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.
“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).
Meet Sam Tarly: “the fattest boy [Jon] had ever seen,” weighing “twenty stone” — that would be 160 to 320 pounds, 280 by the most common definition of “stone.” Here fat is associated with cowardice and (once again) with effeminacy, but there’s no hint of schemey-ness (fat as disguise) or fallen-ness (fat as outward sign of a decline in morality or dignity).
I find it hard to believe that even Thorne would disallow Sam’s armor because it wasn’t black (leather and wool can be dyed and wood painted, after all), and even harder to believe that he would encourage the boys to break a helmet just to humiliate Sam. Possessions were not cheap or disposable in such times; that broken helmet would take a lot of Noye’s time to fix or recycle.
In Jon’s dream: “I scream that I’m not a Stark, that this isn’t my place.” And later: “he had never truly been one of them [the Starks].”
First mention of blue-lipped Qartheen warlocks — being hired by Randyll Tarly(!). Who is a tool, but a very evocatively described one. In Sam’s story, he expresses his disapproval to his son while skinning a deer: the ultimate source of the Tywin-introducing scene in the TV show?
Overall, this chapter is a bit too after-school special: in a very brief span of pages, we move from Sam as “accidental” hazing death waiting to happen, to his “fitting in” and becoming one of the guys due to Jon’s heroic principles. Jon’s use of force to achieve his goal does lend a little moral complexity, though (and perhaps foreshadows his later attempt at autocratic leadership).