Sunday, April 22, 2012

A Challenge of Ice and Fire: Week 3

A Game of Thrones: Eddard IV to the end of Bran V (p. 409)

My previous posts:   Week 1   Week 2

27. Eddard IV

The mystery around Jon Arryn’s death deepens as we learn that he has been visiting brothels with Stannis Baratheon, who has taken himself off to Dragonstone. It seems that young Renly has found a girl that he thinks looks like Lyanna, Margaery Tyrell, and is disappointed when Ned does not see the resemblance. However, Ned is in no doubt about the boy armorer’s Gendry, who looks very much like his father, the King, and who had been recently visited by Jon Arryn and Stannis Baratheon. I have to say that Ned is decidedly dull when it comes to the issue of the royal children: he notes how much Renly and Gendry look like Robert, but doesn’t notice how Joffrey and his siblings do not.

28. Catelyn V

This chapter seems to me to be the one where Fate steps in and messes everything up for most of the people in Westeros. Without the amazing chance of Catelyn and Tyrion arriving in the same inn on the same night, life would have progressed relatively smoothly and many more people would have been alive by the end of the book, never mind the series. I understand why she does what she does, but it is the point of no return: the first falling stone that creates the avalanche of unstoppable events leading to war, death and destruction. Having said that, it is wonderfully done, and it takes a lot to surprise and out-think the Mighty Tyrion.

29. Sansa II

What are the chances that the young squire who probably killed Jon Arryn would make a mistake and be killed in the Tourney? Very, very large, obviously! Littlefinger is extra creepy with his comment about Sansa looking like Catelyn, but not as creepy as Joffrey’s ability to be nice one minute and then totally disinterested the next. I am totally at a loss about Loras Tyrell giving Sansa a red rose, not a white one like the others. However, the most interesting section of this chapter is Sansa’s conversation with Sandor Clegane, the Hound. It seems that he is not the psychopathic minion that we took him for. I am not sure why he is drawn to Sansa, perhaps he responds to her innocent idealism or her kindness. At first, it seems that he is simply trying to frighten her, but this incident creates a bond between them that will be significant I think.

30. Eddard VII

Cersei really is desperate to get rid of Robert, isn’t she? She knows how to manipulate him beautifully, but Ned and Sir Barristan Selmy persuade him that there would be no honor in fighting in the melee. Unfortunately, although Robert hates Cersei he has all the political intelligence of a small rock: he is quite right in saying that he was a bad choice for King. We see more character development for Sandor here. His brother, however, seems to be less of a character than a force of nature: the Mountain that Rides! Maybe it is just me, but that does not strike me as the nickname of a warm and cuddly man who is happily in touch with his feminine side. However, I note that Sandor is holding back while fighting him, which makes it more impressive that he manages to best a man who can behead his own horse. Later, Ned is visited by a wonderfully camouflaged Varys. All I can say is “Beware Spiders appearing to be your friend!” While I think Varys is more truthful about his actions than either Littlefinger or Maester Pycelle, I still do not trust him.

31. Tyrion IV

The Mighty Tyrion makes some very good points that suggest that he is innocent of the attack on Bran, and we can see Catelyn starting to doubt her actions, but she will not change her mind. Although she has taken steps to avoid the Lannister men who will be searching for them, she will not turn from the path that she has chosen. Her blind faith in Littlefinger is shown to be even more foolish by Tyrion’s assertion that Petyr claims to have taken her virginity. Her outrage stops her believing this, but I have a sneaking suspicion that Tyrion is speaking the truth here, as he does most of the time. It seems like a strange thing to concoct when he is totally at her mercy and could provoke her into having him killed. Of course, he goes on to prove that he has honor by saving her during the attack by the Mountain clansmen.

32. Arya III

Arya is out chasing cats: what is not to love about that? I am disappointed for her that she catches the old black cat only to be distracted, so that she cannot take him back to Syrio to prove that she caught him. The scene with Magister Illyrio and (as shown in the HBO series) Varys in disguise is very unsettling. There is the terrible suggestion that his ‘little birds’ all have their tongues removed and so have to right their reports. Also, it seems to suggest that Varys is trying to place the throne back into Targaryen hands and that the Stark / Lannister tension will help. We have an answer to why Renly was disappointed with Ned’s reaction to Margaery Tyrell: he was hoping that she would look enough like Lyanna to provoke Robert into marrying her. This shows Renly’s lack of political expertise: I would like to see anyone try to drag Cersei out of the Red Keep. Poor Arya knows that all of this is important, but does not do very good job of telling Ned.

33. Eddard VIII

Just when I thought Ned had started to get the hang of politics, he proves what a total dunce he is. He angers Robert by opposing him, even though he knows that this will simply make the King more stubborn. This places him in a very dangerous situation, because without Robert’s protection he is open to Lannister attack, which he seems to realize and so he makes plans to leave that night. Varys pokes Maester Pycelle into revealing his part in the plot to kill Jon Arryn by mentioning the very same poison that he had suggested to Ned. While I agree with Ned that killing Daenerys is a cowardly act, I also have to agree with Renly: why was this not done years ago if it was so important? I get the feeling that Robert is feeling less secure as he gets older and so she now presents more of a perceived threat than before. It is strange that Littlefinger should turn up to persuade Ned to postpone his travel plans for a few hours: that is not at all suspicious, is it?

34. Catelyn VI

The approach to the Eyrie is wonderfully evocative, although I have to wonder how they keep the place supplied. I am intrigued by Mya Stone, and I hope we will see more of her. Young Robert Arryn breast-feeding at the age of six years? Eww, eww and double eww! This scene was disturbing to read, and even more uncomfortable to watch on TV. Lysa is obviously several sandwiches short of a picnic and her son is so over-protected that it is creepy. I find Catelyn’s disbelief that he is Jon Arryn’s son totally understandable: I would not be surprised if we find out later that he is not Jon’s at all.

35. Eddard IX

Ned remembers Lyanna being all too aware of Robert’s constant wenching. The fact that she could be so unmoved about the prospect of her future husband being unfaithful to her adds power to the argument that she was actually in love with Rhaegar Targaryen. The fact that thinking of her leads Ned to remember Rhaegar is a strong supporter of this. Robert sounds like a love addict: constantly falling in love with one woman and then moving on to the next. I can only assume that his great passion for Lyanna has remained intact because he never had her. Ned STILL does not see the problem with the golden-haired ‘Baratheon’ children, but then, he still trusts Littlefinger, so we have to question his common sense. I find it interesting that the HBO series took the confrontation with Jaime further, rather than leaving it as more of a warning as it is in the book.

36. Daenerys IV

Viserys continues to whine like the whiniest whiney thing: how is he still alive? He has such a bizarre view of the world that the word ‘insane’ seems inadequate to describe him. Fortunately, Daenerys has a much stronger sense of survival and is integrating beautifully into the khalasar. She has blossomed into a powerful young Queen who will no longer submit to her brother’s unreasonable demands. I was so happy when she smacked him around the face with that belt, although I would have been happier if she had hit in the tenders. After the Arya chapter earlier, where we are told that Ser Jorah is one of Varys’ spies, it is a little difficult to like him as much as I did earlier, but he does seem to have attached himself to Daenerys.

37. Bran V

Much wolfy goodness on display here as Summer and Grey Wind show how deadly they can be. I loved the sensory descriptions as Bran rides out of Winterfell for the first time since his fall: Mr Martin is great at giving us a sense of what it is like to be with the characters we are following. The attack by the Wildlings and deserters from the Wall was grim, but Bran handles himself well and Robb displays courage and swordsmanship. However, it is the wolves that really save the day: and Theon Greyjoy’s bow. I loved how the guardsmen are so upset by what they see of the wolf-inflicted injury, but the most shocking aspect was Summer chowing down on the dead woman’s guts. Of course, the most shocking thing about that is that nobody tries to stop him and that Bran is unmoved by it.

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