“average writer publishes about 1 book a decade” factoid actualy just statistical error. average writer publishes several books per decade. Westeros Georg, who lives in a new mexico and only publishes when the stars are aligned , is an outlier adn should not have been counted
Jon turned to Alys Karstark. “My lady. Are you ready?”
“Yes. Oh, yes.”
“You’re not scared?”
The girl smiled in a way that reminded Jon so much of his little sister that it almost broke his heart. “Let him be scared of me.” The snowflakes were melting on her cheeks, but her hair was wrapped in a swirl of lace that Satin had found somewhere, and the snow had begun to collect there, giving her a frosty crown. Her cheeks were flushed and red, and her eyes sparkled.
“Winter’s lady.” Jon squeezed her hand. ― Jon X, A Dance with Dragons.
The carcass was too heavy for him to bear back to his lair, so Drogon consumed his kill there, tearing at the charred flesh as the grasses burned around them, the air thick with drifting smoke and the smell of burnt horsehair. Dany, starved, slid off his back and ate with him, ripping chunks of smoking meat from the dead horse with bare, burned hands. In Meereen I was a queen in silk, nibbling on stuffed dates and honeyed lamb, she remembered. What would my noble husband think if he could see me now?
Hizdahr would be horrified, no doubt. But Daario …
Daario would laugh, carve off a hunk of horsemeat with his arakh, and squat down to eat beside her.
“Theon found himself wondering if he should say a prayer. Will the old gods hear me if I do? They were not his gods, had never been his gods. He was ironborn, a son of Pyke, his god was the Drowned God of the islands … but Winterfell
was long leagues from the sea. It had been a lifetime since any god had
heard him. He did not know who he was, or what he was, why he was still
alive, why he had ever been born.”
Brandon was never shy about taking what he wanted. I am old now, a dried-up thing, too long a widow, but I still remember the look of my maiden’s blood on his cock the night he claimed me. I think Brandon liked the sight as well. A bloody sword is a beautiful thing, yes. It hurt, but it was a sweet pain. ― The Turncloak, A Dance with Dragons.
Most if not all readers probably remember the following story, told by Ser Axell the night before Stannis’ fleet was set to take Davos to Lord Wyman Manderly:
As the salmon was being served, Ser Axell Florent had entertained the table with the tale of a Targaryen princeling who kept an ape as a pet. This prince liked to dress the creature in his dead son’s clothes and pretend he was a child, Ser Axell claimed, and from time to time he would propose marriages for him. The lords so honored always declined politely, but of course they did decline. “Even dressed in silk and velvet, an ape remains an ape,” Ser Axell said. “A wiser prince would have known that you cannot send an ape to do a man’s work.”
The symbolism of the story is apparent on its face, with Davos explicitly thinking after that he was “as much a lord as [Axell], and a better man”. Typical of a haughty Florent, Ser Axell sought to emphasize how little changing one’s outward appearance served to make one a member of true nobility; an ape is an ape, even in velvet and silk, and no lord would dare betroth his daughter to an ape. The story serves as an important thematic beat for Davos as he approaches the Merman’s Court: Davos has long struggled with his identity as onion knight turned lord and Hand, but facing Lord Manderly, Davos has to believe that he is legitimate enough an envoy of his king to treat with the Lord of White Harbor in his own hall. Stannis did not merely dress Davos up with a “string of titles” to parade him as his pet lord; he rewarded Davos for the loyalty and honesty Davos already possessed, making him in name what he already was in character. To be sure, the story bears an obvious message, but it is a message which works with its teller and its subject.
What I did not realize is how that message returns in a more subtle way at the end of ADWD. After Gerrick Kingsblood - purported descendant of King-Beyond-the-Wall Raymun Redbeard, a man eager to tell everyone of the royal blood in his veins - comes through the Wall with Tormund Giantsbane, Jon agrees to present the would-be king and his three red-haired daughters to Selyse Florent. In the following chapter, as Jon goes to Selyse and her court to present his idea for the mission to Hardhome, Selyse has her Florent uncle bring Gerrick in to her court:
“Let us speak of other matters. Axell, bring in the wildling king, if you would be so good.”
“At once, Your Grace.” Ser Axell went through a door and returned a moment later with Gerrick Kingsblood. “Gerrick of House Redbeard,” he announced, “King of the Wildlings.”
Gerrick Kingsblood was a tall man, long of leg and broad of shoulder. The queen had dressed him in some of the king’s old clothes, it appeared. Scrubbed and groomed, clad in green velvets and an ermine half-cape, with his long red hair freshly washed and his fiery beard shaped and trimmed, the wildling looked every inch a southron lord. He could walk into the throne room at King’s Landing, and no one would blink an eye, Jon thought.
“Gerrick is the true and rightful king of the wildlings,” the queen said, “descended in an unbroken male line from their great king Raymun Redbeard, whereas the usurper Mance Rayder was born of some common woman and fathered by one of your black brothers.”
It’s exactly the same. Not that Gerrick is an ape, of course (Jon thinks of him as a fool, but he was at least wise enough to come with Tormund Giantsbane through the Wall), but that Axell is doing precisely what he derided in that nameless Targaryen prince. Axell has effectively taken a wildling for a pet royal: he and Selyse have dressed him up in the discarded clothes of a king, and are now forcing her courtiers to treat Gerrick as the “true and rightful King of the Wildlings” (and, lest anyone miss the story connection, Selyse thereafter announces that Gerrick’s eldest daughter is to be betrothed to her “beloved Axell”). Gerrick, as Tormund Giantsbane would tell anyone who would listen, is no true royal, no more than the prince’s ape was; he is descended not from Raymun Redbeard but from Raymun’s younger brother, who fled the Battle of Long Lake rather than be killed. To wildlings looking for a king, as Jon thinks, that descent matters about as much as claiming descent from Raymun’s horse - and yet there is Gerrick, looking “every inch a southron lord”, being acknowledged as a prince.
That’s what I love so much about this pausing to detail Gerrick’s dress and daughters’ betrothals; I’m almost certain GRRM intended it as a callback to Axell’s story. This moment highlights how much of a hypocrite and villain Axell Florent truly is: a man who would denounce Davos Seaworth as an ape in velvet, and yet treat a wildling newly come from beyond the Wall as an equal to any of Selyse’s assembled southron knights. Indeed, Axell actually goes beyond the prince of the tale: while the lords offered the ape’s hand for their daughters would always politely decline, Axell has openly accepted the hand of his pet king’s daughter. Again, the message is more subtle here than it was toward Davos, now emphasizing Axell’s hollowness. Axell Florent might have an ancient name and a queen for a niece, but Davos was correct to say that he is the “better man”; as it was convenient for Axell to mock Davos without Stannis there to protect him, so it is now convenient for Axell to say that a wildling is a rightful king, and take a wildling “princess” for a bride. By taking the time to describe Gerrick’s new royal dress and daughters’ betrothals, GRRM reminds the readers that the story of the prince and his ape cuts both ways - a reflection on Davos’ identity struggle, but an underlining as well of Axell’s reproachable character.
They hung upon the walls, before her and behind her, high and low, everywhere she looked, everywhere she turned. She saw old faces and young faces, pale faces and dark faces, smooth faces and wrinkled faces, freckled faces and scarred faces, handsome faces and homely faces, men and women, boys and girls, even babes, smiling faces, frowning faces, faces full of greed and rage and lust, bald faces and faces bristling with hair. Masks, she told herself, it’s only masks, but even as she thought the thought, she knew it wasn’t so. They were skins. // From one such island rose a weirwood gnarled and ancient, its bole and branches white as the surrounding snows. Eight days ago Asha had walked out with Aly Mormont to have a closer look at its slitted red eyes and bloody mouth. It is only sap, she’d told herself, the red sap that flows inside these weirwoods. But her eyes were unconvinced; seeing was believing, and what they saw was frozen blood.
“Wylla.” Lord Wyman smiled. “Did you see how brave she was? Even when I threatened to have her tongue out, she reminded me of the debt White Harbor owes to the Starks of Winterfell, a debt that can never be repaid. Wylla spoke from the heart, as did Lady Leona. Forgive her if you can, my lord. She is a foolish, frightened woman, and Wylis is her life. Not every man has it in him to be Prince Aemon the Dragonknight or Symeon Star-Eyes, and not every woman can be as brave as my Wylla and her sister Wynafryd… who did know, yet played her own part fearlessly. ― Davos IV, A Dance with Dragons.
I cannot speak to that author’s supposed argument. But I can discuss why I think it more likely that Barristan will die in Meereen, before Daenerys returns, than that he will betray her for Young Aegon.
Barristan’s POV arc in ADWD was undoubtedly short, but I believe it proved more than satisfactory in crystallizing the thematic elements of his story in a meaningful way while also setting up his downfall. In my opinion, Barristan’s story has largely concerned the question “What does it mean to serve a king?”, and that question comes to a head for him after Daenerys leaves, when he finds himself serving King Hizdahr. As the court changes under Hizdahr - Daenerys loyalists being dismissed or reduced in importance, replaced by Hizdahr’s men - Barristan grows more uncomfortable, and more willing to listen to Skahaz’s conspiracy to depose him. When Hizdahr refuses to retaliate against the unjust murder of the hostage Groleo - something Barristan thinks even weak Jaehaerys II would have done - Barristan’s move against Hizdahr is assured. The “Kingbreaker” thus becomes the climax, not just for Barristan in ADWD but Barristan as a Kingsguard: he finally does what he never had the courage to do with Aerys or Robert - depose an unworthy king in favor of a rightful queen, or at least ruling in a rightful queen’s name, breaking the blind oath of loyalty expected of a Kingsguard in the cause of justice.
However, Barristan made a critical error in ADWD, one that I think will prove his undoing: trusting the Shavepate. Barristan is not a fool, but he entered into agreement with an unscrupulously ambitious and very deceptive man. It’s the Shavepate who almost certainly poisoned the locusts at Daznak’s Pit, the Shavepate who spent ADWD angling against Hizdahr and his set, and the Shavepate who is now in control of the city proper (with Queen’s Hand Barristan bringing war outside). I have no doubt that the Shavepate is going to take advantage of Barristan’s absence in battle to further his political goals - goals Barristan will find horrifying.
So I do believe TWOW will serve as a great triumph and then an immediate, tragic denouement for the white knight. The released preview chapter “Barristan I” ends with a strong pre-battle speech, one clearly fed from his decades of martial experience - a speech that, for my money, has “heroic last words” written all over it. Hell, I’ll admit that the ending to “Barristan II” of TWOW (never released formally in text, but read aloud) even makes me shiver a little, I like it so; the whole chapter is a stage to show off Barristan’s prowess as a wartime commander, but especially the glee in his voice when he compares the landing of Victarion’s fleet to the hammer and the anvil of the Redgrass Field … well, it’s one of the more stirring moments in ASOIAF for me, even though it’s not even released yet.
How tragic then, for Barristan to return to his adopted city a hero, the savior of Meereen, the loyal and true knight - only to find that, in his absence, the Shavepate has had Hizdahr, Reznak, and the child hostages killed. The Shavepate’s hatred of Hizdahr was an open fact throughout ADWD, and time and again he has called for the the child hostages Daenerys took to be murdered, first in retaliation for the Sons of the Harpy murders and then the murders of the Meereenese hostages with the Yunkai'i (though Daenerys and Barristan refused to countenance the murder of children of whom both had become fond). Barristan will come back to the city to discover the Shavepate has effectively seized control of the Meereenese government in his absence, eliminating his political enemies and their children for good measure - and now that Barristan has helpfully deposed Hizdahr and won the battle for him, Skahaz has no further need to keep the old man around. So I imagine the end of Barristan will come as Barristan goes after Skahaz (perhaps after Skahaz orders him killed), and is cut down by the Shavepate’s loyal Brazen Beasts; tired from the battle, the old knight will be swarmed upon the masked men he already deeply distrusts. Barristan’s ending as such would be completely fitting with something I’ve been trying to emphasize as a recurring theme in ASOIAF: the fall of a protagonist can be tragic while still rooted in that protagonist’s own missteps and failures.
I also prefer this ending for Barristan for the impact it will have on Daenerys. I’ve said before that I could see Daenerys spending two chapters with the Dothraki - one killing Khal Jhaqo, and one being acclaimed in Vaes Dothrak - before returning to Meereen in or around “Daenerys III”. Daenerys will find on her return that her white knight is gone - the only other Westerosi in her crew (without Jorah), the connection between her and her family past, a man she thought she could trust. Wouldn’t you know it, though, a whole new crop of advisors will be there to help - Tyrion, Moqorro, and Marwyn, among their associates. Moreover, unlike Barristan, these men are not going to try to reign in her more violent side: Tyrion sees Daenerys as his means of getting back to Westeros and destroying his hated family; Moqorro and the red priests think Daenerys is the chosen of R'hllor, who feasts on human sacrifice; Marwyn clearly blames the “grey sheep” of the Citadel for killing the dragons before, so he’s about the last person who would try to keep her dragons locked away (on top of his interest in Daenerys as the martial “prince that was promised”). The loss of Barristan will help transition Daenerys into a full “fire and blood” mode I think she needs, thematically speaking, before she can become the humanity-saving hero at the end of ASOIAF.
Thinking on a meta level about this supposed turning cloak for Aegon, it would hardly be narratively surprising at this point for Daenerys to face another betraying counselor. The saga of Jorah’s betrayal and questionable loyalty has been a recurring theme even with Jorah out of her immediate circle, and the defection of Brown Ben Plumm to Yunkai was a major plot point in ADWD. Would it be interesting from a plot perspective to have her betrayed again by another trusted advisor? Certainly, it is possible that GRRM would repeat the same tactic, but there are surely other, more intriguing means Daenerys could face her prophesied “treasons” than by another counselor defecting from her service.
Consider also the structural integrity of TWOW and beyond. If GRRM chooses to bring back all alive POV characters for TWOW - and I cannot see a reason he would not, with the series escalating to its final climax - that means 20 separate main POV characters (compare to the 16 of ADWD, the book with the most separate POV characters so far). Unless each character gets a paltry number of chapters, I think it likely that GRRM will start winnowing down the POVs, killing them off to focus on the truly important viewpoints. Neither Daenerys nor Aegon has a need for Barristan to remain with them: Daenerys has her own POV as well as Tyrion’s in her area, while Aegon currently has JonCon and will soon have Arianne as well (and I’ll eat my hat if the Dornish princess doesn’t endeavor to make herself Aegon’s queen). Three POVs is a substantial amount to look at any character, particularly one who has “doomed” practically stamped on his forehead.
Finally, I very much doubt that the fight between Aegon and Daenerys lasts for a long time; indeed, I can see Daenerys having enough to do in TWOW that she doesn’t even reach Westeros until the very end of that book, and we instead end in King’s Landing with King Aegon VI on the Iron Throne. Would it really be sensible to keep Barristan around so long for a “civil war” that will last, in a generous calculation, for a handful of chapters? What would be the ultimate point to Barristan’s story then - that Daenerys is triumphant, and Barristan should never have left her? Would that be narratively fulfilling? You’re welcome to think so; but I do not.
It all goes back and back, Tyrion thought, to our mothers and fathers and theirs before them. We are puppets dancing on the strings of those who came before us, and one day our own children will take up our strings and dance on in our steads.
Here and there a torch burned hungrily, casting its ruddy glow over the faces of the wedding guests.
The way the mists threw back the shifting light made their features seem bestial, half-human, twisted. Lord Stout became a mastiff, old Lord Locke a vulture, Whoresbane Umber a gargoyle, Big Walder Frey a fox, Little Walder a red bull, lacking only a ring for his nose. Roose Bolton’s own face was a pale grey mask, with two chips of dirty ice where his eyes should be.
Above their heads the trees were full of ravens, their feathers fluffed as they hunched on bare brown branches, staring down at the pageantry below. Maester Luwin’s birds. Luwin was dead, and his maester’s tower had been put to the torch, yet the ravens lingered. This is their home. Theon wondered what that would be like, to have a home.