This book was a slog. Steven Erikson is an impressive author, and all his skills are on full display in Deadhouse Gates, but it is not an easy read.
SThis book was a slog. Steven Erikson is an impressive author, and all his skills are on full display in Deadhouse Gates, but it is not an easy read.
Sounds like I am really taking it to Erikson, but the truth is Deadhouse Gates isn't meant to be an easy read, nor should it be. In fact, I imagine that the sloggy nature of the read was Erikson's design.
For a great, big, massively huge portion of the book -- essentially the entire book -- Erikson has us following one massive, nearly never ending, running battle. I've never seen anything quite like it, to be honest. I've seen plenty of that classic fantasy battle we're all familiar, some version of The Battle of the Pelennor Fields, that big battle that a small band of intrepid adventurers finds themselves in, the battle that either ends the conflict or comes very near ending it so long as some surprising, seemingly unrelated task is completed elsewhere. I have also seen plenty of those small, personal, highly bloody fights or assassinations, full of guts and blood and horror. Those sorts of moments are increasingly popular in fantasy. And then there are our ever familiar massacres, like the Red Wedding, that remind us of just how terrible and brutal fantasy world should be.
But the Chain of Dogs, Coltaine's bloody march, is something else entirely. It is massacre after massacre after massacre; it is packed with personal brutalities; it is full of outrageous, overwhelming group brutalities; it is a battle joined by countless groups who either perish or leave or disappear; it contains heroism, selfishness, stupidity, politics, entitlement, attrition, disease, exhaustion, and death. So much death.
I think Erikson wanted us to feel what a battle, a true battle -- even if it was in a fantasy world -- is like. It is sort of the Western Front of fantasy battles. It is interminable. It is exhausting for the reader. We are meant to be uncomfortable, to wonder when this battle is going to end, to almost wish it would end so that we can move on to something less depressing.
Erikson wasn't content to tire out his readers, however. He wanted to offer us the promise of some culmination, some giant, wild payoff, some gift for making it through all that pain and blood and shit he poured down on us. So he offers the quest for the Deadhouse Gates, as a parallel to the Chain of Dogs, and then ... (view spoiler)[he says fuck you all, and delivers a denouement that really isn't. I want to get angry about the way he destroys the expectations he has created, but I can't because that disruption of expectations makes the Chain of Dogs even more hopeless, pointless, and devastating than it already was. (hide spoiler)]
Erikson does all this to make us feel things as fantasy readers we probably haven't before, and likely won't again. It is a tough read, you have to be dedicated, but holy shit was it worth it for me. I loved it despite the slog. No, let me fix that. I loved Deadhouse Gates because of the slog. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
It really is an excellent extension of the Potterverse. I love that Hermione is played onstage by Noma Dumezwini (whomI love so much about this play.
It really is an excellent extension of the Potterverse. I love that Hermione is played onstage by Noma Dumezwini (whom I found it incredibly easy to picture as Minister for Magic Granger while I read this, despite not having seen the stage version). Scorpius Malfoy blew my mind. The cameos of all our favourite Potter characters were magnificent, from Severus Snape at his bravest and Albus Dumbledore at his most emotional to Ginny as the rock in Harry's life and Professor McGonagall as the most indomitable of Headmasters. I could go on and on, but I must avoid spoilers. Suffice to say it is beautiful and brilliant.
Yet two seemingly competing thoughts have been occupying my mind since closing the pages of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, and I am having difficulty reconciling them.
The first concerns two characters in the play (they shall remain nameless to avoid spoilers) who are heterosexual. Much pain is taken at different points of the play to entrench their heterosexuality, to make their heteronormativity explicit, yet these characters do engage in an intense and intimate homosocial relationship that feels almost unique to me in literature. They express their love for each other both verbally and physically, albeit with platonic physicality, in ways that had me certain they were LBGTQ for much of the play. I can't deny I was initially disappointed by their ultimate orientation, but the more I thought about it the more impressed I became. Homosociality is so important to healthy friendships, so important as a way towards acceptance of all orientations, so important to slowly eradicating violence, that seeing it portrayed believably and deftly in a play of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child's magnitude is mindblowing. In fact, I would call it groundbreaking; it is, potentially, the play's most important theme.
Which leads me to my second thought, which is the portrayal of the LGBTQ community in the greater Potterverse -- or should I say its near nonexistence? I was initially excited by the not-quite-so-surprising revelation that Dumbledore was gay, and thought his love for Gellert Grindelwald was brave and amazing of JK Rowling. There was a short period after my initial positivity, however, when I thought it really wasn't enough, but then I let it go with my usual shrug of "Oh well, at least Rowling did something."
After reading Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, though, my concerns about LGBTQ representation in the Potterverse reemerged. The homosociality of the aforementioned characters is impressive, but where on earth are the LGBTQ characters? Albus Dumbledore is the only character we know to be gay, but there is no joy to be found in his sexuality. His love for Grindelwald was doomed, leaving Dumbledore lonely and single for the rest of his life, so the only visible gay relationship ends with betrayal and despair with nothing on the other side of its end to bring light.
Moreover, heteronormativity reigns throughout the Potterverse. Hermione and Ron, Harry and Ginny, Mr. and Mrs. Weasly, Lily and James (and Snape loving Lily from a distance), Luna and Rolf Scamander, Fleur and Bill, Neville and Hannah, Draco and Astoria, and so many more. All of this seems to relegate Dumbledore to the role of token gay man, and the homosociality of the two characters in Harry Potter and the Cursed Child -- those two characters who could so easily have been in love rather than just loving each other -- fully illuminated that situation for me.
I imagine these thoughts of mine are irreconcilable. The latter is something worth criticizing, drawing attention to and contemplating, while the former is simultaneously something to laud and evidence of the latter's existence. I can't help being uncomfortable, however, with the way these thoughts clash. And it is this clashing that leaves me with the slightest disappointment in Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.
It really is beautiful and brilliant, but it leaves me with a sour brain aftertaste.
Please, JK Rowling, give us an LGBTQ character or two in the Fantastic Beasts movies who have loving relationships that turn out well. It's time. ...more
I have been known to argue against hope. To argue that hope is evervating. That it leads to apathy and inaction. That it is anathema to change. I haveI have been known to argue against hope. To argue that hope is evervating. That it leads to apathy and inaction. That it is anathema to change. I have argued these things and probably will again, so it is particularly strange that one of my all time favourite books should be a book so filled with hope, so about hope.
In this age of fantasy books great and not so great getting their own shows on HBO or Netflix or MTV, my most fervent wish is to see The Lions of al-Rassan on screen. Not only do I think it would make an insanely entertaining show, but I think it could be the most important show of its kind in our popular culture precisely because of its message of hope.
Guy Gavriel Kay's Lions of al-Rassan offers a slightly veiled take on the al-Andalusian period in medieval Spain, replacing the Catholic Spanish with the Jaddites, the Jewish diaspora with the Kindath, and the Muslims with the Asharites. Amongst these groups are individuals capable of almost any atrocity, but there are also individuals capable of almost any sacrifice or goodness too. It is from these benevolent moments, springing out of two cultures of fundamentalism, superstition and ever changing power, that Kay delivers us his message of hope. That there are men and women -- no matter what surrounds them -- who strive to make their world and their lives and the lives of those around them better, and that they can come from the same culture (and religious background) and ethical structure that creates the ugliest expressions of humanity.
Some of the criticism I have read of the Lions of al-Rassan, takes Kay to task for both the almost superhuman skills of his main players, and what is often seen as the black and white of their beliefs and actions. And while I can see that this is present (more in their talents than in their belief systems), I do think that these qualities are purposefully present so that Kay can make his greater case for hope. Jehane, the brilliant Kindath physician, and the two men she loves, the poet-assassin-swordsmen-general Ammar ibn Khairan and the swordsman-general-leader Rodrigo Belmonte, are great at all the things they do, and they each embody what could be best about their peoples. These archetypes are employed to point a way to greatness of spirit as much as greatness in the individual, to offer us inspiration in a trio of characters deserving of our love.
For all their archetypal greatness, however, I am and always have been most impressed by their complexity. Each of them contains beliefs that can't help but create internal conflict in a world of mixed loyalty, religious complexity, cultural inertia and extreme violence. So many of the feelings they have are in direct opposition to the things they are told they should feel, so many of the things they are contravene the standards of the day, and rarely are they faced with easy decisions, and when they are they don't always make what we may consider the best or right decisions. Yet through it all they -- and even many of the supporting characters -- remain self-aware, and that it is within that self-awareness that the good of all the characters, even the most blatantly villainous, can be found.
And that is the place from which the hope of The Lions of al-Rassan springs. It is a beautiful message, and we need it now more than ever. So long as it doesn't make us believe that it can be done by anyone other than ourselves. ...more
I've not been in the happiest places in literature as of late. I spent a few books in Vietnam, reading all about their history, and also about the dirI've not been in the happiest places in literature as of late. I spent a few books in Vietnam, reading all about their history, and also about the dirty U.S. business there and in Cambodia and Laos. I was getting pretty damn bummed out, yet even so I started reading DeLillo's Libra. I finished one chapter before I was turtled in bed.
Luckily I had a trip to town scheduled with my loved ones, and I went looking for something lighter, less depressing. I sort of found that with Joe Abercrombie's Half a King. Sort of.
Half a King is a simple story (and maybe that's why if felt lighter and less depressing) and vastly less intense than Abercrombie's more adult fair, but if this is meant to be a YA novel it only manages to be YA through a reduction of sex and violence and a slightly less complex plot.
Half a King is emotionally satisfying in the way that all revenge fantasies are. We meet our “heroes” we meet our “villains” and our “heroes” seek vengeance as we cheer them on. I cheered on Yarvi and his crew as they sought vengeance. How could I not? It’s what we’re meant to do, and when I put the book down I was thoroughly sold on its excellence. I put it down with a smile and a sigh and thought, “That was a rip roaring adventure.”
But then I let it sit for a while, and I started connecting it to other revenge fantasies and the joy of the revenge fantasy -- that inescapable tale of our time that inures us to all forms of violence and torture and bad governmental behaviour because the vengeance seeker has been wronged and we now equate vengeance with justice -- slipped away from me, making Half a King just another drop in the sea of ugliness we offer our children. It is why I prefer Superman to Batman (against the seemingly ever-increasing wave of Kal-El haters). The latter seeks “justice” through revenge; the former seeks to make things better for the sake of bettering us all.
For now, though, revenge fantasy is here to stay. And because of that I would like to make a plea: if your child loves Batman or other vengeance seekers, please talk to them after they watch their cartoons or read their comics or watch their movies. Please talk to them and explain that we don’t need more vengeance. We need more forgiveness. ...more
I think I just read the longest prologue in the history of literature. That’s what it feels like, and fucked if I knowWhat the hell did I just read?
I think I just read the longest prologue in the history of literature. That’s what it feels like, and fucked if I know why it feels like that, but it does. It feels like the longest, most in depth, most compelling prologue to something else that has ever been written.
And somehow I feel like that is a compliment.
Whiskeyjack and Quick Ben and the Bridgeburners, and Kruppe and Baruk and Mammot, and Paran and Tattersail and Adjunct Lorn, and Coll and Crokus and Rallick, and Anomander Rake and the hounds and the Twins, none of these people and gods are who the real story is about, are they? They are just the groundwork for what’s to come? Or maybe not. The point is that I don’t know.
No. The point is that I don’t care.
All I know is that I wasn’t expecting what I got, and what I got may be the best fantasy novel I have ever read. And that is saying something. I am not kidding. This is probably better than anything Tolkien ever wrote (and I am deadly serious about this), and that necessarily bests all of Tolkien’s followers, all of fantasy’s near greats and mediocrities and hacks.
I can’t even begin to summarize the plot. I don’t even know where to begin with theme and meaning. So I am reduced to my TOP FIVE:
Best “holy shit!” moment: In a story full of “holy shit!” moments, I actually uttered “holy shit!” when one bad ass Bridgeburning Wizard (ex-Priest) took to his Warren and went to visit the god he’d once served, and fucked with his former liege-god to deal with someone in the not-so-distant future, while hanging his own soul on the line and welcoming the hunt of a pack of Hounds and the ire of his former Master. Keeping it as vague as I can for the spoiler police: “holy shit!”
Biggest dumbass: Crokus, a piece of advice. When you break into a person’s home and steal their shit, then get all creepy and watch them sleep, then turn all Raskolnikov and bring the shit you stole back, don’t ever expect their loyalty. Seriously.
Strangest dreams: Anything and everything that came out of the head or into the head of Kruppe. Not since George Orr have dreams held such power and wonder, but Kruppe’s were much more difficult to get a handle on, being part of such a world so far removed yet paradoxically close to our own. I was truly excited, however, whenever we found ourself in the fat thief’s brain. What a wondrous place of gods and monsters and life.
Is anyone safe?: Not a chance. I never once, at any time in the book, felt like anyone was safe. Everyone could die, everyone was right on the edge, and when duels were being fought, battles were raging, powders were being tested, sabotage was about to kick off, gods were rising and falling and rising and falling, I never felt like any character was going to make it to the end of the story. Nothing was sure. What a marvelous anxiety to feel as a reader. I hope the rest of the books are equally off-putting.
My crushes: My oh my! I love when I fall in love with characters, and this time I fell in love with the strangest of couples, the curvy, potent, powerful Tattersail and her much younger lover, the tenacious, somewhat severe and often serious Captain Paran. If I have any regret at all it is that Erikson did not write them an extended and sexy as hell love scene. I have to make up the stimulating images in my head, and it would have been so much easier if he’d written them for me. If only I could gate through a Warren and join the pair outside the Pale. It is a night made up of my dreams.
I don't want to be dismissive in any way because I really enjoy these books, but I worry that my praise will feel a bit two edged. Whatever, here goesI don't want to be dismissive in any way because I really enjoy these books, but I worry that my praise will feel a bit two edged. Whatever, here goes:
Yelena -- she's the increasingly mega-powerful protagonist of Maria V Snyder's Study books, and I have a soft space in my heart for her. The entire story is told in her voice, and she is really very likeable. And I believe in her relationships and the way she reacts to all those folks in her life. I find that sort of emotional integrity difficult to attain for fantasy authors, especially when writing in first person, but Snyder pulls it off in Yelena. But there are problems (here's that other edge) and they are all in Yelena's power. She begins this second book as a bad ass fighter, second only to the greatest assassin in the book's two nations (who just happens to be Valek, the man who loves her). She is an award winning gymnast/tumbler, and her magical powers are just beginning to take hold. By the end of magic study, however, she is all those things, and now she is an accomplished Soul Finder, the toughest and scariest of all potential magic users. And then the book ends with a promise that Yelena will return, and she will become more powerful still. That is a lot of power. Too much. Yet I still dig it.
It's a page turner -- I burn through these books when I read them. I take them in the shower. I read them while doing the dishes. I read them while cutting vegetables. I read them on the beach. Where/whenever. Who doesn't want to read a book that pushes you on at hyperspeed? But by the time I reach the end I feel like I filled up on chicken fried rice, and within an hour I am hungry again, but I am not hungry for more chicken fried rice. I need some hearty calories rather than the hollow ones (see ... second edge again).
Supporting Cast -- Janco, Ari, Leif, Cahil, Irys, Dax, the Commander, even Valek (he wasn't supporting the first time around), they're a pretty likeable supporting cast, but then there are a couple who don't quite ring as true as most. Perl, Yelena's Mama, is pretty damn annoying (at least to me), and Roze, the First Magician of Sitia, is about as ham fisted in her disdain of Yelena as an antagonist can be. Yet these two are rarely around, so again it feels almost too petty to mention them.
So when it comes down to it, I really enjoyed Magic Study. My daughter's reading it now, so I am sure we will go on to the next book in the series. It's all a matter of when. ...more
You've given me many gifts over the years, and I cherish them all, so it is fitting that your most recent gift is a book of the sDear Ursula Le Guin,
You've given me many gifts over the years, and I cherish them all, so it is fitting that your most recent gift is a book of the same name. I know it is not the favourite of many of my friends who love your work too, and I don't know if I can even call it a favourite, but I accepted Gifts from you at the perfect time, much as I've accepted your other works.
When all my fantasy worlds were filled with too obvious expressions of god vs. evil, and I was struggling with the binary world view I was being fed, you gave me Sparrowhawk, showing me a manifestation of the contradictions I felt in myself. Sparrowhawk was neither good nor evil. He was. And there was no character like Sparrowhawk or book like A Wizard of Earthsea that I could find when I accepted your gift.
When I was struggling with my sexuality and fighting off indoctrinated prejudices that betrayed my core and made me a homophobe despite my bisexuality, you painted a picture of gender I couldn't have imagined until you revealed it to me on the cold landscapes of Gethen, teaching me a tolerance on an ice planet so like my own. And I learned that tolerance not just for others, but above all for myself.
When I needed to aspire to something better, you gave me the only character in literature I wished (and still wish) I could be. Yes, many would pick Jesus, or Buddha or Muhammed, but for me the character was(is) Shevek. I can imagine a future where the only surviving book is The Dispossessed and a new religion forms around the scientist from Annares. But before that happens I will simply strive to live as Shevek lived, strive to be like Shevek was. I will approach our world with eyes open to its inequities and refuse to be silenced -- even when no one can hear my voice for the din.
Those gifts you bestowed are more than I could ever hope to gain from any author, and here you've given me another. Gifts may be the most emotionally satisfying gift you've given me, Ursula. It didn't make me cry, or reduce me to deep depression, or lift me to places of unfettered joy, or fill me with spiritual uplift, but it was a place of quiet peace, wherein Orrec's telling of his story was perfectly suited to the simplicity of the betrayals and sacrifices that shaped his life -- deep and personal and true and satisfying. I have heard that Voices is even better, but I find that hard to believe because I have not read a better book than Gifts in a good, long time.
So thank you, Ursula, for being the author of my heart. I hope I get to stand in your presence some day. You are one of my heroes, and I love you.
I refuse to look at what I said about this book the last time I read it for fear of influencing what I have to say this time around, but I will certaiI refuse to look at what I said about this book the last time I read it for fear of influencing what I have to say this time around, but I will certainly do so once I have posted my thoughts.
My thoughts: total bafflement that my second time through Jhereg was like the first time through. The only two things I remembered about the story were Vlad Taltos, our first-person narrating criminal mastermind/assassin and his Lockheed-like dragon, Loiosh. Other than that I didn't remember a thing. It was like reading it for the first time, and I have to say the experience was a touch off-putting.
It is rare for me to reread a book without the entire plot, most of the characterization and even some of the dialogue flooding back, but so little of Jhereg stuck with me that it all felt new. It makes me wonder about the authorial skill of Steven Brust. I have introduced countless friends to his work, specifically his collaboration Freedom and Necessity, but to the Taltos books too, yet I found myself wondering all the way through this if he is as sustaining as a bowl of fried rice at an MSG-laden Chinese Food restaurant. Is he just hollow calories? Perhaps.
But I can't help thinking, "Who cares?" I love fried rice at bad Chinese food restaurants. Sure it isn't real Chinese food. It doesn't stick with me. But I fucking love it while I am eating it, and I find myself craving it again and again. The same holds true for me with Vlad Taltos and his machinations in Adrilankha.
I am going to go out on a limb here, though, and say something potentially inciting to super-Brust-fans: I get a feeling good old Steve writes his Taltos books as hollow reading calories on purpose. I think he wants us to forget what happened beyond our fondness for the books so we can read them fresh every time. I think his hack-i-ness, for want of a better term, is absolutely intentional. So he isn't an author of hollow calories, but a Chef who knows when to make an airy special for the night in the hopes of packing the booths with bums.
Be offended if you like, but keep this in mind: if what I have said is true I love him for it even more than I already did. And if you read Freedom and Necessity you'll see where that true love comes from. ...more
I am going to start with the big reveal at the end of the book. As some friends of mine around here have pointed out it was not much of a reveal; moreI am going to start with the big reveal at the end of the book. As some friends of mine around here have pointed out it was not much of a reveal; moreover, it didn't have the power of inevitability, of being a driving force or a shaper of things, nor did it really impact what had come before in any way. Yet its very presence, the attempt made by Maria V. Snyder was a distinct positive, so for all its clumsiness I am going to call it a success (for me at least).
Whew! Now that I've handled that, I can talk about Yelena and Valek. Yelena first: there was almost nothing to dislike about her. She was an immensely capable heroine, smart (and I thought there was just enough thickness of thought, just enough blurring of the things she should have been able to see but couldn't because of her own flaws to make her intelligence realistic), she's capable, she's strong and strong-willed, and she's likable. Even better, the way she deals with what's put before her -- from killing Reyad to becoming the Commander's taster to dealing with Valek -- rings true emotionally. Snyder clearly loves her heroine, and it makes it easy for us to fall in love (or at least like) with her too.
Valek is a different matter. We're trained in literature and film to love characters like Valek. The utterly capable, inflappable, unstoppable, perfectly loyal, sexy-as-hell, damn near perfect hero figure with just enough of an edge (he's an assassin, you know) to make us call him flawed (though in Valek's case that is a stretch) and make us love him even more. I have to admit that in the midst of the story I did fall in love with him (and a threesome with him, Yelena and myself may have crossed my mind in the quiet of the night), but once I stepped back from the story for a while, once I was out from under its spell, I found myself annoyed with Valek. Of all the fantasy elements in Poison Study his perfection might be the most fantastic and the most unbelievable. I still like him, but my love dissipated with the closing of the pages, and I will approach him with much more wariness next time around.
And there will definitely be a next time because Magic Study is sitting in my bhig tupperware box of soon to be read. ...more
In a conversation I had about The God Butcher yesterday, the question of "what makes a God a god" came up. Worship, tradition, and ritual -- it was deIn a conversation I had about The God Butcher yesterday, the question of "what makes a God a god" came up. Worship, tradition, and ritual -- it was decided -- make a God, and unless there is some fantastical higher being out there, it is our agency and belief that breathe life into our Gods, so if that is true, the Norse God of Thunder is one of the most revered Gods in our now.
Then we started talking about how Gorr the God Butcher wants to kill the Gods, all the Gods, a sort of Nietzschean Über-Übermensch out to enact the ultimate God is Dead scenario. But what is his motivation? Volume 1 of The God Butcher ends one issue shy of these revelations, yet there were plenty of theories: Gods suck; they cause too much pain and suffering; Gorr wonders where the Gods of "poetry and flowers" are and why they are so out numbered by Gods of war and strife, so we wondered if it is us or the gods that make for this split, and if it is us can the gods be blamed? and is Gorr blaming the gods unfairly? and would Gorr care?; or what if Gorr is a God himself, the God of Deicide, called into existence by all of those who feel wronged by Gods, who utter curses under our breath or scream them at the heavens, what if Gorr's motivation is his very existence, born of us?; we had no answers but plenty of questions and theories.
Then we pondered Jason Aaron's three Thors: young Thor, pre-Mjolnir, very much like the bellicose Thor of Norse Mythology; our Thor or middle Thor, worthy of Mjolnir (in the comic book way), driven to save the Gods from Gorr, answering prayers on planets far away; future Thor, a sort of Thor/Odin, an All-Father alone in Asgard, last god standing. The trio caused some confusion, but seeing the three juxtaposed, it was decided, gave us a unique perspective on character development -- the fully realized arc in three easy steps, achieved at the earliest possible convenience, but I think it is something more, a meditation on stereotypes of masculinity, which leads me to the other thing we discussed ....
... The lack of women. There was one female who spoke in the The God Butcher, a Viking elder, a sort of witch woman, and the rest of the women were in the background. We were told that young, unworthy Thor was sure to have bedded them. This lack of women as actors in the story moved into our discussion and shifted from indifferent to disappointed to frustrated to angry. Where were the women? Why the sexism? But the more I thought about it and think about it the less this glaring omission of women glares. There is a thrilling asexuality about Gorr (the only character of import outside of the three Thors), and the story is almost solely about Thor himself, meaning that few other characters have any place in the book, male or female (yet the other Gods Thor speaks to are male, so there is that).
And then our discussion wound down and moved on to other things. A comic book did that. A graphic novel. An excellently scripted, beautifully painted, thrillingly conceived run of Thor comics that will be a landmark arc in the Marvel history of Thor. Thanks Aaron and Ribic for the best comic in Marvel Now. ...more
i love it when there is a cost that must be paid at the end of a story & that must be paid in full. i love it when happiness is relinquished for ei love it when there is a cost that must be paid at the end of a story & that must be paid in full. i love it when happiness is relinquished for emotional truth or when happiness costs sadness in those around the happy. i love it when the outcome is fated, and we feel the build-up from page to page (panel to panel). i love comic books. i love visual storytelling when the visuals are of equal or greater importane than the text. i love ink. i love black & white and shadow and shade. i love loss & death & pain & suffering. i love becky cloonan (my official comic book crush on the girl side). i love curses & the supernatural & lycanthropy & devolution. and Wolves is all of these things, so you know how i feel. ...more
Screw digging for meaning. This time it's just about the joy of a good yarn, and Miss Becky Cloonan, she can sure spin those good yarns.
The Mire, anotScrew digging for meaning. This time it's just about the joy of a good yarn, and Miss Becky Cloonan, she can sure spin those good yarns.
The Mire, another of her beautiful one shots, is a creepy little tale worthy of a Twilight Zone episode or one of those old-time radio shows like The Hermit's Cave or Inner Sanctum. It's a deceptively simple ghost story that reveals a young man's lineage, steeped in lust and death and bastardy, and it all revolves around the Withering Swamp.
Cloonan's crispy pencils are matched by her natural feel for short storytelling, and there's not an image or word misplaced. I long for the day when she gets to write and pencil her own monthly title for one of the big comic houses (although I would much rather convince her to pencil a story of mine ... I am too afraid to ask, though. I wonder if she'd read my book if I sent her a copy?). C'mon Dark Horse. C'mon Image. You know what she can do. Get your acts together and give her a shot at complete control. Let her do it all because if The Mire shows us anything it shows us that Becky Cloonan can.
This is the first time I have ever read (listened) to a series of Conan stories that were all by Robert E. Howard, undiluted by his imitators and dimiThis is the first time I have ever read (listened) to a series of Conan stories that were all by Robert E. Howard, undiluted by his imitators and diminishers, and what a revelation. Howard's work was not the pulpy trash of his followers; it was accomplished, vital, deep and rich in characterization, and some of the finest world building ever achieved. It was that thing I love most: a novel in short stories.
Listening to this collection, one gets a full picture of Howard's Cimmerian. Not the "barbarian" his copycats like to present (it's interesting to note that Howard's Conan only ever refers to himself as a Cimmerian), but the man with powerful personal ethics, a good man born of a bellicose tribe in a time of war, a man whose lustiness is lustful rather than rapacious, a man as capable of personal brutality as he is of noble heroism as he is of tactical genius as he is of creeping stealth as he is shocking kindness as he is geniune responsibility. Howard's Conan is a possible man, a realistic man, a man who does great things and travels far -- rising from thief/pirate to general/king -- but a man who, despite his titular status, suffers consequences and faces situations with real stakes.
That Conan, Howard's Conan, disappears in the writing of others, becoming a buffoonish barbarian pseudo-god, a "barbarian" in every caricatured sense of the word, a moron, a being of pure instinct and no intellect, the sort of character Arnold Schwarzenneger might play, rather than a real actor with a real brain (say Tom Hardy).
The stand out stories: "The Tower of the Elephant" (my favourite to teach), "Queen of the Black Coast" (recently adapted and serialized beautifully by Brian Wood for Dark Horse Comics), "Black Colossus," and "The Devil in Iron" are some of the finest short stories ever put to typewriter -- by anyone.
If the only Conan you know is the Conan co-opted by L. Sprague de Camp, Lin Carter, Robert Jordan et al., and you enjoyed their pulpy goodness well enough, do yourself a favour and read the real thing. Robert E. Howard was the real deal, and I'll be surprised if he disappoints you.
One final word: the narrator of the audiobook -- Todd McClaren -- is excellent. His voice his clear, his feminine voice avoids insipidity, and the way he paces the tales is impeccable. I'll be seeking his voice out in the future....more
Harry Potter and the Tempest of Voldemort* BY JK SHAKESPEARE
Act I, Scene ii
(VOLDEMORT and BELLATRIX in a musty, dusty English mansion in a state of disHarry Potter and the Tempest of Voldemort* BY JK SHAKESPEARE
Act I, Scene ii
(VOLDEMORT and BELLATRIX in a musty, dusty English mansion in a state of disrepair.)
VOLDEMORT Here cease more questions: Thou art inclined to sleep; 'tis a good dulness, And give it way: I know thou canst not choose.
(BELLATRIX sleeps) Come away, servant, come. I am ready now. Approach, my WORMTAIL, come.
WORMTAIL All hail, great master! grave sir, hail! I come To answer thy best pleasure; be't to fly, To swim, to dive into the fire, to ride On the curl'd clouds, to thy strong bidding task WORMTAIL and all his loyalty.
VOLDEMORT Hast thou, servant, Perform'd to point the tempest that I bade thee?
WORMTAIL To every article. I boarded the Hogwart's Express; now on the engine, Now in the waist, the roof, in every car, I flamed amazement: sometime I'ld divide, And burn in many places; on the windows, The rails and ties, would I flame distinctly, Then meet and join. Your lightnings, the precursors O' the dreadful thunder-claps, more momentary And sight-outrunning were not; the fire and cracks Of sulphurous roaring the most mighty Neptune Seem to besiege and make his bold waves tremble, Yea, his dread trident shake.
VOLDEMORT My brave grovelling fool! Who was so firm, so constant, that this coil Would not infect his reason?
WORMTAIL Only Potter. All else felt a fever of the mad and play'd Some tricks of desperation. All but Potter Hid in their compartments of quit the vessel, Then all afire with me: the Granger girl, the Weasly boy, With hair up-staring,--then like reeds, not hair,-- Were the first that leap'd; cried, 'Azkaban is empty And all the Dementors are here.'
VOLDEMORT Why that's my rat! But was not this nigh the bridge?
WORMTAIL Close by, my master.
VOLDEMORT But are they, WORMTAIL, safe?
WORMTAIL Not a hair perish'd; On their sustaining garments not a blemish, But fresher than before: and, as thou badest me, In troops I have dispersed them 'bout the fens. Potter have I landed by himself; Whom I left cooling of the air with sighs In an odd angle of the highlands and sitting, His arms in this sad knot.
VOLDEMORT Of the Hogwart's express The professors say how thou hast disposed And all the rest o' Dumbledore's army.
WORMTAIL Safely at the station Is the Express; in Hogsmeade, where once Thou call'dst me up at midnight to fetch butterbeer From the still-vex'd Rosemerta's, there she sits: The professors all under hatches stow'd; Who, with a charm join'd to their suffer'd labour, I have left asleep; and for the rest o' his Army Which I dispersed, they all have met again And are within Hogwart's, Bound sadly for the Sorting Hat, Supposing that they saw the Express wreck'd And the great Potter perished.
VOLDEMORT WORMTAIL, thy charge Exactly is perform'd: but there's more work. What is the time o' the day?
WORMTAIL Past the mid season.
VOLDEMORT At least two glasses. The time 'twixt six and now Must be spent by you most preciously.
WORMTAIL Is there more toil? Since thou dost give me pains, Let me remember thee what thou hast promised, Which is not yet perform'd me.
VOLDEMORT How now? moody? What is't thou canst demand?
WORMTAIL My arm.
VOLDEMORT Before the task be complete? no more!
WORMTAIL I prithee, Remember I have done thee worthy service; Told thee no lies, made thee no mistakings, served Without or grudge or grumblings: thou didst promise To make me whole, my Lord.
VOLDEMORT Dost thou forget From what a torment I did free thee?
VOLDEMORT Thou dost, and think'st it much to tread the ooze Of the salt deep, To run upon the sharp wind of the north, To do me business in the veins o' the earth When it is baked with frost.
WORMTAIL I do not, Lord.
VOLDEMORT Thou liest, malignant thing! Hast thou forgot Thy foul friend Sirius Black, who with age and envy Was grown into a dog? hast thou forgot him?
WORMTAIL No, Lord.
PROSPERO Thou hast. Where is he now? speak; tell me.
WORMTAIL Sir, escaped Azkaban.
VOLDEMORT O, was he so? I must Once in a day recount who thou hast wronged, Which thou forget'st. This damn'd wizard Black, With mischiefs manifold and disloyalties terrible To enter wizard hearing, from Azkaban, Thou know'st, has fled: for one thing he desires Vengeance upon thy wretched head. Is not this true?
WORMTAIL Ay, sir.
VOLDEMORT This blue-eyed Black who once wronged us And hates you wretched rat. Thou, my slave, As thou report'st thyself, betrayed him for me; And, for thou wast a wizard too weak Too pathetic, too abhorr'd to strand alone, Gave your loyalty to me, did betray Black, With the help of my more potent ministers And in his most unmitigable rage, He seeks you now; within which state Only I protect you from his wrath These dozen weeks; within which space he roams free And haunts thee with potential; so thou grovel'st and groan As fast as mill-wheels strike. Then was your service-- Your right servitude to my greatness your protection Thou buck toothed whelp, hag-born--dishonour'd with A rat's shape.
WORMTAIL Yes, my Dark Lord.
VOLDEMORT Dull thing, I say so; thou, thou cunning Rat Whom now I keep in service. Thou best know'st What torment I did find thee in; thy whinges Did make wolves howl and penetrate the breasts Of ever angry bucks: it was a torment To lay upon the damn'd, which Dumbledore Could not again undo: it was mine art, When I arrived and heard thee, that made an end to freindship Gave thee purpose and let thee out.
WORMTAIL I thank thee, master.
VOLDEMORT If thou more murmur'st, I will rend an oak And peg thee in his knotty entrails till Thou hast howl'd away twelve winters.
WORMTAIL Pardon, master; I will be correspondent to command And do my wizarding promptly.
VOLDEMORT Do so, and after two days I will rearm thee.
WORMTAIL That's my noble master! What shall I do? say what; what shall I do?
VOLDEMORT Go make thyself like a rat o' the sewer: be subject To no sight but thine and mine, invisible To every eyeball else. Go take this shape And hither come in't: go, hence with diligence! (Exit WORMTAIL) Awake, dear BELLATRIX, awake! thou hast slept well; Awake!
*inspired by two of my students: Molly Chase and Rebecca Stewart...more
If I had to have a Five Favourite Things in the Book List:
1. Charon and his love of easy listening music. 2. The way Ares' weapons camouflage themselves for public consumption. 3. The way Percy's Mom (view spoiler)[murders her husband with Medusa's head and (hide spoiler)] fits right in with the spirit of the Gods. 4. The meeting with the Nereid and her gifts to Percy. 5. Camp Half-Blood
If I had to have a Five Crappy Things in the Book List:
1. The time wasting at the Lotus Casino. 2. Smelly Gabe 3. Percy's love of blue candy. Seriously? Is that character development? 4. The idea that the Ares' daughters must be brutish and ugly. 5. The use of the term Half-Blood
If I had to watch the movie version of this (which I will, undoubtedly): "Why did they ...?! But there was no need to ...! They cast him as ...?! How old are the supposed ...? This is torture, Los, do I have to ...?"
If I have to read the sequel: "Yes please." ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
Thor #360 -- "Into the Valley of Death": If my memory serves, my favourite stretch of Walt Simonson's The Mighty Thor is about to begin, but before weThor #360 -- "Into the Valley of Death": If my memory serves, my favourite stretch of Walt Simonson's The Mighty Thor is about to begin, but before we get there Simonson needs to tie up the loose ends of the Surtur battle and add some new stitches for what's to come. To that end, we get the Asgardians returning from Midgard to begin the rebuilding of the Golden Realm; we get Frigga holding onto Odin's Great Sceptre until a new ruler can be chosen; we get Sif pouting over being punched by Thor, even though she knows he struck her because he was under the spell of Loki (apparently this thread is going to need more time to be tied off); we get the Warriors Three back bearing cheesy gifts; and we get -- oddest of all -- the Einherjar adopting the automatic weapons of the US Army. Now we have gun toting Asgardians. But all of this (well ... most of it) is about to be put aside for Thor's journey to Hel. Sweet.
Thor #361 -- "The Quick and the Dead": For fans of Norse Mythology, Thor's journey to Hel is one of the best issues written by Simonson. Garm guards the gates of Hel, while Hel(a) rules the lowest reaches of Yggdrasil with her decaying touch. Balder's wife Nan[n]a shows up in a cool cameo, and we even see creepy Modgud who's busy guarding Gjallarbrú, the bridge to Hel. And for fans of the comics we get the horrific scarring of Thor's beautiful face. It's a moment that I remember most fondly from all those years ago, and I've always loved the way Simonson chose to render the horror. It's all left to our imagination. Thor's face, mangled and mauled during his wrestling match with Hel, is all in black shadow. We can't tell how bad the damage is by looking at Thor, but we can tell how bad the damage is by watching the reactions (and reading the thoughts) of those around him. Their reactions ain't pretty, and neither is Thor anymore.
Thor #362 -- "Like a Bat Out of Hell": Thor is entering his grim phase now that his face is destroyed, which is a big plus for the coming issues, but this issue is most interesting because of the Executioner's (Skurge's) redemptive act of sacrifice. He destroys Naglfar (the ship made from the toe and fingernails of the dead) with his axe, then he holds the rear of Thor's column, fighting off the hordes of the dead that Hel sends against the Asgardians. It's pretty cool, actually, though not as emotionally stirring as it sounds. Skurge is a bit of a putz, after all.
Thor #363 -- "This Kursed Earth": If there is anything I hate about comics, it is when Marvel or DC decide to do a multi-issue, multi-title cross over series. Money grab aside, I've never found that style of storytelling coherent enough to be a complete success. Even the Civil War (which I consider the best of the bunch) was too uneven to be called truly exceptional. As far as I know, though, Secret Wars II and all its crossovers, of which this issue of The Mighty Thor is one, is where all this multi-madness began. So we get the Beyonder wandering around Earth, fucking with superheroes to educate himself, and blah blah blah. The issue is pretty poor. It's mostly a slug fest between Thor and Kurse (with cameos from Beta Ray Bill and Power Pack), and it's a huge disappointment after Thor's kick ass journey to hell. At least we get brooding, wounded, scarred up Thor when he's not duking it out with Kurse, and Thor in this state is about as compelling as Thor gets, so the hint of this Thor mitigates the Secret Wars tie in just a touch.
It's not a great issue, but it sets up something very, very cool: the last page sees a Loki spell, channeling the power of Surtur's sword, coming to fruition. A charmed woman walks up to Thor and gives him a smooch. And the next thing you know ... Thor's a frog. Super sweet!
Thor #364 -- "Thor Croaks!": So my friend Manny Rayner is reading Ulysses, and I am reading The Mighty Thor. At least my book has a talking frog, and that frog is Thor himself. As the issue opens, Frigga declares the "Great Althing" to decide on a new ruler of Asgard will take place in a fortnight. Loki shows up with a smile on his face, certain that Thor won't make it because he's become an amphibian. Meanwhile, Thor finds himself embroiled in a Central Park war between the Rats and the Frogs, and giant, ass-kicking Bull Frog that Thor is, he lends his power to the battle and aids the Frogs. A fortnight later, he's engaged in a plan to attack the Rats in their sewer home, when he stumbles upon a Pied Piper. The lilting tones of the Piper's pipe enslave Thor, and we leave him jumping into the mouths of a dozen sewer alligators. While back in Asgard, Loki steps up at the Althing only to find Thor (Thor?) join him on stage (a plan cooked up by Heimdall and Harokin). What the fuck is going on? I'll fill you in tomorrow.
Thor #365 -- "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner, or It's Not Easy Being Green.": Turns out the Piper is a Morlock, and when it comes down to it he admires the big bullfrog's determination (even Frog Thor is tenatious), so he recovers his pipe and sets his alligators on the rat armies to aid the Frog of Thunder. It's easy to mock this strange detour in the Thor story, but my fondness has been reiforced during this rereading. I love this story. I love Thor as a frog fighting a war against the rats. Moreover, the spell cast by Loki seems to fit with the sort of mischief Loki was famous for in the real Norse Myths, giving this a touch of old world charm that many of the other Thor stories could use. To finish this disjointed entry: the best part of the issue is when Frog Thor lifts Mjolnir and becomes a 6'6" Frog Thor, standing tall and driving his chariot into the heavens. Thor has never looked better. Really.
Thor #366 -- "Sir!": Loki's plans are about to come to fruition. He turns the tables on Heimdall's ruse to buy time, lifting Harokin's fake Mjolnir (Harokin is standing in for the missing Thor), thus proving himself worthy of the power of Thor to the huddled masses of Asgard. So who should rule Asgard? Loki, of course. Not so fast, though. Frog Thor shows up and starts kicking Loki's ass. The God of Mischief is about to end up in Hel, but elsewhere in Asgard, Volstagg bumps into a mountainside and drops an avalanche onto the magic machine that is tapping the mystic energies of Surtur's sword, thus making the Frog spell work. The spell breaks, Thor is restored, Loki is saved, and the "brothers" head back to the Althing where the people of Asgard offer Thor the Asgardian crown. He refuses, though, because his vow to protect Midgard is too important to break. So he declares Balder the true ruler. Cue a drawing of Loki's brain at work. You're in deep doo doo, Balder. The end.
Too bad Frog Thor is gone :( I loved Frog Thor.
Thor #367 -- "The Harvest of the Seasons": I like to think of this as the coming of Thor's beard. Balder is set to be the new Liege Lord of Asgard, and Thor is free to brood over his love for Sif and grow a neatly trimmed blonde beard to cover Hela's devastation to his face. So he does. And while other things happen in this issue, like the return of Beyonder's buddy, Kurse, the return of Malekith, the obligatory scheming of Loki, and Sif's most recent decision to run off with Horse-Face Bill, all that really matters to me is Thor's beard. Nice choice, Walt. It fit Thor so well, he was sporting the beard this past summer.
Thor #368 -- "The Eye of the Beholder": All that Kurse and Malekith stuff is resolved as this issue opens, but Balder still hasn't arrived to be crowned, so Thor drags Fandral, Volstagg and Hogun out of Asgard to search for the Brave one who has fallen prey to yet another bit of Loki scheming (shocking isn't it?).
But that is when things get really good because I was able to twist everything in my mind. I turned Thor #368 into Star Trek - The Original Series, Season 4, Episode 1. Captain Kirk (Balder) is tricked into the lair of some Big Bad Alien (Slaggnbir the Troll), where he is forced to fight the BBA to save three Beautiful Space Women -- Gertha, Unn and Kossi -- who turn out to be the real danger because as soon as Kirk has killed the BBA, the BSW trigger amnesia in Kirk and turn him into their sex slave. Meanwhile, Mr. Spock (Bearded Thor) stumbles upon the Spaceship of the BBA (the castle), and when he walks into the ship, he finds the BSW controlling his Captain. Cue cliffhanger music and the half time commercial. Conclusion of TOS 4.1 tomorrow in my recounting of Thor #369. Bet you're as excited as I am.
Thor #368 -- "For Whom the Belles Troll": Captain's Log, Stardate 6125.6, First Officer Spock reporting: Following Captain Kirk's disappearance while investigating the derelict vessel of the Big Bad Alien, I proceeded to the ship to conduct my own investigation. It was there that I discovered Captain Kirk in thrall to three Alien Women, undoubtedly they would be subjectively beautiful to humans. I was quick to assess the situation and realized that the Alien Women had used a set of Aesirian bobbles containing a Thrall-field and Illusion Projector. Once I destroyed their bobbles, the Alien Women were revealed as Jotnir (Trolls). Captain Kirk and I were forced to terminate them once they attacked us with murderous intent.
Then Captain Balder and Mr. Thor fly off into the sunset to have that drink to honour their dead comrade, Lt. Skurge, which ends the long, long arc of Asgardian tales in Simonson's Thor. Back to Midgard next time, home of more "super-hero" driven tales; it will be a nice change, but I'm going to miss the Asgardian stuff....more
My Game of Thrones journals were so well liked I thought I'd do it all over again with A Clash of Kings, and I am finally finished. So this is my finaMy Game of Thrones journals were so well liked I thought I'd do it all over again with A Clash of Kings, and I am finally finished. So this is my final installment. This is my final star rating.
Sansa -- Two of my favourite speeches so far. First, the Hound delivers a speech to Sansa about the truth of knights and their role as killers. Second, Cersei delivers up her “love is poison” speech. Sansa could learn so much from those two, but I doubt she will. Excellent stuff regardless. Plus, Sansa has her first period. Menstruation is good, but not good for Sansa. And, yes, I continue to love Sansa, much more than Arya, and I think it is important to note Cersei’s words about Arya’s successful humiliation of Joffrey: “ You could thank your sister for that, if she weren’t dead. He’s never been able to forget that day on the Trident when you saw her shame him, so he shames you in turn.” In terms of right and wrong, Arya was probably right to do what she did in the moment, but being right about something doesn’t make it the “right” thing to do, and Sansa will continue to pay the price of the Stark tendency to march around in their self-righteousness doing stuff they shouldn’t.
Jon -- Finally, a great chapter from Jon. Two of his best moments in the tale come right here: admitting to Qhorin that he let the wildling girl go, and his wolfdream of Mance Rayder’s forces. Ghost gets hit by a bad assed eagle. Qhorin proves himself to be a phenomenal leader. Jon learns some sacrifice when Squire Dalbridge stays behind to slow up Rayder’s men. And the action is finally flowing in a way that I’ve been hungering for. GRRM is going to suck me back in right when I was about to take a long, long pause. Jerk.
Tyrion -- Cersei, Cersei, Cersei. Your decisiveness and cold, angry detachment can serve you well, but it blinds you just as often to those who would be most valuable to you, and it leads to all sorts of new and deadly enemies. Tyrion will fuck you up (and Tommen, literally and figuratively if you cross the Imp again), and you will have only yourself to blame. Excellent chapter, by the way.
Catelyn -- So she has her chat with Jamie after she gets word that her two boys are dead (which I don’t buy for a second) and the chapter ends with the “cliff hanger” of Catelyn calling to Breanne for a sword. And we’re supposed to believe that Jamie’s going to die?! It is one of GRRM’s more ham-fisted moments, and it’s so obvious that Catelyn’s going to let him go that I feel silly even talking about it, but what else is there to talk to about in this chapter? I suppose I could just say that Jamie was very cool in the scene. So yeah, Jamie was cool. There you go.
Theon -- I knew the boys were spared and some random kids were killed in their stead,so I wasn’t surprised at all, and it is a crime that will lower Rickard and Bran (especially Bran) in my estimation if it is revealed that they were in on being “let go” (they would have to have known, or Osha would have to have known, that Theon couldn’t return empty handed) I feel for Theon’s isolation in the world, and the fact that his miscalculation when it comes to Winterfell and his father and sister will probably be fatal. I am fascinated by Reek, the nasty man who can get things done in the North (a plant by Mance Rayder? some other piece of nastiness I'm missing? I wonder), but the raping of Kyra to soothe his personal demons -- an act that will in no way add to his demons -- put up a serious blockade between me and Theon. I don’t see how he can overcome that act.
Sansa -– The war has begun, and we’re stuck with Sansa wandering around praying. “At least we get to see Tyrion and Joffrey and Shae and Cersei, Brad.” Fuck all that. I don’t want to see them if it serves no good purpose, if we only see them to keep their threads fresh in our minds and their names in our face. GRRM is like one of those variety acts from the Ed Sullivan show, but an act who bombs because he spends all his time juggling and is never actually able to get to his big finale, the plate spinning, because he is so enamoured of his balls. This chapter also highlights my one big, big problem with GRRM’s story. The lack of POV from someone unimportant. One person, one working class person that isn’t tied to a big family, isn’t woven into the greater intrigues or struggles for power. One person who would feel the wars as a peasant or a worker of some kind. That person can bump up against the great ones of Westeros, but they should only bump. We need to see things from one of their perspectives. Without it a huge chance for understanding the world, and feeling like it is a real place are lost, and Sansa’s walk around King’s Landing while the war begins makes that lack intolerable for me.
Davos -- Always on the periphery. GRRM could take some Naval battle lessons from Patrick O’Brian, cause this on the edge of the fight stuff just so we can get the big picture is pissing me off. Davos will probably make it out of the conflagration and live to POV another day, but I hope he fucking dies. Along with Stannis.
Tyrion -- The Imp scores a palpable hit or two. His victory of the green flame is pretty impressive, and rallying the troops with potential shame is equally so. I hope he wins a victory so he can lord it over the King and his sis during the next book. I was hoping to finish it all tonight, but I seem to have left it in the car, which is now with my wife at work. Shit!
later -- I found my book and forgotten I’d already written something about this chapter, so my second journal entry is this: “Tyrion’s brain concocts the masterful double stroke of chain and wildfire, and his balls concoct the return to battle of the Hound’s men. I wonder if his balls smell as bad as Sir Patrick Stewart’s in that baldric?” I think I like this second one better.
Sansa -- Cersei is a negative-Nancy, isn’t she? What a shame she’s without joy. I wonder if even Jamie can make her happy?
Tyrion -- Shit. I thought Tyrion had finally earned some bellicose respect from those “tough guys” around him. I thought he was going to have Balon Swann’s and Mandon Moore’s loyalty forever, but it looks like someone else had already bought the latter to assassinate him (Cersei? Most likely. But it could just as easily have been Joffrey trying to get a little vengeance hidden by the war, vengeance that wouldn’t leave him having to answer uncomfortable questions from his real dad and his granddad). Breathless chapter.
Sansa -- Renly’s alive? That’s the biggest “what the fuck?” moment in the books so far, but I don’t buy it; just like the supposed deaths of Bran and Rickard, this is more bullshit. It’s probably one of Robert’s bastards dressed up to look like Renly or something even more mundane. Fucking hilarious that Stannis has had his ass handed to him. I hate that jackass.
And what about the Hound? Unmanned by the fire, clearly in love with his “Little Bird and too damaged to do anything about his love (and too honourable, it should be said).
Two more things: one, Sansa’s POVs are vastly more interesting to me than Arya’s; two, Sansa is a much better person than her sister. Arya is an angry, mean, nasty little girl, who delights in the deaths (or humiliations) of her enemies (whether they are deserving of their deaths or not), and she seems to be getting worse; Sansa, however, is kind, caring for her enemies, bringing solace when she can; she is much braver than Arya too, and has had a much harder time since the death of her father. Of the two sisters, my allegiance goes to Sansa.
Daenarys -- Dany finds her ship, she finds the captain of her father’s King’s Guard (that old guy with the beard has to be the old knight that Joffrey cast aside, doesn’t he? It feels right), and right there in front of her are the other betrayals: Rakharo is going to sell her dragons for gold, and Mormont will betray her because of love. I am playing a big guessing game here, and I tend to be wrong more often that right, but I have a good feeling about these predictions. I am still loving the Daenerys sections; there aren’t enough, though.
Arya -- I am about to start an Arya chapter again. Ugh. Finished it just now, and I don’t like Arya any better. She is much more likely to become like Roose Bolton than Jon Snow. But I don’t have to like her to respect her, and I do respect her. She’s decisive and growing moreso, and the things she’s seen at a young age have jaded her more than enough to keep her alive. I don’t like her, but I think she’s the most dangerous Stark, and that makes her an interesting character. And I am interested in her POVs again because she’s on the move. Her stuck at Harrenhal was making her POVs insufferable. Just wondering (and I am too lazy to look back and figure it out) but was that jackass Frey she was pissed off at supposed to be marrying her?
Sansa -– Accolades for everyone. Everyone and their dog. But nothing for Tyrion. Is Tywin the nastiest father ever? I think he probably is. As for Sansa ... naive much?
Theon –- I knew Theon was fucked but I didn’t expect it to happen quite that way, and for a second I was pretty stoked about the possibility that he’d take the Black. I’ve thought of Theon as a survivor all along, and the Black is often the option of a survivor. Can Theon survive this mess, though?
Tyrion -- What’s this going to look like?
halfway through –- Is it just me or did Tysha actually love, Tyrion, and when Tywin found out that Tyrion loved her, he forced Jamie to lie about hiring of her? I bet she wasn’t a whore at all, but a simple woman who actually loved Tyrion.
finished –- Tyrion is fucked. Fucked up and fucked. No recognition, no love, no power and no nose. Will he find a way in the world or will some other brilliant mind appear to take his place in my heart? I hope it is the former.
Jon –- I thought Theon was the most isolated character when this book began, and perhaps he still is (if he’s alive), but he has some serious competition in Sansa, Tyrion and Jon Snow. Jon’s probably the winner in the “so lonely” sweepstakes at the moment. Poor bastard.
Bran –- I was sure Theon was responsible for hiding Bran and Rickard after the mill, but nope. Bran outsmarted Theon from the start (or Osha did), and Theon murdered a pair of kids with no “honourable” mitigation for the shortest of victories. I figure he's alive, though, because someone has to provide some POV of Reek Bolton.
So that’s it; I’ll read the next one come Spring....more
My Game of Thrones journals were so well liked I thought I'd do it all over again with A Clash of Kings, and I am now three quarters of the way througMy Game of Thrones journals were so well liked I thought I'd do it all over again with A Clash of Kings, and I am now three quarters of the way through the book. This is the third instalment. My star rating reflects my feelings now. This may change by the time I am finished. Enjoy ,,, or not.
Jon -- A creepy little chapter, this one. Love Ghost’s discovery of the Night’s Watch cloak and the cache of obsidian weapons. The plot thickens.
Bran –- The dreams of Jojen are much nastier than he first admitted and Bran’s inability to interpret them, coupled with the willing ignorance and literal interpretations of his elders should prove disastrous. I was surprised by Jojen’s dream of Bran and Rickard with their faces carved off. Can Jojen be wrong? Something tells me the answer is no. Speaking of Jojen, I dig him and Meera very much, but I hear they’re not in the TV version. Bummer. “Green dreams do not lie.”
Tyrion –- Are things slipping out of Tyrion’s control? Littlefinger makes his move and Cersei plays nice this time around. Tyrion’s unfooled by them, but will that be enough to avoid disaster? I figure Tyrion’s going to be around to the bitter end, so probably, but is GRRM playing me for a fool again? I can’t trust anything in these books. Is Tyrion not the protagonist I think he is? I can live with that so long as he dies well. I think.
Theon –- If one of the acceptably heroic characters – Ned, Robb, even Tyrion – did what Theon does in this chapter, I think everyone would love them for it, as I do, but I know most people don’t. Todiric takes a Theon arrow in the belly for breaking the order to remain sober. Too bad for him. Theon proves he’ll brook no bullshit, and he proves to himself that he’s got what it takes to be a leader and deal with Dagmar and take the grey waters all the way to Winterfell. I hope he beats his sister to the right hand of his father. I’ll cheer him on all the way. By the way ... can I declare myself the King? Everyone else is doing it?
Arya –- Arya, Arya, Arya ... you sure fucked up your assassination allowance. Sure you realized it with one murder left, but you could have won the war for your brother (assuming Jaqen H’ghar is as bad ass as he seems to be) with the deaths of Tywin and the Mountain, but you come by your poor decision making honestly, so I suppose I should cut you some slack. Can’t wait to see whose name you add to your toll. I’m putting my money on Theon, which will also be stupid but stupid is your expected choice.
Catelyn –- She receives Brienne into service. Cool. She finds out her brother is going to fuck everything up, but there’s not much she can do. Bummer. She gets some bones that are supposed to be Ned’s but probably aren’t. Excellent. I want more, though. I’ve been teased with potent Catelyn scenes and now I want to just stick with her and keep going. Oh well. Pressing on now.
Daenerys –- It feels to me like too much happened between the last Dany chapter and this Dany chapter. With only Dany’s POV out east (she is east of Westeros, isn’t she?), we’re just not learning enough about what’s going on. We have big gaps between other characters’ chapters too, but they are so intertwined with everyone else that it feels like the gaps are smaller. Dany’s thread is too distant to benefit from that, though. I think her chapters could be better if they were longer, but there just isn’t enough. It is too much explication to fill the gap and not enough action. Kind of bummed about this one. I love Dany, but it will be increasingly hard to love her when so little is done with her. Is this intentional on the part of GRRM? Is this an attempt to mimic how the citizens of Westeros would have her in their mind, but too distantly to actually stand up and fight for her? I wouldn’t put it past him.
Tyrion -– Things had to blow up at King’s Landing eventually, and blow up they did in Joffrey’s Bread & Shit riot. Raping, killing, mutilation, all with cries of “Bastard!” and “Bread! Bread! Bread!” Hunger creeps in, the rich are unaffected and flaunt their comfort, the poor rise up, the poor are put back down. It’s the way of things. And here’s Tyrion, the closest thing the masses have to a protector, and he’s the most hated man in King’s Landing. I like Bronn’s idea to kill Joffrey and install Tommen as a more malleable King. Joffrey, it is important to mention, catches his second slap from Tyrion, along with a couple of kicks. But this time it was in front of Cersei. I wonder if she could be convinced to let Joffrey die for the good of the other Lannisters? Huh. I actually fell asleep with my pen in hand as I wrote that last sentence (yep ... I still write with a pen in a journal). Time for bed, I suppose.
Davos –- I hear the shadow from Melisandre’s vagina is kind of cheesy in the show. Well, I found it creepy cool under Storm’s End. But Melisandre is just creepy. Her brand of fervency, her fundamentalist passion, her willing stupidity based on her faith, scares the bejesus out of me, and the fact that Stannis is making decisions based on her “seeing” is bad for everyone. His arrogance is growing, and soon it will know no bounds. I hope that Davos sticks around as a POV. I’m digging his insights into the changes in Stannis. It’s good to know that Stannis wasn’t always this way.
Jon -- Finally! Some movement beyond the wall. Fresh from the mysterious obsidian arrow and spearheads (unsolved), Jon is about to embark on a real journey, ranging into the midst of Mance Rayder with the living legend, Qhorin Halfhand. Things with Jon are finally going to get interesting.
Tyrion -- So pleased to know Varys’ emasculation story. I don’t know if it is true (though I suspect it is), but the purpose it serves as an explanation of his disdain for magic is convincing. Melisandre unwittingly made a dangerous enemy (or Stannis did. Or both). And then there’s Tyrion and Shae. Is she just a whore in the long run? Has she more feelings for Tyrion than simply as her keeper? Probably so and probably not. It is wise that Tyrion continues to remind himself of that when he feels too close to her. He is aware of everything, even the things that wound him personally. It’s why he’s a survivor. I wonder how people feel about the Tyrion slap? I wonder how people feel about the Shae insult? Hmm.
Catelyn -– It appears at this point that Catelyn’s brother, Edmure, didn’t blow it at all and won a great victory against the forces of Tywin, making the Lannisters march to the southeast by holding the river. What it all amounts to is that Catelyn recognizes all their victories, but she’s still worried. Deeply. I would be too if I were her. She’s personally seen some element from every pocket of resistance, and she is an a unique position to be afraid of all the personalities massing against them, and their arms.
Bran -– Longest wolfie dream yet, and Bran finds himself falling once again, but this time when he wakes up the green dream has come true and the grey water, in the form of Theon, has taken Winterfell. It was child’s play for Theon to take the keep. So what happens now? Robb is about to end the war with the Lannisters, about to crush Tywin, and he’s going to be forced to relinquish the fight and return north to fight the Iron Isles, which will leave the Lannisters to fight Stannis. Two wars raging simultaneously, and then Mance Rayder getting his shit together to march on all of Westeros from beyond the wall. Hmm. if that all comes true, Theon will have managed to change everything in one blow. Will it be enough, though, to make him beloved of his father?
Arya -– Another Arya chapter that wins its appeal for someone or something other than Arya. In this case it is Jaqen H’ghar’s liberation of the Northmen from the dungeon of Harrenhal. No, scratch that. It is Jaqen H’ghar’s crazy transformation into the curly haired, hooked nosed, golden tooth guy from Braavos, and the coin he gives to Arya, and the true magic (is it, though?) that is entering this world at a rapid pace. Dragons, wights, slaughtering shadows, and now shape changing bad assed swordsmen. As usual, when GRRM pulls off one of these big moments of coolness, he fucks off to something else important and we don’t get to follow the coolness. He withholds and withholds and withholds. But it does leave me wanting more -- so that’s good. But is this just going to be a thread that appears once, teases us and disappears damn near forever? I hope not.
Daenerys -– After a seriously long break, wherein book after book kept me away from Clash of Kings, I returned to discover Dany going on the baddest of bad trips . It was the first moment in either book that I do not want to see on the HBO series. There is no way it could possibly live up to the pictures I have created in my imagination. It’s a creepy cool chapter.
Tyrion -– And now I am bored again. Sure I dig the machinations, but there is too much filler, too much crap filling in the gaps of the last time we were with characters, and it is taking its toll on my interest. Some action would have been nice. Something to build on the coolness of the preceding chapter. For once, however, I was just bored by a Tyrion section.
Theon -– I am on my third day reading about Theon in Winterfell. Rickard and Bran have escaped with Osha and Hodor, and the direwolves. Who cares? It is becoming increasingly likely that I will not make it to the next book.
later ... okay, I decided to read this in the shower again, to force me to finish this chapter. Ride, ride, complain, look at mud, ride, listen to superstition, ride, ride, bitch about direwolves, ride, ride, figure out where they went and head off to the real action so that we won’t get to see what happens when Theon finds (or doesn’t find) the escapees, we’ll only get to hear about it later. I am getting really tired of the pattern.
Jon –- You should have killed her, Jon. But I am guessing it will work out just fine for you. You and that golden horseshoe you have jammed up your backside. ...more
I bought Ysabel, but it languishes on my bookshelf even now. I avoided Under Heaven until it became our fantasy book in the Sci-Fi & Fantasy Book club. Once it won the vote, I thought it might be time to return to Kay.
I was a third into the book when my daughter, Scoutie, booknapped it and hid it under the love seat in the Sun Room. It resurfaced while we were vaccuuming, but by then my book club had outstripped me, and their comments suggested that the rest of the book was a let down. I let it sit for a few more days for fear I would be let down too, and I may have been if not for the pause.
Reading the comments in the book discussions and flirting with a couple of my friends' reviews (I've not read any in detail yet) prepared me for disappointment, and because of that preparation the disappointment never came.
I expected to be disappointed when it was revealed who sent assassins to kill Shen Tai and why, but I wasn't disappointed. I expected to be disappointed by the way each thread in the story touched others in the story, the way everything wove tightly together, but I wasn't. I expected to be disappointed by the resolutions of machinations and intrigues, but I wasn't. I found that by expecting to be disappointed I was released from disappointment, and I feel like that release gave me a way into the book that I wouldn't have had otherwise.
I would have expected the more traditional Kay narrative of big armies and big wars and heroic battles playing out in our faces or the little battles playing out on the periphery, but I was freed of that expectation and was able to luxuriate in the simplicity of this tale. I think that's what Kay was trying to achieve with Under Heaven -- simplicity. It was in his prose. His prose was as adjective free as it has ever been, moreso, and there was an immediacy born of that simplicity that worked for me. And the poetry of Kitai was just as simple. Another reflection of Kay's purpose, I imagine.
Moreover, that simplicity went further than just the words Kay chose. This simplicity defined the plot and action. We've come to expect complicated motivations from Kay, but here the motivations were the most mundane (disappointingly so for many); we've come to expect complicated emotions, emotional cross-purposes, but the emotions of Shen Tai and Wei Song and Le-Mei and Spring Rain and Sima Zian were only complex because of their simplicity. Many strands of this story appeared and hinted at great complexity then turned out to be tiny threads poking out of the tapestry merely needing to be trimmed. Simple in their messiness. But true.
I came to love this book by the end for its simplicity. I think it was what Kay was going for, but I can understand the disappointment of others. As I said, I think I'd have suffered from the disappointment too if circumstances had been different. But they weren't different. My circumstances were what they were, and they led me to love this book. I am glad for that, and sad for those who only met disappointment.
Finally, I thought the resolution, the ending at Kuala Nor was beautiful. Full circle. Honourable. And a sentiment I share with the men who put those ghosts to rest. ...more
The last time I read it, I wrote a top ten list of the Reasons to Avoid Twilight. This spring I decided to use Twilight in a first year class. My readThe last time I read it, I wrote a top ten list of the Reasons to Avoid Twilight. This spring I decided to use Twilight in a first year class. My reading list also included Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Batman The Killing Joke, A History of Violence, and a couple of movies. Many people asked me "Why?" A valid question, I think.
My answer is that we're stuck with Twilight. It's not going anywhere, and despite all the Twilight backlash, it is now a piece of pop culture that speaks to a huge portion of our society and probably always will. I understand those who refuse to analyze it, who refuse to dignify it with serious discussion, but I am not in their camp. To me, those stories that become pop culture touchstones -- be they Star Wars, Harry Potter or Twilight -- are precisely the texts we should be analyzing, quality be damned.
So I went into this reading trying to keep an open mind, trying to see things in a different way. I think I succeeded, and I was surprised to discover that I was occassionally surprised. My original #10 was The pathetic nature of Meyer's men., and I stand by that. They are about as vanilla as one can get, which is the last thing you want in a Vampire. Alabaster? Yes. Vanilla? No.
My #9 was that Mormon morality is not conducive to interesting Vampirism, and it's not, but I have to say that Mormon theology is a wonderful basis for the battle between the Vampires and Werewolves in Meyer's books. Recast the former as the Nephites and the latter as the Lamanites and you'll have Joseph Smith coughing up a marrow ball in his grave.
Perhaps I am going to piss some of my friends off with this, but I have increasingly noticed that my #8: Teenage girl angst from a thirty-something, middle class soccer mom isn't such an anomaly. I am not sure when this new breed of mom is going to grow up, but many of them haven't yet, and the fact that Meyer writes from a teenage perspective isn't surprising to me anymore (I hasten to add that I know no "soccer moms" here on goodreads, I am merely surrounded by them in my real life, so please don't take it as an insult if you are reading this).
Then there's #7. The total lack of meaningful conflict, the #6. Romance novel prose and #4. Movie of the week dialogue. I can't argue with those three observations. The first is bang on, and I've read a considerable amount of romance since my last reading of Twilight to know that my gut was correct on number six, and I was a screenwriter by trade, so you know what I think about my number four.
(Okay, I am boring myself while writing this. Are you bored yet?)
I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that my #5. The unheroic, even laughable, heroism of Bella Swan isn't entirely fair. Bella does the best with what she's got, and I don't think Meyer intended her as a hero. She's no Ripley (Alien was one of my movies this semester), nor was she ever meant to be. She's a clumsy high school student driven by her hormones, but considering the supernatural forces arrayed against her, she's stands up pretty well. Not as well as Mina Harker or Sookie Stackhouse, but pretty well.
But now we come to my #3. Edward's inexplicable love for Bella and my #2. The insufferability of Bella. I was wrong about these two. First, Edward's love makes total sense. We get to hear every insipid thing flowing through Bella's brain, and when you can hear (or read) that stuff, it is almost impossible to fall in love with Bella (though I think you can have a positive response to her, even if you are a jaded cat like me), but Edward doesn't get any of that. The Bella he gets is decisive, mysterious, combative, confident, semi-intelligent and unreadable (the classic cat-nip for telepaths). If I didnn't hear her thoughts I would fall in love with Bella, and I missed that the first time through (go figure). On top of that, I didn't find Bella nearly as insufferable as I did the first time. Sure I grew annoyed with her mooning over Edward's beauty, btu I tried to put myself back to my own teenage years and imagine what it was like to be in love with curly-haired Christine in my Math class, and once I did that I could cut Bella plenty of slack. I learned no math in that class, but I can still see Christine's perfect eyelashes, long and naturaly dark, acting like eye-fireworks every time she blinked. It wasn't as bad as I remembered.
Finally, my #1. was That the movie WILL BE better than the book. Well, I've since seen the movie, and I think the book is marginally better, simply because the first person narrative cannot translate to the big screen, and it makes the job of Kristin Stewart, as Bella, an impossible task. I feel for her. I really do.
So there it is, my revision of what I thought the first time I tackled this book. Don't get me wrong, though. Twilight is far from great. It's okay at best. But I get why it is beloved, and I think I was a bit unfair the first time out. Will I teach it again? Maybe. But I think I'd rather teach One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich for the twentieth time. It's better. Trust me.
And here's a final bit of fun for this painfully long, beast of a review -- some things asked or overheard while I was rereading this:
“You hate Anna Karenina but you’re defending Twilight?! How does that work?”
“Bella is perfect, except for her silly clumsiness. How convenient,” then the same person said later on, “She’s pathetic.”
"Fag!" whipered under someone's breath as I was buying wine, but it could have been because of my cut-offs rather than the book. I get that a lot.
“Bella doesn’t love her family correctly.”
“You’re rereading it? I’ve read it three times and I always find something I missed before. It is soooo good.”
***There may be some spoilers ahead, but can these books really be spoiled at this point?***
So this time through Prisoner of Azkaban something struck***There may be some spoilers ahead, but can these books really be spoiled at this point?***
So this time through Prisoner of Azkaban something struck me about our general pop cultural acceptance that Albus Dumbledore is the goodest of the good, the best of the best, the most heroic of the heroes in Rowling's world (trumping even Harry because his sacrifice is genuine).
I am not interested in Rowling's intentions for the characters in this; I am interested only in what I see. And what I see tells me that only one character is good and great and heroic in the kind of goodness and greatness and heroism that interests me.
I am not saying that Dumbledore's a bad guy. He's no Voldemort, obviously (although I am not entirely convinced that Voldemort is the embodiment of evil we often think of him as), and he leads the battle against Voldemort's fascist rise, which makes him the Churchillian leader of English myth. He does sacrifice himself. He does risk his health and welfare to destroy horcruxes. He does protect Harry (while moving the boy around like the chess piece that the boy is). But what strikes me is that everything Dumbledore accomplishes is accomplished to maintain the status quo, and the status quo I see is far from worthy of maintenance. It is a status quo with a classic English power structure, rich white guys at the top (Dumbledore anyone?) and everyone else beneath. It is a status quo with the usual class divides. It is a status quo with some pretty hefty racism (goblins and giants and other Others). It is a status quo with institutionalized slavery (and Dumbledore himself uses a small army of House Elves to run Hogwarts without a hint of distaste). It is a status quo with a prison system of torture. And Dumbledore does nothing to disrupt that status quo.
In my opinion, the character who is the goodest of the good, the best of the best, the most heroic of the heroes is the one who rails against the status quo while simultaneously battling Voldemort, and she fights Mr. Riddle far more significantly than the rest of the wizarding world. And she fights the status quo in spite of being mocked for her beliefs by everyone at every turn. For me the paragon we should aspire to is Hermione Granger. Not Dumbledore and certainly not Harry Potter.
So with that in mind, what's not to love about Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. It is the moment that Hermione comes into her own. She is the key to the resolution. She keeps them all alive. She's sceptical, she's smart, and she is potent. I love Hermione. Take that Hermione haters. ...more
My Game of Thrones journals were so well liked I thought I'd do it all over again with A Clash of Kings, and I am now about a quarter of the way throuMy Game of Thrones journals were so well liked I thought I'd do it all over again with A Clash of Kings, and I am now about a quarter of the way through the book. This is the first insallment. My star rating is where I am at now. This may change in subsequent installments. Enjoy ,,, or not.
Daenerys –- She is, quite simply, the best leader in these books, and her POVs reveal the depth of that quality at every turn. Even better, her leadership seems to be inherent. It is all about gut, and her gut doesn’t seem to steer her wrong. Staying in the City of Bones, for instance, is a decision that is right on every level. It is right for her, right for her people, her tossing aside of superstition must solidify her mythology for her people, making morale even greater, and her ability to take the long view without realizing she’s doing so, means that she and her people wil be prepared. Perhaps GRRM is going to make Dany the biggest red herring ever. Perhaps she is not destined to retake the Iron Throne. But if she does take the throne, it will be the most satisfying foregone conclusion I’ll ever have had the pleasure to read, except for the vengeance of Edmund Dantes. Can I just say, though, that it took way too fucking long to reach Dany? I need more of her much more often (of course, it is always better to leave me wanting more, so well done GRRM).
The other thing I love here is Ser Jorah Mormont’s story. It wasn’t what I expected, but it fits, and it makes me love him more than I already did. And the coupling of Dany and Ser Jorah (only figuratively) leads me to my five favourite characters at this point:
5. Cersei (wonderful in every way. I wonder how she would do on the Bachelor?) 4. Varys (brilliant, brilliant spider, where are your scissors?) 3. Daenerys (cause she is the truest hero in the books) 2. Ser Jorah Mormont (cause I get it, and I can see myself doing all the shit he does) 1. Tyrion (that sexy motherfucker)
Jon –- Kind of a nice break from the character heavy chapters where we learn so much about the people we’re reading about, this chapter is about events. Big Daddy Mormont and his rangers and a whole bunch of crows are out looking around beyond the wall, only to discover that every village they come across is empty. Spooky. Not much else to report, although there are some new cats in the Black (cannon fodder?), Sam is growing braver (as brave as he can get), and Jon didn’t whine (I mean it ... no whining. Not sure if that is because, as my kind friends tell me, I am being unfair to poor Jon or if there is a real difference). So that’s nice.
Arya –- So that’s what happened to Ned. His soul was transported into his daughter. So here we are in Harrentown and Yoren holds up in the holdfast until some Lannister bannerman shows up and attacks. It’s a pretty cool action sequence –- all fire and violence and mayhem -- and Arya’s penchant for fighting and already seasoned courage make her a deadly little warrior. But then there is that Ned moment. The moment she does the “right thing” and risks her neck to save the guys in the cage. I found myself, as soon as the fight started, wanting someone to do exactly what Arya did, but once she did it I couldn’t help thinking, “That was stupid, Arya, you should have just saved yourself.” Will it bite her in the ass? In this case I am going to guess no. My guess is that this will have positive repercussions down the road, but it is still the sort of “noble” gesture that Ned would have engaged in, and we all know where nobility and honour got him.
Tyrion -- Damn I love chapters with Tyrion. Straight back to the shit I love: political machinations, brilliant minds plotting (and this time it is Tyrion and Varys), and kick ass lines, like (and I paraphrase) “Sometimes I wonder, Varys, if you’re the best friend I have in this city, or my worst enemy.” To which Varys replies, “I often wonder the same thing about you.” Perfection. And I wonder what the plan is for that big fucking chain? Fascinating.
Bran –- So as I was reading the chapter, I was thinking I would write out my thoughts on all the little Winterfell subplots about sonless widows and big fat landowners and crop levies and Bran as acting prince and the Walder assholes and their belittling of poor Hodor, and blah blah blah. And then the Cerwyns show up with news of Stannis’ letter and suddenly Bran remembers. Bran REMEMBERS! Sweet. Can’t wait to see what he does with his knowledge, although if I can see any family not using such knowledge to their advantage it would be the Starks. Still, the memory is there, and that is a fun development.
Tyrion –- Maester Pycelle = one. Varys = two. Littlefinger = three. What are you weaving, Tyrion? And are you doing too much too soon? What is your use for that vial you stole? What are you going to do to Littlefinger? Can you and Varys actually work together for the same thing? Are you as great a survivor as I imagine you are? Two things are sure: one, you are as sharp and observant as we’ve been led to believe since your three moves are against the three most dangerous men; two, you’ve got balls the size of boulders.
Sansa –- She just keeps getting better and better. Love the hint of old myths and tales in the intrigues of Ser Deros and Sansa. Love the Florian & Jonquil story. The way Martin offers these moments, hinting at a deeper story, but withholding the details as though we must already know them, being a part of Westeros, is masterly. We get to fill in the gaps and imagine. It’s quite an impressive skill. And then there’s the Hound. Love him more every time I see him. I hope he doesn’t die until something fittingly huge comes from him. And I don’t mean his prick.
Arya –- Gendry is about as smart as Robert, I see. At least he was observant enough to pick up on Arya’s gender. So the Arya story, the 21st century Disney Princess (interesting, isn’t it, that Sansa seems to be the 20th Century Disney Princess?), aggravates me to know end. It really is no different than the classic “male” fantasy journey, it’s simply made “new” by switching the genders. I have always been annoyed with little boys in Arya’s position too, so it is not her gender that bothers me; it is the banality of the story itself, and in a book with much more interesting female characters, I suppose it rankles that she seems to be everyone’s favourite. Throw a penis on her. Now how interesting would her story be?
Tyrion –- And a little bit of Cersei. Oh my. Where to start? Again I find Cersie a wonderful character. Out of her depth, feeling betrayed by every man in her life, overwhelmed by the patriarchal weight that has pressed down on her all her life, here she is defending her daughter from her own fate, yet once she is reached by Tyrion’s intelligence, she is prepared to do what is required. Pragmatism wins out. And speaking of pragmatic, there’s good old Tyrion, preparing the wildfire and its delivery boys. There’s Tyrion turning every turn and twist of intrigue into a moment for knowledge and activity. As much as I love Cersei, though, I hope to see Tyrion make her pay for her arrogance and abuse. Good, good chapter.
Catelyn –- Good God I hate chapters from her perspective. It took me a month, literally a month of showers, to get through this chapter. Catelyn’s presence could seriously grind me to a halt and right out of Westeros. Christ I hope she dies in a future book. My loathing for her grows every time I’m stuck in her head. However, GRRM pulled me back into his world right at the end of the chapter when Renly finally said what I’ve been thinking all along: who the fuck has the right to an usurped throne? The guy with the biggest stick (or the girl with the trio of dragons). All this talk of succession and right to the Iron Throne has infuriated me because there is no moral position in this situation. We’re not talking about a throne that was usurped hundreds of years before. We’re talking about a throne that was usurped just over a decade before. Robert had the “right” because he sat in the throne after a King was killed and a rebellion was later quashed. Might makes right. And Renley said what needed to be said. And now I am back into the tale after a month of torture.
Jon –- While I am far from loving Jon Snow, this is the first time I understand why almost everyone else does. I saw the first glimmer of him being a bit smarter than his father and family in the way he dealt with Gilly, the daughter/wife seeking escape. He had a pang of guilt, but seems (so far at least) to have made the correct decision for himself and the watch. At this point in my reading, the second season of Game of Thrones is well underway on HBO (5 weeks in, perhaps), but I have only seen the first episode. Why I bring this up is because this event, the visit to Craster’s Keep , occurs in that first episode, but it occurs here at the nearly halfway point of the book, which causes me more than a little concern that the TV producers have decided to make all sorts of untenable decisions now that they’ve a successful season behind them. And it pisses me off that they’ve decided to ramp up Jon’s petulance and self-righteousness in a way that isn’t in the book. I’ve been told that the show has coloured my view of Jon, and I think that assessment is correct, but the television makers must share responsibility for making their Jon something he isn’t and shouldn’t be.
Theon –- Loving Esgred the shipwright’s wife. Good lord in heaven but she could be my favourite woman in these books. (Later ...) I can say that I was genuinely surprised by that. God damn! I expected something to happen, but I was thinking it would have to do with Esgred’s “husband” or that Esgred was a spy planted to get Theon talking, and fool that he is he’d blather all his plans because he was thinking with his cock. I was, at least, partially right. But I didn’t see Asha coming. I am sure some would say that this is a case of a man “underestimating” a woman, but I see it, instead, as a woman actively tricking a man. Theon will never underestimate Asha now that he knows her, and surely we’ve seen Theon “underestimate” everyone, male and female since he’s come home (but only Asha has actively tricked him). One thing this chapter has done has been to increase my sympathy for Theon yet again. He is crass; he can be an ass; he is self-righteous; he’s too much a Stark and not enough of a Greyjoy. But the poor bastard is beset on all sides, and it’s impossible for me to separate the man he’s become from his upbringing. No wonder he’s such a mess.
Tyrion –- His best moments all packed tight into one chapter: 1. He poisons Cersie; 2. He rids himself of Cersei’s guard; 3. He pisses off Littlefinger and puts the jackass in his place; 4. He strikes actual fear, along with respect, in the heart of Varys; 5. He takes out Maester Paecelle. Genius. That throne needs to be Tyrion’s.
Arya –- This is the first time since Game of Thrones that I’ve enjoyed a chapter about Arya. It’s dark, and I love how the Mountain continues his shadowy march as the baddest bad guy around without ever being present. I also really dug the creepy guy, the nondescript fellow that scares Arya the deepest. The finest part of this chapter, though, is one of the things I most admire about GRRM – his dearth of heroics. Most other authors would have had Arya pull off some mad escape by now, some impossible slipping away or murder or retaking of Needle. But nope. Arya’s now Weasel. And Weasel is now a servant. Excellent.
Daenerys –- My love for her grows, and Martin’s debt to Conan’s Hyborean Age is obvious again when she enters Qarth, the Clash of Kings version of Zamora. Dany’s thoughts about Ser Jorah were astute. The news from Westeros and the way she handled it was sound. And I love that she continues to walk along the sword edge fully aware of the dangers. She really is destined to return to the Iron Throne, isn’t she? I hope so. At this point, Tyrion is the only person I’d rather see as ruler.
Bran –- The Reeds are fascinating. Magic is stirring (a nice discussion following our most recent time spent with the dragons). The Maester’s are chemists and thinkers. Bran and his dire wolf are going to be potent. A nice little bit of groundwork going on here (but then everything is groundwork always, isn’t it?).
Tyrion –- Little Lancel comes trying to be all tough for Cersei, and he’s turned into Tyrion’s spy in seconds. A nice bit of the cat teasing the mouse before he eats him, but the meat of the chapter for me is Tyrion’s going to Shae. The path through the brothel, through Dancy and Marie and Alayaya is fascinating, but it was his admission, to himself, that he loves the game, he loves where he is and when he is, and he loves Shae. His downfall is right there between her legs (and Martin used my favourite word to describe it -- the it between her legs that is -- delicious).
Arya –- Now that she’s cooped up in Harrenhal, Arya’s story is taking on greater dimensions and become much more captivating for me. The power of her three assassinations through Jaqen H’ghar, potential eliminations from her list of hate, could make for some interesting changes in the landscape. Chiswyck was a waste, of course, but will the next two be well spent? Me hopes.
Catelyn –- You know you are douchebags when Lady Catelyn Stark, nee Tully, is the one with wisdom, the one urging peace and dialogue. Damn you, GRRM! Are you going to make me like her after over 1,300 pages of making me hate her? I hope not. I like to hold on to my hates.
Sansa –- How is she still alive? This girl is amazing, and her reserves of strength seem boundless, not to mention her ability to persevere. The best part of this chapter, though, is Tyrion. He really is one of the great characters in literature –- not just fantasy literature but literature.
Catelyn –- The son of a bitch did it; Martin won me over. Catelyn Stark has perhaps the finest moment of self-awareness in the book during her prayers in the sept. It is a beautiful sequence. And then she goes and witnesses the unleashing of bloodthirsty shadows in an act of demonic fratricide / regicide (sort of), saves Brienne’s ass and pulls off an impressive escape (which should bite her thoroughly in the ass, as I am sure she will take the blame for the regicide). I may be falling in love with her. The fact that GRRM has done this, has reversed my long standing disdain for Catelyn in only two chapters, is a feat of powerful literary manipulation. I’ve understood why people love him and the books before, but this is the first time I can see why they consider him a master. I think I may be forced to concur....more
A -- Alfheim: It's the place where the elves live. There's lots of elves there with bows, and they have long blonde hair and pointy years. The wear archer clothes and stuff.
B -- Balder: The God of Light (is he the God of Light? Maybe he's just goodness. No, he's the God of Light too). He was always happy. He was never mad. He just smiled the whole time. I can't remember a time when he was mad. He died because Frigg asked everything not to hurt him except mistletoe, then Loki, disguised as an old woman found out it was unsafe, then made an arrow out of mistletoe, gave it to Balder's blind brother, then Loki helped Hod shoot Balder, and Balder died.
C -- Chess and Chessmen: Almost everybody plays chess, the gods that is, and I didn't know that chess was made back then. The gods probably invented it, the god of gold that is because they were golden chessmen. Or maybe it was the Gnomes. They seem more like the building type.
D -- Draupnir: I think it would be cool to have a bracelet like Draupnir. It was cool that Odin put it with Balder in his funeral pyre.
E -- Embla: Embla is one of the first humans created by the Gods. She was the first woman.
F -- Fenris: He's Loki's son who is the big wolf who grows too big to control. He's not scared of anything, so he's fearless, and he's very big, and he can open his mouth so wide his bottom jaw can touch the Earth (Midgard), and he bites off Tyr's hand. Plus, he's stuck at the bottom of Yggdrassil.
G -- Garm: He's the dog who guards the gate to Hel.
H -- Hel: She's Loki's daughter who rules Hel, which is named after her.
I -- Ida: The green field of Asgard with a whole bunch of buildings that I expect are huge, and it is very busy.
J -- Jotuns: The Jotuns live in a very, very cold world on the tree. Instead of their beards being soft and furry, they're cold and hard like icicles. The Aesir and them don't agree with each other. Thor challenges every Jotun he sees, and kills it and stuff, declares war on it, I'd say.
K -- Kvasir: Wasn't that the drink that made people smart? Odin was wise after drinking it or something.
L -- Lidskjalf: That's the seat where Odin sits and he can see everything.
M -- Midgard's Serpent: It's scary. Very, very scary, and it's always angry, and apparently it's not too heavy for Thor.
N -- Nanna: She is the wife of Balder. She is pretty nice, and she is my favourite of all the ladies in Asgard.
O -- Odin: He is the All Father and the ruler of Asgard. He has a very, very, very fast horse with eight legs named Sleipnir. He only has one functional eye, and he pulls his hair down over his missing eye. In the Norse myths, he's my (Miloš') favourite.
R -- Rungnir: He was a pretty big Jotun, really tall, and he had the second fastest horse on the entire World Tree. He's pretty cool, and fairly strong, and Thor beat him in a duel, but his head isn't fairly strong becaues Thor smashed it, right?
S -- Sif: She is beautiful, and she has the best hair. If she was a Charlie's Angels she'd be Jill. Her hair was blonde but it became gold.
T -- Tyr: He is very brave, and he is pretty strong too. Fenris ate his hand, so he has only one hand. He is also pretty nice. He is one of Odin's sons.
U -- Utgardsloki: He was super smart. It was awesome how he made all the tricks, the illusions, to trick Thor. I thought Thor would win. I loved the fact that Thor didn't win and that Utgardsloki won.
V -- Vanir: The battle between them and the Aesir was pretty interesting. They were pretty cool, and some of them joined the Aesir.
W -- War: The Norse Gods fought too much, definitely. They were really violent. Whenever somebody died nobody even cried, except for Balder, or then their wives die too. It's weird the way they were with death and war.
Y -- Yggdrassil: It's a cool tree. I like how it is holding all the Nine Realms in place and stuff. It is there to keep everything in place. I like that Yggdrassil is so important, and trees are because they give us air and stuff, but this tree is more important because it is holding our worlds together in one space so Midgard, Asgard, Jotunheim and all the rest would probably spin off into space without the tree.
Æ -- Aesir: Whenever they said something they promised, they had to do what they promised, so instead of being fierce they did what they said they would, but when they failed to do what they said they would something bad happened, and eventually it caused Ragnarokk.
*I just finished reading this to my twins last night. We start the Greek Myths tonight. ...more
My Game of Thrones journals were so well liked I thought I'd do it all over again with A Clash of Kings, and I am now about a quarter of the way throuMy Game of Thrones journals were so well liked I thought I'd do it all over again with A Clash of Kings, and I am now about a quarter of the way through the book. This is the first insallment. My star rating is where I am at now. This may change in subsequent installments. Enjoy ,,, or not.
Prologue -- My first glimpse of Lord Stannis “the one true King.” Classic middle child is Stannis. Whiny, self-pitying, pissy. But he appears to be totally joyless and stubborn to a fault to add to his already shabby personality. And this “one true King” business pisses me off. Robert usurped the throne. He slaughtered Targaryens to ascend it, and mad as the Mad King may have been, it makes the usurpation no less a usurpation. Fair fucks to all the would-be Kings. May the best one win. And that’s probably not you with your deformed daughter and hairy wife, Lord Stannis. Can you just make Tyrion the king and have done with the story, George RR.
On another note ... by the end of Game of Thrones I had started to see that Martin’s inspiration was Robert E. Howard and the Conan tales, told larger and covering all of Hyperborea rather than simply following the trail of the Bellicose Cimmerian. Melisandre solidified that take straight out of the gate. She’s precisely the sort of Witch Priestess that Conan would wind up pitted against. I’m not sure yet whether that connection is a good or bad thing, but I do think Martin owes more to Howard than Tolkien, and more to low fantasy than high (and I mean that as a compliment).
Arya –- My mind is foggy on this, but I vaguely remember seeing this scene at the end of HBO’s first season of Game of Thrones, though not as well done. Love that she got a thorough spanking. Love the fight and gumption in Arya. But mostly I love the suggestion that Jon Snow and Arya are going to be our next incestuous couple – albeit half-incestuous.
Sansa –- I just can’t be pissed at Sansa the way most of my friends who’ve read this are, and right away in Clash of Kings I’m fully behind her. She is a survivor, and she’s going to learn how to be a lion from the best of them. A wolf tenacity with a lion’s social stealth should make for a formidable woman. But who will be her man? The Hound, Joffrey, Tyrion?
Nice to see Tyrion back and ready to kick some ass for his Dad too. Is he everyone’s favourite character? Or just most?
Bran –- This little interlude is fine. A nice reminder of what a poor mother Catelyn is, and a little more foreshadowing that Rickard is destined for bad things. Don’t much care about Bran’s plight at the moment, although it seems odd to me that the Direwolf who saved Bran would be thrown into the forest for tearing apart the jackass who tried to kill him. One of those non-sensical moments that adults partake in all the time in the name of "protecting" the young.
Tyrion –- It can’t just be me. Tyrion is the sexiest character in this series, isn’t he? He is the best person within all of these idiotic “royal” houses. And his brains are brawn. How sexy is that? It helps that Peter Dinklage is hot too.
Arya –- Far more interesting because of the Bull than her, Arya’s latest chapter is interesting nonetheless. She is a bloodthirsty little beast; I hope that is eventually tempered with some empathy. She could easily become as cruel as Cersei.
Jon -– Not too shabby return to the wall. A little explication fill in to remind us of the pending offensive, Jon is at his self-righteous best, Mormant is crabby and full of forced vigor, Sam is fat and cowardly, but boy is he a smarty-pants hidden beneath the trembling rolls of fat (didn’t you know?). The wall will become much more interesting when the Bull arrives. I wonder if the enforced apoliticism of those who've taken the Black will remain that way as the Kings wage their war – especially if the “true” heir becomes an important member of their order.
Catelyn –- Nice to see her taking some responsibility for the death of her husband, even if only in her thoughts. Also nice that she recognizes that all her talk of furthering her family, of protecting the Starks, only led to their downfall and current mess. She compels me to make this list:
My 5 Most Loathed Characters:
5. Stannis Baratheon (probably not fair because we've just met) 4. Jon Snow (the king whiner) 3. Joffrey (the king douchebag) 2. Lysa Tully (crazy old witch) 1. Catelyn Stark (worst Mum ever)
Tyrion –- Sweet! Tyrion takes out Janos Slynt in his first act of Hand’s Justice. The chess mind of the most dangerous man around is so much fun to watch in action. But the best moment is the discussion between him and Varys (perhaps he’s the most dangerous man?). They were my two favourites in Game of Thrones, and they’ve already solidified their place here. What would a true alliance between these two look like? We’ll probably never know because both are too smart to trust each other, but seeing them work together could yield fantastic results. Could it spell the end of Littlefinger?
Arya –- I know this is heresy, but I’d rather be spending time with Sansa. She’s more compelling to me. This crap with Arya posing as a boy is getting tired already. Maybe she should stay a boy, join the Night’s Watch and make creepy little babies with her half-brother. The only part of this thread I am enjoying is the Bull.
Davos –- Nice to see a new POV character, and his loyalty is an interesting starting point for his development. How much will it be shaken as Stannis continues down his bizarre path as the chosen of R'hllor? Speaking of that, I really loved how obviously staged that prophetic moment was. Stannis pulling out the fiery sword was a classic bit of religious (and political) obfuscation. I look forward to those who support Stannis mocking the truly powerful moment of Daenerys (if they make it that far) when their moment of fervour is so clearly balls. As for Stannis himself, his discussion with Davos about the burning of the old Gods was interesting. I like his pragmatism, although I doubt I am going to like him. What victories will his pragmatism bring? And at what cost?
Theon -– Another new POV. Two in a row. I don’t think I am going to enjoy Theon’s POV, though (I write this before I have read it). I have really enjoyed watching the way others see him and trying to figure out Theon through that, so being in his mind may be too much information for me.
Later ... It wasn't too bad, after all. Is there a more isolated, lonely character than Theon Greyjoy? All others have some form of love and tenderness (except, perhaps, Rickard Stark), but Theon has no one. Is it any wonder he is the way he is? I think not. Disdained by all but Robb, including his own kin, Theon can be little other than he is. I feel great pity for his character, and maybe I will actually enjoy him as a POV character this time out. As for Balon? What a dick. ...more
They're seven going on eight (for those of you who don't know or aren't sick of hearing it), and I read them Tolkien and Le Guin back to back. I read the former with deliberate performance and emotion. I read the latter in a monotous, almost plodding voice. I think both methods go to the mood and texture of their respective pieces. And The Wizard of Earthsea won.
This review was written in the late nineties (for my eyes only), and it was buried in amongst my things until recently when I uncovered the journal inThis review was written in the late nineties (for my eyes only), and it was buried in amongst my things until recently when I uncovered the journal in which it was written. I have transcribed it verbatim from all those years ago (although square brackets may indicate some additional information for the sake of readability or some sort of commentary from now). This is one of my lost reviews.
I loved being surprised like this. Every once in a while someone out of the ordinary suggests a book to me and I give it a shot, and I am blown away. That's the case with Tigana. What a brilliant fantasy novel. Heavy on character, light on fantasy, completely invigorating.
I was never sure who I liked more -- Brandin, the so-called tyrant, Dianora, his lover, or Alesson, the Prince of Tigana. In the end, I would go with Brandin. I love villains who are not so villainous, and he is certainly one of the most complex fantasy antagonists I've ever read. He has done some crule things, even barbarous things, but he did them for very human and understandable reasons. The death of Stevan, his beloved son, was an understandable catalyst for his crime on Tigana. But what makes him a tragic and beautiful figure, a truly rich character, is his capacity for total love. He was a realistic man wielding fantastic power.
To me, Tigana was about Brandin. How will my friends see it?...more
This review was written in the late nineties (just for myself), and it was buried in amongst my things until today, when I uncovered the journal it waThis review was written in the late nineties (just for myself), and it was buried in amongst my things until today, when I uncovered the journal it was written in. I have transcribed it verbatim from all those years ago (although square brackets indicate some additional information for the sake of readability). It is one of my lost reviews.
An epic fantasy of Tolkien-like scope?! Sounds good for a novel's back cover, doesn't it? But it is almost true with the Dragonlance Chronicles. Almost.
The key to that "almost" is the characters (cause there's no way it could be the prose). I'll begin with the character I hate, Tanis Half-Elven. He is the weakest link in the novel, yet he's the novel's chief protagonist. His apparent depth comes from his duality and its manifestation in his love for Kitiara and Laurana, but who cares? The other characters are much, much better. Laurana, Flint, Gilthanis, Alhana, Tika, Fizban, Tasslehoff, Caramon and Raistlin are all superior to the Chronicles' hero. And the last two are even better in their own series.
But the character who is the true Hero of the Lance is Sturm Brightblade. He is the best character that Weis & Hickman created because his tale is complete. He is complex without being cliché; he loves his honour, his destiny and Alahana, and he fights to fulfil all three right to the end. He is a straight-up, no-joke hero, and I love him -- which shocks me, to be honest. Sturm Brightblade. The Black Rose. A hero I love. Go figure....more
I am finished. My real review will be coming soon (and here it is), but here's the last installment of my reading journal for those who are still inteI am finished. My real review will be coming soon (and here it is), but here's the last installment of my reading journal for those who are still interested. This star rating reflects my feelings about the last quarter of the book and may not be my final rating for the book in its entirety. Since I am writing about the book as I go, there will necessarily be spoilers, so don't continue if you want to avoid them.
My Game of Thrones Journal: volume iv
Arya -- I sure hope Syrio’s not dead yet. That was a nice little fight between him and the White Guard. As for Arya ... I like how quick she is on her feet. I hope she lives into the next book. She’s much more like Jon than the others in her family. Her father could use some of her decision making skills.
Sansa -- Selfish, easily manipulated, I understand where she’s coming from and why she dow what she does, but betraying your blood for a crown, or perceived love, or a dream deserves a full out whooping. I can’t imagine a Lannister doing such a thing. Which group is really the more ethical?
Jon-- Maybe Jon’s not smarter than Ned after all. He tries to kill Ser Alliser Thorne during his little temper tantrum, then he lights a potentially uncontrollable fire in a tower. Idiot! (though I am sure he’ll get away for the fire). Nice to see the Others, or the wights, back kicking some ass. Hope they stay from now on. Nice to see Sam getting a good moment too.
Bran--The arrogance of the lords in this realm! They refuse to listen to their social inferiors with a surety that only they themselves are right and that their decisions are the only decisions. Their hubris is staggering, and so accurate to the real world it makes me shudder. And it pisses me off. Give me the Oshas and the Hodors. I hope that Bran is able to learn some true wisdom through his acquaintances.
Daenerys-- Ser Jorah, crime that pissed Ned off aside, seems to be about the most honourable and subtle of men from the Seven Kingdoms. I love him. He’s one of my faves. What a shame he won’t get his revenge on Ned. And then there is Robert’s idiotic decision to make the attempt on Dany’s life. The only smart thing in the whole book that Ned says, and it goes ignored, and now Robert has awakened the Stallion that will ravage the Seven Kingdoms. The war will be excellent. And if anything will make me go on with this series it is the promise of the two invasions – the one from the North and the one from across the Narrow Sea.
Catelyn-- Reading this book at a pace of only five chapters a week has been very difficult for me. There have been points where putting the book aside was nearly impossible and times when picking it up again was too. This chapter from Catelyn’s POV was one of the toughest chapters to get back into for me. I am not a fan of Catelyn or Robb, and reading about them unwittingly plotting the end of House Stark (or will it be?) just aggravated me. Catelyn’s decision to keep her mouth shut in front of her son’s men was a nice touch, and it was good to see that maybe her time with her sister has rekindled some prudence in her. But even with that touch I was mostly bored. Which is a real shame. Still, Tyrion is next, so that’s a good thing.
Tyrion -- Nice to be back to someone I like. Tyrion’s cool under pressure is the key to my love for him. In fact, I don’t think he even knows what pressure is. And the shit he can get away with saying is fantastic. He takes the piss out of Tywin (I expected so much from his coming that, I have to admit, being a touch disappointed by our first sighting of him), manipulates the tribesmen with ease, and turns every flow into his flow. He would be the best and scariest King methinks.
Sansa -- What a twit. Her naiveté is mindblowing, really, but it is very much part of her familial inheritance. The Starks/Tullys all seem to be a pack of naive and trusting fools. And it also shows a willingness to ignore what she should know about her father. The man so clearly cares more about honour than life, that he would never go for a deal with Joff. Oh well, at least her chapters always have much more than Sansa going for them. The court intrigue here was brilliant, especially the stand old Ser Barristan took against the other White Swords. I sure hope he lives to become a thorn in the side of Joff. Probably not, though.
Eddard -- This may be my favourite chapter in the book. Varys’ advice to Ned was brilliant, and I badly want Ned to listen to Varys, but something tells me he won’t when the shit really hits the fan. What I find most fascinating about the scene is that Varys didn’t need to give this advice unless there is some truth in what he says about wanting peace. I am not sure that peace is worth it if it leads to the Lannisters in power, but I genuinely believe that he wants peace. We just don’t get enough about Varys, and the same could be said about so many of these characters. It’s the travesty of Martin’s work, really, that he writes such beautifully realized characters and is unable to give us enough about any of them because of the sprawling beast that is his series. I have heard tell, though, that the next book has a whole bunch of new characters to swell the ranks. No. Please, no. I just want more about those we already have.
Shit, a Catelyn chapter is next.
Catelyn -- Lucky for Robb, he’s going to die and get everyone else killed so he won’t have to marry any Freys. Have to say I like that crazy old Walder Frey. He’s one of the most plain speaking lords we’ve come across. No bullshit at all. Straight to the point. I like him.
An aside: Jon really should have passed his knowledge of Joff’s lineage on to the other Baratheon’s right away, or someone (at a minimum). His failure was obvious when I first read it, of course, but as this story goes on and his folly increases, I just want to smack him for his stupidity. Maybe he should have his tongue cut out, since he doesn’t know how to use it.
Jon -- Okay, not only do I like this book, as I was finally forced to admit, but Martin has won me over to his camp too. This chapter with Jon, his possession of Longclaw, the revelation of Maester Aemon’s Targaryen lineage, and the real tension building around the wights is damn fine. I feel even more than I did at the beginning that A Game of Thrones is just a boy’s own soap opera, but that has become an increasingly good thing. I really don’t want this book to end.
I am even more convinced now that Ned will take the honourable route and die. Of course, he’ll probably die regardless.
Daenerys -- Interesting. There is real love now between Drogo and Dany. She grows more every time we see her, both in strength and stature, and seeing Mormont right after listening to his Dad piss on his name was marvellous. He’s not such a bad guy, all things considered. The Maester trained healer is a nice connection back to the Seven Kingdoms for Dany too.
The most important thing to come out of this chapter for me, however, is this interchange when Dany stops the rape: “Mormont: ‘You are your brother’s sister, in truth.’ / ‘Viserys?’ She did not understand. / ‘No,’ he answered. ‘Rhaegar.’” I am increasingly convinced that Robert and Ned and all those rebels had no business usurping the Targaryens. Even if the king was mad, it sounds like his heir apparent, Rhaegar had all the makings of a decent king, so breaking their vows was dishourable in the extreme, and they are paying a just price for their infamy. It’s easy to attack Jaime because he was the Kingslayer, but what the hell were all of these jackasses doing if not getting themselves in position to slay the King. Rather a kingslayer than a usurper.
Tyrion -- Here we have what’s excellent about Martin’s storytelling approach in microcosm. He tells big sweeping tales by tightening his focus on single events – even more tightly focused on people – in the midst of the big sweeping adventure. And we have that very thing happening starkly in this chapter. The big battle rages, but what we see is the battle of the left flank, and specifically the left flank from the perspective of Tyrion trying to stay alive. Making this sort of focus interesting is an impressive skill, but when it is done well, as it is here, it makes for a compelling story that always leaves me wanting more. And, in case I haven’t mentioned it for a while, I love Tyrion, and I can’t wait to see him get his revenge on Tywin.
Catelyn -- Another cool slice of battle scene, but what really strikes me here is the constant disrespect to Theon Greyjoy. The Starks seem to treat Theon like he is some sort of bondsman or peon. But the fact is that Theon is the heir to House Greyjoy, and a young man on par with Robb. Yet Catelyn treats him the way she treats Jon Snow, with disdain, as do most of the others. If, as we are led to believe, Theon has been sent to the Starks to raise, or for finishing or whatever, he would be more appropriately treated with the respect she pays her children rather than constantly smacking him down and embarrassing him in front of others. I have an inkling that their treatment of him is just another thing that is going to haunt the Starks. And it serves them right. Again.
Daenerys -- As if I didn’t already know, NO ONE IS SAFE! Love it. Mormont continues to be a favourite of mind. he is a for real bad ass, and his loyalty to Dany is true. One of the few truly loyal folks in this book. It’s almost a shame he and Ned had a disagreement because they could have been friends in another time and place. Anyway, best part of this chapter is the real magic going on in the tent and the first full out, mind bending cliffhanger. Wow! I want to skip to the next Dany chapter right now. And this is the first time that I’ve actually been pissed at <3Xeni<3 for talking me into this mad way of reading a book. Fuck me.
Arya -- As soon as I knew Ned was being brought before Joffrey, I thought, “Varys’ advice be damned. You’re dead anyway, Eddard. Tell the world that bastard’s not the King.” Yet he does the right thing for Sansa and pays the wicked price. Bummer that Arya had to see that, but I am so glad she did. Someone is going to pay the price, and Needle is going to do the exacting.
Bran -- So are Bran and Rickon set to bring magic back into the world under the watchful eye of Osha? Is Bran going to be the great transcendent hero he dreams of being? Will Rickon be a psycho? How important will the pair be to the Winter to come? How much more important will the direwolves be? These questions and more will be answered, when?
Sansa -- How can anyone reach this point in the book and still hate Sansa? Naive? Yes. Petty? Yes. Foolish? Yes. But how is that any different from her mother or father? They made her what she is, and all of those bad things that they made are tempered with some good things too. And she certainly didn’t deserve what she got from Joffrey. The Hound and Sansa are going to have a great moment someday. At least, I hope so.
Daenerys -- This world of Martin’s has all the brutality and sadness of our own, and that is what makes it truly excellent. So much of the Fantasy out there is too fantastic to resonate with me. It’s not the magic or the monsters, but that everything is so black and white and ultimately so clinically dangerous rather than realistically dangerous. In cities, for instance, it is always the seedy parts of town that are dangerous and nasty. The fights between lords only effect the lords and their armies. Most everyone and everything else escapes. But here, in this world, everyone feels it. No one escapes. I love that.
And I wonder who Daenerys will hook up with next. Ser Jorah? I can always hope.
Tyrion -- Nice. We finally get to really see Lord Tywin, and he didn’t disappoint this time. Clearly he has the real power in the realm, and specifically in the Lannister family despite the throning of his grandson. I almost hope he can hold it all together now that he and his family are up against it. This was an interesting chapter in that I had no idea how in the shit the Lannisters were. I didn’t know the defeat that led to Jaime’s capture and the release of Riverrun was so thorough. I knew Robb took the Kingslayer, but I had no idea it was such a total rout. Also, I can’t wait to see Tyrion slapping around his King nephew when he takes over as boss. Should be something to see.
Jon -- So it turns out he’s as childish as the bulk of his half-siblings. I wonder if he realizes the favour his true brothers did for him, and how much they love him judging by what they risked to save his life and bring him home. I am really hoping we don’t have anymore Jon POVs in the book. I’ve had it with his voice. He annoys me more than Sansa, to be honest.
Catelyn -- Fabulously unexpected. Martin actually surprised me with the turn in this chapter during the council of war. I didn’t see it coming, and now it truly becomes a Game of Thrones. Wow!
Daenerys -- Seriously good ending. I expected this one, so there’s no surprise like there was last chapter, but this chapter has to be one of the most emotionally fulfilling endings I’ve read in a good long time. Methinks the Dragon has been awoken. The world WILL shudder under her wings. ...more
I remember three phases of lunchtime viewing as a kid. I would walk home from the Queensland Downs Elementary school, we lived just down the hill, (orI remember three phases of lunchtime viewing as a kid. I would walk home from the Queensland Downs Elementary school, we lived just down the hill, (or run if I was into short cuts) and take lunch at 130 Queensland Dr.. It was my home for almost fourteen years. I loved that house. I would come cutting across the D---s' lawn (if I was walking and reading) or come leaping over our bendy back gate if I was cutting through other people's yards, and I'd eat my Mom's peanut butter and jelly and nicotine sandwiches dipped in hot chocolate to lunchtime television.
In the earliest days, my lunch hour TV was Buckshot, a local "cowboy" who spent most of our lunch hours drunk, talking to a poorly stitched bear puppet named Benny.
Later, I watched The Carol Burnett Show on the black and white TV in the family room, eating at the coffee table, but it was the final phase that really caught my fancy because I was able to watch Days of Our Lives with my Mom and sister.
I admit it, I loved Days of Our Lives, just as I came to love One Life to Live, General Hospital, The Young and the Restless, Dallas, Knot's Landing, and Falcon Crest. It was a mad, fascinating, fantastic look at families fighting in ways I'd never experienced, fucking with each other, murdering each other, fucking each other, getting away with it, and doing it all over again, and it made me love episodic storytelling. It was like crack. And I got why Mom's at home with their kids fell in love.
So imagine my joy when I discovered a sword and sorcery world where the same stories were being told. The Bradys are the Starks; the DiMeras are the Lannisters; the Hortons are the Baratheons; the Kiriakis' are the Targaryens and the all the rest -- the Devereaux', the Blacks, the Williams the Martins, et. al. -- are every other Westeros house you can think of.
Yes, The Song of Ice and Fire is a soap opera for geek-boys and geek-girls. It's not your Mom's soap opera, and it's not your Dad's (that would be the WWE, nee the WWF), it is yours, and it is as soap opera-y as it can be. If shit can go wrong, it does. If a parent can be shitty, he/she is. If a child can face cruelty and torture at the hands of the family's enemies, the child will. If a hero can die, bye-bye. If an apparent death needs a handy explanation to bring the dead back, explanation provided. If a psychiatrist needs to be possessed by the Devil, let it be done (oops! Am I confusing things?).
The point is that The Song of Ice and Fire is a big, epic, look-how-awesome-I-am soap-opera. And like our Mom's and Dad's soap operas, all you have to do is come back, whenever you want, and you'll pick up the thread. It took me seven months of showers and doing dishes and occasional bursts of interest to finish Clash of Kings, but I never lost a single thread of the story and picking it up after three weeks off was like missing a month of All My Children. Nothing to miss here. Watch an episode, read a chapter, and I am right back in the thick of things.
Yes. I compared Clash of Kings to a soap opera. No, that's not bad. I mean it as a compliment. Soap operas rock. They always have. And I love having a soap opera that's targeted to me and my tastes. That's what GRRM's tome is -- the ultimate fantasy soap opera. And good for him. It's emotionally satisfying, fun when it needs to be, and filled with crap when required. It is damn good storytelling. It is good soap opera storytelling. And a year or two from now I can come back and dive in again, except it will be A Storm of Swords, without missing a beat.
Soap operas are good. A Song of Ice and Fire as a TV soap opera would be even better, though. Can you imagine what that would be like? Hey, wait a minute ......more
I am closing in on the end, so here's my third installment of my reading journal. My star rating is always where I am at in the book at the time of wrI am closing in on the end, so here's my third installment of my reading journal. My star rating is always where I am at in the book at the time of writing. It's going to fluctuate. Since I am writing about the book as I go, there will necessarily be spoilers, so don't continue if you want to avoid them.
My Game of Thrones Journal: volume iii
Eddard-- Now that was an ass whooping! Nicely done, Jaime. Already Catelyn’s rash decision is paying dividends for her family, as is Ned’s mouth costing him the power of the Hand. Dumbasses all. I do love the reality of injuries in this book, though. Bran falls, lives and winds up a cripple. Ned’s horse lands on him and he’s got a compound fracture. The realism in the injuries makes me happy.
Daenerys-- Viserys is the one character who seems to contain nothing to fear. What little danger he carried within himself evaporated as soon as he gave Dany to Khal Drogo. He is a fool, and too arrogant and racist by half to get very far with the Dothraki. He really seems to be nothing more than a way for Dany to grow and come into her own, which is fine by me, although I hope he’ll be more than that. Can’t stand his “wake the dragon” threats, though. I keep seeing Gowan (an 80s Canadian singer with a bad mullet) doing his little tai chi dance on Chichen Itza when Viserys says it, and Gowan is not an image of menace. No way. No how. That phrase makes me recoil.
Bran-- Good to see Bran out and on the horse. Getting glimpses of Rob’s poor decision making; he’s a chip off the old block. Theon Greyjoy ... why do I get the feeling that he is going to be wiping Rob’s blood off a blade at some point in this series. There hasn’t been much of him, but I get a sense that he is going to be seriously important. Nice fight, by the way.
Tyrion-- That harp of Marillion’s should really be Tyrion’s because that dwarf can play. So here’s what I think: Lysa’s a nutter and about as nice as Cersei (although that’s not all that fair to Cersei); Bronn is a cool guy, and Tyrion chooses his friends, or buys his followers, wisely; the dungeon of honeycomb cells is a great touch; Catelyn seems to be a pushover; and I am certain that Littlefinger sent the knife for Bran.
Eddard-- There are few things in our society that we see in a worse light than a man punching a woman. So why did I cheer inside when Robert bruised Cersei? Good chapter. Ned ... I want to love him, and sometimes I come very close, but then there is always a but ...
On another note, I continue to wonder if the ???’s really deserved to be usurped. How had a king was he? Are we starting this story with a giant pack of villains who are getting exactly what they deserve for all their disloyalty?
Catelyn-- There really is no denying the idiocy of Lysa. She’s not just mad but stupid as well, so contrasting her with Catelyn raises my estimation of Catelyn greatly. How in the Seven Kingdoms did Catelyn manage to turn out intelligent and sane surrounded by the people she was surrounded with? Speaking of Catelyn’s development, I really loved the glimpse into Littlefinger’s motivation for killing Arryn and setting up Ned in the street with Jaime. He is at the root of it all. What a bad ass. He is a truly great villain, and I figure he’s the main villain of the piece.
Finally, Huzzah! Bronn and Tyrion are a good team. I wonder if Cate’s going to offer them passage to Winterfell. It would be the politic thing to do.
Jon-- The boy who should be king, the only one with the wisdom for it, is stuck off on the Wall. How the hell is he going to get away from there? Will he die there? Is anyone else going to show the sort of wisdom Jon shows in saving Samwell. I doubt it.
Tyrion-- Nice to finally get to know a bit more about Tyrion and his feelings for his family. Interesting that he still loves Jaime despite Jaime’s role in his sexual humiliation and the destruction of his love for Myrish. But it’s good to know that Tyrion will be the instrument of Lord Tywin’s demise because it’s obvious he will. Beautiful. Once again something isn’t particularly original, but wow is it emotionally satisfying. Good to see , also, that Tyrion is building his own little army.
Eddard-- Doing the right thing ? It feels that way doesn’t it? But is Ned doing the right thing ? No investigation, the word of peasants being pushed by Lannister enemies, and extreme decision when Ned already knows that his position is weak (if he’s not allowed to arrest Jaime when he’s the victim, then how can you arrest the mountain on the word of peasants ... I mean, seriously!) And he never seeks even a single word from the accused. Obviously the Mountain did it, but I think Ned’s decision is a bad one. How many idiotic moves has Ned made now? He is a poor player in the Game of Thrones.
Sansa-- All the sympathy I’d been feeling for Sansa is shot to hell. She takes no responsibility for her actions, and she’s become shallow, or simply is shallow and I gave her too much credit. She’s as superficial as the boy/Prince she loves. Something tells me that she will be the death of him, and also the death of her father.
Eddard-- Who plays the Game of Thrones best? It’s definitely a Lannister. I’d have said Tyrion until now. But Cersei may just be the master. Ned thinks he is a good player, both in morality and quality, but he isn’t. Cersei is cold and brilliant and powerful. Ned is detached and foolish and weak of mind. cersei is my favourite woman in the book, and if anyone deserves that throne it is her. I wish End was my favourite, though. I want to love him, but can’t
No middle ground, indeed.
Daenerys-- I loved the wild stallion heart eating ceremony, and I thought the after bath sex was well crafted and even erotic. With all that happens in this chapter, though (kick ass feasting, prophecy fulfillment, culture building, learning the value of dragon eggs, learning the value of true alliances, learning the depth of Daenerys’ pragmatism), the only thing I bet anyone wants to talk about when the finish reading it is the crowning of Viserys. And why not? That has to be one of the most fitting torture/executions ever delivered. Hard to feel bad for the little dragon, but I still did anyway. I had hoped for a more active role for him. I suppose, however, that he served his purpose, setting Dany on the path to whatever her fate may be.
Eddard -- Noticeable that Ned didn’t think of Jon when his thoughts turned to his family at home. Excellent work on Martin’s part. It suits the time and the way Ned would be.
I have to admit that I was surprised and disappointed by the manner of Robert’s death, though I shouldn’t have been surprised. I suppose the former is because it came sooner than I anticipated. From Robert’s death bed moan on, I found myself becoming more and more pissed at the stupidity of Ned. the man is an ASS. And a sillt half-wt, and if what Petyr says about Stannis is true, then Ned’s righteousness doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. He helped Robert usurp the throne, so why turn it over to someone unfit who has little claim to it at best? Why not be Regent, avoid bloodshed and make sure the King on the throne is worthy by making him worthy? Oh, of course, bullshit bloodlaws. Ned deserves to get his ass kicked and I hope it is soon.
Jon -- Jon’s frustration and humiliation at becoming a steward was understandable, but the way he overcame it by listening to Sam was exceptional. He is who his father is not. I wonder, though, in the long run, if he’ll turn into a mini-Ned, or will the Night’s Watch give him the world experience to be a truly wise leader?
Eddard -- Holy shit! So awesome! Ned’s dead much sooner than I had hoped, and it was so kick ass. I looooovvvvvvveeeeeee Littlefinger! Ned’s stupidity finally bites him in the neck. Super well done on Martin’s part. it reminds me of John Byrne killing Guardian all those years ago. No one is safe. Ned is dead; long live Littlefinger!
Oh fuck! I was wrong. I misread it. I think Martin is partially to blame. Messy writing. What a shame ...more