Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Ned Stark Lives: Another Cool ASOIAF Fan-Fic

Lately on my alternate-history message-board, what-ifs set in George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire universe have been particularly interesting. One recent what-if was, "What if Ned Stark had taken the black?"

(That was the original plan, before King Joffrey "Baratheon" gave the impulsive order to cut off his head, throwing gasoline onto the Stark-Lannister feud that had already led to war in the Riverlands.)

The board member whose handle is Rhaegar I suggested a fan-fic entitled, well, "Ned Stark Lives!" The point of divergence from canon is that Varys overhears Littlefinger subtly suggesting Joffrey have Ned killed rather than exiled to the Wall and ensures that, thanks to his poisoning talents, Joffrey has a few days of severe diarrhea. This keeps him away from Ned's public "confession" and so Ned leaves King's Landing with, among others, Gendry and his own daughter Arya in disguise as a boy. However, crossing the war-torn Riverlands isn't easy, even with a warrior like Ned to help out.

Overall, it's a really, really interesting story. Things go (more realistically) happier for House Stark than in canon. And the story is so well-done that it even made me care for the vile Lannisters and Theon Greyjoy, who follows his canonical path to a certain point. Heck, even the sleazy Littlefinger gets a moment of glory. These are people whom I've criticized in very stringent terms to my fellow ASOIAF enthusiasts, so getting me to like them takes effort. And I rather like what the writer did with Roslin Frey, who seems rather less shallow than the other women of House Frey. Not only that, but more intelligent (she recognizes how dysfunctional their situation is). There's also a comic bit about how the Freys are seen by the other houses they're intermarried with--her Rosby relatives tease her by asking if her father (Walder Frey) is really her great-grandfather.

My main beef is that a lot of attention is devoted to Gendry/Arya. On top of the fact that he's in his teens and she's ten or eleven and the fact it takes up so much of the story, there's also the social/political problems with this relationship. Although Ned remembers his father being too controlling of his wild sister Lyanna (and her probable rebellion against his betrothal of her to Robert Baratheon by eloping with Prince Rhaegar Targaryen, which set the stage for Robert's Rebellion) and has shown a willingness to indulge Arya's tomboy ways by allowing her fencing lessons, Gendry is still a commoner even though his father is King Robert. Furthermore, as a daughter of the ruling Lord Stark, Arya is quite a useful piece in the political games that Ned, having been severely screwed by Littlefinger and other players, has gotten a bit more adept at playing. And on top of that, she's been promised to Elmar Frey as part of the deal that got Robb Stark's army a quick passage into the Riverlands to rescue Ned in the first place. Realistically Ned and Catelyn would find some gentle way to separate them or in the less likely event Ned is willing to let such a situation occur, he would probably find some way to raise Gendry's social position to make him a "worthy" match for a daughter of the Lord Paramount of the North.

(For example, Gendry does something really clever later in the first story to help the Stark armies return to the Ironborn-afflicted North without taking insane numbers of casualties. Why wasn't he knighted? Gendry gets knighted in canon by Beric Dondarrion anyway and the "upjumped smuggler" Davos Seaworth ended up Hand of the King, so it's not like this sort of thing doesn't happen.)

In any event, the sequel moves away (to a large degree) from the Seven Kingdoms proper to the Wall and the areas around it as the Others begin driving the wildings toward it like the Huns once drove the Germans against Rome. There's less room for teen/preteen drama and more room for Ned whupping up on the Others with his Valryrian steel sword. :)


  1. Hi. I am cbstevp, the writer of Ned Stark Lives! and its sequel. My name is Stephen, I am from Canada and I teach English at a college in Seoul Korea. Thanks for your review and comments. You're not the only one who hated the Gendry/Arya pairing and are probably cringing now after reading chapter 10 of the sequel. Many have told me their relationship is unrealistic as is the Stark's reaction to it. My viewpoint is that in that time period (sort of based on middle ages England according to GRRM) age had a whole different meaning from our current standards. Young girls and boys were matched together and could very well have fallen in love with someone else. And Gendry is Ned's best friend's son, so that makes him a little more acceptable. I have thought about making him a knight and it may happen yet. That at least would make him more suitable for a possible future Arya/Gendry nuptials. But will Gendry and Arya have a happy ending? Only the gods know. Thanks again and I hope you keep reading.

  2. I don't *hate* the Gendry/Arya pairing, but I think it takes up too much space and I think Ned and Catelyn would be far more skeptical or even hostile toward it than they are depicted. However, if Gendry follows the Stark army to war while Arya stays at Winterfell, this keeps them separated and allows more of a focus on the war rather than the shipping.

    IMO Gendry should have been knighted for essentially bringing the Roman testudo formation into the ASOIAF world, since that allowed them to take Moat Cailin with a relatively small number of casualties instead of a massive bloodbath. That's simply a matter of basic fairness given the degree of help he provided and if Ned is sympathetic toward Gendry/Arya, this would make him more "suitable."

    Hopefully Gendry will do something awesome and Ned will remember Moat Cailin and knight him for both of those. That way, people (and by people I mean Freys) won't think he's just trying to upjump Gendry to make him a more class-suitable husband for Arya and thus break the deal with Lord Walder.