Would you spend $1995 on Ice and Fire?

This eBay listing is for a set of all five ASOIAF books, each a first edition hardcover signed by GRRM himself.  The “Buy It Now” price is $1995.95.  This set isn’t up for auction, but the seller has set up a “Make an Offer” option.

While obtaining this collection would certainly unlock a “True Nerd” achievement, I don’t think I could ever drop $2K on signed books, unless maybe if I had all the gold in Casterly Rock.  Also, it doesn’t feel as special if GRRM didn’t sign them for me.  George wasn’t able to personalize books at the A Dance with Dragons signing I attended, but it still felt special because I had a few brief moments of contact with him.  Waiting in a bookstore for five hours was a labor of love, and the signed book was my trophy.  Somehow spending a crazy amount of money for a signature feels like cheating.

There’s something else about ASOIAF that doesn’t seem congruent with spending two grand on signed copies.  ASOIAF is one of the most successful series I have ever read.  It defies genre, breaks down cliches and stereotypes and has something to appeal to everyone.  Those very things make it seem, in my mind, like a series of “books for the people.”  While well-written, with a complex plot, extreme amount of detail and a sophisticated set of themes, ASOIAF is not bourgeois.  It’s gritty and in-your-face, much more working class than aristocratic, which is ironic considering most of its characters are noble lords and ladies.  Perhaps the fact that I classify it that way makes me reject any notion of spending thousands of hard-earned dollars on signed copies.

Would you consider buying this?  Comment with any reasons why or why not.

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Dancing with Dragons

Here on the East Coast in the States, it’s technically less than an hour until A Dance With Dragons finally makes its debut.  I feel as though I should write about my feelings or my expectations or something, however high-school-journaly that may sound.  I’ve thankfully been able to avoid spoilers up until now, and hopefully I can continue to do so until I complete the novel.  Though I know there will be many fanboys and fangirls testing my spoiler-avoiding prowess at GRRM’s signing on Thursday.  Working full time really puts a kink in any plans to hide oneself away, safe from trolls, in a nice quiet place, to read away until there’s nothing left and the world is once again safe.

To be honest, I have no right to claim that I never thought this day would come.  I’m relatively new to the ASOIAF fandom.  Several years ago in college, a friend told me to read the series.  I Wikipedia’d it to get a general idea of what it was all about.  I still have a clear image of what I imagined while reading the Wiki synopsis, which was different from what can be found today.  I imagined the Starks as a family as cold and ruthless as the winter they so anticipate.  I saw Dany as a dark-haired woman, not a child, making her way through glacial landscapes to reclaim what was rightfully hers.  And one of the main characters was a dwarf, a fact I found rather unique.  That trip down memory lane aside, I never started ASOIAF at that time.  I was wading through college and professors were throwing books at me from all directions.  I didn’t have the stamina or time to take on such an epic.  So I bookmarked the ASOIAF Wiki page and promised to pick it up in the future.

Years later, in 2010, HBO was running teasers for Game of Thrones.  I knew that if I wanted to experience the books the right way, without any precedent, I had to start them.  And so I bought each and finished each and here I am.  Unfortunately for me, I didn’t get into the series sooner.  Fortunately for me – and I consider this a huge plus – I didn’t have to suffer the painful five-year wait for the next title.

But now, whether you’re a fan from the beginning who has struggled to keep sane this last half a decade, or you’re someone who picked up the novels after catching the HBO show, or like me, you fall somewhere between, one thing is certain:  We can all rejoice tomorrow, when we get the next dose of the drug we’ve all been craving.

As far as expectations go, mine are high.  Maybe it’s the title, or the characters that will be featured, but I’m anticipating ADWD to be of the same caliber as A Storm of Swords, which, in my opinion, is the best in the series so far.  Mostly, I’m looking forward to the possible convergence of several storylines:  Jon Snow dumped his bastard’s baggage when he turned down Stannis Baratheon’s offer of Winterfell in exchange for the Night Watch’s support; he is now building up his identity as the Watch’s new Lord Commander, and will hopefully continue to do so between wildlings and bitter kings.  And with a Lannister, a Greyjoy and a Martell heading toward Daenerys Targaryen, we may finally see the young queen (now in practice and not just in name) insert herself into the affairs of Westeros.   For me, these two characters – ice and fire, respectively – are the two true heroes of the series, and I can only hope the fifth book ends with them on their way to connecting with each other.

There’s a host of questions in my mind.  Who is Jon’s mother?  Who is Quentyn Martell?  Did Varys truly grow up a mummer?  Who is Coldhands?  Is Tysha alive?  Is Syrio Forel alive?  Will Arya be okay?  Will Jaime run back to Cersei?  Will Bran Stark find the three-eyed crow, and what exactly is it?  Are the Children of the Forest actually extinct?  Where is Rickon?  Is Davos dead?  What will new characters like Barristan Selmy and Melisandre reveal?  Will Theon Greyjoy escape the Dreadfort?  Is there any hope for a Northern revival?  Where are you, Howland Reed, Maege Mormont?  Will we learn about Lyanna?!  Rhaegar?!  I could go on, but what’s the point?  I’m sure you all get it.  We all want the same thing, and we’re so, so close to getting it!

Finally, let me just say one thing:  HAPPY DANCING WITH DRAGONS!

Note:  There will be NO ADWD SPOILERS posted on The Kings’ Keep.  I will also most likely take a hiatus for a few days in order to complete the book without taking the risk I may stumble upon some myself.  Until then, happy reading!

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Portraits: Margaery Tyrell

This painting could show Margaery at Highgarden or on one of her rides into the countryside around King’s Landing.  The young woman is pretty, with loose brown hair, as Margaery is described.  The flowers symbolize House Tyrell.  And the look on her face, even when viewed from the side, shows a certain understanding, or resolve, which characterizes Margaery perfectly.  For although the youngest Tyrell first appears to be nothing more than a pretty ingenue, we soon learn that she’s much more determined and cunning than she initially lets on.

Do you see Margaery below?

Windflowers (1903)
John William Waterhouse
English (born Rome 1849 – 1917 died London)
oil on canvas
Private Collection

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Season 1: Episode Recap

Now that Season 1 is over, I want to do  a general “season recap” that approaches the show from various angles.  Using my 10 episode reviews to keep me organized, I went through the details as well as my impressions of each hour.  In doing this Episode List Recap, I decided that Fire and Blood and The Golden Crown were the most flawless episodes.  The three episodes between those two were also phenomenal, but I thought Episodes 7/8/9 each had something missing.

I think the acting was amazing in every episode.  I could have listed it under “The Good” for each segment.  Also, “The Good” section is by no means exhaustive; if I wrote down every praise I sing for this show, this post would be far too long!

*This post contains spoilers for each episode of Season 1 of Game of Thrones*

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Portraits: Brienne of Tarth

Very few artworks of armored women who fit Brienne’s bill exist.  They’re all doe-eyed, wispy ingenues wearing a breastplate over a dress, or anime/video game-ish girls wearing…well, not too much armor at all.  But this painting by English painter Annie Swynnerton reminded me of Brienne.  The girl (Joan of Arc) isn’t particularly pretty.  She’s large and manly looking, with broad shoulders, a thick neck and a full face.  Her skin is ruddy and her hair does not look particularly luscious.  On a deeper level, I see Brienne in Joan’s solemn plea to all that is good and holy to help her complete her oath.  For Joan, that was delivering France from the English.  For Brienne, it’s delivering the Stark sisters from the Lannisters.

And the rainbow in the background?  Let us not forget Brienne got started as a knight in Renly Baratheon’s Rainbow Guard!

BRIENNE OF TARTH
Joan of Arc (exact date unknown)
Annie Louisa Swynnerton
English (born 1844 – 1933 died)
oil on canvas
Private Collection

Feel free to comment – do you see Brienne in this painting?  Or is it just another tribute to Joan of Arc?

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Episode 10: Fire and Blood

I’m not sure where to begin with this review. The season is over, and I cannot believe it. It feels like just yesterday that it was Christmastime, and the Game of Thrones teasers were flashing across the HBO airwaves, and I was burying myself in ASOIAF lore in an attempt to sustain my fangirlish hunger until the show debuted.

A few months later HBO announced the premiere date: April 17. But that was still months away, so I had to trudge through internet message boards and Tower of the Hand essays to get my fix. And then the first episode premiered, and nine more episodes came and went. The last ten weeks have flown by, and now we have to suffer through an entire year without any Thrones. As the opening credits played for the Season Finale, I experienced a Pandora’s Box of emotions: anticipation, pride, excitement, fear, grief, despair, and longing. The theme song, which in the very least deserves the over-used adjective “epic,” made me feel like I was finishing the first leg of a terribly fantastic adventure.

I’ve been breaking down my reviews by location/character, but in order to preserve the power of the finale, I have kept this one chronological.

*As usual, this post contains spoilers for the Episode 10 and the ASOIAF books.

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The Dads of ASOIAF

Today is Father’s Day in the US, so in honor of dads everywhere, let’s take a look at some of the fathers in ASOIAF. Nine dads made the cut (Hoster, Stannis and Aerys were left behind), and for each, an archetype and Father’s Day gift has been suggested. If you have different ideas, please comment below!

*Book spoilers below the cut!
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