A Week of Ice and Fire, Bonus Round I!
The rest of the Week of Ice and Fire has been dedicated to writing generally spoiler free impressions of A Song of Ice and Fire to date, carefully dancing around ruining anything for anyone. The final entries, however, are devoted to something else entirely: my thoughts on specific and sometimes horrific things that happened within the first four books.
If you don’t want to know stuff that happens in the books, you’ll want to avoid this. If you’re already familiar with the books, or you don’t care if you find out things ahead of time … step right in!
Spoiler city! So many spoilers for A Game of Thrones to A Feast For Crows you won’t know what to do with yourself!
This is going to be divided into sections, because if there’s a series that’s suitable for compartmentalising, it’s A Song of Ice and Fire. Keep in mind I have no set thesis overarching here, it’s just stuff that I feel like passing comment on.
The Red Wedding
I had been given advance warning of the Red Wedding, but only by its title. It’s one of the defining moment of the series, and that’s putting it lightly. In between A Clash of Kings and A Storm of Swords, Robb went off warring and came back with a new wife, Jeyne Westerling, despite the fact that he had been betrothed to the Frey daughter of his choosing. In an attempt to smooth over the dishonour, the Starks agree to marry Edmure Tully to another Frey daughter. However, the wedding is a trap and, counter to the rules of the hearth, both Robb and Catelyn are murdered and their bodies desecrated.
At the time, I couldn’t believe what I was reading. I held out hope, because the chapter ended with a blade to Catelyn’s throat – no confirmation of death! Sadly, she is found face down in a river with her throat slit in a later chapter. Obviously this is a pretty big event, and it has long reaching repercussions. “How could Robb be so stupid as to break his oath to House Frey?” one might ask. The answer is simple, but we don’t discover this until near the end of A Feast For Crows: Tywin Lannister set it up. He created a seduction scenario playing on Robb’s stupidity, thus goading Walder Frey’s wounded pride into murdering the Starks. I never had particularly warm feelings towards Robb and Catelyn, especially as Catelyn is one of the instigators of disaster thanks to her constant rash actions.
What works so well here is that the repercussions aren’t just felt by those who have lost family members, but that in trying to consolidate power with the Lannisters House Frey has committed the most grievous of sins. No one liked them in the first place, and now no one trusts them in any capacity at all. If Tywin Lannister weren’t dead he would be revelling.
A Storm of Swords ends on the most unexpected note: the reanimated corpse of Catelyn Stark pronouncing a death sentence on Merret Frey.
Unfortunately, Lady Stoneheart’s final appearance in A Feast For Crows coincides with Brienne’s, and that is with a noose around the Beautiful one’s neck and one word escaping her lips. Does she live? No one knows! No one will ever know!
Well, we might. But not this month.
Regardless, the concept that people can come back from death should not be a grand surprise seeing that we have not only the Others (admittedly different), and Beric Dondarrion, as precedents. Lady Stoneheart is not the same as Catelyn; she cannot talk without the interpretation of the Brotherhood Without Banners, and her only taste is for rough justice. I can’t say as I blame her for being embittered against basically everyone – the Lannisters and Freys in particular – but as I know Brienne fairly well I know that she does not deserve whatever might have come her way.
I have dual hopes: that Brienne lives and that Lady Stoneheart serves a greater purpose. Catelyn’s corpse walking and passing judgement is the sort of idea that thrills me, but these ideas have to have substance behind them. I’m not complaining about what Martin has done, because Stoneheart is by design a mysterious character … but one day, something must become of her.
The Pigeon Wedding
I had to put my Kindle down for a moment when Joffrey died. I couldn’t believe what I was reading. It made me wonder why anyone would attend a wedding in Westeros. In retrospect, it makes it clear that Lady Olenna is an infinitely better schemer than Cersei: Olenna and Tywin were masters of the long game, where Cersei can only see maybe a day ahead, if that. The saddest aspect of Joffrey’s death is that Tyrion had to become the fall guy.
Before you think of that, though, consider the plain and simple fact: Joffrey is dead. Where some might have been justifiably horrified by the deaths of Catelyn and Robb, I would like to think that most people took a visceral thrill in the brutalisation of Joffrey. Joffrey and Cersei are the most focal points of hatred in the entire series. No one gets as much exposure, but there are several people equally, if not more, loathsome on a more personal scale. Given that most of them have alliances with Tywin, they’re basically all subjects of House Lannister – and by extension they are the responsibilities of both Cersei and Joffrey.
Don’t feel any guilt about hating these people; I was interested to read that some people felt terrible about bad things happening to Sansa because they had secretly been wishing some grave misfortune would befall her all along. Yeah, maybe you can feel bad for Sansa, but you can’t feel anything but glee at Joffrey’s death.
Anyway, Joffrey’s reception was incredibly well conceived: no one but those directly involved in the commission of the murder has any idea that Tyrion was not responsible. I’m not sure if Littlefinger’s planning of the event stretches credulity, because the whole idea of the dwarf troupe raising Tyrion’s ire and forcing the cup bearer scenario is a bit much, but … Littlefinger knows people, and he has the benefit of perceived distance. Plus I’m happy with the result, so whatever.
Of course, one has to wonder why anyone would come to a wedding in Westeros. Everyone dies. Even Ser Dontos, so carefully planted back in A Clash of Kings, got his payment for taking Sansa to freedom in the form of a quarrel. So far, the overriding moral of A Song of Ice and Fire is if Littlefinger wants you dead, you’re dead.
In the second instalment: My Giant of Lannister, Cersei Sucks, Cat of the Canals, and LITTLEFINGER!