With a $50 million budget for 10 episodes, Game of Thrones is one of the biggest dice-throws in television history. HBO couldn't start small with its adaptation of George R.R. Martin's bestselling series, so the network had to risk all.
About a hundred pages ago, I was in a Jon chapter that crossed with a Bran Chapter. Bran and his crew were taking the night in a tower on pond in a small village in the area owned by the wall called The Gift. Jon and his wildlings come down and spend the night in ruined inn in the same village. Jon escapes at that point. Bran is still heading north looking for the Wall. So did Jon get over the wall prior to that? They were scaling the wall in his previous chapter. But it read like the Wildlings would get atop the wall and fight there way through the Crows. Instead it seems they went up, then over, then off into the woods unnoticed? And now they're not heading south, but along the wall for some reason? And Bran is still heading north looking for the Wall to find the Black Brothers?
So it seems Bran doesn't know where he's going really, and I guess the Wildlings do know where there going, I'm just not sure why, and the Wall must not quite be what I envision entirely.
I think you are confused. Yes Jon Snow and the wildings did get over the wall before they went to that village, that was in the chapter where the climbers went up and dropped the ladder thing down for the rest to climb. The wildings have crossed the wall countless times before, as stated, and knew how to get over. When they get to the village, Jon betrays the wildlings and races north to warn Castle Black of Mance Rayders army and of the Wildings who would be chasing after him from the south to take there revenge. Jon climbs the wall with the remaining black brothers with a bow and defends the Wall from the wildlings advanceing from the village to the South. The wildlings tried to climb up the wall where Jon Snow was firing from but the Nights Watch lit the stares around them on fire by shooting fire arrows at the kegs on the stairs they were going up. Basically the fire caught the wildings on both ends and they were trapped to die.
So yes the wildlings did know the way because they have crossed the wall before to scout and steal women. When they chased down Jon Snow at castle black he killed them.
As far as Bran goes he is somewhat lost because instead of taking the Kings Road to the wall, which is the way everyone normally goes, he goes through different paths following that star in the sky Osha told him about. The reason he doesn't take the Kings Road is because it could possibly be unsafe due to the war.
And you've got it wrong, Bran isn't looking for the Black Brothers, but for a way through the wall so he can find the Three Eyed Crow. The reason Bran goes unnoticed is because JoJen decides they will leave 2 days after they see the wildlings leave the village to chase after Jon Snow.
Let me know if that helps. If you have any other questions I will try and answer.
The Gift is a stretch of land that runs south a few miles of the wall and follows the length of it. It technically belongs to the Night's Watch.
Jon and the Wildlings climbed over the wall, it can be done, but is a long and treacherous attempt. a small band of raiders can get over, and they often do (this is how Manse infiltrated Winterfell) but it would be impossible to get an entire army over the same way. The raiders are going to attack the Castle Black (remember, the castle is only guarded towards the North, they don't expect any enemies from the South) and open the gates for the Wildling army. The fight is happening south of the Wall, not north.
Bran doesn't really know where he is going, he just knows he needs to get North, but doesn't yet know how he will get past the wall. At this point, bran is still south of the wall, in the Gift. That's how he came across Jon who climbed the wall and is in the Gift as well. A mutual friend of his brother's will end up showing him the way.
OK, last night I got into the next Jon chapter, and it sort of cleared stuff up:
I read them getting up the wall as if they were going to move along the top of the wall and fight from there. Not come back down and essentially flank the castle. That's why when they got to the village in the gift, I felt like they were fleeing or something. They were where I thought they were, I just wasn't clear why. But it makes sense now.
**spoilers...do not read if you haven't finished the first 4 books**
George R.R. Martin’s A Dance With Dragons: Worth The Wait
Charlie Jane Anders — This Tuesday, the years of anticipation will be over, and the fifth book in George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire series will finally be here. So does A Dance with Dragons live up to the near-insurmountable hype?
Yes. For the most part. It's a brilliant, horrifying, depressing book that takes the characters Martin made you fall in love with, and plunges them just a little bit deeper into hell. It feels very much like a companion to A Feast for Crows, the previous book, in both bad ways and good ways. But most of all, it recharges your confidence that Martin is moving towards a conclusion to the lengthy saga.
First, a word about spoilers.
For the purposes of this book review, I'm going to assume you've read the first four books. Thus, any references to events in A Feast for Crows or the earlier volumes will be fair game. However, I'm going to avoid any major spoilers for the new book. There will be vague generalizations, and a few references to things that you could have probably guessed at, based on books one through four. But no huge revelations. Okay? Great.
The clamor for George R.R. Martin to finish his next book probably wouldn't have been quite so frenzied if it hadn't been for the nature of his previous book. 2005's A Feast for Crows was gloomy, unconsoling... and incomplete.
As all fans will already know, Martin originally planned A Feast for Crows and A Dance with Dragons, as a single volume, but broke them in half when the material was growing too long to fit within one set of covers. Rather than break them up chronologically, he broke the volumes by geography and characters. Crows focused on characters like Arya Stark, Samwell Tarly, Sansa Stark, Cersei Lannister, Jaime Lannister and Brienne of Tarth. To find out what happened to fan favorite characters like Tyrion Lannister, Jon Snow and Daenerys Targaryen, you'd have to wait for A Dance with Dragons. In the afterword to Crows, Martin promised that Dragons would probably be finished within a year... a slight miscalculation that he probably regrets making public, at this point.
So here it is, nearly six years later, and fans have been waiting since 2000 to find out what happened to Tyrion and Daenerys. Not only that, but Feast for Crows was miserable, even by Martin's standards — low on heroics, high on suffering. So the good news is that not only is Dance a good book in its own right — but the dance might make you appreciate the feast a little bit more.
I probably had the ideal situation for reading A Dance with Dragons. I had read the first three books in the saga a while back, but then I hadn't gotten around to reading A Feast for Crows, which I'd heard was tougher going than the first trilogy. So I wound up reading Feast and Dance back to back, in the course of a couple weeks. And the two books, which were originally planned as one, do fit together pretty neatly, without much of a bump.
That said, A Dance with Dragons has a bit of an odd structure — it follows the same chronology as A Feast for Crows, at first. You find out what was happening to Jon Snow, Tyrion Lannister, Daenerys and a few other characters during Feast... and then about two thirds of the way through, the story catches up to the end of Feast. And suddenly, you're following characters like Jaime and Cersei Lannister, and discovering what befell them after the end of Feast. And the ending to Dance with Dragons — without giving anything away — feels like a fitting conclusion to Feast for Crows as well. You get the sense of a chapter closing, that you might not have quite gotten with Feast on its own.
Both Feast and Dance are about severely damaged people, who have been left insanely dysfunctional as a result of the horrors they suffered in the first three books. Some of these disfigurements are literal — like Jaime Lannister's hand and Tyrion Lannister's nose — and some of them are only figurative. One of the themes that emerges when you read both books back to back is that victory leaves you just as wounded as defeat, and the victors in a war are often punished worse than the vanquished. And both Jon Snow, as Lord Commander of the Night's Watch, and Daenerys, as Queen of Meereen, face the challenge of wielding authority without becoming tyrants.
If you thought A Feast For Crows was brutal and bleak, then you'll probably have a hard time with Dance With Dragons, which is pretty horrific stuff. Don't believe me? Just read this excerpt, which gives away a fairly major spoiler. (But please don't read that excerpt on a full stomach!) This is quite possibly the most brutal and squicky of Martin's novels — and yes, I realize that's saying something.
The very nature of Westeros' protracted change of seasons means that things are bound to get more depressing and horrible with each succeeding book in Martin's series. As winter grows closer and fiercer, traveling even short distances gets harder and harder, and starvation claims more lives than swordplay. There's less room for heroics, and more focus on survival.
Indeed, the gathering winter is one of the main characters in this book, and Martin puts a lot of his energy into describing its ravages. Here are a few choice passages where Martin manages to make discussing the weather feel absolutely gripping:
It was warmer in the godswood, strange to say. Beyond its confines, a hard white frost gripped Winterfell. The paths were treacherous with black ice, and hoarfrost sparkled in the moonlight on the broken panes of the Glass Gardens. Drifts of dirty snow had piled up against the walls, filling every nook and corner. Some were so high they hid the doors behind them... Icicles as long as lances hung from the battlements and fringed the towers like an old man's stiff white whiskers.
The mists were so thick that only the nearest trees were visible; beyond them stood tall shadows and faint lights. Candles flickered beside the wandering path and back amongst the trees, pale fireflies floating in a warm grey soup. It felt like some strange underworld, some timeless place between the worlds, where the damned wandered mournfully for a time before finding a way down to whatever hell their sins had earned them.
It had been a dark, cold, hungry day, like the day before and the day before that. They had spent most of it out on the ice, shivering beside a pair of holes they'd cut in the smaller of the frozen lakes, with fishing lines clutched in mitten-clumsy hands. Not long ago, they could count on hooking one or two fish apiece.
I really love the phrase "mitten-clumsy hands." It has an e.e. cummings vibe to it, but also the way that you stumble over saying it, which conveys the image all over again.
But the horrors of winter aren't the only reason why this is an especially bleak book.
In previous volumes, Martin spent a lot of time exploring the ways in which war ruins the lives of ordinary people — the speech the barefoot Septon Meribald gives in Crows is especially moving — but in Dance with Dragons, his focus shifts a bit, towards the depths of human degradation. And slavery. Lots and lots of slavery. Back in Storm of Swords, Daenerys freed the slaves in a few city-states in Slaver's Bay, but she quickly discovered that freeing people from slavery isn't enough in itself. Once freed, slaves need food and shelter and a chance to earn a livelihood. With a small army of freedmen and women at her heels, Dance with Dragons finds Daenerys confronting the ways in which the institution of slavery is both indelible and intertwined with the world's economy.
Towards the end of Dance with Dragons, a character muses that nobody ever became a slave without choosing slavery — even if the other choice might have been death. If more people were willing to die rather than becoming a slave, then the institution would fail. But another character, half a world away, quotes the wisdom of Balon Greyjoy: It's always better to kneel and live, so you can rise up and fight again later. (As Greyjoy did, after his first rebellion failed.) The only trouble with Balon Greyjoy's maxim is that sometimes kneeling leaves you so broken, you'll never rise up again.
All of these factors — the change of season, the harsh aftermath of war, the systems of slavery — present Martin's characters with a set of no-win situations. And as you'd expect from Martin, he shows us some of his most sympathetic characters making some utterly terrible decisions. It's worse this time around, though, because the mistakes are totally well-intentioned, based on trying to navigate an utterly dire situation.
More than any previous volumes, Martin shows how difficult it is to govern well. Ned Stark and Tyrion Lannister both tried to govern justly, when they were Hand of the King, but they both lacked the power to make a real difference. In Dance with Dragons, Martin shows us people who do have the power — and still struggle to make people's lives better.
If A Feast for Crows was full of object lessons in the terrible things that happen when the people in power don't care about the fates of ordinary, innocent people, A Dance with Dragons offers the opposite lesson: When the people in power worry too much about the fates of the little people, the innocent victims, bad things happen.
All in all, A Dance with Dragons is moving, thrilling, horrifying and thought-provoking — and a propulsive continuation to a series that might have seemed like it was losing forward momentum. By the time you put this book down, you're left with no doubt that this story is racing towards a definitive ending, with only two books (or a mere 2,000 pages!) left to go. Some things happen in this latest book that you've probably been waiting for since Book One, and some huge mysteries are resolved.
That's not to say it's not a bit frustrating, here and there — Martin obviously faced some major problems, in terms of plot mechanics, in this installment, and you can see a few places where he's solved them by introducing a slightly improbable plot twist here and there. Previous volumes had introduced a number of characters from Westeros who were seeking out Daenerys and her dragons, and Martin struggles to incorporate all of them, with mixed results. Meanwhile, there are several major new characters introduced, some of whom may leave you feeling like one subplot too many. (That's all I can say, without verging into spoiler territory.)
But all of that is mostly empty quibbling — the overall impression, after reading A Dance with Dragons, is that Martin's Song of Ice and Fire series is one of the great sweeping political sagas of our time, which raises questions about statecraft, war and the nature of society that have no easy answers. And it definitely raises our hopes that the saga, once complete, will stand as a masterpiece.
10 Characters that Game of Thrones season two could leave out
**book 2/season 2 spoilers**
Charlie Jane Anders — There were two miracles about Game of Thrones season one: that it was so true to the book, and that it was so brilliant on its own terms. For season two, the show will have to choose one miracle.
With the second book in George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire series, the saga becomes much more diffuse, and a ton of new characters are introduced. It's also a good deal longer and more complicated than the first book. But the television version will still only have 10 episodes to tell the entire story.
Top image: A Clash of Kings cover art by Stephen Youll.
As producer David Benioff recently said:
But the truth is there are so many new characters coming in, so that could be confusing. Many more than characters who die in the first season. And that keeps happening, each season there are new characters coming in, and at a certain point you have to be careful because, a.) there is a budget, and b.) we have about 540 minutes to tell the entire story each season. And you can only go back and forth between so many characters before it all starts to feel so diffused that you lose track of what's going on and you lose touch with the central characters... All of the characters that you know from the first season are back in a major way, it's just there are some new characters as well. That's what I'm saying, I guess, we need to make sure we have enough time to tell all these stories properly and that does mean there are certain stories that we're just not gonna touch on, certain minor plotlines or minor characters we just don't have time to give proper weight to. We'd rather not throw them in there for a 30 second cameo as opposed to spending more time with our central characters.
For what it's worth, here's a great gallery showing some of the minor characters the show has already featured, including Janos Slynt, Jonos Bracken, Dareon and Lord Galbart Glover. You can assume that anybody who's already appeared on screen, however briefly, is safe.
So which characters should the show leave out? Here are some suggestions, including some people whose removal would simplify the story a fair bit. Warning: spoilers for A Clash of Kings, and minor hints for the two following books, ahead!
1. Ser Amory Lorch
There are two separate incidents in which Anya Stark gets separated from her group of new recruits for the Night's Watch on their way North. In the first, Ser Amory leads a group of raiders who attack an abandoned keep, killing Yoren and several others. And then, once Arya's group has dwindled down to just her and a few young boys, they are among a group captured by Gregor Clegane. Eventually, Arya is taken to Harrenhal to become a servant. One easy way to simplify this twisty storyline would be to compress the two depredations into one, and make Gregor Clegane the sole architect of Arya's misfortunes. (Although then we miss out on seeing Ser Amory fed to a bear, alas.)
2. Xaro Xhoan Daxos
This is the rich man who lets Daenerys come stay at her mansion in Qarth, when she meets with warlocks and witches, including Pyat Pree and Quaithe. He promises her lavish gifts, but in the end he throws her out of his house after she refuses to marry him. Xaro could easily be combined with Pyat Pree, who also makes lavish promises to Daenerys but then turns against her around the same time.
3. Lady Donella, Wyman Manderly, Mors Umber and Hother Umber
There's a long stretch of A Clash of Kings when Bran is left as the Stark in Winterfell, struggling to discharge his responsibilities as Lord. This includes the Harvest Festival, when a number of nobles come to visit Winterfell, and involve Bran in their disputes. Among other things, there's the matter of who's going to marry Lady Donella and inherit her lands — Wyman Manderly and Mors Umber want to marry her, but instead she's captured by the evil bastard Ramsay Snow, who forces her to marry him and then starves her to death in his dungeons. Most of this stuff happens elsewhere and we hear about it third-hand, so there's no need to meet any of these characters, other than Ramsay himself.
4. Brynden Tully
This is one we can actually make an educated guess about — as some people already have. Brynden, aka the Blackfish, is Catelyn Stark's uncle and is a stubborn and canny warrior. He refused to marry as his older brother Hoster wished, and was labeled the "black goat of the family," which he changed to "black fish" after the Tully family's trout emblem. His role in the first book was already cut to save costs, and the HBO webpage for Game of Thrones conspicuously leaves him out of the Tully family tree — causing widespread speculation that he'll be cut altogether. (This could cause some difficulties when the series gets to A Feast for Crows, but we should be so lucky as to have to worry about that.)
5. Tanda, Falyse and Lollys Stokeworth
The Stokeworth ladies are mostly present in some crowd scenes, although Lady Tanda Stokeworth hounds Tyrion Lannister and tries to convince him to marry her daughter Lollys. Later, during the huge riot that strikes when Myrcella leaves King's Landing, Lollys gets gang-raped by the mob. You could pretty much dispense with the Stokeworth clan altogether, except that Falyse plays a minor important role in A Feast For Crows. In any case, the Stokeworths seem like excellent candidates for deletion. There's still plenty of rape without them.
6. Big Walder and Little Walder
Two of Lord Walder Frey's grandsons, Big Walder and Little Walder, are fostered at Winterfell as part of the agreement that Catelyn Stark reaches with Lord Walder. This is also the agreement that involves Robb Stark marrying one of Lord Walder's daughters and Arya Stark marrying one of his sons. You'll notice that in the Game of Thrones episode "Baelor," though, there's no mention of Big Walder and Little Walder — although just like in the book, a different Frey son, Olyvar, is to become a squire for Robb. Thus, it seems highly likely that Big and Little Walder won't be turning up in season two — and it's easy to see why. They're two more of a seemingly endless succession of repugnant Freys, and their presence at Winterfell is annoying but seldom adds to the story. Although one of them does get himself bitten by Shaggydog, which is a plus.
7. Thoren Smallwood
He's a man of the Night's Watch, who becomes commander of the Rangers after the old commander is killed. The show already passed up a few chances to show him — for example, he tries to convince Jeon Mormont to let him lead the expedition beyond the Wall. But Lord Mormont insists on leading the Ranging personally — a decision that's already been taken at the end of the first season. Thoren later argues with Lord Mormont in favor of attacking the Wildlings, eventually persuading him. The fact that we haven't seen Thoren yet means we probably won't.
And now for a few more radical suggestions, which I freely admit may be going too far...
8. Vargo Hoat.
Almost all of the monstrous acts that Vargo Hoat commits in A Clash of Kings could easily be deleted or reassigned to the equally horrible Roose Bolton and his son Ramsay. And even if you keep Vargo as Roose Bolton's right-hand man, you don't necessarily need the complicated subplot in which Vargo is working for Tywin Lannister but then changes sides and hands Harrenhal over to Roose Bolton, with the help of Northmen who are pretending to be captives. There's a lot of "wheels within wheels" going on there. True, the threat of being left alone with Vargo is what finally scares Arya into fleeing Harrenhal. But she has plenty of other incentives to run away by that point, after all the other horrors she's witnessed. (And yes, Vargo commits one very important brutality in the third book — but there are plenty of ways around that.)
9. Aeron Greyjoy
While we're committing blasphemy, let's propose another fairly crucial character for deletion: the man who's so awesome, they named an office chair after him. I love Aeron, and he does play a more important role in later books — but the fact remains that there are too many Greyjoys. Aeron is Theon Greyjoy's loony uncle who nearly drowned and now has become a fundamentalist for the Drowned God. He helps Theon do some reaving along the coastline, as a diversion while Theon's father and sister attack the North. And then he's left behind, while Theon goes off to attack Winterfell. Aeron's fanatical worship of the Drowned God does give us another religion, to add to the Old Gods, the Seven and R'hllor, which is a plus. But all of his major scenes in this book, where he tells Theon that the Iron Men won't accept him as their prince after so long away, could be given to Dagmer Cleftjaw, who's prettier.
Okay, now here's the ultimate blasphemy. I know, I know — Craster is awesome. He's the lovable old psychopath who marries his own daughters and murders his own infant sons. He lives in Craster's Keep, pretending to be a Lord and harboring the Night's Watch in return for a new axe. Any man who touches one of Craster's daughter-wives loses a hand. I pretty much love Craster. But the soujourn at Craster's Keep is just one stop of many on the Night's Watch's tour of the frozen North. There's also the stay at the Fist of the First Men, and then Jon Snow's mission with Qhorin Halfhand, with its tragic end. Craster is pretty much just local color — except for his daughter Gilly, who forms a bond with Samwell Tarly. The stories of Jon Snow and Samwell Tarly would be considerably less entertaining without Craster in the mix, but it would be one way to simplify things quite a bit.
Sources: Tower of the Hand was an invaluable help putting this together. Also, A Wiki of Ice and Fire at Westeros.org was super-helpful.