Some Thoughts on Game of Thrones S8E5: ‘Ware Spoilers!

When I first heard people bitching about GoT episode 5, “The Bells,” I wasn’t terribly bothered. I hadn’t seen the episode yet, and a lot of the complaints really seemed like they were saying “This didn’t go how I expected it to.”

The biggest complaints seemed to be that Daenarys went “evil” or “mad” and how it didn’t fit with what had gone before. And I was not agreeing with that, because Daenarys in the show has always been a little too close to madness for me–her refusal to take any advice that didn’t tell her what she wanted to hear, her draconian–if you’ll excuse the pun–punishments and her tendency to regard any disagreement with a retainer as them failing her–all of this together made her seem a little too Targaryen.

But then I watched the episode.

Holy crap, you guys. At first it seemed fine; she was executing Varys for a difference of opinion, really, but okay, I can sort of see that. Why she had to use dragonfire again I don’t know; that girl is obsessed with fire.

But then King’s Landing surrenders, and she decides to torch it all anyway, killing thousands of innocents. And that made no sense at all. It was totally not in keeping with her character in previous seasons, it wasn’t a logical progression from what she’d been before.

I can sort of see how she might have snapped after the death of Jorah, but the show didn’t really telegraph that at all.

HBO does these “explications” of the episode right after the show. I’m not sure why these things are becoming so common; they’re kind of awful and unnecessary. I tend not to bother with them unless I really liked the episode, but I watched this one. And the showrunners “explain” Dany’s mindstate and the reasons for her snapping, but none of the explanations really work, because none of it is actually “on the page.” I mean, it all sort of made sense, but it was a sharp 90° turn from what had gone on up to the beginning of Season 8.

Now, I did like Arya’s story, and Sandor Clegane’s end seemed fitting for the character. But it didn’t make up for the terrible.

Now some bullet points:

  • I’m not one of those people who gets upset when the dog dies. But little children? Not Okay, show. It’s one thing to know children die in an apocalyptic setting, but breaking my heart by making me watch a child cowering in fear, knowing she’s going to die? Fuck you, show.
  • Jaime’s end was pathetic. After all that, he fucking actually went back to Cersei to save her ass? Fuck you, TV-Jamie. I hope Book-Jamie turns out better than you did.
  • Cersei dies stupidly. I wanted her to die, but that particular end? No, that wasn’t enough. I mean, I wanted Jamie to off her, which is kind of awful, but jaysus.
  • I get that dragonfire isn’t exactly fire, but since when does fire destroy stone walls? That was a bit much.

At this point I’m not even sure I want to see the ending. I mean, I’ll probably watch it, but more out of curiosity than anything else.

Debut Diary, Part 8: Two Months Post-Release

Here we are, two months past the release of The Widening Gyre. How does it feel?

Weird, man. It feels weird.

I’ll elaborate on that, but first, some answers to FAQs:

How are sales doing?

I don’t know. I really don’t. I get sales reports quarterly, but because the book released two weeks before the end of the quarter, I’ll have to wait until the next one in August before I get any sort of solid answer to that. Having said that, I’ll admit I’ve done some calculations. I figure I’ve sold at least 200 copies since release. Amazon’s NPD BookScan link tells me I’ve sold 64 copies. I know from other writers that Bookscan can be inaccurate as hell, but given that I’m not sure how many actual brick & mortar stores have TWG on the shelves, I’m not sure how far off Bookscan is–it could be pretty accurate.

That said, Bookscan doesn’t account for all sales. WorldCat, a website that searches for books in libraries around the world, tells me I’m in 97 libraries in the US, the Netherlands, Australia, and New Zealand so far. Back when it only listed about 60 libraries, I actually spent an hour going to every library website WordCat linked to and counting the number of copies the library had. At that time, there were 104 verified copies on library shelves, with 25 of them checked out at that moment. I haven’t gone back and checked again, and probably won’t–it was a moment of weakness.

How are the reviews?

They’re not bad. In fact, they’re pretty great, and even the most critical reviews had some good things to say.

Publishers Weekly gave me a decent review, with some negatives, but they called my book a “flawed but promising” debut. Booklist gave me a starred review, and said “Johnston, with skillful plotting and impeccable world building, takes the tale of Tajen and his crew searching for home and shapes it into an unforgettable journey.” Others have said some equally good things.

The book is holding at about 3.94 on Goodreads, and 4/5 stars on Amazon.

How are you?

Well, and here is where we get to “weird.”

It’s very cool that my little book is all over the world, and people I’ve never met are reading it. I’m glad the reviews so far are mostly positive.

I’m also paralyzed with fear and exhaustion, and it’s affecting the writing of book 2. I’m working on it, and I’m still hopeful I can kick into high gear when school let’s out, but for now it’s hit-or-miss. Some days I get 1000+ words, other days I can barely get 300 out. I second-guess myself a lot more this time around.

I feel like I have four jobs: Teacher, dad, writer, and promoter. The day job and being a dad take precedence, but writing used to be ONE job, and now it’s two. It’s doable, but I’m such a beginner that I don’t know what I’m doing.

All in all, I’m very grateful that I’m here. But as many writers say, getting here isn’t an end; it’s just a beginning. In RPG terms, I’ve “leveled up,” and I have a whole new set of skills and “powers,” but I also have more and bigger issues to deal with.