I don't like this idea of the Great Other being like some sort of Sauron, building up his forces, seeing that men are weaker. I think there's something else, to explain why the Others are descending. No idea what it is though.
I also think the Others can also be thought of as a force of nature, as someone said.
But it doesn't mean they cannot be reasoned with.
I liken it to the sea. The sea is an awesome force of nature. The sea also does not reason, does not have empathy, does not obey to the laws of mankind. You can't reason with the sea, you can't defy it, and yet you can come to some sort of arrangement. Think of the Dutch with their dykes and reclaimed land; think of the Pacific islander early navigators. They didn't tame the sea as such, but worked around it. Didn't get afraid to challenge the status quo and have a go, whilst maintained a healthy respect for what it is.
Maybe humankind can also work out some sort of arrangement with the Others. No idea what form it would take, though.
And WIAI, I also like this image http://data.whicdn.c...owres_large.jpg. I think many other images make them look taller than they are. I don't think they are a lot taller than Westeros humans, maybe taller than the average, 6' 3'' to 6' 5'', but not much more. Smaller than the Mountain - but much more beautiful, ephemeral, mysterious, otherworldly.. like GRRM said, sithe. I want to imagine them as a silent, glacial and menacing beauty, accompanied by some strange alien-sounding trance music: as you face them, you are transported to another world. Yes, I often dream that I am Ser Waymar Royce on his last ranging mission.
He seems like he could be a hot head (wanted to lead the storming of Storms End) but at that age, it may be normal, also he doesn't want to be the sort of king that lets others fight his battle for him: he wants to be involved. So is he more Joffrey or Robb? Both wanted to be involved too (Cersei prevented Joffrey from it, but Catelyn let Robb lead the fray).
I don't think it means he is mad. I think he is less of a ditherer than Dany, but surely that's a good thing!
That's a good point, I wonder why she hasn't. After all, if he is truly a threat / danger, then you would have thought, given how powerful she appears to be around Stannis and the Queen, that she could engineer steps to remove him. Who would mind a fool being replaced by another?
So I think either we overestimate how influential she is (surprising) or she "keeps friends close and enemies closer" and so she keeps Patchface around to get to know him better.
Who knows, who knows.... there are so many characters whose fate is not known: Loras, Jon, Sandor, hell even Stannis, Theon, Mance, Ramsay, Jaqen, Daenerys, Daario, Darkstar, Jojen .... deffo a lot of waiting for us in store!
- do we know for sure that the Trial by Combat means a 7 vs 7 battle? I would have thought it's one against one, unless I have missed something (entirely possible)
- people assume Ser Robert Strong is unbeatable because he has Gregor's body. But in my view that's not the way it will work. He might be a lumbering giant, easy to defeat. Has he been tested? Has Qyburn actually offered proof that this giant can fight?
I agree that when people realise he is undead (either when he wins and he needs to take his helmet off, or he loses and someone else takes off his helmet for him), the High Septon will go nuts, declare Cersei/Qyburn to be necromancers and oppose her militarily.
I think you have it right, OP - I love ASOIAF because it is almost like medieval history. But I also love fantasy, and I love the way it is subtly part of the ASOIAF world. And I think that what I like is that many of people in that world have either not been exposed to magic, and don't truly believe in it, or have but keep it a secret as it is very powerful and "not to be consumed by the general public" so to speak.
So we have a world where people's thoughts and actions are not driven by any consideration of magic, which makes it very realistic (and many people including me love that realism aspect of the novels). When magic happens, it surprises and disturbs most people, which is great! That's what would happen in real life if we were exposed to something magical/supernatural.
To me, this is akin to a science fiction/fantasy movie where, at the beginning of the movie, we see humans exposed for the first time to aliens. And this is usually my favourite part of the movie! The rest might be crap, but I love those moments of "first exposure", "first contact", etc. Independence Day for example, Highlander, War of The Worlds... some of these movies are absolute bo***cks, but I still love those moments when normal people are exposed to something unreal. I think I love ASOIAF for the same reason (amongst others).
To the OP, I'm glad someone finally mentions a possible plan B by the Iron Bank, since it is something I've argued for a long time in my circle of ASOIAF-mad friends.
The Iron Bank is a bank, and as such, it obviously will have money tied up in many schemes to mitigate the risks.
My pet theory is that it's Dany. If it wasn't, they would have put some spanners in the works in Meereen (where they surely have some sort of presence, especially since dragons have appeared).
Since there has been no signs of them supporting any of Dany's foes, I am concluding that Dany constitutes a possible plan B for them.