A Read of Ice and Fire

A Read of Ice and Fire: A Game of Thrones, Part 27

Welcome back to A Read of Ice and Fire! Please join me as I read and react, for the very first time, to George R.R. Martin’s epic fantasy series A Song of Ice and Fire.

Today’s entry is Part 27 of A Game of Thrones, in which we cover Chapters 55 (“Catelyn”) and 56 (“Tyrion”).

Previous entries are located in the Index. The only spoilers in the post itself will be for the actual chapters covered and for the chapters previous to them. As for the comments, The Powers That Be at Tor.com have very kindly set up a forum thread for spoilery comments. Any spoileriffic discussion should go there, where I won’t see it. Non-spoiler comments go below, in the comments to the post itself.

And now, the post!

Chapter 55: Catelyn

What Happens
Catelyn arrives at Moat Cailin and its three towers, accompanied by Sers Wylis and Wendel Manderly and their levies, and Ser Brynden Tully, and rejoices that she arrived in time to meet Robb there. She is filled with pride to see her son leading an army, but worries for him as well. They are welcomed into camp, and Catelyn goes with Brynden and the Manderlys to see Robb in the Gatehouse Tower; she explains on the way what a defensible position these seemingly ruined towers are.

Robb is consulting with the Greatjon and Roose Bolton when Catelyn arrives; she wants to run to him, but restrains herself, and tells him Rodrik is on his way back to Winterfell to hold it until their return. Bolton asks about Tyrion Lannister, mentioning his potential usefulness as a hostage, and Catelyn ruefully tells them he is no longer her prisoner, thanks to her “fool of a sister”; she remembers how Lysa had threatened her when she offered to take young Robert for fostering at Winterfell, leaving them to part on bad terms. She politely kicks the other lords out so she may speak to Robb alone.

She questions Robb about his choice to lead when there are more seasoned, older men available, but tells him (to his relief) that she will not humiliate him in the other lords’ eyes by making him step down now. He confirms that she knows about Ned’s imprisonment, and shows her Sansa’s letter, which Catelyn immediately proclaims is Cersei’s doing; Sansa is being held hostage. Neither of them want to consider what it means that the letter does not mention Arya. Robb asks if Lysa’s forces will be joining them, but Catelyn says not.

Robb confesses his uncertainty at leading this army, and asks Catelyn if the Lannisters won’t kill his father and sister even if they win. Catelyn tells him he has no choice but to go forward; he cannot go to King’s Landing and make a third hostage of himself, nor can he retreat and thereby lose his bannermen’s respect. Catelyn believes that Cersei will not kill Ned and Sansa as long as Robb proves himself a force to be reckoned with, knowing she may need them to negotiate peace if she loses.

“What if the fighting doesn’t go against her?” Robb asked. “What if it goes against us?”

Catelyn took his hand. “Robb, I will not soften the truth for you. If you lose, there is no hope for any of us. They say there is naught but stone at the heart of Casterly Rock. Remember the fate of Rhaegar’s children.”

She saw the fear in his young eyes then, but there was a strength as well. “Then I will not lose,” he vowed.

Catelyn questions him about his strategy. Robb reports how their allies were defeated at Golden Tooth and the lands between that and Riverrun by Jaime and Tywin, each commanding separate armies. Catelyn asks if he means to meet the Lannisters here in the Neck, but Robb says Bolton thinks Jaime and Tywin will stay by the Trident, and that they should march south to meet him. Catelyn advises him sharply to be the one to make the decisions, not Bolton or the Greatjon.

Robb explains his idea to split his army in two, using the foot to engage Tywin on the Kingsroad, while the riders (with Robb commanding) go down the west bank to Riverrun, protected by the Green Fork River. Catelyn approves the plan, though with misgivings, and gently guides him to see that Bolton would be a better choice than the Greatjon to lead the foot. Robb then tells her he will arrange for her escort back to Winterfell, but she tells him that her father may be dying; she intends to go to Riverrun.

Commentary
So not very much happened in this chapter, other than setting up what is (presumably) to follow, but I enjoyed it, even though it forced me to look at the maps for pretty much the first time since my initial cursory glance.

I’ve mentioned this before, I think, but I’m kind of odd for a fantasy fan in that I don’t particularly love maps. I certainly acknowledge their usefulness, of course, and I definitely think that if you’re going to make up a fantasy world with any kind of realism or consistency whatsoever then you’d damn well better know where everything is in it, but for whatever reason I only look at them myself when I absolutely have to.

Or at the least, I avoid looking at them until I have enough context from the story so that they’re not just a completely meaningless jumble of names. Which is… well, which is this point, looks like. Hey, nice.

I have to say, I was rather surprised when I realized how close Riverrun is to Casterly Rock, though I’m not sure why this surprised me. They are both also (relatively speaking) surprisingly close to King’s Landing, too, for that matter. I ain’t gonna pretend that I know where the overall conflict is going, but for right now it looks like it could potentially be fought pretty much entirely right in this middle chunk south of the Vale of Arryn and north of, um (*checks*) The Reach. So maybe my worries about Robb leaving Winterfell unprotected were not as relevant as I thought, at least not at the moment, because Winterfell is nowhere near all the rest of this hoopla.

(Then again, famous last words, eh?)

I also think I was a little bemused to realize that I’d been thinking of this as a conflict that was getting ready to begin, when actually it’s already well underway, isn’t it? Oops.

As well as the actual strategy bits, I also really liked Catelyn’s guidance of Robb here. I thought it was very well done, balancing her natural protective instincts as a parent with her (as nearly always) very astute political acumen. I especially thank her for immediately recognizing Cersei’s hand in the letter from Sansa, and explaining that to Robb, because I was really worried for a minute that no one was going to put two and two together on that.

[…] the tall, slender Children’s Tower, where legend said the children of the forest had once called upon their nameless gods to send the hammer of the waters

“Hammer of the waters” = tidal wave? If so, that’s pretty badass. And, assuming it’s not just a legend, it’s also pretty good proof that the children of the forest do actually have magic.

Or a really big wave machine, but I’m betting on the former.

What?

 

Chapter 56: Tyrion

What Happens
Chella of the Black Ears returns from scouting to report that the Lannister force at the crossroads is at least twenty thousand strong. Tyrion is still not sure whether he is the commander of the clansmen or their prisoner, but proposes to go meet his father and/or brother alone. The leaders of the clans he has gathered so far (Stone Crows, Moon Brothers, Black Ears, and Burned Men), however, insist on coming along, as does Bronn. As they ride, Tyrion contemplates Timett of the Burned Men, who had inspired awe in his clan by choosing to burn his own left eye as his rite of passage.

At the encampment, Tyrion’s party is met by Ser Flement Brax, who takes Tyrion to see his father at the inn at the crossroads where he was originally taken prisoner, which amuses Tyrion greatly. Tyrion finds his father and his uncle Kevan Lannister in the common room; Tywin is less than affectionate in his greeting, and Tyrion mockingly thanks him for going to war for him; Tywin replies that Jaime would never have let himself be captured by a woman. Kevan reports that most of Ser Edmure Tully’s forces have been destroyed, and Tywin tells him Jaime smashed Lords Vance and Piper at the Golden Tooth, while Edmure Tully has been captured; Lord Blackwood retreated to Riverrun, where Jaime is besieging them. Kevan adds that Raventree and Harrenhal fell soon after, leaving only the Mallisters at Seagard and Walder Frey at the Twins.

Tywin opines that unless the Starks and Arryns oppose them, they have as good as won. Tyrion tells him the Arryns should not concern him, but the Starks are another matter. Tywin replies that Eddard Stark is their hostage, and he is unconcerned about the son gathering forces at Moat Cailin. Tyrion asks what the king thinks of all this, and Tywin tells him Robert is dead, and Joffrey is on the throne; Tyrion knows that means that Cersei is effectively ruling.

Tywin insultingly offers Tyrion commands doing clean-up jobs on lords Tywin considers already as good as defeated. Tyrion begins to tell his father about his plans, but is interrupted by Shagga and the other clansmen in a temper, insisting on being allowed to join in the war council. Tyrion introduces them sardonically to his father, and then is again interrupted by a messenger who reports that the Stark host is moving south from the Neck. Pleased, Tywin gives orders that they are to be drawn south until his forces can meet them, and then swiftly manipulates the clansmen into joining them. They agree, but only if Tyrion goes with them.

“Until we hold the steel he has pledged us, his life is ours.”

Lord Tywin turned his gold-flecked eyes on his son.

“Joy,” Tyrion said with a resigned smile.

Commentary
Heh.

As always, Tyrion is tons of fun to read. I left out most of his bon mots in the commentary, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t chuckle at most of them. So much snark, so little time.

Also, trust this series to make a running gag out of a guy who wants to castrate people. I mean that as a compliment, by the way.

Timett: Okay, not to state the utterly bleeding obvious here, but if you’re a warrior, putting out your own eye is a COMPLETELY IDIOTIC thing to do. Because, call me crazy, but I’m pretty sure having depth perception is kind of important when trying to accurately hit people with swords and shit! Hello! I mean, yes, you can compensate for that if you have to, but why would you deliberately handicap yourself at the outset?

Oh, right, because you’re just that badass. Excuse me while I recover from the strain of all the eyerolling I just had to do.

Obligatory “Sheesh”: Sheesh.

“I wonder what their king burned off,” Tyrion said to Bronn when he heard the tale. Grinning, the sellsword had tugged at his crotch.

Ha!

In other news, enter: TYWIN LANNISTER. Dun!

And, yep, seems like a total bastard. I will try to contain my shock. I will also be putting his Father of the Year commemorative plaque in the mail any minute now.

That said, it seems, at least for the moment, that Tywin and Jaime are doing just as efficient a job of sowing shit up on their end as Cersei is doing on hers; the sitrep that Kevan and Tywin give Tyrion certainly appears to paint a much more dire picture of the situation for the Starks than Robb’s did to Catelyn, anyway. And I’m assuming that Tywin’s version is the more legit, mostly because I can’t think of any reason Tywin would feel the need to spin doctor their progress to his son, and Robb’s information is undoubtedly a little outdated anyway. Whatever else can be said about the Lannisters, they certainly have the leet blitzkrieg skillz down pat.

Then again, I never claimed that competency and asshole…ish…ism (whatever, shut up) are mutually exclusive; it’s just that much more annoying when they aren’t. Crap.

I’m a little confused here by the geography, because Tywin and Tyrion seem to be in the Trident in this chapter, and Tywin talks about conquering Harrenhal, but Riverrun is more or less directly between those two places and Golden Tooth (and Casterly Rock). So I guess Tywin just bypassed Riverrun and beat up everyone around it?

That seems… imprudent, leaving a stronghold to your rear like that. Yes, I know Jaime’s besieging it now, but it seems like he only just got around to that, so, I dunno. Or I’m wrong about the timeline, Or maybe me and my total lack of a degree in historical warfare should just shut up.


Okay, I will then! See if I care! Have a weekend, people, and I’ll see you next week!

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