Playin’ with Ice and Fire: A Game of Thoughts | Daenerys Chapter 23

She’s new, she’s the re-re-reader.  She’s the newbie, she’s the spoilery vet.  Together they’re rereading George R.R. Martin’s A Game of Thrones and getting their POV on.  Today they react to Chapter 23- Daenerys.

If you’re new to this thing of ours, go catch us from the beginning of this Game of Thrones adventure.


Wow.  I really had to force myself to read this chapter, and I’m having to force myself to just go ahead and shove out some thoughts on it because it’s supposed to go live tomorrow if we stick to our schedule.

Yes, these are now more or less posting in real-time reading results—as I’ve mentioned I think before, I’ve given up finishing before the series on HBO catches up, so now it’s just 1 chapter a week, and I pushed this one till Sunday afternoon.  A non-reader watching Game of Thrones with me asked me how I like the book so far, and I had to admit that I like it but don’t love it, and am reading it more as an intellectual enterprise than an emotional one, because again I don’t trust that the characters I like will either stick around or remain admirable, and that makes it impossible to engage on a really deep emotional level with the book.  I mean, every situation engages something emotionally, but it’s a superficial level.  I cannot care about these people, and so when it’s someone that I’m not even sure whether I like or not, it’s hard to pick back up.

And why am I so ambivalent toward Dany?  I’m not sure. I don’t dislike her, certainly.  But I guess I don’t have a strong liking for her yet, either, and more importantly since the narrative has not even come close to weaving her into what appears to be the main storyline, I’m not interested in what she’s doing.  I know this is a bias exacerbated by the way I’m which I’m reading, and how long it’s taking me to read—the first part may well be a prelude to the real story, that Dany’s a big part of, and we’re just still in the midst of the long lead-in to that.  But for me this was a chapter that I turned to with kind of a sigh after I finished Arya’s, and then had to force myself to pick up and read.  Sorry, Dany—nothing personal.

On the upside of things, I love that she finally stood up to her ridiculous brother.  That was a long time coming in her life, and on the flip side what seemed only a short time in the Dothraki tribe.  I guess the submission to his crazy from before was a necessity, because he was the only provider she had.  But now she owes allegiance to someone else, and Drogo is the only one she would have to put up with any shit from, so, Hey Viserys, just go fuck yourself, because I am through being your yes man.  Or woman.  Awesome.

I loved Ser Jorah (side note?  How long is it going to take before I can stop looking up these people’s names to be sure I’m spelling them right?  Jesus that’s getting old…maybe I should just Uncle Benji everyone, lol) telling her what the world really is.  That Viserys is not any sort of leader, nor a man worthy of following into war, and that the people of any land simply want to be left in peace—they don’t care who is ruling them, as long as they are free to just live their lives.  Well, I mean duh.  Also, was this the first place where someone makes direct reference to the lords “playing their game of thrones” or has that been said before?  (That’s rhetorical; I simply wanted to point out the phrase.)

One thing I found interesting was Dany’s reaction to her brother’s unmasking, in the sense that I got an impression she doesn’t think he could ever take over the old country but that perhaps she could?  It wasn’t said, but it was also very carefully not said that she’s giving up her ambitions for home, ergo, she’s the only one left, and she did keep getting that dragonfire in her eyes….

So the dragon thing again.  First the dream is an…hm, an inducement, a vision, of herself growing strong. A sort of burning away of the chains of weakness and self-doubt that her brother had bound her with.  Interesting she contemplated suicide first—I guess her mind had to reject it like a logical proof, that only after stating that was her intention could it be judged as an invalid solution.

Then when she sees the sun on the dragon egg, it’s like that was her sign that she’s fertile, I guess?  Obviously she believed that she was going to be conceiving a child that night—since presumably that was the important thing in Drogo’s life, not Dany blowing his mind with some skills she picked up from an ex-concubine—so that just sort of continues the strange is-it-a-metaphor-or-is-it-a-metaphysical-connection link between her and those eggs.

Oh, and one final bit of history—we learn here that the last dragons had died out about 150 years ago, or, as Dany thinks, not really all that long ago.

I really loved the scenery descriptions in this chapter.  Though Martin obviously preferred to paint a lot of different pictures in very broad strokes than to do what McCarthy did with The Road and paint a giant mural of one landscape that is all kind of the same.  Still.  Lots of exotic feelings locations, even if the genesis for one of them is Kansas plains.  If they were made of milkweed that poisoned all the other plants and tried to take over the world, Kansas might be more interesting.  (Although I had to laugh at that fear…obviously it fails to take into account human ingenuity and ruthlessness.  Perhaps it is simply that the Dothraki don’t know much about farming, but I expect the rest of the world could find a way to contain that kind of plant if it ever did make a bid for dominance….)

Yeah, that’s really about all I have to say about this one.  I applaud Dany for kicking her brother to the curb, too bad he’s too much of a weakling to be too proud to return to the camp, strike out on his own, and go fall in a ditch somewhere and die.  But that presumably just saves him for a more amusing end at the hands of someone more powerful than he is, as opposed to Mother Reality.

Next chapter is Bran, and I’m curious to see how he’s taking his new world so hopefully that one will be a bit easier for me to motivate to read….

– Readers, if leaving a comment for Elena please direct (@Elena) them at her – and lead your comments with your messages for her.  Please do not direct spoilers at her. Thanks!

–Do not read on if you have not read the series through A Feast for Crows and want to avoid spoilers–


The ghost grass makes me think of Kudzu. Not because of the color but because of the idea that one day it will encompass everything. Those of you who live in or have been to the South East have seen Kudzu along the highway, engulfing everything. It grows an unbelievable amount every season. It’s also not native to the area, so it kills everything too. Whenever I think of the post apocalyptic South, I think of it covered in Kudzu. (So I just looked it up, Wikipedia says Kudzu spreads across the American Southeast at a rate of 150,000 acres per year.)

But enough about that, let’s talk about how the second episode of Game of Thrones has aired already and we are currently running even. Elena wondered how she would react to the story once she didn’t know what was coming. Haha.. welcome to now.

I don’t know why Elena seems to be having problems relating to Dany but I can tell you that the first time I read this book I remember being really disappointed that in one chapter we get Dany coming to terms with her brother’s incompetence AND getting pregnant. I too felt like Dany was giving up on the dream of returning to Westeros (Jorah’s line of, “Look around you then, Khaleesi.” seems like foreshadowing that Dany will never leave the Dotharki sea.) and just becoming Drogo’s wife. Thankfully that doesn’t happen. But I have also always been very interested in Dany’s storyline because I’m convinced there are hints and answers to riddles in other people’s storylines. I also think that Dany is Azhor Azhai. Some think that also makes her the Prince Who Was Promised but I’m a firm believer that these two individuals are different entities. Keep your eye out for a sword made of dragon glass people… keep your eye out!

On a related note, am I correct in reading that Elena doesn’t think the dragons are coming back? Not with the dreams, and the hot eggs and all of that? Fertility? Wha? This is a fantasy novel! THAR WILL BE DRAGONS. It’s contracted in the genre.

Let’s talk about Jorah for a second. Poor Ser Jorah, who loves his queen by spying on her. Seems like Jorah never loves the right woman and he always lets money ruin everything. After the classic Romance novel-esque relationship in Drogo/Dany comes to an end I’ve found myself wondering if Dany will truly every “pair up” again.

As a reader who feels the genre itself doesn’t have enough feminist role-models I would love it if Dany continued on being her own person. GRRM definitely doesn’t allow us to think of Dany as a sexless virgin Mary type but I think it would be disappointing to me if Dany’s story devolved into a love story. Dany is a revenge story. There are other characters in this story who should find love. I know that isn’t a popular opinion, but it’s how I feel. (Note, I’m not saying a female character in a relationship is not feminist, I’m just saying that I like having a female character who is not driven by love for a partner or her role as a mother. Brienne comes to mind but GRRM is always harping on how “un-womanly” she is. As if one cannot be both a warrior and a woman at the same time. I feel like Dany is making strides in that department. Obviously this is a complicated issue and I want to acknowledge that I’m not giving it the space it really deserves to be discussed in, but we’ve got a chapter to cover!)

Back to the beginning of Viserys’ end. I LOVE the mental image of that weasel walking his way through the muddy, broken ground left behind the horde. An endless slog for just another Prince from Westeros who should have had more spankings as a child. I don’t know… why does Viserys exist? As a parallel to Joffrey maybe? Sometimes I feel like Viserys’ behavior is more acceptable because his father was insane and he comes from a long line of deranged individuals.

Then I remember that Joff is also the product of less than optimum breeding plans, and I think well maybe he couldn’t help being so whiny and horrible. But he still had a mother and a fake father and a real father and an uncle who told him what was what. Viserys only had people preying on him, using him to help change their own status. (I guess? What ARE Illyrio and Varys motivations!!!???) He also had his memories of growing up powerful. He would have been the middle child, like Ned, Bran or Stannis. There are lots of patterns going on with birth order.

First borns usually get the shit end of the stick. Brandon is choked to death, Robb is arrowed to death (then of course… mutilated), Robert lived pretty well but he made terrible decisions. Jorah ended up exiled, which is better than death by boar, but he seems to be sad about it. (He’s an only child though right? So maybe it’s different.) The middle borns tend to be given power they never thought they would have to be responsible for and then usually… a sticky end. So mental note… you want to be born last. So no one remembers you exist and you can go on a very extended camping trip.

But of course all good things must come to an end, and if it seems like Dany’s life is getting easier as she becomes confident in herself and her place in the world, you can bet it won’t last. This is GRRM after all!

This concludes Chapter 23. Next Monday you can expect Chapter 24- Bran. See you then!


  1. @ Elena
    You’re certainly not alone in your feelings on Dany. I like that we get an opinion on Viserys from someone other than Dany and that it is as unflattering as we all thought it would be. Also, I always liked that Martin takes the common people into some consideration and points out that the only thing they care about when it comes to lords is how easy or difficult their lives are made by said lord.

    *** SPOILERS ***

    I think Viserys’s main role in the story is to be a red herring. He’s the exiled prince bent on returning to avenge his family and we slowly start to realize that he’s not only a giant dick but no one his going to follow him because he’s really pretty pathetic. Soon his story comes to an end and we know that the exiled prince storyline is a non-starter. Not only is this classic story arc a non-starter but he’s served two other purposes. He’s helped plant the idea in our head that the Targaryen’s were every bit as bad as Robert thinks and he has distracted us from the fact that Dany’s story is the real one about the exiled royal seeking to reclaim her stolen throne.

    *** END SPOILERS ***

  2. Elena, You’re not the only one finding Dany boring and dull. But I think you might be mistaking your own level of investment with the characters.
    I strongly urge you to go along with the flow — THERE ARE REASONS why people choose to do things, in Martin’s world. You won’t find your heartstrings needlessly pulled — and the story is much less compelling if you don’t like Anyone.

    You like Arya, right? Or Sansa? Or Tyrion? Or Jon? someone, here?

  3. ***Spoilers***


    I agree with you to a point. But do you really think Viserys takes the focus off of Dany? Nothing is from his perspective.. we sort of know immediately that Viserys isn’t as important as Dany is because of that. But I DO like that Viserys really is the only view we get of the old-school Tagaryens. It’s hard to understand why Rhaegar was so well-loved when all you have is his horrific little brother as an example.

    But he was well-loved. If Illyrio and Varys and Jorah and all the old Targaryen loyalists are still loyal to the Targaryens it’s not because of Aerys. That’s for damn sure!

  4. Aw, I didn’t realize that Elena would be watching the series, even as it moved past where she had read in the book. So much for the newbie angle I guess? That’s too bad. I don’t think I’ll be coming back again as the main reason I enjoy reading these is to see how Elena reacts to the story as a first time reader.

  5. @Kim and @Elena

    Agreed. Give yourself permission to become invested in the characters. Don’t try to save yourself from frustration. Throw all the dire warnings from us re-readers out of your mind. We’re just having noob fun. Clearly there is something to love or we wouldn’t all still be here! I think you’ll get far more from the stories if you are able to loathe and love without trying to check yourself.

    Perhaps there’s a little bit of GoT burnout happening, with the tv show and the podcast and the read thru. I think since the show has officially caught up with us that you’ll start feeling more uh.. refreshed?

  6. I *like* several of them, but I can’t love them. Not when as far as I’m concerned every single character has a giant battle axe over their head that could drop at any moment. when the last book is written and i know who makes it, THEN i can fall in love with some of them!

  7. Reality Grill, there is the vaguest of possibilities that I can keep my reading ahead of the series, if not our posting (unlikely given how busy my life is, but i have to admit i’ve been more interested in reading now that the show is nipping at my heels), but from what i can see of the series there are a lot of subtle changes that could make for an interesting “wait wait what” kind of reaction even if i think i know what’s coming. You might keep checking in on us and see….

  8. well, i certainly got more interested in reading after last night’s ep caught me up on at least 1 story thread. was pissed when chapters went bran ned jon ned. damn, not another damn ned chapter! can’t read that till i’ve thought about his last one. so perhaps that’s exactly the mood i’m feeling. 🙂

    as to investment…i say we blame joe abercrombie. he taught me not to invest in characters in a world where i know things will inevitably end badly for at least some of them. lolz

  9. *** SPOILERS ***

    I disagree that we immediately know Viserys isn’t important because his story is from Dany’s persepctive. I don’t think it’s clear at this point because many of the major players do not get their own perspective. No Jaime until ASOS, no Cersei until AFFC, no Robert, no Stannis, no Robb, etc. Often, we view kings, queens, and other people of power through the point of view of someone else.

    And I think it does temporarily distract us from Dany. I remember thinking that Dany might be there to provide a reason for the Dothraki to invade the seven kingdoms and that Drogo was going to be a lot more important than he turns out to be. I view it in a similar light to Jaime tossing Bran out that window. I think that act distracts us from immediately thinking through the possible consequences of the twincest; namely, that the royal children are not in fact Robert’s kids.

    Maybe it’s the way I devoured the books chapter after chapter when I first read them and maybe it’s the way my mind works but I think Viserys is an effective smokescreen because the reader is thinking that Viserys is important and Dany is our eye on him and when it becomes clear that he is not it is easier to shift one’s thinking to Dany being an eye on someone else important rather than rethinking the basic assumption that Martin sets us up with. As always, YMMV

    *** END SPOILERS ***

  10. @elena
    I hope you stick with it, as I very much enjoy reading your take on the story. I’ve read the novels several times, but my favorite thing is interacting with new readers! I always want to know if they see the same things I see, and what they expect from the characters (in fact- I’d love to hear more of what you think will happen to the characters). Does GRRM write any noticeable foreshadowing that can be picked up easily by new readers? I wonder if those of us that have gone through the series several times are reading too much into the text sometimes.

    I found Dany interesting *because* she was so removed from what was going on in the other parts of the book. I immediately felt that GRRM was telling us- this person is important! Whether or not Dany actually is important to the story remains to be seen of course (How could she not be though!). Ah well.

  11. @Elena

    I’ve been seeing so many reviews for the TV show warning people “Don’t get too invested in the characters! They might die at any time!” It really bothers me. Yes, some characters die, and because the series is so well written, some of the deaths are surprising, even shocking. But that is the best thing about the books!

    The first time I read the series there were moments that left me feeling like I’d been punched in the stomach. I was shocked, I was angry, but more than anything, I was amazed that I was able to have such a strong, visceral reaction to something that was happening to these fictional characters in an imaginary world. I still remember those moments vividly, where I was and what I was doing as I was reading those chapters. It’s the reason I love the books so much. And it was only because I was invested in the characters that I was able to have that reaction to the story.

    If you’re not feeling a certain POV, that’s fine, we all have some characters we like more than others. But if you’re deliberately trying to distance yourself from them because you’re afraid GRRM will kill them off, all I can say is STOP IT! Get invested in the characters! Love them! You’ll be glad you did.

  12. “So mental note… you want to be born last. So no one remembers you exist and you can go on a very extended camping trip.”

    I loled at this. Ahahaha.

  13. I think it’s less enjoyable reading this book from the standpoint you are, it’s also less enjoyable reading your reactions. This blog has been a bit of a letdown

  14. I was doing the “gotta read ahead!” with Dany’s chapters the first time round.

  15. Love them anyhow. Honest — you won’t wind up feeling betrayed. You may always wonder what happened to a particular character… if only…

    But I think Martin does a good job of showing that it’s not “who wins the game of thrones” but how they play that matters.

  16. @Elena

    You are really missing out here. You are _supposed_ to get attached to the characters, specifically so you can be crushed when bad things happen to them. That’s one of the strongest parts of the experience. You shouldn’t avoid it.

  17. @Elena”
    “Tis better to have loved and lost than to never have loved at all,” right? I don’t think you’ll be disappointed by becoming invested in the characters. Some die, but if as many died as you seem to be expecting, this series wouldn’t have become as popular as it is.

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