A Game of Thrones, Part I
March 9, 2016 8:18 PM - by George R. R. Martin - Subscribe

The first novel of the landmark fantasy series A Song of Ice and Fire. This first part of the discussion will cover the events of the Prologue through to Catelyn IV.

The opening of the series finds the Seven Kingdoms in a fragile peace, while a new (old) threat rises in the North.

The threads are dark and full of spoilers.
This is a re-read of the series, and spoilers from all books, TV episodes, and other sources are possible.

Chapter summaries:
Prologue: Three men of the Night's Watch deal with the cold.
Bran I: The Stark children adopt some puppies.
Catelyn I: Company is coming.
Daenerys I: An engagement party.
Eddard I: A Hand up is offered.
Jon I: A bastard meets a dwarf.
Catelyn II: Is this a murder mystery now?
Arya I: Needlework.
Bran II: Climbing and falling
Tyrion I: Meet the good Lannister.
Jon II: More Needlework.
Daenerys II: A wedding (we all know what those are like in this series, right?)
Eddard II: Exposition dump!
Tyrion II: Speak the truth and shame the devil.
Catelyn III: Fire. Blood. A thickening of the plot.
Sansa I: The Putrid Prince
Eddard III: A Direwolf Situation
Bran III: Every flight begins with a fall
Catelyn IV: Opening moves
posted by nubs (36 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 
So, I haven't read in earnest through all of this yet, but I wanted to get us going. Skimming through some things today, I was rather shocked to learn that this book came out in 1996, so we are twenty years on now (ohmigod I've wasted my life).

The Prologue was interesting for the depiction of the Others - they are certainly different from how the show has conceived them. Tall and gaunt and pale, yes, but: "the armor seemed to change color as it moved; here it was white as new-fallen snow, there black as shadow, everywhere dappled with the deep green-grey of the trees." Camouflage armor! And the fact that the Other stopped to check out Waymar's sword before giving battle makes me think that they remember many things the Watch has forgotten. That being said, the fight felt almost like a duel. There's something almost ritualistic about it, with several Others forming a circle and only watching until Royce is disarmed and defeated.

I think the first time I read this, I didn't read a great deal into the symbolism of the sigils. I mean, yes, the direwolf is the sigil of the Starks, but I didn't take that to mean anything like what the series ends up doing with the wolves and other symbols, where they become portents of the direction things will take.
posted by nubs at 8:33 PM on March 9, 2016 [2 favorites]


the fight felt almost like a duel

It did; it seemed formal.

There's a lot of worldbuilding in the first few chapters, and some of it works better than others. The prologue does a pretty good job of setting up the Night's Watch as a mixture of grizzled older men and inexperienced youngsters, and it also introduces the social/class dynamic of the other two men resenting the lordling's privilege. It makes the Watch's cohesion feel shaky, that they're bound together by their duty but that those bonds are fragile.

Ned, on the other hand, initially feels a lot more longwinded in the book than he is in the show: his "you understand why I did it?" conversation with Bran is a few punchy sentences in the show, multiple expository paragraphs in the book.

I liked the tie between the prologue and chapter 1: the description of the frostbitten ears and finger in each lets us know that the deserter is Gared.

Theon's written as kind of a dick from the beginning, no?
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 9:08 PM on March 9, 2016 [1 favorite]


Theon's written as kind of a dick from the beginning, no?

Or at least Jon sees him as kind of a dick: in chapter 1, he mutters "ass" when Theon kicks the severed head. And in Jon's chapter at the feast: "Theon ignored him utterly, but there was nothing new in that." which speaks to both Jon's status as a bastard and to Theon's attitude towards him.

Are there hints that Jon's direwolf Ghost is special? He's albino, maybe was driven away from the rest of the pups -- HEY LIKE JON WILL BE, RIGHT? -- and also Bran notes "curious that this pup alone would have opened his eyes while the others were still blind."
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 9:44 PM on March 9, 2016 [2 favorites]


I didn't know this was happening! Is there a schedule to follow along for this re-read?

I'm not a show watcher (waiting till it's over to binge the entire series, I don't like waiting for new installments of stories I'm really invested in... wish I'd thought about that before reading the books!) but I generally follow along with what happens on it. Really excited to see some show vs book discussion and also some sane discussion on fan theories.

What's kind of crazy about these books to me is that, despite the very first chapter showing the Others, we see very little of them throughout the series. There's really only one story line that has crossed with them in any dramatic fashion. So while life and politics go on as usual, we, the readers, have this sense of impending doom over the entire story. We're screaming at the characters to get over their petty foibles and pay attention to the real threat. A threat they don't even know exists.

It frames the series in a very different way than most any other story. Kind of brilliant.

Anyway. Ned is probably the closest thing we get to black and white, while everyone else is varying shades of gray. We learn he's stayed this way by keeping out of the grander politics and basically isolating the North from the rest of the country. There's a lot of loss of innocence in this first book to watch out for.
posted by 2ht at 5:47 AM on March 10, 2016 [3 favorites]


Hi 2ht! The organizational thread is over here; we haven't set a schedule yet. I felt like we needed to just jump in and start discussing something as that would be more exciting than discussing our plan for discussing something. I expect the next chunk of the book to go up in about 2 weeks or so.

the fight felt almost like a duel

It did; it seemed formal.


Yeah, formal is a good word for it - that, to the Others, this wasn't just a chance encounter with the Night's Watch, but something that had significance. And my impression was that the way it went left the Others unimpressed; my imagined dialogue was that what the Other said was something to the effect of "You have forgotten the face of your father." I think 2ht's comment about the loss of innocence throughout the book applies here too.

And yeah, Book Ned is pretty verbose for the first few chapters compared to the show; there is a tremendous amount of information (the Houses, the families, the history) that gets set up here, and everything is kind of subservient to that. That being said, I do like some of the subtle ways the book is signaling to us that the POVs have information limits and biases from the outset; Catelyn I has some information about the bad blood between Ned and the Lannisters, but Dany's first chapter has the Starks and Lannisters lumped together as the Usurpers dogs.

Anyway. Ned is probably the closest thing we get to black and white, while everyone else is varying shades of gray. We learn he's stayed this way by keeping out of the grander politics and basically isolating the North from the rest of the country

It's interesting to come back to this twenty years later on; at the time, the state of high fantasy was such that Ned reads as the undoubted hero of the piece - he's noble, honorable, trustworthy, full of duty and obligation. Now that we've seen a resurgence of grimdark and grit (thanks largely to the success of ASOIAF), he starts to read to me as an obvious victim and fool.
posted by nubs at 7:57 AM on March 10, 2016 [2 favorites]


Catelyn II: Is this a murder mystery now?

This feels like the first significant omission that the show made: Lysa's message moves the revelation that Jon Arryn was poisoned by the Lannisters a lot earlier into the story and makes Ned's acceptance of the Hand a much more calculated move -- and one here that Catelyn has to talk him back into.

Ned's very aware that he's walking into trouble that he's ill-equipped for -- he tells Catelyn that the south is "a nest of adders I would do better to avoid." It's Catelyn that sees it as a necessary and political move: "If you refuse to serve him, he will wonder why, and sooner or later he will begin to suspect that you oppose him."

the state of high fantasy was such that Ned reads as the undoubted hero of the piece

I'm finding that Jon's early chapters read very much as setting up a hero's journey: he's very deliberately painted as perceptive, kind, good with weapons, nobly bearing his low position -- the most relatable of the PoV characters.
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 8:37 AM on March 10, 2016 [3 favorites]


I have a vague memory that the show actually flipped the decision thing around; didn't Cat resist the idea of Ned going, and Ned was the one who basically saw it as the necessary move? Anyways, I'm likely being too hard on Ned; it's just that he's painted as so much the noble & reluctant hero in these opening chapters, it is kind of amusing in retrospect.

Jon is certainly being set up on the hero's journey here at the outset; Dany as well.
posted by nubs at 11:41 AM on March 10, 2016


>Ned's very aware that he's walking into trouble that he's ill-equipped for

Huh, I had forgotten the similarities with Dune with Ned/Leto I* reluctantly accepting a promotion that they know is a trap and Rob-Jon**-Arya/Paul being set up as the coming-of-age protagonist.

>he starts to read to me as an obvious victim and fool.

After the scheming Lannisters scenes, I wasn't terribly surprised that Ned didn't have long in the series. Shocked, especially Arya's reaction, but not surprised. The show did well not foreshadowing his execution.

Yeah, in light that the reader is telegraphed that the POV characters are unreliable/non-omniscient narrators, I really appreciated that there was a cold open revealing the Others just so the readers know that it is a real threat while the in-story characters have varying levels of mostly skepticism. Which makes Tyrion even more sympathetic in that after he visits The Wall, he's one of very few people who take the (story of the) Others somewhat seriously... but doesn't really get the chance to do anything about it.

*But Leto thinks he's adequately equipped, where Ned knows his weaknesses and goes ahead regardless. Another semi-parallel is that they both have strong wife/concubine who they grew to love despite the arranged marriage.

**Now, I'm wondering if there'll be another Jon/Paul parallel where Jon's going to reluctantly take advantage of a group of people and redirect their passions to his own ends?

posted by porpoise at 3:49 PM on March 10, 2016 [2 favorites]


That was a huge surprise on reread! Points I was surprised by or found notable:

- The Others have language! How did I miss that?
posted by corb at 9:38 PM on March 10, 2016


Agh, cut off. But:

- the hearth tales of Old Nan, in Bran's perception, on first glance read as silly superstition. But the wildlings do consort with Giants and some engage in cannibalism and they are certainly slayers and thieves. And she is flat out talking about Others, which most people don't seem kind of aware of. Nan is one to watch.
posted by corb at 9:41 PM on March 10, 2016


One thing that I really loved about the first book was how good GRRM was at setting up the world and the characters while also moving the plot forward. There is a consistent feeling of the plot being propelled forward, but it's never at the expense of establishing who the characters are or what the universe is. He shows us the characters through the plot. It was really a bummer that this got lost in the later books.

I also love that this book has the line about Dothraki weddings that is a nice little bit of maybe-ironic foreshadowing of the weddings of Storm of Swords:

A Dothraki wedding without at least three deaths is considered a dull affair.

posted by lunasol at 9:43 PM on March 10, 2016 [3 favorites]


Also Robb curses by the Others. What have the Starks forgotten, that most never knew?
posted by corb at 9:43 PM on March 10, 2016


Also holy shit I just thought of that - we are meant to see the direwolf as an omen - that the Baratheons will kill the Starks. But Joffrey is no Baratheon, and neither are the Freys. That makes them far less mystical and more just a coincidence. In which case - we know Arya can see through Nymeria's eyes and later the cat, and also Robb. But every single Stark had a deep connection with their direwolf - deeper than natural for dogs or wolves. Does every single Stark have warging capacity? And what does that mean for Jon's death?
posted by corb at 9:48 PM on March 10, 2016


we are meant to see the direwolf as an omen - that the Baratheons will kill the Starks

At the very least we're meant to believe that both Catelyn and many of the Stark servants see it as an omen -- Catelyn in particular thinks of it several times in her early chapters.

Interesting also that Ned and Robert, in their conversation, see the direwolf more as a return of some long-lost mythology; which maybe makes the reappearence of direwolves more portentous of the coming of winter and/or the return of the Others?

I liked the contrast between Ned and Catelyn's religion, and their religious observances: Ned's is more primal and earthy, seeking quiet solace in the godswood; Catelyn's is more worldly and constructed around the sept. I suspect this figures strongly into their approaches, but I haven't read far enough to support this much...
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 10:12 PM on March 10, 2016 [1 favorite]


I also notice Dany talking about Westeros from the Targaryen perspective. She references Rhaegar "dying for the woman he loved." We don't see that perspective, but we do see how fixated on Lyanna Robert is/was. Was Lyanna actually scared of him? Did she have reason to be? We know Rhaegar takes Lyanna to the Tower of Joy - but why, exactly? Why does he have to take her far away from her family? There were easier ways to get Lyanna to Kings Landing if he just loved her and wanted to be with her.
posted by corb at 10:21 PM on March 10, 2016


It's only at the very beginning that we see how much of a civilization the Others have. He then spends the next several thousand pages making us forget it, because the characters don't realize it. The show never tried the same slight of hand. There we actually see at least one scene from the Others' POV. The effect in the books is creepier because the horror is always just out of sight. Hardhome in my head, for instance is terrifying whereas in the show it's more just... deadly.
posted by tofu_crouton at 4:44 AM on March 11, 2016 [1 favorite]


tof_cruton, that's a really good point. We never see the Other's civilization, because anyone who sees evidence of it ends up dead. And yeah, Hardhome was such a thing of dread in the books - you know something terrible has happened, but not exactly what.

I also notice Dany talking about Westeros from the Targaryen perspective. She references Rhaegar "dying for the woman he loved." We don't see that perspective, but we do see how fixated on Lyanna Robert is/was. Was Lyanna actually scared of him? Did she have reason to be? We know Rhaegar takes Lyanna to the Tower of Joy - but why, exactly? Why does he have to take her far away from her family? There were easier ways to get Lyanna to Kings Landing if he just loved her and wanted to be with her.

I think GRRM's sleight of hand around Rhaegar is one of the best things about the early books. We are introduced to him as a rapist and kidnapper (and maybe murderer) because that is how Robert talks about him, and Robert is the one who really introduces him. It wasn't until I got to the third or fourth book that I realized Robert is actually the only one who talks about him that way - and he has a vested interest in believing that Rhaegar kidnapped Lyanna. No one else seems to feel that way, not even Ned (we spend a lot of time in his head in this book and I don't believe we ever see him thinking ill thoughts about Rhaegar).

I'm of the opinion that Lyanna went willingly. We know that she was bold and did what she wanted - I think she fell in love with him and ran off with him - there's a lot to support that in future books. As for why she was in the Tower of Joy, well that gets into some serious fan theory territory ...
posted by lunasol at 7:39 AM on March 11, 2016 [2 favorites]


Rhaegar is the winner of "most intriguing character not appearing in the series", with Lyanna right behind him. I was reading Ned & Robert in the crypts this morning (I always pay a lot of attention to the Winterfell crypts) and it's interesting how Robert rages about Lyanna, but Ned doesn't. Instead, Ned is thinking about how he found her, and the promise he made. The text really tries to link it to the return of Lyanna to Winterfell, but the ongoing haunt Ned has of that promise makes it pretty clear there's something else going on.

Rhaegar is probably the most immediate example we have of how the POVs will treat the same things differently. To Robert, Rhaegar is the villain of the piece; kidnapper and rapist and son of the Mad King. To Dany, she's the older brother she never knew who fought and died for the woman he loved. And Ned...well, Ned never thinks about Rhaegar at all, which seems really odd.

It's only at the very beginning that we see how much of a civilization the Others have. He then spends the next several thousand pages making us forget it, because the characters don't realize it. The show never tried the same slight of hand. There we actually see at least one scene from the Others' POV. The effect in the books is creepier because the horror is always just out of sight. Hardhome in my head, for instance is terrifying whereas in the show it's more just... deadly.

I think the Others are really well handled in the books; we see them once, right away, and then not again until ASOS I think? We do see wights, and that becomes a focus for quite a while, and yet there's this force behind them that we really have no insight into at all. Beyond some type of civilization there's a motive that has never been made clear...Bran sees into the heart of winter, but we don't know what he sees there, except that it is terrifying (Bran's vision is why I don't by the whole Stark-Other relationship that was floated on Reddit a while back; the Starks might be the Kings of Winter, but that doesn't mean they bedded down with the Others. They became the Kings of Winter via conquest, the same way every other dynasty in the series seems to have gained a throne).

And corb, I have always found the phrase "The North Remembers" an interesting one. It gets used primarily to reference the North's anger and desire for revenge after the Red Wedding, and their grudges in general, but I think there's something more to it. Similarly, why must there always be a Stark in Winterfell? Anyways, that's starting to stretch into territory that we are books away from yet...though the series rewards close reading, so I always want to see, in these first few chapters, are there seeds being laid that are yet to bear fruit?
posted by nubs at 8:35 AM on March 11, 2016 [1 favorite]


That's an interesting point about the crypts and Ned's musing. I went back and was struck by the line, "when he gave her his word, the fear had gone out of his sister's eyes." Back then, we weren't reading so closely, but now, and especially now that we know Lyanna better, it's more obvious she wouldn't have been /afraid/ to not have her bones interred at Winterfell.

What also just occurred to me is this - we have assumed that he kept his promise, and that what happens in the next twenty years is because of that. We have assumed that because he is Ned, and Ned always keeps his word. It's a part of him.

But what if it wasn't? He was younger then. What if he didn't keep his promise to Lyanna, and that is why the memory of him promising haunts rather than reassures him? More than ever I wonder specifically what he promised her to do - and also note that Howland Reed wasn't just at the ToJ, he was actually in the room when Lyanna died.
posted by corb at 9:29 AM on March 11, 2016


I've always assumed the promise was something to the effect of:

-take care of Jon;
-never let anyone know who Jon's parents are.

That would explain why the fear leaves Lyanna's eyes; we know what happened to the other Targaryen children in the Sack is what lead to a temporary rift between the two("...Robert's hatred of the Targaryens was a madness in him. He remembered the angry words they had exchanged when Tywin Lannister had presented Robert with the corpses of Rhaegar's wife and children as a token of fealty. Ned had named that murder; Robert called it war. When he had protested that the young prince and princess were no more than babes, his new-made king had replied, "I see no babes. Only dragonspawn." Not even Jon Arryn had been able to calm that storm." - from Eddard II: The Exposition Dump)

So dear ol' Ned did it the only way he could think of - he named Jon his bastard so he could care directly for him, and raised him as a Stark. It's the one thing Ned Stark is willing to stain his honor for: family and children; the dishonor it brings to him in terms of his wedding vows is less than what he would have if he let Jon be killed as "dragonspawn." I honestly can't think of a promise Ned wouldn't keep for Lyanna.

Some other quotes around the promise/Ned's secrets from this section of the book:
-"He had lived his lies for fourteen years, yet they still haunted him at night." Jon is 14. But what other lies?
-"'You avenged Lyanna at the Trident,' Ned said, halting beside the king. Promise me, Ned, she had whispered."

Oh, and one that made me laugh in terms of foreshadowing:

"...'I'm going to burn it, and Cersei can walk!'
Ned laughed. 'I will gladly light the torch for you.'"
posted by nubs at 10:18 AM on March 11, 2016


Sorry, meant to add on to the "what other lies" bit. If we take R+L=J as true and that Lyanna was in love with Rhaegar, than Ned has been carrying quite a few lies:
-Jon's parentage;
-Ned having a bastard and the impact that has on his relationship with Cat and the relationship Jon has with Cat;
-it splits the motives for the war between Robert & Ned. Robert fought to avenge Lyanna; Ned fought to avenge his father and brother who died at the hands of the Mad King. And Ned has to know that with the proper information at hand - if Rhaegar and Lyanna were in love and desired to marry, that what happened to Rickon and Brandon might not have needed to happen. In other words, Ned's knowledge may have him viewing the war in an entirely different light, but he has to live with a host of lies because of where the world is now. Which raises the question I sometimes have in my mind - why did Benjen join the Night's Watch? By the end of the war, Eddard is Lord Stark and Benjen his younger brother...who could be useful in alliance building via a marriage or in helping to rule the North.
posted by nubs at 10:28 AM on March 11, 2016 [1 favorite]


Now, I'm wondering if there'll be another Jon/Paul parallel where Jon's going to reluctantly take advantage of a group of people and redirect their passions to his own ends?

A group of people with...bright blue eyes? *plot thickens*

And Ned...well, Ned never thinks about Rhaegar at all, which seems really odd.

It seems to me that for Ned the war was far more about his father and brother, rather than about Rhaegar's relationship with his sister. Robert's perception is different, and one he never really seems to question. That was something that really struck me during this re-read: how profoundly unimaginative both these men are when contrasted with other point of view characters (Catelyn, Tyrion, even Arya). Both were defined by the war, but neither seem to have bothered to question their basic perspective on it at any time during the intervening decade and a half. Guilt, anger, frustration which has its roots during that period is just something they've lived with. It makes the friendship they have more poignant, in a way, because you see just how much goes on around them without them knowing or understanding or connecting with other people, how unique that relationship is for them.
posted by AdamCSnider at 12:31 PM on March 11, 2016 [1 favorite]


and also note that Howland Reed wasn't just at the ToJ, he was actually in the room when Lyanna died.

I saw GRRM speak a few years ago here in Seattle and someone asked him about this, and whether or not the Reeds might be able to tell us - the readers - what happened and the Tower of Joy and about Jon. He smiled and said "yes, the Reeds know some things, and that might come into play."

Which raises the question I sometimes have in my mind - why did Benjen join the Night's Watch?

I wonder about this, too. As the third son it would have made sense but as the second, less so. My pet theory is that he helped Lyanna run away (I seem to recall that they were close) and feels guilty about what that led to. But who knows?
posted by lunasol at 10:57 PM on March 11, 2016 [1 favorite]


I wonder about this, too. As the third son it would have made sense but as the second, less so. My pet theory is that he helped Lyanna run away (I seem to recall that they were close) and feels guilty about what that led to. But who knows?

Do we know when he joined the Watch? Once big brother pops out a couple kids his line to the family throne is pretty much over.
posted by 2ht at 9:11 AM on March 12, 2016


I believe he joined shortly after the war ended; Benjen was the Stark in Winterfell while Ned fought the war. By the time Ned returns he has Robb and Jon, so the heir issue is somewhat settled. Still, you are the only brother of Lord Stark, Warden of the North, and I could see lots of political uses in Benjen's marriage.

Anyways, I sometimes think Benjen was just in the story to give Jon (and the reader) a quick connection to the Watch, and then GRRM had no more use for the character and had him disappear on a ranging, in order to keep up the ongoing tension/mystery of that end of things. And now he's likely laughing at all the "Benjen is..." theories.
posted by nubs at 11:01 AM on March 12, 2016 [1 favorite]


Do we know when he joined the Watch? Once big brother pops out a couple kids his line to the family throne is pretty much over.

Yeah, but I believe that it was typical for the second brother to stick around and be the first brother's right hand, especially militarily (they talk in the book about how Ned was raised to be Brandon's military leader, but wound up having to be the politican/lord when Brandon died). But nubs probably has it!
posted by lunasol at 1:30 PM on March 12, 2016 [1 favorite]


>A group of people with...bright blue eyes? *plot thickens*

!!

Alia/Arya - do all the faces that Arya wears start fighting to take over her body?
posted by porpoise at 11:28 AM on March 13, 2016 [1 favorite]


So, I'm intrigued by the end of Catelyn IV in which Cat meets with Littlefinger and Varys shortly after she arrives in KL. The fact that Varys knows everything about everyone is amply displayed, and while Littlefinger appears to be briefly unaware of everything that is going on, he recovers quickly enough to lie his face off about the dagger. So I'm left to wonder:

-how much of this was set up between Varys and Littlefinger beforehand? I'm guessing very little, but?
-if Littlefinger truly had no idea why Cat was in KL, he moved pretty quick to continue building on the murder of Jon Arryn plot in order to escalate tensions between the Wolf and the Lion. Littlefinger is quick on his feet.
-given that we know Littlefinger is lying about the dagger, and I have to assume Varys knows this, then what is Varys playing at? He too needs the realm unstable, but this would seem to be pushing things too hot too fast, given that Dany just married Drogo, and Aegon is still completely hidden.
posted by nubs at 8:38 AM on March 14, 2016 [1 favorite]


Beyond the tinfoil and the theories that begin taking root here, I found this interesting to re-read in terms of what works and what doesn't.

I like the fact that the prologue introduces a threat we really don't see again for hundreds and hundreds of pages; it uses dramatic irony to underpin a lot of what is going on here, and that use of dramatic irony goes beyond just the Others. Because each character POV is so limited, but the reader POV jumps around, we start to understand that not everything is what it seems, and what is taken for truth from one POV is very much open to question from another (for example, to most Stark POVs, Tyrion is another Lannister and therefore not to be trusted. From Jon and Tyrion's POVs, we learn Tyrion is a decent, smart, honorable in his way). You learn to not only question what is on the page, but also what is left out that you might expect from that character at a particular time and place. It is something the books can play with more than the TV show, where the camera needs to give the viewer a full view of the scene. The series teaches us to question everything being presented to us, which is why the fandom gets so tinfoil heavy, I think - everything might have import and so we rush to create that import, even when it doesn't mean anything.

I jokingly called Cat II "So this is a murder mystery now?" but in reality, I'm starting to think the whole series is a mystery - every character introduces questions about who they really are, and what they really want. The heroes - the ones who we identify with right away - have pretty simple answers to those questions right now, while everyone else remains somewhat shrouded. And, not surprisingly, it is those characters who are more transparent who suffer in the most in the Game that is just really beginning here at the end of this section.

However, the whole section here feels very exposition heavy to me; there are a huge amount of characters, facts, etc coming up at every turn, and it feels like the world-building is happening somewhat to the expense of everything else. George was coming off a long stint as a TV writer when he started this, and I have to think some of both the good and the bad come from that - he wanted to be big, he wanted to be sweeping, he wanted to do the things he had a hard time doing on TV. What it produces is a bit of a mess, in terms of size and scope, while also giving us some interesting threads to follow for the characters. Ned, Cat, Bran, Jon, Dany - all are adjusting to big changes in their lives, and can they handle them? Who killed Jon Arryn and why? Who attempted to kill Bran?

The other piece that really doesn't sit well is the respective ages of the younger characters. Dany is too young, and while I get what GRRM was trying to do with the after-wedding scene, it still feels gross to me. And all of the kids would just be easier to cope with if they were a year or two older.
posted by nubs at 11:48 AM on March 15, 2016 [1 favorite]


I'm still catching up to you guys, up to Catelyn III now.

The scene of Jon saying goodbye to Robb and then to Arya was heartbreaking to me, knowing where they end up later. I read it a lot more closely this time and I wanted his farewell with Robb to last longer. I'm still holding out hope that Jon will be resurrected and see Arya again.

Knowing how the other books flow, this one does feel pretty exposition heavy on re-read. But that can't be helped, I suppose. I agree that all the exposition are opinionated and you have to really see what all the characters feel about an incident or a person to get a sense of the truth, Rhaegar in particular.

Another note I have against the show: most of the characters are casted purely because it's TV. Arya is supposed to be "horse faced"; Robb's hair is auburn like his mom's; Ned's face is stern and hard, more Aragorn, less Boromir; Tyrion is nowhere near as handsome; Robert is way taller and broader, even if as fat; and don't even get me started on the colored beards (or lack thereof) of the free cities.

I do agree that he could've aged the characters up more. However, it's stated somewhere that the kids are too young to be married, only bethroed, such as Sansa and Joffrey, and that Viserys did comment she's too young, but Illyrio commented that since she's had her blood she's old enough for Khal Drogo. So the fact that she's very young is a contention with the characters themselves. At least Khal took his time to get her comfortable first...
posted by numaner at 7:58 AM on March 23, 2016


The exposition does seem to drop off into the next section, which is nice.

Arya is supposed to be "horse faced"

Arya is also compared to Lyanna, who was considered a beautiful woman. Arya's face is long and solemn; it is Jeyne Poole who calls her "Horseface" (which, yeah, a bit of irony there), but I'm never sure how to take it. Arya has obviously internalized it, but is it accurate in terms of her appearance? Or is it that Arya hasn't grown into her features yet, so she's not very attractive now but will be? Or is that tomboy Arya, who cares little about her dress and hair, etc., with a long and solemn face might look a little horsey but if she were to be clean and styled, you wouldn't see it? Or is that Jeyne Poole, friend of Sansa, is making points by teasing Sansa's younger sister?

At no point would I consider Maisie Williams - who I think has done an excellent job - as having a long & solemn face, however.

Anyways, also interesting to note that she is called "Arya Underfoot" and the ongoing mis-identifications of her throughout the book, considering her career path.
posted by nubs at 10:43 AM on March 23, 2016 [1 favorite]


Sansa I: The Putrid Prince

which is an interesting chapter: it starts off painting her as hopelessly naive, in a fairy-tale-princess kind of way: "Sansa did not really know Joffrey yet, but she was already in love with him. He was all she ever dreamt her prince should be, tall and handsome and strong, with hair like gold." She's almost deliberately not considering his personality; he's a prince, isn't that enough?

And Joffrey plays the princely romantic-lead role perfectly during their afternoon, right up until the moment the mask slips and he is humiliated by needing help: "he looked at here, and there was nothing but loathing there, nothing but the vilest contempt."

Is it well-known, or at least well-rumored, that Joff's a shit? Jon noted his "bored, disdainful way" at the feast; Robb, Jon, and Arya see it in his behavior in the training-yard at Winterfell; and it felt to me like there was an unspoken acknowledgement of it in the way Ned leaves this sentence dangling in his conversation with Catelyn:
"Gods, Catelyn, Sansa is only eleven, " Ned said. "And Joffrey... Joffrey is..."
She finished for him. "...crown prince, and heir to the Iron Throne."
But back to Sansa: we're shown mid-chapter that there's more to her, in the interaction with the Honor Guard. She's terrified by Ilyn Payne but recovers to make a very courtly response to Barristan Selmy, and then demonstrates her knowledge of the Houses by correctly identifying Renly.

(She seems much more afraid of Payne here than I remember from the show, which I think focused mostly on the Hound? "A terror as overwhelming as anything [she] had ever felt"; "his pale colorless eyes seemed to strip the clothes away from her, and then the skin, leaving her soul naked before him." Yikes.)
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 2:38 PM on March 25, 2016 [1 favorite]


Bran III: Every flight begins with a fall

HOLY SHIT the dream is SO MUCH better in the book than the show's endless tedious parade of enigmatic three-eyed ravens.

And creepy as hell, too: the weirwood staring back at him, the unnamed horror to the North, "to the curtain of light at the end of the world, and then beyond that curtain [...] into the heart of winter."

There's a suggestion that Bran is the only one of many, many previous candidates that survives the fall:
There was nothing below him now but snow and cold and death, a frozen wasteland where jagged blue-white spires of ice waited to embrace him. They flew up at him like spears. He saw the bones of a thousand other dreamers impaled upon their points.
The dream feels very much like a test: Bran was brought here, but the choice to fly or die is his.
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 2:54 PM on March 25, 2016 [4 favorites]


Catelyn IV: Opening moves

Another big clunky exposition-dumpy speech here as Catelyn explains to us Ser Roderick her history with Littlefinger.

Ser Roderick is uncomfortably out-of-place on water. Catelyn equally so in King's Landing; she's moved around like a pawn by Moreo, Littlefinger, and Varys.

So, the dagger: I think Littlefinger's expression is a tell. Catelyn describes him early in their meeting:
"I've angered you, my lady. That was never my intent." He looked contrite. The look brought back vivid memories for Catelyn. He had been a sly child, but after his mischiefs he always looked contrite; it was a gift he had. The years had not changed him much."
And then look at this, during the story he spins of the dagger; emphasis mine:
"I backed Ser Jaime in the jousting, along with half the court." Petyr's sheepish grin made him look half a boy again. "When Loras Tyrell unhorsed him, many of us became a trifle poorer."
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 3:33 PM on March 25, 2016 [1 favorite]


(phew; I am up-to-date on this thread now.)
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 3:33 PM on March 25, 2016


Yep, early Sansa was hopelessly naive, so much more than I remembered, but you can see the potential of the wits that she displays later as Alayne Stone.

I had forgotten quite a bit apparently, like how Bran actually names Summer when he woke up from the coma, not before. And that Set Rodrik gets seasick!

Also of note was how prophetic Bran's dream was. With the stuff he saw north of the wall.
posted by numaner at 3:50 PM on March 25, 2016


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