Stuart Reads A Game of Thrones – Chapter 19

Don't worry, I don't smoke soap bubbles in real life. That would be silly.

Chapter 19 – Jon

Jon Snow should be at the Wall by now, I believe. And so should Tyrion. Maybe I’ll get a little more information about the assassin and Tyrion’s potential involvement?

It looks like Jon is still training to be a Night’s Watchman, or else he’s in some kind of practice session with another recruit named Grenn. Jon is whooping his ass.

“Enough!” Ser Alliser Thorne had a voice with an edge like Valyrian steel.

Grenn cradled his hand. “The bastard broke my wrist.”

“The bastard hamstrung you, opened your empty skull, and cut off your hand. Or would have, if these blades had an edge.”

Cool, it sounds like Jon is already doing pretty well here. I’m not generally a fan of “school drama” where the hero needs to prove themselves and rise above mistreatment from their peers.

. . . Ugh. Never mind:

[Jon] leaned on his sword, drew a deep breath, and allowed himself a moment to savor the victory.

“That is a longsword, not an old man’s cane,” Ser Alliser said sharply. “Are your legs hurting, Lord Snow?”

. . . “I’m tired,” Jon admitted. His arm burned from the weight of the longsword, and he was starting to feel his bruises now that the fight was done.

“What you are is weak.”

Jon won and is still getting hefty criticisms. Like I said, this kind of hazy training camp mush gets on my nerves.

Hmm, there is a nice spin on it going on here, though. It sounds like Jon is unequivocally the best fighter in this batch of trainees (there are about twenty), and he has clearly proven himself the better swordsman multiple times, but everybody hates him anyway, most likely out of jealousy. Jon hates them all right back, and it seems to me like he’s shut off his emotions to avoid responding to them.

Jon’s regretting becoming a Night’s Watchman already — in spite of Tyrion’s warning, he still half-assumed the role would be more thrilling and engaging, but he hates everyone here and has been rendered permanently cold by the ever-wintry weather. Damn, this sucks.

At least he’s got Ghost.


So that’s something.

The recruit Jon bested — Grenn — is here with his buddies, probably with bad intentions.

Yep, they just grabbed him and insulted his unknown mother. Jon takes this pretty smooth:

Jon twisted like an eel and slammed a heel down across the instep of the boy holding him. There was a sudden cry of pain, and he was free. He flew at Toad, knocked him backward over a bench, and landed on his chest with both hands on his throat, slamming his head against the packed earth.

So much for keeping his emotions in check. And great, now an authority figure’s caught them. His name is Donal Noye, and at least he doesn’t buy the crap excuses coming from Grenn and the others, but he’s got very little sympathy for Jon. I swear, do we need to go through this stuff? Not my favorite subplot.

Hmm, another interesting spin on this situation, though:

“The road you’re walking, one of your brothers will slit your throat for you one night.”

“They’re not my brothers,” Jon snapped. “They hate me because I’m better than they are.”

“No. They hate you because you act like you’re better than they are . . . You’re a bastard and a bully.”

“A bully?” Jon almost choked on the word. The accusation was so unjust it took his breath away. “They were the ones who came after me. Four of them.”

“Four that you’ve humiliated in the yard. Four who are probably afraid of you. I’ve watched you fight . . . You leave them nothing. You shame them. Does that make you proud?”

Not what I was expecting. Jon’s better than all of his peers and getting arrogant about it, alienating them. Now that this had been pointed out to him, though, it looks like Jon’s going to wise up. But I have no idea how he can salvage such a situation — it sounds like he’s been at this awhile.

That Donal guy leaves and Jon starts wandering a bit until he looks up at The Wall. And I’m not sure what I thought it would be — maybe a long stone wall? — but it sounds insane. For one thing, it’s not made of stone or wood, but ice. No wonder Jon’s so cold up here:

You could see it from miles off, a pale blue line across the northern horizon, stretching away to the east and west and vanishing in the far distance, immense and unbroken.

. . . Almost seven hundred feet high it stood, three times the height of the tallest tower in the stronghold it sheltered. His uncle said the top was wide enough for a dozen armored knights to ride abreast. The gaunt outlines of huge catapults and monstrous wooden cranes stood sentry up there, like the skeletons of great birds, and among them walked men in black as small as ants.

I keep trying to imagine the sheer size of this thing and my brain malfunctions.

Apparently, so does Jon’s, since he doesn’t notice Tyrion pop up next to him.

Tyrion Lannister was bundled in furs so thickly he looked like a very small bear.

Is it okay if I think that’s cute? ‘Cause I think it’s cute. Anyhow, they converse awhile and set out to get some hot stew. It seems Jon has seen very little of Tyrion since arriving at the Black Keep.

“The talk is, your uncle is too long away.”

Uh oh. I kinda forgot about Uncle Benjen. I want to say he’s probably okay, but in this story that’s quite unlikely. Benjen left early on, riding out on a “ranging” with other Night’s Watchmen on the other side of the Wall. I remember the three suckers in the prologue were also out on a ranging. In fact, Jon mentions that Benjen’s ranging concerns locating the missing Ser Waymar Royce, one of the dudes in the prologue killed by creepy ghosties.

Jon and Tyrion get some food, but before they can dig in Ser Alliser appears and tells Jon to see the Lord Commander of the keep.

“Is it my uncle?” [Jon] blurted. “Is he returned safe?”

“The Lord Commander is not accustomed to waiting,” was Ser Alliser’s reply. “And I am not accustomed to having my commands questioned by bastards.”

Tyrion Lannister swung off the bench and rose. “Stop it, Thorne. You’re frightening the boy.”

Oh yeah, Tyrion sticking up for Jon. I like it. He even convinces Ser Alliser to spill the beans early, and Ser Alliser reveals the critical news concerns Bran. He doesn’t specify what happened to Bran, though.

Tyrion Lannister laid a hand on his arm. “Jon,” he said. “I am truly sorry.”

. . . Oh crap. Why would Tyrion immediately assume the news is bad? He wouldn’t — not without more elaboration from Ser Alliser — unless he really was the one who sent the assassin. Oh crap.

I’ll worry about that in a bit — Jon rushes up to see the Lord Commander and gets the news from the horse’s mouth. He learns that Bran has awakened from his coma, crippled but alive. Good, good, getting characters up to speed is good. Now he’s running back downstairs to tell everybody else. How will Tyrion react?

Huh. He doesn’t really get a chance to — he’s too busy being hugged by Jon.

Jon put him down and thrust the paper into his hands. “Here, read it,” he said.

Others were gathering around and looking at him curiously. Jon noticed Grenn a few feet away. A thick woolen bandage was wrapped around one hand. He looked anxious and uncomfortable, not menacing at all. Jon went to him.

. . . “I’m sorry about your wrist. Robb used the same move on me once, only with a wooden blade. It hurt like seven hells, but yours must be worse. Look, if you want, I can show you how to defend that.”

Not what I was expecting, but good, good, the good news about Bran has spurred Jon to repair his relationships in record time. But then something weird happens and the chapter ends on a foreboding note — in his efforts to be endearing to the other recruits, Jon takes a sneering jibe from Ser Alliser and turns it around on him:

Jon heard Grenn suck in his breath, shocked. Silence fell.

Then Tyrion Lannister guffawed. Three of the black brothers joined in from a nearby table. The laughter spread up and down the benches, until even the cooks joined in. The birds stirred in the rafters, and finally even Grenn began to chuckle.

Ser Alliser never took his eyes from Jon. As the laughter rolled around him, his face darkened, and his sword hand curled into a fist. “That was a grievous error, Lord Snow,” he said at last in the acid tones of an enemy.

Um . . . oh no?

Summary Time: Jon Snow has been blending into his role as a Night’s Watchman rather poorly. While he’s the best fighter, he’s arrogant and bullying about it, offending his peers, including a boy named Grenn who later attacks him. After the failed attack Jon is set straight by Donal Noyle, a one-armed armorer (heh heh), and then comforted a little by Tyrion Lannister. Jon receives the good news about Bran and shares it with everyone, and manages to heal at least a few of the social wounds he inflicted upon his peers. Along the way he deeply offends the trainer Ser Alliser Thorne, but Thorne already hated his guts, so this seems like a pretty weak-sauce twist.

Seriously, I just met this Ser Alliser guy and his only character trait so far has been “hates Jon Snow,” so the affirmation at the end of the chapter that he does, indeed, really hate Jon Snow holds no punch for me. Nothing has really been lost here. In fact, something has been gained — the potential friendship of Grenn and the other recruits. So I chalk up this chapter as a win for Jon.

The only thing I’m really concerned with anyway is Tyrion — I’m still not 100% sure he’s guilty of trying to kill Bran, but his brief reaction to the Lord Commander’s news strongly implies he is. I hope not — maybe this is more baiting by G.R.R.M, maybe he just wants to lay on a buttload of evidence against Tyrion and then reveal his innocence.

I think it can go either way — I remember Tyrion saying he was capable of forgiving his brother Ser Jaime of just about any transgression. If he thought that Bran could pose a threat to Ser Jaime, would he try to kill him to protect his brother? I guess it really is possible.

See you later and thanks for reading.


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