Thursday, April 1, 2010

#ASOIAF Re-read: A Game of Thrones, Part 3

Hurray! Hurray! It's April Fool's Day! Remember some of the pranks you played on this day when you were a kid? Remember how they used to be fun, and then one day you realised every prank you'd pulled in previous years was really lame? That's ok, as long as you decided to atone for past missteps by doing a really labour-intensive but rewarding prank. Like this. (Admittedly not done for April Fool's, but it works.)

Now that that intro is over, welcome back to the Re-read. For no reason whatsoever, I switched the cover image for this post. My first copy of A Game of Thrones used this cover. I liked it at the time. Now it looks a little dated. [Edit: Do cover analysis later. Cut to the Re-read.]

Disclaimer: Spoilers await if you haven't read the four books in the series. The intro post is here, the last post (Part 2) is here, and the entries are tracked with the "ASOIAF re-read" tag.

Be forewarned: The following material contains violence, coarse language, sexual content. Reader discretion is advised.



Chapter 7: Arya

What Happens

Little Arya Stark is not having fun doing needlework. Her teacher, Septa Mordane, is absorbed with instructing the younger and more ladylike Princess Myrcella. Arya's older sister Sansa is whispering and giggling with her friends, Jeyne Poole and Beth Cassel, daydreaming about handsome Prince Joffrey. Arya joins the discussion, but argues with Sansa, calling the attention of Septa Mordane. The septa criticizes Arya and her work in front of the others, and Arya leaves the room in tears. Running down the castle halls, she thinks it's unfair that Sansa is more beautiful and better than her at everything except riding horses and managing a household. She finds her pet direwolf, Nymeria, and they run off to the practice yard where the boys are having weapons lessons.

She and Nymeria find Jon and Ghost watching the yard from a window, and they sit together. Jon cannot play at swords with the royalty because he is a bastard. He and Arya are the outcasts of the siblings, and they have always gotten along. They are also the only ones to look like Starks. The others resemble the Tully side of the family. Bran and Prince Rickon are fighting as well as little boys in padded suits can fight. The master-at-arms, Ser Rodrick Cassel, then calls for Joffrey and Robb to have another bout. Joffrey complains that he is tired of play-fighting. He mocks Robb, even though Robb got the better of him in the earlier rounds. When Ser Rodrick doesn't allow real blades, a large, burned knight called Clegane tries to bully the master-at-arms. Heated words are exchanged, Joffrey taunts some more, and then departs with his entourage, leaving some insulted and furious people behind. The show over, Jon tells Arya that they must leave, and she must return to her needlework. She does so reluctantly, and goes to her room to await her probable punishment for leaving her lessons.

Commentary
This is our first peek at the Stark sisters, and the two of them couldn't be more different. My first impression was that Arya got all the pluck while Sansa got all the snoot. The way Sansa and her friends moon over Joffrey, they couldn't be more enchanted if he rode in on a unicorn that left rainbows in its wake. And what exactly has the prince done to seem so fine? He was born a prince and he inherited all the good-looking genes. Other than that? Nothing. More on him in a bit.

I will say this at least once: I don't think there is a "main" character more frustrating at first than Sansa Stark. She is as deep as a puddle, and she lives in a daydream. Her eventual maturation is one of the more satisfying elements of this series, but I don't know if I can hold back on the criticism of her until she starts coming around.

Arya is much more levelheaded, even if she is prone to indignant outbursts. Too bad everyone sees her as a disgraceful tomboy. Her kinship with Jon only makes me like her more. Speaking of Jon, the bastard gets a raw deal. Again. Are you sensing a trend?

"Joffrey is truly a little shit," Jon says to Arya, and he is correct, only reinforces the argument that Sansa must be living in Cloud Cukoo Land if she can like that creep.

Oh, and we catch a glimpse of Sandor Clegane. Arya labels him a knight at first. He'd laugh if he knew that, but all we know about the Hound so far is that he's really big, he's probably mean, and he's Joffrey's pet. A volatile combination, to say the least.


Chapter 8: Bran

What Happens

It is the last day of King Robert's visit, and most of the men have gone hunting for the night's feast. Bran is also leaving the next day when his father takes the position as the King's Hand. Bran is excited to go, but sad to leave behind the people he knows at Winterfell. He wants to say goodye to them, but can't muster the courage, so he goes into the godswood with his still nameless direwolf. He climbs a tree until he is on one of the old roofs of Winterfell, in the abandoned section known as the First Keep. The roofs are like a second home, and Bran loves walking and climbing around above everything. He loves that he can see everything from above, while no one can see him because they never think to look up.

Although he enjoys climbing all over the keep, his favourite place is a broken and abandoned watchtower. There are two ways up the tower, and one way is from the adjacent rooftops. He is on his way there, swinging from gargoyles very high up, when he is startled by voices nearby. A man and a woman are speaking in a room just below him. He realizes they are speaking about his father, and the woman at least is concerned that Ned is the new Hand. She is concerned that Ned is plotting to move against them. She is also afraid that Lisa Arryn has proof of something terrible against her. Bran wants to move closer, but he doesn't want to be seen. The woman is worried that Ned will turn against them if Robert dies, and just as worried that Robert will put her aside. Bran is getting frightened by the conversation, but he knows there is vital information here if he can hear the rest of it, and if he can see who is talking. He climbs to the roof, goes the next gargoyle, and hangs upside down from it so he can see through the window. A man and a woman are inside, wrestling naked. The woman sounds like she might be in pain. Then Bran sees her face and recognizes the queen.

She sees him and screams. Bran tries to get away, but he loses his grip on the gargoyle. Falling, he reaches for the window, and barely manages to hang on after the impact. The queen and the man come to the window. They look almost exactly alike. The man reaches for Bran and pulls him up to safety.

"How old are you, boy?"
"Seven," Bran said, shaking with relief. His fingers had dug deep gouges in the man's forearm. He let go sheepishly.
The man looked over at the woman. "The things I do for love," he said with loathing. He gave Bran a shove.
Screaming, Bran went backward out the window into empty air. There was nothing to grab on to. The courtyard rushed up to meet him.

Commentary
The first time I read this, I was shocked. Who kills a kid? Who kills off the POV character from the first chapter? Did that actually happen? Well, not exactly, but who knew that on the first read? Not I.

This chapter is useful for pointing out a number of things: Something is afoot, the Lannister twins are bad, and they have sex with each other. And if all of that weren't icky enough, Jamie crosses the Moral Event Horizon. Or so I thought. Really, he crossed the line. By all rights, he should be a complete monster. But it's never that simple in Martin's work, is it? Reading this chapter now, I notice that Jamie says "The things I do for love," with loathing. It's a minor distinction, but I think someone who was pure evil (a certain Mountain that Rides, for example) would enjoy killing a lot more. Jamie's act is more self-preservation than anything, and he doesn't like it. But it's not like the Kingslayer has had a great rep ever since he murdered the last king, so it's easy to hate him in the beginning.

The other golden Lannister twin continues to be an enigma as far as her motives are concerned, but at least we know for sure that Cersei is not the perfect wife or queen.

Poor Bran. In a quick flashback, Ned says that Bran must be part squirrel. How else can you explain the way this little kid runs around these rooftops? The description for shimmying up the watchtower is crazy, to say the least. And the gargoyles? The boy could have had a career with Cirque du Soleil. Now what?


Chapter 9: Tyrion

What Happens

The howls of a direwolf disturb Tyrion as he reads rare and ancient texts in the library of Winterfell. He leaves and finds Joffrey in the yard, surrounded by squires and the Sandor Clegane. Joffrey is complaining about the howling, and the Hound says he can kill it if the prince wants. He would, but Tyrion advises against it, saying the missing wolf would be noticed: "The Starks can count past six. Unlike some princes I might name."

Bran is not dead yet, and Tyrion asks Joffrey if he's paid his respect to the Starks yet after the tragic accident. When Joffrey replies with with petulance and without sympathy, Tyrion slaps him twice and sends him off to do what a proper prince should. The Hound warns Tyrion that he goes too far, but the dwarf doesn't seem to care. He walks away and finds his siblings sitting together with Cersei's children. His sister speaks to him with her usual contempt, while Jamie is more laid-back. Then Tyrion mentions that the maester thinks Bran might yet live, since he has survived the last four days. He notices a look pass between his siblings, but nothing more. Tommen and Myrcella ask about Bran's health, but the boy is comatose, his back and legs are broken, and he will never walk again. The talk changes to leaving Winterfell, and Tyrion mentions that he'll stay and go with Benjen Stark to visit the Wall. Cersei leaves with her children, and Jamie steers talk back to Bran, and how it would be better for the boy if he died.

"Even if the boy does live, he will be a cripple. Worse than a cripple. A grotesque. Give me a good clean death."
Tyrion replied with a shrug that accentuated the twist of his shoulders. "Speaking for the grotesques," he said, "I beg to differ. Death is so terribly final, while life is full of possibilities."

He then says that he's interested in hearing what Bran has to say if he ever wakes up. Jamie wonders whose side Tyrion is on, to which Tyrion replies: "Why, Jamie, my sweet brother [...] you wound me. You know how much I love my family."

Commentary
I summarized a fair bit for this chapter, but there's not a whole lot of intrigue going on here. This is mostly about love between Lannisters and their kin. There is little love lost between Tyrion and his nephew. I'm glad that someone not named Stark sees the boy for what he is. There is also no love lost between Tyrion and Cersei, but he and Jamie get along. Tyrion also has a good opinion of Prince Tommen at least, although the boy is only about Bran's age.

Speaking of Bran, he's not dead yet. Cersei and Jaime don't seem too pleased by the news that he'll probably live. Jamie's line about grotesques and cripples is a bit insensitive, what with Tyrion being right there, but Jamie is essentially a golden god and puts more stock in looks than other people. Yet Tyrion loves him for being just about the only one who ever respected him. There's a bit of a discrepancy there.

***

Three and done. The pawns are being set. I'm off to spend Good Friday and Easter with family. If any readers are celebrating those days, I wish you all the best. Come back on Monday for Part 4, featuring leave-takings and a quick jaunt across the sea for a look at your average imperial horse-lord wedding night.

2 comments:

Matthew said...

You missed the irony that Jayme would rather be dead than deformed . . .

Errant Knave said...

Hmmm. I can only offer three explanations:
1) I didn't want to allude too much to specific events in the future
2) This early in the re-read I wasn't getting too deep into each detail
3) I was sloppy.
I certainly caught the irony when I read the section, but I can't remember why I didn't mention it. Odd. Thanks for pointing it out, though.

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