Dangerous Women, all new tales of powerful women from Jim Butcher (We love The Dresden Files), Diana Gabaldon, Lev Grossman, Brandon Sanderson, George R.R. Martin et al. Edited by GRRM and Gardner Dozois. Hardcover, Php1399 at National Bookstores.
We were so excited to read the new George R.R. Martin novella, a prequel to A Song of Ice and Fire, that we unwrapped the doorstop-size book while we were standing in the taxi queue at Glorietta 4. That’s when we were approached by a beggar who said he needed money to buy medicine, whereupon he lifted his pants leg to show his blackened, swollen leg. So we gave him all the change in our pocket, which must’ve been around ten bucks. He seemed to really be ill, and to be honest we just wanted him to stop showing us his leg. He looked at the coins and said, “Ah. Change.” Then he went away, looking peeved and making us sorry we had given him anything.
That has nothing to do with the book, we just thought we’d mention it.
The novella The Princess and the Queen, or The Blacks and the Greens is about one of the civil wars that rocked Westeros centuries before the events in A Song of Ice and Fire. Specifically, the war among the Targaryens known as The Dance of Dragons. At 81 pages, this novella is 20 times more eventful than A Dance with Dragons, the fifth volume of Martin’s epic. That one was a slog, with entire chapters that read like filler, and too much mooning about love by Daenerys (Get a grip, you have a kingdom to reconquer). We confess that we skipped many sections, which we will probably regret once all the plots are resolved.
The Princess and the Queen does away with the interior monologues and most of the dialogue, focusing instead on the major events following the death of Viserys I Targaryen. His eldest daughter Rhaenyra was presumed to be his heir, but his second wife Alicent decided it would be better for Westeros if her son Aegon II succeeded to the Iron Throne. Both sides have dragons, and the sections on how one becomes a dragonrider could provide material for a whole book. (Don’t tell George, it’ll distract him some more.)
The Princess and the Queen reads like those medieval chronicles enumerating the warriors and their most prominent qualities, then telling us how they died. It is brutal and efficient, and you can imagine the author cackling at the wonderful names he’s invented (And then howling at the twists he puts his characters through). There is plenty of carnage, and in case we enjoy the bloodletting too much, the sorrow and the pity of war. Conspiracy! Treachery! And best of all, aerial battles involving dragons, whom we respond to as if they were human.
A Song of Fire and Ice is said to be loosely based on the Hundred Years’ War in British history; The Princess and the Queen seems to draw from events in The Anarchy, in which the king’s daughter Matilda asserted her right to the throne over the male claimants. Or maybe it doesn’t. Our point is that shocking as the events in Game of Thrones may be, most of them happened in real life.
We mean no disrespect towards the other authors, whose stories we will now read.
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The Outlander by Diana Gabaldon. Mass market paperback, Php415 at National Bookstores.
We’ve been seeing rave reviews of the TV series The Outlander, which we would view unhesitatingly if it weren’t produced by Starz. Has anyone seen it? The photos look Highlander-ish. According to the book blurb it is a historical time-travel romance; we’ll give it a whack.
Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage by Haruki Murakami. Hardcover, Php885 at National Bookstores.
Another year, another Murakami book.
Jacket and binding design by Chip Kidd, who also did the terrific IQ84 cover.