(Index of previous ADwD chapter reviews here.)
Sorry this was so long coming – it’s been a busy week and I found chapter fourteen rather annoying to start with, so wasn’t greatly drawn back to it. I polished it off this morning, though, and did find some positive things to say about it in the end. To the review!
Chapter 14: Bran
Someone finally got somewhere! Finally! There’s been such a lot of set-up and people pootling about on journeys but not actually getting anywhere or doing anything significant, but Bran did it – he reached the three-eyed crow. But he has to battle through a bunch of zombies, first, who are lying in wait for him and his party under the snow.
This was nicely done. I enjoyed the fight. I’m still a bit puzzled as to why the group spends a goodly little bit of time standing around discussing how they need to get a move on rather than talking and walking at the beginning, but ho hum. Once they get going and the white-walkers rise out of their snowy holes to attack, it’s all pretty cool. I loved the bit where Bran possesses Hodor’s body to save the large simpleton by directing his strength to battle the monsters and move in the right direction. Very interesting – especially with the question hanging over it of what would happen if Bran’s body were to be killed whilst he was in possession of Hodor. That said, I did find the comment ‘He wondered what Meera would think if he should suddenly tell her that he loved her’ to be rather out of left field. Is this Bran just thinking that he could mess with Meera’s head by having Hodor tell her the he loves her? Does Bran love Meera? Does Hodor? What? More context needed here, please!
Anyway, they battle the white walkers and escape into the cave that has been their destination with the help of a ‘child of the forest’ – a creature Bran recalls from Old Nan’s tales. (Just an aside, here, but I loved the moment in Game of Thrones, the TV show, where they have Old Nan tell Bran the scary stories of above the wall he really wants to hear. Very nicely done. Served for a very effective call back for this moment in my mind.) Alas, Brandon’s monster, the ranger, cannot enter, as there’s some kind of ‘No bad things allowed’ field surrounding the cave. Anyway, the child takes them down through the cave until finally they reach the three-eyed crow, who turns out not to be a crow at all, but a man or corpse with roots growing all through his wasted body.
It’s a nice image and nice for a character to actually reach their goal for a change, but I was starting to feel a bit of ‘wonderous new things overload’ towards the end of this chapter. For most of A Song of Ice and Fire these books have been curiously and interestingly devoid of fantastical elements. There was a rumour of dragons and white walkers, but little of magic actually seen. It was all politics and sex and violence. In some ways its great to be finally seeing the magic that underlies this world, but in others it’s a bit of a sudden shift. Now we have child-like beings with cat eyes leading us through magical caverns to an undying corpse-lord prophet. I dare say I’ll get used to it, but for now it’s a bit like walking into another book.
Chapter 14: Tyrion
Sadly, the start of this chapter is very familiar in style. Unlike Bran, Tyrion is nowhere near his destination, and I have a feeling he’s got a great deal of journeying left before he gets there. And now one of his companions is a septa who just happens to like getting naked and going for a swim in front of him every morning and who seems utterly cool with the fact that Tyrion makes no secret of perving over her whilst he does it. I’m not sure if I want to yawn or smash things. I just don’t know what this section added to this chapter except to make me feel alienated and objectified. Is something going to hang on this flirtatious septa’s nudist ways somewhere down the line? It doesn’t seem like they’re destined to have a relationship together – Tyrion’s fairly clearly hung up on the idea of finding Tysha and somehow persuading her that gang-rape is a thing that should be forgiven in the name of love.
Eventually, the chapter moves on and finally starts to have some interesting elements. Tyrion notes that there’s something decidedly fishy about the extensiveness of the education Young Griff is receiving from the Halfmaester (this keeps making my think of the Hoffmeister, help me). He then challenges the
HoffHalfmeister to a game of not-chess*, the winner of which will win secrets from the other. We don’t find out exactly what it is that Tyrion wins, but I guess it’s something to do with the birth of a king, as Tyrion thinks something cryptic about this at the end of the chapter.
One thing I did really like about this chapter was the scenery in the last few pages. I’m a sucker for ruins, and the image of Nymeria’s palace at Ny Sar broken and home only to bonesnapper turtles was pretty striking. As was the appearance of the Old Man of the River – a turtle of truly massive proportions. I only wish this moment had been dwelt upon a bit more, as it’s quite a striking concept, but felt a bit thrown in at the last moment.
Overall, this was not my favourite chapter so far, but it did have a few nice elements, and has led me to speculate hat Young Griff is actually another suitor for Dany’s hand. Bless. He seems like a nice lad; she’d probably eat him alive. n the other hand, I might become Team Young Griff just so that she can get with a Nice Boy for a change – anything’s better than her current crush.
Tune in next time for more frolicking dragons!
* Incidentally, this version of fantasy not-chess reminded me rather strongly of Sheldon’s Three Person Chess from the Big Bang Theory. Annoyingly, YouTube won’t allow this video to be viewed embedded, so the below is just a pretty picture. You can view it here, though.