Tag Archives: Fantasy

10 Predictions for Game of Thrones’ Final Season

It’s less than two weeks now until the final season of Game of Thrones and I can barely contain my excitement. As per usual, I’ll be doing my weekly episode reviews when the new season comes out. For now, here are some theories and predictions I have for how things will go down.

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  1. Jon Snow will ride Rhaegal in the battle with the Night King.
    This theory has been brewing for a while, and I think it’s easily the most likely one on my list. The ability of the Targaryans to ride and commune with dragons is shown to be somewhat intuitive. It’s in their blood. When Dany first rides Drogon in the fighting pits of Meereen, we can see that the whole process comes naturally to both her and the dragon. It’s instinctive, rather than trained. I expect that Jon’s true lineage will be revealed to him very early on in the season- my guess is the end of episode one. Since the battle with the Night King is all but confirmed to take place in episode 3, I think we’ll see him and Dany riding together for the first time in episode 2. This event was foreshadowed in the last season, when we see Jon petting Drogon. Dany seems a little shocked, and this indicates to us that she hasn’t seen anyone else interact with the dragons this way. It makes sense that Jon will ride Rhaegal, since the dragon is named for his father, Rhaegar.
    There’s also another theory that Bran will warg into a dragon. However I don’t think this will be necessary if the dragons already have riders. I can only see it happening if Jon disembarks Rhaegal to fight on the ground. It’s more likely, I think, that Bran will warg into Ghost or Nymeria during the battle.
  2. The Night King’s Target.
    We know almost nothing about the White Walkers and why they are moving south. It’s a mystery that’s simmered in the background of everything else since the show began. The only real clue we got regarding their motivations came in the season four episode “Oathbreaker” where we see Craster’s last son taken to The Land of Always Winter. The White Walkers perform a ritual that turns the baby into one of them. This hints to us that the White Walkers’ motivations may be related to survival. There are no female White Walkers, so they can’t reproduce on their own. They require human males, hence why Craster gave away all his sons in tribute. We also see in the season six episode “The Door” that the very first White Walker was created by The Children of the Forest for the purposes of fighting against the First Men. This also explains why there isn’t an army of White Walkers as such- the bulk of their forces are made up of undead humans and giants. The White Walkers themselves are fewer in number, since they don’t reproduce naturally, and each one has to be synthesized from a human baby each time.
    I expect that we’ll learn a little more about what motivates the Night King and his people in the coming season- but I don’t think there will be too much detail. I think that by and large, the White Walkers will remain somewhat mysterious, since it’s obvious now that the true antagonist of the show is Cersei. If the scenes shown in the recent trailer seemed a little samey to you, that’s because by and large they are taken from the first half of the upcoming season. Anything after episode 3 would hint at the outcome of the Battle of Winterfell. They’re saving the latter half of the season for the conclusion of the political conflict by the looks of things, perhaps because most people feel more invested in a human villain like Cersei than the Night King, whose machinations are treated more like an environmental threat.
    The Night King is extremely intelligent though- he’s not some Frankenstein-Monster. I don’t think we’ll hear him speak, even though we know that his people do possess a language of their own (Skroth). The biggest reason for this is that it’s best understood that you don’t want to still be giving exposition-dumps during the conclusion of your story. Since the White Walkers have remained mysterious and unknowable so far, I don’t see that changing much. However I hope we’re at least given some indication for the Night King’s motivations, because a mystery that’s never revealed is deeply unsatisfying. The actor who plays the Night King stated in a recent interview that his character has a specific target south of the wall. This is very interesting. To my mind, this target has to be Bran, given the latter’s unique prescient abilities. However this is a fairly obvious choice. I don’t see it being the Godswood, or anything else the show hasn’t already adapted from the books. It’s the end of the show, so there won’t be too much new exposition to confuse TV viewers.
  3. Cleganebowl.
    When I first heard this theory during season seven, I wasn’t sure. It sounded too much like fan-service to me, rather than nuanced writing. The concept seemed like a wish-fulfillment duel and the name “Cleganebowl” is nauseatingly memetic. However I now think a showdown between the Mountain and the Hound is actually quite likely. At the end of the last season, we see their respective storylines cross over for the first time since the show’s early days in a brief confrontation at the summit. The Hound seemed to pity the state of his zombified brother, and to me this scene foreshadows a kind of mercy-killing at the end of season eight.
  4. The Battle of Winterfell.
    I’m really interested to see how this one turns out. It’s no secret that in episode 3 we’re going to see the Night King’s forces lay siege to Winterfell. The cast have been pretty open about this, even going so far as to tease the sheer scale of the battle sequence. It’s meant to dwarf anything else on the show thus far, and is in no small part responsible for the show’s two-year hiatus. We know from trailer footage and cast interviews that the battle will take place at night, and will be somewhat akin to the Battle of Helm’s Deep in Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers. In the trailer we can see Varys hiding in the crypts of Winterfell along with other people who can’t fight. I don’t think they’ll be safe though. Even though the meek characters are more likely to survive than the warrior-types, I think that the White Walkers will definitely breech the walls and enter the castle. In fact, I’m leaning towards the outcome of the battle being a White Walker victory. If our heroes do win, I think they will suffer heavy losses in doing so. But from a narrative standpoint, I can see the outcome of the battle being largely a negative one. The best we can hope for is a Pyrrhic Victory or a stalemate…unless of course you’re rooting for the Night King. A big victory halfway through the season might feel out of place, whereas a setback allows for greater tension leading into the finale. I predict that the Night King will overwhelm the alliance forces, and Rhaegal will perish while facilitating their retreat south.
  5. Arya will kill Cersei while wearing Jaime’s face.
    I like this theory a lot. I wouldn’t at all be surprised if Jaime dies during the Battle of Winterfell in episode 3. For a long time now, the show has had Jaime on a redemptive arc. When we first meet Jaime in season one, he’s smug, sarcastic, and cruel. A cocksure pretty-boy without honor. He’s set up as the opposite of Ned Stark. But as Jaime’s journey progresses, we learn that his asshole personality is actually a defense-mechanism that conceals his inner vulnerability. He resents his Kingslayer reputation, is tortured by his father’s disappointment in him, and is racked with guilt for throwing Bran out the tower window. He’s aware of everyone disrespecting him behind his back, so he’s reflexively cruel. His fighting skills at least ensure that people have to fake respect to his face. So the decision to take his only sense of agency from him- his sword-wielding hand- was an excellent decision, because it’s led to some really interesting character development. The peak of his catharsis came at the end of season seven, when he turned his back on the woman he loves in order to do what he thinks is right. Now, for the first time in his life, he’s following his principles instead of his orders.
    I think it’s highly likely that Jaime will die during the Battle of Winterfell. I think his whole journey has led him to this point, and that he will finally achieve his redemption by fighting for the living. Arya will then take his face and assassinate Cersei disguised as him, thereby fulfilling the Valonqar prophecy Cersei has been trying (and failing) to outrun since she was a child. For the longest time it was assumed Tyrion would be the one to kill Cersei. Not only does he have the biggest beef with her, but Valonqar translates to “little brother” in High Valyrian. However, Jaime could technically be the Valonqar since he was born holding on to Cersei’s foot- a curious and perhaps not insignificant detail from the books.
  6. Dany will have Jon’s baby.
    I don’t necessarily expect us to see this in the show, but I definitely think the season will end with Daenerys heavily pregnant. I feel like this one is pretty obvious, given all the foreshadowing in season seven. I don’t think they would have brought up the issue of her fertility if they weren’t planning on her and Jon having a kid. If we do see the child at all, I think it will be via some kind of dramatic C-Section where Dany dies and the baby is raised by Sansa.
  7. The Iron Throne will be destroyed.
    I don’t foresee an ending where Dany gets the throne she’s always wanted and restores Targaryan rule over the Seven Kingdoms. George R.R. Martin has already stated that the ending will be bittersweet. I think we’ll be left satisfied but in a very roundabout way. The Iron Throne represents lust for power. The melted swords are a reminder of the cost of both seeking and maintaining that power. I think it would be an effective piece of symbolic imagery to see the throne physically destroyed during a battle in the season finale. During her visit to the House of the Undying in season 2, Dany has a vision of the throne room in ruins, covered in ashes and snow. This could be the result of dragonfire or wildfire as Dany’s forces lay siege to the Red Keep.
  8. The Golden Company will betray Cersei.
    At first I wasn’t sure about this one. Even though the Golden Company are the descendants of Targaryans, they’re an off-shoot branch of rebels intent on laying claim to the Iron Throne. I don’t see any obvious reason for them siding with Dany, since they should be motivated more than anyone to kill her and install themselves as the true Targaryan dynasty. I think we will definitely see the Golden Company in battle with the forces of the North- but perhaps only briefly. If they do side with Dany, I think it will be in the form of some kind of political marriage that reunifies the two Targaryan branches. However that may not be that satisfying for a TV audience largely unfamiliar with all the history discussed in the books. But I do think the wider theory of the Golden Company somehow breaking their contract is a likely one.
    I expect that the themes of prophecy and fate will be prevalent this season. Maybe we will see most of the show’s prophecies and promises turned on their heads? For instance, Dany becoming pregnant and breaking the curse put upon her by that old bag in season one. The Iron Throne being destroyed- representing the “wheel” being broken. Perhaps Cersei’s baby will survive, and she will die happy knowing that the Valonqar prophecy didn’t fully come true? The Three Eyed Raven told Bran that “the ink is dry”. But is it? Maybe things aren’t set in stone. I can see why fans believe that a mercenary company whose motto is “Our word is gold” might be destined to break their contract. It could form part of a larger theme the show has about change and new beginnings.
  9. Who is most likely to die?
    In my opinion the most likely character to die is Beric Dondarrion. His fate is tied to his religious mission to stop the army of the dead. This will happen during the Battle of Winterfell.
    The only other characters I am 100% certain will die are Melisandre, Jon Snow, Euron Greyjoy, and Cersei Lannister.
  10. Who will survive?
    This is perhaps the toughest prediction to make. I think the most likely person to survive will be Samwell Tarly. I can see him recording the events of the entire series in his writings. I also think that Sansa will make it out alright. She’s pretty much survived everything, and I don’t see her being in too much direct danger. And even though Dany’s baby with Jon is just a theory at this point, I do think this baby will definitely survive.

 

What do y’all think? Let me know your predictions in the comments!

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Homeland by R.A Salvatore

I’ve always been bad at multi-tasking. It’s a skill I want to improve, but I feel like I’m wired in some way to be consumed by a singular focus. I should have finished reading R.A Salvatore’s high fantasy hack n’ slash about a month ago, but once I started writing my novel, my rate of pages-read-per-day dropped significantly. But that experience has given me some good perspective; I realized that seeing reading as something to squeeze in at some vague point in the future was not good enough. I’m glad the writing has been going well, but I need to improve my relationship with books. And the way to do that is to set aside a dedicated reading time that is free of distractions. I’d get more reading done, and in less time; an hour isn’t much in the context of a whole day, but it’s more than enough to get quite a lot of reading done- if that hour is focused and free of distractions.

In early 2017 my reading stamina really started to grow strong again. I had rediscovered my love of fiction to the point that the musty vanilla scent of an old book would make me want to grind the pages up into lines of fine powder and snort them up my nose. Hell yeah. To cope with all the books I had to read and wanted to buy, I made a list on my phone and alternated between the dusty novels of my backlog and newer purchases. The author R.A Salvatore came to my attention during one of my many long conversations with my American roommate and best friend Aaron. Salvatore is his favorite novelist, one that he read extensively during his teenage years, and given that I’ve so enjoyed listening to his favorite band (Blink 182), I figured I’d give his favorite writer a try. As I’ve stated in other posts, I’ve been trying to build a little book club among my friends. Not only do I feel like reading a person’s most cherished novels is a way to become closer to them, but I also just love talking about books. Before 2017 I had an idea of what a “Michael-esque” book would be, but now I’ve broadened the definition of what I like infinitely.

I used to love high fantasy as a teenager, be it in the form of books like A Wizard of Earthsea or video games like The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion. But I fell out with the genre and figured I was done with it. Then came along the Game of Thrones TV series and I was sucked right back in. Aaron recommended Salvatore as a good choice to get me back into high fantasy, because his stories were dark and weren’t just another regurgitation of the Tolkien formula. I distinctly remember him selling the idea of Salvatore’s stories to me on the basis that they were about “immoral troglodytic dark elves that worshipped a giant spider”.

I got the first volume of Salvatore’s The Dark Elf Trilogy, Homeland, not realizing that the trilogy was a prequel to a much wider saga of novels about The Forgotten Realms. When I laid eyes upon the book for the first time I saw that it said “Dungeons & Dragons” on the top, which is strange because there are no dungeons or dragons in the novel. I started reading it, and while I thought it was well-written and interesting, I wasn’t immediately hooked. The reason for that was because in the first few chapters I had no one to root for. Every character seemed like a bloodthirsty serial killer with the innate likability of a wood tick with real estate designs on your urethra. It wasn’t until a few chapters in that the protagonist emerged in the form of Drizzt Do’Urden- and as soon as that happened I became thoroughly invested in the story. Drizzt acts as a stand-in for the reader’s sense of morality, compassion and conscience. The first few chapters before his arrival so perfectly establish the novel’s world as a dystopia. Dystopian fiction is more often associated with Science Fiction than its more whimsical cousin, but really there’s no reason it can’t work just as well in a setting of high fantasy.

The book takes place in a subterranean city called Menzoberranzan, and trust me when I tell you that there is almost nowhere else in fiction I’d rather live less. The dark elves worship a massive spider, Lolth, the Goddess of Chaos, and so their society is based largely on stabbing your relatives and neighbors up the babkas. It’s a city of ordered anarchy, in which pretty much anything goes so long as you don’t get caught. I know that sounds kind of like a contradiction- and it does take a while to grasp the psychotic hypocrisy of this bizarre, underground theocratic state, but what I mean is that the dark elves are encouraged to do whatever they can get away with. They admire the skills of deceit, treachery, and stealth; the murdering someone without leaving a trace. I know what I’d do if I did have to live in this city- I’d become a funeral director or something like that, because they must be absolutely raking it in. If you’re not discovered face-down in the shadow of a glowing mushroom with a dagger in your back, you’re bones are burped up by the enormous crustaceans that lurk in the caverns surrounding the city. The battle between the protagonist’s conscience and his need for belonging as he discovers the depths of his people’s depravity reminded me of the classic dystopian novel The Giver in a lot of ways; only with a higher density of spilt entrails and broken bone fragments.

It’s a fascinating setting, and completely unlike any other fantasy story I’ve heard of. I like how it reinvents the idea of elves as being this peaceful race of tree-huggers living in Edens of idyllic wholesomeness. I’ve also always been intrigued by the idea of subterranean adventures ever since I watched the 1959 movie Journey to the Center of the Earth as a little kid. The creatures and cultures of Salvatore’s Underdark are so viscerally brought to life in descriptive passages that have just the right amount of information to let your imagination run wild. The descriptive paragraphs never outstay their welcome and always work in conjunction with the action of a given scene, which for me is the best way to go about world building. It gives us the pieces, but lets us put them together with our own imagination.

A few weeks ago I wrote a post about why it’s so important for writers to make the situations and settings of their narrative realistic, and this book is the best example I can think of to illustrate that practice. Salvatore’s world is so interesting to the reader, because he explores the mechanics and basic workings of the fantastical society he has created. For instance, the dark elves live underground, and so their vision is based off of infrared heat signals. Salvatore has put himself in the shoes of someone living in such an environment and thought about how they interact with and perceive the world around them. That’s what we mean by realism and believability. It’s got nothing to do with gnomes and mind flayers; you bring those creatures to life by exploring their behavior in little mundane or mechanical details. And that’s how you turn raw creativity into something immersive. For me, realism in fiction is the key to immersion. I could spend hours reading about the lore of The Forgotten Realms. The hook-horrors and cave fishers feel like animals, the cold and lightless caverns of the Underdark an ecosystem that is lived in. The characters are quirky and well-written. We can easily imagine the jealous wizard Masoj, or the evil Matron Malice whose reputation as the biggest slut in the Underdark is offset by her megalomaniacal ambition.

As good as the setting is, the aspect of the novel that really stood out to me- and the reason why I became hooked- was the moral dialogue that opens with the arrival of the protagonist Drizzt. There’s a reason Drizzt Do’Urden is such a beloved character, and it’s not just his artful use of scimitars. The clash between Drizzt’s sensitivity and the ghastly dystopia around him makes for some really addictive reading. It’s the kind of book I’d bring on vacation, because you just have to know what’s going to happen next. There are schemes at work and peril around every corner. The fight scenes are badass, but truly my favorite scenes- the ones that had me sweating and shaking- were the ones where Drizzt’s personality comes into conflict with the expectations of his cruel society. I won’t spoil anything, but the book is much more nuanced than what you might expect from a hack n’ slash. The characters of Drizzt and Zaknafein in particular have such engrossing moral dilemmas. There’s a genuine philosophical depth to this story that elevates it to the top-end of its genre. I can’t wait to read Exile and Sojourn!

The Witcher is Being Made into a Netflix TV Drama!

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O, what news! I was practically shaken out of my sleep this morning by my younger brother, with his news that The Witcher was going to be adapted for a Netflix TV drama. I am a huge fan of the franchise, and I proudly hang a map of the Northern Realms above my bed, and I lovingly adorn my aging laptop with the game’s complimentary stickers of the School of the Wolf’s sigil. The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is my favorite game of the current console generation and perhaps second only to Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic in my all-time power rankings. I was blown away by the poignant character-driven plotlines and the game’s dark, sinister twists on Slavic folklore. It completely restored my faith in high fantasy games providing nuanced writing that examined the human condition, and not being merely pretentious, unambitious attempts at Tolkien in which all the character’s might have had heads filled with Styrofoam for all we knew. The world of Geralt seemed rich and so alive. To help feed my addiction, my brother bought me a copy of Andrzej Sapkowski’s The Last Wish for my 23rd birthday. I’m a fan. And how gratifying it is to live in an age where to be a geek is all of a sudden trendy. I swear, back in my school days if I had skipped down the hall with a copy of The Last Wish clutched to my breast, humming the epic tones of Marcin Przybyłowicz’s soundtrack, I would have quickly been gang-banged by no less than a dozen chain-smoking rough lads, taking it in turns to stamp on my trachea with studded boots until I stopped breathing.

But we’re getting off-topic, aren’t we? Let us return to the news of the day! The Witcher is indeed getting made into a TV drama. It should be pointed out that it is the books that are getting adapted, not the games of CD Projekt Red. Therefore the show will be much closer to Sapkowski’s original vision. We will be seeing the world of Geralt of Rivia much closer to how he conceptualized it. Sapkowski, who had no input on the popular game series, will in fact be serving as a creative consultant for the new show.  It should also be noted that Tomek Baginski, who did such a wonderful job directing the intro cinematics for all three Witcher games, will be directing one episode per season.

It is good, I think, that The Witcher is being made into a TV drama and not a movie. Movies don’t have the time necessary to build the slow-burning character arcs that more finely approach those of books. I don’t trust a Witcher movie not to be a complete turkey, at least in the current climate of Hollywood blockbusters- the kind of movies more interested in making its audience masturbate over increasingly extraordinary levels of CGI than in engaging with the inner conflicts of its characters. I am encouraged by the successes of TV dramas such as Game of Thrones– perhaps the best indication of how a Witcher TV show might turn out- given that they are both dark fantasy narratives, based on novels written since the early 1990s. And that is a series that has enjoyed widespread popularity, from people of all ages and consumers of almost every genre. Netflix too, I would argue, is a good home for the series. Those folks have been absolutely ballin’ recently, giving us a range of exciting dramas- such as Daredevil and Stranger Things– all with the liberal creative license seldom afforded by the big TV networks.

Of course, it is early days, but why not get some discussion going amongst the community? Who would you like to see in the roles of Geralt and Yennefer? What would you like to see incorporated from the source material? Let me know!