“I’m Thankful For…” (That Yearly Thanksgiving Post)

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Photo: My collection

So most every year around this time, I like to post about things I’m grateful for. It’s essential to say this isn’t a comprehensive list. It’s just a taste of all the good things in my life.

I’m Thankful For…

My vision. As many of you know, I now see mostly with my left eye. However, the right eye has a tiny tunnel of vision (thanks to my excellent surgeon Dr. David R.). Because the last two surgeries played havoc with my eye muscles, it’s taking awhile for my eyes to become “straight” again–to work in unison. But it’s happening, and every week I can do more on the computer without getting a blinding headache.

My readers. I cannot express how grateful I am to each and every one of you. I was a slow writer before all this health stuff started, and it’s been a little scary to find myself so far behind. Yet virtually every communication I’ve received from you has been positive, supportive, and kindhearted. Thank you so much for sticking with me. There will be a book and a short story from me soon, I promise.

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Photo: My collection

Cornwall. It was everything I dreamed of, and more. I can’t wait to return, hopefully in 2018. We’ll see how things go.

Game of Thrones. Yes, I know. Aren’t I silly? But my mom and I had so much fun watching the series together, one episode a week, all year long. There’s nothing like bonding over beheadings.

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Photo: HBO

My friends. You know who you are. I am so richly blessed in friendship. Some of you I’ve known since childhood. Some I made as an author, some I met on Facebook, and some are from my own neighborhood. If I need to talk, there’s always someone I can turn to, by phone, email, text, or in person. It doesn’t get any better than that.

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Photo: JacksonGalaxy.com

Jackson Galaxy and My Cat from Hell. I should have started watching this years ago. It’s a joy to see my three cats much happier and getting along.

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Photo: HBO

Westworld. Yeah, baby. Anthony Hopkins. Evan Rachel Wood. Ed Harris. Thandie Newton. I can’t think of anything else to say. That should be enough.

James McAvoy. Soon to be appearing in the movie Split. Can’t wait to see it.

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Photo: 😉

And once again, I‘m thankful for everyone who touches my author-life, from my readers to my editor to my expert readers to my cover artist to my formatter to (deep breath) anyone who plays any role at all!

I wish every one of you a happy and blessed Thanksgiving.

Game of Thrones Predictions: How Will The Characters End Up?

Disclaimer: I may get silly. Feel free to dispute my ideas in the comments or offer theories of your own.

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Jon Snow, make that Stark-ish, make that Targaryen. (HBO)

Jon Snow: I hope he gets a happily-ever-after, but a bittersweet pyrrhic  victory from George R. R. Martin wouldn’t surprise me. Best case scenario, he and Daenerys make a political marriage that ultimately brings peace and prosperity back to Westeros. And perhaps in time they’ll grow to love one another as much as Ned and Catelyn did. Worst case: he turns out to be Azor Ahai and dies saving the land from the White Walkers.

Sansa Stark: Marries Littlefinger, is widowed again (see below), and takes the Vale for her seat, extending Stark rule beyond the North.

Arya Life and Lemons

(Via Game of Memes, Facebook)

Arya Stark: Reunites with Nymeria and cleans up the Riverlands with an assist from the Hound and the Brotherhood Without Banners. Rules in Rivverrun, extending Stark rule beyond the North.

Bran Stark: Physically dies but wargs into one of Daenerys’s dragons. Lives out the rest of his days as a magnificent flying beast.

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(HBO)

Daenerys: Marries Jon and gets that happily-ever-after I’ve been brainwashed to expect from fictional ladies. Or dies along with her dragons to save Westeros. Or conquers Westeros, sets up a fledgling democratic state, and retires to the Summer Isles to conquer boogie boarding.

Tyrion: Revealed to be a Targaryen fathered by the Mad King. Prospers as either (1) the Hand of the Queen or (2) the Prime Minister of Dany’s new democratic state with Varys the Comptroller of Public Sentiment at his side.

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(HBO)

Cersei: Strangled by Jaime.

Jaime: Dies in the arms of Brienne during the last battle.

Brienne: Dies gloriously during the last battle.

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(HBO)

Samwell: Becomes a wizard, which automatically makes him Grand Maester. (After all, Pycelle is dead and the position has been posted.) First act as Grand Maester: changes the rules so maesters can marry. Second act: discovers something really helpful that contributes mightily to saving Westeros.

Littlefinger: Headfirst out the Moon Door. Remember his speech in “The Climb?” Time to fall.

Daario: Eaten by Drogon after betraying Dany.

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(HBO)

The Hound: Knighted against his will by Arya for acts of heroism in the Riverlands. Also awarded a lifetime supply of chicken.

Theon and Yara: Down with the fleet to meet the Drowned God. The Iron Islands are given to Lyanna Mormont, extending that house’s influence far beyond Bear Island and teaching a fairly backward group about girl power, not to mention common decency.

Olenna Tyrell: Digs up some likely Tyrell bastard, legitimizes her, and plants her dynasty anew.

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(HBO)

The Red Woman: Burned at the stake to forge/magically create Azor Ahai’s flaming sword Lightbringer.

Ellaria Sand: Makes Sand the official ruling house of Dorne. Seals the peace by marrying off the most annoying Sandsnake (a tough choice) to Robin Arryn, giving two loathsome creatures just what they deserve.

Davos: Created Lord of Dragonstone for his service to the realm.

Gendry: Still rowing.

Game of Thrones 6.10: “The Winds of Winter”

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Don’t pretend you didn’t cheer. (Via Chelseab343 on Tumblr; HBO)

Last night’s season six finale was incredibly satisfying. Afterward, I wandered the web’s digital streets, reading tweets and posts and joining in the social media reaction. Tumblr is a place I rarely visit, because it’s such a treasure trove of GIFs and screencaps and witty observations; once I fall in, it’s devilish hard to climb out. But last night I gave in, and returned with some spot-on fan observations to spice up my recap.

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Is it just me, or does she look a bit like a blonde Romulan?

King’s Landing: I loved the slow, deliberate way we saw the major players dress themselves and draw together for the trials of Ser Loras and Cersei. Like many fans, I expected Cersei to use the Wildfire option, and after watching the High Sparrow and his ilk humiliate, publicly mutilate, and disenfranchise Loras, I was eager to see the old fanatic go up like a Roman candle. But before it happened, we were treated to seeing Margaery drop the mask (“Forget about the bloody gods for a moment!”) and the High Sparrow’s face as he realized she’d played him.

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(Via shanacus/Tumblr)

Farewell, Grand Maester Pycelle. Adieu, Lancel Lannister, you worthless numpty. Goodbye, Mace Tyrell. RIP Ser Loras, we’ll see you on the other side (Netflix’s upcoming superhero series, Iron Fist.) RIP Queen Margaery, who evaded or outwitted countless moronic males, but couldn’t quite escape the High Sparrow.

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Even my cold, shriveled Grinch heart felt sorry for Loras as he stood there bleeding. (Credit: HBO)

And let’s all spare a moment to remember King Tommen, whose tragic end made me gasp. A pawn his entire life, he was manipulated by Cersei, by Margaery (however gently), and finally by the High Sparrow. It’s not quite hyperbole to say his suicide was the only major decision he ever made of his own free will. And while it was heartbreaking, he might work a miracle in death. More on that later.

Sam, Gilly, and the Citadel’s Library: How wonderful to see a kind, gentle soul get precisely what he deserves: access to the Westerosi version of the Library of Alexandria. Heaven knows what secrets he’ll uncover there. Remember in season one when he said he’d always wanted to be a wizard? And later in the season, when Maester Luwin said that like all young Citadel students, he tried his hand at magic? Now that dragons have returned to the world and cold winds are rising, perhaps Sam’s boyhood dream of being a wizard is within reach.

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Goodbye Daario (smell ya later!) and hello, possible marriage alliance in Westeros.

Dany and Tyrion: Of course, I was pleased to see Daenerys cut Daario loose. I wanted him revealed as a villain and summarily executed, but alas. However, I can’t help but think we haven’t seen the last of him. When Euron and his ships get to Meeren, will Daario strike back at Dany by throwing in with the Ironborn? I still expect a betrayal from him.

How lovely to see Tyrion made Hand of the Queen! (And why on earth didn’t I see that coming?) Perhaps the fan theory about him being a secret Targaryen (and Dany’s half-brother) will come true next year.

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“What’s your name? Barbara? Let the grown women speak.”

Olenna Tyrell Personally Redeems the Much-Maligned Dorne Subplot: Yeah, I hate Dorne. I did like George R. R. Martin’s novel-version of the Sandsnakes, but the TV translation left me cold. They seem like a softcore porn parody of the books’ trio: three hardbodied hotties whose only function is starring in Game of Bones VI: Dirty in Dorne, available for in-hotel room viewing for $29.99. But watching the vengeful Queen of Thorns verbally dispatch them with her trademark caustic wit was a thing of beauty.

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Considering all the young girls he abused, it’s fitting that a young girl killed him.

At Last, Walder Frey, At Last: All right, so it wasn’t how I imagined it. It was better. Walder Frey received the poetic, if disgusting, retribution he deserved, and Arya claimed vengeance for Catelyn and Robb. Immediately a few questions came to mind. Wasn’t she warned that wearing another’s face when you aren’t No One is like poison? Secretly killing the two Frey sons seems well within her skill set, but carving them up (unnoticed) and baking them into a pie (Arya baked? Arya??) has some logistical issues. Then again, I am reminded of when Steven Spielberg was shooting the finale of Jurassic Park, in which the T-Rex rather magically crashes in to save the heroes. Someone on-set famously asked, “But how did it get there?” To which Spielberg replied, “Who cares?” That’s pretty much the correct answer here.

Cersei Lannister, First of Her Name: Once again–why didn’t I see this coming? She took Tommen’s suicide pretty well. I think because Maggy the Frog’s prophecy assured her it would happen. And GoT superfans know what comes next:

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(Via artofthrones/Tumblr)

Valonqar, of course, means “little brother” in High Valyrion. Cersei has always assumed her death would come at Tyrion’s hands. But it wasn’t Tyrion who rode up to see King’s Landing crippled by the very method he lost his honor to prevent. And it wasn’t Tyrion who stood in the gallery and stared at Cersei with what can only be called loathing. If Jaime takes poor Tommen’s end as hard as I think he has, perhaps the boy’s death isn’t entirely in vain.

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Man bun firmly in place.

Rhaegar + Lyanna = Jon Snow:  It’s a plot that stirs many of us at the most basic level. A highborn hero or heroine raised far from their rightful realm, forced to grow tough, smart, and resilient in ways a pampered royal brat never could. Many of us have expected the Tower of Joy reveal since season one. But Jon being declared the White Wolf, “the King in the North?” Once again, I’m sorry to admit, I never saw it coming.

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(Via chelsea343/Tumblr; HBO)

Lady Lyanna Mormont’s impassioned speech was a highlight in an episode that felt like a feature-length highlight reel. If that little girl isn’t the reincarnation of Jon’s mother, she’s well-named, nonetheless.

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(Via queenmormont/Tumblr)

Valar Morghulis: All posts must end. Especially when there are books to write. Therefore, I entirely skipped over many questions. What’s next for Sansa now that Littlefinger has professed his true desire? What was the design of Cersei’s crown meant to signify? Has Varys learned to teleport? Did Arya enlist Hot Pie’s help with her culinary masterpiece? (Knowing GRRM, that’s the whole reason Hot Pie was introduced in the first place.) It’s been an incredible season. I’ll leave you with a two more burning questions.

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(Via frenchfilmelephant/Tumblr)

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(Via salt-and-shade/Tumblr)

 

 

In Defense of Sansa Stark Lannister Bolton STARK

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You do you, Sansa baby. You do you. (Credit: HBO)

So I was watching a show where folks discuss one of my favorite topics, Game of Thrones. And the hosts spent a good deal of time arguing about Sansa’s “troubling” decision to keep mum on the possibility that Littlefinger would turn up with the Army of the Vale. So here’s my inelegant defense of her behavior, cut and pasted from an email I fired off this morning while drinking my coffee.

In any sane world, Sansa would need literal deprogramming and then years of therapy to get over (drumroll):

1. Taken captive by Cersei and Joffrey
2. Tricked into believing she’d saved her father’s life and then seeing his head cut off
3. Mentally and physically abused by Joffrey and Cersei for months
4. Attacked by a crowd and nearly raped/murdered
5. Told she’d be executed if liberators took King’s Landing
6. Given hope she’d marry her crush and escape to High Garden. Then forcibly married to Tyrion, seemingly making her a Lannister for life

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Here’s one I left out: lost her direwolf through no fault of her own. (Credit: HBO)

7. Given hope Dontos would spirit her home, only to learn it was all a trick. In fact, she had been a pawn in Joffrey’s murder, and Littlefinger was now effectively her captive
8. Given hope she’d be safe at the Aerie only to have her aunt try to murder her
9. Forced to choose between supporting the devil she knows (Littlefinger) or trusting total strangers
10. Given hope she could avenge her family by taking Littlefinger’s advice to marry Ramsay, only to be beaten, raped, humiliated, threatened with maiming, and anything else I’ve left out
11. Forced to choose between running away with Theon (who betrayed Robb) or staying with Ramsay till her death

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I don’t know who made this meme, but it’s perfect. (Credit: Interwebz)

 

NOW, explain to me again why Sansa’s lack of trust in Jon is inexplicable and troubling? Why that after watching Jon make all his plans without once asking for her input, Sansa declined to say something like, “I haven’t heard an answer yet, but I’m hoping Littlefinger will turn up with an army at some point–maybe today, maybe next week, maybe never. I know you don’t approve because Littlefinger’s a liar who betrayed our dad, but while you were at the Wall, I was being mentally, emotionally, and physically tortured by a conga line of psychopaths. Besides, the weasel owes me big time. So don’t judge me, okay? Nothing I hope for ever happens, so this is probably a pipe dream, too!”

PS: Besides, her choice to keep mum made that last-minute rescue really cool. Wink wink, showrunners. Can’t wait for Sunday.

PPS: I really hope Ramsay’s “part of me is inside you now” doesn’t mean she’s carrying his child, or I expect she’ll have to marry vile little Robin to make good on her threat that Ramsay’s name will disappear.

 

Game of Thrones 6.9: “Battle of the Bastards”

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Photo: HBO

When the Primetime Emmys are handed out next year, the only question about this episode will be, how many statuettes will it take home? The visual craftsmanship of “Battle of the Bastards” was stunning. I can’t begin to imagine how many digital artists, stuntmen, cameramen, and various other industry professionals were required to pull it off.

Dany, Tyrion, and Possibly the Closest thing I’ll Ever Get to Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonflight

We begin with the usually unflappable Tyrion, Mr. “I Drink and I Know Things,” in a state which can best be described as, well, flapped. As Daenerys Stormborn gazes at him coolly, Tyrion argues that her scorched-earth approach is akin to the Mad King’s final plot. Did you notice how we were helpfully reminded of precisely what the Mad King intended, down to the logistics? Major thoroughfares were referenced. This comes four episodes after Bran had a vision of the Mad King crying over and over, “Burn them all!” Hmmm… can you think of anyone in King’s Landing with her back to the wall? Someone who might prefer to burn them all rather than give the High Sparrow the final word? I suppose we’ll find out in seven days.

At any rate, the spectacular Dany/Drogon flying sequence was everything I’ve hoped for since season 2. Since reading Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonflight, actually. I loved the artistry of the flying dragons, the believable way they swooped and glided. Never thought I’d see the day when a TV show would routinely put feature films to shame.

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Photo: HBO

The Second Coming of Ned Stark

And I don’t just mean the coat. I loved the way my TV son Kit Harington played the parley scene between him and Ramsay. He imitated many of Sean Bean’s mannerisms, including the head tilt and the unpleasant smile. Watch again as he tells Ramsay, “You’re right,” and see if he isn’t channeling Ned quite brilliantly.

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Photo: HBO

The Evolution of Sansa Stark

How long have we waited for this? Seeing Sansa finally come into her own has been wonderful. Say what you will about Cersei (and I’ve said a great deal) but perhaps her influence on Sansa helped prepare her for this day. And perhaps Littlefinger redeemed himself somewhat by bringing the Army of the Vale to her rescue.

Melisandre and Davos

Here’s a thread I keep pulling at. How will the needless, grotesque burning of Shireen be dealt with? What vengeance will Davos exact, and how will it figure into the larger picture? Melisandre remains withdrawn and melancholy, despite bringing Jon back from the dead. Is this newfound humility, or has she glimpsed her fate in the flames?

MELISANDRE: Perhaps he brought you back only to have you die here.

JON: What sort of god would do that?

VOICES UP AND DOWN THE EAST COAST: George R. R. Martin!!!

GEORGE R. R. MARTIN AT HOME: Me.

MELISANDRE: The one we have.

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Photo: HBO

Battle of the Bastards

There’s too much for me to recap, of course, and you’re better served by sitting down and watching it again, anyway. I’m glad Rickon’s end was swift and Ramsay’s was not. I loved the moment pictured above, when Jon faces an entire cavalry as Very Heroic Music swells behind him–only to be unheroically swallowed up by the thundering arrival of his own men. It’s nice when a rather predictable figuration of epic cinema gives way to something a bit more believable. Thereafter the director, Miguel Sapochnik, plunged us into the thick of a medieval battle. It felt real: the madness, the screaming, the brutality of kill or be killed, the near-misses and somewhat surreal sights, like a headless corpse atop a galloping warhorse. “Hardhome” was brilliant, but in the “Battle of the Bastards,” Sapochnik has surpassed himself.

So here we are now, with only one episode left. In the preview for the supersized finale, I noticed Jaime sitting in the hall of none other than Walder Frey. Of course, my recent post about that was met with crickets, but hey. When it comes to vengeance for the Red Wedding, I can dream. See you next week!

GoT: A Wish for Walder Frey

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The old sinner himself

I hated missing two blog posts while in Cornwall (Game of Thrones 6.7 and 6.8) but I’m too busy with my writing to go back and laboriously craft two recaps. However, last night I woke up around five am with another of my  certain-to-be-wrong theories, and I can’t resist sharing it.

Ever since the Red Wedding, I’ve despaired of Walder Frey ever paying for his crimes. So what if Arya or Jon goes in and skewers him or beheads him? He’s lived a good (make that bad) long life, sampled far more than his fair share of delights, and sipped wine contentedly while Robb, Talisa, and Catelyn were murdered before his eyes. A swift death is too good for him. And even if Ramsay Bolton himself decided to turn Walder into a lamp shade, the frail old goat would surely die five minutes into the flaying.

Not good enough.

As for Walder’s individual family members, all he’s ever shown them is contempt. He mocked his sons and didn’t bat an eye when his wife’s throat was cut. How do you make a man like that suffer?

I thought of a way.

Lately Jaime’s been riding at the head of an army he hasn’t used. (His rescue of Margaery fizzled and his near-bloodless coup of Riverrun was won mostly by words.) Surely GRRM and the HBO showrunners didn’t give him that army purely for ornament. I hope, hope, hope he takes that army north to assist Brienne and Sansa. And to do that, he’ll need to march his army through the Twins.

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Jaime just the way I like him (with Cersei nowhere in sight)

But at the Twins, suppose Walder puffs up like the wicked old toad he is, says Tywin’s dead, Jaime’s nothing to him, and Jaime can forget about crossing? Jaime showed his ruthless side when dealing with Edmure, threatening (I hope strategically rather than sincerely) to take Edmure’s baby son, load him into a catapult, and fling the poor child over the battlements. If Walder refuses to play ball, perhaps Jaime will take a page from his dear old dad and seize the Twins in a Rains of Castamere-style massacre. Though Walder despises his children and grandchildren as individuals, he no doubt cares about his legacy. (Why else did he crave Robb, a king, for a son-in-law, and remain unappeased when offered Edmure, his leige lord?) If Walder, holed up in a tower, spends his last hours listening to his entire brood exterminated the way the Reynes were exterminated, I think he’d truly suffer.

Does that sound bloodthirsty of me, consigning all those hapless Frey sons and daughters and grandchildren to the slaughter, just to put Walder Frey through the wringer? Heh. Remember, I’m a mystery writer, hardwired to think in terms of murder and retribution.

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Visual representation of my typical thought process

Alas … when it comes to GoT, every prediction I’ve made this year has been off by a mile. And perhaps the “Jaime unleashed” theory only makes sense if he were trying to get back to King’s Landing and Cersei. (If, for example, he heard that Tommen had rescinded trial by combat, making her conviction all but certain.) Alas, after consulting the map of Westeros, returning to King’s Landing via the Twins seems unlikely.

Come on, Sunday! I’m ready to know what happens next.

Game of Thrones 6.4: “The Book of the Stranger”

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I don’t know about you, but I love it when a show (or book) surprises me. Particularly when the surprise doesn’t come out of left field, purely for shock value, but instead makes such perfect sense that in retrospect, you wonder why you didn’t see it coming. Game of Thrones 6.4 was that sort of episode.

Jon Snow at Castle Black  So much for my prediction he’d go straight to Winterfell. Jon not only wants out of the Night’s Watch, he wants out of Westeros. But his dreams of sunny Dorne or the Summer Isles are torpedoed by the arrival of Sansa. Their reunion is heartfelt and satisfying. I never thought I’d see the day Jon’s moral compass wavered, leaving Sansa to insist they fight the good fight. Longtime viewers and/or anyone with wi-fi knows that Sansa hasn’t been a fan favorite, due in large part to the way she behaved when she was approximately twelve. I hope her mea culpa last night will allow more fans to root for her.

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The Red Woman, Ser Davos, and Brienne  Now that Jon is alive and Melisandre has declared him the “Prince Who Was Promised,” Ser Davos finally asks about the mammoth in the courtyard: what, precisely, happened to Shireen? But Brienne interrupts, volunteering that she executed Stannis. Will she realize the Red Woman was instrumental in Renly’s assassination and execute her, too? Or will Ser Davos turn murderous when he learns poor little Shireen was burned alive? Lately my predictions have been duds, but if the Red Woman dies, it should be by fire. After all, she thinks it’s the purest death, right?

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Meanwhile, in Meereen  Tyrion makes a deal with the slavers of Astapor and Yunkai in hopes of neutralizing those terrorists called the Sons of the Harpy. Grey Worm and Missandei had grave reservations about the negotiations, which I initially took to heart. But as a fellow superfan pointed out, Grey Worm and Missandei still suffer from a “prey” mindset, while Tyrion’s predatory instincts are finely honed. If the slavers don’t play ball, he may handle them as forcefully as he dealt with troublemakers during his tenure as Hand of the King.

Here’s another prediction I’ll fearlessly submit: I think the liaison between the slave masters and the Sons of the Harpy is Daario Naharis. My reasons are thus. (1) He is well known in Meereen after his success in the fighting pits, giving him access and credibility. (2) He survived the attack last season without a scratch. (3) He’s said outright that he’ll disappoint Danaerys someday. (4) He’s a sellsword who’d probably betray anyone if the price is right. Finally, and I present this as my strongest piece of evidence: he boasted disrespectfully and rather graphically about sleeping with Dany. As a writer, I tend to notice moments when a positive or neutral character puts on the black hat. Male love interests who behave that way are typically not long for this world. Just saying.

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Margaery, the High Sparrow, Tommen, and Cersei Okay, so the High Sparrow is utterly sincere in his fanaticism. So what? Sincere fanatics are a dime a dozen in our world. I spent his monologue fantasizing about  Jaime killing him various ways. But I perked up as the question arose: What did Tommen actually tell Cersei?

When Cersei told the Small Council that Margaery would be forced into a walk of shame, she mobilized them to essentially overthrow the High Sparrow’s Faith Militant. But was it true? Am I the only one who thinks this will result in Margaery’s death? Ser Loras is too broken to fight, and besides, the actor has a new gig elsewhere, so I expect no heroics from him. Then there’s that prophecy about Cersei and her children:

“Gold shall be their crowns and gold their shrouds. And when your tears have drowned you, the valonqar shall wrap his hands about your pale white throat and choke the life from you.”

Valonqar is High Valyrian for “little brother,” and naturally Cersei has always assumed this means Tyrion. But Jaime is also Cersei’s younger brother by a minute or so. Will he be driven to kill her if her machinations lead to Tommen’s death, which the prophecy makes inevitable? Or is another little brother waiting in the wings?

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Vaes Dothrak  Silly, silly me. Only last week I imagined the Dosh Khaleen was pulling the strings in Dothraki culture. Those poor women have no real power at all. As one puts it, “I can never leave Vaes Dothrak until I rise as smoke from my funeral pyre.” Hey, I hear you–I used to say the same about my old day job. (Thanks again, readers, for freeing me!) And only two weeks ago, I stated confidently that Dany’s dragons would show up to save her, and awe the Dothraki hoard with their strength. Nope. Dany killed the Khals and took control of the entire Dothraki people all by herself, with a show of her own strength.

Mic drop.

Of course, this episode was so packed, I omitted a lot, including poor Osha’s end; the reappearance of Littlefinger; the mobilization of the Vale’s army; some extended doddering from everyone favorite charlatan, Pycelle; Yara; Theon; and an epic fail re: the old “sand in the eyes” trick. As for Ramsay’s threatening letter, I hope he does try to feed Rickon to the dogs, only to discover Shaggydog lurking in the kennel, very much alive and hungering for Bolton flesh. Remember, of all the direwolves, only Shaggy got in trouble for biting humans.

Anyway, I can’t say adieu without referencing how Tormund Giantsbane kept ogling Brienne. Pretty sure the self-proclaimed “Husband to Bears” wants to climb her like a tree. Maybe next time he’ll admit she reminds him of his Sheila.

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That’s it. Back to novel-writing for me. See you next week!

Game of Thrones 6.3: “Oathbreaker”

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Once again, here’s my superfan take on the latest Game of Thrones episode. If you haven’t watched “Oathbreaker” yet, be warned: this post is nothing but wall-to-wall spoilers glued together with wild speculation and a heavy dose of denial.

Jon Snow  I confess, I was very surprised when Jon awakened STILL knowing nothing. That blows my cherished and long-held (3 years) theory out of the water: that during his time between resurrection and the Great Beyond, he would learn the truth of his origins. Since Bran can do all sorts of telepathic and time/space continuum tricks, I thought Bran would help Jon realize who his mother was, which would in turn (if my other theory is correct) turn Jon’s sights on the Iron Throne. Wrong! Poor Jon wakes up right where he left off, reeling from the betrayal of his Night’s Watch brothers. I do wonder why Ghost didn’t bound up and behave like a creature whose beloved human has risen from the dead. Is that a clue? Or just an oversight?

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Let me add that I thought Ser Davos’s response to Jon’s fear of reengaging with the world that destroyed him was terrific, delivered with the Onion Knight’s trademark candor:

JON SNOW: I failed.

SER DAVOS: Good. Now go fail again.

(By the way, Jon’s earlier statement, “I did what I thought was right and got murdered for it” could easily be co-opted into a Westeros tourism slogan. Westeros: Come to Do What You Think is Right, Stay to Get Murdered For It! No wonder nobody wants to visit.)

Sam and Gilly  Is it just me, or has Gilly become more spirited as she journeys away from the horrors of Craster’s Keep? I look forward to her arrival at Horn Hill. Sam never did stand up to his father, but I have the feeling Gilly might. After all, Randall Tarly can’t possibly be any scarier than Craster.

Oathbreaker 3

Bran and the Tower of Joy I enjoyed this flashback and didn’t want it to end. Not before Bran entered the Tower and saw the truth, anyway. But clearly the showrunners are feeding us these long-awaited facts slowly, in conjunction with the big picture. Ser Arthur Dayne fighting with two swords was a terrific spectacle. Kudos to the stunt coordinators and the swordsman who played Ser Arthur. I can’t say I was shocked when Howland Reed saved Ned by stabbing the legendary knight in the back. It was clear from the outset that in a fair fight, Ser Arthur outclassed them all.

Perhaps the most interesting moment was when Bran called out to his father, and Ned heard. Does this mean Bran can change the past? Or prevent a calamitous future?

Danaerys and the Dosh Khaleen How convenient that Dany was frog-marched back to the Mother of Mountains just as all the tribes are returning for their annual horse lord hoedown! All the warriors will be assembled when her dragons show up. Alas, I was disappointed in the Dosh Khaleen itself. I hoped it would be revealed that these widows are actually the Dothraki puppetmasters, controlling their hypermasculine counterparts so deftly, the menfolks never realize a circle of women is pulling the strings. But I saw nothing to support this theory.

King’s Landing The pieces are moving on the chessboard, but no big revelations yet. I’m glad to see the Queen of Thorns back in the capital. (If Tommen wants wise counsel, he should go to her!) I want to know what’s under Ser Gregor’s helmet. Perhaps a missing lower jaw or something equally horrific?

Arya  Always more questions here. Was the water truly poisoned? Did she survive drinking it because she has genuinely abandoned her identity as a Stark? Or was that merely another mind game that she bluffed her way past? In either case, she can see again. In the book it was clear that her blindness let to greater powers–specifically, the ability to literally see through the eyes of other people. Such an advantage for an assassin! But I didn’t get that message from “Oathbreaker,” so to me, it felt like her blindness in the show was a throwaway plot device.

Winterfell

Meanwhile, at Winterfell  Now we come to the part of my blog where I plunge into full-on denial. Smalljon Umber a traitor? (Remember when Robb’s wolf bit off his dad’s fingers, and the Umbers liked Robb MORE?) Osha and Rickon at the mercy of the loathsome Ramsay Bolton? Shaggywolf dead?????

Okay. I can’t deal with this. And yes, yes, I know George R.R. Martin kills at will. But for now, I prefer to believe the following: 1. This is a trick hatched by the Umbers to get rid of Ramsay once and for all. 2. Osha and Rickon are entering Winterfell to help retake it from within, since they know the castle, the hidden passages, etc. 3. That wasn’t Shaggydog. It was some other unfortunate creature, perhaps the offspring of Shaggydog and a beguiling bitch from House Umber’s kennels? And maybe Shaggydog has been smuggled into Winterfell, and when the moment is right, he’ll EAT Ramsay. Preferably from the feet up, like the shark from Jaws did to Robert Shaw.

I know the above is fanciful madness. Still. I cling to my denial.

Castle Black  I don’t know why I thought Ser Allister and Olly would beg Jon’s forgiveness. The living dead aren’t such a novelty anymore; probably they considered Jon’s return further proof of his wickedness. And for a moment I was surprised that Jon executed them. I expected mercy. But then I remembered that Ser Allister would surely rebel again, and his fellow conspirators would no doubt follow his lead. As for Jon’s departure, I’d been waiting for it from the moment Ser Davos said, “Now go fail again.”

My prediction: Jon intends to take back Winterfell. And not just out of loyalty to his family. The White Walkers are coming, and they’ll either boil over the Wall or bring it down. Castle Black can be flanked easily. But Winterfell can be held, even against the army of the dead. Ned used to say 500 men could hold Winterfell against 10,000. I think we’ll soon find out if that is true.

Until next time! And I refuse to say goodbye, Shaggy. Not yet.

Oathbreaker 4

 

Game of Thrones 6.1: “The Red Woman”

Red Woman Season 6

Warning: This post is packed with spoilers and a lot of pure speculation.

Anyone who knows me in real life knows I am a Game of Thrones superfan. So they won’t be surprised that as I recover from these various medical issues and get back in the habit of writing daily, I’ll spend five minutes tossing off a blog post about it. Especially since the HBO show’s storylines have at last moved beyond the books and into unmapped, Here Be Dragons territory. So I present my thoughts on the episode.

Jon Snow: Still Dead  I wasn’t expecting him to be resurrected in the first episode. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if they didn’t make us wait until episode five or later. I did notice that although Ghost howled to be set free, we viewers were spared the usual do-si-do they apparently teach screenwriters in film school: animal companion rushes to dead human’s side. Tries to rouse him with increasingly pitiful sounds and actions. Whines to grieving human, who intones, “How can I make you understand? He’s gone.”

But Ghost didn’t sniff and paw uncomprehendingly at Jon’s body, because Jon “warged” at the last second and shifted his soul/consciousness into Ghost. (Making the direwolf’s name prophetic, we see what you did there, GRRM.) So fear not, I have no doubt Jon’s body will be resurrected and his soul will then be returned, so he won’t be a bleak revenant like Beric Dondarrion or an outright monster, like the blue-eyed wights.

Daenerys Meets Her Future Cavalry So, the Dothraki respect strength above all else. We know Drogon is on the loose and we saw in the preview that Tyrion says “Dragons don’t do well in captivity” before apparently setting the other two free. I predict that when Dany arrives at the Dothraki’s most sacred place, the Mother of Mountains, and three dragons turn up to humble the horse lords, the general Dothraki attitude toward Khal Drogo’s widow will be transformed. Giving her three dragons, an army of fine foot soldiers, and a cavalry. All she’ll need to complete her conquest of Westeros is a fleet.

Jaime Lannister: Back Under the Spell of that Wicked Woman All I can do is sigh. No. Brienne. Brienne is the right one for you, Jaime. I really hope he wakes up to this fact.

Jaime_1x02

Sansa Stark Bolton Has New Allies Thank goodness. Theon really stepped up and proved himself, in my opinion, worthy of trust. When he tried to divert the searchers, he risked the thing he fears most–being sent back to Ramsay for punishment. And Sansa finally allowed Brienne to swear fealty. Remember when Roose Bolton warned Ramsay about how hard it would be to overcome a Lannister Army? If a Lannister Army goes north, Jaime will be at its head. If Brienne can get him to fight for Sansa (to fulfill his part of the oath to Catelyn) then Sansa will regain Winterfell and the Bolton lands, too.

Sansa Season 6

In fact … and here’s where I’ll go off the rails a little. But Theon is still heir to the Iron Islands, and on a map of Westeros, you’ll see the proximity of those islands make them an ongoing threat to Winterfell. If Ramsay dies and Sansa is carrying his child, she can claim Stark and Bolton lands. If she then marries Theon, she will be the most powerful ruler the North has seen in a long time. Of course, with the Others mobilizing and the army of the dead walking, real estate values up north are plummeting.

The Red Woman Okay, so she’s old. Yet when she wears the ruby at her throat, she looks and seems young. Somebody steal that ruby and pass it under Jon’s nose like smelling salts!

That’s enough out of my re: GoT for one week. Back to work on my novel!

 

Game of Thrones Season 2 Finale

Warning: Loaded with SPOILERS

Tyrian Lannister (Peter Dinklage), unappreciated and somewhat worse for wear. (HBO)

Last night marked the season two finale of HBO’s epic fantasy series, Game of Thrones. Here are my thoughts:

Tyrian Lannister and Shae

Tyrian (Peter Dinklage) spent the entire season proving how tough, brave and smart he is. He almost single-handedly saved King’s Landing, not only by putting the secret wildfire stockpile to good use, but by leading the battle himself after the Hound and King Joffrey deserted. So what does Tyrian get in return? His sister Cersei sends a knight to kill him, marking him for all time. (Though less horribly than in the books, I might add.) His father arrives, takes all the credit, plus the title Hand of the King, plus the Hand’s sumptuous apartments. Even lets his big white horse take a big steaming dump while approaching the Iron Throne. Reversals of fortune are a big part of why I love Game of Thrones. Not so much for the fantasy elements, although they are well-imagined. For the characters and their often stunningly realistic interactions.

This season, we last see Tyrian in Shae’s arms, brought to tears by her devotion. Now in the books, Shae was loathsome and vile, and I often sighed that Tyrian, for all his brilliance, couldn’t recognize her for what she was. This character is clearly different — perhaps a combination of Shae and one of the Dornish “Sand Snakes”? Anyway, I loved the scene and it made we wish things could work out for them.

Theon (Alfie Allen) does his best Henry V, with a somewhat different result. (HBO)

Theon, Maester Luwin, Bran and Winterfell

Well, it’s been a crappy life for Theon Greyjoy. The show’s head writers seem to feel that rather keenly, since they’ve twice allowed Theon to speechify about his difficult path in ways he never did in the book. (Or if he did, they made no impression on me.) Theon was ransomed as a baby and brought up by kind frenemies that never quite adopted him. When he returned to his own family, he was mocked as weak and less of a man than his superstar sister. When he decided to betray Winterfell and the Starks, everything that could go wrong, did go wrong. In the end, his own men mutinied and carried him off as a prisoner, no doubt to ransom back to King Robb, who has promised amnesty for all Ironborn except Theon.

It’s interesting how Theon’s pity party is allowed to go on and on, while Tyrian simply swallows insult after insult and Sam Tarly, whose own father threatened to murder him, bumbles around happily in the North. Perhaps that’s the point to Theon’s arc? Wallow in self-pity and end up deserted by all?

Not much of Bran, Rickon or Osha, but Maester Luwin gets a nice final scene. I enjoyed that, because in the books he suffers the usual pitiless GRRM end.

Brienne of Tarth (Gwendoline Christie) shows a certain golden lion just what she’s made of. (HBO)

Brienne of Tarth and Jaime Lannister

Oh, I do enjoy seeing these two together. The staging of their all-too-brief sequence was brilliant. Jaime (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) emerges from the boat a few paces ahead of Brienne (Gwendoline Christie). The camera angle — him walking uphill a bit ahead of her — makes him seem her height, or even a shade taller, as he does what handsome jerks do to strange or unconventionally attractive females … tease her mercilessly. Is she a virgin? Did any man ever care enough to try? Doesn’t she wish he, often called the handsomest man in the kingdom, would try? (Well, that last bit is only implied.)

Then they come upon the corpses of three tavern girls, hanging in the trees. Stark men raped and killed them for serving the Lannisters as customers. Just as Brienne sees the bodies, the actress hits her mark beside Coster-Waldau, towering over him by at least half a head. (Broader, too, in full armor.) When apparent danger arrives on-scene, Jaime begs her for release so he can save them both. Then he gets to watch while Brienne easily dispatches three armed men like they were boys with sticks. The progression of reactions on Jaime’s face  — first shock, then respect, then shrewd appraisal — was perfect.

Can’t wait for season three.

Is this a grumpkin, or a snark? (HBO)

Daenerys Targaryen, Jon Snow, White Walkers and — a Slight Anticlimax?

I wasn’t a fan of the “stolen dragons” plot because I thought the end was too obvious to be interesting. And sure enough, for me, it didn’t amount to much. I did find it interesting that the show’s version of Dany could lock away her betrayers so cruelly. Cutting their throats would have been far kinder. In the books, Dany is hard, as all would-be conquerors must be, but she isn’t cruel. Interesting choice.

As for Jon’s final bit,  maneuvered-into-killing-Qhorin-to-gain-the-Wildings-trust … eh. I didn’t feel any particular drama. That seemed rushed. Your mileage may vary, of course.

Finally, at last, the White Walkers and their undead army (Gray Staggerers?) were revealed. As far as the close-up of a White Walker’s face … I’m not sure about the effect, it seemed a little too unreal. Seeing poor Sam surrounded by CGI reminded me of that time a lot of special effects teamed up to drown George Clooney and Marky Mark. But these are my usual nitpicks, because I am a compulsive nitpicker.

Overall, the season was tremendous and I can’t wait for what comes next.