(Index to previous A Dance with Dragons posts here.)
Back on the waggon again! Sorry for the gap, chaps. Absence of Internet for three weeks in January plus Life equals a bit of a RAWR backlog, and once I got off this horse it was a little daunting to try and get back on again. But I’m not leaving this baby unfinished. I’m still flattered by the number of hits this gets, and I kind of feel I owe it to people not to get 48 chapters through and just stop. So: onwards and upwards!
Chapter 49: Jon
Jon sees Alys Karstark married to the Magnar of Thenn to save her from an unwelcome marriage claim and help cement peace. Jon keeps Cregan Karstark (Alys’s uncle, who would have taken her by force) prisoner in an ice cell under the wall. Jon offers t let him take the black if he yields his claim upon Alys’s holding, but he refuses. Tensions continue to run high between the Queen’s men and the men of the Night’s Watch, and between the old guard of the Night’s Watch and their new wildling brothers and sisters. Lady Melisandre says that she has seen the Queen’s fool in her fires, surrounded by skulls, but when she searches for Stannis all she sees is snow. The same as when she searches for Mance. When she searches for Jon, she sees daggers ever closer. Happy omens all. The chapter closes with the sound of a horn, heralding Val’s return, with what Jon hopes will be a host of friendly wildlings to swell their ranks.
The plot inches onward in this chapter. The wedding saves Alys and will presumably mean something somewhere down the line. Val’s return will be important, but we don’t actually see her safe and sound and backed by a host of friendly wildlings, yet. Mostly, we’re treading water, although there’s a lot going on in Lady M’s visions. Menacing skulls and daggers and an awful lot of snow. And, of course, Snow may have a double meaning – the snow Stannis and Mance are buried by in the weather-stalled conflict to the south, or ‘Snow’ – the last name of a certain significant viewpoint bastard. Is Melisandra seeing snow when she searches for R’hllor’s champion because it is Snow who should be her champion, not Stannis? Everything is much too vague to say much of anything, for now, but it’s interesting that the fool is being highlighted as sinister. Fools have a literary history of unusual significance.
Chapter 50: Daenerys
Daenerys is married, and uncomfortable with the concessions she has made to gain peace. Peace with slavers – slavers who trade directly outside her walls. There’s a recurrent and poignant refrain in Daenerys’s thought ‘If I look back, I am lost‘. It is both her strength and her weakness. She has come as far as she has by pushing ever onward and not showing uncertainty, but there is a weakness, too, in sticking to one’s decisions and never retreating. Staying in Meereen seems to have been an increasingly bad idea. Daenerys is as unyielding as Tyrion is as changeable as the wind. Both are survival tactics, and I become ever more and more curious of what will happen when they meet. Oh God I hope they meet!
Daario had reportedly become wild since the wedding, and likely to kill Quentyn for his betrayal. Daenerys sends him and several others to the Yunkai’i as hostages against the peace. She must also make peace with Brown Ben Plumm of the Second Sons and in talking to him she learns that he betrayed her because he saw her as defeated – because she had chained her dragons, instead of releasing them. She comes to understand, and learns a valuable lesson, but it would be wrong to say that she forgives. Uneasy in her peace, Daenerys plots to reach out to the other mercenary companies, so that she will be ready if betrayed.
She also takes Quentyn to see her dragons, and warns him – she is his only friend in these lands, and she is married. The sellswords would kill him for his betrayal, her husband is not likely to be at ease with another suitor so close at hand, and Quentyn, bless him, is just a boy with two knights and a bit of paper. He says he will stand his ground, of course.
OK, so maybe Quentyn is not made of the same hard iron as Daenerys. Bah. It’s an interesting chapter, but like the one before it, one senses that it is mostly setting things up for the future. The various tensions and potential alliances are outlined for us, and Quentyn meets some dragons, but it’s still a waiting game. No one has come out into the open, yet; it is all preparations and secrecy. It’s well described, but I was hoping for a bit more bang in the 50th chapter. I guess one shouldn’t expect writing by nice round numbers, though.
Tune in next time to see if something actually happens!