Sunday, July 29, 2012

A Challenge of Ice and Fire: Week 17

A Storm of Swords: Sansa III to the end of Davos IV (p.502)

My previous posts on A Storm of Swords:   week 14   week 15   week 16

28. Sansa III

Poor Sansa, just when she thinks that she is getting a pretty new dress to wow Willas Tyrell, she learns that she is to marry Tyrion. Now, we all know that Tyrion will be a kind and gentle husband, but Sansa cannot see beyond his disability and wounds. He is apologetic about the marriage and understanding of her shock and disappointment, offering to let her chose Lancel if she prefers. In a moment of wonderful common sense she decides to go ahead with the wedding, which is made even more uncomfortable by Joffrey’s behavior: what a surprise. There is nothing quite like giving the bride a good grope half way through the ceremony to show what a decent chap you are!

I really wished that Sansa had knelt down to let Tyrion tie on her cloak, because he did not deserve the extra embarrassment that it caused, but at least he does not hold this against her. He protects her from Joffrey’s mocking and then swears to only consummate the marriage when she wants him to. I really hope that she can come to see the good in him, but I imagine that it could take a long time.

29. Arya V

Arya and her merry band arrive at Stony Sept, the site of one of her father’s many victories during Robert’s Rebellion. Although the town is happy to help the Brotherhood it seems that they do not subscribe to the idea of clean deaths for the guilty, although I have some sympathy for people who have seen their lives destroyed by the war. One of the townsfolk, called The Huntsman, lives to hunt down Lannisters after they raped his wife and sister and destroyed his farm: he is currently out hunting for Jaime Lannister. He has taken charge of the town after the master of the town died and his sons went off to join Robb. Some northmen were taken for raping and murder at a nearby town and The Huntsman has had them placed in crow cages, alive. Arya pities them, although she does not recognize any of them and gives them water. The men of the Brotherhood do not hold with making the guilty suffer and kill them with arrows, despite warnings that The Huntsman will be displeased.

I find it very interesting that Mr Martin has chosen to show us this side of the war. It is always good to see the effects of war on the small folk, because they are so often ignored as authors relate the outcome of battles, but not the horror of the aftermath. Here we are shown how a town struggles to cope without its leader and under siege from every passing group of men. It seems that the townsfolk are doing rather well, but their future is very uncertain, so I can understand why they have an attitude of zero tolerance to any groups that rape and murder. Although we have not met The Huntsman yet, it seems like he may be suffering from a form of madness caused by all the trauma that he has seen and endured, and his reaction can be understood all too easily.

That night they stay in the local brothel, where Arya gets propositioned by a dirty old man. Gendry sends the man off with a flea in his ear, but then gets very defensive with Arya about their difference in status. I get the sneaking suspicion that Gendry is starting to have feelings for Arya that go beyond those of a big brother, and so they have something akin to a lovers’ tiff. Of course, Arya is totally confused by his behavior, so she flies off the handle herself and stomps off to bed. In the morning they are woken by the barking of dogs because The Huntsman has returned with a captive that she recognizes. we know that this is not Jaime, because he is heading towards Harrenhal with the Bloody Mummers, but it certainly someone off Arya’s list.

30. Jon IV

Somehow the Wall seems so much less effective when you can climb over it without a huge amount of difficulty. One of the teams trying to scale it is killed in an icefall and a couple of other men fall off the rope ladders, but other than that the climb is risk free. As Jon notes, a couple of Brothers with a quiver and some rocks could have dealt with them very easily, but there are no patrols in sight.

31. Jaime IV

With such vivid descriptions of Jaime’s infected wrist, I could almost smell the wound whilst reading. I am not sure how he is still alive with such a terrible infection ravaging his body, but he seems to be holding on out of pure spite and stubbornness. However, he still has enough connection to the world to try to protect Brienne from being raped. I am glad that he is developing a connection with Brienne and has decided to protect and honor her.

Roose Bolton is obviously less than happy with the Bloody Mummers’ methods, but he likes the results and so is willing to give them a free hand in most situations. However, he is probably aware that Lord Tywin will not be happy to hear that his favorite son has been maimed and rendered almost useless. He sends Jaime to one of the Bloody Mummers, the disgraced maester, Qyburn, who suggests that he should cut off the entire arm: I am not surprised that Jaime refuses this advice and insists that he try to save the arm. It will be interesting to see how he copes with the change in his status and abilities, and also how he will be viewed by his family now that he is a ‘cripple’.

32. Tyrion IV
It sounds like Symon Silvertongue will not be around for much longer: he is not very bright if he thinks he can threaten Tyrion and get away with it. Looking on the bright side, there will be at least one pot shop selling a meatier bowl of ‘brown’ for the next few days.

Poor Tyrion, he is the laughing stock of the castle because everyone knows that Sansa is still a virgin. Personally, I think that it says a great deal about his character that he is unwilling to force himself onto her, especially in a world where women are mostly viewed as breeding machines. It is ironic that Sansa has married a man that behaves with more nobility than the majority of the knights that she has met, but she cannot see it. His frustration is compounded by Shae’s lack of jealousy over the marriage: though it seems like he is finally coming to see that she has no particular feelings for him.

Lord Tywin is all happy now that he has managed to get a pair of Valyrian steel blades for the family, though I am a little concerned that he has had Ice melted down to make them. One sword is for Joffrey, the other for Jaime, which is very ironic considering the loss of his hand. Hopefully Joffrey will fall over his new sword and chop his legs off with it.

As usual, Tywin is unreasonable and demanding with Tyrion. He is insulting about Sansa, although Tyrion gets him to admit that the Tyrells refused the offer of Cersei marrying Willas. Cersei does not know yet, although I would love to see her face when she hears that she was not good enough for them! In an act of total arrogance, Tywin decides to ignore a raven from Castle Black asking for help. He suggests that Janos Slynt be made up to the new Lord Commander and sends no other help at all. This is a very poor decision: I had previously thought that Tywin was a perceptive man with a long-term view of the politics in the realm, but this shows that his perspective is seriously skewed.

33. Samwell II

What a depressing chapter!

The surviving Brothers have made it to Craster’s Keep, but he has only provided them with a small amount of food and there is a lot of bad feeling. Without a maester, the wounded are not recovering well and the lack of nourishing food is making the situation worse. Eventually, the Old Bear decides that they must ride on to the Wall and Craster decides to throw them a farewell feast, but there is still too little food and a fight breaks out. Both Craster and Lord Commander Mormont are killed, while the fight claims more lives and some of Craster’s daughters / wives are raped.

I was shocked and saddened that the Old Bear met such an end: he was a good man and a good commander, who deserved a much more dignified death. He always tried to do his duty with the meager resources available, and lead the Brothers with a relatively gentle hand. His final wishes are for his son, Jorah, to take the black and to know that he is forgiven.

Poor Sam is overwhelmed by the treachery and is finally provoked into action by Gilly and two of the oldest of Craster’s wives, who tell him that he must leave because Craster’s sons are coming. We are not sure if the sons have become Others, or are wights, but either way they should be avoided at all costs. I am also a little concerned about the men who killed Mormont: will Sam be able to get back to Castle Black without them catching him?

34. Arya VI

We finally meet the famous Beric Dondarrion, who seems to be alive after several reports of his death. However, it seems that all his ‘deaths’ have taken a toll on his body: which is a withered skeleton with only one eye, a bashed-in skull and evidence of terrible wounds on his body. Thoros of Myr claims that R’hllor has woken in him and magic does seem to be in evidence as Dondarrion’s sword bursts into flames when he cuts his palm to cover it with blood.

As well as Arya and Gendry, who are hooded on their approach to the Hollow Hill where Dondarrion is holding court, the third captive is The Hound. It seems that The Huntsman found him dead drunk under a tree, which seems very likely judging by the last time we met him, and was not happy to be unable to place him in one of the crow cages. The people in the Hill accuse The Hound of a series of murders, calling out a huge list of names. He denies knowing who any of them are, so he cannot say if he killed them or not, and rages that he was following orders and doing his duty. Arya accuses him of murdering the butcher’s boy, Mycah, but Beric sentences him to trial by combat and they fight until the Hound’s arm is on fire and Dondarrion is apparently killed.

Arya is highly indignant that the gods have not shown the Hound to be guilty because she knows that he killed Mycah and he even admits to having done the deed, but because he was commanded by the King. Although I understand Arya’s feelings about him, I find Sandor Clegane to be a very interesting character and I hope that he can redeem himself later in the series. We see his genuine terror when his arm catches fire: even Arya feels sorry for him. He is obviously a very complicated person who has been molded by the cruelty of his father and elder brother, but we have seen his more noble side in his treatment of Sansa. It seems that the killing of Mycah marked a changing point for him, because after that incident he began to subtly question Joffrey’s commands and sometimes chose to ignore them. Perhaps this is when he really came to notice Sansa and so start to question the sadism of Joffrey’s demands.

35. Catelyn IV

Edmure Tully just keeps getting weaker and more useless. As they launch Lord Hoster’s funeral boat into the river he fails to shoot a flaming arrow into it on three occasions and his uncle the Blackfish has to take the bow from him. Later he acts like a spoiled child when he hears Walder Frey’s demand that he marry the young Roslin Frey. He is being offered a decent match from a house that he was probably going to marry into anyway, but he wanted to chose the bride himself: good grief, poor man!

Other than Edmure’s petulance we see Robb being further crushed by the news of the defeat at Duskendale, which means that he has lost one third of his infantry. Robb carries bad news himself: that Sansa has married Tyrion. Catelyn is bewildered by Tyrion’s actions, not realizing that he now wields very little power in King’s Landing. She asks Robb to swear fealty to the Iron Throne, but he will not pledge allegiance to those who murdered his father. It is unfortunate that his attitude leaves no place for reconciliation as he seems to be surrounded by enemies with no new allies presenting themselves.

We also learn that Winterfell has been put to the torch and that all the men were killed. This news is relayed via the two Walders, Catelyn’s wards, who are now being ‘cared for’ by Ramsay Bolton at the Dreadfort. I dread to think how he is ‘taking care’ of the women and children that he supposedly rescued. Of course, all the death and mayhem is blamed upon Theon and the Greyjoy’s, though we still do not know what has happened to Theon himself. I imagine that Ramsay is having great fun at Theon’s expense.

36. Davos IV

Life for Davos is always full of surprises. He is summoned to meet with Stannis, but on the way Ser Axell Florent threatens him and demands that he name Axell as the new Hand. At the meeting, Axell has a plan to seize Claw Isle now that Lord Celtigar has sworn fealty to Joffrey. Davos calls it a cowardly plan, and I must admit that I cannot see any good reason to take the island apart from to raid it for valuables: it does not have a strategically important position and no resources of note.

It seems that Stannis feels that it is his duty to bring justice to Westeros for the treachery of the usurpers, although this does sound a lot like personal vengeance and self-justification to me. He plans to scour the court clean, although it seems highly unlikely that he has the strength to defeat the Lannisters. However, Melisandre sees the vanity in the wars in the South and claims that the true battle is against the Great Other in the North. She wants to use Edric Storm’s blood to wake a stone dragon, though Stannis refuses to allow her. However, she does have three leaches filled with blood, presumably Edric’s, that Stannis casts into the fire whilst naming the three usurpers: Joffrey, Balon and Robb.

Now, I am quite happy to see Joffrey and Balon depicted as leeches, but I am not so sure that Robb falls into the same category. This is my main problem with Stannis: he is just so stubborn and self-righteous that he allows himself no space for politics. Yes, Robb has proclaimed himself King in the North, but he would be a valuable ally against the Lannisters and they could come to an arrangement once the fighting was over, but Stannis would never even think of doing this and so he is considerably weakened as a result.

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