Things I/m Looking Forward To Seeing in GoT Season 8

1.  Tyrion and Sansa reunion – this one is rife with so many opportunities. I don’t ship them romantically but they did start to get along and I think they would have eventually found their way to friendship if not for the Red Wedding and the rest of Tyrions’s family.

2. Varys and Sansa –  They’ve interacted very briefly and I don’t think they’ve ever done that on camera. After her wedding and Tyrion is already drunk, Sansa excuses herself and can be seen talking to Varys. Varys may not have cared about her as much in the beginning except that she was and remains the key to the North, but that might begin to change once he sees the way she’s readied her people for the wars to come. I think in Sansa, he’ll see someone who has a sharp mind and has stopped hiding it. Remember, she’s learnt the game from someone that Varys respected, so I’m looking forward to seeing them interact.

3. Jamie and Brienne – We saw them briefly interact in season 7 at the Dragonpit but at that point they were on opposing sides and hardly got to speak to each other. Season 8 may give us more screen time with these 2.

4. Jamie and Sansa – Jamie only knows of Sansa what he remembers seeing when she was a young and naïve girl and knows a little from what Brienne has told him so far. He’s seen a bit of Dany when she burned him men to cinders so I’m curious what his reaction will be when he sees Sansa who is quite different from the other queens.

5. Jon and Arya – Jon hasn’t seen Arya since they both left for their respective destinations. Since then, they have both gone through traumatic situations that have vastly changed them from the people they used to be. It’ll be interesting to see them navigate their way to each other while, at the same time, realizing that neither is who they used to be.

6. Jon and Bran – A lot of what’s true for Jon and Arya is also true for Jon and Bran. They are vastly different people from who they were when they were younger. Jon died and came back while Bran is now the 3-Eyed Raven. Their meeting will have even more significance considering the news that Bran has for him. The news that has the power to change a lot of things.

7. Dany and Sansa – Dany and Sansa have had a pretty similar arc, both were underestimated and sold, used and abused by others. They both also managed to survive and got rid of their abusers along the way. But the one thing that Dany had that Sansa never did were allies. Even when Dany was a nobody, she was married to a Khal who loved her and she had Jorah who served and protected her. Sansa, on the other hand, lived in the vipers’ pit, surrounded by enemies on all sides and no allies, she judged a person’s decency based on how hard they hit her and that is a truly sorry state of affairs. They have come out on top and both have something that they didn’t earlier, agency. They finally have control over their lives. Sansa has Winterfell and her family, Dany finally has the forces to take back the IT (whether or not she deserves it or would be a good ruler is not the point right now) Seeing these two women facing each other should make for interesting television, provided the writers handle it well. They are vastly different women and their approach to ruling reflects that. Add to that, Jon will probably come with the news that he did a lot more than merely bend the knee. This should make for an interesting dynamic between the ladies. Ideally, I don’t want them to have fights or disagreements because of Jon, that would  be a disservice to both characters. So here’s hoping.

8. Sansa and Jon – Now, this would be truly interesting to watch. We know that Jon and Sansa have a very different methods of ruling. When he comes back, having bent the knee and with Dany in tow, his already position will be made even more so. He’s going to come back to a Winterfell that is in a far better condition than he left it in. It’s going to feel more like the Winterfell that he grew up in, when he was truly happy. He’s going to realise that while the Northern Lords did swear loyalty to him, they give more weight to words from Sansa. Sansa who can address their concerns while also not undermining Jon’s crown. The Sansa that he will meet upon his return will again be different from the one he left, more confident, self-assured. Sansa was never going to just sit back and let him make decisions that affects all of them. She was far from happy when he bent the knee without consulting her. He’s going to have an even tougher time making snap decisions like that while in Winterfell, especially once he finds out that the Northern Lords feel more loyal to her than they do to him.

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When I Hit You or a Portrait of the Writer as a Young Wife by Meena Kandasamy Review

When I Hit You was a tough read. Its plot is fairly simple, woman gets married, the husband turns out to be an abusive a-hole and she manages to escape. The plot is not novel, but what makes the book an absolutely gripping read, is the way it is written.

I found out about the book completely by accident when I read an article about it in The Wire, I’ll post the link to it because even the article is worth a read. I am not entirely sure how the book would read to a non-Indian reader because there are so many local references that a lot of them would be lost on someone not familiar with the country and some of the cultural aspects. But there are other things that are universal and therefore should not impede the reading experience. I cannot use the word enjoy because this is not an enjoyable read.

The book didn’t shy away from the violence that the wife suffered, Kandasamy described the violence in a very matter-of-fact way. The novel is narrated in the first person and it really allowed the reader to inhabit the mind of the protagonist. The book is not particularly thick and is a fast read, however, the incidents described are disturbing enough that the book is not easy to get through. There are no saviours here except the protagonist herself.

The character is a modern Indian woman, she is well-educated and opinionated, she is a feminist and considers herself to be a strong woman but Kandasamy never offers a physical description for her. In an interview about the book, Kandasamy stated that she did that because she wanted to tell every woman’s story. She wanted women to be able to relate to what the protagonist was going through. She takes it to the extent where she doesn’t even name the main character. The novel is partly inspired by the author’s own abusive marriage but she draws from more than just that.

The language is matter-of-fact but there is a certain beauty to it. It’s not cut and dry. The novel also weaves between the past and present, offering a glimpse into her past relationships. Kandasamy uses anecdotes and letters that were written and them promptly deleted among other things to drive home the fear, abuse and humiliation that the protagonist lives with on a daily basis.

I liked that the character was not some virginal young girl but an adult woman who had had her fair share of relationships. There is no sense of shame in this, she talks about these past relationships with the same candour as she does when describing the abuses that she suffers at the hands of her husband. She addresses the age-old question that people love asking victims of domestic abuse, ‘why did they continue to stay?’ It is easy to stand outside the relationship and judge the woman while still giving the man the benefit of the doubt. The problem is compounded because in this case it’s a ‘love-marriage’ and not an arranged one. This adds another layer of difficulty for the woman because now it’s a matter of choice, therefore meaning that she clearly chose this man, she knew him. How could he change so drastically after marriage? But the truth is that it’s so easy to hide aspects of your personality when you’re married and not even living together, that it’s not a stretch to believe that he could turn out to be a very different man post marriage. To the outsiders, he is a charming, intelligent man but to her, he’s a very jealous man with violent and vicious temper.

In the husband she paints the picture of toxic masculinity. He is a repulsive character and one who is genuinely terrifying. There is no one thing that sets him off, it could be anything or nothing. There is no reasoning with him, no appeasement save for the wife to submit in both body and mind. He isolates her physically as well as socially, there is no one she can call for help because he’s painted himself as the victim. It is his need to dominate and dictate every aspect of his wife’s life that is truly stifling, all the while stating that he’s doing it for her own good. Constantly slut-shaming her for all her past relationships while never being honest about his own past.

This book left me feeling so infuriated, the fact that she reached out for help to her parents and was told repeatedly that all men take time to get used to being married and that she should not rile him by arguing by him and so on. All of it useless advice. They never once told her that she could leave immediately and never look back. They were more interested in making sure that their social standing was intact, their daughter’s pain was secondary to that.

When I Hit You is not an easy read but it is an important one. It paints a picture of a house that was meant to be home that instead turned into an prison and the man who was supposed to be a lover and a friend and instead turned out to be a monster. I’d recommend reading the book as well as the article that lead me to it. You can find it here.

It (2017) Review

I love horror films but good horror films are rare and hard to find. So many of them are so formulaic that it’s almost like if you’ve seen one then you’ve seen them all. The scares are the generic, jump-scares that might work initially but have no long-term value. The characters are hollow and two-dimensional cut-outs with no depth. 

It has the jump-scares like most other horror films but it executes them wonderfully. The film also does a great job of setting up the atmosphere as well as the somewhat dreary setting of the entire town. One of the best aspects of the film are the characters, those are beautifully realised.

It is a lot of fun to watch because it balances the scares with several laugh-out-loud moments. That elevates the film above the dull and often dour horror films that we are usually saddled with.

The film also makes sure that the kids are entirely on their own. The adults are either oblivious or not present. Some of the worst characters in the film are the adults, other parents. They are supposed to protect the children and far from that, they are the threats that the kids must stand up to on their own, whether it’s an overbearing bully of a mother, or an abusive father. They might not look as disturbing as Pennywise, but they were just as horrible.

The casting of the kids was great and they all worked so well together. It was easy to believe that they quickly formed a bond and stuck together even when they were terrified. I also loved that the only girl in the group, Bev, was not treated any differently than the boys and she was just as brave as the rest of the group. I loved that the film stayed away from the usual tropes and clichés associated with girls that one encounters in the films from this genre. That was a welcome relief. All the kids were amazing in the film and the film could not have been better cast.

Bill Skarsgård as Pennywise was brilliant. There were a number of scary elements in the film, but Pennywise the scariest among them. I would not like to meet Bill dressed as Pennywise on a quiet street. He did an amazing job.

If you liked Stranger Things, then this film is right up your alley

Queen of Shadows (Throne of Glass, #4) by Sarah J. Maas Review

OK, finally done with this and I’m giving this series a break till the final book comes out next year since I know the next book ends in a cliffhanger and the one after that focuses on Chaol and I simply can’t tolerate that.

Chaol is a piece of shit and a hypocrite and if he died in the series, I’d do a happy dance, though I know that that won’t happen. All he did was whine and complain and wallow in self-pity and it was annoying as hell. Seriously, you could skip his entire chapter and not miss much. Add to that he is horrible to Aelin without ever considering what she’s gone through. It’s perfectly fine for Dorian to have magic but not fore Aelin, how does that work? Besides, her entire family was murdered by the king this dipshit spend years serving and never once questioned his own loyalty. When he went to Endovier to bring Celaena for the tournament, he never once blinked at the brutality in that camp and yet now, suddenly, NOW he cares about slaves and doing the right thing? I’m sorry but that doesn’t ring true. I can’t say I hate a character more than hate this waste of space (literally)

Next comes Rowan. I was glad when he showed up here that’s how frustrated I was by the way the plot was progressing. I still think he’s highly problematic and a huge douche though, that hasn’t changed. Brooding guys who are actually assholes are no longer cool or did the author miss that memo? A lot of it is also manipulation on the author’s part. She’s consciously murdering her own character by writing him so poorly (Chaol) so that Rowan looks more appealing. I dislike being manipulated like that.

What the author does very well however is give us a whole hos secondary characters that are a pleasure to read. I loved Manon in the previous book and though there were moments here when she seemed to have left her brains somewhere else, she bounces back in spectacular fashion. My new favourite (vying for the spot with Manon) is Lysandra. I love this girl and I was glad to see genuine friendships between women, women who worked well together and care about each other. Lysandra is a badass and while she may not have ever been skilled with a blade, she was never weak. She was willing to protect a small child even if that meant that her own freedom was denied. That’s a different kind of bravery but no less important. I even loved Asterin, loved that she was loyal to Manon but never stopped questioning her decisions when she felt that the decisions were wrong. I hope we see more of her and the Thirteen. Even Elide, though she wasn’t featured heavily, she still made an impact and I liked that she while she may have a disability, she used every other resource she had to make sure she could protect herself. She was one smart cookie. Even Nesryn, I liked that she didn’t immediately get googly-eyed over that asshat Chaol. Nesryn deserves better

Kaltain Rompier deserved better. She was portrayed as a vapid, shallow and toxic women but she’s come a long way. She was being used by the King and Perrington the entire time and no one saw it. She was left alone with no one to protect her or look out for her. But she blew me away at the end. I loved what she became and was one of the best parts of the book.

I like Dorian and that hasn’t changed. He remains someone who is willing to help his people and those he cares about even it means that it puts him in a precarious position. The end of the book leaves me wondering if we’ll see something develop between him and Manon.

I wish Aedion had had more to do. Once Rowan shows up, Aedion gets pushed to the background which was unfortunate. Aedion and Aelin were clearly close when they were younger and I happy with their reunion and I would have liked to see them interact more. Hopefully we’ll see that in the next book.

Heir of Fire (Throne of Glass #3) by Sarah J. Maas Review

Where do I start? Heir of Fire has its moments, it is fast-paced and action-packed but there are still problems. First, I really don’t understand Rowan. The author one brooding idiot for another. Speaking of, Chaol has become an even bigger idiot and I didn’t even think that was possible. The only thing that I like about Rowan is that, unlike Chaol, when he sees Aelin’s powers fully manifest, hesitate he’s not scared of her or repulsed by what he sees. He takes it in his stride and even helps her.

I vastly prefer Dorian to Chaol, have from the beginning. He always had more of a backbone than Chaol. He offers more understanding to Aelin than Chaol ever did. I have no doubt that Dorian and Aelin will not get together but if they had, I would liked them together. They both see aspects of each other but don’t turn away in judgement and fear.

Maas does create some very interesting secondary characters and I have to say that I like Manon, her band of Thirteen and Abraxos. She is bloodthirsty and doesn’t apologise for it.

Another problem with the book was that there were too many POVs. To the point where they broke to narrative flow and that was jarring. And also Chaol’s pov chapters were boring as hell. I am surprised that we didn’t have more chapters from Rowan’s pov.

Anyway, here’s hoping book 4 is better.

Crown of Midnight (Throne of Glass #2) by Sarah J. Maas Review

This was certainly a very thrilling and eventful read. There were parts that I really enjoyed. I loved Nehemia and even Celaena had certain characteristics that I liked. I liked that she’s so feminine and she fully embraces that femininity. All too often in fantasy and most YA fiction, the female characters who shun their femininity are the ones who are proclaimed as badass, whereas the ones who are feminine are presented in a negative light and often viewed as weak. In that sense, Celaena is refreshing. She is very feminine, she likes pretty dresses and she likes looking nice. None of this detracts from her skill with a blade or with the darkness inside her.

I was also very pleasantly surprised about how important Nehemia was, both to Celaena and the plot. She was an amazing character and easily one of my favourites. I loved their friendship and they could be themselves with each other.

I even liked Dorian for the most part and it pretty apparent that he was never going to be the love interest, he wasn’t broody enough. (I don’t get this fascination for brooding guys who are nothing but glorified assholes) Anyway, Mr. Broody Extraordinaire aka Chaol was positively insufferable. He made a number of bad calls that even cost someone’s life. He was wilfully blind and dumb and followed his king’s orders even when he was troubled by them. He constantly judged Celaena and yet he was far worse because Celaena had no illusions about herself and her world but Chaol thought he was better and honourable, all the while serving a king who was cold and cruel and one who took pleasure in that cruelty. I had no patience for him and his whining. Seriously, yuck! I am hoping that he isn’t the main love interest, I simply cannot tolerate him. He’s an absolute idiot…

Well, now I’m off to read the next book.

Sansa Stark vs Cersie Lannister – Part 2

I’ve already written one meta about Cersie and Sansa which you can read here.

Having seen all of Season 7, I have to say I am even more convinced that the final showdown must be between Sansa and Cersie for a number of reasons.

First off, there are parallels, both Sansa and Cersie are usually overlooked and underestimated by those around them. Dany doesn’t suffer from this because of her dragons, but neither of these two women have that luxury. They are both ordinary (and I use that term very loosely) women who have nothing but their wits to keep them alive. They have had to become smart in order to survive. Cersie had to do it because she was stuck in a love-less marriage with Robert, a man who never really had any ambition to be king and was therefore not as careful as one might have been had they cared about the position. Cersie also knew what had happened to Rhaegar’s wife and children and would not let that happen to herself or her children. In the earlier seasons, her entire focus is on the survival of her family and all her actions lead to that. Sansa, on the other hand, had to learn because her very survival depended on it. She had no alternatives, no protectors, no one to speak up for her.

There was something else that struck me as I was starting this meta, in a way, Cersie was a surrogate mother to Sansa. It makes sense, Sansa was twelve when she went to KL and her mother did not accompany the two young girls, which in itself if quite strange. And before Ned lost his head, Cersie made herself into a mother figure for Sansa. Sansa looked up to her and admired her, wanted to be like her. After Ned’s death, Sansa’s life became a living nightmare but, in a weird way, she still had Cersie who would occasionally advise her, in a way a mother would (albeit it was otten harshly delivered, but that did not lessen the importance of the advice itself). It was Cersie who told Sansa that she could try to love Joffrey, implying that he was already a monster and even Cersie could not always control him. In her most formative years, it wasn’t Ned or Catelyn who were with Sansa, it was Cersie. I’ve also stated that, in those early years, she did care for Sansa, in her own twisted way. This gives Sansa an insight into the kind of women she really is which is why there is a part of Sansa that does admire her, because she’s survived where other, more able players have not.

Game of Thrones has been setting up Tyrion as a master strategist and this season just served to illustrate that that reputation may have been premature. He pledged to serve Dany and help her become queen of the Seven Kingdoms and was outmaneuvered time and again by Cersie. In the beginning when Dany’s war council were going over plans of taking KL, it seemed like a great plan, using Westerosi forces to take KL and the Unsullied to take Casterly Rock but while he was feeling smug, he forgot that he was dealing with Cersie. Cersie who learned from her father who was indeed a great strategist. Even at the end, she played both her brothers, especially Tyrion. That entire conversation is a very finely staged performance on Cersie’s part. Every action and word was carefully chosen. When she placed her hand on her stomach, it felt so out-of-character for her. This is Tyrion, she doesn’t trust him, she doesn’t even like him but she does have him figured out. She knew that he did genuinely love Tommen and Myrcella and he does regret that they died. Here’s another thing to consider, Tyrion does have a blindspot where his family is concerned. He hates his sister but she is his sister, there will always be a part of him that sees her through the lenses of a younger brother. Cersie has no such concerns, she would burn the world down and happily watch it burn.

Which brings us to Sansa. We spent the entire season worried sick over whether Sansa would indeed betray her family. Of course, the makers never gave any proof to set up that betrayal but that’s besides the point. If Tyrion was Cersie adversary, LF was Sansa’s. As we found out at the end, Sansa’s problems from the beginning were the handiwork of LF, if not for him Robert would not have come North and would not have betrothed Sansa and Joffrey. The Starks would have stayed home, healthy and whole. But LF’s hunger for power got the entire plot going. He then betrayed Ned and then used and abused Sansa. Sansa suffered some of the worst abuse at the hand of the Boltons and that match was arranged by none other than LF. Like Tyrion (and mind you I love him) LF also has too high an opinion of himself, he’s started believing his own publicity. Throughout this season, he tried to sow the seeds to dissent, first between Jon and Sansa and then between Sansa and Arya. And it would have worked except all season, LF was telling Sansa to think about the bigger picture, to view everyone with suspicion and always play out scenarios in her head so that nothing ever surprises her. This was great advice, except LF thought that for some reason, he was exempt from all these scenarios. Killing him would have been easy but to do so without losing the support of the Knights of the Vale, that was going to be exceedingly tricky. That scene where LF finally meets his end, that too is very carefully constructed, it’s the Knights of Vale who line the Great Hall with Lord Royce present, who already didn’t like him very much but couldn’t openly oppose him for fear of Sweet Robin. She sets him up perfectly, so much so that he never sees it coming.

So Season 7 saw both Cersie and Sansa outplay men who thought themselves to be smarter than the women they were trying to manipulate..

It also set them up in contrast to each other. In Season 6, Cersie burned down the Sept with all those people inside, not to mention all the collateral damage. Whereas Sansa was more worried whether they had enough food to make sure that everyone would be fed and they could take in refugees when the fight against the WW really came. She takes a personal interest when she really doesn’t need to and her people see this. This is evident when Arya comes to Winterfell and the two sentries don’t want to bother Lady Sansa, not because they’re scared but because, in a strange way, they’re protective of her.

Season 7 has so far established 3 main groups, Dany and her quest for the IT, Cersie and her quest for who-knows-what and the North that just wants its own independence and also survive both the WW and Cersie. I’ve stated multiple times that I don’t see Jon retain his crown in Season 8 which makes Sansa the QitN. Jaime recently left Cersie and rode North to fight against the WW and while there he will join Sansa and not Dany. Dany burned his men alive, he doesn’t like her and he doesn’t trust her. Jaime redemption arc started when he was paired with Brienne and tasked with getting the Stark girls safely delivered to their family. Plus he knows Sansa, he knew her father and mother and while he may not have liked them very much, I believe he does respect them. I personally can’t wait for him to meet Sansa and see the capable woman that she’s grown into. Jaime is often blinded by his love for Cersie but he’s starting to see that most of it may have been one-sided. When it is time to make a final choice as to who he will support, I believe he will pick Sansa, simply because she’s the better candidate. The fight against the WW will end with the elimination of one of the groups and I don’t believe it will be the Starks. They’re the protagonists of the series. I believe that Cersie will make it out alive as well with Dany sacrificing herself in the fight against the WW.

In the Starks vs Cersie battle, there will be one key difference from the BotB, Jon will seek out and heed Sansa’s counsel when it comes to how best deal with Cersie.

Anyway, that’s what I think and this post got way longer than I thought it would, but I hope it makes sense.