Chapter 23 — Daenerys
After a hell of a hiatus, we’re breaking back in with a chapter from Dany’s perspective. I want to say “it’s about time,” but frankly, I’m anxious about her chapters. The past two set my teeth on edge more than any other chapters in the book so far.
If I recall, last time we left Dany she had married the barbarian chieftain dude Khal Drogo, who turned out to be significantly less barbaric than expected, and she also got a Cool Horse. Let’s roll.
Things start nicely enough with a description of someplace pretty:
The Dothraki sea,” Ser Jorah Mormont said as he reined to a halt beside her on the top of the ridge.
Beneath them, the plain stretched out immense and empty, a vast flat expanse that reached to the distant horizon and beyond . . . no trees, nor cities nor roads, only the endless grasses, the tall blades rippling like waves when the winds blew.
Sounds like New Zealand.
Dany and Ser Jorah are just chillin’ on horses, looking at the grass. Then he goes and ruins the mood, saying that when the field blooms, it turns as red as blood. And then he goes off on a strange tangent about some sort of hypothetical grass (called ghost grass) that eats other grass, is possessed by the spirits of the damned, and will eventually blanket the world in death and kill everyone.
Also, it glows in the dark.
Dany politely orders him to shut up.
It’s been a while, but I seem to remember Ser Jorah may or may not be a spy for King Robert? Somehow? It was mentioned off-hand at some point way long ago, back in Chapter 5 or 6 something. Just trying to keep these characters straight in my head — there are a lot of them.
Dany and Ser Jorah are joined by just about everybody else — her handmaids, her bodyguards, her risible brother Viserys, and presumably Khal Drogo and the rest of the Dothraki. I gather they’re all on some kind of road trip across this sea of grasses.
Viserys still struggled with the short stirrups and the flat saddle. [Dany’s] brother was miserable out here.
Glad to hear Vissy is suffering. Carry on.
Dany’s pretty stoked about riding around these fields and wants to get away from her brother, so she issues an order to make everyone stay behind while she scouts ahead.
[Ser Jorah] smiled . . . “You are learning to talk like a queen, Daenerys.”
“Not a queen,” said Dany. “A khaleesi.”
Pretty sure that means chieftain’s wife or something. Same thing, really. Anyway, I’m just as pleasantly surprised as Ser Jorah. In the last chapter from Dany’s perspective she was a timid little thing, utterly horrified by the Dothraki lifestyle. I’m not sure how much time has passed since then, but she seems to have grown into her role of leadership pretty quickly. Admittedly, this doesn’t bother me, since I didn’t want to watch her suffer all the time.
Wait, I think we’re getting some flashbacks while she rides around.
The long and short of it is that for a while, she hated being the khaleesi because riding on her horse gave her blisters, and then she had a freaky (yet inspiring) nightmare:
There was only her and the dragon . . . She opened her arms to the fire, embraced it, let it swallow her whole . . . And the next day, strangely, she did not seem to hurt quite so much.
Very fishy. I think this is the second time she’s had this sort of dream? Probably important.
Plus, after her nightmare she checks on her three stone-cold dragon eggs and finds them warm. She chalks this up to the heat of the sun, but come on. One of the eggs is even described as possessing the same coloration as the dragon in her dreams. If this isn’t foreshadowing, I’m a monkey.
Okay, out of the flashback, she stops riding to play in the grass and feel the dirt on her toes.
Viserys came upon her as sudden as a summer storm . . .
Oh joy, look who it is.
You dare?” he screamed at her. “You give commands to me? To me?” . . . He grabbed her, shook her. “Have you forgotten who you are? Look at you. Look at you! . . . You do not command the dragon. Do you understand?
Still my least favorite character, I see. Guy could use a punch in the jaw.
Dany shoved him away, hard.
Or that. Yeah, I like that. Awesome!
She had never defied him. Never fought back. Rage twisted his features. He would hurt her now, and badly, she knew that.
Not awesome. Doesn’t she have bodyguards now, though?
The whip made a sound like thunder. The coil took Viserys around the throat and yanked him backward. He went sprawling in the grass, stunned and choking.
There they are.
So, yeah, everyone crowds around and the bodyguards ask Dany if she wants her brother executed. (Yes!) She declines (aww), but she does decide to shame him, forcing him to give up his horse and walk the rest of the way.
He was a pitiful thing. He had always been a pitiful thing. Why had she never seen that before? There was a hollow place inside her where her fear had been.
Like, damn. Is this happening already? Vissy has no more power. Only three chapters and Dany is just done with his bullshit. She’s in charge and he’s douchebag, and she knows it.
A bit later, Dany starts to doubt her decision — after all, the only reason she even has all this power to begin with is because Vissy pimped her up and gave her to Khal Drogo, and all in an effort to take back the Iron Throne. Now that she’s humiliated him in front of the Dothraki, that plan’s looking unlikely. Fortunately, Ser Jorah eases her mind with a pretty obvious question.
Jorah pulled up his horse and looked at her. “Truth now. Would you want to see Viserys sit a throne?”
Dany thought about that. “He would not be a very good king, would he?”
And she gives an obvious answer. I mean, right? Really glad we’re covering ground here and knocking Vissy out of the running — in fact, he’s basically become a non-character. Now that Dany doesn’t fear him anymore, he’s no longer important to the plot, nor his plans, apparently.
I might’ve spoken too soon — Vissy’s out, but I don’t think Dany’s shut down his plan, exactly.
[Viserys] could not lead an army even if my lord husband gave him one,” Dany said. “He has no coin and the only knight who follows him reviles him as less than a snake. The Dothraki make mock of his weakness. He will never take us home.
Now, she doesn’t state it outright, but it’s implied that she will take up her brother’s task. When Ser Jorah prompts her to consider where she truly belongs, she does not think of the Dothraki but of King’s Landing, where she was born. Like I said, not explicit, but I’m willing to bet that she’ll soon decide to go to Westeros. (To make war on them, maybe? Doesn’t seem like her M.O., but things could change.)
The Dothraki eventually make camp and Dany relaxes in a bath, and she asks her handmaids what they know of dragons. Only one maid, Doreah, has anything interesting to say, suggesting to Dany that the moon is a giant dragon egg. Not sure if this is meant to be taken literally, but Dany starts to hang out with Doreah from now on and ask her more questions.
And then just as the chapter ends it takes me by the chin and drags me about three months into the future.
They were on the far side of the Dothraki sea when Jhiqui brushed the soft swell of Dany’s stomach with her fingers and said, “Khaleesi, you are with child.
Holy timeskip, Batman! Seriously, the last three sentences of the chapter just —
I know,” Dany told her.
It was her fourteenth name day.
— wait, Dany’s only fourteen?
Summary Time: After a few weeks among the Dothraki, Daenerys becomes comfortable with her new life and disregards the dregs of her old one, starting with her loathsome brother Viserys. She makes some friends (sort of), connecting with Ser Jorah Mormont, an exile from Westeros who’s pledged his sword to her service, and with her handmaid Doreah.
Then there’s a bloody huge timeskip and Dany becomes pregnant with Khal Drogo’s child.
The chapter wasn’t long, but it really feels like a lot of stuff happened, so I’m gonna tackle the big points that stood out for me.
First of all, the scene with Vissy in the meadow was pretty badass, but also kind of deflating. I hate the guy, so I’m glad Dany has escaped his abusive treatment — treatment that she’s had to live under her whole life, mind you — and the punishment she delivered was very satisfying. The dude’s just a total worm, I’m glad he’s not a problem anymore.
At the same time — he’s not a problem anymore? Already? I was honestly expecting him to remain a threat for far longer than this. It’s tricky, since I’m glad Dany got over him, but her character has really changed very quickly. Feels a little rushed.
In the same vein, Dany’s pregnant now? Already? (I feel like I’m going to say that a lot.) It feels like G.R.R.M’s got a grand epic and he’s just offering me the important bits, cutting out the boring ones, which . . . granted, that’s basically the most obvious writing advice you could give someone, isn’t it? “Write a story, cut out the boring parts?”
So, again, I appreciate it, I just wasn’t expecting it. I’m still fresh off
reading trying to read Robert Jordan’s Eye of the World, which moved at a snail’s pace, akin to Tolkien’s works. Clearly, G.R.R.M is not Tolkien — I think I’ve compared him to Stephen King before, and I stick by that. He’s got a hell of a lot of characters, all drenched in atmosphere and constant turmoil, but he just fixes his eye on the pivotal moments, and skips over the walking and the waiting by switching between the myriad POVs.
Lastly (and uncomfortably), now that I know how young Dany is I’m feeling a tad queasy. Was her age specified before? I thought she was seventeen or something. There was a graphic sex scene in her last chapter, and she was only thirteen! Perhaps it sounds arbitrary — thirteen or seventeen, she’s still underage, deal with it, etc. — but for me the difference between a person just starting to become a teenager and just leaving their teenage years is pretty significant.
Sorry, G.R.R.M, but a romantic sex scene between a thirteen-year-old and a twenty-something kinda kills me.
On that note, I’ll be glad as ever to return to Westeros. As far as Dany’s POV chapters go, I liked this one the most, but they really do leave a bit of sick in my mouth.
Still, it’s good to be back. Thanks for reading.
Among other drawings, Ian illustrated Dany and Ser Jorah in this post.