffrey. She tells him he is no true knight, but he simply does not care.

Sansa attends court, where Joffrey sits in judgment with Cersei, Varys, Petyr, and Janos. He lets them handle most of the cases, but when he intervenes, it is always to give out bloody punishments. When it is over, he comes to her with Ser Meryn and Sandor and takes her to the battlements to see the traitors’ heads. On the way, he says he will get her with child as soon as she is able, and if the child is stupid he will kill them both and get a new wife. Eddard’s head is up there, as is Septa Mordane’s and several others. There are two empty spikes for Renly and Stannis. Joffrey tells Sansa of Jaime’s capture and tells her he will raise a host and bring her Robb’s head. Sansa retorts that Robb may bring her Joffrey’s head, and he has Ser Meryn beat her again. She considers pushing Joffrey off the battlements, but Sandor kneels before her and delicately wipes the blood from her face, and the moment passes.

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