(Index to previous ADwD posts here.)
Sorry to keep you waiting for this one, had to try and get on top of real life things for a while. But I’m still reading, and this behemoth ain’t gonna review itself. Let’s get to it!
Chapter 35: Jon
Short and sweet, this one. Time has come to swear in some new men of the watch, and some of them want to do it before a tree of the old gods. This means going out into the lands beyond the Wall. For some reason, Jon decides to go out with the men escorting the new blood. I’m kind of with Dolorous Edd on this one – he points out that, nice though the gesture is, Jon should really be thinking of looking after himself as Lord Commander. Nevermind, it means we get eyes and ears outside the Wall.
So, they head on out and it turns out the weirwood is rather farther from the Wall than I supposed from when Jon went to take his oath there. It’s late in the night by the time they arrive, and they do so to find a bunch of wildlings huddled around the tree, come to die before their gods, because they had nowhere else to go. Things are a bit tense for a moment, especially as one of the wildlings is a giant, who starts roaring something unintelligible to most of the men. Fortunately, though, one of the swearees is a former wildling himself, and he is able to speak the Old Tongue. He talks the giant down and is able to explain that they’ve just come to worship themselves. Once communication is established, they’re also able to invite the wildlings back to the Wall with them, which they’re pretty willing to do, seeing as they’re near death, and the only reason they didn’t go surrender to the Wall in the first place is that they heard about Melisandre’s burning of weirwood in her fake Mance-killing show. Nice one, Melly.
So, Jon is now up some new recruits, including a giant. He gets back to the Wall somewhat later than intended, but fairly safe and well. He finds a letter waiting for him from Stannis, saying that he’s taken Deepwood Motte and plans to march on Winterfell to take it and save Jon’s sister, if he can. Jon ponders that if Stannis were his brother Robert, he’d take his men on a forced march and probably get there with the advantage of time and ahead of the snows. Stannis is unlikely to do this, however, so it’s probably not going to end well.
I liked this chapter – I like that some of the wildlings are integrating and actually choosing to take the Black. I like that the wildling, Leathers, is able to use his knowledge of the Old Tongue to the advantage of the Night’s Watch to bring more wildlings into the fold. I like the exploration of religious tensions. There’s a little mention of further tensions with the women who have volunteered to help man the Wall, but I can’t say it overly engaged me. Having women in your army causes tensions – wah wah – that doesn’t mean they aren’t good fighters – wah wah – but some men can’t help themselves anyway – wah wah. Nothing wrong with dealing with this issue, it’s just that so far it’s very much predictable and uninteresting. Clearly we’re being set up for some Event further down the line, but there’s nothing to write home about, or to the Internet with, yet. This chapter progressed things a bit, but didn’t do that much more.
Chapter 36: Daenerys
The predicted waves of plague-riddled Astapori have arrived at Meereen. They’re starving and dying. Some say they are eating their dead. Against everyone’s guidance, Daenerys goes out to deliver the food herself. Appalled at their conditions, and knowing that things will only get worse if the people don’t wash and dispose of the dead properly, Dany gets down off her horse and goes to help them herself, shaming everyone else into joining her. Everyone thinks this is a bad idea, but Daenerys reassures herself that the blood of the dragon never gets sick, which I guess is nice for her, if true, although I don’t know about her men.
So, they feed and wash the sick and fifty of her Unsullied go to help burn the bodies of the dead. Then they return to the palace and wash a lot. After which Dany has to go speak to the Graces about her upcoming wedding, where they try to force a number of ‘merely symbolic’ concessions on her, including an examination of her lady-parts to verify that she’s still fertile… which of course she isn’t. It’s not clear whether she wins the day on that, although she concedes virtually everything else, including washing Hizdahr’s feet as a symbol of her subservience. Dany demands that he should wash her as well, which he concedes to, but I can’t help but feel that if this marriage goes through it’s not going to be as much to her liking as she thinks it’ll be.
After this, Daario arrives with bad news. Hearing that he’s covered in blood, Dany breaks her resolve not to see him anymore, although it turns out that the blood is mostly someone else’s. His news shocks everyone: Brown Ben Plumm has gone over to the Yunkai’i. I don’t know if I’m supposed to remember this dude, but I don’t. Dany does, though, and she’s as shocked as everyone else. Is this one of her predicted betrayals? If this is the one for money, was she wrong about Ser Jorah? (Answer: yes, but I guess she lacks our omnipotent perspective.) She commands the closure of Meereen’s gates, even though this means that the Astapori will be left helpless outside.
After this, Daario and Dany are left alone and she gives into her inexplicable desire to sex him up. Apparently realising she’s unsure about what the prophecies mean anymore means that she now thinks Daario won’t be one of her betrayers? Don’t ask me, I don’t get any of this line of character motivation. All I can think is that this dude has killer pheromones. His final line before she ends the chapter by saying ‘What are you waiting for?’ is to boast that he’s had a thousand women before her. I guess it must be true that some women are turned on by lines like this, but to me it’s not only laughably cheesy, but the cheese is an unpleasant, oily sort of cheese. Eh… I’m bored of bitching about the Daenerys/Daario plotline. If you’ve come this far with me you know why it bothers me, and, to be honest, this is probably the least offensive chapter in which he has featured. At this stage I just have to go ‘Lust is blind’ and hope that it won’t be too long before his inevitable betrayal.
As for the rest of the chapter, well, I’m glad the war appears to finally be reaching her. I know it fits with the realism that armies take a while to get together and go whether they need to be, but we’ve been doing an awful lot of treading water down here in the southerly plotlines. The plague-filled Astapori outside the walls are interesting, though. If the Yunkai’i are in for a siege then that’s going to cause them problems. Biological warfare FTW!
And that’s about it, for now. Toodle-pip!