A Week of Ice and Fire, Bonus Round II!
In the second part of the two part “Spoilers of Ice and Fire” series, I look into some other characters. I have no idea how I’m doing for timing, but by the time this is published I firmly hope to be reading A Dance With Dragons.
Remember that if you don’t want to know what has happened in the books leading up to A Dance With Dragon, avoid reading this for your own sanity!
Spoiler city! So many spoilers for A Game of Thrones to A Feast For Crows you won’t know what to do with yourself!
My Giant of Lannister
Tyrion is Martin’s favourite character. I suspect that he’s a fan favourite, too. After a while I stopped considering myself as playing favourites because I liked too many characters to bother listing them all, but Tyrion is definitely very choice. After singlehandedly keeping King’s Landing from total anarchy in A Clash of Kings and earning little but contempt for it, his reward is public trial and a death sentence.
One can forgive a beloved character a multitude of sins if there is enough good will; it has been pointed out that no one really takes into consideration that Tyrion arranged the murder and implied cannibalism of a singer who would presume to reveal his relationship with Shae. Who really cares about a singer, though? One of my favourite things about this series is that Martin treats essentially every bard and singer in Westeros with contempt, the only possible exception being Tom O’Sevens. Whatever, the case, Tyrion’s actions are largely about self-preservation so that he can live on to do the right thing by a people who uniformly hate him.
Where they are more conflicted is in his murder of Shae. Shae is an interesting character in that there is very little to her other than aspiration. Tyrion obviously adores her and does not allow himself to suspect her intentions of anything but a desire for shiny things and comfort. Tyrion, given another situation in which he was betrayed – and directly after learning that his first and scarring love was actually legitimate – has little choice, and nothing else to lose. He kills her. It was her choice of words that did her in. I understand that I am essentially advocating the cold blooded murder of a woman in this paragraph, but you’ve got to understand that Tyrion’s circumstances are exceptional and also rather unlike the justice that we receive in the real world. Whether or not he performed literal overkill, his actions are understandable.
More understandable than that was his desire to take vengeance against his father. Already suspected of being a kinslayer, the final taboo has broken for Tyrion. Why not kill his father? Tyrion has been betrayed by everyone up to this point, possibly excepting Bronn. Realistically, Tywin was the only man standing in between Cersei and the ruination of a Kingdom. Tyrion has no reason to care any more; let the world burn.
Lord Tywin Lannister did not, in the end, shit gold.
Tyrion was right about Pycelle, too; the second Cersei was indisposed, the good Maester seized power. Surprisingly it seems that Pycelle is performing damage control more than anything else, attempting to get Kevan Lannister to take over the regency, as he should have done in the first place. Tyrion was essentially the only one who cared enough about Cersei’s fate that he didn’t think that she should seal it herself – he was one of the least selfish characters, but no one in the Seven Kingdoms ever believed that. He had no choice but to become the monster that they always “knew” he was.
Who would have guessed that Cersei would have no idea how to wield the power that she did a pretty good job of consolidating? She thinks she has a clue but in reality she is better at running the Seven Kingdoms into the ground than Joffrey ever was. Without Tywin or Tyrion to rein her in, Cersei is just a blind power grabber, with no thoughts for consequences. She bankrupts the kingdom further through bad decisions, and she tries to solve her debt through even worse decisions.
Any casual observer could have told Cersei that repealing the four hundred year old ban on the church bearing arms was a bad idea, but … well, Cersei isn’t that smart. She had no idea that giving the church power would then give them the ability to
This whole thing creates a holy war that simply didn’t exist before. Certainly Melisandre was desecrating holy sites, but never before has the Holy Sept had such significance in matters of state. Considering how undeniably sinful that Cersei is, it’s amazing that she thought she could turn the church to her own ends. I can’t think of a single sensible decision she made since Tommen took the throne.
Making her a POV character, as Martin did in A Feast For Crows, did very little to make her a sympathetic beast. The only things that she has any tender feelings towards are her children, and they are hers alone. Even her beloved Jaime becomes yet another enemy in the course of A Feast For Crows. Jaime and Cersei’s paths diverge to the point that they can no longer see their reflections in each other, and their love withers and dies. Cersei’s cynical manipulation of men (she does effectively prostitute herself multiple times over and indiscriminately) no longer works on Jaime precisely when she needs it most – and when she might have discovered a sincerity born of desperation:
We will leave this world together, as we once came into it.
Unlike Joffrey’s death, I completely failed to relish the concept of Cersei being imprisoned, tortured, possibly even executed. She certainly deserves to have power wrested from her, but her – and I can’t believe I’m going to write this, because it makes no sense – her greatest crime was her ambition. Yeah, uh … how can I defend that argument? I can’t. Martin’s words, I’ll admit, are honeyed. Seeing everything through Cersei’s eyes, things are certainly stupid, but they make a modicum of sense. Look at her elevation of Qyburn, the disgraced Maester, as her replacement for Varys. Qyburn’s dialogue fairly quickly reveals him to be a monster who trades in live human experiments, but because Cersei sees him as normal, even superior, I was almost fooled into not considering what he was actually doing.
If Cersei dies, at least we still have a chimerical monstrosity hellbent on killing us all … she really is an idiot.
Cat of the Canals
Along with Brienne, Arya suffers the most “fuck you, readers!” ending in A Feast For Crows. We get a girl who has to learn the rules of some mystic cult, punished for following the laws of her country – laws instilled in her by her father – with the following sentence: “When she woke up the next morning, she was blind.” This is where we’ve been positioned for the last six years. I personally chose to take this as a temporary thing, like she’d have one day blind or something. Of course, at the time I finished the chapter I had no idea that was Arya’s last for the nonce (as Martin would say). I thought it would be smoothed over a few pages from then.
Alas! No dice. What could have been a simple lesson learned quickly and resolved in the space of a chapter is now an ordeal five years in the making. On the whole, Arya is a lurching character: hard to judge in any capacity because she’s one of the most dynamic, shifting from one bad situation to the next. This is not to say that she’s unsympathetic, because the default position we’re supposed to take to the Starks is one of support, but rather that she never gets to set down roots – she’s either a mouse or a cut-throat.
If you look at the appendix in A Feast For Crows it lists “ARYA of House Stark, a girl with an iron coin, also known as ARRY, NAN, WEASEL, SQUAB, SALTY, and CAT.” Arya is striving to be no one after having been everyone for most of her time on the run. She is punished for reverting to her original type. I hope that she’s okay but, this being George R.R. Martin, it’s entirely possible that she won’t.
Littlefinger is responsible for everything. If one is to take the stance that A Game of Thrones is about the Stark family, it simply would not have happened at all. They would have stayed in Winterfell and been happy. I’ve spoken about Tywin and Olenna expert plotters, but the one who stands supreme over them all is Littlefinger. He’s a man of constant surprises, from the revelation that he arranged the murder of Jon Arryn to his part in the assassination of Joffrey
Sansa, more than anyone else, is aware that Petyr Baelish and Littlefinger exist on two different planes. He’s a hard character to read. Physically, his intentions towards Sansa are unsavoury at best. At the same time, he is trying to manoeuvre her into dual control of both the Vale and Winterfell. What he has to offer is tantalising, but how much control Sansa would ever be able to exert remains in question. Sansa has understandably grown to loathe courtly intrigue since her days with the lions, and she has every reason to follow Petyr’s word … for now.
Of course, Bran and Rickon are both still alive. The North does not follow Dornish law, so there could be yet another showdown to come. It could be years before any of Starks return to claim their birthright – who is to say that Bran and Rickon are going to be recognised by anyone, save their siblings? Sansa likely wouldn’t care about ceding the seat, but Littlefinger might have other ideas.
Just because Sansa is in his best interests at the moment doesn’t mean that he’s a good person. Jon Arryn, by all accounts, was a good man, just not a good husband (but then, Lysa’s a pretty shitty wife, regent, you name it). I think that Arryn’s murder was more of a power grab for Littlefinger than anything else, but he’s such a crafty devil that it’s impossible to know exactly what he’s thinking. Don’t take him at face value, that’s all I’m saying. It’s even harder to tell how much he’s got going on than it was with Tywin.
It’s also worth noting, and hilarious, that he deliberately left Cersei in charge at King’s Landing with the intent that she would cause King’s Landing to collapse in on itself. He expected about five years’ grace rather than the near instantaneous implosion that he got. He underestimated her incompetence and I wonder exactly how that will impact upon his movements.
These are just a few of the subjects that I could have touched upon. Consider also Jon Snow trying to protect innocent “royal” babies from the fires of Rh’llor, Daenerys literally melting the faces off slavers, and whatever the hell is going to happen to Samwell Tarly when he takes his novice Maestership and is embroiled in the clear conspiracy merely hinted at between the pages of A Feast For Crows. I’ll be back later, and I’ll see you there.
Until then, I’ve got dragons on my dance card.