- See, Kevan knows what’s up.
- We find out about the battle by way of a sort of comedy routine by the semicompetent Lannister vassals. It’s an interesting alternative to the standard fantasy novel play-by-play.
- “Stannis [is] a greater danger than all the others combined.” Speaking as a belated Stannis fan, word.
- Tywin: “Bolton does not concern me.” Sounds like he’s already turned.
Tag Archives: schemesAndPlots
This chapter opens with Catelyn explicitly comparing herself to Alyssa Arryn (Catelyn hasn’t actually lost all her loved ones yet, but it still has to be all about her). The legend suggests that the gods punished Alyssa for being stoic through the deaths of her (male) family members. But wouldn’t dignified stoicism be expected of a noblewoman? When Catelyn believed Bran was dying, Robb told her she was crying too much.
It’s almost enough to give me some sympathy for Catelyn. Until she says, “My place is at Winterfell with my sons” — to which the only possible reaction is, then why on earth didn’t you stay there? I tend to find characters defined solely as mothers annoying or just uninteresting — no doubt sometimes unfairly so, so on this reread I’ve made a conscious effort to find Catelyn’s admirable side. Nonetheless, I continue to find her beliefs and behaviors very problematic.
In addition to equating herself with Alyssa, Catelyn associates the duel between Bronn and Ser Vardis with that between Petyr Baelish and Brandon Stark. This is a much more complex comparison. Petyr and Bronn, the more lowborn contenders in their respective matches, are also alike in being lightly armored against heavily armored opponents. Surrounding nobles implicitly assume both men will lose (though I think Vardis may have some idea what he’s in for). Both duels begin with the favored contender raining blows on the less favored contender, while the latter flees. The Petyr/Brandon duel “was over almost as soon as it began”; a few paragraphs later, Bronn and Vardis’ initial skirmish “end[s] as swiftly as it had begun.” I’m thinking that the presumed end of the Petyr/Brandon duel was only the end of the initial skirmish, and that the opponent wasn’t just Brandon.
Petyr believed (believes) he was (is) fighting for an honorable cause, his love for Catelyn. Bronn is fighting for potential future earnings, but he is a surrogate for Tyrion, whose honorable cause is his own innocence. By the standards of Westeros, both men behave dishonorably: Tyrion by tricking Lysa into allowing the trial by combat and then using a dirty-fighting mercenary as a surrogate; Petyr, in his ongoing duel with the social forces that oppress him, by his shameless and ultimately murderous manipulation of other people. Tyrion, of course, is in the right, and his real opponent, Lysa, is secretly behaving even more dishonorably than he is by accusing him of a crime that she herself committed. Petyr’s actions are monstrous, but in a society whose concept of honor leads to predicaments like Tyrion’s, is it surprising that the concept could be so perverted?
I have to stop, this is making my head spin.
Elsewhere in this chapter:
- First mention (I think) of Edmure.
- “I believe the Lannisters murdered Lord Arryn,” says Catelyn. Once again, it’s great to read a story where a major “good” character’s gut feeling can be so well-founded and yet so wrong.
- Lysa’s maester tries to tell Catelyn that Jon Arryn intended his son to be fostered by Stannis.
- Too bad we’ll probably never know what Tyrion whispered in Bronn’s ear before the duel.
- Lysa, unlike HBO, can afford to give Tyrion and Bronn horses.
Another obese comic relief character: Mord the jailer, “twenty stone of gross stupidity” with a “heavy white belly.” He comes through for Tyrion in the end, though.
Lysa is pretty shameless in accusing Tyrion of killing her husband. Did she not really understand what “the tears” Baelish had her put in her husband’s wine were? Or is she simply capable, like some people I’ve known, of conveniently “forgetting” the truth and truly believing her own lies?
“Catelyn Stark might take a man prisoner, but she’d never stoop to rob him. That wouldn’t be honorable.” A nice description both of Catelyn and of what’s wrong with Westerosi noble ethics.
Lyn Corbray: “‘The gods favor the man with just cause … yet often that turns out to be the man with the surest sword.” Interesting that they seem perfectly aware that trials by combat are bunk, yet continue to use them.
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.
- More obesity as comic relief: a “septa as big as a draft horse” with “legs as thick and white as marble columns.”
- Oh, and Illyrio is “grossly fat, yet he seemed to walk lightly, carrying his weight on the balls of his feet as a water dancer might” — because, as we don’t learn until ADwD, he was one.
- Myrcella and Tommen are uncharacteristically mean here.
- Old Nan sayeth: there are steps to hell, and they are dark.
- Varys to Illyrio: “the [Lannisters] tried to kill [Ned’s] son.” So Varys really doesn’t know who was responsible for the Bran assassination attempt? Or is he referring only to the defenestration?
- Varys and Illyrio sure sound like they intend for a Dothraki invasion under Dany to be the main event of their coup — not as though she’s a distracting sideshow or as if they expect her to die, as is implied in ADwD.
- Much has been made of Margaery’s resemblance to Anne Boleyn, but here she’s just as much Catherine Howard: a woman chosen by scheming relatives/courtiers to seduce the king and thereby win his favor for her procurers.
- Lest we get too sympathetic to Varys, here he is ordering up fifty tongueless slave children.
- Ned and Old Nan have a strangely late-twentieth century concept of a wizard: “a long white beard and a tall pointed hat speckled with stars.”
- Yoren meets Arya, and mistakes her for a boy, making his later recognition and choice of disguise for her plausible.
- Arya’s patronization by both her father and his guards is striking: do they really think she’ll believe one of them is worth ten of the enemy, or that it does her any long-term good to tell her so?
“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).
- So the TV show scene of Ser Hugh snubbing Jory was in the books, if only mentioned in passing.
- Jon Arryn was “gruff with his lady wife” — well-placed suspicion?
- “Could it be that Lord Renly … had conceived a passion for a girl he fancied to be a young Lyanna? That struck Ned as more than passing queer.” Yuk, yuk.
- Meet Gendry: about fourteen, big muscles, blue eyes, and shaggy black hair.