Sunday, September 16, 2012

A Challenge of Ice and Fire: Week 24

A Feast for Crows: Arya I to the end of The Kraken’s Daughter (p. 243)

My previous posts on A Feast for Crows:   week 23

6. Arya I

Arya has finally made it across the Narrow Sea to Braavos. We see a little of the city as she approaches, and it impresses her with its difference from King’s Landing. It is much bigger, built on a series of islands connected by bridges and surrounded by canals, much the same as Venice. There is a Roman-style aqueduct bringing water from the mountains to supply the city’s fountains. The Titan that stands across the harbor mouth sounds very similar to the Colossus of Rhodes, which was a bronze statue of the Greek Titan Helios, god of the Sun.

It seems that the Braavosi have a very cosmopolitan attitude to religion, with temples to all the various gods worshipped over the known world. Indeed, the Many Faced God, whose temple Arya accesses by showing her coin and saying “Valar morghulis”, includes many different sculptures. It seems that the Many Faced God is worshipped in many cultures by a variety of names and the temple accepts all these representations of him. It seems that he is Death, but rather than being a place of fear, the House of Black and White is a peaceful place where people come to die.

There is no doubt that this place is associated with Jaqen H’ghar as Arya is approached by a hooded figure who at first displays a decaying face, but then changes to look like the kindest man she has ever seen. Trust Arya to be the first person to have plucked the worm from his rotting face and attempt to eat it: she has become a little fierce of the past few months!

7. Cersei II

Oh dear, Lord Tywin’s body is very stinky: what a shame!

I am slightly confused about Tommen. He seems like such a nice, normal child that I am not sure how he can be Cersei’s offspring. I hope that he survives her machinations.

Cersei continues her attempts at ‘diplomacy’. I am thinking particularly of her reaction to the idea of Lady Lollys’ newborn being named ‘Tywin’. I think that it is more than a little unfair of her to accuse Lollys of ‘getting herself raped’, as if the poor girl had any say in the matter, and she is from a respectable family, so Cersei should at least show them some manners. Her dismissal of Lancel and the way in which she overturned her father’s offer to make Mace Tyrell’s uncle the Master of Coin are both very poorly done and are guaranteed to come back to bite her at some point. However, Lady Olenna makes some snide remarks about the stinky corpse, so the incident has some comedy value as well.

The search for Varys continues and we also learn that one of the undergaolers is missing, although he left a golden coin minted by the Gardeners of the Reach in his cell. It seems highly likely that the man is Varys’ disguise that we saw in A Game of Thrones, because we know how Tyrion escaped, and it would be just like Varys to try to sow dissent between Cersei and the Tyrells.

Ser Kevan Lannister continues to grow in my estimation. He criticizes Cersei’s treatment of Mace in public and then refuses to accept the position of Hand unless she returns to Casterly Rock. He obviously sees what a terrible Regent she will be and is not willing to pander to her delusions of being a great leader. I get the impression that he has been quiet so far because Tywin could control her and counteract her terrible judgment. He also makes it perfectly clear that he knows that Jaime is Tommen’s father.

8. Jaime I

I can understand why Jaime feels responsible for his father’s murder, but Tywin would have been perfectly safe if he had not spent so much of his life being spiteful and cruel to Tyrion. As he said at his trial, Tyrion’s primary crime was to be born a dwarf, something that Tywin could never forgive.

It is interesting that Varys had no plan to release Tyrion, which probably explains why he had no alibi and has had to disappear. I felt that Varys regarded Tyrion as a good player of The Game and also someone working for the best interests of the realm, but it seems that he was not an essential part of The Spider’s master plan. I do wonder what exactly Varys is trying to do, all for the good of the realm, of course.

We see more evidence of Cersei’s inability to wield power. Jaime is furious that the two gaolers who were found asleep had been killed before they could be questioned. Why would you kill potential witnesses? When Jaime refuses to do what she wants she reacts with anger and petulance. She is also very cruel to poor little Tommen when he becomes ill because of the smell in the Sept and scolds him for not being as kingly as his brother. I am amazed that she actually thinks that Joffrey would have behaved any more appropriately in the same situation: I can just see him whining about the smell and making ‘funny’ comments about it. I foresee the realm falling apart if she continues as Regent for a prolonged period.

9. Brienne II

Brienne finally reaches Duskendale, and she is not the first to have sought Ser Dontos and Sansa there. However, once the maester relates the history of the place, it seems doubtful that Dontos would ever want to travel there. This leaves Brienne with no leads to follow, until she talks to a dwarf holy brother, who relates a story of a fool trying to buy passage across the Narrow Sea in Maidenpool.

Following this lead, she becomes aware of a small boy following her, who turns out to be Podrick Payne. The poor lad is distraught that Tyrion left him behind and hopes that Brienne will lead him to Sansa, and so his master. I cannot wait to see what kind of team these two improbable heroes will make.

10. Sansa I

I seem to remember that Tyrion ‘accidentally’ broke some of Marillion’s fingers, but it seems that Mord has removed several of them, as well as his eyes, during the torture needed to get his ‘confession’ of killing Lysa Arryn. Now he sings constantly in his sky cell, driving Sansa and everyone else to distraction. Littlefinger is fairly sure that Marillion will jump or fall from his cell soon enough.

Lord Petyr is making the most of his new position as widower, making a subtle bribe to Lord Nestor Royce by naming him Keeper of the Gates of the Moon, and making this a hereditary title. Petyr is interested in Sansa understanding how to play the ‘game of thrones’ and he is pleased that she sees why he made the offer to Lord Nestor in the way that he did. She is unhappy about lying, but sees that she really has no choice if she is to stay alive.

Poor little Robert is missing his mother quite badly and sees Sansa as a replacement for her. His attempts to breast-feed are somewhat disturbing, but he is such a pitiful thing that it is difficult to blame him for his shortcomings. I am only glad that he is the person crawling into Sansa’s bed, not Littlefinger.

11. The Kraken's Daughter

Yet another new POV character: this time it is Asha Greyjoy.

Asha finds that few captains have answered her summons for support as queen of the Iron Islands. However, her uncle is quick to tell her that a Kingsmoot has been called for the first time in four thousand years. He believes that she has no hope of holding the throne and that going to the Kingsmoot could actually be dangerous for her. He offers to make her his heir, but she is determined to claim the throne.

After leaving her uncle, Asha is approached by the love-struck Tristifer Botley. He and Asha were playmates years ago, and he was the first man to help her explore her newly developed body. He declares his undying love for her, but she rejects his offer of marriage and tells him to go and lose his virginity down at the local whorehouse. This seems a little harsh, and a neat inversion of the usual gender dynamics, but Asha is a woman who likes to be as manly as possible, and her unemotional attitude to sex fits well with this personality trait.

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