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July 15, 2011

A Dance with Dragons, with Spoilers
Posted by Abi Sutherland at 01:21 AM * 102 comments

Smaug looked down at the wilting bunch of flowers in his claw, then up at the door in front of him. “I don’t think this is a very good idea.”

“Go on,” urged Yevaud. “Just ring the bell. When she comes out, say she looks beautiful in that dress and give her the corsage.”

“We could go burn a village or something instead,” Smaug countered brightly. “That would be fun. That would be much more fun than this.”

“She asked you to the prom. You said yes. Now you have to go through with it. And can you hurry it up? We still have to get my date, and figure out where Maur is. He was supposed to…” Yevaud’s voice trailed off.

Smaug, having rung the doorbell, turned to see what had struck his friend dumb. He was still staring when his date came out of her door and stopped dead in her tracks.

Maur sauntered toward them, enjoying the attention. Around his neck, lying rather crooked between his great dorsal spines, was a long strip of red satin. The ends met in a neat bow at the front. “Hey, guys, how’s it going? Do you like my tie?”

By the end of the evening, Yevaud will have lost his date to the griffin doing security at the door. Maur will be kicked out of the prom for knocking over the chaperones’ table with his tail while trying to break dance. The ordinarily quiet Oolong will fly off with the homecoming queen, to the ruin of her reputation on campus. And Smaug will ask his date to go steady with him. She will say yes, and one day they will marry. Her parents will come round eventually.

OK, but seriously, as requested: a thread to discuss A Dance with Dragons (and the entire Song of Ice and Fire series) without needing to ROT-13.

Obviously, this thread will be full of spoilers. Don’t like ’em, don’t read further.

And commenters, of your courtesy, don’t let the thread drift.

Comments on A Dance with Dragons, with Spoilers:
#1 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2011, 03:16 AM:

But - but - continuing from this starting point would be fun!

#2 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2011, 06:03 AM:

I'm in an odd place. As recently as a month ago, what I'd actually read in GRRM's Ice and Fire world was:

(1) About 200 pages of the original A Game of Thrones submission package, back in 1994 when we were one of the several bidders for it

(2) All three of the very entertaining "Dunk and Egg" novellas, the third of which appeared in an anthology (Warriors) on which I was the in-house editor

I remember enjoying those 200 pages, and it was enough for me to get the general idea--gritty realpolitik fantasy in which magic is real but is less important than you might think. I recall describing it as "Jacobean revenge fantasy." I wasn't actually the editor to whom it was submitted--that was David Hartwell--but it was a big enough deal that Tom wanted other people in-house to read the material and voice an opinion. Obviously we didn't win the auction, although IIRC we went reasonably high.

Seventeen years later, I hadn't read any of the published books in the series, although I knew a lot about them just from general osmosis. This is typical--if you were to poll a randomly-chosen set of working editors in any genre, you'd be amazed at the major recent works in their field that they hadn't had time to actually read. You'd probably also be impressed by how much they knew about those books anyway. Then the HBO series happened and I got hooked on it (gotta get my fix of this important emerging TV genre), enough so that I downloaded the e-book of the first novel and started reading it like a civilian. Oops.

I am now 66% of the way through A Feast for Crows, specifically at the beginning of the chapter entitled "Cat of the Canals." I am one of the 298,000 people who contributed to A Dance with Dragons having the highest first-day sales of any fiction title in 2011. As I said to a colleague at work, "It turns out this thing that zillions of people are reading and half my friends are addicted to is actually really, really good. WHY WASN'T I TOLD."

#3 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2011, 06:09 AM:

(All that said, I should clarify that I don't care if people discuss events later in the storyline than where I am. I enjoyed every word of A Storm of Swords despite having pretty much complete knowledge of where all the major plotlines went at the end of the book. Generally, I am professionally immune to concern about "spoilers." Teresa is the same way.)

#4 ::: IreneD ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2011, 06:12 AM:

Just quietly cracking up at all the sly references in the OP...

#5 ::: Tracey ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2011, 06:24 AM:

I'm a huge fan of both the books and the TV series. I've loved this series since the beginning, and have praised the first four books to the skies. I've encouraged everyone in the entire universe to read these books and I've been waiting eagerly for this one since August 2005, when A Feast For Crows first came out.

And...

A Dance With Dragons isn't good.

The first 562 pages of it are repetitious in the extreme, alternately recapping the same events over and over and OVER again and reciting a travelogue. Very little happens in the first six hundred pages or so save for people walking or sailing and people arguing.

Now, after that point, things do start to pick up and we do get answers to questions that have plagued us for some time. Some of these questions are even answered extremely well. There are some satisfying deaths, as well as some unexpected twists and turns. When Martin gets going, he's a good storyteller.

Unfortunately, you have to slog through a tedious two-thirds of the book to get to the meat of the story. I had to force myself to read that two-thirds; it was a chore, not a pleasure. For someone who loves Martin's books as I do, that's almost inconceivable.

Martin can do much better than this, and has.

I'm disappointed. Twenty-five bucks is a lot of money to spend on a book I don't like.

#6 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2011, 07:47 AM:

Just to say, I saw A Dance with Dragons listed as fourth in a UK best-seller list today. Isn't that a bit soon to have got any sales figures?

#7 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2011, 08:10 AM:

Dave Bell #6: Blame the Great South American River. Pre-launch orders on Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk,Amazon.de, & Amazon.mars mean that before it even prints a book can have quite respectable sales figures.

My own copy arrived two days ago, but I haven't started it yet as I'm in the middle of two other books and about to launch into a couple of projects that require some hefty writing.

#8 ::: Henry Farrell ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2011, 08:39 AM:

Disagree with Tracey. The slow beginning obviously has a lot to do with the book's odd relationship to "A Feast of Crows." I thought it was pretty damn good throughout. It's a book that everyone who isn't a lobbyist for the pork pie industry should love. My only regret is that it will be at least another couple of years till the next volume comes out (GRRM is not my bitch, but sadly, it looks as though I'm his).

#9 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2011, 09:49 AM:

There was a book in Waterstones the other day called "The Dragon with the Girl Tattoo". It looked slightly intriguing, but I think I'd rather read "The Fire That Played With Girls" and "The Hornet that Kicked the Girl's Nest".

#10 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2011, 11:59 AM:

Dave Bell, #6 -- "I saw A Dance with Dragons listed as fourth in a UK best-seller list today. Isn't that a bit soon to have got any sales figures?"

Not at all too soon, in a world full of point-of-sale barcode scanners.

For a typical midlist book, yes, four days would be a bit soon for data to be fully meaningful. For a book that begins by laying down hundreds of thousands of copies, you can derive plenty of information from a few days of data.

Also, look at the story I linked to in my last comment, about A Dance with Dragons selling 298,000 copies on its first day. 110,000 of those were e-books, every single one of which is an easily counted and reported piece of data. Additionally, lots of the 170,000 hardcovers are going to have been pre-ordered online or bought online on the first day. And the vast majority of the 18,000 audiobook editions sold will have been online as well. Of the remaining hardcovers, most will have been barcode-scanned at the point of sale. Four days is plenty of time to harvest meaningful data. For a sufficiently big book, one day will do.

#11 ::: Julie L. ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2011, 12:12 PM:

Henry @8: It's a book that everyone who isn't a lobbyist for the pork pie industry should love.

ADWD does have a fair bit of subtextual Sweeney Todd. That, and GRRM evidently discovered and fell in love with the word "niello". (The latter of which may make more sense for armor decorations than the colored "enamels" in previous books, but hey.)

On the whole, I think I do end up liking the book more than disliking it. But it's a near thing for me, and a lot (possibly most) of my favorite bits are backstory information rather than actual ongoing plot.

Bran, warging, and the Greyjoy/Davos POV subplots = win.

Almost all of the Essos stuff = not win. On my Kindle with the reading font I use, one Tyrion chapter inflicts an entire frickin' screenful of incidental turtle spam. Big turtles, litle turtles, turtles in a box; jugged turtles; turtles, eggs, baked beans, and turtles etc.

Springing "Young Griff" out of nowhere = very not win. How many identity switcheroos and fake deaths are simultaneously up in the air at this point, anyway?

#12 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2011, 01:30 PM:

I'm going to put out a suggestion that, love it or hate it, we not use words like "should" about people's subjective reactions to the book. No one's like or dislike of the book is wrong, except for the people who disagree with me.

#13 ::: Henry Farrell ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2011, 03:12 PM:

heresiarch - "should like it" was here used in the sense "will probably like it," rather than the "had damn well better like it if they don't want to be anathematized, sewn into a hairsack, and sunk to the riverbed in a condemned hulk" that I think you are reading into it here.

Julie L - was OK with the "Young Griff" thing, in large part because it's been clear since nearly the beginning that there is something odd going on with Illyrio and Varys - they are restorationists, but curiously unconcerned with the health and well being of the obvious candidates to be restored (Viserys and Daenerys).

#14 ::: moe99 ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2011, 03:23 PM:

I've been in on ASOIAF since the very beginning. And when I was diagnosed with lung cancer back in 2009 I swore I'd come back and haunt GRRM if he did not finish it before I died. I am a little more than a third of the way through A Dance with Dragons and to my mind, GRRM is still a master storyteller. But it becomes ever increasingly dark and horror filled. I weep about Reek. I continue to hope that at least some small justices can occur. And, to be honest, I am afraid that the series will outlast me. But I am glad to have read it. I think it was a paradigm shift in fantasy, introducing moral ambiguity as more of a central aspect of these tales. And allowing good writers such as Joe Abercrombie, to join the ranks. Bless him for finishing his Logan Nine Fingers trilogy, although, it did not end unambiguously either.

#15 ::: Martin Owton ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2011, 04:06 PM:

How many of the previous books do I need to reread to appreciate ADWD?

#16 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2011, 04:39 PM:

All of them, I would think. These are not novels so much as they are installments of one gigantic ubernovel.

Martin does provide some deft (if fairly minimal) what-has-gone-before at various points, but I would recommend simply starting at the beginning.

#17 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2011, 04:51 PM:

Martin Owton -- as I mentioned in the open thread, I'm doing my re-read of the prior books at the moment. I'm in the next to the last viewpoint character in ASOS, so I should start AFFC either tonight or tomorrow.

I re-read all the books before beginning the newest one, and I spotted what I think is a hidden Targaryen in ASOS. Somehow I had missed his description the last time I read the book, and suddenly I'm wondering if any of the Targaryen children were actually murdered. I've got the damnedest feeling that the children who everyone thinks are dead actually had others substituted for them.

Which puts a whole new twist on why Ashara Dayne threw herself into the sea...and I find myself wondering if GRRM is doing a riff on Dorothy Dunnett.

#18 ::: James Moar ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2011, 05:10 PM:

Lori, you could read the first 600 pages of ADWD before or in parallel with AFFC, as they're two parallel narrative tracks.

(Might be an interesting experiment for someone to do it that way and see what it does to the story.)

#19 ::: Julie L. ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2011, 05:31 PM:

Lori @17: GRRM did give a semi-squirrelly answer about the fate of Rhaegar's and Elia's children a few years ago.

Incidentally, does anyone have theories about alternate identities for Lord Manderly's granddaughter Wylla? She has a green-dyed braid and blond eyebrows, while her older sister's braid is brown. I don't think we get a closer fix on her age than "half-grown child", though-- presumably younger than Ramsay Bolton's bride "Arya".

Another interesting thing about Wylla Manderly is that in talking about her, Lord Manderly seems to confirm that the Silent Sisters have their tongues removed.

#20 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2011, 05:31 PM:

James -- Hmm, thanks for the suggestion. I think I'll try it.

Thank Ghods for weekends.

(For those who've read The Lymond Chronicles -- "Say 'Goodnight' to the dark...")

#21 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2011, 05:34 PM:

Julie L. -- but we know her black kitten survived -- Arya chases him in AGOT!

#22 ::: Julie L. ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2011, 06:00 PM:

The main reason why I find the AFFC/ADWD diptych so frustrating is that like "Buffy" season 6, a lot of the overall arcs are about futility.

Brienne's is the most obvious, because as readers, we already know that Sansa is tucked away in the Vale instead of wandering around with the Hound. Brienne has a faint chance of unexpected sideways success as long as there's a chance she can find the Hound while he has Arya in tow, but she doesn't.

Dany's arc in ADWD was incredibly frustrating in contrast to her previous blitzkrieg victories. On an intellectual level, it makes sense that she could conquer cities in a single stroke but be completely unprepared for the long slog of trying to keep the peace afterward. But it's excruciating to watch.

Unlike Cersei, she at least has good intentions for most of her people and is reasonably sane-- if anything, Dany wasn't paranoid *enough*. But both queens' nominal reigns are slow-motion train wrecks with cats clawing on blackboards in the background.

It's just as painful to watch Quentyn Martell's earnest trust that Dany would agree to accept him as a substitute for the old marriage contract between Viserys and Arianne. The poor kid seemed to've missed all of his other family members' gifts of looks, brains, and charm.

And then there are all the other people heading toward Meereen who never meet Dany at all. (I don't think Tyrion's pit show counts.) Young Griff gets talked into detouring to Westeros. Victarion doesn't get there before she leaves. Jorah gets locked away. Maester Merwyn is nowhere in sight in ADWD (unless Moqorro is him in disguise).

Jon Snow at the Wall-- urgh. Another slow-motion train wreck, where he keeps trying to pick the least bad choices but it's constantly evident that This Will Not End Well.

GRRM has miraculously made Theon likeable, though. Or at least pointed out that Theon has always been vulnerable to Stockholm Syndrome, though the Starks were much kinder to him than Ramsay Bolton is. And at least this time Theon doesn't want to emulate Ramsay, even if one of the Walders does.

Tyrion:Penny :: Jaime:Cersei, in a weird way?

#23 ::: Erik Nelson ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2011, 06:27 PM:

There could be a blend of A Dance with Dragons and A Confederacy of Dunces called A Dunce With Dragons.

#24 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker to Managers) ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2011, 07:57 PM:

abi:

Halfway through the first sentence of the OP I thought, "I sure hope Smaug hasn't just dropped a large bag of flaming dragon crap on the doorstep." Mischief Night isn't what it used to be.

#25 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2011, 09:06 PM:

Okay, done with A Feast for Crows. Cover me. I'm going in.

#26 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2011, 09:34 PM:

All I've read of this series was the bit that got serialized in Analog - but I certainly remember reading it, and at least some of the storyline.

#27 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2011, 09:37 PM:

And by the way, I have to say it: The reproduction quality of the maps in the ebook edition of A Dance with Dragons is a disgrace.

Here's a screen shot, from my iPad, of the "Beyond the Wall" map as it appears in the Kindle edition of A Dance with Dragons ($14.99).

Here's a photo I took of the same page from the physical book, during the fifteen minutes during which I had an advance copy in my hands (on its way to Jo Walton to be reviewed on Tor.com). Note, that's a snapshot taken with my phone. And it's vastly sharper and more legible than the dog's breakfast served up in the $14.99 Kindle edition.

I'm not saying this to score points off of our (as the Marvel Bullpen Bulletin used to say) Distinguished Competitors. Our e-books are just as full of flaws. We're better than we used to be, but e-books, considered as artifacts, still mostly suck.

It rankles to pay $14.99 for a giant fantasy novel and be unable to read the maps.

#28 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2011, 09:42 PM:

#26, P. J. Evans -- Analog? I don't think so.

#29 ::: Julie L. ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2011, 09:51 PM:

Downloadable/printable maps to go with the e-book versions(s). The PDF can be zoomed/nudged on the Kindle, but it's very very slow.

Personally, my favorite maps are these fan versions. The very last one (with the Seven across the top of the thumbnail) is a full-length map of Westeros that seamlessly splices together the individual region maps, and really needs to be viewed up close to see all the gorgeous little details.

#30 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2011, 10:15 PM:

Julie L., #29 -- Much better. But how are purchasers of the e-book to know that these are available from the Random House site?

The e-book doesn't even have the maps of "The North" and "The South" at all. There's no hint that these might be in the printed book.

Like I said, there are similar enormities in some Tor ebooks.

#31 ::: Julie L. ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2011, 10:36 PM:

Beats me. I only found the Random House map link on an Amazon discussion thread complaining about the useless Kindle maps. (At the bottom of Amazon's listing page for ADWD's Kindle edition, which has a different set of discussions from the Amazon listing for AWDWD's hardback edition.)

It would definitely be useful if Amazon placed the RH map URL somewhere more prominent on the listing page. Or for that matter, somewhere within the Kindle edition itself.

#32 ::: Julie L. ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2011, 10:48 PM:

In case Westeros.org keeps playing hide'n'seek with the full-length fanart map I mentioned, I found a mirrored copy elsewhere.

#33 ::: Erik Nelson ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2011, 11:24 PM:

pnh @ 27:
"e-books considered as an artifact still mostly suck"

How is it possible to consider an e-book as an artifact if it isn't a physical object?

(another message brought to you by the National Society of Hair Splitters)

#34 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2011, 11:25 PM:

28
It was quite a while back. It could have been Asimov's, because that was in the house for a while. But I haven't read that one since the early 90s.

#35 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2011, 11:41 PM:

Henry Farrel @ 13: I hope you don't feel singled out, Henry--consider my comment inspired by rather than in response to your own. It is equally intended for all commenters.

Julie @ 22: "Brienne's is the most obvious, because as readers, we already know that Sansa is tucked away in the Vale instead of wandering around with the Hound."

Yes--it seems like a bad authorly move on GRRM's part, because it's incredibly frustrating as a reader and makes it difficult to sympathize with Brienne.

"Dany's arc in ADWD was incredibly frustrating in contrast to her previous blitzkrieg victories."

I feel Dany was nerfed in this book. Previously, she's shown an uncanny ability to slice through Gordian knots, of lateral thinking, but in Meereen she was suddenly all "well I guess I only have two options here can't possibly do anything else oh well." I hoped, towards the beginning, that her blinders were what she would overcome in order to triumph, which is sort of true but not so much "triumph" as "go be crazy dragon lady in the plains for a while." I would have been much happier with like, two chapters of failing to rule Meereen and being scared of her dragons, not a book of it.

"The poor kid seemed to've missed all of his other family members' gifts of looks, brains, and charm."

Word. Not to mention, Quentyn is genre-blind: doesn't he know that anyone in a GRRM book who relies on storybooks for advice is doomed? I'm taking Quentyn's arc as evidence that GRRM didn't decide to add new protagonists in the fourth book, and the main cast we have is the Main Cast. This does not bode well for Baby Aegon.

(Speaking of which, I wasn't offended or even surprised that there happened to be yet another Targaryen stashed away somewhere. As far as I can tell, all possible conspiracies exist, no vendettas are forgotten.)

"Jon Snow at the Wall-- urgh. Another slow-motion train wreck, where he keeps trying to pick the least bad choices but it's constantly evident that This Will Not End Well."

I felt that Jon, at least, was wheeling and dealing and pulling off unexpected awesome before his untimely demise.

#36 ::: Julie L. ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2011, 11:58 PM:

IMHO Baby Aegon is probably fake-- cf. multiple references to a "mummer's dragon" (Dany's vision back in Qarth, and Quaithe's cryptic roll-call in this book).

I guess that with Jon, the prologue's infodumps had me primed for the idea that one of the remaining warg kids was going to get snuffed except for whatever cached version could get uploaded to a direwolf. (Bonus feature for Jon: "death" releases him from his vows.) Strategically, he did seem to be making the right choices wrt trying to evacuate the wildlings out from the Others Zone, but the establishment rangers just weren't buying into it. Maybe the internal politics could've been finessed if Sam was still around, but he wasn't.

#37 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker to Managers) ::: (view all by) ::: July 16, 2011, 12:19 AM:

Erik Nelson @ 33:

You're using the wrong definition of artifact. You want:

2 something observed in a scientific investigation or experiment that is not naturally present but occurs as a result of the preparative or investigative procedure : widespread tissue infection may be a technical artifact.

#38 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: July 16, 2011, 12:43 AM:

I think Baby Aegon is the mummer's dragon in the same sense that Viserys wasn't a real Dragon--he has the blood, but he hasn't the fire.

#39 ::: rmb ::: (view all by) ::: July 16, 2011, 04:50 AM:

Leaving aside the question of whether Aegon is who he believes himself to be, Varys's speech to Kevan Lannister in the epilogue is interesting. Varys's praise for Aegon comes down to "Tommen has been taught that kingship is his right. Aegon knows that kingship is his duty, that a king must put his people first, and live and rule for
them."

We haven't seen Tommen have very much character at all (we know that he's sweet and very susceptible to the influence of the various adults around him), so I don't want to comment on Tommen here. But as this quote pertains to Aegon and his advisors, it seems like wishful thinking at best.

When does Aegon show any signs of viewing ruling as a duty? Halfway through the book, he changes his mind about going to meet Daenarys and turns around to go conquer Westeros. Why? Because Tyrion convinced him that Daenarys would be more impressed with him if he tried to conquer Westeros on his own than if he went to her first (and he wouldn't be going to her nearly as empty-handed as Quentyn was - he had the Golden Company camped out waiting for her). Nor does Aegon ever tell us why he wants to conquer Westeros. Not even "Robert and the Lannisters and the Starks killed my family and I want them dead" the way Daenarys does. Just some sense that Westeros belongs to the Targaryens.

Jon Connington agrees to turn around because he's dying and wants to see Griffin's Roost again. When he thinks about his duty, he thinks about his duty to Rhaegar, and by extension, to Rhaegar's son, never to the realm as a whole. When he reminisces about Griffin's Roost, he remembers that the land was beautiful, that Rhaegar thought it was beautiful, and that it was going to be his. As far as I remember (from a very fast read), he didn't think about any of the people he grew up with at Griffin's Roost (note the contrast to the Starks thinking about Winterfell).

When they get to Westeros, the first thing they do is take Griffin's Roost from Jon Connington's cousin (and we have no evidence that he was a bad ruler), and have the people re-swear fealty to Jon Connington. Now, I'm sure there are perfectly sound military and logistical reasons for this, but it doesn't really read like what's best for the people of the realm is driving their decisions.

On the other hand, Daenarys's sense of duty is, if anything, overdeveloped. She hates the Starks and Lannisters for helping Robert, and she says she's going to re-conquer Westeros, but when she realizes how badly she's miscalculated by sacking the cities in Slavers' Bay and moving on, she decides to stay and do her damnedest to fix the problem. She fucks up. She fucks up badly. She's immature. I'm not actually sure she didn't make things worse by sticking around. But she doesn't lack a sense of duty.

Her turning down Quentyn to marry Hizdahr is basically saying to the Dornish, "No thanks, keeping Meereen from blowing up is more important than invading Westeros, which I've never actually seen". That's going to cost her when she does make it to Westeros and the cool-headed, pragmatic Doran is dead. She chains the dragons because shepherds' daughters not being eaten is more important to her than having large powerful dragons. Apart from being her family heritage, they're a huge military investment (and she already knows that dragons don't grow well when they're confined).

While I'm on the subject of Daenarys, why isn't Barristan Selmy giving her better advice about the whole mess? Ok, before he emerged, none of Daenarys's entourage knew anything about governing or occupying (Daenarys herself didn't, Jorah Mormont didn't, and the Dothraki certainly didn't). But Barristan Selmy spent much of his adult life putting down petty rebellions in Westeros. We've already seen that SOP after defeating a local lord in rebellion is to take children as hostages and confiscate wealth. Why did Selmy not point this out as soon as Daenarys decided to stay? Why is she only starting to do this half-way through the book? We're talking about a ruling class that nailed up slave children along the road to taunt her.

For that matter, why did it take Xaro whatshisface to point out to Daenarys that Meereen now had no economy? The disaster of a ruler who was clueless about everything except conquering is something Selmy saw up close and personal. Granted, he was a Kingsguard knight, and therefore deferential and likely contemptuous of non-soldiers, but not saying "Hey, we had a Small Council in Kings' Landing for a reason, you should go find some former slaves who ran their masters' businesses and get them to give you advice, instead of just having Unsullied march around and trying to make nice with the Green Grace"?

...I've rambled a bit far from my original point.

#40 ::: m.k. ::: (view all by) ::: July 16, 2011, 05:03 AM:

Just finished reading ADWD and I am annoyed. Noooo, not Jon Snow! (...although, now, the naming of his direwolf could have been foreshadowing.) Argh, just a passing glimpse of Brienne and then gone again? Hoping the next book does not take years upon years to be published.

Erik Nelson @33, speaking as an archaeologist, my short answer is yes, an e-book is an artifact. Normally I'd try to dodge the longer answer, but I may wind up lobbing "is an e-book an artifact: give me the long answer" into conversation next week, though, just for a little relief from the heaps of broken basalt my co-workers and I are currently sorting through.

#41 ::: Julie L. ::: (view all by) ::: July 16, 2011, 11:27 AM:

Jorah Mormont should've known something about governing from his stint as Lord of Bear Island, plus whatever training he might've gotten growing up as the heir apparent. Dunno how much of the latter we can map over from Jon Snow's experience as personal steward (and apprentice commander?) to Mormont Senior.

If some of the long-term fan speculation pans out, I can imagine Jorah getting really cheesed off by Jon Snow. "Hey, you punk-- my dad chose you as his successor to command the Wall, he gave you my Valyrian sword, and now you're taking my woman!"

(though course, Jon will have to shake off that minor case of death first...)

#42 ::: Jon Meltzer ::: (view all by) ::: July 16, 2011, 12:18 PM:

Another Targaryen shows up? No, I don't believe it (if anything, why is George wasting time on Dany if she isn't the heir?).

Can anyone say "Perkin Warbeck"?

#43 ::: GraceAnne_LadyHawk ::: (view all by) ::: July 16, 2011, 04:41 PM:

I have read all of these this year, on TheInfomancer's iPad, on my Kindle, and in trade paper, alternately. I have been musing as much on the differences among the reading/storytelling tools as among the books.

Do you think Jon Snow is really dead? I think perhaps not. For awhile, I wasn't sure if Robb was dead.

The storytelling, the blood and guts, the sex, and the occasional moments of human sweetness are completely involving. I wish there were a bit less repetition. Daenerys gets the best scenes, and Tyrion gets the best lines, throughout.

I hope we don't have to wait five more years. I am about GRRM's age, and healthy, bu I would prefer not to wait.

#44 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: July 16, 2011, 05:41 PM:

This is just to say

I have not read
the books
that are in
this series

and which
I am probably
saving
for someday

Forgive me
the discussion is delicious
so deep
and so smart

#45 ::: Julie L. ::: (view all by) ::: July 16, 2011, 06:33 PM:

ADWD finally ties in some background stuff which had never made it into the main series but has still been floating around out there. Some of it was relevant to the "Dunk & Egg" stories, but not all of it.

A few years ago, Martin infodumped a whole lot of detailed descriptions of historical Targaryens onto the fan artist Amoka. These included descriptions of the Three Great Bastards of Aegon the Unworthy: Bloodraven, Bittersteel, and Blackfyre.

Bloodraven ended up getting sent North to the Wall, and Bran finds what's left of him in ADWD. (Interesting that the Blackfish might've been named after him-- I wonder if there's a family connection through the Tullys?)

Bittersteel founded the Golden Company over in Essos, and we get to see its modern incarnation in full working order.

Bloodraven's and Bittersteel's respective mothers are still being invoked by the Blackwood/Bracken feud about whether to call some hills "Missy's/Barba's Teats".

And since that covers two out of three of the Great Bastards, maybe Blackfyre is being indirectly invoked if Young Griff is really an Essos-born descendant of his line.

#46 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: July 17, 2011, 04:13 AM:

It was at Melinda Snodgrass's recent party that George RR did his first autographing of "Dance". I don't know if Gozer the demonic cat was still comfortably curled up on his lap by then.

#47 ::: rmb ::: (view all by) ::: July 17, 2011, 05:44 AM:

Julie L @41: You're right, Jorah Mormont ruled Bear Island for a bit. But I don't think he was very good at it, and I don't think he was ever involved in putting down a rebellion.

I really enjoyed all of the chapters about the North and the Wall. The Meereenese chapters, on the other hand, dragged. I don't think Daenerys's decisions were nearly as bad as a lot of people seem to think - most of her decisions seemed at least reasonable to me, but she was in an untenable position. What really annoys me is the lack of world-building for Essos.

Just in terms of Daenerys and Meereen, we never get any sense of the infrastructure of Meereen. Martin understood that Westerosi cities have infrastructure and bureaucracy; a fair amount of the conflict in Jon's storyline is with the stewards who handle the day-to-day logistics. For example, does Meereen have anything like a city watch, or does each wealthy family hire private guards? If Meereen is based on ancient Mediterranean slave societies, the slave-owning class was terrified of slave revolts and kept soldiers to guard against them - what happened to these guys? Would they really object to Daenerys employing them as a city watch?

Is there a substantial group of poor people who are not former slaves? How do they feel about the new order of things? Who tends to have weapons and some basic training?

If Meereen is modeled on the slave societies of the ancient Mediterranean, there are a lot of highly educated former slaves handling the day-to-day business of the city. Why isn't Daenerys conferring with the people who worked for the equivalent of the Master of Coin to figure out what Meereen can trade besides slaves? I mean, it's great that they're going to trade with the Lhazareen and plant crops, but relying on subsistence agriculture and trade with shepherds means that Meereen is going to become very very poor.

From the geography we're given, I gather that the cities on Slavers' Bay mostly buy captives from the Dothraki and sell them to Qarth, New Ghis, and Asshai (the routes to the Free Cities are the demon road and the sea voyage along the coast, going around a giant patch of smoking radioactive ocean where Valyria used to be, so I'm guessing trade with the Free Cities is comparatively minor). Are there any natural resources in the area? Do the Dothraki trade in anything besides horses, cattle, and slaves? Is there anything besides slaves valuable enough to sell to Qarth or New Ghis?

Meetings to discuss trade policy and the establishment of a city watch may not be the most gripping reading, but these problems are much more fundamental than trying to get the former ruling class to like her. Watching Daenerys try to figure out what the future of Slavers' Bay could be without slavery would have been much more interesting and impressive than what we got. It would have been cool to see her try to figure out what she can do with three dragons besides conquer cities and burn things, for example.

She still might have failed dismally, because she had enemies and governing an occupied city is hard, but a change in storytelling emphasis would have made things more interesting. And also, while I'm sure Martin was influenced by the US occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq, and the post-Reconstruction era in the South, I'm not sure Daenerys's situation is comparable. She seems to have huge amounts of support from the slaves she freed; the only opposition we know about seems to be coming from the nobility. So are the Unsullied being killed by the actual younger sons of the nobility? Sellswords in their employ? Poor people who were never slaves? We never even see this question addressed, but it matters when you ask whether marrying Hizdahr is a good solution to your governance problem.

I have some sympathy for the basic structural problems Martin has to deal with re Daenerys: post-Storm of Swords, she has no compelling reason to go to Westeros (she's never actually set foot there, she feels she has duties to people in Essos, etc.). Before she goes, she needs to learn to rule (she's a great natural leader, but basically uneducated) and the dragons need to grow. She also needs a reason to go besides "it's mine" to justify the human cost of conquering Westeros, and preferably she should leave Meereen without abandoning her principles or turning tail and running away from the mess. That's a tall order, but I think that giving us some actual detail about Meereen would have been helpful (we got such wonderful cultural detail about the North in DwD!), instead of the vague stylized "weird decadent slave city" image we got.

#48 ::: Jeremy Preacher ::: (view all by) ::: July 17, 2011, 01:27 PM:

I also suspect that there's a timing problem - certain things have to develop more fully in Westeros before, narratively, Daenerys and her dragons can be looked upon as saviors. (Those things probably have to do with frozen undead.) Martin's stuck, because while he doesn't really *need* her yet, the fans will go nuts if she just goes offscreen for a couple years. (I think Martin's original plan, which I thought was mentioned here but I now can't locate, of having five years pass by offscreen between ASoS and the follow-up volume(s) would have solved this to some extent. I'm not sure it would have been better, but it would have avoided the sense of stalling for sure.)

#49 ::: rmb ::: (view all by) ::: July 17, 2011, 03:25 PM:

Oh, there's definitely a timing issue, and the five-year gap would have been good if Martin could have made it work. And I think that A Feast for Crows and A Dance with Dragons together put us in a pretty good position for Winds of Winter (though not necessarily to finish the series in seven books). I just think that making Meereen a real place would have both given Daenerys more interesting things to do, and given readers a reason to care. What I got out of the Daenerys chapters is that she's a nice person who wants to free slaves and prevent bloodbaths and who is willing to make personal sacrifices for her people. Also, ruling is hard. That's great, but she's the Mother of Dragons and the Breaker of Chains, and the slaves in Volantis are waiting. There is so much potential for awesome here... except that this is a story about Westeros, and the eastern continent isn't a real place.

#50 ::: Julie L. ::: (view all by) ::: July 17, 2011, 04:04 PM:

I find it ironic that GRRM apparently transferred the five-year gap out of the narrative and into the publishing schedule.

(Yeah yeah, I know-- cue Gaiman quote here.)

I think I've gone past exasperation to amusement about how many unresolved issues from book 1 are still up in the air and possily forgotten/MacGuffined:

1.) Who sent the guy to knife Bran? The last semi-plausible theory I recall from the text is that Joffrey overheard Robert talking about how it would be a mercy to kill the boy, and was inspired to hire a goon and give him Robert's knofe. Does this even make sense, considering Joffrey's personality?

2.) What happened to Benjen Stark? The "Coldhands" theory still hasn't been confirmed and may've been nixed, depending on how one interprets the comment in ADWD that Coldhands has been dead for a long time.

3.) Jon Snow's mother. The R+L=J theory is certainly picking up supporting subtext, but has never been invoked out loud within the main narrative. Ned's fever dreams don't count, since he doesn't tell anyone else; Howland Reed is probably the last person alive who still knows what happened at the Tower of Joy. (And ADWD springs yet another rumored mother out of the woodwork.)

Bran had better shake more answers out of the weirwoodnet at some point.

(I wonder whether the information from destroyed heart trees is destroyed with them, or whether it gets spread out through the tree network and still persists in the cloud. Or for that matter, whether there's any information-gathering capacity in generic godswoods that don't have weirwoods, such as the ones at the Aerie and King's Landing.)

#51 ::: J Stackhouse ::: (view all by) ::: July 17, 2011, 05:13 PM:

I've one to gnaw over: is the Night's Watch somehow integral to the magic of the Wall, a necessary human subsystem?

We're told, over and again and from various PoVs, that walls 'must be manned' and are made by the men who defend them. If the aftermath of the coupe sees a discontinuity in the Watch, might that bring down Westeros' shields?

#53 ::: sara ::: (view all by) ::: July 17, 2011, 06:41 PM:

On the Slavers' Bay city-states not being "real places," I'm frustrated too by the sense of GRRM trying to outdo Tanith Lee. Lee and other fantasists were preceded by E. R. Eddison and Lord Dunsany, who were preceded by Sir Richard Burton and Coleridge, and on and back to the ancient Greeks' descriptions of the Persians and the ancient Romans' descriptions of the Hellenistic monarchies. There's a whole literary heritage of Orientalism.

In ADWD Martin seems to realize he's going over the top when he relates the sellsword companies' perceptions of the Yunkish military forces, such as they are; the humor lies not so much in the Dr. Seussical descriptions of Yunkish armor as in the mercenaries' own slightly less lurid disrepute. Humor in GRRM is probably worth a discussion in itself.

#54 ::: Julie L. ::: (view all by) ::: July 17, 2011, 10:47 PM:

I can see how Dany's perceptions of Meereen might be filtered and incomplete because of her circumstances-- probably analogous to living inside the Green Zone in Iraq?

But I wish Martin had been able to convey a bit more of everyday Meereenese life via petitioners at court (like that poor guy lingering with his sack of bones, only less painful) or other POV characters. Selmy and Quentyn were still both obvious outsiders within the city, but at least they had more freedom to move about without being instant targets.

#55 ::: beth meacham ::: (view all by) ::: July 17, 2011, 11:43 PM:

Julie @50 -- I take it as true that Joffrey sent the assassin to kill Bran. Joffrey hated Bran; Bran was younger than him, but still defeated him during training. See also: Arya's butcher's boy. Combine that with Robert saying that Bran should be killed, and you've got your knife in the dark.

#56 ::: m.k. ::: (view all by) ::: July 17, 2011, 11:57 PM:

After my first quick read of ADWD, I wanted to switch gears, read something else, and then go back. I picked up Armageddon Rag and it turned out to not be what I wanted to read. Past the halfway point and I'm still not interested in it, other than to note that Martin has really developed as a writer and might have better editors now too. This morning, I started reading Jay-Z's Decoded. Pages and paragraphs and lines are leaping out at me and making connections to Westeros and The Wall, the coming of the crack epidemic and "winter is coming." Moral ambiguities, moral educations, burning ambitions. I wonder what Ned Stark and Jay-Z would talk about (now there's a fanfic thought...).

Julie L. @50, I think I've given up on ever knowing. Up until now, I'd started to just assume that Rickon was gone and lost forever - and the little bit about how a boy may have seen the direction Rickon went off in doesn't really give us anything, except the opportunity for us to feel hopeful about Rickon only to get hope snatched away from us again.

#57 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2011, 12:05 AM:

Julie L @ 45: "And since that covers two out of three of the Great Bastards, maybe Blackfyre is being indirectly invoked if Young Griff is really an Essos-born descendant of his line."

Ooh, I like that idea. Especially since, as a Targaryen on both sides, Blackfyre would have all the Targeryen coloring. But there would have to be at least one generation in between, right? So where are they getting more Valyrians to keep the look? Hmm. Baby Aegon is still Occam's answer how they got a Targaryen-looking boy of the right age.

On Jon's misfortune: Someone otherwebs pointed out that were Jon to be killed and jump to his direwolf the name "Ghost" would be extra fitting. I like that enough that I'm starting to think maybe Jon was killed, and Ghost-ride, but I can't believe that would be his permanent end. But what if Ghost served as a temporary storage until he could be resurrected?

#58 ::: rmb ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2011, 12:51 AM:

Here's another weird comment by Illyrio/Varys: In Tyrion's first chapter, Illyrio describes Daenerys as "A savior come from across the sea to bind up the wounds of bleeding Westeros" (actually, he doesn't name Daenerys on the page, he only says "A dragon. A dragon with three heads." but this is right before he ships Tyrion off to find Daenerys). Later on, when Barristan Selmy is musing on Quentyn Martell, he compares him to mud, and muses that you can make a poultice of mud to cool a fever but Daenerys wanted fire. So I'm guessing that she's not going to be binding up any bleeding wounds any time soon.

I have a hard time believing that Illyrio and Varys are so deeply wrong about the characters of both Aegon and Daenerys. What game are they playing? Or are they, in fact, deeply deluded?

#59 ::: J Stackhouse ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2011, 09:19 AM:

@58 I had the impression that the Beggar King and his rented Dothraki were never intended to rule, but rather to wipe the existing board and clear the way for Aegon. None could stand against the Dothraki, in the short term, but Viserys would spend his brief rule decapitating major players and making enemies of the people. Aegon would be their savior... with no surviving rivals. Golden Age, activate.

Dany's emergence as the true dragon ruins the plan. She was supposed the be a bribe, not a credible contender. As for what the new plan is, I've no solid ideas.

#60 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2011, 10:33 AM:

Just to report in: I am 56% of the way through A Dance with Dragons, and now I see the salience of Henry Farrell's comment #8. Gotta love a lord who knows the rules of guestlaw with great precision.

m. k., #56: I don't for a moment believe we've seen the last of young Rickon, if for no other reason than the fact that Osha is much too good a character to send offstage and never bring back. (Natalia Tena's portrayal of her in the HBO adaptation is one of the best things about that series.)

#61 ::: Anderson ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2011, 10:48 AM:

# 39: But as this quote pertains to Aegon and his advisors, it seems like wishful thinking at best.

Recall that Varys is going off report alone; ten minutes with young Aegon might revise his thinking slightly.

... I'm thinking of a new proverb: "As short-lived as a point-of-view character in a Song of Ice and Fire prologue or epilogue." Doesn't quite trip off the tongue, though.

... The POV chapter on Melisandre was interesting; she's been remarkably balanced as a character one both hates and admires, at least to me.

#62 ::: Julie L. ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2011, 11:27 AM:

beth @55: I take it as true that Joffrey sent the assassin to kill Bran.

I did too, until my husband pointed out during a reread that Joff doesn't seem to have the planning skills to do something like that.

Even more than his parents (all three of them), Joffrey is primarily a creature of impulse. I can see him telling the Hound to go kill Bran, but would Joff bypass him and condescend to talk to Some Random Dude about it?

Or would the Hound have gone ahead and subcontracted it out? He was the one who ended up killing Mycah, but I don't think it was on orders from Joffrey per se, as opposed to mundane callousness/bloodlust.

What about the level of relative subtlety/indirection in a.) waiting until the main royal party had left and b.) trying to draw everyone away from Bran's room by setting the library on fire? (And does the library tower have limited access? Books may not have the general immediate appeal of pepper, but they're still valuable goods that could be carted off and stolen.) Does Joffrey really have that kind of patience, instead of a flare of resentment that would want the kid dead now now now?

And why is Robert's knife even involved? If the dagger had been ornate as the one shown in the HBO series, it could've been meant as both weapon and payment. But as originally written, the knife doesn't look like anything special and the argument is that Joff didn't really know it was dragonbone and Valyrian steel. Why would Joffrey even bother to steal one of his dad's knives to give to the assassin, instead of just telling him, "Look, it's a comatose kid-- you can use your ordinary eating knife to do the job"?

On mild reflection, it strikes me as smelling more like Cersei. Jaime seems less likely to've sent someone else to do his killing for him. Cersei's level of paranoia is more highly developed and she has a more prominent motive to kill Bran than Joffrey's mere annoyance. She might've deliberately chosen that dagger out of personal spite-- she knows what it is, and that Robert won it betting against Jaime. And she has enough cunning to've laid out the basic "wait and misdirect" plan for the assassin.

But IIRC she's never been formally connected to the assassination attempt within the series itself, other than Cat's vague suspicions before Littlefinger starts his own trail of misdirection.

#63 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2011, 12:27 PM:

Ok -- did not have as much reading time this weekend as I had hoped -- BUT -- I'm over a hundred pages into reading both AFFC and ADWD in turn and it's working!

I'm posting this before reading the remarks after my last post. Impressions so far:

Where the hell is Tyrion going REALLY? And why?

Uh-oh, looks like Dany's bought herself her own personal quagmire...

Brienne's got a really thankless task.

I'm getting tired of Cersei (note she is one character I'd rejoice to see dead)...damn shame Tyrion didn't shoot her as well.

Jaime -- feeling really sorry for him, and I'm wondering if his position with the Kingsguard and his inability to fight is going to drive him to drink or suicide.

Bran -- ok...elk riding.

Jon -- between the devil and deep -- and Ghost senses 4 other wolves??? Summer, Shaggydog, and Nymeria, but both Lady and Grey Wind are dead?!And when are we going to get confirmation or denial on R+L=J?

Haven't reached a viewpoint chapter on either Arya or Sansa yet. No word on Rickon, either.

#64 ::: Julie L. ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2011, 12:32 PM:

The proper ratio for a mixed read of AFFC/ADWD is probably ~2:1 on a chapter-by-chapter basis-- otherwise there may be a risk of overshooting.

If some of a human warg lives on in a bonded animal, maybe the reverse is true and there's still some fragment of Lady locked away inside Sansa?

#65 ::: rmb ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2011, 02:57 PM:

@59: I can buy that as the original plan, but I'm objecting to the metaphorical language Illyrio is using. True dragons don't usually bind up wounds. Of course, he could be misleading Tyrion and readers, since the next time he talks about Daenerys, he's talking about her sacking cities on the way from Meereen to Volantis.

@61: Yeah, but whose reports? If my 15-year plan to rule Westeros depended on the correct upbringing and character of the (putative) heir to the throne, I would want some pretty damn reliable reports about his upbringing (and Varys is the master of whisperers - he can get reports if he wants them). I'm also not sure I would turn him over to Jon Connington, who seems like as entitled a lord as we've seen, and who can tell Aegon all about his lost inheritance (and its not like Varys didn't know Connington). Add that to the fact that Aegon's education seems a bit lackluster (Duck is "blindingly adequate", Haldon Halfmaester is less well-educated than Tyrion, Lemore is "a soiled septa") and something smells off.

Connington's value seems to be that he loved Rhaegar and is therefore willing to sacrifice his time and his reputation to restore Rhaegar's putative son. But who are Duck, Haldon, and Lemore, and what's their angle? They seem too perfectly the loyal retainers of the hidden prince.

Julie L @62: I got the impression that giving the knife to the assassin was just payment; it would obviously be higher quality than Random Dude's knife, because high-quality steel is a very rare commodity in Westeros. He might not know that it was Valyrian steel with a dragonbone hilt, but he'd know it was valuable. I also had the impression in Game of Thrones that Joffrey wanted Robert's approval and attention. As to the actual attack, I suspect that the market for stolen books would be extremely specialized, since most people can't read. I wouldn't expect Random Dude to see books as valuable.


I guess I might as well complain that I'm getting a bit sick of the invisibility of the queer characters in these books. Quentyn gets to think about the girls he made out with and wish he'd married Lord Yronwood's daughter. Barristan Selmy gets to muse that Ashara Dayne never knew he loved her. Jon Connington gets to think about Rhaegar's silver hair and not be very fond of Elia Martell.

#66 ::: Anderson ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2011, 03:35 PM:

I guess I might as well complain that I'm getting a bit sick of the invisibility of the queer characters in these books.

Yah, I was thinking about that too. For whatever reason, GRRM created a fairly sexist society, so it's plausible given that premise that it would be homophobic. But that doesn't stop him from having female protagonists who resist the patriarchy, as it were.

Given that the series has expanded to where a non-trivial % of the world's population has at least one viewpoint chapter, there should be a homosexual POV in there somewhere.

#67 ::: rmb ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2011, 03:52 PM:

Anderson @66: ...there should be a homosexual POV in there somewhere.

There is, Jon Connington (supposedly confirmed by Martin at the signing in New York). It's just, um, subtly shaded.

It's also a little male gaze-y: Cersei sleeps with Taena out of internalized misogyny, Daenerys sleeps with Irri because Drogo's not there, but there are no women who just like sleeping with other women. There's also, for example, apparently no sexual experimentation among the recruits of the Night's Watch. There are male whores in Oldtown, though.

#68 ::: Anderson ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2011, 04:07 PM:

There is, Jon Connington (supposedly confirmed by Martin at the signing in New York). It's just, um, subtly shaded.

Yeah, like the affair between Merry and Pippin in LOTR, I guess.

#69 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2011, 04:27 PM:

Re: #65 thru #68 -- You mean you folks never tumbled to the fact that Loras (Knight of Flowers) and the late Renly Barratheon were lovers?

I mean, Rainbow Guard...

#70 ::: rmb ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2011, 04:45 PM:

Renly and Loras also fall under the "subtly shaded" category. I don't really have a problem with other people hinting around them, since that seems to be what people in Westeros do, I'm muttering about Connington's feelings for Rhaegar being hinted about from his own POV, especially compared to the straight characters' (Quentyn, Barristan) feelings being spelled out.

#71 ::: affreca ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2011, 06:38 PM:

The first time Tyrion mentions that his father put him in charge of the drains of Casterly Rock, I figured it was a shout out to the other beloved dwarf character, Miles. With the second mention, I'm afraid that it is foreshadowing Tyrion will use the drains to invade Casterly Rock.

#72 ::: Nicole Fitzhugh ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2011, 11:48 PM:

I just finished it, and I'm really relieved that the plot is moving forward. I can see how things might end (that is to say, I can see that there will be an end. What GRRM may actually do? Only he knows. At least I hope he knows.) Two things: Jon Snow! NOOOO! Theon: No. I did not care for the Bolton storyline at all. That was really wallowing in ugliness. Also, hello, Barristan Selmy, could you please admit that Aerys was mad?


Some questions: Did Lord Manderly serve up some Freys to the Freys? I don't know why I had that impression. Where the hell *is* Rickon? And who now are all the candidates for Jon's mother? Where do the Starks get their skinchanging talents from?

Also, can someone tell me where in the books to find what happpened to Rhaegar, Elia and the children? I just finished my speed readthrough to get ready for ADWD and I'm confused, and can't face rereading them all again.

#73 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2011, 10:24 AM:

Nicole Fitzhugh -- Short answer Game of Thrones.

Rhaegar was slain by Robert Barratheon at the Ruby Ford* of the Trident River.

IIRC, Gregor Clegane kills both Elia and the children at Dragonstone Castle. (Though it appears that one of the children MAY have survived...)

*Named for the gems that fell from the Prince's armor during the battle.

#74 ::: Julie L. ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2011, 12:35 PM:

Book location refs--

First description of the Ruby Ford battle: early Ned chapter when he and Robert are visiting Lyanna's tomb.

There's an early Dany chapter in which she vaguely recalls tales of Elia pleading for mercy as the baby is pulled away from her; Viserys also remarks to Illyrio that the Dornish "burn to avenge Elia and her children".

In a later Ned chapter during the Hand's tourney, the Mountain is first pegged as the guy who killed Elia and her children.

I don't think Amory Lorch is pegged as Princess Rhaenys' killer until a Tyrion chapter in ASOS, after the Red Wedding.

(IMHO reading this series really needs a Kindle or other e-book device for text searching + fan crowdsourcing to glean up all the subtextual stuff.)

I didn't pick up the Frey pies myself either, but the suggested hints (which seem reasonably convincing) are that Manderly confirmed with Davos that giving someone a guest gift means that their stay as a guest is over (and that the guest protections have now expired); Manderly brings his own food to Winterfell (exempting him from eating the Boltons' bread, salt and whatnot, and thus also from guest/host stabbity-stabbity; note that the mini-Walder who died was betrothed to Wylla Manderly); after the wedding feast, Manderly demands the song about the Rat Cook, which was about serving a king his sons baked in a pie (and that the cook was cursed by the gods and turned into a rat not for the cannibalism, but for breaking guest-law).

#75 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2011, 01:37 PM:

Done. Loved it, but didn't Tyrion's storyline kind of fall off a cliff? I mean, the last thing we see is that he's going to persuade the Second Sons to change sides in the siege of Meereen, then nothing that subsequently happens in and around Meereen has anything to do with any of that. What did I miss?

I mean, there are lots of uncompleted storylines and one expects that. Victarion and his fleet. What's actually become of Stannis. Brienne & Jaime's lady-or-the-tiger moment. The further training of no-longer-Arya. Only with Tyrion did I wonder if I'd accidentally skipped a final chapter.

Aside from that, what I have to say is "Hodor. Hodor hodor hodor hodor."

#76 ::: rmb ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2011, 03:30 PM:

Here's another bit I noticed: At one point when Daenerys is mooning over Daario, she half-thinks that if he loved her, he would carry her off at swordpoint, as Rhaegar did with Lyanna. So she's heard some version of that story. Which version, I wonder, and from whom? Kidnapping a bride doesn't seem to be a socially acceptable Westerosi practice except among the wildlings, but we also haven't seen Daenerys think of Rhaegar in any terms but hero-worship.

#77 ::: beth meacham ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2011, 04:37 PM:

Dany can only have heard the story of Rhaegar and Lyanna Stark from her brother Viserys. Who would, of course, tell it with Rhaegar as a hero.

But we really don't know the whole of this tale.

#78 ::: Julie L. ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2011, 06:40 PM:

rmb @65: I got the impression that giving the knife to the assassin was just payment; it would obviously be higher quality than Random Dude's knife, because high-quality steel is a very rare commodity in Westeros. He might not know that it was Valyrian steel with a dragonbone hilt, but he'd know it was valuable. I also had the impression in Game of Thrones that Joffrey wanted Robert's approval and attention.

But if Joffrey was looking for Robert's attention/approval, would it make sense to delay the knifing attempt until after the royal party left Winterfell? They never got word of the outcome until after they reached King's Landing-- I can't recall offhand whether the rest of the court was ever formally notified about the failed knifing (though of course, Varys and Littlefinger both found out on their own), but they did eventually hear about Bran waking up (and therefore Not Killed).

It's entirely possible that Random Dude was given his orders and simply didn't have an opportunity to strike until then, but Joff isn't particularly strong on patience. By departure time, he probably would've started fuming that Random Dude was clearly slacking off, had no intention of ever following through, and was asking to be left behind at Winterfell as an excuse to run off-- mission aborted, advance payment reclaimed.

And I still can't see Joff personally talking to some nondescript peasant or low-level retainer to tell him what to do, and yet that seems to be what would've been needed for Robert's knife to get handed off. Otherwise, imho the scenario would've played out more like this:

Joff: "Yo Dawg, my father says that Bran would be better off dead. I agree. Make it so."

Hound: "I'm not going to do it myself, but I'll find you someone else who will." (finds Random Dude)

Random Dude: "I'll do it when there's a chance. In exhange, I want ninety silver stags[*] and a good knife for cutting the boy's throat." [*: found in a leather bag in the stable a few pages after the assassination attempt]

Which means that at this point, Joff says either

a.) "Hang on a minute and I'll go get one of my father's daggers. A completely plain, nondescript one that doesn't look particularly valuable. I guess it's sharp, though."

b.) "You heard him, Dog, he wants a knife. Give him the one on your belt."

???

#79 ::: Fade Manley ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2011, 06:52 PM:

Having finally finished the book, I have deeply mixed feelings. There were some brilliant crowning moments of awesome in there, my absolute favorite being how Jon Snow dealt with Janos Slynt. ("Hang on," I was saying, as they dragged him off to be hanged, "isn't the more traditional punishment--oh! Yes! That!") I loved Tyrion's storyline, with all its muddling complexity and uncertainty, while still going places. Damn, but I even loved the giant turtles.

...but at the same point, it still feels very much like a partial book. Which I sort of expected, but it turns into a lot of frustration. Since pretty much every chapter ever ends on a cliffhanger, no one plot feels more or less resolved than any other, except maybe Theon's. (Which was full of horror, but therefore all the more satisfying at the end.)

And frankly, at this point, I don't trust any report of a protagonist's death unless it's personally witnessed from start to finish by a reliable viewpoint character, and even then I give it a 50/50 chance of not being true. Between faked reports of death, rumors of death, replaced heads-on-spikes, glamours, skin-jumping wargs, and honest to go resurrection, I could see Jon Snow's head on a pike at the beginning of the next book and I still wouldn't be convinced he's really dead. Which is a little frustrating, because it means that the only deaths that really have any impact anymore are those of non-viewpoint characters; everyone else, well, they're probably going to be back again. Just like Bran, and Catelyn, and Brienne, and Davos, and Dany, Mance, and everyone else ever thought to be Dead For Sure No Really.

I'm still enjoying the series greatly! And I'm also often very happy that those people aren't really dead. But it begins to feel a bit comic-book-esque at times, with how often Totally Dead turns out to be only Mostly Dead.

On an unrelated note, it only goes to show that I am not good at picking up on references that I didn't figure out who the harper and his washerwomen at Winterfell were until the note in the last chapter, which is clueless even by my usual standards.

#80 ::: Julie L. ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2011, 07:04 PM:

IIRC there was an early preview chapter version in which Slynt did get hanged off the top of the wall with a very long rope. Dunno whether GRRM changed it more for plot resonance or because someone might've pointed out to him that a drop that far should've popped Slynt's head straight off his body (instead of just hearing his neck snap from several hundred feet up).

#81 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2011, 07:51 PM:

Okay, Rules for Deadness in aSoI&F.

(1) If they're the viewpoint character of a volume prologue: dead. [Noted by Jo Walton.]

(2) If you haven't sniffed toxic gases coming off their imperfectly-embalmed body: not definitely dead.

#82 ::: Fade Manley ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2011, 08:22 PM:

I'm trying to think of which viewpoint characters are dead for which I'm really, truly, sincerely honestly sure they're dead, no Mostly Dead, no coming back. (Prologues excepted, as noted above.) And I'm coming up with Ned Stark and...

...well, I'm mostly sure Quentyn is dead. (If only because he didn't get enough of a build-up for there to be much narrative power in bringing him back, poor kid.) There's got to be more than that, though. Who am I forgetting? Anyone?

And I'm not entirely sure a properly repowered via OMG DRAGONS red priest couldn't do something horrible with Ned Stark's bones, either. Though given how bad Catelyn seems to be after just three days dead, I'm not sure there'd be much point. Maybe he could rattle honorably or something.

#83 ::: rmb ::: (view all by) ::: July 20, 2011, 12:16 AM:

beth meacham @77: We certainly don't know the full story there, and Daenerys might have heard some version from Viserys, from Jorah Mormont, or from Barristan Selmy. I just find it interesting that even a presumably sympathetic version involves some use of force (possibly only against Lyanna's family), when Jon Snow and Stannis Baratheon both react badly to wildling marriage practices. And I realize Daenerys is a bit of a romantic, but no reaction of "So my married brother ran off with the daughter of the principal lord of the North, who was supposed to marry the principal lord of the stormlands. That was a little bit dumb"?

#84 ::: Julie L. ::: (view all by) ::: July 20, 2011, 12:23 AM:

Dany talks to "Arstan Whitebeard" about the Rhaegar/Elia/Lyanna triangle a bit; her angle on it is essentially that it was Elia's fault for not making Rhaegar happy :b

#85 ::: rmb ::: (view all by) ::: July 20, 2011, 01:30 AM:

Right, I'd forgotten about that.

#86 ::: PrivateIron ::: (view all by) ::: July 20, 2011, 08:13 AM:

@71 and others: wasn't Blackadder put in charge of the drains?

#87 ::: PrivateIron ::: (view all by) ::: July 20, 2011, 08:26 AM:

Some random comments:

Do we think Braavos is GRRM's favorite/optimal polity for this world? Or alternatively, the closest thing to our (Western) viewpoint, for both good and bad? A kind of Switzerland, Venice, America, with the added touch of a healthy attitude towards death.

Does GRRM have syblings and if so, how did that go?

Interesting theories I have read from others: Varys was a mummer; so Aegon may simply be Varys' dragon. Septa Lenore may be someone from the back stories. Ashara's Stark/Selmy's rival might be Ned's older brother.

My own observation: why would Varys lie to Kevan about Aegon's true identity?

#88 ::: Julie L. ::: (view all by) ::: July 20, 2011, 02:18 PM:

According to this bio, GRRM has two sisters.

Meanwhile...

Ramoth eyed all of the male dragons doubtfully. "I do not understand the point of this dancing nonsense," she remarked. "Especially if they remain huddled up on the other side of the gymnasium. Or are we meant to watch them dance until all of them drop from exhaustion except for one, and then he gets to mate with whichever one of us he can catch?"

More favorably impressed, Perscitia peered into one of the darker corners. "Some of them have a set of small regular polyhedra with numbers on the facets, look. They seem to be using them in conjunction with that set of books and papers-- I wonder if they have found a particularly interesting bit of mathematics?"

"Perhaps we could attract their attention," Lily suggested.

"Perhaps-- Lily, no, do not blow a kiss at them!"

#89 ::: Maribeth ::: (view all by) ::: July 22, 2011, 06:20 PM:

Luuuurved it. Though if Dany never ever makes it back to Mereen or any of the Slaver's Bay cities, that will be just fine by me. I suppose she has to at least stop by to pick up the dragons, though.

I too loved the Snow/Slynt chapter, and admit to wailing aloud, later, "Oh NOOOO! Not Jon Snow!" We can only hope that the red woman has a better handle on revivifying the dead than Thoros does...and that she finally figures out what her fires have been telling her.

Favorite typo: page 777, where Jon calls Tormund "Giantsbabe" to his face. Had to blink twice at that; concluded it was a typo, though Jon was drinking the Hard Stuff at the time.

#90 ::: Sandy B. ::: (view all by) ::: July 22, 2011, 06:31 PM:

Thoughts:

... Yup, I'm GRRM's bitch.
... After trying really hard to not reread 1500 pages of books, I'm going to have to go reread 1500 pages of books.

#91 ::: J Stackhouse ::: (view all by) ::: July 23, 2011, 12:55 PM:

#87: I didn't make the connection between Varys being a mummer and the mummer's dragon prophecy. Nice.

Another possible 'mummer's dragon' points to Mel (as the mummer, not the dragon). She uses mummer's tricks to jazz up her fire ceremonies, is currently backing the wrong AA, and would do whatever it took to make the facts fit the prophecy... Not saying I'm sold on this, but it's another possible angle.

#92 ::: m.k. ::: (view all by) ::: July 23, 2011, 05:40 PM:

This thread has been of great benefit to my current re-read of ADWD. Thanks, y'all! There's loads of places on the 'net to talk about A Song of Ice and Fire, but most of the ones I've peeked at are the sorts of places I prefer to avoid.

After reading Ta-Nehisi Coates' recent post (Wallenstein is Dead), I am thinking about picking up The Thirty Years War (C.V. Wedgewood, Anthony Grafton). I know GRRM is a major history buff and that this is likely a source he's used. If it's not too far off-topic for this thread, are there other books like this that Making Lighters would recommend?

#93 ::: Julie L. ::: (view all by) ::: July 23, 2011, 07:39 PM:

Maribeth @89: Favorite typo: page 777, where Jon calls Tormund "Giantsbabe" to his face.

Not a typo-- when the two first meet in one of the previous books (not sure which one-- it's ~50% through the Kindle omnibus of the first four books), Tormund himself winds up one of his epic yarns by saying "Tormund Giantsbane has a better ring to it than Tormund Giantsbabe, and that's the honest truth o' it."

#94 ::: Alex Cohen ::: (view all by) ::: July 23, 2011, 11:02 PM:

Whew, finally finished it and rushed over here. Count me in the mostly liked it camp, but I did feel like there was too much redundancy.

One of the major assets of the series to me is that it feels like real history -- motivated by people's internal characters, pushed along by social tides, and not a neat-and-tidy narrative. But that's also getting a little old, now: I'm growing a little tired of the constant flow of northern keeps captured, lost, captured again, lost again, captured by someone else, turned over in a treaty, lost again... That's the way real history goes but it's growing wearisome.

I'm (mostly) sure the red priestess will bring Jon back. He's Ahura Mazda^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^HAzor Ahai, right?

#95 ::: Terri MacMillan ::: (view all by) ::: July 25, 2011, 11:17 PM:

This kind of discussion is why I am a faithful ML lurker.
Just finished ADWD. Poor Jon - although, I have a feeling he may find a conduit to communicate after 'death', perhaps through Bran…?
re: Dany's dragons - isn't there an assumption that they are of potentially high intelligence - is there no way to communicate with and train the blessed things?

#96 ::: m.k. ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2011, 12:58 AM:

Terri @95, I am guessing that wargs (like the Stark children) would be able to communicate with and train the dragons. And having said that, what comes to mind is the possibility that Rickon could suddenly pop up in the vicinity of Dany and the dragons.

#97 ::: Phil Palmer ::: (view all by) ::: July 31, 2011, 12:47 AM:

I'm a sceptic of the series; it doesn't seem to have a point to it. There's no Ring to throw into any Fire, no modernism waiting to emerge, not even a Beloved to rescue and bring back to the Pyramid. I have a misgiving that Martin will at some point declare victory and go home, leaving the last-related events as testimony to whatever it is he thinks is neat, probably a steamy battle between dragons and snow-wights. Given how interesting the dragons have been so far, I can wait.

I therefore really, really didn't want to read an ASOIAF book with dragons in the title, having an idea as to what I was in for. I wasn't wrong, but Martin far exceeded my expectations. Some of the Daenerys chapters I would call Report on Probability A level material.

I thought Tyrion's chapters were better, though his chief purpose is to be the only person who can do everything right and not get killed. The best told chapters are the ones with Jon Snow; it would be a little strange if he turns out to be properly dead, since all his achievements in military preparedness would fall apart. This is realistic so perhaps it should happen, but the preparedness carries a great weight of narrative expectation which would anti-climax badly, so I'm expecting one of the many other possibilities, namely

1 Just wounded. Gets better. Has hovering between life and death dream.
2 Dies, but fuses with Ghost.
3 Dies and comes back blue-eyed.
4 Is healed by Melisandre.
5 Is healed long-distance by Bran
6 Is healed by the wildlings in some folksy fashion, e.g. with a poultice.

This is just about the only area I feel any speculation about, so for me the story is unbalanced. I did wonder if there can be any fantasy characters still around who don't know what "These are the best pork pies you've ever tasted" means or no sages with an idle moment in which to wrap a riddle in a mystery, set it in an enigma along with two sharp spikes and a powerful spring and leave it where a dragon would find it.

#98 ::: Julie L. ::: (view all by) ::: July 31, 2011, 02:48 PM:

Phil @97: I'm a sceptic of the series; it doesn't seem to have a point to it. There's no Ring to throw into any Fire, no modernism waiting to emerge, not even a Beloved to rescue and bring back to the Pyramid. I have a misgiving that Martin will at some point declare victory and go home, leaving the last-related events as testimony to whatever it is he thinks is neat, probably a steamy battle between dragons and snow-wights.

Since dragons and snow-wights are metaphorically the two titular Chekhov's Guns of the series, presumably one or both of them will make it to Westeros proper by the end. (Semi-ditto for Dany and Jon.) However, they've mostly been a pair of mismatched shoes locked in a gunslinger showdown of waiting for the other one to drop first.

When I was doing a series re-read back in April/May, I got seriously bogged down in book 4, resulting in two different sets of realizations--

In-frame: In ASOIAF, "honor" and "love" are largely weaknesses that will get you killed if you are stupid enough to believe in them. The first few books' presentation of them may conceivably be an extended setup to establish that honor and love are only as good as the people you've sworn them to, but so far, most of the examples have been negative.

They're as empty as the religion of the Seven Gods, which seems to be pure hierarchy devoid of numinous powers; the Faith only becomes potent as a political force when Cersei allows them to re-arm themselves into paramilitary strength. In contrast, the Red Priesthood, the weirwoods, and the Faceless Men's god do have some uncanny abilities. Wargs and dragons seem to be nondenominational.

Out-of-frame: While grimly slogging through the remainder of book 4, I kept thinking to myself, "I'm not really enjoying my time with these characters anymore. Maybe Martin doesn't want to spend his time with them either."

...and yet here I am, still reading the damn series. I can only attribute it to what AS Byatt calls "narrative greed" of needing to see how the story comes out.

For that matter, the series benefits from re-reading the first four books again after book 5, to pick up various small hints and bits of setup that were previously missed. The first few times around, the Boltons didn't stand out nearly as much, even after Harrenhall and the sack of Winterfell; Wendel Manderly was just Random Casualty X at the Red Wedding.

But this time, I got bogged down starting halfway through book 3. It took two weeks to drag myself to the end of that one. Progress through the start of 4 is even slower. At this rate, I'm not going to get back to book 5 again until fall.

#99 ::: Phil Palmer ::: (view all by) ::: July 31, 2011, 04:59 PM:

Julie @98.
I feel your pain. In my case I would say I am reading the series because, like it or not, and absent a truly WTF ending, it is going to be considered canonical fantasy.

In ASOIAF, "honor" and "love" are largely weaknesses that will get you killed if you are stupid enough to believe in them.

In ASOIAF, everything gets you killed, so why should honor and love be different? What GRRM does do well is to reheat and serve up that old chestnut the dialectic between the medieval and the modern. Honor and love I think can be seen as the predecessors to a more generalized reciprocity, the modern approach to social order, and as you note they don't do too well. But Authority, the medieval approach, doesn't do well either.

#100 ::: Mark Richards ::: (view all by) ::: July 31, 2011, 08:22 PM:

I picked up the hardcover of ADWD the day it came out. Finished, and hoping the next one doesn't take another five years.

(I am not looking forward to feeling what those of you who had read them as they were coming out felt ...)

Yeah, I also went "aargh" at Jon's apparent death When you think about it, however, he was legitimately executed by his brothers of the Watch. That he had made strategic decisions that, on analysis, were correct, but that his brothers didn't understand did not help, and certainly made it easier for them to turn on him. He had forsworn his oath, for which the penalty was death ... notwithstanding his being their commander. ("You said the words, Jon ... ") I can almost hear his last thoughts, as the blades descend, a la Ides of March ... thinking perhaps of Aemon Targaryen, who didn't "fail" more or less the same test. And of course, thinking "You know nothing, Jon Snow."

If Mel somehow has magic that brings Jon back, though, it releases him from being in the dead end, plotwise, of being in the Night's Watch. Death does release you ...

Yes, Aegon/Young Griff is too good to be true. I thought Perkin Warbeck, etc. as well when that plot line was revealed. He might be real, though, and I don't think he's a Blackfyre.

So many threads left hanging ... so many cliffhangers.

In particular, I'm on tenterhooks to see what happens with Dani. Khal Jhaqo, whose khalasar comes riding up in her last scene was one of Khal Drogo's kos, and reportedly now her enemy. Dani is having dinner ... with Drogon.

#101 ::: Leah Miller ::: (view all by) ::: August 04, 2011, 01:52 PM:

After rereading the whole series and then ADWD, I find that I'm pretty much reduced to "Jon Snow, nooooooo!" It took until the very end of ADWD for the knife to finally fall on any of my top five favorite characters, but fall it did (even though the proximity of a Red Priest leaves the finality of death somewhat in question.) Other than that, I can't really even tell you what happened in ADWD that didn't happen in the other books.

I mean yes, good, Arya's not blind and is kicking butt and remembering names, Brienne is alive for now, Jaime is becoming a decent commander now that he is no longer a capable fighter, Tyrion continues to be awesome, the dragons are getting ridden, Sansa has become something quite interesting... plenty of good stuff going on. But I don't know what any of it means, if it means anything at all.

Another random thought: out of all the players in this game of thrones, Petyr Baelish is undoubtedly the most skilled. He started all this crap, really, and I hate him, but I also respect the hell out of him. He went from from heir to sheepcrap island to Lord Protector of the Vale and Lord of Harrenhal, he has the heirs to both house Arryn and House Stark under his thumb, he's rich and successful and safe. My hat goes off to you, you monster.

Regarding death: a long time ago I was playing Final Fantasy VI (III in the US), and my brother was watching. When you killed enemies in battle they'd fade out in a fog of pixels while making a ksh-ksh-ksh static-y sound effect. I got to a point in the game where one of my party members stayed behind in an exploding building, in order to let the rest of us escape. Being young and foolish, when the building blew up, I assumed the guy we left behind was dead. My brother disagreed.

"He's not dead unless he goes ksh-ksh-ksh" he insisted. He was right, of course. You could go back and find your fallen friend where some fairies had pulled him from the wreckage... and ASoIaF is something like that. If it looks like someone is pretty much going to die, you aren't meant to make the leap to assume they're actually dead. When Brienne shouted her word, I was pretty sure that meant she wasn't going to die. The only death that I feel was a legitimate "takeback" was Catelyn, and I don't feel like she's actually alive... more undead, closer to an angry ghost than our lady of Stark.

#102 ::: Phil Palmer ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2011, 09:00 PM:

Gah. Quentyn Crisp. Got it now. Sorry, a bit slow.

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