Tuesday, June 28, 2016

The Gods of A Game of Thrones

A Dance with Dragons (A Song of Ice and Fire, #5)

The world of a Game of Thrones is not the kind of world where the gods step in and save the day, or dictate to humanity, like in some high fantasy settings. In fact the gods of this world seem pretty aloof, for the most part- the Faith of the Seven, the red god R'hllor, or the old gods of the north. However, as with magic and mystical creatures, we see an upsurge in supernatural activity as the books move along- it's acknowledged that the birth of Dany's dragons has reawakened magic to some degree. Does this apply to the gods as well?

Spoilers for the books and the show.

Let's look at the old gods of the north. For much of the story we're told that the men of the north, including the wildlings, hold to the old gods- the spirits of tree and stream, of earth and sky. However in A Dance with Dragons we learn that the weirwood trees are inhabited by the spirits of departed greenseers- those rare skinchangers who can see through the weirwood faces and also through ravens. So are there "old gods" as we think of gods, or are the gods of the north just Children of the Forest living on in their sacred trees?

To be honest I was a little disconcerted by this. The Starks hold to the old gods, the traditions of the north, as do many other houses, and they seem to have a mystical bond with their direwolves as well. It just seems weird to think that the north worships dead, precognitive elves basically rather than a deity or deities- and they don't have a clue. Imagine the consternation if they find out!

"A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies," said Jojen. "The man who never reads lives only one. The singers of the forest had no books. No ink, no parchment, no written language. Instead they had the trees, and the weirwoods above all. When they died, they went into the wood, into leaf and limb and root, and the trees remembered. All their songs and spells, their histories and prayers, everything they knew about this world. Maesters will tell you that the weirwoods are sacred to the old gods. The singers believe they are the old gods. When singers die they become part of that godhood." 

R'hllor is a different thing entirely. The red god of the priestess Melisandre, we don't learn much about this faith other than its affinity for fire until, again, in A Dance with Dragons we see their temples in Essos and learn that Benerro, the high priest in Volantis, is opportunistically siding with Daenerys in her crusade against slavery, leading to strife in that ancient city. And we meet another priest, Moqorro, who uses sorcery or some kind of power to survive and "heal" Victarion Greyjoy. Is R'hllor a god in the usual sense, or a fire being of some sort that uses the mortals who worship it for its own purposes?

The Seven of Westeros are a little more abstract, or aloof. We don't get any sense that they are interfering in affairs- greenseers can apparently act to some extent through their trees or ravens, R'hlor's priests are causing all kinds of mischief, but septons of the Seven do not seem to be manifesting any powers. The Faith militant does take power in Kings Landing, but that's clearly ambitious people at work, not divine intervention. At least that we know of. So this does seem to be more of a case of fantasy gods being kept at arms length, not impacting the story in a serious way.

The Many Faced God in Braavos, or the Drowned God of the Greyjoys, are similar. The Faceless Men talk about serving the Many Faced God, but from all acccounts they are running a well-oiled death cult with procedures in place- there is no indication the Many Faced God is actually doing anything. And the Drowned God certainly doesn't seem to be doing much, although one could argue the point since Aeron "Damphair" Greyjoy sometimes hears things in the waves, and the men they drown are brought back to life. But I just think Aeron's crazy and the rescuscitation is a rather unorthodox (and unrealistic) case of CPR.

One interesting wrinkle is the theory that the Drowned God is not a god at all, but a monster from the depths that will rise in the story when Euron Greyjoy sounds a great horn or makes a blood sacrifice of his fleet. This is the eldritch apocalypse theory by Poor Quentyn and it's very compelling- worth a read if you're interested. Aeron may indeed see his "god" arise, this theory says, although it's not a god he's expecting to see!

So... we could run through other examples but these are by far the most prominent religious figures we see in the story. What do you think? Are the "gods" of Westeros/ Essos real? Or are they just aloof and unknowable and maybe certain creatures are using religious affiliation for their own ends? And what do you think of the eldritch apocalypse theory?

Monday, June 27, 2016

Game of Thrones The Winds of Winter

"Winter is here."

The most important words spoken in the season finale of Game of Thrones. The white raven has gone forth signifying winter has arrived. Aptly named, this episode- The Winds of Winter- leaves no doubt that after all the waiting, we are getting to the endgame. This may be the biggest and best episode the show has had- every storyline has a twist and the landscape has entirely changed by the end of the episode. There are three forces now that matter in Westeros- the North, the crown in Kings Landing, and the forces of Daenerys across the sea.

Spoilers for books and show.

The white ravens have gone forth, and winter has been officially named. Jon and Sansa get the news at Winterfell just as Jon is sending Melisandre away- is that a wise decision?- and we have a nice moment between the two of them. I thought in some ways the scene with Melisandre and Davos was the most impactful scene - there was real emotion there, and Jon was put in a tough spot. Just as he is learning to trust Mel, he is faced with the horrible truth of something she did -and this decision may have consequences. Where will the red priestess go? She is certainly not done playing a role- will she end up with the Brotherhood without Banners? Or perhaps she will also ally with Dany?

We start though with Kings Landing, and another very important decision. This decision is made by Cersei and changes both Kings Landing and perhaps the Seven Kingdoms forever. As many expected she uses a wildfire cache beneath the city to rid herself of the Faith and her Tyrell enemies at the same time. It's crazy even by her standards- and what is most intersting to me is how Jaime will respond. Consider that Jaime killed Aerys to prevent just such a conflagration- and he was disgraced and called the Kingslayer for it. He has shared the knowledge that he saved the city with few, perhaps only one- Brienne- and now he returns to find that his sister has done the very thing he dreaded.

Cersei's children are gone, and now she has nothing holding her back. The show has had a tendency to paint her as a more sympathetic figure than the Cersei of the books, but that's done with. After this we see her as she truly is. And we have a large array of players swept from the board- Margaery and Loras, as well as Kevan Lannister and Mace Tyrell. In the books Varys uses his "little birds" - children- to kill Kevan so as to remove any moderating influence on Cersei. Here they riff on that  by using the "birds" to kill Pycelle and set off the conflagration. I thought it was a great- and chilling sequence- and the music upped the suspense even as I wondered why Loras would be so dumb. I'm going to miss Margaery on the show, and Mace Tyrell is still alive and not such a buffoon in the books- but they're streamlining the plot big time so they don't need him.

"Fire and blood."

These words are spoken by Varys as he arrives in Dorne to meet with Lady Olenna and the Sand Snakes. As expected the alliance between Daenerys and Dorne seems to be in effect. These same words are spoken in the books when Dany discusses a possible alliance with the Dornish- and with the Tyrell family decimated by the events in Kings Landing, Olenna is out for blood. This should be interesting- all the players are lining up now. Dany dismissed Daario from her life- book Daario is so different and I don't see him going quietly like that- and then Dany makes Tyrion the Hand of the Queen. They're getting along just swimmingly, aren't they?

Frey pies! We get to see Frey pies- didn't think that would happen. Readers of the books know that the Manderlys "prepared" some Freys for a feast and fed them to their own kin, as well as the Boltons- here Arya does it and presents it to Lord Frey before offing him. What a moment- and I loved that the serving girl Arya was pretending to be flirted with Jaime. Maybe she was going to snuff him? Never mind the passage of time or distance on this show- as satisfying as it was to see Arya do her thing, I had to laugh that she is in the Riverlands now. Teleport!

"Promise me Ned."

Those words have hovered over this show (and especially the books) since the whole saga began, and tonight we got confirmation that Jon Snow is the son of Rhaegar and Lyanna. When you think about it, the first book was published twenty years ago, so a twenty year old theory was pretty much confirmed tonight. That's a big moment- as is the return of a King in the North as the northern houses fall in behind Jon Snow. I thought Sansa looked proud until she exchanged a look with Littlefinger- you could see him calculating the shifting winds as the northern houses swore fealty. He's going to be a wild card- and they named Jon a king, not Sansa a queen. How will that play?

Finally- the conclusion. The Greyjoys are allied with Dany and they're sailing for Westeros- another big moment that has been long in the coming. I thought that was a great shot at the end with the fleet sailing and the three dragons whirling overhead- very nice. Varys was on deck- Teleport- after just being in Dorne, but whatever. It might be a fun drinking game to take a swig every time someone teleports on this show- but I digress. Bottom line is, for a show that has been hit or miss for me all along, I thought this episode was effective, brought everything together and managed to juggle a lot of storylines pretty well. A great end to an eventful season.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Sunday Post #148

The Sunday Post is a weekly meme hosted by Kimba the Caffeinated Book Reviewer

 It's been hot and sunny around here- a nice week. I've been enjoying the warm days and the nights have been nice too- still warm but comfortably so. There were some nights this week where the moon was out and the clouds were scudding by and it was great to be out- nice to be able to see the stars too without freezing! Lots of blue sky- now if only I were up north to enjoy it. Maybe in July...  

Last week HBO NOW famously went down just as Game of Thrones was about to start. As I use HBO NOW to watch I was of course irritated, but it was entertaining to watch Twitter and see everyone go berserk. It took almost an hour to come up... 

The showrunner of 12 Monkeys took note of one of my tweets and that was kinda cool- the great thing about Twitter is that of all the social media platforms it seems to be the one best able to connect fans and creators.  This show is one that flies under the radar a bit and so there is a real question as to whether it will be renewed for S3. I hope it is... 

The Invisible Library (The Invisible Library #1)

This cracked me up. 

And I'm listening to...

Last Weeks Stuff:

Game of Thrones Battle of the Bastards 
High Summer Read-a-thon Sign Up   
Skinchanging- Is It Bad?     
Weekly Round Up (TV reviews)
Bookcover Spotlight  

Next Week:

Game of Thrones final episode and wrap up post
Discussion- The Gods of a Game of Thrones
A Dance with Dragons- The Discarded Knight 
Summer Days and Summer Nights reviewed
Bookcover Spotlight



Vicarious (Vicarious, #1)


Here's a possible Star Wars Episode VIII leak 

The Eater of Books reviews Vicarious, which is one I'm looking forward to. 

Cait at Paper Fury asks What Does A Book Blogger Actually Do

Here's a peek at up north Michigan style. 

This is kinda fun. 

 One of the better moments from  Game of Thrones- I love the part starting at :30 mark. 

Here's the first 4 mins of Killjoys S2.  

Neon Dragon by Nigel Quarless. 

Pirate Tavern at Artstation. This one has to be seen up close to appreciate the details. 

Swamp world. Art by Cristi Balanescu 


Asteroid base. Love the asteroids in the background... Art by Cristi Balanescu 


Ambience of the week. 

Friday, June 24, 2016

Bookcover Spotlight #54

Those Summer Nights

This week I'm showcasing some sun and whitewashed buildings- and the beach too! Not my kind of read but I love the cover.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Exile for Dreamers

Exile for Dreamers (Stranje House, #2)

Last year I read A School For Unusual Girls and liked it a lot- the premise being a boarding school for wayward young ladies in reality is an academy training the women to be spies for the Crown. Sounds like a pretty standard YA plot, right? And it is- but the book was good and I liked that the five young women who live and train there each had their own distinct personality and skill set. The plan for this series is to showcase a different POV each time- in the first one it was Georgianna and in this one it's Tess.

 Tess has prophetic dreams that terrify her- she comes from a line of women who eventually succumb to madness or tragedy due to these visions. She's afraid to sleep, terrified of what she might see. She has a lot of guilt in her past and also struggles with a forbidden attraction to a lord whose personal history is intertwined with the ladies due to events in the first book. We saw this relationship develop in Unusual Girls and here it takes center stage.

This book was very readable and I found it flew by like the first one did. This is an alternate history of sorts exploring what might have happened if Napoleon had been more successful and regained the French throne. I like how all five students bring something to the table, they all have a role to play, and unlike the first book most of the action takes place at the school, with its secret passages and sea cliffs.

The book delves into the relationship between Tess and Daneska as well. Daneska is the former student and current nemesis who now works for Napoleon. They were close before the betrayal and their scenes are handled well. The only thing I didn't like were the occasional secrets that were held from other characters- that's always a pet peeve of mine when the protagonist doesn't share valuable info. Sure it might move the plot but it's dumb, although to be fair there are good reasons for it here. And the conclusion is thrilling and builds on the setting nicely. I would definitely read the first book however before this one as all the relationships are established there

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Weekly Round Up #4

An AMAZING end to S4. And Delphine is alive! Krystal of all people (unwittingly) saved her life and Delphine is now with the mysterious island people led by the Messenger. Whoever he is. There's some kind of conection between therm and Neolution since Van Lier has her taken there for treatment? Anyway what a beginning to an episode- in fact the whole thing was great . I loved it when Krystal is introduced to Sarah and is so not impressed. 

"Cause this girl looks nothing like me. Like, first of all, my tits are way bigger. And secondly, even if you could drag a comb through that hair, she's like a seven on a good day and I've been told I'm a ten." Ah Krystal- you'll do just fine in clone club. 

True to the show you never know who's going to betray whom- and there's plenty of that going along. Susan plans to restart human cloning, revealing that she's not so good after all, but Rachel is even worse. After reupping with Ferdinand she's on the move- wresting Neolution away from Susan. Rachel wants to combine the cloning with the implanted tech to change human genetics- oh and she doesn't want play nice with the clones either. Man is she a piece of work. 

So it all goes down on the island. A pretty tense conclusion, and Sarah gets the crap beat out of her (and stabbed) by Rachel who surprises her (come on Sarah, you knew she was in the building). Cosima and Charlotte meanwhile are trying to reach the boat but don't make it- and the mysterious Messenger saves them and take them to the village whatever it is. Who are all those people? But Delphine is there- reunion! Cosima says she has the cure- but Rachel thinks she does. Did Cosima switch it out before leaving? I think she might have. 

 Talk about cliffhangers. Ferdinand has S and Kira at gunpoint, Sarah is frickin messed up, and what's the deal with the village? This has been a phenomenal season- the focus is back on Neolution and the mysterious board are pulling strings, the island stuff is great and I can't wait to see where this goes next.  

This show is amazing. Every week they manage to tell a stirring, nail biting time travel episode while keeping the overarching storyline relevant- and this week was no exception. Things come to a head in this one though, as Ramse and Cassie square off against Cole and have a different agenda. they want to take out the Witness, whereas Cole and Jones want to stop the Paradox from happening in 1957- the big one that could unravel time. Unfortunately for Cole, Dr. Adler helps Ramse and Cassie and they end up in Cold War 1961. Cross purposes- and as usual, things go to shit. 

Agent Gale is back! And he and Cole swoop in to save things when Ramse and Cassie eff it up. They snag their ex- Nazi doctor out from under the Israelis and get to his lab- to find that he has made a child with help from the Witness. And guess who the child is- Olivia aka the Striking woman. Hmmm... turns out the doctor created the Messengers and they come for him. It goes bad (again) and Jones pulls them all back- but not before Vivian the Messenger gets away with young Olivia, and not before Ramse gets a scrap of intel on Titan. 

Back in 2044 Cole is furious and orders Cassie and Ramse taken into custody. You can't really blame him- Cole wanted to get the girl and Ramse went for the intel- plus they drugged him, lied to him and are just at cross purposes. Cassie is actually surprised he's pissed? Hello! Whether he's right or wrong no one knows- but the way they're working together (or not) they couldn't do much worse. Oh and the temporal storms are about to engulf the facility. Time (ha ha) is short. 

Some observations. 

We find out (finally) that Cassie and Deacon were together. Out in the wild they apparently hooked up, but Cassie says she can't go there, the mission is all. Deac takes it hard and is drinking at the end as the storm approaches. You almost feel sorry for the guy. A wild card there. 

Sad to see Agent Gale go, but a noble sacrifice. He turned into a pretty good character. Another reason Cole's pissed- they gave up Gale and still failed. Although maybe Ramse's intel will still save the day?  

Again we hear that the Witness speaks often of Cole.Whatever the endgame here, Cole is obviously very important to the whole big picture. 

Olivia can walk again- since she was "made" she is stronger, heals faster, etc than a normal human. But she's fed up at the end and says she's done- will she turn on the Witness? She'd be a powerful ally for Cole and the group. 

So I caught up this week, watching episodes three and four. Boy were they different episodes- I thought three sucked and four was... better. Somewhat. Three was all about the return of nurse Pam, although she seemed a shadow of her old self. The whole episode was just off, like they were forcing it- and Theo doesn't have much to do on this show, for being the main character. This habit of bringing back characters from S1, then killing them off in the same episode, is getting old. 

Four was better, a bit. Xander is stil alive- why?- and he and Hassler show back up in WP. Hassler is a mess and obviously knows something about the abbies and what they're doing out there- but he's not talking. Because of course. Again Theo has nothing to do here except express his dissatisfaction with the situation- okay we got that. And they are setting up a confrontation between Rebecca/ Theo and Megan- which is good because Megan needs to go down. What a bitch she is. 

Djimon Hounsou's character could be good but he doesn't have anything to do either except spout silly speeches- what are the writers after? And when Rebecca and Xander talk and he admits he's just making stuff up to stay in town- I wondered what happened to the everyone is under surveillance thing from S1? Aren't they monitoring all ? Maybe they're not now. 

A Dance with Dragons - Tyrion XI/ Jon XII

A Dance with Dragons (A Song of Ice and Fire, #5)

Welcome back to my A Dance with Dragons readthrough. This week we're continuing to barrel along towards the end of the book- we're checking in with Tyrion and Jon this time. Tyrion you may recall is in Slavers Bay, trying to get to Daenerys, but the small matter of him being a slave is getting in the way. It's somewhat ironic that he gets to Slavers Bay... and is trapped in the army that is besieging Meereen. So close to her, and yet so far. And then Jon's chapter is going to look at his precarious hold on the Nights Watch as things get grimmer in the north...

Spoilers for the books!

Things are not looking good in the tent of Tyrion's master. The master is dying of the flux and Tyrion knows he and Penny need to get away or they're going to die too. The healer says to give the master fresh water so Tyrion and Penny go to get water- but Tyrion goes instead to the tents of the Second Sons, to try and get Brown Ben Plumm to help.


The interesting thing for me here is Tyrion talking to Brown Ben Plumm and knows that Dany's dragons took to Ben. Apparently Brown Ben has some Targaryen blood?


This is the day that Jon lets the wildlings through the Wall. The hostages go first, one hundred boys between eight and sixteen and then the warriors, anywhere between five hundred to a thousand. A skinchanger comes to, Borroq with a monstrous boar. Afterwards Bowen Marsh tells Jon that 3,119 wildlings passed the Wall. Jon then gets a letter from Cotter Pyke.

At Hardhome, with six ships. Wild seas. Blackbird lost with all hands, two Lyseni ships driven aground on Skane, Talon taking water. Very bad here. Wildlings eating their own dead. Dead things in the woods. Braavosi captains will only take women, children on their ships. Witch women call us slavers. Attempt to take Storm Crow defeated, six crew dead, many wildlings. Eight ravens left. Dead things in the water. Send help by land, seas wracked by storms. 


Mormont's raven at one point says "King"  and "Snow, Jon Snow, Jon Snow." Jon thinks it strange. I can't help but wonder if Bran or Bloodraven are watching Jon through that raven, perhaps communicating with him? And the mystery of Joramun's Horn (aka the Horn of Winter) comes up as well.

"Would that I had the Horn of Joramun. I'd give it a nice toot and we'd climb through the rubble."
"Melisandre burned the Horn of Joramun."
"Did she?" Tormund slapped his thigh and hooted. "She burned that big fine horn, aye. A bloody sin, I call it. A thousand years old, that was. We found it in a giant's grave, and no man o' us had ever seen a horn so big. That must have been why Mance got the notion to tell you it were Joramun's."

And Joramun blew the Horn of Winter and woke giants from the earth. That huge horn with its bands of old gold, incised with ancient runes...had Mance Rayder lied to him, or was Tormund lying now? If Mance's horn was just a feint, where is the true horn?

Where indeed?