Alright, I’m changing things up a little this post on. I’m just going to link to the summary and then post my comments on the chapter.
I’m not quite sure what Martin is trying to achieve with all of these frequent updates on the situation in King’s Landing but reading it this closely makes me realise just how extremely fragile King’s Landing was, just days before Stannis’ invasion. I don’t just mean in terms of the volatility within the city but also in terms of the fragility of the city’s government. I seem to have been mentioning this in every single Tyrion chapter recently, but I think it bears mentioning again: looking at King’s Landing in its current state, it’s absolutely unthinkable that a city that is quite literally rotting on both the inside and out could survive the wrath of Stannis’ combined land and naval attack. Of course, there are a number of factors that contribute to their eventual victory that are just plain dumb luck and have nothing to do with either Tyrion or Stannis but ultimately, I think it’s kind of impressive that the city didn’t just crumble into dust and offer itself up the second Stannis strolled by.
He was going to feel naked without his clansmen.
Remember when another Hand divested himself of his guards? Ned offered up his protection to the City’s Watch when Janos Slynt said he needed more men and in doing so, he weakened his personal protection. You could argue that in the end, that personal protection wouldn’t have made a whole lot of difference but giving away his guards was still a mistake because it gave Cersei the impression that he was weak and unprotected; she might not have gone for the straight up confrontation had she known that there were more warm bodies around Ned. Likewise, Tyrion sending away his clansmen does weaken his personal protection and even though it is a sound tactical move (I guess, I don’t actually know), it does mean that Tyrion is just that little bit more vulnerable to attack. Tyrion, unlike Ned, is keenly aware of how open he is to attack and harbours no delusions as to his enemies’ honour. Despite these difference, and despite that awareness, Tyrion’s lack of protection comes to bite him in the nose during the Battle of Blackwater Bay.
But if the battle looks to be going sour they’ll break, and they’ll break bad.
They’ll break so bad that we’ll find them cooking up some milk of the poppy in a dumpy carriage somewhere in the Riverlands. Has anyone ever thought of how awesome a Breaking Bad set in Westeros would be? 10/10, would watch. The funny thing is, I don’t seem to recall there being mass deserting during the battle – with the notable exception of Sandor Clegane, I don’t think we really saw vast sections of the City Watch turn their cloaks. We shall have to wait a few chapters for confirmation.
Children with swollen bellies were already fighting over pieces of the stinking fish.
This is pretty much King’s Landing in a nutshell at this point. I’m hard pressed to remember whether the situation ever improves after this. Yes, the Tyrells bring wagons and wagons full of food from the Reach and I don’t seem to remember there being the same level of mass starvation in the later parts of the story. However, the social tension never truly eases up though; at this point in the story, the social conflict is one between the rich and the poor, the haves and the have-nots but by the time AFFC rolls around, the dynamic of the conflict has shifted to a more religious level and it becomes a matter of separating the faithful and the faithless.
“I never imagined they would. So be it; they’ll have something else to curse the evil monkey demon for.”
Yet another questionable act that we need to hold Tyrion accountable for. I want to make it clear that I am in no way trying to claim that Tyrion has to be some sort of angelic figure that has to be held to a different moral standard than the other characters. The point that I’m trying to push here is that Tyrion is not the poor, innocent, misunderstood man that he would like us to think he is – he regularly makes decisions that harm and hurt others and the only reason we don’t hate him for it is because we see the justification for them (and sometimes we don’t even have that) and can make a case for his actions as a result. At this point in the story, to be fair, it’s still pretty clear that Tyrion is more good than bad but I feel like that begins to change drastically after he murders Shae and Tywin. In the quote above, we see that he has not yet understood that his actions would be wildly unpopular even if he weren’t a dwarf or a monkey demon – Tywin is still widely disliked in King’s Landing for his orders to sack the city more than a decade ago but Tyrion feels the people’s dislike much more keenly due to how sensitive and insecure he is.
The Lord of Winterfell would always be a Stark.
I never felt so out of place as I did when I walked there, so much an unwelcome intruder.
This is an extremely interesting comment, especially in light of the castle’s current occupants. There has always been a sense that no one but the Starks ever really belong to Winterfell and it wasn’t a matter of how long you live there either – the Stark children have always been perfectly at home in the castle, as has Ned and presumably his siblings. This makes sense because they were born and raised there – they were of the North. However, even Catelyn, who’s lived there for a solid fifteen years or so, never truly felt at home there and neither did Theon Greyjoy, despite spending the majority of his formative years there. Even when he returns to the castle in this book, he frequently notes how uncomfortable the atmosphere around the castle makes him, how unwelcome. With that in mind, we ought to consider how the Boltons will fare in Winterfell – so far, things in Winterfell have no quite been working out for them. It’s been a long while since I read ADWD, and I think given the pace of this particular project, it will be a long time before I get to read it again, but I do recall that the Boltons were frequently noted to feel out of place in Winterfell, especially in comparison to Theon, who felt a sense of comfort in the castle, at least when Ramsay wasn’t torturing him.
He approved of his sister’s choice of Ser Balon Swann to take the place of the slain Preston Greenfield.
I had completely forgotten that Balon Swann wasn’t one of Robert’s Kingsguard. Or rather, I did know it, but it slipped my mind because I think the only notable thing that Preston Greenfield ever did in the series was dying. Balon Swann is a good man, one of the incredibly few good Kingsguard that we encounter in the main story, but I wonder if his fate will be a kind one. The last we saw of him, he came to deliver Gregor Clegane’s head to Prince Doran and the Sand-Snakes where it was noted that he seemed to be in Dorne for the sole purpose of retrieving Princess Myrcella. Dying while trying to extract Doran’s chief prize from the middle of Dorne will be an unfortunately fitting grim and painful death for a man whose duties as Kingsguard began as a result of chaos and riots.
The good Ser Osmund had been selling her secrets to Bronn since the day she’d hired him, but Tyrion could scarcely tell her that.
Ser Osmund is as loyal as he is brave, Cersei claims and funnily enough, as Tyrion remarks, that’s probably true. The really amusing thing however, is that Cersei probably thinks that Osmund is reliable for exactly the same reason that Tyrion thinks so – they both think that they are the highest bidders for a man on sale. However, I don’t think it ever occurs to either that Littlefinger has out-bid them both and now has a man next to the Queen (in more ways than one) as well as the Hand.
“It may be. Stannis burned the godswood at Storm’s End as an offering to the Lord of Light.”
I wonder, was this a conscious move on Melisandre’s part? She has never really shown any particular interest towards the Old Gods beyond treating them as a part of pagan blasphemy but it’s not like we know a great deal about what she knows and her real motives. If she does truly believe the Old Gods to be thralls of the Great Other, then it would make sense for her to burn down the godswood but it would also mean that she would remark on it when she is up North, much closer to the Old Gods’ power base. The more likely alternative, of course, is that she needed something to burn to get her followers hyped up but, for once, realized that burning a sept would be a political disaster for Stannis.