Let’s Read A Game of Thrones! Part 5: Eddard 1

I’ve said this before: Anything posted, mentioned, or derided on this blog, is in fact the property of its respective owner and copyright holder, and is used for purposes of entertainment, edification, and the advancement of bad taste, not profit. If you feel anything of yours is being unfairly used and maligned, I’m sure my wife will be properly sympathetic.

Well. Remember last time, how I said I was going to read something else? Well, I did. I read the entirety of Simon R. Green’s new Ghostfinders novel, Forces from Beyond. (It was good.) And then I read the entirety of David Weber’s most recent Norfressa fantasy, Sword of the South. (It was also good.) Then I pulled out my old disk of free Baen novels, and re-read the first books in Weber’s series. (Still good.) I’m also engaged in getting the last three trophies for the PS3 game Tales of Xillia. (Which is almost horrifyingly good.) For some reason, I created a new Human Necromancer to play in Guild Wars 2. (Quite good, and now free to play, within certain limits.) I also ended up going with my wife to the Minnesota State Fair one day. (Fun, but a quite literal Sea of Humanity. Go if you get the opportunity, but go early.) And then I read some more…

The point being, I kinda put off working on my blog til the last moment. So, I’m probably only going to manage one post this week. Bleh. I know this is a self-imposed challenge, but I hate losing anyway. Everyone needs to stop making awesome things! 😦

So. In my last review, rather than analyze impartially, I ended up ranting about things I don’t like. As far as I am concerned, that is just fine; I’m writing all this to get my feelings out, not necessarily to convince anyone that my opinions are correct in any way. Military strategists refer to this as, “Don’t fight battles you can’t win.”

However, while I am not too concerned about the hate I was evincing last time, I do feel that I may have been a little harsh in some earlier criticisms. Therefore, let us now take a few minutes to talk about Foreshadowing!

…Um, after the summary, that is. 😛

Eddard 1 (4)

The chapter opens with about 300 riders descending upon Eddard’s castle at Winterfell. Ned picks several notables out of the crowd, but the man at their head is hard for him to recognize. King Robert has gone to seed in the nine years since Baron Greyjoy’s rebellion, but Ned does not want to criticize his king.

Ned’s family and Robert’s greet each other formally, after which Robert immediately requests to visits the Stark family crypt. Queen Cersei tries to suggest that the travellers should refresh themselves first, but Robert quells her with a look. Ned and Robert descend into the crypt alone.

Ned and Robert discuss the king’s journey north, and Robert is incredulous at the summer snows, and wonders how bad the country will be in winter. He begins to describe to Ned the various wonders of the southern countries, but Ned can’t help but notice how out of shape his king is now.

They pass fallen Lords of Stark to the back of the crypt, where three tombs stand: one for Ned’s father, Lord Rikard Stark; one for his older brother, Brandon, who died on King Aerys Targaryen’s orders; and one for his sister Lyanna, who had been intended to marry Robert before she died. Apparently she died due to the Targaryen prince Rhaegar, and even after his revenge Robert is still bitter.

As they leave the crypt, Ned asks after their foster-father Jon Arryn, and Robert tells him how abruptly he died. Jon’s wife, Lysa, had taken their son and retreated back to their castle, known as the Eyrie, against the king’s wishes; Robert had wanted the boy fostered to Lord Tywin Lannister. Ned is not best pleased by this, and offers to foster the boy himself, but Robert waves this off.

Apparently on impulse, Robert decides to reveal his true purpose in coming to Winterfell: he wants Eddard to become the Hand of the King, second most powerful man in the Seven Kingdoms, who sometimes even discharged the duties of the king himself. Ned has absolutely no desire for this position, but can’t think of a way to refuse. Eventually, he asks Robert for time to consider, and to tell his wife. Robert agrees, but says, “Just don’t keep me waiting too long. I am not the most patient of men.”

Ned looks around the crypt, and feels winter coming.

I loved this chapter. Yes, I’m amazed I can say that too, after hating the last one so passionately. And hey, it isn’t perfect; there’s still this sense of a deeply interesting past, but at least it isn’t overshadowing the present quite so easily. And the goddamn misogyny of this world hasn’t grown any less cloying, as Robert’s comments about Jon Arryn’s wife Lysa reveal. But there is one thing that stands out for me in this chapter, and that is absolutely beautiful use of foreshadowing.

Foreshadowing is, of course, techniques that a writer uses to shape readers expectations about future events in the story. This is not so the writer can tell you exactly what is going to happen, but in order to build and maintain narrative causality and the reader’s suspension of disbelief. Or, more simply put, things happen in an order that makes sense. Failure to properly foreshadow events can lead to things like the apocryphal Deus ex Machina, for example.

Remember back in Muffin Bran’s POV, the bit with the dead direwolf and the pups? That was foreshadowing; something bad is going to happen to the Starks, perhaps to Ned, perhaps to Catelyn, perhaps to both. That was foreshadowing by metaphor; we readers are meant to see it as a sign, as certain members of the cast did, and Ned did not. I felt at the time, and still feel, that this was clunky use of foreshadowing, with all the subtlety of a hammer to the face; furthermore, the mechanism that produced such a ridiculous coincidence remains unclear (was it a sign from the gods? some sort of magical resonance? will we ever find out? will there be other instances of such blatant sign casting (ok, I already know there is one, but I still have my hate on for the Daenerys chapter, so leave it for now.))

Know what I like though? Subtlety. You know what this chapter has? Subtlety. What do I mean? Well, let’s examine what happens here. First we have Robert and Ned: according to Ned’s POV, Robert’s appearance has changed a lot in nine years; according to Robert’s dialogue, Ned hasn’t changed at all. Second, Robert has become quite bitter, even about his own rulership. Third, he keeps doing things that remind Ned of their shared history together, back when they were the best of friends. Fourth, he is offering Ned a position of great power…in a crypt, with no one else around. Put it together with the sheer unexpectedness of the visit, offhand comments about the size of Ned’s realm, dismissal of the importance of the Wall and continuous entreaties for Ned to come south, and what do you get?

No matter how much Ned still trusts Robert, Robert does not trust Ned!

Robert is concerned about the loyalty of this man, ruler of a huge realm too far north to be easily reached, whom he hasn’t seen in nine years, who is the sworn enemy of a house tied closely to his rule. Never mind their history; that was then, and this is now. This is my kind of foreshadowing: rather than blatantly saying, “Oh, there’s going to be trouble between these two powers” (via clunky out-of-place metaphor, no less), here everything is not spelled out, but implied by situation and word. It is beautifully well done, and I think it explains what is to come a lot better than a dead symbol. (Of course, we don’t get puppies from this scene, so that is a weakness? I guess?)


That would be a yes.

Hey, you know what would be cool foreshadowing? If some guy wandering around up north got killed by tall, frosty guys due to arrogance and over-confidence, then rose from his grave to attack the guys he was travelling with, I think that would imply that we face a giant, mystical threat from up north, and we should all join together to push the Cthulu Ice Elves back! Wouldn’t that be a cool story?

I’d love to read that story.

Still loved this chapter though.

Next time: We get the point of view of a real bastard.

PS. I’ve been thinking of ending these posts with a list of encountered characters who have met…interesting…fates, and just keep a sort of running tally. At the moment, I only have three entries, so I kind of want to wait to start it until I have a few more…well, let me just show you what I’ve got:

Ser Waymar Royce: Stabbed to death by some really ice people, and became a more interesting character

Will of the Night Watch: Throttled by his (dead) commander, for not keeping a better watch

Gared of the Night Watch: Faced ‘justice’ as a madman, and quite lost his head over it

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