Sunday, June 10, 2012

A Challenge of Ice and Fire: Week 10

A Clash of Kings: Arya VI to the end of Arya VIII (p. 556)

My previous posts on A Clash of Kings:   week 7   week 8   week 9

26. Arya VI

Gregor Clegane needs to die, slowly and painfully, and soon! I mentioned last week that I was worried about what was happening in the storehouse and it was just about as bad as I expected. Random torturing with questions that no one can answer, systematic rape and death as a happy alternative. Although I would never claim to like these kinds of scenes, I do appreciate that Mr Martin shows us that war is not all clean and honorable. It is not all gallant knights and heroic deeds like it is in the songs: it has a horrible impact on everyone, especially the low folk who are caught in between the opposing sides.

Fortunately, Arya and the others have been taken to Harrenhal where they should be seen as a resource and so treated reasonably well. I love how her prayers have become the list of people she wants dead.

27. Daenerys II

Qarth is obviously a very ancient and powerful city. I find it interesting that the inhabitants are milk-white: I assume that this is an affectation of the rich who will use it to display their lack of outdoor labor. However, Qarth has not stayed independent and un-sacked by being pretty. We are shown the three walls that surround the city and a small part of the army that defends it. I am sure that behind the beautiful, cultured facade is a powerful and merciless determination to remain unconquered. The wizard, Pyat Pree and his invitation to the House of the Undying seems like something to avoid at all cost, but I do not trust Xaro Xhoan Daxos either. It seems like the only person being honest with Daenerys is Quaithe, who basically advises her to trust no one.

We learn about Robert’s death, although the news about the aftermath is confused and full of more misinformation than anything useful. However, it does convey the disorder in the realm and, in other circumstances, this would be an ideal time for Daenerys to try to seize the throne. Ser Jorah warns her that she is in no position to take advantage of the political turmoil, although her understanding of the loss of a leader is pretty much spot on. Plus, the dragons need to mature a little before they can be effective in battle, so she needs time to plan and build her army.

28. Bran IV

The Reed children are fast becoming very interesting, especially Jojen. Meera is obviously very talented with her chosen weapons, neatly capturing Summer and disabling him. Jojen is a greenseer and has green dreams that are or will be true. He has had a similar experience to that of Bran, a brush with death that brought the three-eyed crow, who Jojen believes lives beyond the Wall. I like how Jojen maneuvered Bran into displaying his control of Summer, although Bran still refuses to acknowledge his link with the wolf.

Maester Luwin does not believe in the possibility of Jojen’ greensight. Apparently, he studied magic during his maester’s training and never found any evidence of its existence, so I can understand his skepticism. However, I think he is wrong and Bran does protest, citing his and Rickon’s shared dream of Ned on the night of his execution. Maester Luwin is a man of science and only believes what he has seen, but in this case he is ignoring the very obvious links between the Stark boys and their wolves. I am very interested to see how Bran is the winged wolf. I doubt that he will be able to walk again, but perhaps this refers to his link to Summer and using it to let his consciousness fly away from his body.

I was not very happy to hear that Roose Bolton’s Bastard had forced Lady Hornwood to marry him. She seemed like such a gentle person and did not deserve to be forced into this. I foresee this being the thin end of an unpleasant wedge.

29. Tyrion VII

Ah, Sir Lancel, you are so funny, with your pouty arrogance and wispy moustache! However, Tyrion the Mighty deals with his pathetic attempts at relaying Cersei’s threats with the very neat idea of telling Joffrey that Lancel is banging his mother. Lancel may be a bit dim, but he sees how that will end for him and wisely chooses to become Tyrion’s spy instead: good boy! Tyrion is quite right that Jon Arryn and Ned Stark could not control Cersei because they could never act like her: they were too honorable. Although Tyrion is honorable in his own way, but can bend the rules when he needs to if the ends justify the means.

I was very touched by his lack of interest in the other girls at the brothel, especially the one that was being quite forceful in propositioning him. He seems to have fallen for Shea and does not want to be unfaithful to her, which is really sweet. Although he may just have been wary of the other prostitute being a spy for Littlefinger or Cersei, especially as she was asking a lot of questions about what was so special about Alayaya. I am concerned that Pycelle is going to be back out of his cell and looking to damage Tyrion, but hopefully Bronn will keep his eyes open and I feel that Varys will try to keep Tyrion alive.

30. Arya VII

While Gendry is sent to the smithy and Hot Pie is sent to the kitchens, Arya becomes a maid, cleaning and running messages. This allows her quite a lot of freedom and she hears and reads the latest news and gossip.

We meet the Bloody Mummers, who seem like a nice bunch of chaps and make Gregor Clegane look like a real softy. Also, Ser Amory Lorch arrives and it seems that he has recruited the three thugs that Arya help to escape from the burning barn. I feel very sorry for anyone caught by either of these groups. Jaqen H’ghar finds her one night and tells her that, by saving the three thugs, she stole three deaths from the Red God and he needs three names so that he can repay that debt. At first she is all Stark and honorable, thinking that she could never name a person to be killed. However, she overhears Chiswyck, one of Clegane’s men, bragging about a story where a brewer’s daughter is subjected to multiple rapes. She names Chiswyck to Jaqen and he falls off the wall a few nights later: good! I would have liked a little more pain and suffering, but death seems a reasonable alternative.

31. Catelyn III

Catelyn attends a parley between Renly and Stannis, hoping that they will see sense and ally with Robb against the Lannisters. Ah, Catelyn, if people were going to act with common sense we would have a mighty short book here!

You know that it is going to go badly when Renly keeps Stannis waiting for a few minutes. Renly is probably correct that no one wants Stannis to be king, but that is hardly going to persuade Stannis to stand aside. It would seem that Stannis has a chip on his shoulder the size of the Wall and nothing will persuade him that he should give way to Renly so that they can destroy the Lannister threat. I did understand Catelyn’s feelings when she threatened to knock their heads together, but treating them like children seemed like the wrong way to approach the problem, as it simply made them both more stubborn.

Catelyn learns of Stannis’ accusations about Cersei and Jaime, and she is totally stunned by Cersei’s audacity. In an astonishing display of political awareness, Stannis admits that he had taken his concerns to Jon Arryn because he would be seen as self-serving by accusing Cersei of birthing bastards. I find it hard to imagine Stannis doing anything that sensible, because his present behavior is so shortsighted. Catelyn rides away shaking her head in shocked disbelief at their folly and is forbidden leave to ride back to Riverrun because Renly wants her to witness his army destroy that of Stannis.

I loved the story behind the building of Storm’s End: it seemed almost Tolkienesque in its mix of mythology and romance. I also felt very sorry for Brienne, who is denied her place at Renly’s side in battle even though she is hopelessly in love with him. Poor Brienne.

32. Sansa III

Just when I think that Joffrey has reached the worst depths of nastiness he surprises me by getting even worse. He has shot a cat, leaving it to die in agony, and then wants to punish Sansa for her brother’s actions. Ser Dontos tries to keep her from harm, but is soon pushed out of the way by the miserable bastards that Ser Boros and Ser Meryn. Boros punched her in the stomach, again, which cannot be doing her much good at all: I have no idea how she has survived so far without internal damage. He is then ordered to strip her and happily rips her dress off. Fortunately, Tyrion arrives and gives everyone a good verbal slapping.

It is a great shame that Sansa does not realize that she can trust Tyrion to keep her safe, and so she rebuffs his attempts to be nice to her. The Hound seems to be having more and more trouble watching these displays of Joffrey’s sadism and is starting to speak out against his master, which I hope will keep Sansa alive until she can be removed from Joffrey’s grasp. Sansa is rightfully appalled by the behavior of the supposed knights, who are happy to abuse her. It is ironic that the ones who are not knighted are the ones who behave with any chivalry (Dontos, the Hound, Tyrion).

It is nice to hear the total garbage that has been made up to excuse Robb’s defeat of the Lannister force. Tyrion is fairly sure that is all comes down to Stafford Lannister’s stupidity, but the other ideas are hilarious. The idea that Robb has giants and armies of wolves / wargs is funny, but also good because it will make any army that he approaches fill their pants when they imagine what they have to face.

33. Catelyn IV

This was an interesting chapter, with some good description of the worship of the Seven Gods. It seems amazing that we have had very little information about how religion works in this world, because it is normally so important to people, especially in times of conflict and uncertainty. Catelyn finally puts the pieces together and realizes what Bran must have seen in the tower. She shares this with Renly and suggests that he calls all the lords to a gathering where she can present her evidence so that all will believe what Stannis has said about Cersei. Of course, Renly sees this as a stupid idea, and I guess it would not really work anyway, but it would have been nice to see a political solution considered.

Then Renly gets killed by a shadow of Stannis.

Ok then: so I guess Melisandre really can do magic! How, I have no idea, but it is certainly effective because it defeats Renly’s army in one single blow and effectively places them in a position where they must swear allegiance to Stannis: very cunning.

Poor Brienne! The only time she gets to hold Renly is as he is dying. Then she is accused of killing him and has to fight for her life, which she does with an awesome display of badass fighting skills. Fortunately, Catelyn is there to prevent her from being killed and drags her away before she can question her next action. This is a very good thing, because now Brienne will be able to live as she tries to take her revenge on Stannis, and in doing so she will allow us to see a seriously powerful woman acting in a man’s world. You go, girl!

34. Jon IV

The merry band of Brothers finds a likely spot to defend themselves. However, it did make me think of that quote from the Fellowship of the Ring about a visible fire being as good as shouting for announcing their presence and position. I am also uneasy that Ghost was wary of the site: this seems like a pretty good reason NOT to camp there. Plus there is no water source at the top and they have to carry any they need all the way up there. I am not sure if the Old Bear is being over-confident or not: perhaps I am just being over cautious about the presence of Wildlings, Others, Giants and countless other beasties out in the darkness. Perhaps.

However, Jon does find that stash of dragonglass weapons in a Brother’s cloak, so perhaps this is a reasonable place to camp after all. Maybe Benjin will turn up un-wighted and in one piece, but I am beginning to doubt that.

35. Bran V

It seems that Bran’s dreams are becoming more prophetic: hopefully this means that people will start to take notice of them soon. Jojen’s dream about the sea coming to Winterfell is particularly disturbing as it seems like a damn great warning flag with “WARNING!” printed all over it. Especially as the men he sees in the dream are men that he has now met. I loved how Bran was so literal about Jojen’s advice to open his third eye, trying to feel it in his forehead. If only some of the adults would take notice of what Jojen and Bran are saying, but as is often the case, they are ignored and not taken seriously.

Am I the only one to think it strange that this Reek character is not what he seems? The Bastard of Bolton seems to be becoming yet another nightmare, only this one is waltzing around the North doing what he wants whilst Robb and the army are elsewhere. Now, we know that the Bolton sigil is a flayed man and Jojen dreams of Reek skinning Bran and Rickon, so I am laying bets that Reek is actually the Bastard and that killing him ASAP would be a very good thing. However, I doubt that anyone will do that and much horror and nastiness will occur. At least Osha knows how to go North, as I have a feeling they should be running away.

36. Tyrion VIII

So, Margery gets to marry Joffrey! I am sure that she will be so happy to hear that, unless she is a real political schemer. Cersei is not only blind to Joffrey’s inherent evilness, but also thinks that he is still a pure-minded little boy who did not ask to have Sansa stripped naked so that he could ogle her body. Somehow I think Tyrion is quite right and Joffrey needs a good seeing to. Even so, I pity any woman who has to do the deed.

Littlefinger continues to oil his greasy way into power by offering to go as emissary to the Tyrells, although he does seem like the most trustworthy of the alternatives that Tyrion has at his disposal apart from Varys, who is far too important for the preparations of the defense of the city. Then Cersei is nice to Tyrion: do I smell a dirty deed in the future? I cannot imagine anything else making Cersei be nice to him, unfortunately.

37. Theon III

Good grief, these Iron Islanders are a rough bunch. Unfortunately, Theon cannot stand up to them yet, and fails to assert his leadership over his Uncle Aeron when Aeron wants to kill someone Theon wants to interrogate. I did have a moment of surprise when Theon killed a man for being too drunk and fighting with another of the raiders: at least he has some standards, just not many. Just to prove my point he goes on to explain that he wants to make a feint at taking Torrhen’s Square in order to draw the strength out of Winterfell, so that he can take the castle. I guess that will be the sea coming to engulf the keep that Jojen saw in his dream: crappity crap.

38. Arya VIII

Finally, Hot Pie’s thick skull has remembered Arya screaming “Winterfell!” during the fighting weeks earlier. However, Gendry managed to put him off and protect her identity: he is a good ally for her. It is a shame that she does not think to have Jaqen bump off Lord Tywin until he is marching out of the keep, but that would have seemed a little contrived I guess. So instead she chooses Weese, her overseer, as the second name. He has a very simple death, but then his dog eats his face, which was a little more detail than I needed.

Jaqen is an interesting character and I hope we see more of him: any man that scares the stuffing out of Rorge has to be seriously BAD!

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