The Floating Islands by Rachel Neumeier

When Trei loses his family in a tragic disaster, he must search out distant relatives in a new land. The Floating Islands are unlike anything Trei has ever seen: stunning, majestic, and graced with kajurai, men who soar the skies with wings.

Trei is instantly sky-mad, and desperate to be a kajurai himself.  The only one who fully understands his passion is Araené, his newfound cousin.  Prickly, sarcastic, and gifted, Araené has a secret of her own . . . a dream a girl cannot attain.

Trei and Araené quickly become conspirators as they pursue their individual paths.  But neither suspects that their lives will be deeply entwined, and that the fate of the Floating Islands will lie in their hands. . . .

Filled with rich language, and told in alternating voices, The Floating Islands is an all-encompassing young adult fantasy read.

I really liked the parallel between Trei and Araené’s individual struggles regarding the roles they were intended to fill and the ones they’ve chosen instead. In my eyes, Trei’s struggle is the more difficult one to overcome. Being half Toulounnese and half Islander, raised in Toulounn and having been relocated to the Floating Islands after the destruction of his family, Trei doesn’t know which nation he’s supposed to identify with and whether he should even be allowed to do so with whichever one he chooses. He’s accepted by the wind dragons to train to become a kajurai, but part of him can’t help but sympathize and identify with Toulounn’s attack on the Islands because he had never before questioned the inevitability or rightness of Toulounn as a conquering nation. I appreciated how this never become a cut-and-dry problem and even when Trei takes action against Toulounn on behalf of the Floating Islands, it’s not because he now thinks Toulunn is completely evil, but because the Floating Islands are where he has chosen to call home.

Araené, on the other hand, is caught between being the upper-class daughter she’s expected to be, the chef she wants to become, and the mage she seems to be developing into. The latter two require her to be male, and so she takes on that role to learn how to become that mage. While Trei is more confused and conflicted than anything else, Araené is fully bitter that this is what she was born into and her lot in life won’t change unless she drastically changes it herself.

The author’s writing was so. pretty. During the week that I was reading this, I hadn’t been in the mood to read any text for fun that required me to read slowly and pay attention (which meant I put the book aside more often than I meant to), but really, once I stopped trying to speed through and started lying back and appreciating the words she used and the descriptions she came up with, I fell in love. The language isn’t obviously obtuse or flowery, but the author has a way of stringing words together to describe flying, magic, dragons, and even the tastes Araené experiences in a uniquely evocative way. Just… gah. I almost want to apologize to the author for not reading this at a more optimal time when I would have taken all the time I needed to fully absorb how beautifully crafted her writing is.

I will say that the world in this book felt strange in some aspects, largely in that it was clear the author had come up with a very detailed plan for how this world works, what the different countries are like, cultures, outlooks on life, etc, but decided to only reveal a little bit of that information in the book. For example, Toulounn prides itself on its military strength, sees war as a game, and views conquering other countries as the natural order of things. “Toulounn soldiers are the best in the world,” goes the saying. But the way these facts were applied felt reductive, like any ambiguity or complexity was erased. Maybe I just can’t buy the existence of a conquering nation that has no sign of court or military intrigue whatsoever and that all of the military personnel and even the Little Emperor himself, would be fully honest and forthright to the point of fully disclosing future plans on conquering the Floating Islands a second time after being defeated.

Similarly, barely anything is mentioned about the difference in male and female roles in the Floating Islands, beyond the fact that women of good family learn to keep house, get married, aren’t schooled in any way, and supposedly aren’t mages. But when Araené learns she has the ability to become a mage, she doesn’t ask why she has the power in the first place. Obviously, the fact that she’s female is a huge impediment and something she’s very keen to hide, but it felt odd that she never stopped and questioned why on earth she was a mage when presumably she would have learned that all mages are male and no female mages exist or have existed. And then when all of her (male) compatriots and teachers find out she’s female, none of them go, “WTF, women aren’t mages!” and one of them even says, “Oh yeah, female mages actually existed a long time ago.” So… why was the gender divide even important in the first place?

This also extended to events such as the volcano that wiped out Trei’s family, the sickness that killed off Araené’s, the politics of the Floating Islands, and even the religion that seems to be shared by both them and Toulounn. I can understand not going into huge detail behind the first two things – they happened immediately and inexplicably and major, catastrophic events like that happen. But with everything else, it kept feeling like the author was doling out only as much detail as she needed to and not a drop more. By the end of the book, this was aggravating; the story ended up being simultaneously complex and simplistic.

All that being said, I do think Rachel Neumeier is a lovely writer and I do want to read more of her books. Trei and Araené were well-drawn characters and when she actually described and fleshed out the world she created, it was solid, detailed, and magical. I will probably read her other books during times when I am not drowning in work (which means I shouldn’t read them when the school year starts up again because Thesis!)

Disclosure – library

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2011 Nebula Awards

I’ll cut to the chase – I am so fucking happy that Among Others won the Nebula. The book and Jo Walton absolutely deserved it because that book is wonderful. It really is. I know I keep harping on about this particular one, but I wouldn’t do it if I didn’t have a lot of feelings about it.

I never got around to reading all the short work nominated, but as of yesterday, I had finished reading all of the short story nominees. Ken Liu’s “The Paper Menagerie” was the last one I read and when I finished, I went and hoped really hard that this one would win the award as well, so I am very glad it did.

I still have yet to read The Freedom Maze by Delia Sherman, but from everything I have read about it online, it sounds like an excellent book, so I can’t complain about the choice there.

And yeah. I really liked the Nebula ballot this year, or at least the parts where I was knowledgeable about the nominations. It was legitimately interesting, and had a lot of different types of genres, styles, and stories. Seriously, lots of congratulations to all who won and those on the ballot.

Novel

  • Among Others, Jo Walton (Tor) – WINNER
  • Embassytown, China Miéville (Macmillan (UK); Del Rey; Subterranean Press)
  • Firebird, Jack McDevitt (Ace Books)
  • God’s War, Kameron Hurley (Night Shade Books)
  • Mechanique: A Tale of the Circus Tresaulti, Genevieve Valentine (Prime Books)
  • The Kingdom of Gods, N.K. Jemisin (Orbit US; Orbit UK)

Novella

  • “The Man Who Bridged the Mist,” Kij Johnson (Asimov’s Science Fiction, October/November 2011) – WINNER
  • “Kiss Me Twice,” Mary Robinette Kowal (Asimov’s Science Fiction,June 2011)
  • “Silently and Very Fast,” Catherynne M. Valente (WFSA Press;Clarkesworld Magazine, October 2011)
  • “The Ice Owl,” Carolyn Ives Gilman (The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, November/December 2011)
  • “The Man Who Ended History: A Documentary,” Ken Liu (Panverse Three, Panverse Publishing)
  • “With Unclean Hands,” Adam-Troy Castro (Analog Science Fiction and Fact, November 2011)

Novelette

  • “What We Found,” Geoff Ryman (The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, September/October 2011) – WINNER
  • “Fields of Gold,” Rachel Swirsky (Eclipse 4, Night Shade Books)
  • “Ray of Light,” Brad R. Torgersen (Analog Science Fiction and Fact,December 2011)
  • “Sauerkraut Station,” Ferrett Steinmetz (Giganotosaurus, November 2011)
  • “Six Months, Three Days,” Charlie Jane Anders (Tor.com, June 2011)
  • “The Migratory Pattern of Dancers,” Katherine Sparrow(Giganotosaurus, July 2011)
  • “The Old Equations,” Jake Kerr (Lightspeed Magazine, July 2011)

Short Story

  • “The Paper Menagerie,” Ken Liu (The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, March/April 2011) – WINNER – Audio version can be found here.
  • “Her Husband’s Hands,” Adam-Troy Castro (Lightspeed Magazine,October 2011)
  • “Mama, We are Zhenya, Your Son,” Tom Crosshill (Lightspeed Magazine, April 2011)
  • “Movement,” Nancy Fulda (Asimov’s Science Fiction, March 2011)
  • “Shipbirth,” Aliette de Bodard (Asimov’s Science Fiction, February 2011)
  • “The Axiom of Choice,” David W. Goldman (New Haven Review,Winter 2011)
  • “The Cartographer Wasps and the Anarchist Bees,” E. Lily Yu(Clarkesworld Magazine, April 2011)

Ray Bradbury Award for Outstanding Dramatic Presentation

  • Doctor Who: “The Doctor’s Wife,” Neil Gaiman (writer), Richard Clark (director) (BBC Wales) – WINNER
  • Attack the Block, Joe Cornish (writer/director) (Optimum Releasing; Screen Gems)
  • Captain America: The First Avenger, Christopher Markus, Stephen McFeely (writers), Joe Johnston (director) (Paramount)
  • Hugo, John Logan (writer), Martin Scorsese (director) (Paramount)
  • Midnight in Paris, Woody Allen (writer/director) (Sony)
  • Source Code, Ben Ripley (writer), Duncan Jones (director) (Summit)
  • The Adjustment Bureau, George Nolfi (writer/director) (Universal)

Andre Norton Award for Young Adult Science Fiction and Fantasy Book

  • The Freedom Maze, Delia Sherman (Big Mouth House) – WINNER
  • Akata Witch, Nnedi Okorafor (Viking Juvenile)
  • Chime, Franny Billingsley (Dial Books; Bloomsbury)
  • Daughter of Smoke and Bone, Laini Taylor (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers; Hodder & Stoughton)
  • Everybody Sees the Ants, A.S. King (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers)
  • The Boy at the End of the World, Greg van Eekhout (Bloomsbury Children’s Books)
  • The Girl of Fire and Thorns, Rae Carson (Greenwillow Books)
  • Ultraviolet, R.J. Anderson (Orchard Books; Carolrhoda Books)

GoT Season 2, Episode 7: A Man Without Honor

DISCLAIMERS

I am so late on putting this up that it is not even funny. But I did it! This will be long because I still haven’t yet fully absorbed the concept of brevity.

Theon, you horrible bastard of a person. This storyline is unfolding beautifully, in the sense that it is horrifying to watch Theon unravel and lose control to the point that the only way he can get anything done is through violence. That ending scene was brilliantly done and so visceral. Maester Luwin’s reactions to the bodies? Heartbreaking. I will say that I am *so glad* I know how it all works out, otherwise I would have been throwing things at my laptop.

Sansa actually gets significant scene time! And plot development, kind of. Sansa and Shae’s relationship has actually started to grow on me, which is definitely a 180 from my opinion on it in the last episode. Just overall, I’ve really grown to like the Shae in the show as opposed to the Shae in the book. She actually feels like a character with thoughts and motivations outside those of Tyrion and other people, and it’s touching to see how much she’s come to care for Sansa that she’d willingly fight or kill to protect her. On the other hand, Shae and Tyrion’s storylines seem largely divorced from each other, and I wonder what implications that’ll have later on, given certain developments in A Storm of Swords.

However, it did feel like Sansa’s big scene with Cersei felt more about the former than the latter because in Cersei giving her the advice about how loving people makes you weak so you should only love your children, it felt like it was more revealing about Cersei’s character and Sansa was just the convenient person to tell this information to. That being said, I am really liking Cersei’s character development and think that so far, this season has done a good job showing the many sides that make up Cersei Lannister. She’s conniving, power-hungry, and ruthless, but she also loves her children with all her heart and wants so much to be the son she feels she was meant to be rather than the daughter she is. I *loved* the scene with her and Tyrion where Cersei’s growing fragility is on full display, as well as her growing acceptance of the fact that she’s failed spectacularly by letting Joffrey grow to be the monster that he is. Add her growing doubt over sleeping with Jaime in the first place and her fears of potential madness and divine retribution for doing so, and you get an absolutely brilliant scene where it’s almost as though Tyrion is seeing Cersei for the first time.

I’ve hardly commented on Tyrion throughout this current season and as of now, I think I know why. I was reading this post about the King’s Landing mob scene in A Clash of Kings and was reminded of the fact that Bronn tells Tyrion that the anger of the mob was largely directed not at Joffrey, but at Tyrion because they think that he’s the one pulling the King’s strings and is therefore the source of all the suffering the common people are experiencing. And this made me remember that Tyrion’s main goal in this book, and what it should be in this series, is for him to prove himself capable of assisting his family, leading a kingdom, and showing how powerful and necessary he is despite his stature and lack of physical abilities in a land that prizes strength and military might above all else in men. In the show, that’s not coming through at all. Yeah sure, there’s that one scene where a couple of guys appear to be getting religion and the speaker blames Tyrion for the land’s ills, but compared to everything else that’s happened in King’s Landing since then, it’s hardly noteworthy. This also means that Tyrion is a lot less interesting in the show than he could be because he’s not struggling with those internal demons and doing his job largely out of selfish reasons. Instead, he’s the “good” guy, trying to restore order to King’s Landing, beat Stannis’ fleet, and control Joffrey. All seemingly good things, or at least not egregious, but it definitely makes him more one-note.

I’m starting to understand the Arya/Tywin scenes a bit better now that they’ve had a chance to relax around each other. I love how both of them have now made clear to each other the game they’re playing, and have made clear to each other why they’ll let it continue. More than that, I love how Tywin’s enjoying it as an amusement and Arya’s getting practice for later down the line. I will say I was cringing a bit when Arya responds to Tywin’s inquiry about whether she shouldn’t be more interested in pretty things like most girls with a “Most girls are idiots.” It’s more of a meta problem because its Arya who’s saying this and Arya’s probably the most popular female character *because* she isn’t feminine, so that statement appears more OK coming out of her mouth than another character’s.

Ygritte and Jon, oh my god, those two are incorrigible. I enjoyed Ygritte’s snarky taunting about Jon’s sex life, though I thought it went on longer than was probably necessary. My favorite part was the argument about the difference between the Wildlings and those South of the Wall, just because it establishes her as a member of her own people who should be worth Jon’s consideration and respect instead of his disregard for them as enemies and a threat.

Jaime. Jaime, Jaime, Jaime. His escape attempt was definitely valiant, if completely unsuccessful. I hadn’t realized how much I missed him until he started cutting away at Alton Lannister and then at Catelyn. I will say I am extremely surprised that the show is having her release him now rather than closer to the end. I realize that one likely reason is so they can get a head start on events in A Storm of Swords. However, the placement of it in relation to Cat’s timeline feels off. In the books, she releases him out of one last hope of getting her daughters back. In the show, there’s no forethought to this decision, it just looks like an emotional outburst. And I don’t think she’s even heard about what “happened” to Bran and Rickon yet. I don’t know, I don’t care for the way they’ve ordered this sequence.

And then there’s Dany’s storyline. Which has been completely upturned and revised in a way I can’t comprehend. I mean, I’m ok with Xaro Xoan Dhaxos wanting to stick it to the other Qarthians and take over, especially if he as the resources and ambition to do so. But… it all feels forced. I mean, slaying almost the entire ruling body of Qarth and completely altering the political landscape is a huge deal! I give up even trying to understand the way this storyline is playing out, I just… gah. Do. Not. Get.

Things! They are happening! And so we inch ever closer to the end of this season.

Mendoza in Hollywood by Kage Baker (The Company #3)

At Cahuenga Pass, in a stagecoach inn on the road to Los Angeles, Mendoza meets her new cyborg colleagues in this third novel of the Company. In the vein of Grand Hotel, we get to know the lives and stories, both sad and funny, of these operatives from the twenty-fourth century. As bullets fly overhead, we learn that Mendoza is being haunted, in her dreams, by the man she loved and lost three centuries ago and whose ghost is unexpectedly reincarnated by the arrival of a very large, very suave, and very handsome British spy, Edward Alton Bell-Fairfax. We watch the immortals’ reactions as they screen, for relaxation, D. W. Griffith’s Intolerance; we root for Oscar, an anthropologist in the guise of a traveling salesman, as he tries repeatedly to sell the Criterion Patented Brassbound Pie Safe.

SPOILERS FOR SERIES AND THIS BOOK

It’s been a while since I read Sky Coyote and I meant to read the third book in this series a hell of a lot sooner than I did. Ah well.

I wasn’t as enamored of this book as I was with the first two. First off, there really isn’t any plot – Mendoza is sent to gather plants in Los Angeles in the midst of the American Civil War when the place is still a lawless wasteland and a conglomeration of Yankees, Mexicans, and Native Americans all living together and also trying to kill each other. Mendoza does her job admirably. And she hangs out with the other agents on assignment, Porfirio, Einar, Oscar, Imarte, and Juan Baptista. And for the majority of the book, that is essentially it. They talk, do their jobs, share their stories, and get into a couple of minor scrapes. Up until Edward Alton Fairfax-Bell arrives, I was super frustrated because it seemed like the only point to the book was historical-world building and set-up. There is literally an entire chapter dedicated to a play-by-play of (that movies by person) and for the life of me, I do not know why it is there or what purpose it serves.

Even once Edward arrives and Mendoza involves herself in his schemes, the only thing that arises out of it is her discovery of what appears to be the Company’s origins. Useful and intriguing stuff, but honestly most of this book was not needed for this discovery at all. It’s not that the history and characters weren’t fascinating or fun to read about. But there was practically no story whatsoever.

Also, what the hell is up with Edward having the same exact body (and potentially soul?) as Nicholas Harpole, Mendoza’s long-dead lover? That’s… strange. And it was super strange that she was so willing and ready to fall in love with this incarnation, even though his personality is entirely different. Sure, he has the intellect and secularist approach to morals that Nicholas did, but Edward is a suave, calculating bastard while Nicholas was an upstanding citizen who believed in doing the right thing and telling the truth no matter what.

Disappointment abounds. Kage Baker’s writing is as good and imaginative as ever and the mystery surrounding the Company is going along nicely, but I did not like this book. It felt like a series of vignettes rather than a whole story and that was not what I wanted.

Disclosure – library

GoT Season 2, Episode 6: The Old Gods and the New

DISCLAIMERS

My post about this episode will largely consist of me flailing about going “WHY WHY WHY?” at certain scenes. Yeah, there was some good stuff, but I largely spent the hour staring at my laptop thinking “WTF, why is this happening!?”

I was not entirely comfortable with Osha’s role in this episode being relegated to that of engaging in sexytimes with Theon so that Bran and Rickon can escape. It just feels really lazy. Sexy servant girl whom Theon had made creepy overtures to previously being a femme fatale? Not my thing. Also, were Bran, Rickon, Hodor, and Osha heading for the Godswood? I hope they double back and hide in the crypt because that was such a powerful image, them emerging from underground at the end of ACoK once Theon had been defeated and Winterfell was in ruins. I will say Rodrick’s beheading was really well done and was definitely a heartbreaking moment, especially with Bran sobbing and pleading in the background. And Theon being unable to do it with one stroke and reduced to hacking his head off… gah. I was questioning the logic behind putting Theon’s takeover of Winterfell at the beginning of this episode (I thought it would have made a good ending for the previous one), but it makes more sense now that they framed it around Rodrick’s beheading. But it does mean he won’t be returning to save Winterfell with an army later on, and this makes me sad. I will say I was disappointed that Rodrick didn’t call him Theon Turncloak – it’s a great name.

Something I was really unhappy with – Sansa’s near-rape. Yes, she got lost in the crowd and was in danger of her life. THAT DID NOT MEAN THAT SHE HAD TO BE ALMOST RAPED. What makes it even more infuriating is that once again, no sign of a storyline whatsoever. Where the fuck is Ser Dontos? Are the show runners going to allow her to do anything this season besides get verbally and physically beaten up? Also, I was a little iffy on Sansa trusting Shae. Sansa should know better than to trust anyone in King’s Landing, especially the Red Keep. She should know servants gossip and that many also serve as spies in addition to being servants. In the books, I am pretty sure Sansa is realizes this, especially after having lived in the palace for so long. Or this could just all be me grumbling because I can.

OK, what where some good things? Ygritte’s here! So far I like what we’ve seen so far of her character and I really like that Rose Leslie is playing her, I loved watching her in Downton Abbey). John Snow continues to be the emo-est of emos and make emo faces, especially when he was trying to screw up the willpower to kill Ygritte. Also he’s making a right fool of himself dragging her along as a prisoner when he doesn’t even know where he is or where he’s going, though I’m assuming he captured her rather than let her go so she wouldn’t give word to Mance. But he’s going to have let her go eventually, so… bonding time, perhaps? Set for the inevitable romance? Their interactions are great though, what with her going, “What the hell is this idiot boy doing? Fine, I’ll be a prisoner, Gods is he uptight!” Yeah.

Speaking of romance, more sparks are beginning to fly between Robb and Jeyne/Talisia? I still cannot tell if she is lying through her teeth about her name and being from Volantis or if she really is who she claims to be. Still, I’m liking their interactions. Robb fares a bit better at talking to his love interest than Jon does, though he’s still pretty unsure and fumbling around a bit.

I found Arya and Tywin’s scene to be a bit strange. He seems to be taking an uncommon interest in a seemingly lowly commoner cupbearer. Him interrogating her about her background made sense – that’s his right as Tywin Lannister. What felt off was Arya returning the favor and asking him about his father and him deigning to give a response. Also, when Amory Lorch is threatening to expose Arya’s subterfuge to Tywin, wouldn’t it make more sense to ask Jaqen H’Ghar to kill Tywin rather than Lorch? You know, take out the head of the entire Lannister army and a huge power behind the throne? Granted, she was thinking in the moment, and the most obvious threat at the time was Lorch. I did like the scene with Tywin, Arya, and Littlefinger and how the presence of that one person is what shook her unflappable calm because he’s the one person in Harrenhal who could expose her identity.

I have to say, I was not impressed with Dany in this episode. Previously when she acted all grand and powerful in front of the Spice King, I admired her for sheer guts and bravado. Here, she came off as petulant and naïve – the latter of which she definitely is, but the fact that she thinks all she needs is ships and an army to conquer Westeros and that she already has guaranteed support from within is almost laughable. Expecting the Spice King to give her ships and money for an army solely on good faith is even more so. It’s called diplomacy, Dany. One day you will find it very useful. To be fair, I was exasperated at her for having these assumptions in the books as well. BUT WHAT THE FUCK WAS UP WITH THAT ENDING? Practically the entirety of Dany’s khal is dead? And the dragons are being secreted away by some nefarious evildoer? Just… why? To give Dany’s storyline oomph? Yes, in ACoK her storyline is pretty lean. But what good does it do to kill Dany’s khal? The show effectively killed Dany’s connection to the Dothraki people for the rest of the TV story, rendering their very existence null and void, not to mention wiping out an entire group of PoC in the show. I think the death I’m most upset over is Irri’s because she was really starting to grow on me and I wanted more Dany/Irri time.

Interesting fact – both the fourth episode and this current one were penned by the same person, Vanessa Taylor and both scenes featured gratuitous, sexually violent scenes. And a lot of other violence and killing as well. Right now the thing I’m really mad about is Sansa. And the killing of the Dothraki. I’m tired that the show runners can only seem to conceive of Sansa as a victim. And as of now, I don’t like the direction Dany’s storyline is taking. I really liked the Theon/Bran scenes and Jon/Ygritte scenes, but otherwise, I am a grumpy pile of grump.

GoT Season 2, Episode 5: The Ghost of Harrenhal

DISCLAIMERS

So I guess the producers decided that since the last episode was filled with action and violence and gore that this episode should be more sedate and contain mostly conversations and character interaction. This is something I actually appreciated a good deal because there were some excellent character moments.

I am sad that Arya’s first victim was the Tickler, although it made sense from the show’s perspective. However, it does mean that he won’t be around for Arya herself to kill later in what would probably be the fourth season (if that ever happens). Ah well. But I loved the scene with her and Tywin and she barely misses a beat when he catches her lying once and dives right into another set of lies. This season, I’ve been really into the groundwork the show’s been laying for Arya’s storyline. She’s learned a bit about the power of names from Yoren, she’s now learned a bit more from Jaqen H’Ghar, and she’s probably realizing she needs to get better at lying and obscuring the truth from others. Also, I just love how at times she’s reserved, calm, and aware like when she’s with Lord Tywin and then turns around and snarks at Gendry for his bad fighting form. I should take the opportunity right now to state that I DO NOT ship Arya and Gendry. I just don’t. Arya’s arc is so far removed from romance as possible that it doesn’t even make any sense. Friendship? Yeah, it’s there. But Arya keeps herself to herself and she isn’t going to care about people any more than they deserve to be cared about. Also, Jaqen H’Ghar is amazing and I love him. So creepy and mysterious, so wonderful. His voice. God.

Another awesome moment was between Catelyn and Brienne. I think I really love this scene because it’s these two women who’ve quickly formed an unbreakable bond born out of the suddenness and tragedy that was Renly’s death. And just the fact that this episode makes clear that Catelyn is someone who deserves respect – she has courage, she’s intelligent, she’s loyal to Robb as both her son and king, she loves her children, and has both compassion and integrity. And Brienne sees all that, and so offers up her vow of fealty and protection to Catelyn. Not only that, but Catelyn returns Brienne’s respect for her own in acknowledging her unwavering devotion to Renly, her desire for vengeance against Stannis, and vowing that Catelyn will never force Brienne to behave dishonorably. Just… gah. The only downside is how they once again pulled the “mother” card for Catelyn and her desire to go back to Winterfell. I’m really feeling the loss of Riverrun and her father in the show.

Another lady being particularly savvy was Dany. First off, I was intrigued by the addition of what looks like a burgeoning conflict between Dany’s loyalty and obligations as a khaleesi to the Dothraki and her own personal ambition to conquer and reclaim Westeros. I really like the fact that in both last season and this one, Irri actually as more of a character! (Now if only the same could be said about Jhiqui…) But yeah, I hope this is explored a bit more. As of now, I greatly prefer this show’s Xaro Xhoan Daxos to that of the book. Here, he actually gets nuance, and I loved how he carefully paints his offer to Dany of gold and ships in return for marriage. He’s a self-made man who came from nothing and the woman he wed for love is dead. This marriage would purely be based on politics, self-interest and ambition, but according to him both would benefit. He’s careful to not portray himself as a threat, but merely someone who has ambitions that are on the same scale as hers. And yeah, he probably wants her dragons too, but right now he’s being careful and controlled in order to win Dany’s trust. Even though Jorah’s advice and warnings about Xaro are rational, it’s understandable why Dany fobs it off.

One theme I noticed running through a number of scenes was the question of power in relation to who’s pulling the strings. Davos advises Stannis not to take Melisandre with him to King’s Landing, saying that people whisper the Red Lady whispers in Stannis’ ear and he does whatever she says. The common people in King’s Landing distrust Tyrion as the “demon monkey” who’s pulling Joffrey’s strings. Dany has two men on either side of her telling her what she should do – Xaro Xhoan Daxos offers her money and resources to conquer Westeros in exchange for marriage while Jorah would have her set out on her own for Westeros and conquer the country from within. Arya is Tywin’s cupbearer and someone with seemingly no power whatsoever, but Jaqen H’Ghar’s repayment of his debt gives her an unexpected avenue of power, albeit through a secondary source of power. She holds three – now two – people’s lives entirely in her hands. In other cases though, such as with Theon and Bran, they give orders without taking into consideration the thoughts of others. Because he wants to be a Captain of his own ship and have his men actually follow him, he has to prove himself as one who can give orders that can be followed, which means being bold and decisive. Bran, on the other hand, is acting Lord of Winterfell and a Stark. This means when Torrhen’s Square is attacked, Bran doesn’t entertain any other option other than sending as much help as they can afford to defend them. To do otherwise is to fail in his duty as the protector of his people. Likewise, Margaery has ambitions of her own, beautifully demonstrated in the last line of her scene – “I want to be the queen.” Can I just say how much I LOVE Margaery in the show? Go on with your politically savvy badassery, you.

Things I did not like – Renly’s death happened way too quickly for my taste. The shadow was only there for a couple of seconds before it started knifing Renly. There was also no Sansa in this episode, which is problematic when you think about how there are only five episodes left and her story arc as laid out in A Clash of Kings has barely taken off the ground. No sign of Ser Dontos, nothing about any hopes and prospective plans about getting out of King’s Landing and going back to Winterfell. These things are *important*. In the book, she’s not just sitting around in the Red Keep trying to keep it together in front of Joffrey and Cersei – she wants to go home and in her own small way, she does what little she can do. She has fucking agency, goddammit. I’d sort of realized this already and tried to ignore it, but this episode made pretty clear that ten is definitely not enough to tell the entire story they want to tell this season. So many characters, so many storylines, most of them occurring in very different locations. It was always going to be tricky doing this, and while I loved a lot about this episode, it also made very clear how much the show is rushing through scenes to fit in as much as they can.

And yeah. I know I’m not doing a good job putting these up on time. This’ll probably continue for the next couple of weeks as long as I have final papers to write.