Monday, July 2, 2012

A Challenge of Ice and Fire: Week 13

A Clash of Kings: Tyrion XIII to the end of the book.

My previous posts on A Clash of Kings:   week 7   week 8   week 9   week 10   week 11   week 12

I will be starting A Storm of Swords tomorrow. If you would like to join me, have a look at my schedule.

59. Tyrion XIII

So, having left poor Davos in the fiery water of Blackwater Bay, we move to follow the battle from Tyrion’s perspective and, even though I want nothing more than to see Joffrey’s head on a spike, I am absurdly happy that the battle is going against Stannis. Of course, the fact that Stannis is an insufferable stuffed shirt has nothing to do with it: I just love the fact that Tyrion has proven his family wrong and has made plans that might just save the city.

But then Joffrey has to ruin the moment by complaining about his pretty ships burning. I have no idea how Tyrion restrains himself from ‘accidentally’ shoving Joffrey off the wall, but instead he sends Joffrey off to play with the trebuchets. Darling Joffrey skips off to happily starting chucking the Antler Men over the wall to join Stannis, so he is happy and out of Tyrion’s way. Unfortunately, the wildfire trap has not been as successful as he had hoped and so there are enough of Stannis’ forces landing to attack the King’s Gate, which The Hound has been defending. I feel for The Hound and his terror at the fires spreading around him: he is a very brave man, but getting your face half burnt off as a child will make the most courageous man a little irrational about flames.

Just as we see the men losing morale and starting to slink away, the Mighty Tyrion stirs them up by basically embarrassing them: he will lead the sortie and they have to be braver than a dwarf, surely! Yet again, Tyrion proves to be a great leader of men, using his disability to his advantage. He also confirms what we suspected after his brief spell in Tywin’s army: he is far braver than he thinks he is. I think I might be a little in love with him! :)

60. Sansa VI

After reading Tyrion’s stirring speech and following his bravery, it is very strange to be back inside the Queen’s Ballroom eating dinner with Sansa, Cersei and the other women. Although I am desperate to know what happens to Tyrion, and hopeful that Joffrey will inadvertently get shot over the wall by one of his own trebuchets, I do appreciate the slower pace that this chapter provides. By taking us away from the action for a while it allows us to feel that time is passing, and also gives a wonderfully different perspective. Much like Catelyn in Chapter 63: Catelyn X of A Game of Thrones, we follow the battle from afar, where all the characters can do is to sit and wait. I feel like this is one aspect of battle that is commonly ignored in the depictions of war, so it is good to see it here. It also allows quite a bit of character development for Cersei in particular.

Cersei continues to drink and be very frank with Sansa. I am not sure if this frankness is due to the alcohol or to Cersei’s belief that they are going to die, but she does seem to be torturing Sansa in order to give herself a feeling of control over something, which is understandable given the circumstances. We see how cynical Cersei is about being female and how she really hates being a woman rather than a man. She hints that she would attempt to seduce Stannis, but is quite right that she would have more chance with his horse: I doubt that Stannis would touch her with a ten foot pole.

We get periodic reports of the battle raging outside, while Cersie rambles on about how she should have been a man. I find this very ironic, especially as we have met Brienne and Lady Mormont, so we know that it is possible for a woman to become a warrior if she chooses to. As the situation worsens Cersei insists that Darling Joffrey be brought back to the keep so that he can be safe, though she is unconcerned about Tyrion’s safety as he leads his sortie: she really does hate him for some reason. We are left with the drunken queen explaining precisely why Ser Ilyn Payne is there: poor Sansa!

61. Tyrion XIV

Podrick Payne is supposed to be a fairly young lad, only about twelve years old, and yet he refuses to leave Tyrion’s side and joins him in battle: bless him, it is nice to see someone loyal to Tyrion.

The fighting gets confused and very bloody as they hack and slash their way to the battering ram. The men are now shouting “Halfman!” which made me feel all proud for Tyrion, but he is also getting the snot beaten out of him, shot by arrows and basically dodging death at every moment. It is interesting to follow his assessment of his own behavior as he realizes that he has battle fever and will regret all this in the morning, if he lives that long.

I really like the way that Mr Martin shows us the horror and confusion of battle. We see this most vividly in the one-armed knight who tries to yield with his dismembered gloved hand and the ‘landing’ of one of the Antler Men nearby. However, that confusion means that Ser Mandon Moore gets the opportunity to try to kill Tyrion, presumably on Cersei’s orders, and then Pod is there to save the day. Thank goodness for that, but Tyrion is badly injured and stuck in a very precarious position, on a sinking boat in the middle of a battle.

62. Sansa VII

Wow: Lancel grew a pair and stood up to Cersei! I was really amazed by his courage here, especially as we know how well she takes people criticizing her, but what he was asking made a lot of sense. Not that sense will get through to Cersei’s alcohol-soaked brain, so she punches him in his wounded shoulder and storms off. However, this does leave Sansa as the ‘person in charge’ and she steps into the role beautifully: I was so proud of her. She calms the people and offers them hope, behaving with dignity and courage. She even helps Lancel, even though she questions why she is helping one of ‘them’: perhaps because you are a decent human being who does not subscribe to Cersei’s method of ruling through fear. She may have made a useful ally there.

Ser Dontos is quite right to send her off to her room: if the city falls then she will be better off with Stannis. She finds The Hound in her room, drunk as a skunk. There is obviously something about her that draws him to her when he needs comfort: it seems very significant that he chose her room to hide in when he could have simply left the city altogether. I understand why he is disillusioned about his position with Joffrey, as he seems to be the only one of the Kingsguard who hates to see Sansa hurt. However, if he does have feelings for her he has a strange way of showing it, threatening her with a knife is hardly the right way to say, “I love you!” Of course, he is very drunk and probably does not have much experience with any women other than prostitutes, so it makes sense that he behaves badly. Part of me wanted her to run off with him, because he could certainly protect her, but he is so volatile and distinctive that this could have been a mistake.

Then, just when I could almost see Joffrey’s head on that spike, we learn that Renly’s army had arrived in the last moment and crushed Stannis’ army. Obviously it is not Renly in his armor, although it does fulfill Melisandre’s prophecy from Chapter 42: Davos II. As a side note, every time I read about Lord Randyll Tarly I want him to die horribly for being so horrible to Sam.

63. Daenerys V

What a surprise: when Daenerys proves to be too difficult to manipulate she is no longer welcome in Qarth. I really liked her answer to Xaro Xhoan Daxos when he asked for a dragon in return for ships: she is starting to realize how powerful she actually is and how valuable the dragons are. We get even more support for the idea that the dragons increase the strength of magic, although I would imagine that they are being blamed for every three-headed goat in a thousand mile radius.

So, trying to actually get a ship is proving very difficult and then two mysterious men start to follow her. Now, in most situations this would mean that the two stalkers are the dangerous ones, but no they are actually on her side and save her from a Sorrowful Man trying to kill her by giving her a manticore. I really enjoyed this sequence because of how Mr Martin incorporated the guy selling the silver platter. The dialogue was deliciously funny as Daenerys and Jorah use their battering to keep moving the platter about and view the stalkers, who are revealed to be agents sent by Magister Illyrio to find her and bring her back to Pentos. Now, I do not trust Illyrio at all, but I am fairly sure that Arstan Whitebeard is Ser Barristan Selmy in disguise, and he is totally trustworthy. They have three ships to transport her, the dragons and the dothraki, so this seems like a good outcome for Daenerys, although she will need to deal with Illyrio once she gets to Pentos.

64. Arya X

It seems like Gendry’s idea about just staying in Harrenhal no matter who rules it might be a little misplaced, after we learn that Roose Bolton has had many of the staff killed for ‘collaborating’. I am not sure why Arya decides not to trust Roose, but his ruthless treatment of the smallfolk seems like a good reason to be wary. Plus he is hairless and has a serious addiction to being bled, so he sounds a bit loopy to me. Plus, I am fairly certain that Reek is his bastard son and may be acting on his wishes up in the north, especially as Roose is remarkably unmoved by the news that Winterfell has fallen and the young princes murdered. Plus he uses the Bloody Mummers, even though one of them uses black magic and another, Biter, eats people: nice!

I felt so proud of Arya as she contained her shock and grief at the news: I cannot imagine how difficult it would be to hear that and not show any emotion. As she continues to listen in, we get some strange hints about Roose. He is totally unconcerned when one of the Freys suggests that Robb should surrender. He does mention that Robb keeps defeating the Lannisters, but it makes me uneasy that he does not stop that kind of defeatist talk. He is also uninterested in his new wife, although she seems very interested in providing him with an heir. Instead, he is interested in terrorizing some of the local castles and then declares his intention to hunt wolves. I guess he could get a banner made that says “I am going to betray the Starks”, but It seems a little unnecessary to me. The fact that he wants to wear their fur is all the evidence I need.

Later that night she hears her father’s voice, or it could be Bran: we have seen him speaking through a weirwood to Jon and she is in the Godswood at the time. Anyway, she decides to leave and head towards Riverrun using the map from Roose’s rooms. She asks Gendry to get her a sword, giving him instructions to meet her later. He arrives with Hot Pie and some supplies and then Arya makes the biggest step of her life so far: she kills a guard so that they can escape. Hot pie is suitably impressed and amazed, as was I. A wolf howls in the distance and I really want that to be Nymeria and for there to be a happy reunion, but I doubt that is on the cards just yet.

65. Sansa VIII

I do love the idea that Tywin’s horse has a huge dump in front of Joffrey, I know it is childish of me, but I had to laugh! So much for all the pomp and circumstance: we now know that it smells of horse dung in there. There is the whole sorry mockery of Joffrey’s protests about not being able to break his betrothal to Sansa. The mummers’ farce continues until he is ‘persuaded’ that it would be the best thing for him to do. At least they had the decency to warn Sansa beforehand so that she could contain her cries of joy. I fear for Margaery Tyrell though.

The rest of the ceremony is pretty tedious and I felt sorry for Sansa standing in the balcony through the whole thing. I am very suspicious of the fact that Tyrion is not mentioned at all, even though they wheel in some very sick people for honors and Lancel is rewarded in his absence. Creepy Littlefinger gets a substantial reward for negotiating the Tyrells’ support, although I hope that the curse of Harrenhal continues in full force when he takes charge. He is also given the riverlands, previously beholden to house Tully.

Sansa is delighted because she thinks she is now free of Joffrey, but Ser Dontos comes along to burst that bubble soon enough. But, fear not, he has a plan! She will be taken out of the city on the night that Joffrey’s wedding takes place: I can hardly wait! What I do not understand is how a hair net can avenge Ned’s death . . .

66. Theon VI

I have tried very hard to be sympathetic towards Theon, but he does make it amazingly difficult. I hoped that Maester Luwin would be able to persuade him to do the sensible thing and allow Ser Rodrik to retake Winterfell, but, no, he threatens to hang Beth Cassel to control her father. He really deserves whatever nasty end comes to him. He almost has the reprieve of taking the Black, but then Reek returns with his force and cuts Ser Rodrik’s forces to pieces by trickery. Being dumber than a bag of hammers, Theon does not even think twice before he opens his gates to Reek and his men. For goodness sake, Theon: how stupid are you?

What a surprise: Reek is actually the Bastard of Bolton and he takes Winterfell for himself. I think I did mention that he was untrustworthy! He knocks Theon out and gives orders to burn everything else apart from the Freys. I dread to think what will happen to them next, but I am guessing that it might sting a bit.

And Maester Luwin gets speared: great!

67. Tyrion XV

Tyrion dreams in a feverish haze, seeing images of death and battlefields. I am not sure if we can read any significance into his dreams, although the idea that he will lose his mouth seems a possibility, in that he might become voiceless and unheard. He has already been moved out of the Tower of the Hand, so I guess that he is about to be sidelined, even though he is largely responsible for the city holding out until Tywin’s army could arrive. No wonder Tyrion is angry that his father is being hailed as the savior of the city.

I am assuming that Cersei ordered Ser Mandon to kill Tyrion, it seems strange that he is still alive and being nursed back to full health. I can only suppose that she is unwilling to try anything whilst her father is close at hand, although it would be very easy for Tyrion to relapse or succumb to his wounds. It seems like Pod is the only person that Tyrion can really trust, which is not a great position to be in although the lad did kill Ser Mandon and deserves a bit of gratitude for that.

On the whole, I am just glad that Tyrion is alive and able to continue being Mighty.

68. Jon VIII

I am still confused by why Qhorin chose Jon to join his scouting party; especially as the other men all had special skills. However, they have been lost, one by one, in his efforts to get back to the Fist and warn Mormont. His final attempt to lose their pursuers is rather clever, but the Wildlings always seem to be one step ahead of him, possibly due to the eagle that has haunted their steps. Looking back now, it seems that Qhorin has decided to place Jon as an infiltrator and so prepares the lad to betray him. He has Jon recite the Brothers’ oath to remind him of where his loyalties lie. Finally he tells Jon to yield if they are taken, at which point we know that Qhorin is going to sacrifice himself to help Jon be accepted. Very heroic and courageous, but we can still hope that they escape to safety.

I really liked the trip through the waterfall and the mountain passage beyond and for a moment I did think that they might succeed and lose the Wildlings, but then we see the eagle waiting for them at the other end. Cue a mass of Wildlings and their dogs, led by Rattleshirt, or the Lord of Bones, with his rather natty armor made of assorted bones. I am not sure that they will have a great effect as actual armor, but I can imagine that they scare the snot out of your enemies.

When the wildlings get threatening, Jon follows orders and yields: triggering Qhorin’s angry tirade about him being a traitor. Poor Jon is confused, but Qhorin knows that this is the only way that he will be accepted rather than just killed and attacks the lad. Throughout the fight we can see that Qhorin should win, but the intervention of Ghost allows Jon to make a killing blow without it looking like Qhorin threw the fight. I am sad to see the passing of Qhorin Half-hand, because he was an interesting character, but I understand why he chose to make the most out of a bad situation.

Fortunately, Ygritte is with the Wildlings and so she speaks up for Jon’s usefulness, insisting that Mance Rayder will want to see him. She also says that the eagle hates Jon because he killed the man inside the eagle. This suggests that people can shift in to other animals, not just wolves: interesting. It also answers the question about what happens if you die whilst inhabiting your animal.

69. Bran VII

We begin with Bran looking at the wreck of Winterfell through Summer’s eyes. In a direct reference to the last chapter, Meera tells Bran that he should not stay in Summer for such long periods of time, as he will die from starvation.

The idea of hiding in the total darkness of the crypts gives me the shivers, especially as I get a little claustrophobic and I was starting to panic a little when they could not get the doors open. Finally they get out to find the entire castle destroyed, with only the walls standing. Poor Hodor is totally distraught, but they search the remains and finally find Maester Luwin dying in the Godswood. He is pleased to see the boys and laughs when they explain where they had hidden, although he said that he knew that the bodies were fake because the legs were wrong. I assume this means that Bran’s legs are withered now. He shows great courage and love for the boys, suggesting that they split up in order to increase the chance of one surviving. He then asks Osha for a ‘boon’, which I assume is a quick death. I freely admit that I cried at his passing because he was a wise and gentle man who did not deserve to die like this.

So, they split into two groups. Osha and Rickon are possibly heading to White Harbor, following Luwin’s advice, while Hodor, Bran and the Reeds are heading north. Jojen knows that Bran’s destiny is in the north, so they head that way, possibly heading towards the Umbers for help.

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