Tag Archives: A Song of Ice and Fire

Blood of the Conqueror, Bonus Essay: The Turncloak

Editor’s Note: This was originally going to be one of the featured essays from the series, but I ended up scrapping the idea as the series grew from a 5-part series to a 12-part series. However, after finishing a first draft of my own manuscript for my own book, I thought I might now publish this essay as a bonus to the main series. I hope you enjoy! 

Introduction

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Artwork by Romik Safarian

“So I am a coin in the hands of some god, is that what you are saying, ser?”

“No,” Ser Barristan replied. “You are the trueborn heir of Westeros. To the end of my days I shall remain your faithful knight, should you find me worthy to bear a sword again. If not, I am content to serve Strong Belwas as his squire.” (ASOS, Daenerys VI)

Of all the knights of Westeros, none seem quite so true as Barristan the Bold. From figures as far apart as Stannis and Renly Baratheon, Tywin Lannister, Ned Stark, Daenerys Targaryen,  Tyrion Lannister and even Varys the Spider, Selmy’s reputation as a true knight shines bright. More than that, Barristan’s renown and honor lends significant political advantage to whatever king he serves.

However, does Barristan’s reputation gel with the reality? More importantly, does Barristan’s past actions provide a pathway for how his story will play out in The Winds of Winter and beyond? In this essay, I’d like to tackle these issues in the context of what I see as Barristan’s coming Winds of Winter arc.

Though many fans believe that Barristan will die during the Battle of Fire, I think that GRRM has something much more narratively fulfilling in mind for Barristan than a death on Meereenese battlefield: namely, a massive conflict over his loyalties spurred forward by his guilt over his service to a bad king, his nostalgia for a “good” Targaryen prince and the changing character dynamics of the queen he serves and a boy binding up the wounds of bleeding Westeros.

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Blood of the Conqueror, Part 8: To The Spears

This essay contains minor spoilers for The Winds of Winter

Introduction

House Martell

Artwork by Narwen Illustrations

“It is an easy thing for a prince to call the spears, but in the end the children pay the price. For their sake, the wise prince will wage no war without good cause, nor any war he cannot hope to win.” (ADWD, The Watcher)

From his vantage point overlooking the Water Gardens, Doran Martell looked at the children at play in the pool below. To his side lay a letter from King’s Landing informing the Prince of Dorne that his brother was dead at the hands of Gregor Clegane. All around him, overripe blood oranges ominously fell from trees, giving off a sickly-sweet odor as they split open upon impact. While Doran watched, Dorne was angry — angry at the recent death of Oberyn Martell, angry at the murders of Elia Martell and her children at the end of Robert’s RebellionDoran Martell knew all this, and yet from all appearances, he did nothing. 

The reality, though, could not have been more different. Doran Martell was doing something to avenge his lost loved ones, but the prince could not seek the immediate vengeance that his family and countrymen wanted. The Prince knew that if Dorne went to war against the Iron Throne, they would lose, and if they lost, it would be the children who would suffer.

However, events had finally shaped up to the point where Doran Martell felt that he had his chance to truly strike a blow for vengeance all the while avoiding deaths like those of his sister and her children so many years before.

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The Ultimate Winds of Winter Resource

Introduction

A year and a half ago, I wrote the complete Winds of Winter resource and updated occasionally since that time. My last update was back in September 2015 and since then, there’s been enough new information about the book for a brand new post.

So, welcome to the ultimate Winds of Winter resource! The intent is to create the most thorough and complete resource of everything that George RR Martin, his editors and those in the know have said or written about The Winds of Winter. Further, my intent is to have something that stands in contrast to the mountain of clickbait news articles about The Winds of Winter. 

To better organize all of the information, I’ve categorized things as follows:

  • Writing Progress
  • Released Sample Chapters (and where to find them)
  • Winds of Winter chapters that GRRM has read at conventions/appearances
  • Winds of Winter chapters that are known to exist but have not been released or read at conventions
  • Unconfirmed but probable POV characters
  • Plot Points that GRRM or his editors have confirmed
  • Miscellaneous information

So, buckle in, this is going to be a lot of information!

Spoiler Warning: Everything past this point will contain spoilers for The Winds of Winter.

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Dances with Wolves: Analyzing the Martial Language of Sansa’s Story

Today, we are joined by a very special guest glass_table_girl for an analysis of Sansa Stark and how she has used courtesy to survive so far, and how she’s weaponizing it for the future. – BryndenBFish

Introduction

in_the_gardens_of_eyrie_by_bubug-d6j8w82In the gardens of Eyrie by bubug

Every fan can recite the trademark phrases from Sansa’s storyline, such as “courtesy is a lady’s armor” or “women’s weapons.”

Despite these metaphors, Sansa’s storyline through the lens of fighting and warfare goes unexplored, and ignores motifs that contrast with other characters to highlight the themes in both Sansa’s storyline and the progression of her character.

tl;dr: Sansa’s storyline is defined in language that equates her learning to warfare. Throughout her story, she accumulates an arsenal while playing defense, pivoting to an offensive position in her first TWOW chapter with the act of “dancing,” which the books establish to be a metaphor for violence or fighting. By framing Sansa’s education in martial language, the story establishes her learning as becoming a warrior—in a different sense.

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Blood of the Conqueror, Part 7: Agincourt

This essay contains spoilers for The Winds of Winter

Introduction

agincourtmiddleb

Artwork by Donato Giancola

In little room confining mighty men,

Mangling by starts the full course of their glory.

Small time, but in that small most greatly lived

This star of England: Fortune made his sword;

By which the world’s best garden be achieved,

And of it left his son imperial lord. (Henry V, Act V)

Much as the Battle of the Trident decided Robert’s Rebellion and the Battle of Redgrass Field decided the First Blackfyre Rebellion, so too will a titanic battle in the Stormlands determine the fate of the young dragon’s crusade for the Iron Throne. The original plan had been to gain a foothold along the coast of Westeros and await Daenerys Targaryen, her army and her dragons to arrive, but to the men of the Golden Company, this was no time for caution. They had won battle after battle and likely gained a powerful ally in Mathis Rowan. Momentum was on their side, and there existed the possibility of winning the Iron Throne outright without the help of the dragon queen. But the young dragon would need to prove his mettle against a real foe. Fortunately, he would have that opportunity.

The men of the Reach had finally awoken to the threat of Aegon. Mace Tyrell and the cream of Westerosi chivalry was marching on the young dragon at Storm’s End. They had numbers, advanced armament and training on their side. Even with the numbers that Mathis Rowan would likely add to the young dragon’s cause, Aegon and the Golden Company were outnumbered. However, they had a plan to confront the chivalry of the Reach. It wasn’t an honorable plan, but it was a plan that would assure the destruction of the Tyrell army and an open road to King’s Landing. In a similar way, this battle would resemble one of Europe’s most famous battles.

In 1415 CE, Western European chivalry died an ignoble death on a muddy field in Northern France. Heavy cavalry and its associated knightly virtue had long dominated Western European warfare, but they met a brutal end against the English Army at Agincourt. There, skilled English archers with their deadly longbows and bodkin arrows decimated the ranks of ineptly-led French heavy cavalry and changed the face of warfare forever.

The Battle of Agincourt has yet to see a parallel in A Song of Ice and Fire, but I believe that the Westerosi version of this battle is coming in The Winds of Winter. Jon Connington and Aegon had won early victories, but they would need to confront the flower of chivalry on the field, and they would have to fight dirty to win.

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Blood of the Conqueror, Part 6: Friends in the Reach

This essay contains spoilers for The Winds of Winter

Introduction

Tarly

Storm’s End had fallen to Aegon, and with that “impregnable” coastal fortress, the young dragon now held the most strategically and symbolically important foothold in the south of Westeros. However great this victory was though, Aegon’s situation was tenuous. The Golden Company was scattered across the Stormlands, Narrow Sea and Stepstones, and a Tyrell army was descending on Storm’s End. Though secure for the moment behind the massive curtain walls of Storm’s End, Aegon, Jon Connington and the Golden Company’s hope for long-term success did not reside at Storm’s End. Their only shot at victory lay in defeating the Tyrells marching for them and developing alliances and local support in Westeros. The bitter history of the Blackfyre Rebellions had proved as much.

The Blackfyre pretenders’ inability to garner widespread support after the First Blackfyre Rebellion had led to their repeated failures. In that first rebellion, Daemon I Blackfyre and Aegor “Bittersteel” Rivers leveraged the grievances and ambitions of secondary noble houses into a broad political and military coalition. In particular, Daemon and Bittersteel brought disaffected nobles from the Reach, Dorne and Westerlands under the black dragon banner against their regional and royal overlords. Though the First Blackfyre Rebellion was ultimately unsuccessful, the coalition that the first Blackfyre pretenders assembled was instrumental to their near-success. Failed subsequent Blackfyre rebellions, like the Fourth (which had barely stumbled past its landing at Massey’s Hook) and the Fifth (which had never even reached mainland Westeros) had proved to the Golden Company that without widespread organic support, Westeros could – and would – cast them off.

The Westeros upon which Aegon and his company landed, though, was much more favorably inclined to the young dragon’s particular foreign invasion than that of his Blackfyre forebears. The mood in Westeros had turned hostile towards the ruling class long before Aegon and his band of sellsword adventurers arrived; the Lannister-Tyrell alliance, which had been Westeros’ dominant political and military power since the Battle of the Blackwater, was crumbling. Better still for the would-be king, internal dissent against Lord Mace Tyrell was growing among some of his lords bannermen.

The taking of  Storm’s End had provided a foundation for Westerosi nobles to take notice of the young dragon, but Aegon desperately needed their homage and swords along with their notice. If it were to press Aegon’s claim to the Iron Throne, the Golden Company would have to do more than win the allegiance of its surviving Blackfyre allies. The Reach had proved fertile ground for Daemon I Blackfyre and Bittersteel when they rose against the Iron Throne. The Blackfyres’ ideological (and biological) successors would now turn to the Reach once again.

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Heirs in the Shadows: The Ward at Rosby

Introduction

The Crownlands seat of Rosby may not appear at first blush dynastically important among the lordships of Westeros.  Called by Brienne “scarce more than a wide place in the road”, Rosby is sworn to the king on the Iron Throne, but its resources and influence are local at best.  Its last lord, Gyles, was notable only for his perennial sickliness, and his death was marked with barely a dismissive wave of the hand by the Queen Regent.

Yet Grand Maester Pycelle voiced concerns twice over the late Lord Gyles’ ward, and his comments should be heeded.  While Cersei might have blithely disregarded Gyles Rosby’s ward as no serious concern to the inheritance of a relatively unimportant Crownlands seat, she may have cause to rue such sentiments in the future.  Indeed, Cersei may find that the ward of Rosby is a more staunch foe of hers than she could have ever realized – one whose political allegiance stands in stark contrast to her own.

Welcome to the next installment in a new series for Wars and Politics of Ice and Fire, Heirs in the Shadows. In this series, BryndenBFish and I will examine a number of individuals who may press blood claims to different Westerosi seats, and the arguments and tactics various plotters will use to install their chosen pawns in these places. Part 1 of this series looked at the Young Lion, Tyrek Lannister, as a probable puppet Lord of Casterly Rock under Aegon VI. Part 2 will explore someone not vanished but hiding in plain sight, waiting for the right moment to assert his political will.

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