Near the end of a book, and immediately after one of its two major climaxes, is a heck of a place to put a giant infodump about distant past history and legend. Nonetheless, it works all right here.
- Old Nan says: there was once a blind knight, Symeon Star-Eyes. Also, she is apparently a pretty effective teacher of Stark family history.
- …but Luwin protests her story of the children of the forest: “The man who trusts in spells is dueling with a glass sword.” Which is, of course, exactly the kind of sword you need against the others.
- “Hodor is a man, not a mule to be beaten.” Or, you know, possessed. Even if it makes you like “a knight together.”
- Luwin: “[Eddard’s death] will not be for many years, gods be good.” Yikes.
- The First Men’s intimidation of the children with horses reminds me of the Conquistadors in Latin America.
Ned actually tells Septa Mordane to let Sansa go (tell the queen his plans). Then he leans on Littlefinger for support.
Random thought: in this chapter, Ned is described as having “forced” Jaime Lannister off the throne during Robert’s coup. Previously, Jaime was depicted as having surrendered the throne willingly, if snarkily.
Boros Blount, Preston Greenfield, and Barristan Selmy are explicitly compared to the three knights at the Tower of Joy. Presumably only Selmy resembles the stylized, archetypal knights of Ned’s fever dream. (I say presumably because I’m not sure about Greenfield: if the books ever tell us anything of note about him, I don’t remember it.)
That fever dream left me with the feeling that Ned believes, sometimes and on some levels, that he should not have survived the encounter at the tower. Are the present “three men in white cloaks” ghosts come to take the life that he got to keep only by mistake, as Jaqen H’gar will later take three lives in recompense for the three Arya prolongs?
Then Robert becomes Lyanna: “Promise me, Ned.” Will we eventually find out that Lyanna’s demand was as mundane as “eat the pig that killed me?” I somehow doubt it. Now the three knights look more like a debased mirror of the past: noble knights and noble promises replaced by base and shallow ones. But if that were the idea being communicated, it would have been more effective to use a third lesser knight in Selmy’s place.
On reread, the irony in this chapter is nearly unbearable: “His regency would be a short one.” “[S]harp as the difference between right and wrong, between true and false, between life and death” — even the last being, in this world, not a very sharp distinction at all.
Miscellanea from this chapter:
- Third occurrence of the phrase game of thrones, in Ned’s head as a memory of Cersei saying it.
- Ned continues to perceive Tomard, the overweight commoner, as a real and valuable human being.
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.
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.
“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).