It has been a while since I’ve done any reviews, largely due to the fact that I’ve barely read 10-12 novels in the last one year or so. Far cry from my regular 9-11 books a month before that. Just been a long period of “don’t really care, just want time off, too much work, ugh” and so on. Getting back into reading hasn’t exactly been easy since it is as if my reading mojo is gone. But thankfully, I’ve started to turn it around of late, and one of the books I’ve had the pleasure of reading recently is Kate Elliott’s Black Wolves.
Black Wolves is the first novel in the trilogy of the same name. It follows a multitude of characters in a (low) fantasy setting and deals with the ruthless politics of a kingdom forged by the sword and inherited by weaker successors where the loyalties of good men and women are commodities. It is a very different kind of novel than I usually read, but I have a fair amount of experience with Kate’s diverse works, and Black Wolves doesn’t disappoint. It is a fun and entertaining read, though it could have used some trimming here and there to be a bit more brief.
The previous episodes of Game of Thrones season 4 have all been travelogues in that they have attempted to touch base with a myriad number of characters scattered throughout Westeros and across the Narrow Sea, and so there has been distinct lack of cohesion of the story. When six-seven storylines are going on at the same time in each episode, it can become quite a task to keep everything straight, and to follow along, especially if you happen to be a new entrant to the show (not recommended!). And the quality of these five episodes has definitely been all over the place as well, for a myriad number of reasons.
This week’s episode, “The Laws of God and Men“, thankfully tells a much more focused story and it moves the larger story forward significantly, much more than the previous episodes did in my opinion. We first meet with Stannis and Ser Davos as they sail to Braavos to secure the aid of the Iron Bank. We also meet up with Daenerys as she “learns to govern” in Meereen instead of continuing her conquest. Then we are in the North with Yara Greyjoy and her chosen Ironborn as they go to Ramsay Snow’s base at the Dreadfort to rescue Theon. And then finally we are in King’s Landing, where Tyrion is finally led to trial for the murder of Joffrey. Lots happened this week and thankfully almost all of it was good.
Last week’s episode of Game of Thrones Season 4 was very much a downer for me. And also quite possibly one of the few episodes of the show that I really don’t like, for a variety of reasons. It contains some of the worst of the show so far, and it continues on blithely as it ignores its own faults. And that is a dangerous road to take, if the showrunners can’t spot or acknowledge the mistakes they are making. A large part of that has had to with the show’s glorification of violence against women, although often the show also struggles under the weight of its army of characters, and keeping all the various plotlines straight is a tough job at the best of times.
This week’s episodes moves the story somewhat forward but given the fact that we are now half done with the new season, the show lacks excitement and zest. What happens in this episode is still the movement and arrangement of the various chess pieces in play. The Lannisters, the Tyrells, they are all consolidating their hold on power, even as the Mother of Dragons is set to sail for King’s Landing (not quite!) and the adventures of the surviving Stark children still continue in the North, blithely so. This was all just too much filler this week.
I started off my review last week by talking about the show’s preference for shock and awe with respect to violence against and the sexualisation of women. Game of Thrones does not have a good track record of that at all, and this season has shown that the showrunners are definitely not going to shy away from that. In fact, they are going to double down. This is quite puzzling indeed and one of the reasons why I’m never able to enjoy an episode as much as I want. That was true for this week’s episode as well, and I’m afraid that I don’t see this improving in the near future.
This week’s episode “Oathkeeper” is basically the calm before the storm. It lacks any significant OMFG moments right up until the final seconds and even then it isn’t really enough. Basically many of the different stories are moving forward and we suffer them all in silence. There were some good bits such as the emotional scenes between Brienne and Jamie, and some not-so-good bits such as Daenarys once again basking in the adoration of slaves, playing into the whole “white savour of coloured people” trope. All I felt after the end of the episode was “meh, next”.