Oh ,wow. I can still recall the emotions I experienced reading George R. R. Martin's A Storm of Swords. The author, who is is well known for killing off main characters, has beautifully set up a redemption ark for the Martells, championed by Oberyn, who duels the cruelest, most murderous and loathed character to this point (which is saying a lot,) Sir Gregor Clegane.
It's a David v. Goliath story that, as a cynical GRRM reader, you would be loathe to anticipate as his writing at times seems only to be a reminder of the injustice in the world. And yet, this confident-in-the-face-of-adversity prince, on a mission of retribution the reader is so longing for, actually seems to have a plan and it seems to be succeeding. As Oberyn faces down his opponent in a duel - a trial by combat to both save an innocent man from persecution and get revenge for a murdered sister - he deftly overcomes his opponent's ("The Mountain who Rides") shear size with tactics, slowly grinding him down until he finally delivers a fatal stab of his poison tipped spear to an exhausted opponent. Despite every logical resistance, the reader is finally presented with such a tale of triumphal justice that he can let his guard down just enough to savor it. The crowd is cheering, and there's a primal exultation of human spirit at this unlikely outcome.
It's at this point I considered that this series of books had finally paid off after all the horrible deeds committed by this monster of a character. At last we get a sweet victory to savor.... And yet, snatched from the jaws of victory, the dying Mountain grabs our victor by the boot and yanks him to the ground. The would be hero is slain in a such a stomach churning fashion that I can still recall the visceral repulsion I felt some decades ago while reading it. The cruelty matched only by the poignancy of the defeat. I couldn't bear to turn even a single page more at this point - I merely sat down the book and pushed it away, having to remind myself it's only a tale of fiction. I spent the next week in a slump, pondering the cruelness and injustice that must surely be possible in the reality of life if it could be so convincingly portrayed on paper.
42 sats \ 0 replies \ @ek 30 Jan
I remember this scene but only saw it in the series. Definitely powerful scene.