Ned sure is racking up the chapters. In this one:
- We learn that Lyanna believed Robert would be unfaithful to her, while Ned (apparently apropos of nothing) muses that Rhaegar would not have been.
- We also learn that the (still unspecified) deathbed “promises” (plural) Ned made to Lyanna have had a high price.
- Robert is said to have impregnated Edric Storm’s mother “while Stannis and his bride were still dancing.” Stannis, dancing?
- Cersei already had a couple of Robert’s bastards killed and their mother enslaved(!)
- Sheesh, Ned, how long does it take you to give up on the continued existence of “the Robert [you] had known”?
- Again with the casual, pervasive sexism: Jaime won’t stake much on “a woman’s honor.”
“Sometimes [Catelyn] felt as though her heart had turned to stone.” Yuk, yuk.
Seriously though, in paying more attention to Catelyn on this reread, I find that her monomaniacal focus on her goal (which is protecting her children … or protecting her own self-concept as the perfect noble mother?) is much more destructive than I had realized on past readings. She undermines her oldest son, ignores her youngest, and even her exaggerated grief over the comatose Bran seems more about her than him (after all, he’s not conscious to observe or benefit from her behavior). Her attitude toward Jon is deplorable, but understandable — but this chapter’s transfer of those feelings to Mya Stone, a stranger who has nothing to do with her marriage, is plain pathological. She kidnaps a member of a major house on the “evidence” of a story that is easily hole-poked by anyone aware of court social dynamics, from a source who she seems to be at least marginally aware is untrustworthy; persists in taking her prisoner to a place she has never visited (a fact I realized only on rereading this chapter), even after discovering that most of her party is likely to die on the journey (I’m sure all her father’s bannerman whose men she commandeered will love that); and when indeed they are killed, she pushes away what feelings of guilt or self-doubt she has. Sansa doesn’t fall far from the tree.
Elsewhere in this chapter:
- We meet Brynden: weathered, gray-haired, and good-humored with a “hoarse, smoky voice.”
- Tyrion remarks that Tywin is “the soul of avarice” (as Jaime is of arrogance and Cersei of power-lust), but I’ve never really seen monetary greed as Tywin’s primary motivation.
- WiC #6.
- Catelyn thinks she is “becoming a Stark at last” — when actually she’s straying further from the Starks’ ancestral home and concerns, into games orchestrated by others.
- I’m having dirty-minded fun imagining what “the topless towers of Valyria” look like.
- Finally, we meet Lysa, like Robert an obese character who once wasn’t, and whose current obesity is serving as a symbol of current moral or psychological failings. She has long auburn hair, blue eyes and a small mouth. Her son Robert Arryn (henceforth to be referred to as Sweetrobin) is six, small for his age and sickly, with fine brown hair.
It’s hard to tell what Varys and Baelish are angling for in this chapter. Do they want Robert to attempt to assassinate Dany, or don’t they? The previous chapter suggests that Varys, at least, intends for the Dothraki to invade and so should not want Dany dead. Does he believe (correctly) that a failed assassination attempt will hasten the invasion? Or is he using reverse psychology on Robert, thinking Robert would do the opposite of what he was advised (in which case Ned and Selmy may have ruined it for him)? Was he in cahoots with Baelish to prevent the hiring of an all-too-effective Faceless Man, or was that Baelish’s own initiative?
Elsewhere in this chapter:
- More of Robert’s lovely attitude toward women: Dany is a “whore” for having a child with her husband. (Oh, and we see where Joffrey got his fondness for heads on spikes.)
- Robert: “I am not so blind that I cannot see the shadow of the axe when it is hanging over my own neck.” Once again, he sees the axe as held by Dany when really, it’s Cersei. (But Ned’s “There is no axe” is even more clueless.)
- We learn that Selmy has “pale blue eyes,” and much about his character and affinity for Ned.
I really do like these Tyrion chapters, but for some reason usually find little in them to specifically remark upon. His banter (“Don’t kill him anywhere”) is generally great (and Catelyn’s obtuseness infuriating).
- Lots of minor players are mentioned by name and their battle deeds enumerated, despite the fact that most of them are going to be either killed before the chapter is out, or never significantly mentioned again.
- The death of Tyrion’s horse is “one more debt owed to the Starks,” which he has yet to personally repay. One could say the Lannisters communally repaid it via the Red Wedding, but I like these words better as foreshadowing of a future Tyrion-against-Stark move.
- Meet Bronn: “bone thin and bone hard, with black eyes and black hair, and a stubble of beard.” He’s a surprisingly worldly guy, knowing, for example, that Dothraki like horse meat.
“If [Ned] could prove that the Lannisters were behind the attack on Bran, prove that they had murdered Jon Arryn…” Honorable Ned, trying to prove an untruth! Then, later: “The dagger, Bran’s fall, all of it was linked somehow to the murder of Jon Arryn, he could feel it in his gut.” It’s fabulous to read a genre novel where a “good” character can have a *wrong* gut feeling, where his problem is less the existence of the array of baddies out to get him than his inability to correctly grasp the nature of their badness and thereby maneuver around it.
I’m wondering what this chapter’s non-effeminate Varys knows, though. He asserts that Arryn was killed for “asking questions,” which is only indirectly true if at all. Baelish, not the by-amateur-genetic-studies-threatened Lannisters, instigated Arryn’s death. Like Varys, Baelish may want to delay the coming succession crisis, and silencing Arryn would work in service of that — but clearing the path for further psychosexual manipulation of Arryn’s wife seems a stronger motivation. Does Varys know Baelish was responsible for Arryn’s death (in which case he’s deliberately allowing/leading Ned to think it was the Lannisters) or would he be as surprised by that knowledge as I was when I first encountered it?
Elsewhere in this chapter:
- Robert comes around with a bullshit after-the-fact apology for killing a little girl’s dog. Sure, Robert, you’re real sorry.
- He also wonders, “How could I have made a son like [Joffrey]” while calling Loras “a son any man would be proud to own to.” Surprisingly un-homophobic, or just oblivious?
- Renly knows that Tyrion never bets against his brother … but Ned and Catelyn? Nope. (Also, this is Jaime’s second unhorsing in recent memory — was he already slipping as a jouster at this point?)
- Another horse (and human) realism fail: book Loras, like TV Loras, is “slender as a reed,” as is his horse … never mind that a man and/or horse of that build could never carry a suit of armor.
- First mention of Mya Stone (though not by name).
But in an interesting way! I’ve always liked Sansa’s chapters — whether or not I like her as a “person” (remember, she is a fictional character, people!) being beside the point — because I enjoy reading about the events we see through her eyes (court intrigue, anything involving Petyr Baelish). But in this chapter, it’s Sansa’s actual stream of consciousness that is so creepily entertaining: her detached response to the death of Ser Hugh, her (and Septa Mordane’s!) scorn toward Jeyne’s much more appropriate reaction, her rationalization of Joffrey’s past and present behavior (and compartmentalization of Lady’s death as “the awful thing”).
Elsewhere in this chapter:
- Loras’ first in-person appearance: he’s the cutest guy Sansa’s ever seen (wasn’t Renly that, also?) with “lazy” (?) brown curls and “liquid gold” eyes. The description of his tourney self-marketing activities is great.
- Eddard isn’t around to see what a drunken, sexist (even if Cersei deserves it) lout his “friend” Robert actually is.
- First detailed description of Sandor: gaunt, with heavy brows, a large hooked nose, thin dark hair combed over, and the now precisely described scars. And he gets the only real emotional response out of Sociopathic Sansa.