Sunday, August 26, 2012

A Challenge of Ice and Fire: Week 21

A Storm of Swords: Jon VIII to the end of Daenerys VI (p. 995)

My previous posts on A Storm of Swords:   week 14   week 15   week 16   week 17   week 18   week 19   week 20

64. Jon VIII

Just as I was really getting to like Donal Noye, he goes and gets himself killed: typical!

The assault on the Wall begins in earnest as Mance Rayder’s massive army finally arrives on the other side from Castle Black. I do like about Mr Martin’s depiction of battles, mainly because it seems so gritty and realistic. As with the Battle of Blackwater, we are shown the true value of good defenses, and the Wall is probably the best defensive structure ever seen. The strength of the Wall and the men’s preparation mean that a handful can withstand an attack from thousands with few loses on the defending side. I particularly liked that the only man on the Wall to be shot was hit in his wooden leg! :)

I find it interesting that Donal automatically handed command to Jon, but as Maester Aemon seems to agree with that decision, I have to assume that the two men had discussed it before the attack. I am not sure how the men will react to Jon as their commander, especially as he is so young and so new to the Watch, never mind that he is suspected of being a traitor. I can only hope that he can hold them together long enough for help to arrive.

65. Arya XII

I find it heartening that Arya is still functioning, even if she is struggling to work out her place in the world now that most of her family is dead. The Hound continues to be somewhat gray in his actions, giving mercy to a Piper man that they find terribly wounded. He treats the man gently, giving him water before killing him quickly. Admittedly, he then loots the body and leaves it unburied, but that does not detract from his earlier kindness. However, I would feel happier about him if he did not spend so much time getting drunk. I am relieved that the path to the Eyrie is too dangerous to travel, as that would place Arya in the hands of Littlefinger.

Our glimpse of Catelyn’s body through the eyes of Nymeria is interesting. It seems that she is naked, which would be the most disrespectful thing that Lord Frey could do to the body. I am intrigued to find out who the men are that disturb the wolves: I wonder if they will find the body and recognize it. If they do, what will they do with it?

66. Tyrion IX

Well, it is always nice to know who your real friends are, and it seems like Tyrion has very few. I was surprised at how pleasant Ser Kevan was towards his nephew, as I had always assumed that he despised Tyrion as much as Tywin does, but he shows genuine kindness and concern. This may be due to family loyalty, as we see in his defense of Tywin’s harshness, but there does seem to be more than that at work. He passes on Tywin’s suggestion that Tyrion take the Black in a gentle way and urges him to accept that path in order to save his life. I was a little disappointed that Bronn refuses to be Tyrion’s champion, although he would have to be crazy to fight Gregor Clegane voluntarily. I hope that we see Bronn again in the future, as I enjoy his irreverent attitude to the nobility. If not, I hope he has a fine time with Lollys and begets many fine, bouncing babies.

The evidence against Tyrion is, of course, totally circumstantial, but that will not help him when two of his judges already believe him to be guilty. In some ways it seems as if Cersei has almost brought out too many witnesses to speak against him, but I assume that she is trying to repay every little slight. I hope that she has enough gold to pay all these liars when the trial ends. Certainly, Tyrion has annoyed many people, so there was probably a queue of people willing to say anything to get some payback. However, they seem to have forgotten: a Lannister always pays his debts and the Mighty Tyrion will pay them back tenfold I am absolutely positive.

As usual, Cersei has tried to use her body to get what she wants, offering herself to the Red Viper. Fortunately for Tyrion, he is totally disinterested in her, being much more concerned in getting justice for Elia. Tyrion disobeys his father and tells Oberyn the truth: that Gregor Clegane raped and killed Elia. Now it looks like Tyrion has a champion after all.

67. Jaime VIII

This is a strange chapter as it spends so much time describing living and dead members of the Kingsguard. I particularly liked the detail that Barristan Selmy had taken the time to write about his dismissal in the white Book before leaving the city: this attendance to duty above all else is an important aspect of the man’s character.

Jaime has changed so much during his time in the Riverlands that he is almost a different person now. He feels uncomfortably inadequate taking the Lord Commander’s seat, especially as he knows that it should be filled by Ser Barristan Selmy. His lost hand makes him feel totally useless and he knows that he is nowhere near as good as Selmy or the previous Lord Commander, Ser Gerald Hightower. However, he is aware that he is a better man than almost all of the other men now in the Kingsguard, with the possible exception of Loras Tyrell, whom he sees as himself at a younger age.

After browbeating all the other men, Jaime deals with Loras’ accusations against Brienne. He finally makes the younger man realize that she is probably telling the truth, but orders him to question her himself until he is satisfied. It is clear from Jaime’s thoughts that he believes that Loras and Renly were a couple, and this might explain why he is more patient with the younger man than we might expect.

Interesting to note that Cersei has avoided Jaime since their ‘reunion’ in the Great Sept.

I found this lovely piece of artwork over at Sarcasm Is My Language! :D

68. Sansa VI

If there was one thing I really did not need to read, it was Lysa Arryn having very loud sex with Littlefinger. Thank you, Mr Martin, I now need to go and boil my eyes and brain to remove that image . . .

Well, we can see why Littlefinger got his nickname, and why he was so desperate to make something of himself. What a dreadful little hovel he has. I am amazed that Lysa is so enamored of a man of such lowly status, but it appears that he was the father of the child that her father insisted was aborted and she seems more than eager to bed him once again. She also has plans for Sansa, now Alayne Stone, who she will marry off to young Robert. However, Lysa’s superficial niceness is wafer thin as she basically threatens Sansa that she has nowhere else to turn now.

We find out that the Kettleblack brothers are actually the sons of one of Littlefinger’s men and that they were sent to King’s Landing to infiltrate the castle. They seem to be doing a fine job, especially Osmund who is now a member of the Kingsguard and is bedding the Queen. Littlefinger leads Sansa to believe that the Queen of Thorns poisoned Joffrey using the missing stone from Sansa’s hairnet, however, I am not sure if I believe anything he says even though removing Joffrey and marrying Margaery to Tommen would seem like a better deal to House Martell.

69. Jon IX

Just when things cannot get any worse on the Wall Alliser Thorne and Janos Slynt turn up. I know they bring reinforcements from Eastwatch with them, but I had rather hoped that I would not have to see these two individuals again. Their sneering attempts to justify their accusations about Jon are pathetic, especially when they use Rattleshirt as a ‘witness’. I hope Ghost finds them and eats them slowly, very slowly.

It seems like Jon has kept the defense of the Wall going rather well, even though there are so few men left with him and they are running out of supplies. As I said earlier, it is good to see a realistic depiction of a siege, with the Wildlings building screens to hide their archers and then a turtle to protect the men working on the gateway. However, they are constantly at a disadvantage because of the Wall. I can only hope that Maester Aemon can prevent the idiots Thorne and Slynt from hanging Jon before help, or Ghost, arrives. You would have thought that the army at the gate would have kept them busy enough to set aside their petty personal vendettas for at least a few minutes . . .

70. Tyrion X

Stupid, greedy Shea. I had begun to have my doubts about her intelligence when she moaned at Tyrion about being invited to Joffrey’s wedding, but to sell herself to Cersei is the most dangerous thing that she could have done. Now she has absolutely no one to protect her when Cersei decides to get rid of her. I hope the reward keeps her happy for the rest of her short life.

I am very proud of Tyrion’s confession to being guilty of nothing other than being a dwarf that continued to displease his father by remaining a dwarf. This is such an honest and heart-wrenching statement of the brutal truth, and it is terrible that Tyrion knows that it is true. It is good to see Tywin give a reaction, but we know that he will never swerve from his chosen path. I also appreciate Cersei’s surprise and doubt over the Red Viper standing as Tyrion’s champion. I doubt that any man can beat Gregor Clegane in a clean fight, but Oberyn is not likely to fight cleanly and Gregor can die of poisoning just like any other man. Also, Tyrion is quite right that no matter what the outcome, the fight will only increase the political friction between the Crown and Dorne.

We find out that Elia’s death may have been Tywin’s payback to her being married to Prince Rhaegar rather than Cersei, who he refused to marry to Oberyn. Tyrion is disgusted that his generation is actually still fighting the battles of their ancestors and being manipulated to right ancient wrongs. It all seems rather pointless knowing that the Others are heading south . . .

The fight between the Red Viper and the Mountain that Rides is long and exhausting, although Oberyn does seem to have the upper hand. He uses his speed and intelligence to dance around the bigger man and to provoke him to anger. Unfortunately, he allows his grief and need for vengeance to blind him at the end and, although he has the Mountain skewered on the ground, he delays in delivering the final blow. This gives the Mountain the chance to grab Oberyn and smash his head in. I cannot believe that Gregor will survive, but it seems that Tyrion is doomed. Nooooooooo!!!!!!!! :(

71. Daenerys VI

Daenerys has seized another city, this time Meereen, but news arrives shortly afterwards that Astapor has been seized by Cleon, a butcher, who has declared himself King and asks for her hand in marriage. It is also reported that Yunkai is seeking armies to ride against her, while Cleon has begun training a new set of Unsullied. She is also told that people are begging to be sold into slavery at the docks so that they can travel to the free cities and be safe. She agrees to allow anyone who wants to be sold to choose that option. It seems that her utopia of freed slaves is crumbling around her.

Although I am sad to see the back of Ser Jorah, I can understand why Daenerys is totally unwilling to forgive him, especially as he tries to deny responsibility for his actions. Perhaps if he had taken a more honest and humble approach, like Ser Barristan Selmy, he might have had more success. I now how much she will miss him, but he has proven to be unreliable and so he cannot be trusted, however, I have a feeling that he will be back when she needs him.

Ser Barristan continues to impress me. I liked that he admitted that he wanted to check her for the taint of madness before he decided to aid her openly. Here we see a man who has a lot of experience dealing with command and nobility and who has decided that he will no longer follow someone simply because of their birth. He will be a good councilor to her and will help her to learn how to rule, which she plans to do here in Meereen. Perhaps if she can rule the city successfully then she can move on to retaking the Iron Throne.

This is the last we will see of Daenerys until we get to Book 5: A Dance With Dragons. It is going to be a long wait to find out how she is coping.

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