Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Wednesday Ruminations:The Princess and the Queen...


The Princess and the Queen, or, The Blacks and the Greens, is the title of George R.R. Martin's novella published in the anthology Dangerous Women. Now that this is said and done, I can take a break, get some air and then continue. I knew Martin loves long titles, but this one takes the cake. It is also the novella that replaced what was first thought to be the fourth short story about Dunk and Egg, called She-Wolves. This was the first story of the anthology I read. I will read the rest as well, but this one had to be first.

Honestly, I would much prefer She-Wolves over The Princess and the Rest of Really Annoyingly Long Title. Just because we could see more of everyone's favourite knight at hearth, and his too smart for his age squire of a prince. It would also show us Winterfell, a little less old Nan, and Starks. It is to be said that Starks are always Starks. Names might change, Winter may come and go, but Starks always remain the same. This can be seen in this novella as well.

But enough of what we could have. She-Wolves will come out sooner or later, and we will be all happy. At least let us hope the next book Martin will publish will be A Winds of Winter. Here is hoping it will come by the end of 2014. No pressure. Let us talk about the.. You know what, from now on, I am calling the damned novella simply Princess, when I say Princess, you know I mean the novella. So let us talk about the Princess then.

The story is set between 129 and 131 AC (that is of Aegon's Coming for those unaware). The story is not so much of a story as it is stylised retelling of a history in a fashion of ancient historians. In that respect, it is nice change of pace, from the otherwise entertaining lively style you know what you see that Martin loves.

It centres around the dispute for the crown between Aegon II, and Princess Rhaenyra. Both were legitimate children of the king Viserys. The thing was, that Rhaenyra was the eldest, and the throne should have been hers, as her father made her his heir. Aegon II, did not even have any wish at the beginning to rule. When they first told him of his father's death, he enquired when will his sister be crowned. Only later, due to the plot his mother, the second wife of King Viserys, Dowager Queen Alicent, concocted did he accept the crown, that should be his sister's.

In any case, one plot lead to another, one threat to two others, and soon they had armies on each other's throats as much as dragons. Besides the might of the winged reptiles that we can witness through the telling, it is really astonishing how very brutal this war was. Indeed, there was no Red Wedding, but in sheer brutality it goes way beyond most anything we could see in A Song of Ice and Fire.

In a Song of Ice and Fire we can see that people are bad by nature. In Tales of Dunk and Egg, we can see the consequences felt after the war is done. But in Princess, we can see for ourselves how vary dirty, brutal, and sickening the whole thing can really be. It really manages to show that eye for an eye does not give justice, but two cripples.

And maybe that is the theme of novella. Unlike other series, there is no clear good guy here. In A Song of Ice and Fire, we have Starks, in Tales of Dunk and Egg, we have Dunk and Egg, but here gloves are off. The claim of both sides has some merit, both sides are wrong, and at same time, both sides have a point. I found myself rooting for one side, and then on the next page for the other.

There is no happy ending, which we are used to by now from Martin. At most, we can always hope for bittersweet. But this novella, from the start to finish, feels like a punch in the gut. I did not turn pages out of excitement, to see how horribly Martin could murder his characters. I turned pages hoping, there will be nothing worse than it already was on previous page. And yet, it always was.

As such, the story must have been a trip for Martin. To just come by a character on one page, and on the next just kill him horribly in the most ingenious way he could come up with.

While the story is great, and it gives us a glimpse to what we can expect from the three always bigger lizards in A Song of Ice and Fire, I was left longing for more. I want A Winds of Winter. I want a real deal. History of Westeros is always a good read, but I want to know how things are in present. I want to know what is happening with ever-growing list of PoV characters that continue to grow from book to book.

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