Friday, January 30, 2015

Tara's ASOIAF Re-Read: ACOK, Prologue - Jon I


Once again I've been reminded how amazing the beginning of Clash of Kings is.I even enjoyed Tyrion I, though that's likely because of his interactions with Cersei and Varys more than anything else ;) And while Bran I of ACOK is a bit of a disappointment, there's so much other awesome stuff going on with other Starks - Arya and Sansa and even Jon (I'm of the opinion that pretending he's not a Stark is more than a little bit silly at this point) - that I can shrug off yet another boring Bran chapter just fine, thank you.

First, though, I suppose I should touch on the prologue and poor Maester Cressen. Silly man, thinking he could mess with Melisandre...though his reasons were good ones, which makes his death as sad as it is frustrating. We all know what follies Stannis gets up to later; it's hard not to grit my own damn teeth when re-reading this chapter. Especially when Cressen thinks to himself, "Stannis, my lord, my sad sullen boy, son I never had, you must not do this, don't you know how I have cared for you, lived for you, loved you despite all? Yes, Loved you, better than Robert even, or Renly, for you were the one unloved, the one who needed me most."

But of course I also know better than to get attached to ASOIAF prologue characters, though I suppose it's only AGOT and ACOK that feature ones worth caring about. (Considering ASOS is the murder-plotting Night's Watch brothers, AFFC is the Citadel novices, and ADWD is Varamyr Sixskins - all interesting prologues in their own right, but not characters I truly FEEL for.)

Anyway, beginning with Maester Cressen and continuing through much of ACOK, we hear a lot about that damn red comet. You know, the one that signifies everything from Joffrey's rise to power to dragons to the end of summer and more...yet apparently disappears and maybe was never that important to begin with.

This is my MS Paint version of the comet. Note: It's practically impossible to draw a comet that doesn't look like sperm.

Of course everyone wants the comet to mean something different, but Sansa has the right of it when she muses that the reasoning she's hearing from people in the Red Keep is, essentially, forced. Personally I subscribe to the theory that it simply has to do with Dany's dragons Varys has a somewhat similar view, though his wording is of course a bit off (for reasons that only become obvious later): "They say it comes as a herald before a king, to warn of fire and blood to follow.'" Is there anyone out there who actually thinks the comet has anything to do with anyone other than Dany? (Genuinely curious, here!)

Speaking of Sansa...Sansa my bb, my bb! Her lot in life has only gotten worse since we left her at the end of AGOT, and after some things I've gone through in my own life, her chapters get more and more difficult to read every time...perhaps because I pick out more and more details of her abuse at the hands of Joffrey and his Kingsguard (really, pretty much everyone in the Red Keep). It probably doesn't help that there are actually people out there who either simply don't think she's got it all that bad, or who outright think she deserves what she's getting.

While plenty of important things happen in Sansa's first ACOK chapter, there are a few that really stand out to me. First, the fact that pretty much immediately after she finally saw Joffrey's true nature, she became repulsed by him. When he takes hold of her hand, she remembers, "Once that would have sent her heart to pounding, but that was before he had answered her plea for mercy by presenting her with her father's head. His touch filled her with revulsion now, but she knew better than to show it. She made herself sit very still."

Sansa is learning, learning quickly, and surviving. On top of that, she's not lost her innate kindness - she is sweet to Tommen during the tournament, and of course she saves Ser Dontos's life...which brings me to the other thing I really wanted to talk about.

That being, Sandor. Sansa specifically points out that "Joff never asked the Hound to punish her". I've read some metas that state this is because Joffrey looked to the Hound as a big brother or perhaps even father figure, and that's why he doesn't sic his 'dog' on Sansa. I agree that there definitely should be some reasoning like that behind it, but I also can't help but hope that despite everything, Sandor will come back to play a part in Sansa's life later on. Post-Quiet-Isle, of course...but now I'm getting ahead of myself.

Point being, I think it's pretty rare that Martin does something - to this extent, at least - that has little or no meaning to it. Joffrey is long gone (no, not in ACOK, but soon enough), but Sandor and Sansa are still around...and with as much as Sandor pops up in Sansa's presence (and later, when he's no longer around, her thoughts), I can't help but believe that they will cross paths again. And the only way for that to work in any sort of positive or even neutral manner is for him to have never beaten her at Joffrey's behest, you know?

While I'm on Stark kids, Bran is kind of a brat right now, but I do always get a guilty chuckle out of his howling with the wolves. Now, some of what he wants to do - namely fighting beside Robb like Grey Wind - we know will never come to pass. But Bran also talks about finding Arya and Sansa, and ripping out the Kingslayer's throat, and I wonder if eventually one or more of those things will come to pass. Probably it's just him throwing wishes to the wind, but man, the more I read these books the harder it is to not search out more and more ridiculous hidden meanings ::sigh::

Meanwhile Arya is basically just being shuffled into place for more important things, though I think it's essential to point out that (a) she begins wishing that the river would wash King's Landing away, only to remember that Sansa's there, at which point Arya decides to wish for Winterfell instead, and (b) Yoren clarifies that Ned was supposed to come with them, but things changed at the last minute - and this leads back to Joffrey. The former hopefully foretells of a brighter future for Arya and Sansa (hopefully!), while the latter is important to much of Arya's storyline, including her 'prayers', at least until someone else finally does kill Joffrey.

I'm sure it's pretty obvious by now that the deeper I delve into this re-read, the harder it's going to be for me to separate what's happening now from what I know happens later and from fan theories that have ingrained themselves in my brain...and nowhere was this more apparent than toward the end of Jon's first chapter in ACOK. First, Mormont's raven keeps saying "King", and though Jon jokes that perhaps the bird wants Mormont to be king, Mormont's eyes never leave Jon Snow, which makes Jon "feel odd". He then asks Mormont why he told him the story of Maester Aemon, who joined the Night's Watch to avoid being used in the "game of thrones", as it were. Mormont does give him a reason, but first he says, "Must I have a reason?" Which kind of makes me wonder if he has some ideas about Jon that he keeps to himself. Though of course, how he could have gotten those ideas... ::shrug:: One just never can tell with these books, amiright?

All that said, not once but twice, Jon reminds Mormont that he plans to keep his vow to the Night's Watch...and sometimes I feel like the only person who trusts in R+L=J but would prefer Jon Snow to stay far away from the Iron Throne. And not because I have some sort of strong dislike for his character - generally I'm neutral on him. I actually just don't think he would want to rule, and the idea of him being in a relationship with Dany (which is the other thing that usually comes with Jon ending up on or near the Iron Throne) just seems incredibly boring and un-GRRM-like to me.

And now that this entry is insanely long, it's on to the second set of ACOK chapters for me!

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