Tuesday, April 11, 2017

REVIEW: CHESAPEAKE VALOR 1: COLD SHOT ~ DANI PETTREY

Cold Shot by Dani Pettrey is the first book in the Chesapeake Valor series.  Each book in the series will be loosely connected to the others and feature many of the same characters, but will function well as standalone stories.  While it is not necessary to read all of the books or to read them in order, enjoyment of the series will obviously be enhanced by reading all of the books in order.
 

 
Cold Shot follows the story of former sniper turned park ranger Griffin McCray who uncovers a fresh grave during a routine patrol.  What initially seems to be a relatively routine investigation turns deadly when forensic anthropologist Finley Scott discovers evidence pointing to the work of an expert sniper.  With Finley refusing to back down from investigating the case, Griffin has no choice but to work with the interesting woman whom he has studiously worked to avoid for several months, along with his childhood friends, FBI agent Declan Grey and crime scene analyst, Parker Mitchell. 

 
 
When their persistent digging places Finley in the crosshairs of the deadly sniper, Griffin must finally admit his attraction to her and the fact that he has avoided her because he doesn't believe  himself ready for the kind of relationship a woman like Finley deserves.  Along with everything else on Griffin's plate, the tension between him and Parker places the entire team on edge.  Finley learns that the trio, who were once inseparable, drifted apart following the disappearance of their friend, and a mysterious traumatic event in their past which Griffin and Parker refuse to discuss.  The reason for this rift is another mystery the reader must work to solve. 

Along with finding the killer, Griffin must face his past, confront his demons and come to terms with a few hard truths to not only protect the woman he can no longer deny he loves, but to feel worthy of her.  Unbeknownst to Griffin, the "perfect" Finley is fighting demons of her own when their case places her life in danger, reminiscent of a previous case that left her with scars she desperately tries to hide from her new friends.  What exactly happened to Finley also remains a mystery through a large part of the story, adding to the list of mysteries which must be solved.  

It may not be fair to compare an author's newest works to its predecessors, but let's be honest; we all do it.  While the quality of Dani Pettrey's work remains top notch, I found that I did not enjoy Cold Shot nearly as much as I did the Alaskan Courage series, each book having had me on the edge of my seat throughout.  Those were well-researched, had great suspense, character depth and growth and tangible chemistry.  This was not the case with Cold Shot. I just did not connect with Griffin and Finley, or their story, to the extent that I was invested in the outcome, or ever feared for their safety at any one point.  I was way more invested in the few moments we got to share with Parker and Avery (who feature as the main characters in the second Chesapeake Valor book, Still Life; review to follow in due course).  Both Griffin and Finley are likable, intriguing characters, but for me they just did not have the chemistry I have come to expect from Pettrey and I found it hard to get emotionally invested in their story.  While Finley is opened interested in Griffin from the get-go, the bigger part of the story sees Griffin fighting his attraction to Finley and shooting her down.  At times I also found myself thinking that Finley does not have enough scenes and that she does not feel like a main character.  Instead of utilizing the potential a smart and brave female character such as Finley presented, her skills were ultimately not essential to the investigation, and she became a sidekick to Griffin's hero, sadly only serving as a damsel in distress for him to protect. I would say Cold Shot is about 80% mystery, 20% romance, and I personally prefer my mystery-to-romance-ratio way more balanced. 

I do love the way Pettrey portrayed both Griffin and Finley as devout Christians who each have a deep, meaningful relationship with God.  The religion aspect of the book was perfectly balanced, very much present but not too overbearing to be off-putting to readers who might be non-believers.  I loved all of the prayers both Griffin and Finley prayed; those were beautifully written.

All in all Cold Shot is by no means a disappointing read, but I cannot deny that it fell short of my expectations.  I am, however, very much looking forward to reading Parker and Avery's story and I will be picking up Still Life shortly.

 
 Product Information:
Title: Cold Shot
Series: Chesapeake Valor (Standalone)
Author: Dani Pettrey
Publisher: Bethany House Publishers
Year: 2016
Pages: 338
ISBN-10: 0764211978
ISBN-13: 978-0764211973
ASIN: B012H0ZYAQ

 
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Tuesday, October 11, 2016

REVIEW: HARRY POTTER AND THE CURSED CHILD ~ JK ROWLING, JACK THORNE, JOHN TIFFANY


I may not be able to get to England to see the play, but my book is from England and that helps!
A special thank you to my best friend, Erika, for this lovely gift ♥

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, a new play by Jack Thorne based on an original new story by JK Rowling, John Tiffany and Jack Thorne, starts with the epilogue of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Harry, Ginny, Ron and Hermione sending their own children off to Hogwarts. 
*Spoilers ahead* 
The Potters and the Granger-Weasleys at Platform 9 3/4
 
Harry’s youngest son, Albus Severus, is headed to Hogwarts for his first year and he is afraid of being sorted into Slytherin House.  As in Deathly Hallows’ epilogue, Harry assures his son that the bravest man he had ever met was from Slytherin House, and that Albus Severus carries his name.  That is where the final novel left us, with Harry assuring his son that it would not matter if he was sorted into Slytherin – a good thing as this is indeed what happens.  Harry’s oldest son James, and later his daughter Lily, as well as Ron and Hermione’s children Hugo and Rose are all sorted into Gryffindor House, but Albus finds himself sorted into Slytherin. 
Rose Granger-Weasley is sorted into Gryffindor
 
Albus also has great difficulty mastering spells in school and is soon dubbed “The Slytherin Squib”.  This, and the constant comparisons to his famous father, leads to a lot of doubt and confusion for young Albus who becomes a distant, troubled young man.  Shunned even by Rose Granger-Weasley, once his best friend, he finds an unexpected friend and ally in fellow Slytherin, Scorpius Malfoy, the son of Draco Malfoy.  Scorpius is also an outcast as he is the son of a former Death Eater, and a very dark rumour hangs over his head – the rumour that Draco and Astoria could not conceive children and that they used a time-turner to go back in time and conceive Lord Voldemort’s child!  At first this rumour is merely that as all time-turners were believed to have been destroyed during the battle at the Ministry of Magic.  Harry, now an overworked Head of Magical Law Enforcement at the Ministry of Magic, discovers that this is not the case as he retrieves several illegal magical devices during a raid – including a time turner. 
Albus and Harry have a very strained relationship which becomes only more strained as the years pass.  Albus, mistakenly believing that Harry does not care at all for the blood spilt in his name, takes it upon his own inexperienced shoulders to right at least one wrong - Albus decides to break into the Ministry of Magic, steal the time-turner now in Hermione's possession, return to the Tri-Wizard Tournament and prevent Cedrick Diggory's death. Yeah... going back in time to alter events... what could possibly go wrong? 
Harry Potter consults the portrait of Professor Dumbledore
 
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child follows Albus Potter and Scorpius Malfoy as they navigate past and present, creating more wrongs than they fix as they tamper with the past and the butterfly effect changes everything in their present.  As Albus and Scorpius create all kinds of trouble messing with the past, Harry starts having very disturbing nightmares about his troubled son and his scar starts to hurt for the first time since Voldemort's death - could it mean what we all fear it means?
Ginny and Harry discuss his escalating nightmares and his hurting scar
 
I would have appreciated more time with our core trio, but this time around they are more supporting characters as the story focuses on Albus.  My favourite character is Scorpius Malfoy, much to my surprise!  I found him to be very complex and incredibly funny – I actually think, given the chance, he would have gotten along famously with the Weasley twins (oh, Fred).  The plot is very well written and keeps you on the edge of your seat.  After so many years away, it is great fun visiting Hogwarts again and catching up with beloved characters. 
An important announcement is made at the Ministry of Magic

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is, of course, released not in the form of a novel but as the script of the play.  It obviously reads very differently than the Potter novels, but it is quite easy to get into.  My only criticism would be that as reader I am not quite as immersed in the Potter universe as I am when reading the novels which have much greater, vivid descriptions – but as this is essentially a play meant to be seen more than a script meant to be read, this is not a fair criticism at the end of the day.  I am, however, not London-based and doubt very much that I will ever get to see the play performed in Pretoria, South Africa, so settle for the script I must – at least until a film version I desperately yearn for.   This story would make an excellent movie, though given the complexity of the plot and elements of time travel, a film version seems highly unlikely.  I also very much doubt that Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint could be persuaded to return for another Potter movie, but I think audiences would forgive a change in casting since their characters are 19-22 years older than during the events of the Battle of Hogwarts.  I, for one, would forgive a change of casting if it meant I got to see this story play out on the silver screen...  however, nobody – and I mean nobody – could replace Alan Rickman as Professor Snape…
The original stage production cast
All in all Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is great entertainment and sure to be a hit with all fans of the series.  As a film version seems highly unlikely, be sure to get yourself a ticket to the play (I would if I could!) or get your hands on a copy of the script - you will not be disappointed.


Thursday, November 26, 2015

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2

* This post contains spoilers of both the book and film. I am assuming you have either read the book or seen the film.
 

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2 is based on the second half of the novel “Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins.  Mockingjay Part 2 picks up roughly where Part 1 left off.  A few days have passed since Peeta tried to kill Katniss, and she is still recovering (the scene where Katniss is being examined by medical staff is brilliantly done).  The film follows the culmination of rebellion against the Capitol as it gains strength when more and more districts join the fight.  As the rebels march on the enemy, the Hunger Games Game-makers turn the Capitol into one last trap-filled arena.

 

We follow Katniss and Star Squad 451 as they march on the Capitol in a war for freedom.   Peeta’s condition and recovery is also at the forefront of most of the film, with the palpable tension between Katniss and Peeta growing continually worse (how awful it is to see them call each other Capitol mutts and mean it).  There’s a very powerful quote in the book where Katniss thinks to herself: 


I realise it is not in Katniss’ nature to talk about her feelings, but I would have loved for these lines to somehow have made it into the film (Katniss saying it to Finnick, perhaps – Finnick seems like the most likely candidate she would discuss something like that with).  It is absolutely heartbreaking to watch Peeta passionately hate the woman he’s always loved because of what Snow did to him, especially considering his statements in The Hunger Games: “I don’t want them to change me [...], turn me into some kind of monster that I’m not.  I keep wishing I could think of a way to show the Capitol they don’t own me. That I’m more than just a piece in their Games”.  At the end of The Hunger Games he also tells Katniss “I don’t want to forget”. 
 



The Capitol not only tortured him, they realised all of his biggest fears.  They made him lose himself. 
 

While The Hunger Games series is so much bigger than Team Peeta vs Team Gale, the question of who Katniss will ultimately end up with also needs to be answered.  It’s not as clear-cut as you might think.  While even Katniss says he is no longer the Peeta she loved, he is still Peeta and her feelings for Peeta were too real and deep to go away just because he's damaged.  Gale also says that he’s hoping Peeta will recover, because if he doesn’t, Gale doesn’t stand a chance with Katniss because she would never give up on Peeta.  It’s a complicated love triangle, deeper than the average one, and I am happy that the scene where Peeta and Gale discuss who Katniss will choose while they think she is sleeping made it into the movie.   


I had wondered how the filmmakers would handle the tragic death of Phillip Seymour Hoffman while filming took place, and they did a fantastic job of using their available footage in all the right places.  Despite his limited screen time, Plutarch is a strong presence throughout the film and Hoffman’s acting was top notch.  Plutarch always, very subtly, looks like he knows something nobody else knows (which, of course, he does).  The only scene where his absence is acutely felt, is Plutarch and Katniss’ final conversation.  In the movie he sends her a letter which is read aloud by Haymitch.  It is safe to assume that this change was made following Hoffman’s death.  It’s sad that he couldn’t film it, but it works. 
One thing the film did not portray satisfactorily, is the growth of Katniss and Johanna’s relationship.  In the book Katniss and Johanna become roommates and develop a friendship as deeply as either of them are capable of.  They train extensively with the District 13 soldiers, with Katniss earning a spot on a military squad while Johanna fails the final test; that is the reason why Johanna is not a part of Star Squad 451, something non-readers would not know.  I also don’t think non-readers will pick up on their friendship. Johanna just appears to be her usual snarky self, and Katniss appears to tolerate her more than appreciate her. 

 
A small but important detail that is not in the movie, is that Peeta decorates Finnick and Annie’s wedding cake.  It might seem insignificant, but it is the very first indication that Peeta might be recovering. 
 


Both the book and the movie investigate what is acceptable during a time of war.  Is it okay to kill innocent civilians in order to get to the masterminds?  Both book and movie do an excellent job of driving home the fact that the revolutionaries aren’t necessarily any better than the Capitol.  A very small but pivotal scene in this regard has been left out of the film.  Katniss makes a huge case for the protection of civilians, especially as the rebels cause the avalanche in District 2 (the movie also didn’t effectively explain that Katniss’ horrified reaction to Gale’s plan is because both their fathers died trapped in a mine following an avalanche), and Gale's idea for a secondary bomb trap.  The movie, however, omits a scene where Katniss is recognized by a Capitol citizen on the street after their Squad escapes the sewers.  The woman opens her mouth to scream and Katniss instinctively kills the woman to protect her Squad and her mission.  Afterwards, she doesn’t think about it much which goes to show just how much the war changed Katniss.
 
Star Squad 451 in the Capitol
 
Unlike the book, the movie shies away from the uglier side of war.  In the books Peeta loses a leg, Boggs loses two and Katniss is severely burned in the bomb that kills Prim.  Many of the more violent deaths were either changed or omitted from the film.  In the books Katniss has to stand trial for killing Coin, but she is eventually acquitted due to insanity, which would have been an interesting detail to see on the screen.  To me, in the book it felt like Katniss is made the scapegoat of the aftermath of the war and is pretty much ostracised.  She also has severe post-traumatic stress disorder, something the movie doesn’t effectively depict either.  The movies portray that Haymitch seems to be pretty much recovered, but in the book he is very much a lifelong depressed alcoholic (and he and Effie never kiss).  I suppose these changes were made in order to stick to an age restriction of PG13, but I nevertheless regret that the movie shied away from the harsh realities of war. 

Both Peeta and Katniss have far more serious mental health issues than the movie portrays.  The movie does mention Katniss’ nightmares, but says nothing of Peeta’s flashbacks to his time in the Capitol.  Based on their apparent ages in the final scene, the movies shows both of them are settled and quite stable, and married with children very shortly after returning to District 12.  The movie implies that Katniss is healed because of her marriage and family with Peeta.  In the book, she is only able to get married and start a family many years later, after therapy, once she is finally able to put the Hunger Games behind her.
Also, in the book Katniss and Peeta create a book which they fill with sketches and memories of all the people they have loved and lost. I love that book. Sadly the book did not make it into the movie.
For whatever reason (Heaven knows I have no idea what it could be) Mockingjay seems to be the least favourite of the three books of the majority of the fandom.  As for me, Mockingjay was my favourite book and while I didn’t necessarily understand the need to split the book into two movies (it’s roughly the same length as The Hunger Games and Catching Fire), I certainly don’t feel that any single scene was unnecessary or drawn out.  Perfect casting and superb acting makes The Hunger Games film series one of the very best young adult series brought to our screens.  Honouring its source material while adding plausible new scenes to enrich the viewers’ experience (as the reader is confined strictly to Katniss’ perceptions), Mockingjay Part 2 is a very satisfying conclusion to a brilliantly done adaptation.
But one day I'll have to explain about my nightmares. Why they came. Why they won't ever really go away.  I'll tell them how I survive it. I'll tell them that on bad mornings, it feels impossible to take pleasure in anything because I'm afraid it could be taken away. That's when I make a list in my head of every act of goodness I've seen someone do. It's like a game. Repetitive. Even a little tedious after more than twenty years.
But there are much worse games to play.
 
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Thursday, July 23, 2015

REVIEW: THE MORTAL INSTRUMENTS: CITY OF GLASS ~ CASSANDRA CLARE


City of Glass is the third book in Cassandra Clare’s The Mortal Instruments series and picks up shortly after the conclusion of the events of City of Ashes.  Simon and Clary have (thankfully) decided that they are better off as friends, and Jace is determined to be Clary’s brother only and to adhere to all limitations that places on their relationship.  Valentine has escaped with the Mortal Cup and the Mortal Sword, and now only needs the Mortal Mirror to complete the ritual that will allow him to summon the Angel Raziel.  The mortal instruments can be used only once to summon the Angel, who will heed the Shadowhunter's call (it is believed that the one who summons Raziel can demand one action from the Angel), and Heaven only knows what Valentine has planned.  Luckily the Shadowhunters have some time on their side as nobody knows what exactly the Mortal Mirror is, or where it can be found. 

Clary is finally contacted by someone who might be able to help her save her mother.  Madeline, her mother’s oldest friend, tells Clary that her only chance of saving the comatose Jocelyn is finding a Warlock named Ragnor Fell.  Clary’s best chance of tracking him down is to go to Alicante, Idris, the home city the Nephilim.  As fate would have it all of the Lightwoods are headed to Idris and they agree to take Clary with them, much to Jace’s dismay.  Jace is the only one who knows what Clary did on Valentine’s ship, and he fears for her safety should the Clave ever find how powerful she truly is.  Jace wilfully causes several misunderstandings in order to get the Lightwoods to leave for Idris without Clary, but he really should have known better.  Clary finds a (very stupid, very dangerous) way to follow the Lightwoods into Idris and sets off a chain of events that has serious consequences.  Clary entered Alicante illegally and must find a way to track down Ragnor Fell without alerting the Clave to her presence.

Jace and Clary’s relationship is on shaky ground following Jace’s deliberate deception as well as Jace and the Lightwoods keeping a major secret from Clary regarding Simon’s whereabouts, and Jace deliberately hurting Clary in his efforts to get her to leave Idris.  Their relationship becomes even more complicated with turbulent and confusing feelings when Jace seems to be attracted to family friend Aline, and her cousin Sebastian makes a play for Clary. 

The state of their relationship becomes the least of their worries when Clary and Jace discover a horrible truth about what Valentine did to both of them before they were even born.  They learn that Valentine experimented on his children by secretly feeding Jocelyn demon blood and angel blood respectively during each of her pregnancies.  This explains both of their extraordinary talents as Shadowhunters.  Discovering the truth about the demon blood sends Jace down a slippery slope of self-loathing and self-destruction that not even Clary might be able to pull him back from.



City of Ashes is my favourite book of The Mortal Instruments series so far.  The story is fast-paced, flows perfectly and keeps you at the edge of your seat.  Danger surrounds Clary in her quest to save Jocelyn as she is in foreign surroundings and has no idea who she can trust – especially since Jace and the Lightwoods inexplicably treat her coldly. 
 
Alicante is not as safe as the Shadowhunters would like to believe, and the freedom of all Shadowhunters is threatened when Valentine sets an ultimatum most Shadowhunters are unwilling to resist.
 
A major issue I have with City of Glass is that the Shadowhunters aren’t portrayed as a force to be reckoned with.  At one point Alicante is attacked by demons, and complete chaos reigns.  It’s just a whole lot of running and screaming. I understand that at this point the adults were all converging in Gard, and that the young and the old were left to fight, yet I would have liked to see the Shadowhunters do more damage.  Following the attack several families flee Idris.  Also, the majority of Shadowhunters are too scared to oppose Valentine and refuse his ultimatum, despite the fact that they knew what giving in to him would mean.  I did appreciate that this gave Clary the opportunity to have a moment and come to the rescue, but to me this book made the majority of Shadowhunters look weak. 

Alec and Isabelle have larger roles to play this time around, and it was good to see so much more of them.  Isabelle has always been a complex character, but in City of Glass she becomes even more so.  She also has two great action scenes in this book which does her character justice.  She is also discovering that other girls are not there merely to be hated, and I like how Isabelle and Clary’s friendship is steadily growing at a natural, believable tempo.  Alec comes into his own in this book and makes a life-changing decision regarding his future.  Simon is also becoming a much more pleasant character.  Now that Simon and Clary’s relationship is purely platonic and he is no longer trying to force his feelings on her, I can actually see what brought them together.  They have a great dynamic when their time together is not clouded by unrequited love.  Simon truly is a really good friend.

Jace and Clary remain the central characters, of course, and Clare did a great job of highlighting the complexities of their relationship and their feelings for each other, and showing character development in both of them.  The tone of this book is slightly darker than the previous ones, and Jace doesn't make many smartass comments, which I really miss. 

 
Major spoilers as to the events in this book, so if you have not read it yet and would like to be surprised, this is where you stop reading.

Clary and Jace find a way to help Magnus Bane save the comatose Jocelyn, and she returns to Idris.  Through Jocelyn, Jace and Clary finally discover that they are not brother and sister, but that Jace is in fact the son of Stephen Herondale!  Jace is the grandson of the previous Inquisitor, and that explains why she sacrificed her life to save his in City of Ashes, and what she was trying to tell him as she died.  Jace’s parents died before he was born, and having secretly fed Jace’s mother angel blood as well, Valentine cut the baby from her womb and raised Jace as his own son, just as he raised the real Jonathan Christopher in another house - Clary’s brother is indeed alive, and his true identity is revealed, leading to a whole new set of complications.

Valentine finds the Mortal Mirror, but his plans go awry when he underestimates his daughter and the integrity of the Angel.  I LOVED that part of the book.  Valentine thought that by summoning Raziel, he could command him – we’re dealing with an Angel here.  I loved that the Angel did not let himself be ordered about by likes of Valentine, and that when Valentine went on and on about glory, the Angel’s response was “Glory belongs to God alone”.  Amen!

I am quite eager to start City of Fallen Angels, the next book in the series.  I am not at all sure what to expect.  Clary and Jace are finally together, a happy couple at last, and it will be good to see the two of them together.  It will also be interesting to see where the story goes now that Valentine is no longer a threat.  All seems pretty blissful at the conclusion of City of Glass, but Clary did refuse to do the Seelie Queen a favour – I doubt she will let that slide…
 
 
Product Information:
Title: City of Glass
Series: The Mortal Instruments (Book 3)
Author: Cassandra Clare
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry
Year: 2009
Pages: 571
ISBN-10: 1416972250
ISBN-13: 978-1416972259
ASIN: B003Z0BWT0
 
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Wednesday, June 24, 2015

WHY JON SNOW CAN'T BE DEAD



If you are reading my blog, that means you are an internet user.  If you are an internet user, there is no way you are unaware that Game of Thrones (seemingly) killed off Jon Snow in the Season 5 finale.  But the thing is, Jon Snow can't be dead.  He just can't!

Jon Snow

Ever since I finished A Dance With Dragons, I’ve been mulling over ways in which Jon could have survived the traitorous attack by fellow Night’s Watch members.  Following last week’s Season finale, I’ve been revisiting those theories.  So, here are the reasons which I believe indicate that Jon Snow is not dead. 


This post contains several theories and possible spoilers.  If you are unfamiliar (and would prefer to remain unfamiliar) with theories surrounding Jon’s true identity and fate, you should not read this post. 


First things first: Jon’s final chapter in A Dance With Dragons ends when he loses consciousness.  This is not confirmation that Jon is dead.  A previous Arya chapter ended with her losing consciousness (and very clever wording that made it seem like The Hound had killed her), but thankfully it was just that: she was unconscious.  The same could be true of Jon.

Jon fell to his knees. He found the dagger’s hilt and wrenched it free. In the cold night air the wound was smoking. ‘Ghost’, he whispered. Pain washed over him. Stick them with the pointy end. When the third dagger took him between the shoulder blades, he gave a grunt and fell face-first into the snow. He never felt the fourth knife. Only the cold…

Jon Snow, seemingly dead in the Season 5 finale
 
How, you may ask, could Jon possibly have survived?  It is possible that his attackers stopped stabbing him when he lost consciousness, though I agree it is unlikely.   It is also possible that Jon did die, but that he will not stay dead and that Melisandre will resurrect him much like Thoros of Myr resurrected Beric Dondarrion and Catelyn Stark (surprise non-readers! In the books Catelyn Stark was resurrected and now goes by the name of Lady Stoneheart, the leader of the Brotherhood Without Banners).  Or, and this is the most likely scenario, Jon warged into Ghost (like Bran wargs into Summer and Hodor).  After being stabbed, as he succumbed, Jon's last word was “Ghost”.  

All the Stark children have warging abilities, though at this stage only Bran and Arya seem to understand this ability to some extent.  Bran often purposely wargs into Summer and Hodor, and while Arya wargs into Nymeria in her sleep (she experienced Nymeria dragging Catelyn's body from the river after the Red Wedding), she also warged into a cat in the House of Black and White when she bested The Kindly Man at "a game of slaps" while blinded.  As for Jon, while he has not consciously warged into Ghost (or anything else) we do know that Jon has warged into Ghost in the past, only he was unaware of doing so as he did it in his sleep and assumed his time in Ghost's skin were merely dreams; very vivid dreams, but dreams all the same.  In a moment of pure instinct it is very possible that Jon wargs into Ghost just in the nick of time.  In one of Melisandre’s visions “she heard the whispered name Jon Snow… Now he was a man, now a wolf, now a man again”.

The prologue in A Dance With Dragons didn’t quite make sense to me at the time I first read it.  I could not understand the significance of this seemingly random chapter.  This is a chapter where a character named Varamyr Sixskins dies, and as he is dying he wargs into a wolf.  True death came suddenly; he felt a shock of cold, as if he had been plunged into the icy waters of a frozen lake.”  This entire chapter could have been placed as an indication of what to expect when a dying person wargs into another creature.  The cold Jon felt could have been as a result of warging into Ghost.  The prologue also mentions "They say you feel warm near the end, warm and sleepy”. Jon only felt the cold.
 
The Black Brothers will probably take Jon's body to the ice cells so that he does not return as one of The Others.  Why else did Martin invest so much effort into describing the ice cells, their purpose and their upkeep, and have Jon demonstrate that bodies kept in the ice cells do not reanimate?  This could also connect to Daenerys’ vision of “A blue flower grew from a chink in a wall of ice, and filled the air with sweetness…”.  (more about this later).  If Jon’s body is preserved in such a way, he could possibly later find a way to get back into his own skin. Otherwise, he could obviously also take over someone else's body, but as Jon has not developed his warging abilities yet I doubt that he is skilled enough to do that at this stage (even Bran, who is more skilled, has difficulty controlling Hodor).
  
We have dealt with the how, now let’s talk about why Jon can’t be dead.

Let’s start with the obvious.  Jon Snow is the most likely candidate to be Azor Ahai come again (more about that later), “the prince that was promised and his is the song of ice and fire”.  The book series is called A Song of Ice and Fire.  The entire series is about him!   

 
 At this point I doubt there is an ASOIAF / GOT fan alive who hasn’t heard the R+L=J theory.  Benioff and Weiss have made no secret of the fact that George R.R Martin only agreed to give them the rights to adapt the book series after they correctly answered his question, “Who is Jon Snow’s mother?”, therefore Jon Snow’s mother was clearly not some lowborn woman named Wylla (as Ned told Robert), and the identity of Jon Snow’s mother has to be a very important aspect of the series.  You have already been warned of spoilers, but if you do not want to know who Jon Snow’s mother is, STOP READING NOW.

Though still unconfirmed, every little clue Martin has deigned to throw our way indicates that Jon Snow is not the illegitimate son of Ned Stark, but that he is in fact the son of Ned’s sister, Lyanna Stark and Prince Rhaegar Targaryen. 

Rhaegar Targaryen and Lyanna Stark. Art by denkata5698 on Deviantart

"[Jon] knew nothing of his mother; Yet he dreamed of her at times, so often that he could almost see her face. In his dreams, she was beautiful, and highborn, and her eyes were kind".  Tyrion Lannister notes that Jon has the traditional Stark face.  Of all the Stark children, Arya is said to resemble Jon the most, and Arya’s likeness to her Aunt Lyanna is often observed.   

Ned married Catelyn Tully and after one night together headed off for the War of the Usurper, the war that brought an end to the Targaryen dynasty.  He returned to her a year later with another woman's child in his arms.  Robert’s Rebellion was triggered by the “kidnapping” of Lyanna Stark by Rhaegar Targaryen.  Lyanna was betrothed to Robert Baratheon, but she was not as enthusiastic about the match as Robert was.  For one, she knew that he would never be faithful to her.  He had already fathered Mya Stone and Lyanna told her brother that Robert will never keep to one bed.  "Love is sweet, dearest Ned, but it cannot change a man’s nature”.  Ned himself had said to Robert, “You never knew Lyanna as I did, Robert. You saw her beauty, but not the iron underneath”.   Robert was taken with Lyanna’s beauty, and while he claimed to love her, there is no proof that he truly did.  Enter Rhaegar Targaryen.  Rhaegar is said to have been very beautiful, and he was a gifted musician.  It is said that during the great Tourney at Harenhall, prince Rhaegar played a song so sweet, it made Lyanna weep.  When Prince Rhaegar was named the victor of the tourney, he got to crown The Queen of Love and Beauty.  “Ned remembered the moment when all the smiles died, when Prince Rhaegar Targaryen urged his horse past his own wife, the Dornish princess Elia Martell, to lay the queen of beauty’s laurel in Lyanna’s lap. He could see it still: a crown of winter roses, blue as frost”.  

Rhaegar crowns Lyanna the Queen of Love and Beauty.  Art by M. Luisa Giliberti

Approximately a year later, Lyanna disappeared with Rhaegar Targaryen.  Legend has it that Lyanna had been abducted, but this is something we learn only from Robert’s perspective.  The nature of Lyanna’s disappearance is unknown to readers at this stage, but it is very likely that Rhaegar and Lyanna were in love, and that Lyanna went with him willingly.  Her father had promised her to Robert Baratheon, so Lyanna might have run away with Rhaegar because her father would not have permitted her to end her engagement in order to be with a man who was already married to another.  Ser Barristan Selmy, who was close to the Prince, firmly believes “Prince Rhaegar loved his Lady Lyanna”.   There may be no proof that Rhaegar and Lyanna were secretly married, but there is also no proof that they were not.  The Targaryens do have a history of polygamy, so it is not impossible that Rhaegar would have taken two wives. 

Rhaegar was later killed in battle by Robert Baratheon. “Rubies flew like drops of blood from the chest of a dying prince, and with his last breath he murmured a woman's name”.   This name was most probably “Lyanna”.  As for Lyanna, Ned found her tucked away in the Tower of Joy in Dorne.

He could still hear her at times. Promise me, she had cried, in a room that smelled of blood and roses. Promise me, Ned. The fever had taken her strength and her voice had been faint as a whisper, but when he gave his word, the fear had gone out of his sister's eyes.  Ned remembered the way she smiled then, how tightly her fingers had clutched his as she gave up her hold on life, the rose petals spilling from her palm, dead and black. After that he remembered nothing. They had found him still holding her body, silent with grief. The little crannogman, Howland Reed, had taken her hand from his.


It is entirely possible, and probable, that the blood and Lyanna’s death were as a result of childbirth.  If this scenario is true, Lyanna made Ned promise to raise her baby as his own and to protect his identity at all costs.  If Robert ever found out that Lyanna had a child with another man, and that her son was a Targaryen and as such an heir to the throne, her child would never have been safe.  Ned kept this promise.  "I will, Ned promised her. That was his curse. Robert would swear undying love and forget them before evenfall, but Ned Stark kept his vows. He thought of the promises he made to Lyanna as she lay dying, and the price he'd paid to keep them”.  Even Catelyn was led to believe that Ned had fathered the child with another woman while away at war.  I think we can all agree that Ned Stark is too honourable to ever cheat on his wife.  Ever.  We learn that “Whoever Jon's mother had been, Ned must have loved her fiercely, for nothing Catelyn said would persuade him to send the boy away”.  A very clever piece of prose!  Ned did love Jon’s mother fiercely – only nobody knew that it was his sister.  
 
 
Promise me, Ned. Art by CyanideMilkshake on Deviantart

Lyanna clutching the rose petals would also indicate an attachment to the person who gave them to her – it could only have been Rhaegar.  I believe that the blue winter roses also play a part in confirming Jon’s true identity.  Blue winter roses grow in Winterfell and are synonymous with Lyanna Stark, who is widely known to have been extremely fond of them.  While Lyanna and blue winter roses go hand in hand, I believe the blue winter roses symbolise not Lyanna, but Jon Snow.  If Rhaegar and Lyanna are Jon’s parents, the story of his conception begins with blue winter roses – the crown of blue winter roses that Rhaegar laid in Lyanna’s lap at the Tourney at Harenhall.   The fact that it is a crown could point towards Jon’s royal Targaryen blood, and the fact that the flowers are blue winter roses points to Stark.  In her House of the Undying visions, Daenerys notes “A blue flower grew from a chink in a wall of ice, and filled the air with sweetness…”.  This could definitely represent Jon Snow at The Wall.  All of this supports the theory that Jon Snow is the son of Rhaegar Targaryen and Lyanna Stark.  So, technically, Jon is a Prince.  The Prince that was promised.
  
Lyanna Stark, blue winter roses. Artist unknown
In The World of Ice and Fire it is confirmed that the joining of Stark and Targaryen is key.  Lord Cregan Stark made an agreement with the Targaryens during the reign of Aegon III called “The Pact of Ice and Fire,” which was designed to wed Stark and Targaryen to each other.  Sadly it went unfulfilled.  The Pact of Ice and Fire equates to Stark + Targaryen, so, logically A Song of Ice and Fire has to be Stark + Targaryen – not necessarily individual Starks and Targaryens, but possibly one who is both.   Jon Snow simply has to be “the prince that was promised, and his is the song of ice and fire". 

So, why is Jon’s parentage important and what does it mean for the series? 

The Prince that was promised is a prophesied leader or saviour, a hero to deliver the world from darkness.  It is believed that the Prince that was promised will save the world from the Others (White Walkers) much like the legendary hero Azor Ahai did during The Long Night approximately 8000 years before Aegon’s Landing.  It is said that Azor Ahai rose up and defeated the Others, wielding a sword of fire, called Lightbringer.  There is a prophecy that Azor Ahai will come again to defeat the great Other.  The prophecy is believed to have originated in Old Valeria, and the Prince is expected to be born through the Targaryen line.  In Daenerys’ vision in the House of the Undying, Rhaegar said of a newborn baby in the arms of a woman, “He is the Prince that was promised and his is the song of ice and fire”.  This is believed to be his son Aegon, as Rhaegar goes on to mention that he must have one more child, which could also indicate the coming of Jon Snow.  We know now that Prince Aegon is still alive, but I believe he was introduced to the story way too late and as too minor of a character (at this stage) to be the character the entire series is named for.  Rhaegar could have been wrong.  It was not his second child that would be the Prince that was promised, but his third.  

Melisandre has mentioned the Prince that was promised and Azor Ahai interchangeably.  This could be one and the same hero of the same prophecy, or two distinct people part of the same prophecy.  At this point it is unknown.  Maester Aemon firmly believes that the Prince is not a Prince, but a Princess, Daenerys.  Melisandre believes that Stannis is Azor Ahai, but she ponders “I pray for a glimpse of Azor Ahai, and R'hllor shows me only Snow”.  While she only saw actual snow in her flames, this could obviously point to Jon Snow.

Jon also has this dream: “Jon was armored in black ice, but his blade burned red in his fist. As the dead men reached the top of the Wall he sent them down to die again”.  Jon could have had a prophetic dream wherein he was holding Lightbringer, the flaming sword of Azor Ahai. 

There prophecy goes:  When the red star bleeds and the darkness gathers, Azor Ahai shall be born again amidst smoke and salt to wake dragons out of stone. Now, this red comet was seen at the start of the series.  Many people believe that Daenerys fulfilled this prophecy when she was “reborn” with her dragons on Drogo’s funeral pyre, but the prose Martin uses in Jon’s “death” scene could also fulfil the conditions of the prophecy: Wun Wun tears apart a man with a red star sigil, his traitorous Black Brothers could represent the darkness, Jon’s wounds are described as “smoking,” and the salt could be represented in one of his attackers' tears. 

Maester Aemon once told Jon, “Kill the boy and let the man be born”.  Perhaps Jon’s “death” is some necessary part of Jon’s development and the process of becoming Azor Ahai. 

Lastly, the most important reason why Jon can't be dead: He hasn't reunited with Arya yet!

Kit Harington (Jon) and Maisie Williams (Arya)
    
While Season 6 of Game of Thrones is expected to premier in April 2016, showrunners Benoiff and Weiss as well as Kit Harington (who portrays Jon Snow) insist that Kit will not return for Season 6.   Kit Harington has even cut his hair, which he was not allowed to do according to his GOT contract.  If Jon warged into Ghost, they would not need Kit to continue Jon’s storyline, so even if Kit is out that doesn’t necessarily mean that Jon Snow is dead.  Interesting to note is that when talking about Jon Snow, Benioff said “Dead is dead”.  This sentence appears on the very first page of A Game of Thrones (Book 1 of ASOIAF), referring to dead wildlings – who then come back to life!  Benioff could either be messing with our heads, or he dropped a hint only book readers would pick up on; or I'm reading too much into an innocent remark.

Another hint suggesting that Jon’s story is far from over is found in Season 6 casting news.  GOT is looking to cast A man in his thirties or forties who is a great swordsman and a paragon of knighthood. He carries a hugely famous sword on his back. The show is seeking a very impressive swordsman for the role- the best in Europe, for a week of filming fight scenes for a season 6 role.”  This seems to be a call for the famous Kingsguard member Arthur Dayne, often referred to as “Sword of the Morning”, who wore his famous ancestral blade slung across his back.  Arthur Dayne is long dead at the time ASOIAF/GOT takes place, and would therefore only be featured in flashbacks (which would explain only one week of filming).  The only possible flashback featuring Arthur Dayne that could be significant at this stage is the events at Tower of Joy!  Arthur Dayne was Rhaegar Targaryen’s best friend and was one of three Kingsguard members protecting Lyanna at the Tower of Joy.  The fact that there were members of the Kingsguard (even after Rhaegar had been killed) leads many to believe that there had to have been someone royal in the Tower (either Lyanna had married Rhaegar and was now a Queen, and/or Rhaegar’s child was in the tower with Lyanna).  If Jon Snow is dead, why would GOT bother to reveal the truth of his birth?  And why would they reveal the truth of his birth if not to reveal that he is a Targaryen?  If Jon Snow is truly dead, there could be no reason to disclose his parentage. 

Regardless of what GOT will do next, even if Jon Snow is dead in Game of Thrones, readers still have to await the publication of the next book in the series, The Winds of Winter (for which no release date has been assigned) to learn Jon’s fate.  I have previously predicted a 2017 release and at the rate Martin is writing I am sticking to it.  Here’s hoping he proves me wrong by having the book ready next year. 
 

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