So, GRRM’s out with a new preview chapter for The Winds of Winter, titled “Mercy.”
It’s amazing…in a very meta way.
I’ve posted some thoughts on tumblr which I will repost here below the cut, where there will be spoilers:
– it’s an Arya chapter! And she’s having identity issues…not the least of which is that she’s playing Sansa in a play. As part of her training as a Faceless Woman, she’s been given the identity of a young actress, to help her get used to playing different parts. And perhaps to deal with a certain Westerosi ambassador.
– Arya’s still having wolf dreams, and Bran’s watching her in them.
– I am really in love with Braavos (“Braavos was a crooked city. The streets were crooked, the alleys were crookeder, and the canals were crookedest of all”) – the democratic cultural ethos, the multiculturalism, the focus on ordinary people striving for a better life. More proof that fantasy as a genre needs to shift from the Middle Ages to the Renaissance, post-haste.
– the Titan acts like a clock for the city! How awesome is that!
– Theater is a big part of Braavosi culture, as a place where the poor and the rich mingle, where the lowly can critique and mock the wealthy and the wealthy absorb the critique – a big difference from minstrel-maiming Westeros. The theater is quite diverse, from Plautus-esque farce to GRRM’s best Shakespearean pastiche.
– Arya’s playing Sansa in The Bloody Hand, a dramatization of…ASOIAF, complete with Robert Baratheon being killed by a demonic boar, and Tyrion taking the place of Richard III as an envious and spiteful figure who seemingly strikes a deal with the Stranger to gain power, who rapes Sansa in Act II. (The seven-faced god has cheated me,” he said. “My noble sire he made of purest gold, and gold he made my siblings, boy and girl. But I am formed of darker stuff, of bones and blood and clay, twisted into this rude shape you see before you.”)
– the play is written by one Phario Forel. Brother? Son? No relation and Xrio Forel is Braavos’ John Smith? The pen is mightier than the sword?
– the play might file off the serial numbers on ASOAIF, changing Stark to Stork, etc. in the same way that Shakespeare changed names to suit the political climate.
– the theater itself is pure Shakespeare’s Globe, with the pit standing in for the groundlings, the bravos up in the gods, balconies for the middle class, and boxes for the wealthy where they can indulge themselves in privacy.
– There’s a mention of a Third Sword of Braavos as well as a first, which suggests that the standing military of Braavos is divided up to prevent their government from being overthrown.
– The Hall of Truth seems to be the legislative House of Braavos, where the various legislators make their votes.
– The Black Pearl is a famous courtesan title, named after a pirate queen who was the daughter of the son of a Sealord and a princess of the Summer Isles, who was once the lover of a Targaryen King. WHICH?
– While Arya definitely falls into character, she can pull herself out to remember…Raff the Sweetling and Dunsen, who’ve accompanied Ser Harys Swyft to Braavos to try to repair the Iron Throne’s relationship with the Iron Bank.
– Tywin Lannister went to Lys when he was Aerys’ Hand. Wow.
– Arya is starting to mature sexually, but in a very very instrumental way.
– She makes him beg for mercy and say ““You’ll need to carry me.” before she stabs him – with a sharpened finger nail to open a vein in his thigh to weaken him so . That’s amazing. Lommy is avenged.
– Arya goes the full Assassin’s Creed to end him as Arya, and then reverts back to Mercy.
– It’s good to see that people have somewhat over-estimated the identity-erasing element of the Faceless Men – it’s not that the identity is erased completely; after all, there’s no good in being an assassin who doesn’t remember they’re an assassin. Rather, they learn to suppress their identity so they are 100% in character.