Characters I ended up paying special attention to this reread, some on purpose, some not:
Catelyn Stark:I tried really hard to give Catelyn the benefit of the doubt on this reread, yet ended up actually liking her less than I did before. She’s a good person and generally thinks she’s doing the right things, but her stubbornness and self-absorption keep preventing her from seeing the true effects of her actions.
Robb Stark:Prior to this reread,I remembered Robb as an uninteresting stock noble-young-prince from central casting, and was fascinated by the way many readers seemed to project depth and nobility into his character. Paying special attention to him on this reread, I found his character a bit more fully developed on paper than I had thought. Not much more so, though, and not in particularly interesting ways: he loves his brother, loves his mom but wishes she wouldn’t treat him like a kid, feels overwhelmed when thrust early into a position of leadership. Pretty (deliberately) clicheed stuff there. And if he’s supposed to be a military genius, it’s not coming across to me: his strategies don’t seem that radical, and surely his advisors — particularly Brynden — have a lot to do with them?
Ned Stark: Here I have to take issue with the common “being too honorable was his downfall” characterization. Ned actually shows a reasonable degree of political awareness and is under no illusions about the honor of the Lannisters or the Small Councillors. Sure, Littlefinger played him, but Littlefinger has successfully played just about every character in the novels; besides, Ned didn’t so much foolishly expect him to behave honorably, as falsely believe he’d gotten to the bottom of his dishonorableness. And warning Cersei was a big mistake, but it was an error born of compassion, not “honor” (as the example of Stannis shows, compassion is if anything antithetical to Westerosi ideas of honor and justice).
If Ned has a central tragic flaw, it’s his blindness to the true nature of his “best friend,” Robert. Ned’s insistence on behaving as if “the Robert he had known” had his back — even after the Robert he knew *now* had repeatedly demonstrated that he didn’t — made him think he was far safer than he was. (Not to mention that, just as Ned was never the boy he once was, Robert quite possibly never was the noble “Robert” Ned thought he had known. But that’s something we’ll see more clearly in later books.)
This chapter introduces Brynden’s refusal to marry. If said refusal is the only grounds for believing Brynden to be gay (as it seems to be), I’m not buying it. Marriage in Brynden’s social milieu need have nothing to do with sexual desire: noblemen can and do marry for political advantage and to produce heirs, while having sex on the side with people (including, in Renly’s case at least, male people) they’re more attracted to. Lack of attraction to women would be no reason to refuse marriage; indeed, marriage to a sexually undemanding woman would provide much more effective cover than conspicuous refusal to marry. Faithfulness to an unattainable woman, like Hoster’s wife, seems more plausible, but couldn’t it be that the guy just doesn’t want to be tied down?
But, “Walder Frey … any of three, he said…” Hilarious.
Also in this chapter:
- The titular phrase again, from Stevron Frey.
- Catelyn: “We went to war when Lannister armies were ravaging the Riverlands…” Yes, because of YOUR actions! And now you want peace! Sheesh.
Catelyn once again manages to belittle her son in the guise (probably sincere) of “supporting” him. “[Robb submitting to her like a child] would not do,” she thinks, having just browbeaten him into doing just that.
Elsewhere in this chapter:
- We’re introduced to the Manderlys, yet more fattest-guys-POV-has-ever-seen, with comic relief names to boot.
- Thanks to Brynden for pointing out that he (and therefore his niece) is a southron. (And Robb looks like Edmure, not a good omen.)
Mormont: “The things we love destroy us every time.” Is this true? Just sticking to the major POV characters:
- Ned is destroyed by his love of (his idealized image of) Robert, and his resulting blindness to crucial aspects of his situation. (His love of honor figures in also, but this reread has shown Robert to be much more important than I previously realized.)
- Catelyn is destroyed by her love of her family(or of her concept of herself as perfect family woman), and of drama (e.g., foolishly insisting on traveling to King’s Landing herself; kidnapping Tyrion and then ignoring all logical arguments as to his innocence).
- Jon is destroyed by his love of being right (see his own comment about himself below). Ultimately this stems from his love of his father and yearning for a level of security and recognition not afforded by his social status.
- Daenerys was, for quite a while, on the path to being destroyed by her love of her people, or more cynically, of her image of herself as mother savior and emancipator. (Daario’s just a blip on the radar screen.)
- Theon is destroyed by his yearning for validation, stemming from his frustrated love of the Starks and what they stand for.
- Jaime did rather poorly living a life defined by his love of his sister.
- If Brienne has been destroyed, it’s by her love of honor and, possibly, Jaime.
On the other hand:
- Arya loves her family, her freedom, and the satisfaction of attaining mastery, and has mostly benefited by at least the latter things. And she’s about as far from destroyed as any major POV character at this point.
- Sansa loves her illusions, and is also far from destroyed yet.
- Tyrion loves his own intellect and the idea of being in love with a woman. Things haven’t gone well for him, but when it comes down to it, most of his misfortunes have been visited on him by others in spite of his efforts to avoid them. In particular, the bane of his existence is his father, who he mostly has the sense to hate.
- Bran suffered significant harm due to his love of climbing, but once again, I think the blame for that (as well as for his increasingly creepy situation) largely falls on others, including possibly the gods/fate.
- Davos seems to love his family and to have a generally strong but realistically calibrated moral compass, which one could describe as a love of goodness. He’s lost a lot, but once again, largely due to the actions of others, and he has remained more stolidly himself (i.e., undestroyed) than any other major adult character.
- Sam loves knowledge, comfort, and his brothers (particularly Jon), and is doing quite well so far.
- Cersei loves herself (her brother/husband and children, I think, are loved only as extensions thereof). I don’t think I’d call her destroyed as all her sufferings don’t seem to have made much of a psychological dent.
Elsewhere in this chapter.
- I think this is the point where Jon chapters, never my favorites, become the boring stuff I have to get through to reach the good stuff (like, yes, Sansa chapters). I’m just not that into zombies, male bonding, or teen angst.
- “Jon Snow was nothing if not stubborn.” Word.
- Jon was “a babe in arms” when the current summer began. So Robert’s war took place in winter?
- Old Nan says: in the past, the Others invaded the south and destroyed human cities and even kingdoms.
- Jon is bright enough to doubt that Joffrey would allow Eddard to live (Joffrey’s handlers apparently weren’t).
- “If Lord Eddard was killed, [Catelyn] would be as much to blame as the queen.” Word again.
- Mormont’s raven initially screams “corn,” but is later able to manage the much more situation-appropriate “burn.” If the raven is a front for the three-eyed crow, this suggests a limited degree of control of its faculties (insufficient, for example, to make it say “There’s a zombie in the solar!”)
Ah, the irony: Ned will someday tell Sansa how helpful(!) she was to him this day. Varys is “worse” than Littlefinger because he “[does] too little.” (Yeah, what was he thinking prepping only three or four Targaryen heirs?) Jon Arryn died “for the truth” (although Ned is finally right about Bran almost-dying for it).
I forgot that Sandor is now technically lord of Cleganeland, or whatever it may be called.
To Ned, the guardsman Tomard isn’t laughable “Fat Tom,” but a sensible and trustworthy supporter.
This chapter is probably Cersei’s sympathetic peak.
“What would Catelyn do, if it were Jon’s life, against the children of her body?” Is that some kinda foreshadowing?
Ned, still snarky!
Second use of the titular phrase, by Cersei.
I could do without this purple-prose peasant drama, particularly the spelling out of dialect and the breathless not-quite-mentioning of the rape. (“Black and white and grey, all the shades of truth” is a bit on the nose, too.) But an uncomfortable real-world sociological point is being made here: that privileged people are not necessarily heroes for dragging the downtrodden (who are downtrodden precisely because the privileged have unto now failed to protect or notice them) into situations as likely to worsen their lot as better it in the name of “justice.”
Note that these particular peasants have Catelyn to thank for their plight: they were pillaged after their usual defenders were summoned to Riverrun, presumably in preparation for the consequences of her kidnapping of Tyrion.
“Thank you, Grand Maester Pycelle…I fear we might have forgotten that if you had not pointed it out.” I didn’t remember Ned being this snarky!