Wow, I’d actually forgotten that Ned’s last chapter was Ned’s last chapter. The single paragraph after Joffrey’s pronouncement does an incredible job of portraying the shocked surprise of the Lannisters and cabinet (especially Varys, who’s either truly surprised or acting like it to an admirable degree) while remaining plausibly within Arya’s POV.
- Is “the Others take your [object of derision]” a common oath in the South?
- I like that Arya doesn’t instantly become a perfectly street-smart hustler: her things are stolen and her accent or manner of speech gives her away to the other urchins.
- Old Nan told boys’ adventure stories.
- That is one cold trick the Lannisters pull with the fake Stark soldiers at the docks.
- Nice image of the galloping Redwyne twins.
- Another morbidly obese character: the High Septon.
Note that it’s been nearly a year since Tyrion had sex. The TV show’s introduction of his character seemed off to me for exactly this reason: the books show him not as a guy who constantly sleeps with lots of random prostitutes (at once!), but as a fairly strict serial monogamist. I think the only time we’ll see him have sex with a woman who isn’t his “girlfriend” is in ADwD, and he doesn’t exactly enjoy that.
For me, the battle scenes in fantasy novels are generally the boring stuff I have to get through, but this chapter’s is about as good as they meant. Tyrion’s rallying speech, and later taking out of the knight … classic. And I can hear the sounds of the Lannister trumpets. (And it’s interesting that, if I’m remembering the later books correctly, pretty much all the real battle scenes are from the POV of Tyrion, e.g., someone on the “bad” side.)
- “Ser Kevan seldom ‘had a thought’ that Lord Tywin had not had first.” I don’t think that’s exactly fair.
- Another awesome line: “Black Ears did not eat with Stone Crows, Stone Crows did not eat with Moon Brothers, and no one ate with Burned Men.”
- Shae is introduced: “slim, dark-haired, no more than eighteen,” little over five feet tall. I do like the “men call me … often” line.
- But more importantly, Podrick Payne is introduced!
- Shagga and Conn are sweet.
- Tywin’s withholding of battle plans from Tyrion parallels Robb’s later treatment of Edmure.
Here comes some backstory about the tournament at Harrenhall:
- Ned was eighteen.
- Brandon was present.
- Robert fought well (if “berserk”ly) in the melee.
- Jaime was inducted into the Kingsguard.
- Rhaegar won the joust, and gave his favor to Lyanna instead of his wife.
Elsewhere in this chapter:
- Two more mentions of the titular phrase: Ned once again repeating Cersei’s words in his head; and Varys, in a populist usage reminiscent of Jorah’s.
- Ned still dwells on how he “failed” Robert. Come on, Ned, has it never yet occurred to you that it’s the other way around?
- The “scarecrow” of a gaoler (the one that isn’t Varys) reminds me of a passage I just heard in the audiobook of Roger Zelazny’s The Hand of Oberon: Zelazny puts himself in the book as a cadaverous, novel-writing dungeon guard. I doubt GRRM could be mistaken for a scarecrow, though.
- “Catelyn held [Cersei’s] brother; [Cersei] dare not kill [Ned] or the Imp’s life would be forfeit as well.” Really, would Cersei care about Tyrion’s life? (Not according to Varys a few paragraphs later.)
- “There is no creature on earth half so terrifying as a truly just man.” I dunno, Stannis (the subject of this little speech) hasn’t been all that terrifying. Daenerys has perpetrated some (mostly unintentional) terror in the name of justice. But the most terrifying characters so far (Gregor, Ramsay et al.) have nothing to do with justice.
- “…or he could bring you Sansa’s head.” Gorgeous, chilling writing.
…which is not the same as loving Sansa.
The presentation of her insensitivity to, and denial of, Jeyne’s plight … just classic Sansa, wildly pathological adn totally believable. The hostage/brainwashing stuff is pitch-perfect, too.
- Sansa dreams of being queen with Joffrey … the Joffrey part won’t come to pass, but could “everyone she had ever known came before her, to bend the knee” be foreshadowing?
- The mere fact that Petyr asks for Jeyne ought to clue anyone in that he has some plan for her which will likely be to his advantage and no one else’s, and that therefore the person able to hand her over to him shouldn’t, if only to guard their own self-interest. Cersei takes the bait, though.
- We only learn indirectly that Fat Tom is probably dead.
Syrio is dead. His really being Jaqen, etc. would greatly cheapen this gorgeous scene.
Elsewhere in this chapter:
- The coincidence of Arya running across Hullen just as he dies is a bit much.
- “This time the [dragon skulls] did not frighten her. They seemed almost old friends.” Foreshadowing?
- Old Nan says: there are spiders and “rats as big as dogs” in the Winterfell crypt.
- Great line: “she’d killed him, and if he jumped out at her she’d kill him again.”