January 9 2013

A Read of Ice and Fire — “A Clash of Kings” Gathered Hence

Over at Tor.com, I have been participating in The Read of Ice and Fire. For various reasons, I hadn’t started the Song of Ice and Fire series until fairly recently and so, by “A Clash of Kings” I was synched up as a first time reader. I’ve been reading along at the same rate as the read through (1 or 2 chapters a week). For “A Clash of Kings”, I didn’t comment on every post, while on “A Storm of Swords” I am trying to post every time with my first time thoughts. A reader asked me to gather together my posts as it is somewhat time consuming to look through all of the many posts at tor.
So, after the “more” are my gathered comments for “A Clash of Kings”. I’ll be gathering up the comments for “A Storm of Swords” in a bit in another post.
The format is a link to the particular full article on tor followed by my comments.

A Clash of Kings Part 1:

We saw references to Asshai in AGoT that mostly seemed about dark things, but I find it very interesting that they seem to represent another religion than the two we have seen to date.
As Leigh said, things seemed complex already with all the spare Kings wanting to kill each other, now we have a possible religious war intruding also.
I also really liked that Arya was our first PoV chapter. Nice.

A Clash of Kings Part 2:
Cersei’s line:

I sent Meryn Trant to take her in hand when Robert died, but her wretched dancing master interfered and the girl fled.

was interesting to me. It doesn’t say that Syrio was killed. In fact, it seems to imply (just a bit) that he may still be alive. I would like that.
Tyrion was made of awesome in both chapters.

A Clash of Kings Part 3:


Jaqen may be a crazy person (and there’s definitely more story to that one), but he nailed Arya’s basic character flaw: more courage than sense.

Exactly. I’m afraid that she shares this trait too much with her father. It didn’t work out well for him and I would really rather it work out well for her. She seems to have Gendry as kind of an ally and the group seems to kind of be bonding.
It was interesting that Jaqwn’s accent reminded her of Syrio. I wonder if he saw her take a water dancer’s stance when she wanted to spar with Gendry.

A Clash of Kings Part 4:

Letting the various lords go off on their own and deal with things in their own lands individually seems like a pretty bad plan. Usually dividing your forces is to be avoided–especially when it looks like the enemy is consolidating.
Tyrion is doing a good job so far, although I am with Leigh in not really liking Slynt at the Wall. On the other hand, Mormant seems skilled in making use of what comes to him.

A Clash of Kings Part 9:

Arya & co aren’t in a good place. Hot Pie is an idiot. They really should have gone around. Hopefully they won’t be locked up very long as it’s going to be hard for Arya to conceal that she is a girl and as Leigh points out that would be bad.

A Clash of Kings Part 14:

Yeah, I’d have to vote for Clegane also. A very nasty bunch, the lot of them. Hopefully the third name would then help get Arya out of there.

A Clash of Kings Part 16:

Yeah, I didn’t see Renly getting offed quite that abruptly. And, yes, it’s good to see some more magic but it will be interesting how this fits in. If someone really has unstoppable shadow killers then the whole “clash” of kings thing will be over pretty shortly. Ergo, there must be some difficulties in using this shadow assassin “magic” that we don’t know about yet.

A Clash of Kings Part 17:

Yeah, face slicing and immutable prophecy seems bad. I think I’ll assume they are wrong also. I suppose the face slicing could represent Reek hiding the brothers. If you remove their faces, then they can’t be found. That’s about the sun shiniest interpretation I can think of.

A Clash of Kings Part 18:

Arya killing off Weese seemed pretty in character to me. She is just ten and so thinking about grand strategies while being in a kind of hell herself seems a bit much to ask of her. Also, killing Weese may be more beneficial to her than any of the others would have been.
Jaqen does seem really nasty–but very effective. His speech patterns are interesting. Everything’s second person for him–dissociative psycopath of some sort? I am worried about what happens when he doesn’t owe Arya. If Martin kills off Arya, I will be quite cross.

Yeah, I’m betting on Theon having some sneaky (evil) method of getting into Winterfell. I can’t see anything good happening in that storyline.

A Clash of Kings Part 19:

Clegane is actually shaping up to be one of the honorable yet realistic characters. He refuses to be a knight but he is doing the correct thing as far as he can better than pretty much all of the people with the title.

A Clash of Kings Part 20:

Not just does everyone want to attack Westros, but lots of people seem to be aiming at Winterfell. I’m kind of picturing Theron doing his treacherous attack somehow and standing there all “Ha, I’ve won” with his pseudo-Vikings when a whole horde of crazed raiders shows up. That picture is almost amusing except for what it implies would be happening to the people currently in Winterfell–not that GRRM seem to have many compunctions about slaughtering all and sundry.
Except Arya, let’s do try not to slaughter Arya– ‘k George?

A Clash of Kings Part 22:

Yeah, Theon taking Winterfell, not good for anyone concerned. I don’t really see it working out like Theon thinks either.

I thought the choice of naming Jaqen rather than Joffrey was a good one. I will guess the really important part of this was Arya getting the iron coin with “Valar Morghulis” written upon it. If she had just named Joffrey, I suspect that Jaqen would not have done that and might have killed Arya as his number 4 action.
Valar Morghulis does not sound like sunshine and puppies. Mor is often associated with darkness and death (think Mordor) but Valar kind of sounds like Valor. So, Honor and deathieness? or something like that.

(Disclaimer: All of this is just guesses–no reading ahead.)

Skylark@18:That’s interesting. Jaqen does say to take the coin to any Braavos. On the other hand, Syrio seemed much nicer than Jaqen.

@19: Mordor is just an example. Mor is a death root in many Indo-European languages. Murder, Mortal, Morior — Martin is (may be) just cribbing from the same roots.


“I think it was pretty awesome, she’s one of my favorite preteen sociopaths”

I wouldn’t categorize Arya as a sociopath. She is concerned about others (her family, her wolf, …). She’s in a bad spot and is almost certainly traumatized to some extent but I don’t see sociopathy. Joffrey on the other hand seems to have many indications. No empathy, actively enjoys killing, poor impulse control, grandiose thoughts, …

A Clash of Kings Part 23:

Here are the various prophecies that are mentioned. Going through them, some seem to make sense as visions of the past or future. I don’t think we (or Dany) have enough info to make sense of most of it at this point. Here’s what I get anyway:

“In one room, a beautiful woman sprawled naked on the floor while four little men crawled over her. They had rattish pointed faces and tiny pink hands, like the servitor who had brought her the glass of shade. One was pumping between her thighs. Another savaged her breasts, worrying at the nipples with his wet red mouth, tearing and chewing.”

No idea what this one means. Doesn’t seem good though.

“Farther on she came upon a feast of corpses. Savagely slaughtered, the feasters lay strewn across overturned chairs and hacked trestle tables, asprawl in pools of congealing blood. Some had lost limbs, even heads. Severed hands clutched bloody cups, wooden spoons, roast fowl, heels of bread. In a throne above them sat a dead man with the head of a wolf. He wore an iron crown and held a leg of lamb in one hand as a king might hold a scepter, and his eyes followed Dany with mute appeal.”

This one looks bad also. Wolves are associated with Starks and I think Robb’s crown had iron. I don’t know if this is foretelling some doom that is supposed to happen to Robb or if Robb is causing something very bad to happen or Bran maybe. Or something entirely different.

” I know this room, she thought. She remembered those great wooden beams and the carved animal faces that adorned them. And there outside the window, a lemon tree! The sight of it made her heart ache with longing. It is the house with the red door, the house in Braavos. “

This seems like a vision from her past designed to lure her off the path.

“Beyond loomed a cavernous stone hall, the largest she had ever seen. The skulls of dead dragons looked down from its walls. Upon a towering barbed throne sat an old man in rich robes, an old man with dark eyes and long silver-grey hair. “Let him be king over charred bones and cooked meat,” he said to a man below him. “Let him be the king of ashes.” “

Probably a past scene. The throne sounds like the Iron Throne.

“Viserys, was her first thought the next time she paused, but a second glance told her otherwise. The man had her brother’s hair, but he was taller, and his eyes were a dark indigo rather than lilac. “Aegon,” he said to a woman nursing a newborn babe in a great wooden bed. “What better name for a king?
“Will you make a song for him?” the woman asked.
He has a song,” the man replied. “He is the prince that was promised, and his is the song of ice and fire.” He looked up when he said it and his eyes met Dany’s, and it seemed as if he saw her standing there beyond the door. “There must be one more,” he said, though whether he was speaking to her or the woman in the bed she could not say. “The dragon has three heads.” He went to the window seat, picked up a harp, and ran his fingers lightly over its silvery strings. Sweet sadness filled the room as man and wife and babe faded like the morning mist, only the music lingering behind to speed her on her way.”

Birth of one of the Aegon’s. Maybe the first or the last?

The Pyat Pree vision is clearly a trick.

The first group of Undying ones seems to be a trick, but maybe that is what they once looked like?

” . . the shape of shadows . . . morrows not yet made . . . drink from the cup of ice . . . drink from the cup of fire . . .
. . . mother of dragons . . . child of three . . “

Confirms visions of the past and future. Seems clear that Dany is the mother of dragons. How she is the child of three is odd. Another ice and fire ref.

” . three heads has the dragon . . . the ghost chorus yammered inside her skull with never a lip moving, never a breath stirring the still blue air. . . . mother of dragons . . . child of storm . . . The whispers became a swirling song. . . . three fires must you light . . . one for life and one for death and one to love . . . Her own heart was beating in unison to the one that floated before her, blue and corrupt . . . three mounts must you ride . . . one to bed and one to dread and one to love . . . The voices were growing louder, she realized, and it seemed her heart was slowing, and even her breath. . . . three treasons will you know . . . once for blood and once for gold and once for love . . “

Lots of threes. Dany lit the fire that caused the dragons to hatch so that could be the fire of life. Drago seems like a “mount” she rode to bed. Mirri Maz Duur used the blood to betray her so, that could be the “blood treason”.

“Viserys screamed as the molten gold ran down his cheeks and filled his mouth. A tall lord with copper skin and silver-gold hair stood beneath the banner of a fiery stallion, a burning city behind him. Rubies flew like drops of blood from the chest of a dying prince, and he sank to his knees in the water and with his last breath murmured a woman’s name. . . . mother of dragons, daughter of death . . . Glowing like sunset, a red sword was raised in the hand of a blue-eyed king who cast no shadow. A cloth dragon swayed on poles amidst a cheering crowd. From a smoking tower, a great stone beast took wing, breathing shadow fire. . . . mother of dragons, slayer of lies . . . Her silver was trotting through the grass, to a darkling stream beneath a sea of stars. A corpse stood at the prow of a ship, eyes bright in his dead face, grey lips smiling sadly. A blue flower grew from a chink in a wall of ice, and filled the air with sweetness. . . . mother of dragons, bride of fire . . “

Viserys death is past. Don’t know about the tall lord or the one being killed (I like Leigh’s guess of Rhaegar–starting to wonder if maybe he isn’t an evil rapist.). Stannis has his sword and his shadow is being used to assassinate people.

“A little girl ran barefoot toward a big house with a red door. Mirri Maz Duur shrieked in the flames, a dragon bursting from her brow. Behind a silver horse the bloody corpse of a naked man bounced and dragged. A white lion ran through grass taller than a man. Beneath the Mother of Mountains, a line of naked crones crept from a great lake and knelt shivering before her, their grey heads bowed. Ten thousand slaves lifted bloodstained hands as she raced by on her silver, riding like the wind. “Mother!” they cried. “Mother, mother!” “

The little girl seems like Dany. The crones are probably the Dothraki ones.

A Clash of Kings Part 24:

The thing that came into my mind about dragons and magic here is that dragons are like Adam’s “Infinite Improbability Drive.” It is improbable that dragons exist and can fly and breathe fire and such. Once they do (and maybe more as they do) other things that are also improbable like shadow assassins become easier. Some sort of magical relativity.

I didn’t really get the brooch reveal significance either. If it is a clue, I don’t like Theon heading off in the right direction.
Totally with Leigh on Theon being clueless about others and that Osha rocked in this case.

Re the video:
It’s a fairly closely held secret (that I reveal to you here at great risk) that the person most people think of as George R.R, Martin is actually a body double hired to protect him after repeated attempts on his life by a splinter group of Hashishin.
You can tell the real GRRM by his artificial leg carved from the tomb of Ramesses II. He travels the world in a Dutch tramp steamer with a foul mouthed albino parrot and a hold full of enslaved young writers one of whom imparted this story after escaping and crawling through the high desert. I can’t tell you which one (thanks I.T.!) but he now has his own secret fortress laboratory.
So, the hold of enslaved writers help speed things up but the parrot really slows them down as he is a cruel critic.


A Clash of Kings Part 25:

The Jon chapter had some quite lovely imagery. I thought it was interesting that GRRM has used some of his nicest writing for this most bleak of places.
Bael’s tale may or may not be true, but the blue rose being representative of the Stark daughter is pretty interesting to me.
Sansa’s position does seem to have gotten more precarious. None of the people who seem to like her seem all that stable, well I guess none of the people who seem not to like her seem that stable either so, I guess, they are well matched.

A Clash of Kings Part 26:

The various clues (the smell of death in the dream and the letter) do seem to be pointing towards Bran and Rickon being dead. I’m with Leigh on this though and am calling misdirect at this point.
While GRRM has shown very little restraint in killing off characters, he has been building Bran up–it would seem like a narrative waste to just kill him off screen.
On the other hand, Bran could be some sort of sacred tree ghost now–he has become “one with the force trees”. No picture–it didn’t happen.
Also, if he just casually discards Bran, what about Arya? So, a)it seems narratively suspect and b) I don’t want it to be true. So, there.

re:frozen waterfall–There is probably an ice field in back of that waterfall somewhere. A little melt from the sun on ice, a long drop and some time=1 frozen waterfall.

When Halfhand says:

They name themselves the free folk, and each one thinks himself as good as a king and wiser than a maester.

It rather makes me want to get on the side of the Wildlings. The wisdom part can cut both ways but as for kings, I say well rid of them.
It would be interesting to see more of just how Wildling society is structured.

A Clash of Kings Part 27:

Ha, yep–the boys aren’t dead–completely agreed with Leigh and hey, we were right.

“Snow, that was the one. Such a white name . . . like the pretty cloaks they give us in the Kingsguard when we swear our pretty oaths.”

Yeah, that is an interesting line. If Jaime knows more, why not just say so? Well, Cat might stick him through and Martin does seem to want to draw this whole area out.

A Clash of Kings Part 28:

GRRM is running a bit of a risk in making everyone so morally gray. Leigh’s list of who I would care lives from King’s Landing is fairly close to mine. In both cases, that’s a fairly short list. Luckily, it’s a fairly interesting list.

A Clash of Kings Part 29:

Let’s see how Cersei’s “make them fear me” works out for her. Hopefully not well as she isn’t my favorite person.
The Renly part was pretty confusing. As far as I know, he’s dead. The simplest explanation is someone put on his armor. But an Undead Zombie King would be pretty cool.
Sansa seems to have kept her head pretty well through the whole thing. Better than Cersei even. I was hoping the Hound would help her escape, but then maybe that wouldn’t be much better than being captive.
Tyrion did really well in the battle. Fighting in a disorganized environment like that would really have to suck. Luckily he was pretty much carried away by the whole battle lust thing.

Undead Renly–“I am the Witch King of Westeros! Fear me, no mortal man may slay me.”

Along comes Arya…
Oh, wait–wrong series.

While the Hound certainly seemed creepy in the Sansa chapter, he didn’t actually do anything. For Westeros, that shows some sort of massive restraint.
I don’t think that it would have necessarily been a good idea idea for Sansa to leave with the Hound, it also doesn’t seem like a good idea for her to stay. Cersei will kill her in a heartbeat and I have definite fears about what Joff might be intending in celebrating the “victory”.

A bit more on the Hound: GRRM is potentially creating a very interesting character in the Hound. We have a man who underwent dramatic childhood abuse and is vivedly scared both physically and emotionally as a result.
In a run of the mill tale, the scaring might just twist him into being a violent psychotic–an everyday villain. When we first met him, that seemed his likely role.
At this stage, the Hound character has a number of options.
1) He could find some triumphant purpose from his failure to face his fears.
2) He could fall into despair and either kill himself or become useless (not a real interesting path unless it is a stepping stone back to 1 although that is difficult with the killing himself option).
3) He could go back to being a minor villain of some sort.
The most interesting option would be some variant of 1. Sansa going off with him would have been an easy path to that option, but GRRM didn’t take that route, so it seems that he is going to make the Hound work harder.
We’ll have to see–I think what exactly GRRM does with the Hound as a character will be very interesting from both a in-story and meta-story viewpoint.

A Clash of Kings Part 30:

Interesting that both Dany and Arya are heading out into the world at the end of the chapters.
Arya certainly seems to have few illusions left. Interesting that as she walked to kill the guard she:

felt as though Syrio Forel walked beside her, and Yoren, and Jaqen H’ghar, and Jon Snow

Of all of her family, it is Jon she picks at this point.

I’m going with Valar morghulis meaning something like “honored death stuff”, “through death, honor”, or “to death I give honor”. Something along thiose lines. As Leigh said, the root words are steeped in fantasy (and English and …) tradition.

A Clash of Kings Part 31:

OK, so Sansa’s position is now even worse. The magic hairnet is interesting–has to do something nasty, being from Asshai.
Theon totally deserves what he is getting. Unfortunately, Winterfell, Luwin and Rodrik (and everyone else) are paying for his payment.

@31:Yeah. Also, even if the walls stay standing there is usually a lot of stuff inside that can get damaged. Just google “Windsor Castle fire” for some images of the flames from what looks like a stone structure from the outside.

@37: That’s my thinking also. So far, no evidence that Sansa is better off not having gone with the Hound. I was actually pleased that at least Joff didn’t immediately do something really vile to her right after the battle.

While we await the next post (no, the evil Spoiler-Free for all does not count although it almost caught me as I at first read it as Spoiler Free, For All) I thought I would share a bit from the Hugo’s for those of you who didn’t see GRRM’s acceptance of
Best Dramatic Presentation (Long Form). Amusing and spoiler free:
GRRM mentioned that he had eaten dinner at the Palm restaurant in Chicago for good luck as he had initially been contacted by two scriptwriters for the HBO show at the Palm restaurant in L.A. for lunch.
They had gone there for lunch and eaten and talked and drank coffee. Gradually the lunch crowd had left and they continued on talking and drinking cofee. Eventually they were the only ones left in the restaurant. They continued talking and then the restaurant started filling with the dinner crowd as they continued talking and drinking their coffee.
Quite the lunch meeting!

A Clash of Kings Part 32:

OK, I can finally add my Chapter 67 comment (and then go read 68 and 69). Yeah, getting a nasty slash and your nose chopped off is pretty harsh. In addition to the problems Tyrion has with stature in Westeros. And, he isn’t the Hand anymore. And, he seems to be being held captive? By Cersei?
But, of course, he is still better off than most of the people in the world (peasants and such). He is alive, being fed, getting medical attention (of a sort) and not being actively assaulted.

Chapter 68:Yeah, well that was pretty harsh also. Double Agent Jon, but no one knows that except Jon.

“The bird hates you, Jon Snow,” said Ygritte. “And well he might. He was a man, before you killed him.”

That is really interesting as Leigh noted.

Chapter 69: Yay, the finish. Both 68 & 69 ended with uncertainty. All three of the lads are off on an uncertain adventure. Arya is off on an uncertain adventure also, now that I think of it.
Robb hasn’t really been heard from directly in this book. Sansha is sitting around to an uncertain fate–but at least she’s comfortable until it happens.
I agree completely with Leigh that this was mostly the continuation book–getting us ready for the long haul. Good to see that the next portion starts next Friday.
In general, this was quite a good book. We got some interesting prophecies and more magic in general. There wasn’t a lot of actual clashing between kings, but there are certainly fewer of them now than at the beginning.


Kings at end: Joff, Robb, Stannis, Balon – arguably Mance.

Well, a different set anyway. 🙂 I was thinking Stannis got killed in the King’s Landing battle. Ser Dontos:

The river, Stannis was neck deep in the river, and they took him from the rear.

Looking back, that could be a generic “him”.

A couple of more thoughts on the series so far:
1) Arya is (to me) by far the most interesting character. Next, is basically a three way tie with Bran, Jon and Dany and then Tyrion.
2)Robb being a no show in this book seems like an interesting choice. Obviously, he is doing stuff but we only get to see some of it very indirectly. It will be interesting if GRRM makes up for this is ASOS.
3)The slow build up of magic could result in some pretty powerful stuff down the line.

RobMRobM@63:Sansa is growing on me. She is more sympathetic than in the first book as she seems to be gaining some agency.
Robb has been pushed in the background (by being in the literal background) and even in the first book was less appealing to me than Jon. Robb seems pretty straightforward as a character (I’ve got my duty and my wolf).
Joff is most interesting in providing anticipation for the moment of his demise. 🙂 Again, he seems pretty shallow–basically a spoiled psychopath.
Arya, Jon, Bran and Dany seem to have very interesting character arcs that could happen. Maybe GRRM will kill them all off in the next book (I don’t think so), but they seem to have a lot of depth to their stories.

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Posted January 9, 2013 by user in category "Book review

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