Sunday, August 19, 2012

A Challenge of Ice and Fire: Week 20

A Storm of Swords: Jon VII to the end of Davos VI (p. 867)

My previous posts on A Storm of Swords:   week 14   week 15   week 16   week 17   week 18   week 19

55. Jon VII

Thank goodness that Jon got to Castle Black in time for Donal Noye to make preparations for their defense. He makes use of what resources he has to protect their most valuable items, and most defenseless people, on the top of the Wall. All those who are able enough are in defensive positions, either with bows on the roofs or swords behind the barricade. Jon’s leg injury places him on a roof with a long bow, so he has a good view of the Wildling’s attack. Many men die but Donal’s trap works and the attackers are killed when he burns the lowest areas of the wooden steps climbing up the Wall.

Although Donal’s plan is effective in killing the Wildling attackers, I do worry that the Brothers now have no resources left, as so much was burnt during the fire or destroyed at the barricade. I would hate for them to starve to death after such a plucky defense. Also, Ygritte is killed during the attack. I had expected this from the moment that Jon left Queenscrown, but it was still a sad moment. However, I could not see how else their relationship could have ended: Jon could not have kept her at Castle Black even if he could have kept her alive. Plus, it would have made everyone question his loyalty to the Black. I shall miss her though.

56. Bran IV

Old Nan and her stories were certainly creepy and full of horror: it is a wonder that the children ever managed to sleep after listening to her. As they arrive at the Nightfort, Bran recalls some of the seriously horrible stories that he has heard about the place. He is also terrified because Summer had a dream that Robb and Grey Wind were dead. He is convinced that they should have headed after Jon from Queenscrown, although Jojen is adamant that they needed to come to the Nightfort because he saw it in a green dream. However, they can find no way through the Wall here, even though Meera climbs to the top. They settle down to sleep for the night, even though the place is crawling with rats.

In one of the creepiest sections that I have read so far, Bran runs through Old Nan’s ghost stories. Along with tales of Mad Axe, who would creep about killing his Brothers at random, three others stand out. First, we have the cautionary tale of the Rat Cook. An ordinary cook in the fort, he killed the son of an Andal king and made him into a pie, which he then fed to the king. Apparently the gods were so angered by this abuse of the laws of hospitality that they turned him into a giant rat that could only eat his own offspring. Second, the tale of the seventy-nine sentinels underlines the seriousness of breaking your vow to the Night’s Watch. A group of seventy-nine deserters left the fort and went south. When they sought refuge with the father of one of their number, the old man returned them to the Wall where they were each sealed into the top of the ice, alive, with a spear and a horn to keep eternal watch on the north. Finally, there is the tale of the Night’s King, who was the thirteenth commander of the Watch. He saw and fell in love with a female Other and took her to be his wife. He ruled the Watch as king for thirteen years until the King in the North joined with Joramun, the King Beyond the Wall, to defeat him. Old Nan insisted that the Night’s King was a Stark, but all records of him were destroyed. After all these happy stories, Bran tries to sleep; only to be woken by footsteps climbing up the well beside them. He panics and wargs into Hodor, but loses control when an immense dark shape climbs out of the well and into Meera’s net.

Thank goodness that it is only Sam!

I am so pleased that Sam has survived and reached the relative safety of the lands south of the Wall. However, there is some serious magic going on, because it seems that Sam was necessary for to bring Bran under the Wall to the man ‘Coldhands’. It makes perfect sense that there might be secret tunnels under the Wall that can only be used by sworn brothers, but if Coldhands cannot use the tunnel, then it seems like he cannot be Benjen Stark after all, even though he is not an Other or one of their wights. When Bran hears that Coldhands was riding an elk he asks if the man was green, so I assume that the Children of the Forest rode elks.

I loved the way that Summer reacted to Sam with such familiarity and friendliness: exactly as Ghost did when he first met Sam. Plus, Sam is always so unafraid around the wolves, even when other men are terrified. Summer’s acceptance immediately shows everyone that Sam is to be trusted and they follow him back down the well. The weirwood door with its talking face was unexpected and delightfully magical, as was the tear that Bran caught on his face as he went through.

This is the final Bran chapter in this book and we will not reconnect with him until Book 5: A Dance With Dragons . . . “Hodor?” . . . sniffle.

57. Daenerys V

Daenerys continues in her conquest of the cities of Slaver’s Bay, approaching the city of Meereen. However, it seems to be well defended and it had prepared for her siege by burning all the resources in the surrounding area so that she will not be able to feed her people for long. A hero rides out from the city and taunts her army, calling for someone to meet him in single combat. Unwilling to lose any of her leaders, Daenerys sends Strong Belwas out to face him in what proves to be a very short fight, with the eunuch victorious. 

Unfortunately, Meereen presents a real problem as it seems to be unassailable with no obvious weaknesses. The only possible entry route is via the sewers, but Daenerys is reluctant to try such a dangerous route. In order to clear her head she rides out through her host only to be attacked by the former leader of the Second Sons sellswords, Mero. However, Arstan defends her and quickly kills the man. When she calls for him to be knighted he refuses and reveals himself to be Ser Barristan Selmy. He also reveals that Jorah had been selling information to Varys. Understandably, she is very angry at the treachery and deceit of both men.

58. Tyrion VII

I always knew that Tyrion would prove to be a kind husband to Sansa, and he seems to be living up to my expectations, apart from him still having sex with Shea. We now know that Robb’s head was hacked off and Grey Wind’s sown into it’s place: I wonder if it was Roose Bolton or Walder Frey who thought up that piece of hilarity. Tyrion is quite right that Sansa does not need to know these horrific details, although I fear that she will find out at some point. I felt quite sad for him that she would not show any grief in front of him or allow him to provide comfort to her, but I understand how she feels.

Tyrion has moved Shea closer to him by making her Sansa’s maid, but I think her days are numbered. Varys is no longer willing to lie in order to protect her, presumably because he no longer needs Tyrion’s good favor. Poor Tyrion, all he wants is to be loved and it is getting increasingly difficult and today is Joffrey’s wedding.

59. Sansa IV

Deep joy: the freshly bereaved Sansa has to attend Joffrey’s wedding breakfast and then the ceremony and feast later in the day. I cannot imagine the strength of character needed to keep going through this torment.

Joffrey is as gracious as one would expect about the gifts he receives at the breakfast. Taking his new sword and using it to hack up Tyrion’s gift of a priceless book made me want to punch the little snot myself. However, we now know who sent the knifeman to kill Bran: it was Joffrey! Who would have thought that he had that much courage? Of course, the unsubtle and cack-handed way in which it was done fits Joffrey perfectly, but it is still a surprise. However, I have to wonder why he would want to kill Bran and even Tyrion is confused about this.

60. Tyrion VIII

Excuse me while I dance around the room for a few hours to celebrate the death of one of the most hateful bags of skin I have ever read. The waste of breath that was King Joffrey is no more and all is well in the world . . . for about five minutes before it all goes pear shaped again and Tyrion is arrested for his murder.

I still would have preferred this death for him, but any death works for me! :D

Ok, back to the rest of the chapter. Perhaps Tyrion is correct in thinking that Joffrey intended to impress Robert somehow, but I still do not understand his reason for trying to kill Bran. Now that the King is dead (Hurray!) we may never know what exactly was crawling through his evil little brain.

The wedding ceremony had me wishing that someone would run into the back of the Great Sept and interrupt proceedings, if only to make Cersei have a stroke from pure rage, but, alas, it all went ahead smoothly. I loved the way that Tyrion spent the entire time needing to go and pee, although I did find myself getting a little uncomfortable myself after a few pages! I also liked how Tyrion viewed Sansa and was impressed by her courtly behavior.

Unfortunately, good old Joffrey would not know courtly behavior if it bit him on the bottom. His ‘joke’ of the dwarf jousters was very cruel and I was pleased that Tyrion managed to rebuff the insult with at least some good humor. Unfortunately, Joffrey just cannot let Tyrion have some peace and displays absolutely awful behavior towards his uncle. I was not at all sad when he started to choke to death and it was a great relief that he actually died, as I was afraid that someone would save him.

Of course, we have to wonder why he died. Did he simply choke on the pigeon pie due to his disgusting eating habits, or was it poison? If it was poison, then we have to think who administered it and how: I simply cannot believe that it would be Tyrion. He had plenty of opportunities to get rid of Joffrey during the Battle of Blackwater, so why would he wait and carry out such a public murder? I imagine Cersei will find ‘evidence’ though . . .

Trust Tywin to have stolen Ice and had it broken down to make two swords. The man has no honor and too much pride.

61. Sansa V

I was pleased, but amazed, that Ser Dontos actually came through on his plan to rescue Sansa, and bitterly disappointed to find that he was Littlefinger’s agent. I seriously dislike that man and I do not trust him to have Sansa’s best interests at heart. Indeed I find his interest in Sansa, and her similarity to her mother, to be very, very creepy as I suspect that he has plans to keep her as his Catelyn look-a-like bedmate.

As for Joffrey’s murder, it seems like Littlefinger was behind it because he supplied the hairnet, but his motives are totally unclear. Perhaps he was actually attempting to kill Tyrion, and the poison was in his piece of pie. This would make sense given Littlefinger’s obsession with Sansa, which we can also see in his idea to insult Tyrion with the dwarf jousters. Removing Joffrey seems to have little purpose for Littlefinger, but perhaps he is not responsible for the poison and is merely accepting credit where it is not due, because if Sansa thinks he killed Joffrey then it gives him more control over her. He is a lying toad who will turn any situation to his advantage, and I do not trust him one little bit.

62. Jaime VII

I found it very strange that Jaime had little to no reaction to Joffrey’s death, although I guess that he has always been emotionally distant from the children. However, having sex in a church next to the boy’s corpse . . . sorry, Jaime, but there is only one thing to say about that: yuck! I know that there is a very primal urge to have sex as a way to reaffirm life just after a death, but I say again: yuck!

We have seen Jaime go through a lot of changes during this book, and in many ways our understanding of the man has been totally reversed. I liked the way in which he assumed his role as Lord Commander of the Kingsguard right away, showing us the confident, even arrogant, Jaime of old. However, his compassion for Brienne and his defense of her against Loras’ accusations show a more mature leader who is now interested in honor and justice far more than he was before. We also see this in his determination to stop lying, in asking Cersei to marry him openly and in his refusal to submit to Tywin’s plans. He has finally seen that what he really wants is to be a simple, honest man with a happy life.

My opinion for Tywin continues to deteriorate. He is outraged by Jaime’s wound, but sees this as a way for him to become the heir to Casterly Rock again. However, no sooner has he said that than he is planning to use Jaime as a way to get yet another useful political marriage. You would think that he would simply be happy that he has a non-dwarf son to inherit the Rock now, but, no, there is always more political advantage to gain. Typically, when Jaime refuses to be told what to do, he renounces him as his son. I feel that Tywin’s grip on his family is starting to weaken.

I did chuckle when we found out that Lord Vargo had become ill because of Brienne biting off his ear! :D

63. Davos VI

Oh, Davos, you crafty old smuggler, you! I knew that he would not let Melisandre kill Edric Storm, but I did not think that he would defy her so openly. I wonder where they are taking the boy?

As I have said before, I really like Davos. In many ways he reminds me of Ned Stark, although he is much more pragmatic and flexible he is bound by honor and duty in much the same way. His arguments for protecting Edric are clever and worthy of someone with a great deal of expertise with the law, but his decision to use the letter from Bowen Marsh to show Stannis what should be his ‘true’ path is ingenious.

This is the last Davos chapter until Book 5: A Dance With Dragons . . . I am going to miss him.

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