Sunday, October 28, 2012

A Challenge of Ice and Fire: Week 29

A Feast for Crows: Samwell IV to the end of The Princess in the Tower (p. 863)

My previous posts on A Feast for Crows:   week 23   week 24   week 25   week 26   week 27   week 28

35. Samwell IV

Can we just have a moment’s silence to mark the passing of a wonderful and wise old man?

In the last Sam chapter we saw that Maester Aemon was very ill. At one hundred and two years old there was little chance that he would weather the storm, but I was hoping against hope that he would pull through. Alas, I was hoping in vain. I will miss him . . . sniff . . .

Fortunately, he lived long enough to hear Xhondo’s report of Daenerys and her dragons. He realizes that the prophecy had always been interpreted to mean that they were looking for a prince, but that dragons are asexual, and so the ‘prince’ could be a princess. He is desperate for Sam to talk to the archmaesters and convince them to send a maester to Daenerys to counsel her. I hope that Sam will succeed in fulfilling his last wish.

Gilly finally makes a man out of Sam, although he is riddled with guilt and shame afterwards. I found it very funny that the Summer Islanders gave him the option of having sex with Gilly or walking across the water to Oldtown. I can understand why the Brothers of the Night’s Watch swear not to have children, but it also seems very unreasonable for young men to be expected to remain celibate. Sam feels a failure for breaking his vows, but it has always been obvious that he had feelings for Gilly, so I hope he can forgive himself eventually. In a strange way I am proud of his uninhibited action, although the mention of the breast milk was more than a little disturbing.

36. Cersei VIII

Dear Mr Martin, PLEASE stop making me read chapters from Cersei’s POV, because they make me angry and potentially violent! Thanks, Sue.

Aurane Waters’ account of Ser Loras’ injuries on Dragonstone sound more like a joke than a reality. Is it possible for someone to survive so much injury only to be doused in boiling oil? Of course, Cersei shows great restraint by not actually dancing as she tells poor Margaery about her brother’s fate. Just when you think that you have seen her at her most uncaring and selfish, Cersei always manages to surprise you . . .

This week, Cersei’s Increasingly Bad Decisions include:

1. Ignoring the pleas of the merchants who have had their loans called in early by the Iron Bank and who are now refused further loans. This will not destroy the economy at all!

2. Insulting the representative of the High Septon (who she has just allowed to raise a huge army) because he wants to shut all the brothels, which she wants to keep open to support the economy. (See #1)

3. Complaining to Pycelle that it is just too bad that Lord Gyles has chosen this moment to finally die of consumption, even though she thinks that he is a useless waste of breath anyway. Of course threatening Pycelle will stop the man from dying . . .

4. Making her son, the King, really hate her for trying to suppress his right to rule and refusing to allow him to learn about ruling and the workings of the court. Surely the obvious choice would be to let him see how boring it is so that he will leave her to it.

5. Lady Tanda has died as a result of the injury that Cersei knew about, so now she needs her elder daughter to take the title . . . oh wait, that would be the woman that Cersei sent to Qyburn because she was annoying and disappointing . . . and now she is not exactly ‘whole’. Oopsie!

Cersei’s dream about the prophecy made by Maggy the Frog is interesting, mainly because we have heard hints about this prophecy before, so it is good to finally get the whole thing. It seems that the young Cersei was already pretty dreadful and I have a horrible suspicion that she had something to do with Melara’s death shortly afterwards. How dare the girl aspire to marry Jaime? It sounds like the prophecy has been very accurate so far, although I am a little surprised that Robert only produced sixteen children. I just hope that we do not have to wait for both Tommen and Myrcella to die before the ‘valonqar’ arrives to get rid of this thoroughly unpleasant woman. 

37. Brienne VII

Yay! The return of Gendry! I am very pleased to find that he is still very much alive. I loved Brienne’s reaction to meeting him, although it does make me wonder why nobody else has noticed how much he looks like the Baratheons. It strikes me as strange, because we know that Brienne is not exactly given to flights of fancy, indeed she is often shown to have very little imagination. Of course, one could argue that she might have spent a lot more time than most people staring at Renly and so was far more familiar with his appearance.

The arrival of Biter is not good news at all. Brienne seems to be winning their fight, and even drives her sword right through him, but he does not want to die so easily. His brutal strength and attempts to maim and eat her, even though he must realize that he is dying, are beyond scary and very unpleasant. We are left with the image of a sword-like tongue appearing from his mouth. I can only hope that Ser Hyle has come to Brienne’s rescue: after all, he did just offer to marry her for her father’s title and lands because he is such a generous soul.

38. Jaime VI

It seems that the Late Lord Walder Frey did not have many genes for intelligence to pass on to his multitude of offspring. Lord Emmon wants Riverrun taken without damaging it and Ser Ryman keeps threatening to hang Edmure but never does. No wonder Jaime feels like he is surrounded by useless idiots! They are possibly the worst possible allies, because everybody hates them.

In some ways I feel sorry for Jaime here, because he is trying to honor his vow to Catelyn, but nobody will believe that he will keep his word. Of course, he is used to this, but it makes him a poor choice for the person to negotiate with The Blackfish: yet another of Cersei’s Increasingly Bad Decisions. But then, I am not sure that there is anyone that Ser Brynden would trust at this point. Their barbed banter is rather witty, but ultimately pointless, as neither man can change his position. As a side note, I found it strange that Brynden believed Catelyn’s assessment of Jon, and so thought that he had been made commander due to Tywin’s influence.

Although Jaime releases Edmure and promises safety for both him and the pregnant Roslin, I am not sure that he will be allowed to keep that vow. I also think that it is highly unlikely that Edmure will persuade his uncle to surrender, but he is the true Lord of Riverrun, so Brynden may have to do as he is told. Somehow, I doubt that we will see The Blackfish on the Wall any time soon. However, I imagine that Edmure will surrender at the first opportunity: we have already seen that he is not the most courageous of men. I am uncertain of why he is so appalled by the singer that Jaime leaves him with. I can understand why he would not want to hear the Rains of Castamere, but it seems to be the man himself that he fears.

39. Cersei IX

Yet more Cersei: Mr Martin, you are torturing me!

Normally I do not feel much sorrow for Pycelle, but in this case I do feel that Cersei is being unnecessarily harsh with the old man. We have heard Ser Gyles coughing ever since we first encountered him in A Games of Thrones, so it was only a matter of time before his health gave out. By accusing him of killing Ser Gyles for Margaery, Cersei inadvertently uncovers some of the proof she needs to accuse the young Queen of adultery, but this is purely by lucky chance, and Pycelle might have had no useful information to offer her. I do wonder if moon tea is ever used to treat anything other than pregnancy. Pycelle is cut off as he is about to say what she needed it for, and I doubt that he would be so willing to admit to giving the girl a contraceptive. I wonder if he has been using it to treat her for irregular periods or painful cramps, just as the oral contraceptive is sometimes used in modern medicine. This would actually fit much better with his reaction.

Once she has this bit of information, Cersei swerves onto a path of total madness. She has the poor Blue Bard tortured most horribly until he has learnt what she wants him to confess, and then demands that Osney Kettleblack also confess to the High Septon that he has been having sex with Margaery. She even allows him to have sex with her to seal the deal.

I hope and pray that this plot with backfire on Cersei, and that she gets the just deserts of all her atrocious behavior and appalling judgment. I am not sure that Margaery is totally innocent, but she cannot be as poisonous as Cersei: at least, I hope not for Tommen’s sake.

40. The Princess In The Tower

One last chapter from Arianne’s POV.

If anything proves Prince Doran’s strength of character and understanding of human psychology, it is the way that he breaks his daughter’s will be allowing her to stew in her own juices in the highest cell of the Spear Tower. Separated from human contact and bored out of her mind, Arianne has little to do but to think about what she has done, putting her in a much more receptive frame of mind when he finally speaks with her.

We follow her as she processes her grief for Ser Arys, for whom she appears to have had real feelings. I had assumed that she had simply seduced him to gain control over him, but she genuinely regrets his death and misses him. She also moves through periods of anger and fear, tortured by not knowing what has happened to her friends and Myrcella, who was horribly injured by the Darkstar’s attack.

When he finally calls for her, Doran does not rant and rave at her. Instead, he shows how deeply disappointed and hurt he is by her actions. He is concerned about how they will avoid war with the Iron Throne now that Myrcella has been mutilated: her wound has left her with only one ear and a huge scar. He admits that Dorne is not strong enough for the war, and that he must find a way to explain what happened to the little princess that will hide Arianne’s role in the incident. Arianne believes that she can convince the little girl to go along with the story that the Darkstar was the only one at fault, but Dorne’s survival may rest upon Myrcella’s ability to lie convincingly.

When she finally confronts him about his intentions to pass Dorne to her younger brother Quentyn, Doran finally reveals that she had been secretly promised to Viserys many years ago. This explains all the doddering, old suitors that she had rejected over the years: these were not a way to insult her, but a display of attempting to marry her off. His reasons for not telling her seem sound, although they have allowed her pride to be wounded and that festering wound was the primary reason for her treasonous actions. It seems that Quentyn is in Essos, as Arianne had heard, but he is not trying to raze an army to depose her: he is attempting to re-establish Dorne’s link with the Targaryens.

My estimation for Doran Martell has leapt up. Not only does he suffer from intense physical pain with a great deal of stoicism, but also he has nursed his anger and need for revenge in a wonderfully quiet way ever since Elia was killed. We see the great grief that her death caused him in his attempts to destroy everything that Tywin held dear before claiming the man’s life. He regrets that Tyrion beat him to the deathblow, but he takes a grim satisfaction in the patricide, seeing it as a just reward for Tywin’s terrible treatment of his own son. He may not have been the vigorous type of warrior that we saw in the Red Viper, but he has been the spider in the dark, plotting revenge over the long term, and playing the Game of Thrones with great skill. I hope that Arianne will forgive him for not confiding in her earlier and throw all her support behind him.

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