“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.
Petyr Baelish is introduced in an interesting step-wise fashion: first there was a passing mention by Cersei. Now he is further illuminated via Catelyn telling a story about his past, before finally showing up in the flesh.
He is described as a small, slender, sharp-featured man, not quite thirty years old, with “laughing” green eyes, dark hair with a little gray, a goatee, and a silver mockingbird brooch. And he demonstrates trick knife-throwing skills; does he ever do this again?
Varys, meanwhile, is yet another overweight, perfumed character. He also uses face powder, is completely bald, wears what Westerosi culture would consider effeminate clothing (a sparkly vest over a silk gown and velvet slippers), “giggle[s] like a little girl” and “squeal[s]” at the sight of a drop of blood. As with Illyrio, we experienced readers now know Varys is using these culturally despised (in Westeros) traits as sort of a disguise; it’s interesting to remember that a first-time reader wouldn’t know that yet.
Meanwhile, elsewhere in this chapter:
- Like the earlier and related introduction of the murder mystery subplot, the whole song and dance about Ser Rodrik going to fetch the king’s armorer seems rather drawn out and contrived now that I know it isn’t going anywhere.
- WiC #4.
- Catelyn is noble to pay the oarsmen herself, but naive to think they’ll be allowed to hold on to the money if their employer doesn’t wish it. There’s probably a “company store” situation going on: after all, where else will the rowers get their food at sea?
- Catelyn also reveals her unconscious commitment to the hereditary nobility system by dwelling on the fact that Varys isn’t a real lord (Petyr Baelish is, even if a minor one, and therefore worthy of at least slightly more respect in her eyes).
- First mention of Loras Tyrell.