Pages read: 390 out of 969
I’m due for another Abandoned Books Report, but the prospect of writing one made me a little sad. So I’ve decided to declare May of 2015 to be No Book Left Behind Month. My challenge this month is not to start any new books, but instead only to finish books that I’ve already started. To accommodate my work and blog responsibilities, I’ve broadened this category to include books that I have already agreed to read but have not yet started; this includes books that I am reading (or plan to read soon) with the students I tutor as well as books that are part of PFP challenges (though I don’t think I’m ready to try The Eyre Affair again quite yet). I have more than enough books in progress to fill all of May and then some – cough, War and Peace, uncough – but starting books is just so, so much fun. We’ll see how long I last.
I am still enjoying A Clash of Kings. I think I’m on to a pattern that George R.R. Martin uses in framing his novels. Each novel contains a prologue, and these prologues are not told from the point of view of one of the primary characters. Instead, they are told from a more omniscient point of view. In A Game of Thrones, this prologue is about Ser Waymar Royce, Will, and Gared, who have a violent encounter with an “Other” on the north side of the Wall. This prologue is only nine pages long, but it took me forever to read because I was trying to process its details and orient myself in Martin’s fictional world. I was a little miffed when these three men were barely even mentioned at all in the rest of Game of Thrones.
Right now, in A Clash of Kings, the whereabouts of Royce, Gared, and Will are of primary importance. Jon Snow and the rest of the Night’s Watch have gone on a mission north of the Wall to find out what happened to Benjen Stark and the other rangers who went to look for Royce, Gared, and Will in Game of Thrones. For a long time, all the villages they find are completely abandoned, not only of people but of animals. Rangers familiar with the area north of the Wall are alarmed by this because even the game that they would normally hear off in the woods seems to have disappeared. Finally they arrive at the compound of someone named Craster, who – to give you the short version – is a bit of a medieval version of Warren Jeffs (actually, come to think of it, I’m pretty sure all men in the Middle Ages were like Warren Jeffs, so the comparison is moot). Craster has nineteen wives, all of whom are also his daughters – he makes Jaime and Cersei Lannister look like Ward and June Cleaver in their separate beds. One of his wives begs Jon Snow to take her back to the Wall with him. She is pregnant, and she knows that if her baby is a girl, Craster will marry her when she’s three or four (apparently he marries his granddaughters too), and if the baby is a boy, he will sacrifice it to the gods. Craster also sacrifices sheep to the gods – and he enjoys decorating the walls of his compound with skulls – a proclivity he shares with a good 50% of the male characters in these novels. But still – he’s creepy.
The prologue of A Clash of Kings, on the other hand, is about Maester Cressen. In these novels, “Maesters” are among the only characters who have any kind of academic education. There is generally a maester or two at each castle, and they do things like birth babies and nod their approval of things and try to decide what to do when Lannister hitmen try to murder nine year-olds. Maester Cressen is a part of Stannis Baratheon’s household, and he has become extremely suspicious of Melisandre – the “Red Woman” and “Priestess of R’hllor” to whom I devoted a paragraph or so in my last post on this novel. Cressen also has a borderline-obsessive love for Stannis Baratheon. Cressen has been the maester in the Baratheon home since Robert, Stannis, and Renly were children, and Cressen has always been aware of how little Stannis is loved by the people in his life. Robert and Renly were always beloved by everyone they met – Stannis, on the other hand, is boring and methodical, and Cressen is determined to give him the love that no one else seems to want to give him. Think of him as Stannis’ own personal live-in self-esteem coach. Cressen is deeply suspicious of Melisandre, so he decides that the best course of action is to poison her. He arranges everything the way he wants it, but when the time comes for him to offer her the poisoned cup of wine, she seems to be on to him and insists that he drink some as well. He pauses and considers, then reaches out and takes the cup – and that’s where the prologue ends. I think we’re supposed to see this as a suicide mission – Cressen thought about it and decided to poison himself if there’s even a chance that Melisandre will then (before he keels over, of course) decide that he can be trusted and drink some of the wine himself. I’ve sneaked a few glances into the character lists for the next three books, and I know that Melisandre survives her little date with destiny at the hands of Cressen – and given that, plus the way the prologue of the first novel has come back to impact the plot of the second, I’m wondering if each prologue actually serves to set up the plot of the next novel in the series. This is an odd structural move on Martin’s part – and of course I don’t even know for sure if that’s what he’s doing – but I’m enjoying the suspense that is still very much in play as I work to figure all of these characters out.
I could say much more, of course – especially about Tyrion’s plot to marry Princess Myrcella off to some Dornish prince for reasons I don’t entirely understand, about the girl in drag who wins the melee at Renly Baratheon’s tournament, about Arya (another girl in drag) and her adventures after a fire and a battle with the Lannisters kills off the man who is supposed to be taking her and the rest of his crew of ragamuffins to join the Night’s Watch, about Tyrion’s new alchemist friends, and about how I want to drop-kick Theon Greyjoy into the Bay of Seals. You don’t appreciate ANYTHING Eddard Stark did for you! I want to shout at him. Ned Stark has more courage and decency in his baby toenail than you have in your entire arrogant body! Every time something bad happens to Theon, I’m happy – like when his father is mean to him and when he accidentally seduces his sister (as opposed to all the other characters in these novels who seduce their sisters on purpose).