Rogues

RoguesRogues by George R.R. Martin
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

Rogues, the short story anthology edited by George R.R. Martin and Gardner Dozois, contains over twenty stories of above average quality and wonderful use of the titular quality that connects all the stories. The twenty-one stories from several genres features significant characters as rogues no matter gender, species, and orientation from authors both well-known to general audiences and some note so.

Of the twenty-one stories featured in Rogues the three best not only were high quality writing and features very roguish characters, but also were able to introduce a reader into the already established universe they take place in that only enhanced the story. The opening story “Tough Times All Over” takes place within the First Law world that Joe Abercrombie established himself writing about, “The Inn of the Seven Blessings” by Matthew Hughes takes place with in the world of Archonate, and “A Cargo of Ivories” by Garth Nix takes place within the world of Sir Hereward and Mister Fitz. While these were the best, the stories by Joe R. Lansdale, Michael Stanwick, and Patrick Rothfuss set within an establish world they had create were also very good.

The stories especially created for this anthology is a mixture of the very good, the bad, and those that were just missing something. Daniel Abraham’s “The Meaning of Love”, David W. Ball’s “Provenance”, and Scott Lynch’s “A Year and A Day in Old Theradane” were wonderfully written stories in two separate genres that were in the top seven stories of the whole collection. “Now Showing” by Connie Willis is unfortunately one of the worst stories of the collection which was a shame considering that she wrote about several interesting ideas, but the execution with the characters crushed the story. Yet some of the stories while good and having roguish characters just felt like they were missing something: “Heavy Metal” was missing a fuller backstory to the main character and a better understanding of the supernatural powers at work yet once done could become a fascinating future series for Cherie Priest, and “The Curious Affair of the Dead Wives” was fantastic homage to Sherlock Holmes and John Watson by Lisa Tuttle that just felt it could have been more.

Yet some of the biggest disappointments in this collection were from established authors and their established series. The worst story of the collection is “A Better Way to Die” by Paul Cornell that takes place in his alternate history timeline that features the spy Johnathan Hamilton but the reader has no idea about the world if you had never read an earlier story that featured Hamilton. And my personal disappointment was “The Rogue Prince” that George R.R. Martin wrote as an Archmaester of the Citadel as a biography of Daemon Targaryen but was more of a history of the events leading up to The Dance of the Dragons that he told in “The Princess and the Queen”.

The twenty-one stories that make up Rogues feature–more than not–very good short stories from across genres whether in established worlds or one-offs. Yet like all anthologies, it is a mixed bag in quality and expectations, but often than not the reader will be satisfied after finishing these stories with time well spent in several wonderful settings following some very unscrupulous individuals.

Individual Story Ratings
Tough Times All Over by Joe Abercrombie (4.5/5)
What Do You Do? by Gillian Flynn (3.5/5)
The Inn of the Seven Blessings by Matthew Hughes (5/5)
Bent Twig by Joe R. Lansdale (4/5)
Tawny Petticoats by Michael Stanwick (4/5)
Provenance by David W. Ball (4/5)
Roaring Twenties by Carrie Vaughn (3/5)
A Year and A Day in Old Theradane by Scott Lynch (4/5)
Bad Brass by Bradley Denton (2.5/5)
Heavy Metal by Cherie Priest (3/5)
The Meaning of Love by Daniel Abraham (4/5)
A Better Way to Die by Paul Cornell (1/5)
Ill Seen in Tyre by Steven Saylor (3/5)
A Cargo of Ivories by Garth Nix (4.5/5)
Diamonds from Tequila by Walter Jon Williams (3/5)
The Caravan to Nowhere by Phyllis Eisenstein (2.5/5)
The Curious Affair of the Dead Wives by Lisa Tuttle (3/5)
How the Marquis Got His Coat Back by Neil Gaiman (3.5/5)
Now Showing by Connie Willis (2/5)
The Lightning Tree by Patrick Rothfuss (4/5)
The Rogue Prince, or, A King’s Brother by George R.R. Martin (2.5/5)

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The Rogue Prince (ASOIAF- History)

RoguesThe Rogue Prince, or, A King’s Brother by George R.R. Martin
My rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars

One of the major political and military individuals in the Targaryen Civil War, also known as The Dance of the Dragons, Prince Dameon Targaryen etched his name into the history of Westeros well before he fought for his wife’s right to the Iron Throne. Living almost two hundred years before the main events of George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire, “The Rogue Prince” details the life of a man who was grandson and brother to kings as well as father and grandfather of kings in a line that leads to present.

Daemon Targaryen is a man whose actions would have ramifications for centuries to come, yet in his own biography he is overshadowed by the events and happenings that would lead to The Dance of the Dragons. Yet while most of the text focused on the background to the war Daemon would fight, events of his life that continued to shape Westeros were explored. After failed stints on the small council, Daemon would take charge of the city watch of King’s Landing and reform them to become the Gold Cloaks. Daemon’s alliance with House Velaryon in war, marriage, and politics that would have a profound effect on the later war and it’s aftermath. And Daemon’s rivalry with Hand of the King Otto Hightower over his brother entire reign that gave the King no end of trouble.

Written as a history of events leading up to The Dance in the form of a biography by an Archmaester of the Citadel, Martin mimics many popular biographies of the present day in writing this fictional history. Like many biographies of major players in the American Civil War in which the chain of events and movements that lead to the Civil War at times takes over the biography, Martin’s “The Rogue Prince” follows the lead up to the Targaryen Civil War more than the titular subject yet in a very intriguing way that makes the reader wish Marin might one day write an actual story of one of Daemon’s great adventures or misdeeds.

“The Rogue Prince” is both like and essentially a prequel to “The Princess and the Queen”, a vivid retelling of history of events that surprisingly do connect with George R.R. Martin’s main series as well. However, instead of following the promised roguish Daemon the history is not a biography but a backdoor history text that chronicles the events over the years that lead to The Dance of the Dragons. Thus even though an avid reader of history I enjoyed this piece, the focus away from the roguish titular character leaves something to be desired of the whole.

Dangerous Women 1

Dangerous Women 1Dangerous Women 1 by George R.R. Martin

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The first subdivision of the Dangerous Women anthology edited by George R.R. Martin and Gardner Dozois is a mix bag of both story quality and the interpretation of the phrase ‘dangerous women’. In seven stories across genres around the central theme of women who are dangerous, a reader is treated to see women in various ways only but is also forced to figure out if the women presented or alluded to are actually dangerous.

Of the seven stories featured in Dangerous Women 1 the three best at presenting both a very good story and dangerous women were Carrie Vaugh’s “Raisa Stepanova”, Megan Abbott’s “My Heart Is Either Broken”, and George R.R. Martin’s “The Princess and the Queen”. Just outside these three was Cecelia Holland’s “Nora’s Song” which had a very good story but was seen from the perspective of a little girl finding out how dangerous her mother is. These four stories were at the very beginning and the last three stories of the collection giving the anthology a strong start and finish.

However, the three stories in the middle suffered from a failure of either not being very good or not having a dangerous woman. Both Megan Lindholm’s “Neighbors” and Joe R. Lansdale’s “Wrestling Jesus” were very good stories, but the danger posed by the women either featured or more mentioned then seen was hard to detect. But the weakest story of the entire collection was Lawrence Block’s “I Know How to Pick’em” which went from having potential to falling flat by the end.

Overall Dangerous Women 1 is a mixed bag of very good stories with strong female characters, just very good stories with no danger attached to any female character, and just plain bad all around. The best that could be said is in the end the reader is the ultimate judge.

Individual Story Ratings
Raisa Stepanova by Carrie Vaughn (4/5)
I Know How to Pick’em by Lawrence Block (1/5)
Neighbors by Megan Lindholm (2.5/5)
Wrestling Jesus by Joe R. Lansdale (2/5)
My Heart Is Either Broken by Megan Abbott (4/5)
Nora’s Song by Cecelia Holland (3.5/5)
The Princess and the Queen by George R.R. Martin (4/5)

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The Princess and the Queen (ASOIAF- History)

dw1The Princess and the Queen by George R.R. Martin
My rating: 4 out of 5 stars

The Targaryen civil war known as ‘The Dance of the Dragons’ was mythologized in Westeros by bards for almost two hundred years before the events of George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire. “The Princess and the Queen” offers the history of first great Targaryen civil war through the death of one of the titular characters, but unlike other Targaryen civil wars or rebellions that threatened the dynasty this one features dragons on both sides.

The titular characters were Rhaenyra Targaryen, eldest child of King Viserys I, and Viserys’ second wife Queen Alicent Hightower, mother of Viserys’ eldest son Aegon. These two dangerous women were rivals for one thing, the succession to the Iron Throne. Through oaths and proclamations Viserys had designated Rhaenyra as his heir but Alicent championed the right of her son Aegon to succeed as was Westerosi custom of sons over daughters. For years this feud was building up as Viserys grew older and everyone awaited his death with unease as it felt like a battle for the Iron Throne was sure to follow, a battle that would pit Targaryen dragons against one another.

Written as a history by an archmaester of the Citadel, Martin gives an account of ‘the Dance’ noting first the political intrigue by Queen Alicent and her father to crown her son as Aegon II, then the war of letters and ravens to gather support by the two claimants from all the great lords of the realm before inevitably blood was shed then gushed from almost every corner of the realm. Yet, while some of the narrative reads like a dry history some others describe the action of battles in such a way as to make your imagination view two or more dragons battling one another over sea and land, fighting to the death.

Although the military actions in “The Princess and the Queen” are dominated for the most part by men, it’s the decisions by Rhaenyra and to a lesser extent by Alicent throughout the conflict that make this civil war unlike any other in Westerosi history. Yet, the biggest result of this civil war wasn’t which line of succession won out but that at the end the Targaryen’s greatest claim to the Iron Throne was lost, the dragons. This factor alone has repercussions down to the time of the events of A Song of Ice and Fire in which dragons return to the world.

“The Princess and the Queen” is not like other ASOIAF related short stories, like Dunk & Egg, this is a vivid retelling of history of events that surprisingly do connect with George R.R. Martin’s main series as well as the novellas of Dunk & Egg. As a fan not only of ASOIAF material, but also an avid reader of history I really enjoyed this piece by Martin, even though it is actually much less than he originally wrote of the events of this time. But because of the heavy lean towards male characters in a collection focused on dangerous women, there is some downside.

The Mystery Knight (ASOIAF- Dunk & Egg #3)

warriors-1The Mystery Knight by George R.R. Martin
My rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Political intrigue and mystery are the essence of the third Dunk and Egg novella, “The Mystery Knight”. George R.R. Martin exposes the reader to the historical reality of the reign of King Aerys I as Ser Duncan ‘Dunk’ the Tall and his squire (Prince) Aegon “Egg” Targaryen stumble into a wedding and tournament full of supports of the Blackfyres and mysterious individuals.

The story begins soon after the events of The Sworn Sword, Dunk and Egg stumble upon various lords and hedge knights headed to the wedding of Lord Ambrose Butterwell to a daughter of Lord Frey of the Crossing. Not wanting to pass up a good meal, Dunk decides to go to the wedding and later to enter the tourney under a mystery knight moniker. However, Dunk isn’t the only one under a moniker as is the case with Ser John the Fiddler while another knight, Ser Glendon Ball, claims the name of a famous Blackfyre supporter. However, behind all this pomp and mysterious characters is a fantastical plot to take advantage of the hatred to the Hand of the King Lord Bloodraven and put a Blackfyre on the throne.

The Mystery Knight is the first of the novellas in which magical elements seen in the main books series are seen as well as two characters, one very well-known and the other just recently introduced. From the outset, this novella is very well paced and the growing mystery around the entire wedding of Lord Butterwell only increases the tension that Dunk and Egg find themselves. In the history of Westeros, Ser Duncan the Tall and the future Aegon V Targaryen are two of the most well known figures of recent memory and with the events of The Mystery Knight they leave their second big impact on the political landscape.

ASOIAF Chapter-by-Chapter Rating: A Dance with Dragons

Tower of the Hand, is a site dedicated to George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire book series as well as it’s adaptation HBO’s Game of Thrones.  As part of their site, they have chapter summaries for every chapter in every book and novella of the ASOIAF world.  On each summary page a site member can give their own personal rating for that chapter as a way to show how they liked or disliked the writing, the events, and etc.  So as part of my ASOIAF features here, I’m posting my personal chapter ratings for A Dance with Dragons.

  • Prologue — 9/10
  • Tyrion I — 8/10
  • Daenerys I — 7/10
  • Jon I — 8/10
  • Bran I — 8/10
  • Tyrion II — 7/10
  • The Merchant’s Man (Quentyn I) — 7/10
  • Jon II — 9/10
  • Tyrion III — 7/10
  • Davos I — 8/10
  • Jon III — 7/10
  • Daenerys II — 6/10
  • Reek I (Theon I) — 8/10
  • Bran II — 9/10
  • Tyrion IV — 6/10
  • Davos II — 7/10
  • Daenerys III — 7/10
  • Jon IV — 8/10
  • Tyrion V — 7/10
  • Davos III — 8/10
  • Reek II (Theon II) — 8/10
  • Jon V — 7/10
  • Tyrion VI — 7/10
  • Daenerys IV — 5/10
  • The Lost Lord (Jon Connington I) — 9/10
  • The Windblown (Quentyn II) — 7/10
  • The Wayward Bride (Asha I) — 8/10
  • Tyrion VII — 8/10
  • Jon VI — 8/10
  • Davos IV — 10/10
  • Daenerys V — 6/10
  • Melisandre I — 9/10
  • Reek III (Theon III) — 8/10
  • Tyrion VIII — 8/10
  • Bran III — 9/10
  • Jon VII — 7/10
  • Daenerys VI — 5/10
  • The Prince of Winterfell (Theon IV) — 8/10
  • The Watcher (Areo I) — 9/10
  • Jon VIII — 8/10
  • Tyrion IX — 6/10
  • The Turncloak (Theon V) — 8/10
  • The King’s Prize (Asha II) — 7/10
  • Daenerys VII — 5/10
  • Jon IX — 8/10
  • The Blind Girl (Arya I) — 8/10
  • A Ghost in Winterfell (Theon VI) — 8/10
  • Tyrion X — 8/10
  • Jaime I — 8/10
  • Jon X — 8/10
  • Daenerys VIII — 6/10
  • Theon VII — 9/10
  • Daenerys IX — 9/10
  • Jon XI — 8/10
  • Cersei I — 7/10
  • The Queensguard (Barristan I) — 8/10
  • The Iron Suitor (Victarion I) — 8/10
  • Tyrion XI — 8/10
  • Jon XII — 10/10
  • The Discarded Knight (Barristan II) — 7/10
  • The Spurned Suitor (Quentyn III) — 7/10
  • The Griffin Reborn (Jon Connington II) — 9/10
  • The Sacrifice (Asha III) — 8/10
  • Victarion II — 9/10
  • The Ugly Little Girl (Arya II) — 9/10
  • Cersei II — 9/10
  • Tyrion XII — 8/10
  • The Kingbreaker (Barristan III) — 9/10
  • The Dragontamer (Quentyn IV) — 8/10
  • Jon XIII — 9/10
  • The Queen’s Hand (Barristan IV) — 8/10
  • Daenerys X — 9/10
  • Epilogue — 10/10

Other Chapter-by-Chapter posts:
A Game of Thrones
A Clash of Kings
A Storm of Swords
A Feast for Crows
The Winds of Winter
A Dream of Spring

A Dance with Dragons (ASOIAF #5)

A Dance with Dragons (A Song of Ice and Fire, #5)A Dance with Dragons by George R.R. Martin

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

As crows feast over the carrion of southern Westeros, in the steadily wintery North and the sun-soaked far east of Slaver’s Bay there is A Dance with Dragons both literally and figuratively. After waiting five years in between the fourth and fifth installments of A Song of Ice and Fire, George R.R. Martin brought back the stories of Jon Snow, Tyrion Lannister, and Daenerys Targaryen after a ten year wait after finishing A Storm of Swords. As with A Feast for Crows, this book shows how new leaders handle responsibility and the results of their actions.

While the previous book had a feeling of intimate focus, A Dance with Dragons returned to the grand scale that had given Martin’s series one of its biggest appeals. The majority of the book takes place in North or Meereen, whether in the city or traveling towards it. At the Wall, Jon has to juggle the needs of the Stannis Baratheon, the Night’s Watch itself, the Wildlings, and more importantly the Others who look to take advantage of men divided against one another. Just a little south, the Boltons and Freys look to secure the North as Theon Greyjoy reeks out an existence within the confines of Winterfell all the while as his sister Asha marches with Stannis as the coming of winter hits hard without knowing that Davos Seaworth has discovered that ‘the north remembers’. Tyrion’s escape from King’s Landing and his eventual journey to the far east of Slaver’s Bay is full of soul searching, the need to survive, and finally the thrill of political intrigue especially as he sends another Dragon west towards Westeros. Wherein Meereen, Dany is finding ruling a conquered city challenging especially after confining her dragons and must compromise to bring peace from her foes within the city walls all the while enemies approach without as well as several friends.

The much lamented “Meereenese Knot” that Martin talked during the writing of A Dance with Dragons, is the area of the book in which many are dissatisfied, including myself to an extent. In all honesty, the majority of Dany’s chapters were my least favorite of the entire book which made me not look forward to anything related to Meereen until after she had ridden out of the city in style. Once Dany had left, in her place came Barristan Selmy who seemed to get things moving with a little help from Quentyn Martell. Although the later character’s story was a fiery catastrophe, Barristan made me look forward to seeing Meereen again as things were actually happening. Given the issues and personal dilemmas that Dany was facing, it felt that it was parallel with Jon however Martin seemed to write Jon’s chapters better than Dany’s which made Meereen a slog until she left and when she did her chapters improved dramatically.

The first 60% of A Dance with Dragons takes place at the same time as A Feast for Crows and it isn’t until the final two-fifths of the book that the entire epic feels whole again as previous POV characters Cersei, Jaime, and Victarion make important appearances. However there is one important new character making a first appearance in this book that could considerably change the political landscape of Westeros for better or ill as The Winds of Winter hit the continent.

After a wait of five and ten years respectively for this installment and for a lot of these characters, A Dance with Dragons is a very good book. Although one major point of view character’s chapters are not up to par with those from previous books, the great writing of other major and secondary characters more than makes up for it resulting in a harrowing and thrilling latter part of the second act of A Song of Ice and Fire.

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