Wednesday, 31 August 2011

A Read of A Dance with Dragons - Part 30

Chapter 29 - Davos

Davos has spent two weeks as a prisoner waiting to be killed, but he is being treated pretty well. He writes letters to his wife and sons.

Then Robett Glover arrived and asks Davos to come with him. He tells Davos that Stannis has taken Deepwood Motte, that Roose Bolton has taken Moat Cailin and Ramsay will wed Arya Stark. Glover says neither he nor Manderly will kill him.

They go through a secret way under the castle. Glover tells him he's supposed to be dead already. They come out in a room where Lord Manderly is waiting. He apologises for the reception he gave Davos in the Merman's Court and tells him that his son Wylis has come home from Kings Landing. There is a welcome feast in progress and his Frey guests think he is in the privy.

Manderly tells Davos they faked his death and what happened in the Merman's Court was for the benefit of the Freys. He says he doesn't believe what the Frey's say about the Red Wedding. Davos' arrival gave Manderly a way to prove his loyalty and get his son back. He says he is surrounded by Freys, watched all the time.

Davos says Stannis will give them justice. Manderly and Glover say there is still a Stark. They produce Wex, a mute who was Theon's squire and who followed Rickon and Shaggydog when they left Winterfell. Wex knows where he is and they want Davos to go and get him.


Yay! Rickon and Shaggydog! I've missed them. And I'm also pleased Davos didn't die. Manderly is way more cunning than anyone things.

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

A Read of A Dance with Dragons - Part 29

Chapter 28 - Jon

Jon is sending out rangers and includes Alliser Thorne in the group. Thorne thinks that Jon's looking for an excuse to kill him, but it has more to do with his lack of experienced men.

Jon missing sparring so he challenges some trainees and is obviously miles better than them. Then Rattleshirt challenges him and they have a good old set to. Rattleshirt seems physically different to Jon but he dismisses it as an effect of the armour.

Later on, he can't sleep so goes out walking with Ghost. Melisandre sneaks up on him and he thinks that she's Ygritte to start with. She tells him Arya will come on a dying horse and that three of his rangers will die. She says he and Ghost have power and that she and Jon should make power together.


Melisandre clearly glamoured herself to look like Ygritte. That's creepy.

Monday, 29 August 2011

A Read of A Dance with Dragons - Part 28

Chapter 27 - Tyrion

The knight is taking Tyrion to Volantis, which has three parts. Old Volantis is poor and run down. Volantis east of the river is richer, more inhabited and pretty strictly Volantian. They pass the red priest, Bernello, who is calling Daenerys Azor Ahai reborn and saying that when she comes west the slaves should rise up to support her.

They stop to buy some gloves, put Tyrion in chains, and to sell the horse. Then they cross the longbridge to Volantis west of the river, where traders from all over the world come to do business. The knight heads for the Merchant House where he takes a room. He leaves Tyrion chained up. When he comes back he has food and ale.

The next day they go to have an audience with the Widow of the Waterfront, Vogarro's whore, to whom the knight gives the gloves. She tells them things. He asks for a passage east. She tells them the Golden Company is going west to Westeros and asks why they want to go east. The knight says he's taking Tyrion to Daenerys. Tyrion is overjoyed. The arrangements are agreed.

Then a dwarf, who's been giving him funny looks since they arrived at the Merchant House, attacks Tyrion. It turns out she is one of the jousting dwarves from Joffrey's wedding. Her brother was beheaded by someone wanting to claim the price Cersei put on Tyrion's head.


So, the knight is definitely Jorah and they're going to Daenerys. Fair enough, but now Aegon is going west with the Golden Company. Hmm. I'm beginning to suspect Dany isn't going to get to invade Westeros on the back of a black dragon at all.

I think the introduction of Penny the dwarf is a really good touch. It brings home the real consequences to ordinary people of the machinations of the powerful. Several innocent men have died because people wanted to curry favour with Cersei.

Sunday, 28 August 2011

My blog got an award!

Deirdra from A Storybook World stopped by to give me a Best Books Blog Award.

Which is lovely. It's nice to know that somebody enjoys my reviews. I'm feeling the love :-)

Saturday, 27 August 2011

A Read of A Dance with Dragons - Part 27

Chapter 26 - The Wayward Bride

Asha is back at Deepwood Motte. After the Kingsmoot, she fled. Euron Crow's Eye married her to Erik Ironmaker and left the Iron Islands in his care while he went off in search of a dragon queen.

Ramsay Bolton has sent her a message that he has taken Moat Cailin. It is written in the blood of ironmen comes with a strip of Theon's skin and a promise to send her more. Asha burns the skin. She knows that Deepwood Motte will be hard to defend. She doesn't have many men and the walls are made of wood. But she doesn't know where else she can go. Asha contemplates going to the Wall.

Instead she goes to bed. Qarl the Maid follows her. After they've shagged, he falls asleep but she can't. Asha goes to eat in the kitchen and finds Tris Botley waiting for her. He wants her, loves her, but she doesn't feel the same about him. He suggests they take to the sea and become merchants. She reminds him of her long-term relationship with Qarl.

Then there is an alarm from the walls. Five northmen have tried to sneak in to open the gate. Asha decides she doesn't want to die defending this place and her band escape out the south door while the northmen are breaking down the north door. They are caught in the woods and are overwhelmed but not without taking far more than their number. Asha takes a head wound and the last things she sees are flaming hearts and black stags.


So, it was Stannis at the gates. He's obviously won the mountain clans to his side. Good, maybe he'll be able to give the Boltons a fight.

Wouldn't it be nice for Daenerys if she could have someone like Qarl? It is interesting to contrast Asha, Cersei and Dany for their use of sex as a political tool, and the impact it has on their personal lives. In many ways, Asha seems to handle it best, but the different environments the three women find themselves in may simply mean that Asha finds it easiest. After all, her relationship with Qarl was formed on her ship, which in many ways is a little bubble.

And I so don't believe Asha is dead. Martin, you've done this quiet a lot at this point!

Friday, 26 August 2011

A Read of A Dance with Dragons - Part 26

Chapter 25 - Windblown

Quentyn and friends have just fought in the seige of Astapor and are marching north to Yunkai with the rest of the Yunkish army. They are looking for a chance to get away to Meereen. Quentyn feels uneasy because he thinks that it is dishonourable to break the contract he made with the Windblown.

The seige of Astapor was his first experience of fighting and he didn't like it much. It's not because he is a coward but because he found it cruel, wasteful and wrong. And they were fighting freed slaves who didn't have the training to fight back. It was more of a slaughter than a battle.

The Yunkish forces are bizarre and impractical; naked fighting studs, tall men on stilts, grotesqueries and other strange ideas made flesh.

Quentyn and his companions are discussing how and when to betray the Windblown when they are summoned to the tent of the captain-general, the Tattered Prince. He tells them he's sending his Westerosi north towards Meereen and that they should join the Stormcrows or the Second Sons.


Quentyn Martell is growing on me. He seems like a nice, serious young man, able to do what needs to done, but sensitive to the consequences of his actions. He's perhaps a little on the dull side, but very worthy. Maybe he wouldn't be such a bad choice as a husband for Daenerys.

Thursday, 25 August 2011

Things I have liked this week

The origin of words
The Inky Fool, a blog about words, phrases, grammar and other good stuff. Totally charming.

The obligatory space-y picture
Lots of beautiful pictures on APOD this week and I'm picking this artist's impression of a wierdly dark planet as my favourite as it reminds me there's so much we don't know yet.

Writing stuff
From the SFWA, a list of the common writing 'problems' seen in SF&F. Amusing, and you might spot one or two you recognise.

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

A Read of A Dance with Dragons - Part 25

Chapter 24 - The Lost Lord

The Golden Company is camped north of Volantis at Volon Therys. Griff takes Aegon and Haldon to meet with them. Twelve years ago he faked his own death to look after Aegon. The man who was Captain-General of the Golden Company was in on the plan but the new one isn't. Illyrio broke their contract with Myr to send them here for Aegon.

They find Harry Strickland in his tent surrounded by his chiefs. Illyrio's plan was that Daenerys would be coming west and they would meet her there but Daenerys isn't coming west, they don't know why and they can't get to her. Aegon proposes Tyrion's plan of going west without her and her dragons. After some debate, the Company agrees.

Jon Connington goes to his own tent after sending Haldon to get Rolly, Lemore and the chests. He takes off his glove and examines his greyscale, which he got saving Tyrion, whom he had begun to trust but now believes has escaped.


Well now, there's a twist. I don't want Aegon to conquer Westeros, that's for Dany. So this little meet up isn't going to happen and Aegon and company are off to Westeros.

It's sad that Griff has greyscale. Plus also, Griff is Jon Connington. I'm not wholly sure what that means yet.

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

100 Books in 2011: All the Windwracked Stars

All the Windwracked Stars by Elizabeth Bear is a bit genre-busting. It is heavily grounded in Norse mythology with liberal sprinklings of sci-fi, steampunk and high fantasy.

After Ragnarok, of which there are and will be many, one Valkyrie survives because she ran away. Her name is Muire. When she comes back after the battle, wracked with shame, she finds a single valraven still alive who takes her for his rider. She heals him and, in doing so, turns him from a flesh and blood creature to one of metal and fire. Then she rejects him. Centuries later, Muire is living in the sole remaining city of Valdyrgard which is kept alive through technomancy while the rest of the world dies around it.

Mingan, the Grey Wolf (Fenrir?), returns to Valdyrgard, hunting for something. Muire senses him and believes she must kill him to avoid another Ragnarok. In tracking him down, she discovers that the souls of the Valkyrie have been reborn as new people. These new people don't remember themselves but Muire and Mingan know who they are. An ancient love-triangle is reignited. Muire wants to restore the Valkyrie to themselves.

I loved this. It is dark and sexy, full of flawed characters trying to do the right thing, but finding it hard to work out what that is. The characters are complex and complicated and so are the relationships between them. The villains have excellent motives and it is hard not to sympathise. The heroes want to do what's right, but the consequences of that are often wrong. They all struggle with the way they feel and the burdens they carry.

The language is lyrical and poetic. The rhythm is slightly odd but perfectly pitched. I really enjoyed reading it for the sake of the arrangement of the words. It was lovely.

If I have a criticism, it's that it is a shame that the only person of colour in the book is the most abused, damaged, infantilised and sexualised character in the book. Those two things didn't have to belong to the same person and it plays into some unpleasant racial tropes.

Other than that, this was one of the most engaging books I've read this year. I enjoyed it enormously and will definitely pick up more of Elizabeth Bear's work. Highly recommended!

Monday, 22 August 2011

A Read of A Dance with Dragons - Part 24

Chapter 23 - Daenerys

Daenerys is meeting with the Green Grace. The Sons of the Harpy are still brutally killing freedmen but has harmed her hostage children. Galazzea says if she marries Hizdahr zo Loraq then it might stop. She asks what a man can do that she cannot. The Grace says taking a husband with Ghiscari blood will make the Meereenese accept her more. She has Hizdahr waiting below. Daenerys agrees to see him. She asks what he has to offer. Can he quiet the streets for her? He makes promises. She asks why he would want to be her King. He gives the honest answer that Meereen cannot bear another war. Daenerys asks him to kiss her but does not respond to him.

Finally, she gives him a quest. He has ninety days to end the killings and if he does, she will marry him.

Ser Barristan Selmy thinks she should abandon Meereen and go to Westeros. He tells her Daario is back. She wants to see him. He is aggressive and says he will kill all the Meereenese nobles. He is cruel and hard and selfish. Daenerys might be attracted to him but knows she could not wed him. She decides that all his reports will go to Selmy from now on.


Oh, what to do? Daenerys doesn't know just how many suitors she has. I think the Green Grace is involved with the Sons of the Harpies and Hizdahr clearly can't be trusted. Daario is clearly a very sexy man and it's a shame Dany can't have him, but he seems like a dick and I think he would try to take advantage of the situation.  

Sunday, 21 August 2011

A Read of A Dance with Dragons - Part 23

Chapter 22 - Tyrion

By the time Tyrion wakes up they have docked at Selharys. Haldon tells him to check for signs of greyscale, that Lemore saved him and he may never know that he hasn't got greyscale. He eats. The others go ashore for provisions.

Aegon has to stay aboard but is not happy about it. He and Tyrion play cyvasse. They discuss Daenerys and Tyrion asks why Aegon thinks Daenerys would want him. She has achieved so much and what can Aegon offer her? Tyrion says he would be best off going to Westeros and raising his banners. Then she will come to him because she is a rescuer. Aegon gets bratty.

The others return with news for Griff. It appears that Volantis is arguing for war. Haldon is sent to get more information and takes Tyrion with him. They listen to a red priest arguing that supporters of R'hllor should support Daenerys as she is Azor Ahai reborn.

They then go to an inn and speak with a customs man who says that Volantis will go to war against her. The Wise Masters are splashing the cash and all the other cities are against her as well. On the way back Tyrion wants a whore. Haldon lets him go. He is looking for Tysha but, of course, she's not there. He gets drunk as well as laid. On the way out he is captured by a knight, with bear arms, who says he's going to take him to the Queen.


Yay! Tyrion's not dead, and back on form.

The Meereen situation feels like what happened to Haiti after the revolution. Economies that use slaves cannot tolerate an example of free slaves ruling themselves right next door. Just as all the powers of the eighteenth century refused to trade with the new nation of Haiti (thus driving the country into poverty), the free cities are refusing to trade with Meereen. Not only refusing to trade but actively disrupting Daenerys' every effort to trade.

Who is the knight? I think it's probably Jorah. Which Queen is he taking Tyrion to? Cersei or Daenerys?

Aegon comes off spoilt and immature, especially compared to Daenerys. Tyrion's description of Daenerys makes her sound awesome.

Saturday, 20 August 2011

A-Z blogging challenge: K is for Kittehs!

Oh the interwebs. Mainly made of cats.

I love lolcats. Writing time is often interrupted by kittehs. So, instead of a proper post, here are some pictures of kittehs.

Friday, 19 August 2011

A Read of A Dance with Dragons - Part 22

Chapter 21 - Jon

Jon is taking supplies to Mole Town to feed the wildling refugees and the remaining townspeople. They are hungry and angry.

Along the way he sees three trees carved with faces and realises that Melsandre's ceremony was empty. The people want more food and say that the Watchmen eat better than they do. Jon says that anyone prepared to fight to defend the kingdom from the Others is welcome to come to the Wall where they will get better rations. He wins over sixty-three of them, but no Thenns, which is a problem.


Oh, well done Jon, that was nicely played. More will come afterwards I think. It looks like Jon is making some much needed changes and I hope it all works out for him.

Thursday, 18 August 2011

Things I have liked this week

Astronomy picture of the day
Lots to choose from this week, so I've picked two: this summer triangle over Catalonia and this castle and meteor by moonlight.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes
Went to see this on Friday and I enjoyed it much more than I expected. The CGI was very well done. I was expecting a fun romp but the film was much more than that. Having seen it, I really want to see a remake of the original.

Starting a new writing project
After nearly three years of working on Immortal/Sacrifice I've decided it is time to move on. I've learnt so much about writing a novel with this project but I've reached the point where I need to take that and start something new. I said I would do the next one differently and am going to start with planning it out and building up my world. I'm very excited about the new WIP, working title Wormfeeder.

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

100 Books in 2011 challenge: Bride of the Solway

More short books! Bride of the Solway by Joanna Maitland is a Mills & Boon (and yes, I still have more of them on book mountain).

Our heroine, Cassie, is the prisoner of her step-brother, the Laird of Langrigg. He has gambling debts and plans to marry his sister to a wealthy but weak husband, just as soon as he can find a suitable mark. Cassie tries to escape and runs into Captain Ross Graham, a man searching for a family. The step-brother captures Cassie, beats up Ross and throws him in gaol.

On getting out of gaol, Ross renews his acquaintance with Colonel Anstruther, whose wife is very sick and is expected to die soon. Cassie's brother decides that Anstruther will need a new wife soon and that should be Cassie. During visits engineered to endear Cassie to Anstruther, she confides in Ross and they plan an escape to her godfather in England. Once there, Ross discovers that his family are distantly related to Cassie's godfather. Her brother chased them in their escape and they believe that he died. But he didn't and snatches Cassie from her godfather's garden and takes her back to Scotland, where he forces her to marry an old man who paid £5,000 for her.

But Ross comes for her and rescues her at the altar. They are then married and live happily ever after.

This one annoyed me a lot less than the other Mills & Boon have, largely because there was a lot more plot and a not very much mooning about by either protagonist. Having said that, the plot was still pretty thin and really lacked tension. Without the artifical tension created by the mooning about, i.e. the protagonists' internal monologue about how they love the other but mustn't, love the other but also hate the other, love the other but don't want to admit it, love the other but think the other hates them, etc - the tension must derive from the plot. Will Cassie end up in Bedlam or married off for money? Well, no, the possibility is never believable. I suppose if it was, it couldn't be a Mills & Boon story. I wonder whether my expectations of this genre are so unshakeably set that there is nothing the author could do to make me doubt what the ending will be. The only way would be to tell a different story. And then Mills and Boon wouldn't have published it.

The other elements were quite thin as well. Characterisation relied on tropes and the dialogue was actually quite bad, especially when it was in dialect. The one exception was the character of Colonel Anstruther, an old man clearly in love with his dying wife - it was sweetly and poignantly drawn.

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

A Read of A Dance with Dragons - Part 21

Chapter 20 - Reek

Theon is approaching Moat Cailin to take it by subterfuge. He is terrified of what Ramsay will do to him if he fails. The ironborn in the castle are dying of wounds caused by poisoned arrows, bad water and poor food. They are the dregs left behind by Victarion.

Theon tells them that Euron Crowsfeet was crowned at the Kingsmoot and Victarion has abandoned them. If they pack up and leave, Ramsay will let them all go home. They agree, after some debate, and come out. Ramsay congratulates Theon and asks him if he wants to stay or to go with his countrymen. Sensing a trap, Reek says he wants to stay and serve. He is allowed to become one of Ramsay's dogs and is collared and chained.

The ironborn are killed and Ramsay tells his father, Roose Bolton, that he can come through Moat Cailin. Bolton brings his forces north. He is riding in a litter with a decoy in his armour. He gets out of the litter with Fat Walder and Arya. Theon realises that it's Jeyne Poole because Arya had her father's eyes and Jeyne certainly does not.


A few glimpses of the old Theon and a masterly show of what torture and fear can do to a person. Martin manages to create an absolutely believable depiction of a person so scared of what his abuser will do to him he is incapable of taking action to get away.

Jeyne Poole is going to pretend to be Arya, eh? That's not going to go well for her, is it. Poor girl. And it seems clear that Roose Bolton won't do anything to rein in his son.

Monday, 15 August 2011

A Read of A Dance with Dragons - Part 20

Chapter 19 - Davos

Davos is in a well-appointed room waiting the pleasure of Lord Manderly. Despite the comfort of his surroundings, he is a prisoner. Finally, he is brought to the Merman's Hall to an audience with Lord Manderly. The hall is full of people, Manderlys and their sworn men, as well as a bunch of Freys.

The Freys say that Robb Stark turned into a wolf at the Red Wedding and killed everyone, including Manderly's son. Davos calls them liars.

Manderly notes that the Freys and Lannisters have put a lot on the table and wonder what Stannis has to offer that would be comparable. He also points out that the Lannisters hold his other son hostage. Davos' first response is duty; supporting Stannis is the right thing to do. Manderly's brother asks some pointed questions about the strength of arms Stannis can bring to the field and Davos concedes that it is not much.

Lots of people chip in on one side or the other and in the end Manderly says that Davos hurt White Harbour when he was a smuggler. For that, he will give the Freys and Lannisters what they want and behead him.


The Merman Hall is cool. It's decorated like an undersea palace and Martin's description of it is awesome.

Really, I don't want Davos to die. Not like this. It feels wrong. Northmen are supposed to be all about honour regardless of the personal cost. What do we gain from Davos' point of view if it's just leading up to his death? In AFFC we learn via Cersei that Davos dies but I want to believe that it's a ruse in some way. Just otherwise, it seems a bit pointless.

Oh, and apparently Wylla Manderly has to marry Little Walder. Poor girl.

Sunday, 14 August 2011

Book Mountain II

It's over a year since I began the concerted effort to read all the books on book mountain. There were 229 books. Now there are 189.

In that time, I've bought loads more books, been given books and picked up one or two from the book drop at work. I've made a net gain of 40 books, but I've probably read at least twice that. And the bookcase that housed most of book mountain collapsed, causing a bookslide. Still, mountains are there to be climbed so I will carry on until I get to the top. Or bottom, depending on how you look at it.

Saturday, 13 August 2011

A Read of A Dance with Dragons - Part 19

Chapter 18 - Tyrion

Tyrion and Griff's party are in the Sorrows, part of the River Rhoyne which is shrouded in fog. There are tales of sorcery and strange creatures, but it seems to be a colony for those afflicted with greyscale. They approach the Bridge of Dreams, the dangerous last part before where the fog should end and Griff sends Young Griff below. He doesn't want to go. There follows an altercation where Tyrion reveals he knows who Young Griff is - Aegon, Rhaegar's son and Daenerys' nephew. Tyrion also reveals who he is.

Then some stone men (the ones with greyscale) jump on the ship. They fight two of them off. The third is going for Young Griff who freezes in terror. Tyrion jumps to the rescue and drives the stone man to the edge. The man goes overboard - and so does Tyrion, sinking beneath the water.


I did not see that coming. Aegon was supposed to have had his head smashed in by Gregor but clearly that was not true. Plots within plots. Where does this leave Daenerys? Aegon's claim is better than hers.

And I don't believe Tyrion is dead for a second, even if Martin is trying hard to make me believe it. That cliff hanger, character death, chapter ending is getting a bit common, and it's been a while since Martin killed off someone unexpectedly. I'm not buying it this time!

Friday, 12 August 2011

A Read of A Dance with Dragons - Part 18

Chapter 17 - Jon

Jon goes beneath Castle Black to check the stores with Dolorous Edd and Bowen Marsh. There seems like a lot of food but Marsh says that with Stannis' men and the wildlings what should have lasted 3-4 years will only last one year. Jon thinks it's colder than it should be beneath the Wall.

When he surfaces he finds Stannis wants to see him. Stannis is planning to attack the Dreadfort and wants arms and armour. They discuss half the Umbers declaring for Stannis. Jon says they can't take the Dreadfort and recommends they ask the mountain clans to join them, then go to take Deepwood Motte. Stannis likes this idea. Melisandre is staying at the Wall.


Someone needs to take down the Boltons and it might as well be Stannis. But can he do it? Men don't follow Stannis for love.

So there's not much food at Castle Black, compounded by not being able to go out ranging. That's going to be a problem. Plus, Melisandre staying at the Wall can only be bad news. Jon's idea to get the wildlings to defend the Wall is a really good one. Let's hope he can make it stick.

Thursday, 11 August 2011

Things I have liked this week

Social media explained

Writing stuff
There is a tension between being persistent with a project and knowing when is the right time to give up. Novels take a long time to write, but how long is too long? This article on deciding when to start a new story has some interesting ideas.

Space stuff
While I was on holiday this year, I picked up some postcards with amazing images of earth taken from the International Space Station. The one of Britain and Ireland seems to have made it into a couple of papers in the summer. They were taken by Italian astronaut, Paulo Nespoli, and the whole set can be seen at the European Space Agency's photostream.  

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

A Read of A Dance with Dragons - Part 17

Chapter 16 - Daenerys

Xaro Xhoan Daxos has come to visit. He's brought erotic dancers with him to entertain Dany as they eat. He's also bought thirteen galleys - the ships Daenerys asked him for when she was in Qarth. Then his price was her hand in marriage and a dragon, now it is that she must leave for Westeros and let things in the Free Cities get back to normal. Daenerys asks him to help her start trading and he tells her that Meereen has nothing but slaves and olives - and the previous rulers of Meereen burnt all the olive groves. Daenerys says she will consider it and ask Admiral Groleo to look over the ships.

The next day she assembles her council. The Dothraki don't want to go anywhere by boat. Groleo says the boats are old but well maintained, but taking them to Westeros will be tricky. Her Meereenese advisers ask her not to leave them to the mercy of the Yunkai. Dany says they can come to Westeros with her, and her Mother's Men say they will follow wherever she goes. They acknowledge that thirteen ships are not enough and Grey Worm say the Unsullied will take the demon road. Dany decides she will not abandon Meereen to the same fate of Astapor. She will stay and Westeros will wait.

Daenerys summons Xaro Xhoan Daxos who presents her with a tapestry showing a map of the world. She tells him she is staying, that she cannot leave. He weeps and tells her he should have killed her in Qarth. She dismisses him but his ships stay in the bay. The next day, a messenger brings her a bloody glove, a declaration of war.


Enemies who pretend to be friends eh? It seems like Dany is beset on all sides. How will she protect Meereen? How can she feed her people? I think it is the right moral decision to stay and secure what she has won. If she leaves, she will leave vulnerable people behind and the journey will severely weaken her forces. Besides, she needs to learn how to rule first. Otherwise she'll make all her mistakes in King's Landing and will end up fighting all the time. I am so not surprised Xaro turned out to be a dick.

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

100 Books in 2011 challenge: Voodoo River

I'm way behind on the 100 books in 2011 challenge, so I'm picking short, easy reads to try to catch up. Robert Crais is an easy read, and Voodoo River comes in at less than 300 pages.

Elvis Cole is hired to find out about the birth parents of an adopted woman, who is a TV star born in Louisiana. He finds out that her father was black and that her mother's father killed him, facts known to a local private detective and a local crime lord. The mother and her husband know about the murder and that it was covered up. They're being blackmailed and the husband, the sheriff, turns a blind eye to the crime lord's human trafficking business.

It's a pretty complicated plot to be wrapped up in a short book. It never feels like anything is being revealed too quickly, whilst at the same time, everything is there to make it all add up. It is well done and this is probably the best of Crais' that I've read.

Characterisation is handled well and most characters are reasonably fleshed out. The dialogue got on my nerves a little. Cajun dialect was indicated by dropped letters and phonetic spellings rather than by cadence and word choice. It often felt heavy-handed. Other than that I enjoyed it.

Monday, 8 August 2011

A Read of A Dance with Dragons - Part 16

Chapter 15 - Davos

Davos lands in White Harbor in the guise of an ordinary sailor. He's familiar with White Harbor from his smuggling days and notes that the defences seem much better than they were before. In the inner harbour there is a war galley flying Tommen's arms. Davos walks about for a bit, seeing what's what. He learns that refugees are flocking to the city and any boy or man that wants it is being given a spearman's job. He goes to a smugglers tavern and lurks in a shadowy corner, listening for gossip. He doesn't learn much he didn't already know, except that no one is talking about how Stannis went to the Wall to save the Seven Kingdoms from the Others, and that a Queen in the East has some dragons. He wonders what he should do for a moment, but in the end he is loyal to Stannis above all else. He goes to the castle.


Basically, the plot point here is that Davos has arrived in White Harbor and is going to see Manderly. Borrell apparently sent him on his way, probably having decided it's best not to get involved. It feels like quite a lot of padding. There's repetition of stuff we already know from other POVs and the new information that Manderly seems to be investing quite a lot in his defences, gathering men and building ships. Also, there's a bit of suspense created. I still don't know how this is going to pan out.

Sunday, 7 August 2011

A-Z blogging challenge: J is for Job

Have to have a job to pay the bills, but it's far away and I spend three hours a day commuting. J is for Job in the sense that I don't get paid for writing and I like to have nice stuff.

But there's also an element in which having a job meets some emotional needs that writing doesn't. A couple of years ago I gave up my day job to focus on writing for a little while. It was amazing and fulfilling and as soon as I get the chance, I'll do it again. However, when I went back to work I realised there had been something I'd missed. A job offers the opportunity to see the results of your labours quickly; it offers tangible results clearly linked to specific actions. The pay-off on a writing project takes a lot longer and sometimes it can be easy to lose sight of your gains.

Saturday, 6 August 2011

A Read of A Dance with Dragons - Part 15

Chapter 14 - Tyrion

Tyrion is on a riverboat with Griff, Young Griff and the rest of their party. They're heading down the Rhoyne to Volantis. The party includes two Dornish orphans who've returned home to the Rhoyne and who own the boat. Along with Griff, Young Griff, Rolly and Haldon, there is also Septa Lemore, who Tyrion fantasises about. Griff is denying Tyrion wine, so he's sobered up and not overly happy about it. Griff sleeps all day and guards the boat at night. During the day, Rollo trains Young Griff in arms, Lemore in matters of faith, and Haldon in everything else.

In the evening, Haldon and Tyrion play Cyvasse, a game like chess that has become recently popular. Tyrion has been losing badly so far and he suggests that they wager for secrets. This time Tyrion wins.


Ahh, it's drunk Tyrion that's obnoxious, stupid Tyrion then. It was frustrating not to find out what Tyrion found out. I think I might have been supposed to picked something more up from this chapter. Hmm. Or maybe it was just about getting to know the characters a bit more.

Friday, 5 August 2011

A Read of A Dance with Dragons - Part 14

Chapter 13 - Bran

Bran and his party are at the bottom of a steep climb up to a door in the mountainside. They are frozen and starving. The elk died and they ate it. It lasted for a week but that was all. Coldhands seems to be expecting Others. Jojen is nearly done for. Bran tries to motivate them all. He knows through Summer that the three wolves are following.

They start the climb. It's steep and slippery and they are almost there when Hodor slips and falls. Bran is crushed beneath him and then wights start crawling out of the ground. They've been ambushed. Bran is thrown out of his basket. He slips into Hodor's skin; for all his size and strength, Hodor doesn't know how to fight and is terrified. Without Bran he would die. Meera, Coldhands, Summer and Hodor are fighting hard but the zombies are really hard to kill. Bran sees someone set the zombies on fire which gives them time to get into the cave. The cave is warded which means that the zombies can't get in but also means Coldhands can't come with them.

The someone turns out to be a child of the forest. She leads them down inside the mountain to the three-eyed crow, who is a man on a throne, entwined and pierced through by weirwood roots. Bran thinks that there must be a massive and very old weirwood grove above them. Bran asks if the crow can fix his legs and the crow says he will never walk again, but that he will learn to fly.


That was hairy. Varamyr's lurking about; I don't suppose he's up to any good. So, the three-eyed crow is a man, not a child of the forest, and was once a man of the Night's Watch. Hmm, wonder who it is.

When Hodor fell, I thought they weren't going to make it. So what happens now? Who will Bran become?

Thursday, 4 August 2011

Things I have liked this week

Writing stuff
This article is about judging the quality of your writing. It makes an interesting point about how agents and publishers are not in the business of judging writing quality, but instead, the marketability of the product. When I'm thinking about self-publishing, the little voice in my head says 'but who will tell me it's good enough?'. This article provides an answer. Sort of.

The graffiti at the station where I work

Astronomy Picture of the Day
Pretty clouds of hydrogen gas. The universe is awesome.

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

A Read of A Dance with Dragons - Part 13

Chapter 12 - Reek

Reek is in a dungeon eating rats because he is starving. He hears footsteps approach and is terrified because he has been tortured. He has lost some fingers, toes and teeth, is being starved and kept in the dark. He struggles to remember who is - or at least who he's been told he is. Who is was before is even harder to remember. He recalls that he tried to escape with a girl called Kyra, to go back to Winterfell, but it turned out to be a trap because Lord Ramsay Bolton likes to hunt people. The footsteps belong to two boys, who come in to the dungeon and mock him. He begs to be left alone but Ramsay wants him. The boys are Little Walder and Big Walder. They take Reek into the castle, where Ramsay and his men are dining. Ramsay has two guests, one of whom recognises that Reek is Theon Greyjoy, white-haired and three stone thinner.

Ramsay says that he's going to marry Arya Stark and he wants Reek to come with him, as a sobered, obedient Theon.


Oh boy. That was just awful. Sure, Theon was an arse, and a bit of nasty piece of work, but no one deserves that. Eugh. It was horrible, and I feel a bit sick after reading that. But, hang on, why would Ramsay want Theon at the wedding? Does he want Theon to tell him whether or not it's the real Arya? I thought the Bolton's were in on the plan.

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

A Read of A Dance with Dragons - Part 12

Chapter 11 - Daenerys

Daenerys is woken in the early hours of the morning as nine of her people have been killed by the Sons of the Harpy. One of them is Missandei's brother. She allow Skahaz to torture the owner of a tavern where three were killed. Otherwise they have no leads.

She comforts Missandei who says Daenerys is the mother of them all. But Daenerys can't go back to sleep because she is worrying that she can't protect anyone. In the morning she takes a bath and Quaithe of Asshai appears with more riddles. Quaithe says beware the perfumed seneschal. She says that suitors will come, first the pale mare, then the Kraken, the dark flame, the lion and the griffin, the sun's son and the mummer's dragon.

When Daenerys is dressed and has eaten she goes to the purple hall for her audiences. Ser Barristan Selmy has piled her ebony bench with pillows. She spends the time making judgements and trying to be fair. The owner of the slave pits, Hizdahr zo Loraq, comes back, this time with seven former slaves, champions who want to fight. It is the only skill they have and they want to earn money. Daenerys says she will consider it.

Daenerys leaves the hall and asks Barristan to tell her of his escape from King's Landing. He says he disguised himself as a peasant and no one recognised him. He says he watched Eddard Stark's execution and Dany say's he was a traitor. Barristan tells her that Eddard was an honourable man who wouldn't condone Robert's desire to assassinate her when she was pregnant. Dany says the Starks had a hand in the slaughter of her family and Barristan returns that it was Lannister work. Dany says they are all guilty, then breaks off, saying she needs to see the pit.

The Dragon Pit is under the pyramid and currently holds Viserion and Rhaegal. The dragons are locked up so they don't kill any more children. Daenerys thinks of all the stories about dragons and the battles they were used in that she heard as a child, and realises that none of them talk about how dragons were fed or controlled. Drogon could not be captured. They tried several times and then he stopped coming back to Meereen.


So, who are the suitors? The kraken is Victarion on behalf of Euron; the lion must be Tyrion and the sun's son is Quentyn Martell. I don't know who the rest are. I guess we'll find out soon enough. I think the pale mare has been mentioned before though?

The slave pit is a real conundrum, isn't it? But rulers can't ban stuff just because they don't like it. It seems like this is the circuses part of the 'bread and circuses' guide to ruling. People need some fun - even if that fun is watching people hacking each other to pieces. It also raises the question of consent. The former slaves want to fight because they had better lives as slaves than they do as free men, but they have an opportunity to make their own money, doing the only thing they know how.

And the dragons are in a pit. That's sad. It's a really interesting point about how she manages her weapons. Can dragons be trained? Will Drogon come back? I think he will and he'll be huge. But what will Dany do with him?

And poor old Dany doesn't get to have Daario. That sucks. If she were a man she could have whoever she wanted.

Monday, 1 August 2011

100 Books in 2011: The Ghost Writer

July's book club book was The Ghost Writer by John Harwood. I was quite looking forward to this as the blurb was quite enticing.

A boy, Gerard, grows up in Australia listening to his mother's tales of Sussex and her idyllic childhood. One day he finds a story by his great-grandmother and a photograph hidden in his mother's drawer. She becomes angry and the stories stop. Later he is contacted by Penfriends International and put in touch with Alice Jessell, who lives in Sussex. They write over many years and become very close, a relationship driven by the fact that Gerard doesn't have friends because his mother is so over-protective.

Eventually, Gerard wants to meet Alice, but she doesn't as she is disabled and doesn't want to see him until she has had surgery on her spine. He goes to England anyway, thinking he can find her. He doesn't but instead finds another story by his great-grandmother published in an anthology. After some years his mother dies. He's in his early thirties, still living at home, still passionately corresponding with Alice. Along the way he finds more stories by his grandmother. At some point, a woman claiming to be a friend of his aunt writes to say she thinks something terrible happened to his aunt and asking him to go to his mother's childhood home to investigate. The stories of his grandmother start to bear a resemblance to the events of his mother's life.

That's not much of a synopsis and that's because the plot doesn't make sense. There are stories within stories, allusions to ghosts and madness, and references to The Turn of the Screw. And none of it really works. The first of the 'Victorian ghost stories', Seraphina, is probably the best writing in the book. It has a Poe-esque feel to it and is a little creepy. The rest of the Victorian ghost stories aren't so good. They lose the tone and end up feeling as though they were constructed to give clues to the mystery. Not that it's much of a mystery; the misdirection is completely unbelievable. The ending picks up a little and comes close to being exciting but in the end the story is not resolved satisfactorily. The plot holes are massive.

There are loads of great reviews on the interwebs, but I didn't like it. Neither did most of the book club.