Kill the Boy

Games of Thrones: Season 5, Episode 5

Directed by: Jeremy Podeswa

Written by: Bryan Cogman

Based on: A Song of Ice and Fire [series] by George R.R. Martin

To mark the midway point of Season Five, gentle readers, I offer a warning: the Virtual Water Cooler is imperiled! Its very existence is in jeopardy, threatened by insidious external forces bent on ruining all that is right and good in the world. Who are these horrifying hooligans haranguing your helpless hero Matt? None other than David Benioff and D.B. Weiss! These dastardly showrunners have once again made an executive decision deviating from the plot of George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire novels (less deviation, admittedly, and more conflation of two different characters), and have decided that Jorah Mormont, Lord of the Bad Muthas, Starer of Icy Gazes, Taker of Names, May He Constantly Make Out with Really Cool Ladies… Should contract Greyscale. I want to be calm. I want to. But if Jorah dies I WILL BURN THIS MUTHA DOWN. Ned? Whatever, it was a good twist on fantasy narrative convention, killing off your supposed main character and reinforcing to the audience that this is a ruthless universe. The Red Wedding? Okay, that was a bit extreme, but still, I’m over it. All’s fair in love and stabbing the hell out of pregnant wome- okay yeah, the Red Wedding is still pretty eye-popping. But still, you leave Jorah alone you inhuman monsters! I will ruin the surface of the Earth with my mighty nerd rage if I don’t get to keep looking at Iain Glen’s magnificent regal badassitude. This planet will become a barren wasteland, devoid of life, populated only by swirling tornadoes composed of tears and fiercely whiny (like, Mark Hamill level whiny) cries of “NOOOOOOOOOO!” But anyways… Aside from this mortal threat to my continued ability to watch the show without crying humongous manly tears of manly sorrow in totally dignified and badass and not at all inconsolable fashion, what did we learn this week?

The Speculative Post's Review

Absolutely everything about House Bolton is skeezy as fuck. Okay, maybe this one is obvious, but come on. How is it possible for no one associated with this family to have any redeeming qualities? We already knew Myranda was iffy, on account of, you know, the fact that she actually wants to be around Ramsay, who is undoubtedly the single most horrifyingly horrifying person who has ever existed in this universe. But here she’s ramping up the sociopathic behaviour a notch, albeit under the heady influence of jealousy. Though to be honest, I don’t really see why she’s jealous. I mean, she’s got to know that the chances are at least 60/40 that Ramsay, given a marriage of any length of time to any woman, would murder her. But anyways, Myranda aside, there’s also Roose himself. In previous episodes he’s at least pretended to show moral disdain for Ramsay’s psychotic exploits. And that made him slightly less awful. But here, when the petulant little shit is all worried that maybe a legitimate son will usurp his position, Roose comforts the hell out of him, reassuring him that he’ll always be daddy’s favourite little monster lacking empathy or compassion. You know what the worst part is? As Roose and son look over the strategic map planning for Stannis’ approach, it becomes crystal clear that they very likely might win. In this universe, we are so accustomed to seeing the most despicable people receive wholly undeserved karmic rewards that I feel like the Boltons have an edge over Stannis, if only because they’re just so much more horrible than he is.

Think about that for a second. Stannis is the guy who used sex magic to murder his brother on his wedding night, then burned his wife’s family alive because they wouldn’t submit to his mistress’ religious demands, then murdered/tried to murder several young boys who were in the middle of scoring with a hot redhead for the first time ever… The Boltons are worse than that. So much worse, in fact, that we’re actually rooting for Stannis. Think about Theon in Season Two. We hated him, and for good reason. Betrayed his former wards, murdered some random kids. That’s pretty whack, man! No reasonable person would not say that was whack! A Reuters poll regarding the whackness of Theon Greyjoy would find no takers in the category of “not whack.” And yet now, simply because Ramsay is so awful, we feel sorry for Theon, with his lopped-off manly bits, kennel apartment, and life generally even more miserable than Mickey Rourke’s. Part of me wants to scoff at this and say that the Boltons are ham-fisted instruments of moralization; the equivalent, in terms of narrative subtlety, of a cannon full of sledgehammers taped to a tank driven by Doctor Doom. And yet, there’s something so deliciously believable about Ramsay and his dad in the context of this dog-eat-dog universe we’ve been presented with,\ that even their cartoonishly depraved behaviour doesn’t set off our bullshit detectors, and instead we just gladly throw our emotional lot in with Stannis, whom we seem to forget is also a horrible, horrible man.

Episode titles are funny. I assumed, as I’m sure many did, that the title “Kill the Boy” was some reference to a real boy whose real murder was being urged. I went with Tommen, since, as we noted in the first of this season’s water coolers, he’s a fairly decent human being, and thus is incontrovertibly doomed. But GoT still manages to surprise me, because even in a show that loves killing people, where there are an astoundingly huge number of “boys” whose grisly death could be implied, the title wound up being a metaphor. Granted, it wasn’t a particularly good metaphor, because Maester Aemon’s advice to Jon wasn’t particularly useful. The Westeros equivalent of “grow up” is probably something Jon has thought a lot about since becoming Lord Commander, so here, when he actually comes to the oldest, most wizened, most kindly old man in the known galaxy for advice, being told to sort it out for himself doesn’t go very far. I’m sure the producers meant for the conversation between Missandei and Dany to be thematically linked, since the same advice is given there, but man oh man, the results vary wildly. Look, I don’t want to come out and say that Dany needs Jorah’s good advice, but goddamn man, does she ever need his good advice. It’s like Dany’s never even read any 1970’s political allegory fiction! If she had, she’d know that responding to civil unrest by clamping down on dissidents and randomly executing people who may be 100% innocent is never something that gets your face on a Diamond Jubilee commemorative plate later in life. It’s the kind of thing that results in biographies of you having ominous red and black covers and titles featuring such words as “monster” and “death-o-rama.” But hey, at least she can admit that she made a mistake. Of course, it would be more helpful if she’d realized her mistake before letting her pet killbeasts kill the living hell out of some poor nobleman who was in all likelihood just trying to get his kids back, like some Westeroes Tom Jane or something. That guy probably had some serious problems weighing on his mind, and the last thing he needed was to be brutally torn apart by flying dinosaurs. But hey, Dany can admit when she’s pulled a boner, so you know, it’s fine.

Vision in Silver

Author: Anne Bishop

Series: The Others #3

Subgenre: Urban Fantasy

While mostly known for her debut series, The Black Jewels, Anne Bishop has been a constant presence in the fantasy scene for over fifteen years now. She’s an author I’ve sometimes struggled with as she moves between incredible, hum drum, and sometimes painful execution. Overall, her Others series has been one of her stronger series, and a welcome breath of originality in an otherwise crowded and self-referential urban fantasy scene.

The Others freed the cassandra sangue to protect the blood prophets from exploitation, not realizing their actions would have dire consequences. Now the fragile seers are in greater danger than ever before—both from their own weaknesses and from those who seek to control their divinations for wicked purposes. In desperate need of answers, Simon Wolfgard, a shape-shifter leader among the Others, has no choice but to enlist blood prophet Meg Corbyn’s help, regardless of the risks she faces by aiding him.

Meg is still deep in the throes of her addiction to the euphoria she feels when she cuts and speaks prophecy. She knows each slice of her blade tempts death. But Others and humans alike need answers, and her visions may be Simon’s only hope of ending the conflict.

For the shadows of war are deepening across the Atlantik, and the prejudice of a fanatic faction is threatening to bring the battle right to Meg and Simon’s doorstep…

The Speculative Post's Review

Setting

Characters

Plot

Writing Mechanics

Genre

Before we get started, enterprising or passionate review readers may wish to check out my brief thoughts in 2013 on the first book in the series, Written In Red (part of my Top 5 of 2013), or perhaps my review of book two, Murder of Crows. Or, in summary, I felt that Written In Red was an unexpected comeback for Bishop while Murder of Crows was a solid 3.5 stars.

But what about Vision in Silver? How does it stack up. Overall, this is what I half expected the second book to be: a set-up novel for the world, future novels, and overarching conflict. These books are somewhat necessary, though never my favorites in a series as they can be slower paced, somewhat messy, and generally less entertaining. Sadly, Vision suffered from some of this. There are still some good points to the book, and it was certainly readable and enjoyable.

Much of the breakdown centers around the plot. For this installment in the series, Bishop has switched to a murder mystery for the center of the book. This was a gutsy move, and one that for me didn’t pay off. I like my murder mysteries on occasion, but I also don’t like to have everything given away before the end. Murder mysteries require very stringent care in handing out information. It needs to be enough information so that I can make some educated guesses, but not so much that I’ve solved the crime at least fifty pages before all the characters have (especially when those characters are police). Sadly, in Vision’s case, I was in the boat of dreading more people becoming ‘in the know’ as it meant rehashing ground again.

Another pitfall is that Bishop is starting to swap points of view a bit too rapidly, and between too many characters, to keep effective characterization going. We’re still following Meg around, but she’s really a secondary character in this book. Even Simon is somewhat in the background, with other characters' actions overshadowing his contributions. Now, this would be fine and dandy if we had well-rounded protagonists to take their place. We almost have this in Lt. Montgomery, who takes a great deal of the spotlight during the murder mystery portion of the plot. We met him back in book one as a secondary character. What held him back from protagonist territory is that in Vision he’s still more or less the point of view used when Bishop wants to deal with human government as seen by a human. Add in points of view from Tess, another cassandra sangue and wolfgard who aren’t in the Lakeside Courtyard, and the point-of-view waters get really really muddy. You can’t effectively characterize that many people in 400 pages in a way that lets all of them be fully fleshed protagonists. Well, maybe someone like Sanderson could, but now we’re talking about 800 pages.

In many ways, the waiting for all the characters to get all the information and get on the ball as well as the myriad of points of view kept me from fully engaging in this book. On the other hand, The Others have always read on the ‘lighter’ side of fantasy. They are ‘fluffy’ and fit in with paranormal romances in terms of tone and writing style if not in content. For a crowd who enjoys that end of the fantasy pool, Vision In Silver is a good choice for the spec fic version of a beach read. Those who like something a bit more engaging may want to pass this book by.



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