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
Out of idle curiosity, I've lately been turning my reading to Scoutie into a discovery of the source texts for Disney's biggest films. I stumbled uponOut of idle curiosity, I've lately been turning my reading to Scoutie into a discovery of the source texts for Disney's biggest films. I stumbled upon versions of both Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty that were surprisingly close to Disney's Princess movies, and we had much fun with them (I wish old Walt hadn't cut the baby-eating Ogre Queen Mum from Sleeping Beauty, though. What fun that would have been).
Again I was surprised by how closely the Disney company (this time under Katzenberg/Eisner) adhered to the text. All the key elements remain in the movie; they are often altered but they're there: the Enchantress (evil in the book), the rose(s), Belle's father meeting the Beast first, food magically appearing, Belle's release and return. I didn't expect the versions to be so closely related without Walt Disney's personal influence, but they were and that's likely at the root of why Disney's Beauty and the Beast is so successful.
What I found most delightful, however, is how much friendlier Villeneuve's original is compared to the Disney movie (I've since discovered that it is not much friendlier. It is actually the Beaumont adaptation, which is what I read, that is friendlier. I need to get my hands on the original). The Beast is far less the abusive kidnapper and much more a Prince trapped in bestial form. He's kinder from the outset, anonymously providing food and shelter for Belle's father, the tired, cold, passerby, and only reveals himself and takes her father prisoner when the father attempts to pick a rose for Belle. Moreover, there is no apparent clock the Beast is racing against, no nasty Gaston to muddy the waters, and no foolish villagers marching to destroy the Beast in his castle, and less of a feeling that Belle is a kidnap victim who falls prey to the Stockholm syndrome.
It's a straight up tale of love developing through friendship, and a tale of kindness and selflessness being rewarded. Winnie-the-Pooh is next (not a discovery for me, but it is for Scout). One more thing about this version of La Belle et la Bête: the art by Walter Crane is kind of beautiful in its quaint way -- even in an eBook....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
The post-mortem Dr. Seuss money grab by Audrey Geisel continues apace -- and continues to diminish the greatness of the Seuss oeuvre -- in Miles and MThe post-mortem Dr. Seuss money grab by Audrey Geisel continues apace -- and continues to diminish the greatness of the Seuss oeuvre -- in Miles and Miles of Reptiles: All About Reptiles.
Seuss, a man notoriously reluctant to lend his name and characters to dubious pursuits and monetary gain, authorized very few adaptations based on his work, and even fewer merchandising schemes. But then he died and Audrey promptly authorized toys and theme parks and live action films and CGI films and shit like Cat in the Hat's Learning Library -- for which she has made more money than Theodore Geisel, the actual creator of the books and characters, made in his entire career. Going, it would seem to me, against his express wishes.
Perhaps not, though. Perhaps I am looking at the situation through Brad-coloured glasses that can only see an artist's vision compromised through the greed of a "loved" one.
Regardless of whether or not there should be such a thing as Cat in the Hat's Learning Library (at least for now), Miles and Miles of Reptiles: All About Reptiles remains a piece of crap. Worse than even the worst of the National Geographic levelled readers, and abysmally awful compared to NG's best, Miles and Miles pretends to use Dr. Seuss's voice and art to teach kids about reptiles. It fails miserably.
The art is a poor simulation of Geisel's beautifully alive creations. Part of this surely has to do with the attempt to render living creatures into Seuss art while still maintaining enough of reality to make them recognizable (and to suggest the difference from reptile to reptile), but even when the Cat in the Hat makes an appearance it is plain that the artists -- Aristides Ruiz and Joe Mathieu -- are copiers of the lowest calibre. They never capture the spirit of Seuss, and I can only imagine them sitting in a room with countless Cat in the Hat pictures copying what they see rather than drawing something new and fresh.
But it is the writing that is the worst. Have no expectation of Seuss-like meter and rhyme because your disappointment will be exponential. And forget about scientific accuracy.
On the Florida coast in a swap or lagoon, you may see a crocodile swimming by soon.
Really, Ms. Raby? Crocodiles in Florida? That's right, the University of Florida football team is called the Florida Crocs because of their indigenous reptile.
Piss poor by any standard. This book is crap. Super crap. Crapulous. A big reptile crap. And I am pretty sure I can say with a pretty high expectation of accuracy that Dr. Seuss himself would never have approved of this trash being published in his name. All other money grabs aside, Audrey Geisel, this is the one you should be most ashamed of. The others don't expand the Seuss oeuvre in his own medium. This crap taints his genius. Shame on you. ...more
I imagine this was a charming book when it was released in the late fifties. I suppose I can see the appeal. It's a simple book for kids who are learnI imagine this was a charming book when it was released in the late fifties. I suppose I can see the appeal. It's a simple book for kids who are learning to read. It has a goofy looking dinosaur. It has a polite little kid. And they have fun little adventures in some nondescript American city.
But it's not the fifties anymore, and I am a jaded bastard who likes his kids books on the salty (or maybe just interesting) side. So the sweet dino and the sweet boy are like the syrupy skein of goo at the back of the tongue after 5 cans of warm, flat Dr. Pepper. Every once in a while I get a craving for Dr. Pepper despite that coating, and the same thing happens with Danny and the Dinosaur. I gorge myself, hate the after taste, then wait a year or two for the craving to return.
Lately, though, my little Scoutie's developing a taste for Danny and the Dinosaur, so the book is overstaying its welcome, and the after taste is making me gag. I'm going to try and redirect her into Harold and the Purple Crayon. Wish me luck. ...more
I had no expectations at all when I downloaded this book. I only did it because one of my groups was reading it, and a fellow member chose it, so I thI had no expectations at all when I downloaded this book. I only did it because one of my groups was reading it, and a fellow member chose it, so I thought I would support him. I am glad I did.
It is a mash-up of something old and worn -- a couple of things that are old and worn, actually -- with a little of the new and kitschy. It's a bit of low brow hack and slash Fantasy fun with a kooky Goddess at its heart; it's a pretty straight forward Detective Noire -- including the requisite smart mouthed detective; and it's an Urban Fantasy with more than one urban centre.
It does them all with a refreshing bit of hip carelessness that manifests in the ways of Alex Bledsoe's world. The world is pretty much exactly like ours, except they're still using swords and crossbows as weapons and travelling on horseback. By exactly like ours, I mean that the concerns of any given populace are for working infrastructure, employment and getting by; I mean they're entertainment is the scandals of the rich and famous (in their case, Kings and Queens); I mean that nightclubs and casinos and bars are just like ours, name tags for servers included; I mean that leaving your horse parked somewhere overnight will get you a ticket, warning you not to do it again or face a fine; I mean that our hero is named Eddie LaCrosse, and the girls he loves are named Janice and Liz and Cathy. It's a clever way to approach a Fantasy world, this stripping away of all medieval pretensions, and it works wonders because it allows Bledsoe's sense of humour, which is decidedly contemporary, to come through without sounding dissonant. It fits because he makes it fit. And damn is it fun.
I want to keep going. I want more of Eddie. And that doesn't happen to me often when I stumble upon a series in the B-range of literature. Sure I'll bump against it, I may even like it well enough, but I tend to visit only once and never come back. I think this time may be different. The tales of Eddie LaCrosse are just too much fun for a one off. ...more