ASOIAF Book Club – A Game of Thrones, Chapters 29-42

gameofthrones  It’s that time again! Time for the biweekly round-up of questions and answers from the ASOIAF book club. This is the third installment, we’re all a little over halfway through A Game of Thrones, and thus far the readalong’s been a wonderful success.

So, on to this installment’s questions!

Jamie: Danaerys has grown quite bold since she was sold off to Khal Drogo, to the point where she has much less of a problem swinging for Viserys ‘douchebag of the year’ Targaryen. Do you think her development is down to her becoming stronger, the fact that she has a child to protect or is she getting comfortable in the safety of the khalasar?

First of all, I’m loving the title of “douchebag of the year.” And it very much applies to Viserys. Let’s just say that I cheered inside a little when she finally hauled back and struck him. He had it coming. For a long time.

I think her development actually comes down to a bit of all three, though her pregnancy is to a lesser degree. I think she’s getting a taste of respect for the first time, coming to understand her new position in life, and is learning that she doesn’t have to live in Viserys’s shadow any longer. She’s seeing people treat Viserys with disdain instead of fear, treating her with respect and admiration instead of derision, and she’s learning that she doesn’t have to put up with his BS any longer. She’s got a safe zone, and it’s helping to make her stronger, giving her a solid foundation under her feet from which to hold her own.

And I love seeing that!

Heather: What do you think of Catelyn Stark’s sudden capture of Tyrion Lannister and her trek to see her crazy sister? Was it a mothers reaction seeking revenge, or a strong woman trying to do her best for the Realm?

I sort of feel like this section of the book has been the “every character hates Tyrion” section. Which kind of sucks, because Tyrion is a really interesting character. Prejudice runs deep, I suppose.

I think Catelyn’s reaction was well-founded, even though I personally disagree with it. She had every reason to think that Tyrion was responsible, at least indirectly, for what happened to Bran. She was still very much distraught over Bran’s injury (and who can blame her), and then someone she saw as a trusted old friend gave her very strong motivation to think that Tyrion was behind it.  And when the opportunity presented itself, she was quick to take advantage of it. I think her motivations were very personal, mostly born of her desire for revenge and less of someone being altruistic and doing what needs to be done. I think most of the characters presented so far in these books would let things slide if it was to their personal advantage, and will go out of their way to seek advantages for themselves. Or if not themselves, their families and/or political allies. Catelyn is no exception to this, from what I’ve seen.

JoinTheRealm_sigilAllison: So far, I am generally pro-Stark and anti-Lannister, but in the case of Catelyn vs. Tyrion I am torn. Who do you feel allied with in their situation?

In a general sense, I hve to agree. Not so much in the families themselves, but the characters that have been shown to us so far. Jaime and Cersei are rather despicable in their actions and what I’ve seen of their motivations. Most of the Starks seem to be the good guys, the people with a dose of good sense when the world around them is going crazy, though most of them are pretty young and we’re seeing the world as skewed by a child’s perception (though that doesn’t stop me from thinking that Arya is made of awesome).

But there are exceptions, and yes, Catelyn and Tyrion are pretty much those. I don’t mind Catelyn so much. I can understand her actions, I can figure out how she thinks, but she’s not high on the list of my favourite characters. Tyrion breaks the mold when it comes to the Lannisters, though. I love his snarky attitude, the way he thinks, the way he can hold his own when the rest of the world seems designed to put him down as low as possible (no joke intended with that, either). I feel far more allied with and interested in Tyrion than with Catelyn.

Though I will admit that my sympathy for Catelyn rose somewhat when we got the chance to see her sister…

Ria: It seems that the author uses a good deal of archetypes as a base for his characters. Do you feel that this weakens the story when characters are models bordering on stereotypes, or does the large cast with a diverse number of archetypes balance that out?

I think this is actually Martin’s weakness when it comes to this series, or at least what I’ve thus far read of it. Most of the characters we’ve seen are pretty much archetypal, often bordering on stereotypical but sometimes just leaping right across that line and being as stereotypical as you can imagine. When you can sum up a character or their family or overall situation with a simple witty phrase or a section of TV Tropes, then there’s a problem. The unhinged mother of an ill child (doubled due to Catelyn’s unreasoning hysteria over Bran while he was still recovering, but mostly I’m referring to her sister here). The snarky cripple. The hopeful child cripple. The irresponsible monarch. The bitchy queen. The desperate-to-prove-himself bastard. The spunky girlchild.

The large cast of characters does compensate for this somewhat, and indeed it was hard at first for me to pin down what felt so off about the characters. I liked them. They were interesting, and I enjoy seeing what’s happening to them. But they are built around a frame of a concept, and it seems almost like Martin is relying on the events of the books to flesh them out into realistic people rather than having them start off that way. It’s reminding me a bit of how Robert Jordan handled many characters in the Wheel of Time series. Large chasts of characters can compensate, but mostly because it increases the overall diversity. The indvidual characters are not quite as diverse and well-rounded as they first appear, because of that.

But while I think it is a weakness in the writing, it’s not spoiling my overall enjoyment of the book, so I can forgive that much.

Read what the others in the book club are saying! Jamie | Heather | Allison

9 comments on “ASOIAF Book Club – A Game of Thrones, Chapters 29-42

  1. I’m interested in your comments on the archetypal nature of the characters. If I’m honest I hadn’t really noticed this aspect of the story much, and so found your question to be a tricky one.
    Now that you have detailed the characters like this I can see what you mean, and will be looking out for more as new characters are introduced.
    I suppose this is an instance of what each reader focuses on in the story. I think I have to get some practice in to looking at the different aspects.

    • It is a mark in Martin’s favour that it took me almost half of a really thick book to start noticing this, I will admit. And the story being told is definitely interesting enough that it’s kind of easy to overlook, because you’re paying so much attention to everything else.

      • Good, I was beginning to worry that I’d completely missed something! Apologies if I posted a comment twice, I wasn’t sure if the first one had been sent x

  2. I think the characters are already starting to break out of their archetypes! I do see what you mean, though, and thanks for pointing that out. I also liked the ‘douchebag of the year’ phrase. Perfect for Viserys :P

  3. Lysa Arryn is mental! I’m with you on Tyrion, his snark is sharp but reflects how tough he’s had to be all his life, with everyone hating on him.

    I didn’t really see the archetypes that strongly until you mentioned it, but it’s there for sure. I think the vastness of the world and the culture within each family makes steps to compensate for that.

    • Not knowing what lies ahead in terms of plot and explantions, I wonder if there’s going to be any background on what specifically unhinged her. There’s a strong streak of overprotective mother in there, but from what she’s said, I think it goes a bit deeper than that. I wonder if it was the strain of her husband being killed and then having to raise a sick child on her own, or if there’s something deeper than that…

  4. Pingback: August in Retrospect | Bibliotropic

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