Sunday, September 23, 2012

A Challenge of Ice and Fire: Week 25

A Feast for Crows: Cersei III to the end of Cersei IV (p. 361)

My previous posts on A Feast for Crows:   week 23   week 24

12. Cersei III

You remember how I was a little concerned about Cersei being a POV character because I thought I might come to sympathize with her? Three chapters later and I have come to realize that I was wrong to worry: following her thoughts just makes her seem even more narcissistic and delusional than ever. Hurray!

So, Cersei is grumpy about Tommen having to marry Margaery, and also about the need for him to share a bed with her on their wedding night. Although she could be forgiven for being overprotective and concerned for his safety, that is not really what comes across. She is simply angry at having her hand forced with regards to the wedding. It seems like anything that is not her idea is wrong. She is also drinking for breakfast now, which does not seem like a good sign. In many ways she is becoming the person she most despise: Robert. However, he hated to rule and so found competent people to make decisions on his behalf, whereas Cersei likes to micro-manage the realm and trusts nobody. We shall see if all the wine she drinks starts to make her fat as well.

I am somewhat suspicious of Lady Taena Merryweather. I can understand that she wants the best for her family, but that does not mean that she is trustworthy. However, I do not imagine that Cersei will see the possibility that she is being played. I am also doubtful about her interest in Aurane Waters: he might be very handsome and look like Prince Rhaegar, but Cersei does have dreadful taste in men. We see this in her blatant intimacy with Ser Osmund Kettleblack as she watches the Tower of the Hand consumed by wildfire.

The fire raises another issue. Why would you burn down a large section of your castle? You will need to clear the area of the debris and then rebuild, all of which will cost a lot of money. It certainly makes a great spectacle, but Cersei’s determination that it will smoke out Tyrion and Varys is amazingly simple-minded. I can only imagine what impression it gives to the common people and her enemies.

We hear that a man wearing a hound helmet has been ravaging the area around Saltpans. Although we know that The Hound was in this area fairly recently, I am not sure that I can believe that he is riding with outlaws and raping young girls: I do not remember hearing any suggestion that Sandor is a raper.

13. The Soiled Knight

Our POV character this time is Ser Arys Oakheart, the Kingsguard sent with Princess Myrcella to Dorne.

Poor Ser Aerys is being shamelessly manipulated by Princess Arianne. She has convinced him to break his vow of celibacy and he is tortured by his guilt about this. It seems that she is determined to place Myrcella on the Iron Throne, which would be correct according to Dornish Law because she is older than Tommen. Although Aerys is happy to agree that Tommen is too young and malleable to be as good a ruler as Myrcella, he knows that to support her claim would be to turn traitor. However, Arianne is very persuasive and he is too weak to resist her.

Although Arianne is the eldest child, and therefore the heir to the throne, she is suspicious of her father’s plans for her brother Quentyn. He is supposed to be in Northern Dorne, but she has heard rumors that he has crossed the Narrow Sea. She worries that he is raising sellswords in order to steal her claim to the throne, so it seems that she wants the power of the Iron Throne, through Myrcella, to support her. 

14. Brienne III

I knew that Brienne and Pod would make a good team. I am glad that she is treating him as a proper squire and continuing his education. I love how he keeps calling her ‘My Lady, Ser.’ :D

As they enter Maidenpool, they encounter Ser Hyle Hunt, who was the ringleader of a very cruel ‘joke’ amongst Renly’s bannermen. They had a bet on who would claim her virginity and so were all trying to outdo each other in their kindnesses, giving gifts, making compliments and spending time with her. This came to the attention of Lord Randyll Tarly, who called a halt to the wager. However, he did not do this out of kindness to Brienne, who he blamed for their dishonor because she should not be with the army. However, he accepts her assertion that she did not kill Renly and passes on the news that Lysa Arryn is dead.

She follows up on the tip to speak to Nimble Dick in the Stinking Goose, and he agrees to take her to the same place as he sent the fool. This seems like a perfect set up for a robbery to me, but I hope that Brienne and Pod can handle themselves.

15. Samwell II

For some reason I often find Samwell Chapters to be those most evocative of the conditions surrounding our characters. I am not sure if this is because Mr Martin really likes Sam, or whether it is a subtle way of implying Sam’s inquisitive and observant personality. Also, Sam’s chapters are always very internal as he berates himself about his cowardice and uselessness and uses his surroundings to distract his thoughts from such negativity. He is a person who worries too much and is constantly turning over his past, present and future in his mind, just as I do myself, so that his voice is always scrabbling like a rat in a trap.

He is suffering from terrible seasickness during the crossing to Braavos. This is not something I have suffered myself, but we went on a whale watching trip once with my niece, who threw up for the whole four hour trip, so I have some idea of just how bad he must feel. On the bright side, he might lose a little weight and feel a little better about himself because of that . . .

The time on board is filled with very little, which is why Sam spends so much time thinking. I love his devotion to Maester Aemon, although I am very worried that the wonderful old man has become too ill to survive the trip. It was great to hear him mention Ser Duncan the Tall and Egg: these are the Dunk and Egg of the short stories that are also part of the A Song of Ice and Fire Universe. Note to self: I must read those once I have finished the novels. Old Aemon is a man of simple pleasures, and I was very touched by his enjoyment of the rain on his face because it felt like tears. I fear that he will die soon, which will be a sad day and a great loss. He is one of those amazing characters that are hardly present in the books at all, but he makes such a huge impression because he is so wonderfully written. I want to sit with him and listen to his entire life story. I want to learn all that he knows about history and the world. I would love to see him teaching bratty young students in the Citadel, but I know that that will not happen and it makes me sad.

I was shocked, but not terribly surprised, to find out that Jon had sent Gilly away with Mance’s son rather than her own. It did seem obvious from her comments to Jon as they left Castle Black, and it makes sense to protect the innocent child from Melisandre’s fires. Sam has always seen Jon as a person as soft hearted as he himself is, but that is not really true: Jon can do the hard thing when he needs to. If he can send the elderly Maester away, even though he might survive the journey, then it is nothing to send a baby away with his wet nurse. I just hope that Gilly’s boy survives, because she has made a huge sacrifice to save someone else’s child.

16. Jaime II

Cersei really is an idiot for dismissing and insulting Ser Kevan. He has served her father for many long years and so must be very competent: he would make a perfect Hand. Of course, that might be the one reason why she does not want him in the position: he would make a far better job of running the realm than she will. He wrongly assumes that Jaime is still her lapdog and is very cool to him, even going so far to make it obvious that he knows about their incest. However, I cannot blame the man for wanting to leave Cersei to deal with her own mess.

Good old Bronn: he has named Lollys’ bastard son Tyrion! That made me smile because it showed that he has not vanished completely from the story. Also I know that it will make Cersei angry, which is another plus to the decision. I know that she will now try to have Bronn killed, but he will not die easily and I hope that he will be sticking two fingers up to the Queen Regent for many years to come.

Although this is a Jaime chapter, it really seems to say a lot about Cersei. She discusses her new spy, Lady Taena, with him. He is worried that the woman is a spy for Margaery, but Cersei is convinced that she is in control of the situation and using Taena to feed misinformation. Obviously Cersei does not realize that Margaery could be using Taena in exactly the same way because, as the Queen, she can offer just as much of an incentive as Cersei herself. We see the same poor judgment in her choice of Aurane Waters as the new Master of Ships. He is very young to hold such an important position, but he is pretty and willing to flatter Cersei: all the qualifications he needs.

Jaime sees the danger of Cersei’s decisions about her new appointments, but she no longer listens to his advice because he is questioning her and so is a traitor. Meanwhile, Jaime is becoming preoccupied by his role in history, as we can see from his constant reading of the White Book. He is obviously concerned about how he will be judged by later generations, in contrast to Ser Loras, who is still young and brash, a constant reminder of Jaime in his youth.

17. Cersei IV

Good grief: Cersei is encouraging people to kill any dwarves that they find! This particular one sounds like the holy brother that Brienne met, which makes the crime doubly awful. It is all the more pointless because Tyrion is well aware of his distinctive appearance, so he is hardly likely to be waking around in public.

I am very wary of Cersei’s dependence on Qyburn. I am sure he is a good replacement for Varys, because he is probably very good at getting information from people, but he is a former outlaw who likes to experiment on people while they are still alive: this strikes me as someone to hang, not make your closest advisor. But then, the rest of the Small Council is made up of toadies and incompetents, and Cersei has renamed all the positions so that they are no longer ‘masters’ of anything, so he might actually be the most talented of this pathetic group.

It seems that Gregor Clegane is dead, and his skull is now ready to be sent to Dorne. However, his name is not mentioned, so it could be that some poor giant lost his head in order to provide a suitable imposing skull. I dread to think what that means for Gregor if he is still suffering under Qyburn’s tender ministrations. However, it seems that Ser Balon Swann is taking the head to Dorne, but has other orders to fulfill whilst he is there. No doubt these involve something subtle, like killing Prince Doran or Princess Arianne, since it is obviously Cersei’s idea.

The High Septon has died in his sleep, which seems rather sudden (*cough Qyburn *cough). As usual, Cersei cannot see a disaster waiting to happen and is totally unconcerned that there is an influx of religious zealots at a time when the Faith has no strong leader to keep them in check. I predict a religious uprising, which could spell disaster to someone who has been publicly accused of incest! A wise person would be making every effort to make sure that the right person became the new High Septon . . .

However, this foolishness is nothing compared to her statement that she will ignore the ironmen until she has dealt with Stannis. I am confused about how she expects to do this. She has no army in the North because Roose Bolton is held back by the ironmen in Moat Cailin. She is taking far too much for granted and wildly underestimating Stannis’ strength. She is dismissive of his possible alliance with the wildlings, again showing a lack of caution that could be her undoing. I am shocked to hear that Davos Seaworth is being held captive by Lord Manderly and that Cersei wants him killed: I hope that he survives somehow. She also wants to kill Jon Snow, now that he is Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch and is hoping to persuade Lord Frey’s heir to murder some of his own family to appease the calls for retaliation after the Red Wedding.

Perhaps the most foolish of her decisions is to defer repaying the Realm’s debts to the Iron Bank in Braavos. This seems like the act of a megalomaniac. Pycelle warns her that the Iron Bank is ruthless when it comes to getting its money back, and it must have plenty of political power because it loans money to all the most powerful people. I assume that we are not talking of a small sum, so the Bank will be marching to Westeros with an army of sellswords if she is not careful. Plus, she intends to also stop repayment to the Faith as well, which could make the choice of the next High Septon even more crucial, as it provides him with a great reason to cause trouble for her.

Finally, she uses her sexuality to manipulate Osney Kettleblack. It seems that she has slept with him once, in order to get his loyalty, and now promises to be his mistress if he will deflower Margaery, get caught, be exiled to the Night’s Watch and kill Jon Snow. Not too much to ask, really! I know that she is supposed to be very beautiful, but I have to wonder how dumb this man can really be, if he expects to survive all that to become a Lord and get into her bed?

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