Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Books I read in July

A Storm of Swords by George R. R. Martin. I began reading these books after the third season of Game of Thrones on HBO, and somewhere in the middle part of A Storm of Swords I zoomed right by the show, plotwise. The Red Wedding was one of the most brutal scenes of fiction I've ever read. While the show uses the RW as the climax of its third season, in the novel its the beginning of a devastating sequence of events that wipes out or changes the fortunes of virtually every POV character we have. The genius of the novel is its willingness to alter or destroy characters to force them (and others around them) to surprise themselves (and us) by reacting in fresh ways.

Danerys is no exception to the last, but she's separated from all other characters, and her problems are different. There are certainly problematic aspects to the way her Breaker of Chains aspirations are written. Take, for example, this line, appearing after Danerys declares the slaves freed in one of the cities she takes:
"Mhysa!" a brown-skinned man shouted out at her.
Mhysa means mother. Martin walks the dangerous line of turning Danerys--with white skin, and plantinum blonde hair--into the easy savior of thousands (millions?) of brown people, who have no POV characters, and virtually no agency. But there's something more complicated going on here, too:
"Your Grace, the slavers brought their doom on themselves," said Daario Naharis.
"You have brought freedom as well," MIssandei pointed out.
"Freedom to starve?" asked Dany sharply. "Freedom to die?"
By the end of the novel, Dany resolves to stay in Meereen after freeing its slaves, determined to reconstruct and rule the city. I'm eager to see how she handles it, and how much autonomy and thought Martin gives the freedpeople of Meereen (and Astapoor, and Yunkai). At first blush, Mhysa sounds bad. But freedmen in America commonly referred to Lincoln as Father Abraham

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