Sunday, August 5, 2012

A Challenge of Ice and Fire: Week 18

A Storm of Swords: Jaime V to the end of Jamie VI (p. 619)

My previous posts on A Storm of Swords:   week 14   week 15   week 16   week 17

37. Jaime V

I am really impressed by the way in which Mr Martin has changed our perception of Jaime in this book. Our earlier assumptions are being overturned as he is shown to be a more thoughtful and caring character than we had previously thought. He is nowhere near Tyrion when it comes to deep thinking, but he is not as shallow and carefree as we had had been led to believe.

He is bathing in the bathhouse in Harrenhal with Brienne. He is protective of her modesty and offers a truce between them, which is amazing considering his original contempt and dismissal of her as a soldier. He even acknowledges that she has saved his life and is a better warrior than most men, but she still does not trust him, which is hardly surprising. It seems like he wants or needs her to understand him and trust him, so he finally tells her the true story of why he killed Aerys.

It seems that Aerys was even more paranoid than we had previously thought and so installed caches of wildfire throughout King’s Landing, so that they could be used to destroy the city if it fell to Robert. When his Hand discovered these plans and tried to dissuade the King, Aerys had him burnt alive and replaced him with one of the pyromancers. After Pycelle’s treachery, when Tywin’s forces began to sack King’s Landing, Aerys sent a messenger to tell Jaime to kill his father. Realizing that Aerys meant to burn the city, Jaime killed the Hand and then the King. It is interesting that Jaime says that he has kept this secret because he swore to keep the King’s secrets, although it is much more likely that nobody would believe him anyway.

The pair eat diner with Roose Bolton, who is definitely playing both sides against the other to grab the best deal. He tells them of Robb’s marriage and the upcoming union between Edmure Tully and House Frey. However, he also says that Arya has been found, which we know is a lie, so I am very uneasy about the idea of attending the Tully-Frey wedding. If he is pleased about it then I imagine it holds the potential for some gain on his part: I am just very uneasy about what that gain might be. He explains Vargo’s reason for taking Jaime’s hand, which suggest that the Bloody Mummer is far more sophisticated than he seems, however, it leaves Bolton implicated in maiming Tywin’s favorite son, so he asks Jaime to make it clear who did the deed. Unfortunately, Brienne is to be handed over to Vargo while Jaime is sent to King’s Landing. This does not bode well for Brienne and I hope that she is not badly treated, although I imagine the thought of a reward might keep Vargo at bay for some time.

38. Tyrion V

The Mighty Tyrion has been sent out to meet the Dornishmen coming to attend Joffrey’s wedding. It seems to me that the massive insult of sending the King’s disabled uncle to do the greeting will not be easily forgiven, although Tyrion’s thoughts on Joffrey’s “How many Dornishmen does it take?” jokes show that it could have been worse: much, much worse. Tywin’s avoidance of the Martells smacks of fear to me: Gregor Clegane reportedly raped and then murdered Elia Martell, Prince Rhaegar’s wife. I am hardly surprised that the Martells want some answers about her death and they might hold Tywin responsible for his men’s actions. Tyrion quite rightly points out that the Dornishmen are greatly outnumbered, but that does not mean that they will not cause problems.

Oberyn Martell has been sent by his brother, Doran, who is unable to travel because he has gout. Also known as the Red Viper, he is an interesting character who has a reputation for using poisoned weapons, being a fearless warrior and the father to eight bastards. Unlike many of the other Lords that we have met, he seems to be very open about his sexual relationships and his children, bring his lover, who is also a bastard, with him to King’s Landing. Tyrion is more than aware of how insulted Cersei will be when she finds out about this unexpected wedding guest.

Oberyn has a very interesting story of visiting the newly born Tyrion. It seems that Cersei’s hatred for him started as soon as he was born and she displays a willful and cruel nature even at the age of nine. When showing the baby to Oberyn and Elia, she twists his penis and makes him scream: what a lovely child! And I thought that I couldn’t dislike Cersei anymore than I already did: life is full of surprises!

39. Arya VII

So now we are losing Gendry as well: boo! Although it does make sense for him to join the Brotherhood as a smith because he will certainly be useful to them, though I am not sure how many smiths get to be knighted.

It is good to see some of the Bloody Mummers getting their just deserts from the Brotherhood, especially once we hear how they murdered the brown brothers one by one to find out where they hid their gold. In some ways hanging seems too good for these guys.

We learn that Beric Dondarrion has indeed been killed six times, but brought back from the dead by Thoros, although Thoros explains that it is not his skill but the will of R’hllor. It certainly seems strange that Thoros has suddenly become able to do this, as he was hardly an ardent follower of R’hllor in the past, and I can understand why this powerful magic has converted all the men into true believers. Just as we see with Melisandre, the Lord of Light does seem to confer certain paranormal abilities on his faithful followers. This suggests that Lord Beric’s role in the fight against the Great other is important.

I was very surprised that The Hound turned up to ask for his money to be returned, mainly because I was amazed that they had freed him at all. I am not sure why he thought that they would hand over the gold, but I guess his mind works in strange ways once he has sobered up. It is interesting that Beric does not believe that Sandor would kill them in their sleep: he obviously recognizes the rules that The Hound sets for himself.

40. Bran III

It is good to know that some of Old Nan’s stories have turned out to be useful to Bran on his journey north. There are times when Mr Martin’s details bring the landscape to life, and this chapter is one of them. The country in the Gift reminded me very much of the lands around Hadrian’s Wall, with the wide-open vistas and constant wind. I also appreciate the fact that Night’s Watch has lands that it farms to provide the food that it needs: so often writers do not bother to think of the mechanics of supporting an army. I also liked the detail of the zigzag causeway: sometimes defenses can be really simple and still effective.

Poor Hodor, I can imagine his terror at the storm rolling around the tower. I am very uneasy at the thought of Bran being able to warg into Hodor and I really hope that he does not see this as a way to become a whole person again. I know that Hodor might be seen as a worthless person because he is simple minded, but that is no reason to treat him as a non-person.

So, we end the chapter with a group of men camped at the other end of the causeway: yikes! I hope that Summer is right in smelling fear on the men and that they will leave Bran and the Reeds alone.

41. Jon V

Phew! The group of men is Jon and the Wildlings!

Poor Jon, I fear that his time with Ygritte is coming to an end. However, I do appreciate that he is learning that things are not as simple as he thought. He seems to genuinely love Ygritte, although he knows that their cultural differences will never allow them to see eye to eye on everything. She brings a refreshingly modern outlook to this feudal world, which I hope will influence Jon if he ever has to lead men.

Jon is still not as ruthless as he could be, refusing to kill the old man camped in the inn, although this places him in mortal danger. It seems that Summer detects his fear and jumps in to save him, although it could be Bran running in Summer’s skin. This gives Jon the chance he needs to escape and her rides off into the night to warn Castle Black of the Wildlings’ attack.

42. Daenerys IV

Oh, Daenerys, you are a cunning wench! It is really good to see her use her wit to defeat her enemies rather than relying on the strength of her Unsullied. She shows a great maturity and understanding of how men think, which she exploits to her advantage. Of course, it helps that all the male leaders that she encounters are unable to reconcile her achievements with the young woman they see before them. They constantly underestimate her and that is their downfall. Her reluctance to simply throw the Unsullied into battle, and her refusal to turn away the army of slaves following her, show that she actually values the lives of those who follow her. She has a kind heart and truly wants to be the mother of her people.

Her tactics are successful and she gains a huge victory with only a tiny loss of life for her own army. She also gains many freed slaves and two companies of sellswords that will join her army. I am a little concerned about her anger with Ser Jorah as I am not sure if he will remain loyal to her now that she has definitely rejected him.

43. Arya VIII

Returning to the High Heart, we hear more prophesies form the ancient dwarf woman. She says that Balon Greyjoy is dead: oh dear, what a shame. She also sees the goat being taken by the great dog, which suggests that Vargo Hoat will have a meeting with Gregor Clegane very soon. As for her other dreams, they do not make much sense to me just now, but no doubt they will come to pass. It is a little disturbing that she calls Arya a “blood child”, but I can understand why.

Although very little actually happens in this chapter, we do learn some more history. Thoros admits that he was not a very good priest in King’s Landing, agreeing with Gendry’s master’s assessment of him. He relates a little of his past, explaining why he ended up at the court of King Aerys. We also learn about the death of Ashara Dayne and her possible love for Ned Stark. This is because ‘Ned’ turns out to be Edric Dayne, Ashara’s nephew and milk brother to Jon Snow. Arya is very upset to learn about Jon’s ‘mother’, Wylla, and that her father might have been in love with Ashara. As Edric points out, Ned and Ashara met before he was betrothed to Catelyn, so there is no disgrace there, but Arya is very angry all the same and runs out into the rain. Unfortunately, she is grabbed by The Hound, which is going to make her even more angry.

44. Jaime VI

After hating him for two whole books, I am now beginning to really like Jaime Lannister, although I wish he were not in love with his sister.

That night Jaime dreams that both Tywin and Cersei turn their backs on him, relegating him to a watery dungeon deep under Casterly Rock. The only person to stand by him is Brienne, even when they are attacked by the dead members of the Kingsguard. Jaime takes this as a sign and demands that they return to Harrenhal to get Brienne and find her in the bear pit fighting for her life with a tourney sword. He risks his life to rescue her, betting that Bolton’s men would not allow him to be killed.

This chapter marks a real change in Jaime. He puts himself at risk to rescue Brienne because of a dream. In the past his actions may have been well intentioned, but they rarely placed him in real danger. It seems like the loss of his hand is making him into a better person, but we shall see how he behaves once he returns to the bosom of his family.

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