This was a big book with so much going on and yet I remained captivated and it was a breeze to read. I got my hands on the full book three instead of 3.1 and 3.2 which seems to be what Australian publishers opted for (the book is intimidating, and two books mean twice the profit). Before I go too much further a massive warning for spoilers here I’m discussing it all so look away if you don’t want to know. In addition I have yet to see the third and fourth seasons of the TV show, so I’d prefer those left unmentioned in the comments for now. There are just so many twists and turns, and shocks, and deaths (which were so much more powerful and shocking this time around) and everything. Just so good.
The constantly changing point of view is so frustrating, but I guess in a good way. Sometimes we leave a character for a good 150+ pages, which is quite a while. And a couple of times I had to flick forward to see what happened next but always ended up giving up on that and just reading on. I am just amazed by the sheer number of plot threads which are explored, so it’s no wonder he takes years to write these.
One thing I want to discuss is the fact that there is just so much moral ambiguity here. You don’t know who to really be supporting and who to hate. Actually there are certainly a few characters to hate, Lord Tywin, The Mountain, Janos Slynt, Cersei, Joffrey, to name a few. But when it comes to Tyrion, Daenerys, Jaime and Stannis you don’t quite know how to feel. Do you want them to succeed? But at what cost? It’s all well and good to support Daenerys but in the end she wants to win Westeros. And Tyrion, he’s a Lannister, but he has helped out Sansa and the Starks, and certainly doesn’t quite take after his father. And Jaime certainly turned a leaf this book, I guess losing an arm helps, but he ends up freeing Tyrion. The Starks are interesting too because they seem to be the large focus of the story, so you want to support them, but should we? I just love that the characters have depth and that you are made to feel unsure about who to support.
Let’s start with Daenerys since she’s relatively isolated from the other story threads. She has become so fierce, and gets an army through sabotage, then slowly works her way city-to-city conquering. Until she realises that she is almost doing more harm than good by just freeing everyone then leaving, so she settles down. But the reveal that Whitebeard was Ser Barristan, formerly Knight of the Kingsguard who was dismissed by Cersei, was quite shocking and unexpected. The fact that Jorah was selling information to Varys, was less shocking, but perhaps partially from the TV show which placed a lot of suspicion on him from the start. I feel that Daenerys was almost too harsh with Jorah, but then again, he has gone too far with his advances on her.
The Red Wedding! Wasn’t that intense? The effect was partly muted on me because I refused to believe them dead. With fantasy you are never sure that someone is 100% dead unless you see them being killed then cremated or something, even then… So I was sure they weren’t dead. Then we had details of their murders and Bran had that dream, and I thought I guess they are dead. After all Lord Frey had no reason to lie about killing them all. Of course the epilogue confirmed my suspicions somewhat when we saw Catelyn. Now does that mean she is alive? I’m not sure, perhaps it’s a grotesque ruse. And how? Was it Dondarrion and the Lord of Light? And then I guess Robb is actually dead? Well sort of serves him right, because he wronged Lord Frey by marrying Talisa, which was so stupid. But he is a boy of what, 16, he can’t be expected to make the best decisions. But after The Red Wedding it looks like it’s all over for Riverrun and Robb.
Then Joffrey’s Wedding! AHHHH! Who was it in the end that killed him? Was it The Queen of Thorns because she fixed Sansa’s net thing? So Petyr was in consort with her? And Sansa was able to escape, but only to the arms of Petyr and soon her aunt. Where her aunt wants her to marry her sickly son, and then is super jealous of her and nearly pushes her out the Moon Door, but then Petyr pushes HER out! That was gaspable! So was that little thing in the garden just a way to get her jealous or is he really sick and disgusting, and if so what does that mean for Sansa into the future? And Tyrion! Oh my, he nearly was saved by the Viper in the trial by battle, but then he was just a little too cocky, and ended up dead for it. But Jaime freed him, and then we find out that perhaps Tyrion’s first wife wasn’t a whore after all. Then Tyrion goes up and kills his own father! Well, at least we think that he was killed, but that was so shocking! And is he going to get away, and what is he going to do next?
I found it ever so amusing that all Starks are believed dead and only two actually are! Four out of the five children are all still alive, which is so very exciting. But of course, they can’t exactly be out in the open, and all of them (except Bran and Rickon) believe all the others to be dead. We heard basically nothing about Rickon, so he could be dead, but I don’t think so. But I guess his story isn’t too interesting, since he’s only four? We actually heard very little from the North, perhaps because the protagonists weren’t really there, so we didn’t hear at all from Theon, and I don’t know if he’s dead, or alive or what.
Arya has had an interesting time. Being captured by the bandits who are under Lord Beric, and they are another example of some moral ambiguity. Do we support these bandits who seem to help the little folk, but still rob and plunder? And they are other followers of the Lord of Light, which begs the question is Melisandre backing the wrong person? But then she is captured by The Hound, and you don’t know what to feel about him because he’s killed so many and is ruthless, but helped Sansa, is now a free man, and has been protecting Arya and was trying to get to back to her family, even if it was for a ransom. But remember he stopped Arya at the Twins from running into the castle when it was clear she would be killed because of it. And then Arya leaves The Hound for dead, gets to a port, and looks like she is just about to travel across the seas to follow Jaqen H’ghar to Braavos. I’m curious about the coin, does it only work once? And I love the little sneaky reveal that valar morghulis means ‘all men must die’ with Daenerys. And what then does ‘valar dohaeris’ mean? And how is that all a thing that she just instantly gets what she wants? And what is she going to find across the sea? Is she going to meet up with Daenerys??????
Coming back to Melisandre and Stannis, thank god or perhaps the Lord of Light, that they went to the Wall. But I don’t know what to feel about them. Because they are wanting to wage a war against this god who can’t be named, which is super scary because ‘winter is coming’ I guess. But is Stannis the true Azor Ahai reborn? And is there really a danger? I have found the religions in the book to be quite interesting, because there is the Old Gods, the Seven, Lord of Light, and then the Sea God, plus all the others from Across the Sea. It is interesting to see the motivation of some people, and how their religion influences them. But just whether any should be taken seriously, well…?
The Wall and Beyond were so fascinating and exciting in this book. We had Jon in Mance’s camp which was an anxiety riddled time. Was he going to be trusted? How could he help the Watch? And then Ygritte! Their relationship was interesting. They got over the Wall but soon enough Jon got his chance to run back to Castle Black (with Bran’s help). And there he, and the others were able to stop the party who had snuck over the wall, which sadly meant Ygritte died. But it wasn’t long before they had to fight Mance at the gate, and Jon had to take charge. It really was touch and go, and looked like they would fail, but, they succeeded. Then Janos Slynt comes along and tries to make Jon pay for being a turncloak even though he was doing what needed to be done. Of course if Stannis didn’t show up, it would have been all over, what’s worse, Mance might have used the horn of Winter, and destroyed the wall. The wall is an interesting thing, it was said there are enchantments on it, which is why the cold man couldn’t go through, and perhaps why Jon couldn’t sense Ghost when they were divided by the Wall. I just don’t understand how they built it! And how a horn could destroy it.
Then there was Sam who having survived the Fist, only just, and getting to Craster’s home, then finds himself on the run with Gilly and her new son. Craster was killed by one of the Watch, as was the Old Bear. If Slynt wants to punish people, it should be them. They only survive the wights and Others (which Sam discovered could be killed by dragonglass – that cache had to have a function) because of this mysterious cold man. At first I thought perhaps it was Benjen Stark, he is still missing after all. But at this stage that is unlikely, but really we haven’t seen very much of him (the cold man) at all to be sure. And what’s more, they end up through the Wall via this Watch Gate, and end up finding Bran and co. I didn’t see that coming. And now Bran and co. are following this cold man into the Land-Beyond-the-Wall and that is exciting.
I’ve already gone on for quite a while, and I have only scratched the surface of the story. Which goes to show just how complex and multi-layered the tale is. I just adore the story, and can’t wait to read on (I already have started) and find out what happens next. I also am curious to see the TV adaptation and what they do with this book. But, that’s going to have to wait until after exams, which means that this will be the last post for a while, for about 6 weeks. And then I’ll return, ready to read a lot more books before the end of the year!