Sunday, July 22, 2012

A Challenge of Ice and Fire: Week 16

A Storm of Swords: Tyrion III to the end of Daenerys III (p. 381)

My previous posts on A Storm of Swords:   week 14   week 15

19. Tyrion III

The last time we met Tyrion it seemed likely that he would be sidelined by the rest of the Lannisters, but here we see him taking a seat in the Small Council and being made Master of Coins. Of course, I really wish that Lord Tywin would realize how closely Tyrion matches his own intelligence and ability to plan and strategize, but I know that he is too blinded by the death of his wife. I love following Tyrion’s thoughts during these political discussions, because they reveal how perceptive he is and how well he reads people. I doubt that anyone else at the table, other than Tywin and probably Varys, are as capable as he is.

We have a lot of information about the state of the realm and the movements of the various forces. Littlefinger’s comments about Lysa Arryn made me want to slap him very soundly, especially now that we know about her abortion. He is a loathsome man and I keep hoping that he will come to a bad, but he just keeps oozing along. Surely the Lordship of Harrenhal will carry its usual curse: I really do hope so. Mace Tyrell seems to be as much of an idiot as his mother claims and he is too cowardly to stand up to Tywin, even though he is in a strong position politically.

After the other council members are dismissed the Lannisters deal with matters that Tywin wants to keep within the family. He reveals the plot to wed Sansa to Willas Tyrell, and plans to use Cersei to block the marriage. Understandably, Cersei is enraged at being ‘sold off’ in yet another political marriage. Although I really hate the woman, I can still sympathize with her about being bartered like a prize animal. I cannot imagine what it is like to know that you are only valuable because you can attract a useful political match and breed successfully. To ensure that Sansa remains in their grasp she will be married to Tyrion, which might actually be quite a good move for her. I know that she will be horrified at the thought, but at least he will treat her well and it will remove her from Joffrey’s control. I doubt that she will see the benefits of the match, though.

Bad news about Robb’s marriage to Jeyne Westerling: Tywin is happy about it, which means that it is probably all part of some plan of his. Even Tyrion is surprised that Tywin has not ordered the Westerlings to be exterminated.

20. Catelyn III

Everything is falling apart for Robb: Lord Karstark has murdered a pair of prisoners. For some reason, killing a Frey and a Lannister, both of whom are young squires, is needed for vengeance for his dead sons. It does not make much sense to me, or to the other characters in the book, but it will certainly provoke Tywin and Walder Frey. Also, the loss of the Karstark men is a blow that Robb does not need and now Robb has to make an example of the men involved in the killings. They are all hanged apart from Lord Karstark who Robb beheads himself.

Edmure proves himself to be woefully hopeless at politics and at understanding other people, which makes me worry for the future of Riverrun. However, Jeyne seems to be taking her role as queen very seriously and asks Catelyn for advice on how to help Robb. We also learn that she has been taking fertility potions made by her mother and that they have been having a lot of sex, so we should expect the patter of little Stark paws in the near future.

21. Jaime III

Ah, Jaime, you are a disturbing man. I really did not need to know that you used to play stallion and mare with Cersei before you reached puberty, or that your mother’s maid caught you in the act and banished you to the other end of the house. Your memories do leave me with one question, though: how does Tywin STILL not know about the incest?

But, then, Jaime, you are a bit of an idiot as well. You have just been attacked by some archers and Cleos is dead, so now seems the perfect time to RIDE AWAY. For some reason, having a massive sword fight with Brienne and making a huge amount of noise in the proximity of some archers that have already attacked you seem like a bad idea to me. Call me overly cautious, but I would have high tailed it out of there without worrying about trying to get away from Brienne just then. Plus she kicked your butt anyway.

The Brave Companions are such a fun bunch to have as your captors: I am sure that Brienne is really looking forward to the gang rape that they are promising. On a lighter note, Vargo Hoat’s lisp is hilarious. However, I am somewhat concerned about which bit of his anatomy Jaime has just lost.

22. Arya IV

We keep hearing about the supposed deaths of Beric Dondarrion, although he still seems to be alive. This is one explanation that needs to be good otherwise I will be very disappointed.

It seems that Lord Beric is a cautious type, which is sensible after being ‘killed’ so many times, and does not let people know of his travel plans. This is good for security but pretty useless if you need to talk to him about something, like having found Arya Stark. However, it does give us the chance to see the various groups of people in the area who have survived the war so far. These include the Lady of the Leaves, who lives in a village in the trees and an elderly dwarf woman at Heart Hill, a place crowned by thirty-one weirwoods that was sacred to the Children of the Forest. She predicts three deaths: one for a golden stag, one for a man on a bridge and one for a woman who used to be a fish. The first could be Renly’s death, but she suggests that these are visions of the future, so perhaps it refers to Stannis instead.

Finally, they arrive at Acorn Hall where they are feasted by Lady Smallwood. When she learns that Arya is highborn she insists on bathing her and giving her a pretty dress. Arya is suitably disgusted by this turn of events, but does thank Lady Smallwood for her kindness. We learn some interesting history about Thoros, the Red Priest, as Gendry explains how he actually fights with a flaming sword: it is just a normal sword dipped in wildfire, although each sword only lasts for a short time before the chemical destroys it. Gendry’s master saw this a great waste!

23. Daenerys II

We get more insight into the training of the Unsullied and their ability to ignore pain. They are very, very scary, but I can understand why Arstan advises against using them. Using slaves to regain the Iron Throne will not win Daenerys any friends in Westeros, but the Unsullied will die without question and be totally loyal to her, so I can see how valuable they would be as an army.

The slave culture of Astapor is cruel and ruthless. We are told that only one third of the boys chosen as Unsullied survive the training because any fault is punished by death. They are not allowed to own anything but their equipment and do not even have permanent names, drawing a new one everyday by lot. They are also made immune to pain by the daily drinking of a special potion.

24. Bran II

Whilst travelling through the hills north of the Wolfswood, the group comes across a Liddle who is happy to share his cave with them and gives them food. He obviously knows whom they are and that they are being hunted by the Bastard of Bolton. I hope that he will prove to be loyal to Bran and keep quiet about seeing them. I liked the way that Bran made a note to repay the man’s generosity: he is shaping up into a fine nobleman.

The majority of the chapter is given over to Meera Reed relating a story, which was very cleverly done, because she does not identify any of the people in the story but we can recognize many of them from what we already know. The bulk of the story takes place at a tourney at Harrenhal, and the Reeds repeatedly ask Bran if Eddard ever related the story. This leads me to believe that the Reeds see this as a very significant event in recent history and it also confirms that the little crannogman is actually their father, Howland Reed.

The tourney was a great affair, with the King in attendance with his ‘White Swords’, the Kingsguard, including the newly named Jaime Lannister. Robert Baratheon and Mace Tyrell were there, but Tywin Lannister was not because he had recently quarreled with the King. Prince Rhaegar and his wife were also present. Howland Reed approached the tourney but three squires assaulted him because of his small size. He was saved by a she-wolf who fought them off with a sword: this was obviously Lyanna Stark. She took him back to her tent and tended his wounds and he met her three brothers. He was persuaded to attend the feast that night. There, Lyanna Stark cried over a song that Rhaegar sung whilst Robert won a drinking contest and purple-eyed Ashara Dayne danced with Eddard, but only after Brandon had asked her to. Howland pointed out the three squires to Lyanna and she identified their masters, while Benjen offered him the use of a horse and some armor in order to regain his honor. On the second day of the tourney a mystery knight, The Knight of the Laughing Tree, entered the lists and challenged and defeated the squires’ masters, telling each of them to teach their squires honor. However, when they searched for him the next day, the mystery knight had vanished. The identity of the knight is not known although there are several possibilities.

25. Davos III

I am very pleased to find that Davos is not dead or dying, as he seemed very ill at the end of his last chapter. Although he is imprisoned, he has been treated well, fed and even given medicine to help him recover from his illness. I note that he describes the walls as being warm at times, which suggests that Dragonstone is built over volcanic vents of some type. I am not sure if this has any significance, but Mr Martin rarely mentions anything if it has no importance at all.

Melisandre visits Davos and attempts to convert him. I find this strange, because she saw his desire to kill her in her flames, and yet she has not called for his death. I can only assume that she sees some significant future for him, although she does offer to pleasure him so that she can use his life force to make further shadows. I guess we now know why the shades looked like Stannis, but there is a considerable ‘ick’ factor.

Her account of the was between R’hllor, the Lord of Light, and the Great Other, the Lord of Darkness, sounds very ominous and I cannot help but notice that Ice and Fire are mentioned several times, suggesting that this is war that we should be focusing on. Looking back to the Prologue of A Game of Thrones, it seems that all the other politics and fighting is a distraction from the real conflict to come. In this chapter, Melisandre has moved from evil charlatan to possible aid to the side of good in my eyes. I still do not trust her, but we see here that she is not simply power-crazed, but actually believes that Stannis is the prophesized Azor Ahai who will defeat the Great Other. However, the prophecy seems to fit Daenerys far more than Stannis.

A few days later Stannis’ Hand, Ser Alester Florent, is thrown into the cell with Davos. It seems that Ser Alester had sent a letter to Tywin offering that Stannis would renounce his claim to the throne and his accusations about Joffrey’s parentage. He would also wed Shireen to Tommen. In return he would be made Lord of Dragonstone and Storm’s End. Strangely, Stannis was not happy about this and sees Ser Alester as a traitor. I can understand why he thinks that their cause is hopeless, but he obviously does not know Stannis very well: I could almost see Davos shaking his head in disbelief at what the fool had tried to do.

26. Jon III

“You know nothing, Jon Snow!”

I really like Ygritte: she is brutally honest and wonderfully independent. I like how she teases Jon and always knows so much more than he does. The descriptions of their lovemaking were very endearing as Jon suddenly discovers what he has been missing and finds it harder and harder to justify his actions as part of his oath. Some of the dialogue was great at suggesting what was happening without us being given a detailed description. Plus, I liked that Jon could surprise her, even though he had never been with a woman before. They are a nice couple and I like the way their relationship is developing, so I expect her to die quite soon, as I cannot imagine Mr Martin allowing Jon to be happy for any length of time.

I hope that Jon is reunited with Ghost fairly soon as I am always uneasy about the Stark children being separated from their wolves. However, there is no option here because they are going to climb the wall. I wonder if Ghost will actually return to Castle Black and raise the alarm.

27. Daenerys III

Oh, Mr Martin, you are devious! You had me all set up for Daenerys giving away Drogon. You had her regretful and crying whilst feeding them, but all the time she was planning to be freaking awesome!

Just when I think Daenerys has been beaten down, she comes roaring back like the Mother of Dragons that she is. She manipulates the slave masters beautifully, getting them to give her all of their Unsullied and the trainees in return for her goods, the ships and Drogon. She receives the slave Missandei, who had been acting as translator, and immediately frees the girl and asks her many questions about the Unsullied and their loyalty to previous owners.

Next day, the slave masters make the same mistake as many other men: they underestimate Daenerys’ brutality and strength of mind. As soon as she has control of the Unsullied she orders Drogon to attack and then orders the Unsullied to kill their former masters and free all the slaves in the city.

Daenerys continues to impress me as a young woman and as a leader. She will make an awesome Queen.

We also find out that “valar morghulis” means “all men must die”, which is pretty cool.  

1 comment:

  1. I absolutely love this series, and this review of the book is great!! I don't know if you accept awards, 
    but I have nominated it for the Liebster Blog award. It is for newer bloggers, a way to get more followers. Check you my post for more details..


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