Daenerys was my favourite point-of-view when I was reading this series for the first time. I’m looking forward to this!
The chapter opens with Viserys being creepy, which is Viserys’s default setting. Brothers should never say the word “caress” to their sisters, in any context. Eurgh. Talking about the fabric bringing out the colour in Dany’s (Daenerys is a pretty name, but I’m lazy) eyes is not helping! There are a lot of sexual undertones to the way Viserys treats Dany, but we are talking about Targaryens, a House whose words might as well have been “Incest: a game the whole family can play.” Here’s a creepy question no one wanted to contemplate: if the rebellion had never happened, would Dany and Viserys be forced to marry even though Viserys was not the heir to the throne? Now, Targaryens do not have a monopoly on incest in A Song of Ice and Fire, but in their case, it’s institutional incest. There must have been some sort of laws and traditions governing it, right?
No, brain bleach will not be provided with these recaps.
Dany’s age is established as 13 in the very beginning of the chapter, just to make sure that we fully appreciate the creepy. She and Viserys exposit about Illyrio, the man on whose generosity they’ve been living for the past few months and words like “throne” and “princess” are tossed about so that we know these are not mere peasants that pulled our attention away from Westeros. (Quick geography lesson as an aside: Westeros is the continent on which the Stark and related storylines take place; Dany is on the continent of Essos. The two are separated by the Narrow Sea.)
Despite being fairly heavy on world-building exposition, the beginning of the chapter is also a good introduction to Dany as a character. Dany’s smart, she knows how to listen, gather information, and form her own opinions. She knows that Viserys’s dreams of reconquering Westeros are largely illusory, but can keep her thoughts to herself in the name of self-preservation.
Viserys slimes the scenery some more and inflicts some physical and sexual abuse on Dany before finally leaving. Apropos of nothing (cough), I’ll give GRRM one thing: as upsetting as his character-killing can be, it can also be equally satisfying.
Dany’s mental wanderings, once she’s left on her own for a bit, provide the geographical location for the current scene and also establish her and Viserys as the scions of an overthrown Westerosi regime. Because we know her age, this also begins to establish the timeline of the events that led up to A Game of Thrones: Dany is 13 now and was still a fetus when the “Usurper” took over the Kingdoms. Dany’s father and brother were killed then, her mother died giving birth to her, and finally their last remaining loyal retainer, Ser Willem Darry, took her and Viserys across the sea to Braavos, where she grew up. They’re penniless now, living on the hand-outs of those who hope to benefit politically and financially from the possibility of putting Viserys on the Westerosi throne, and Illyrio is more or less the last person who still thinks he can spin that pipe dream into reality.
The slave-girl that’s washing Dany tries to then sell her on the virtues of the man Dany herself is being sold to: Khal Drogo. He’s the tallest, most handsomest rapist and pillager in the land! Dany’s problem with all this is that she’s marrying a stranger instead of Viserys like she always assumed she would. This is what they call Stockholm Syndrome, Dany. You know, she actually looks a lot like a stereotypical heroine of a badly written romance novel: “molten” silver hair and violet eyes. Especially the latter is a bad romance cliché. Luckily, she’s actually a developed, interesting character behind that trope-filled exterior.
The older woman dabs perfume in all of Dany’s no-no places and I really wish people would stop molesting her. It’s being layered on a bit thick at this point. Maybe I shouldn’t complain, though, we were allowed a prologue and two entire chapters filled with just death before being plunged into the “tits” side of the equation. Dany’s decked out in gold and silk and the younger girl tells her she looks like a princess, by which I suspect she means “Princess Leia in her slave outfit.”
Then Dany goes out into the foyer, where Viserys is waiting for her, luckily Illyrio joins them before Viserys gets to slime over her too much, but then the two start discussing Dany’s period. Sigh. Viserys doubts Dany’s ability to entice Drogo; after all, everyone knows that nomadic people in a fantasy setting like to have sex with boys and farm-animals of choice, but Illyrio assures him that Dany’s Valyrian looks (silver hair! purple eyes!) make up for the fact that she’s a god damn child.
On the way to Drogo’s house, Illyrio feeds Viserys stories of the poor, oppressed Westerosi peasants drinking to his health. Dany’s smart enough to know bullshit when she hears it, but Viserys laps it up. They get to the Drogo’s party-pad, given to him by the magisters of Pentos as a bribe so that he won’t sack their city, and Viserys’s paranoia starts playing up while Illyrio soothes it and feeds it at the same time. Inside are a whole bunch of men from all over the place and one Westerosi knight: Ser Jorah Mormont. Mormont, it seems, is on the run because he sold poachers into slavery instead of giving them to the Night’s Watch, but he’s vaguely based on European knights while the rest of the people there all have skins in various shades of brown, so he’s the man Dany and Viserys are most interested in. Of course.
And then we meet Drogo, who’s very tall and only about 30, just so we don’t think that barely-teenaged Dany is being married off to someone old. He has bells in his long braid, as do the other Dothraki there, because the Dothraki are not subtle and would never bother sneaking up on the people they’re about to massacre. Dany gets really scared of Drogo and finally starts acting like the child she is, begging Viserys to just let her go home. Viserys reacts to this moment of weakness with scorn, much more psychotic but of the same flavour as the disappointment shown by Ned Stark when baby Rickon showed some apprehension at being given a direwolf for a pet. It sure sucks to be a kid in this book.
So Viserys talks some more about all the rape he’s willing to subject Dany to in order to get an army and then mentions her breasts again and, my god, just get her away from this asshole, Drogo cannot be any worse (I only say this because I know Drogo isn’t worse, if this were my first time reading the book, I wouldn’t be making any such assumption). And then the chapter mercifully ends.
It’s not that I’ve forgotten how absolutely vile Viserys is — and if I had, the TV show would’ve reminded me, having kept that charming “I’d let his whole khalasar fuck you if need be, sweet sister, all forty thousand men, and their horses too if that was what it took to et my army” line — but I did forget how crammed all that vileness is into a chapter that’s not that long. Also, I think I’m a lot more creeped out by it now that I’m closer to Drogo’s age than during my first read when I was closer to Dany’s. On the bright side, I’m anticipating much satisfaction to be had when Dany takes charge and tells everyone to go fuck themselves for a change.