A Read of Ice and Fire

A Read of Ice and Fire: A Storm of Swords, Part 21

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 21 of A Storm of Swords, in which we cover Chapter 37 (“Jaime”) and Chapter 38 (“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, please note that the Powers That Be have provided you a lovely spoiler thread in the forums here on Tor.com. 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 37: Jaime

What Happens
Jaime’s guards bring him into the bathhouse where Brienne is bathing, to her discomfort, which amuses Jaime as he thinks she has no attributes to speak of. He kicks out the guards and attendants, and puts himself in the same bathtub as Brienne, telling her he has no interest in her when she objects. He says she ought to be pleased at his maiming, and comments that it was no wonder Renly died on her watch. She gets up, upset, and Jaime is surprised and disturbed to feel arousal at the sight of her.

He apologizes for the jibe and offers a truce, though he acknowledges the folly of trusting a man called “Kingslayer.” He wonders why no one calls Robert an oathbreaker when he rebelled against Aerys too, and Brienne answers that Robert rebelled for love, and to save the realm. Jaime mocks this, saying Robert did it for “pride, a cunt, and a pretty face.” He finds himself telling the story to her of how Aerys, when he became fearful of rebellion, planted wildfire underneath King’s Landing, and executed his Hand (Lord Chelsted) by fire when he protested against it, with Jaime as the only witness. He tells her how after Robert defeated Rhaegar at the Trident, he heard Aerys tell his pyromancer Rossart that he would give the traitor (Robert) nothing but ashes and charred bones to reign over.

Jaime tells her how Aerys demanded he bring Aerys his own father’s head, and then how he killed each of Aerys’s pet pyromancers before killing Aerys himself. Brienne asks why no one knows of this, and Jaime laughs that Ned Stark was never interested in his “feeble excuses” even if he had wanted to tell. Jaime then nearly passes out, but Brienne catches him and then helps him dress for dinner; the dress they give Brienne is too small for her, but Jaime refrains from teasing her about it, and they go to join Lord Bolton for dinner.

Bolton comments that Edmure Tully has offered a thousand gold dragons for Jaime’s recapture (Jaime replies that his sister will pay ten times as much), and that Lord Karstark has offered the hand of his daughter for Jaime’s head. Jaime replies “Leave it to your goat to get it backward,” which amuses Bolton, who says that fortunately he has no need of a wife, having already married Lady Walda Frey. Brienne asks if Bolton really means to give Harrenhal to Vargo Hoat, and Bolton confirms it. He tells them about Edmure Tully’s betrothal to Lady Roslin Frey, and Robb Stark’s marriage to Jeyne Westerling, to Brienne’s shock. He also tells them that Arya Stark is alive and that he means to return her to the north. Brienne tells him the deal was for the Lannisters to release both Arya and Sansa Stark in return for Jaime.

Bolton explains that he does in fact mean to send Jaime on to King’s Landing, but Hoat’s act of cutting off Jaime’s hand presents him with a problem. He explains that Hoat had done it “to remove your sword as a threat, gain himself a grisly token to send to your father, and diminish your value to me,” in an effort to preserve himself from Tywin Lannister’s vengeance and to avoid the predators outside Harrenhal which would have stolen his prize from him, but as Hoat’s nominal liege lord, Bolton could be seen as responsible for the act. Jaime laughs, and tells Bolton that if he sends Jaime to Cersei he will absolve Bolton of all guilt in the matter.

Bolton tells Jaime that he intends to send him to King’s Landing with a strong escort under the command of his captain, Walton. Brienne reminds him that the return of Lady Catelyn’s daughters are part of the bargain, and her charge, but Bolton answers that Lady Sansa is married to the dwarf now, and no concern of hers. Brienne is appalled, and Jaime thinks that that must have made Tyrion happy. Bolton goes on to say that his intentions for Jaime have nothing to do with Brienne, anyway.

“It would be unconscionable of me to deprive Lord Vargo of both his prizes.” The Lord of the Dreadfort reached out to pick another prune. “Were I you, my lady, I should worry less about Starks and rather more about sapphires.”


Roose Bolton, you are an asshole who sucks. Not that we didn’t already know this, but it bears repeating.

He’s giving Brienne back to Hoat? Jesus. No!

That better not actually happen.

Also, the political labyrinth depicted here is positively migraine-inducing, to the point that I almost can’t follow it. I actually ended up leaving a lot of Bolton’s ruminations in that vein out of the summary, which will probably come back to bite me on the ass later, but whatever, because ow, my brain.

The stuff in Jaime’s ruminations, on the other hand, was a bit easier to follow. It’s interesting that Jaime’s account of Aerys’s behavior leading up to the coup bolsters Stannis’s comment, obliquely, that Varys was central to eroding the mad king’s confidence—or amping up his paranoia, which amounts to the same thing. And then there’s Pycelle’s contribution to Aerys’s betrayal, of course, which we knew about before, but in conjunction with the stuff about Varys now makes me wonder just how much they were/are in cahoots as a whole. It certainly doesn’t do anything to detract from Tyrion’s impression that the Council in King’s Landing is basically a pit of vipers. Bluh.

The whole tale, of course, is aimed at illuminating more justification for why Jaime killed Aerys, the implication being that Jaime saved King’s Landing from a fiery immolation and alla that. Which… okay, that’s a thing, though I’m not sure I believe that saving the townsfolk was really Jaime’s primary motivation there, but in any case, I personally didn’t actually need the validation for that act anyway. My problem with Jaime has never really been with his assassination of Aerys; my beef with him has always been about what he did to Bran.

In other news: Ah, so Jaime is attracted to Brienne, is he? Me did thinks the gentlemen doth call her an ugly cow too much. It’s a trope, a character trying to convince him/herself they hate/aren’t attracted to someone they really, really don’t/do, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have a certain amount of legitimacy.

I would have just passed Jaime’s interest off, by the way, as that thing where apparently straight guys are occasionally involuntarily aroused by any girl even when they’re not actually attracted to them, except that Jaime has made a point of noting in the past that he has never been even remotely interested in any woman besides Cersei. Which indicates to me that his feeling even a passing sexual interest in Brienne is actually rather significant.

Which reminds me: one of the things I’m abstractly intrigued by, in a meta sense, is when authors allow their point-of-view characters to be unreliable narrators—not necessarily overtly (e.g., Poe’s narrator in The Tell-Tale Heart), but in the extent to which a character’s own personal prejudices/preferences/predilections unconsciously influence their view of other characters or the world. In other words, just because Character X tells us Character Y looks/acts/behaves a certain way, it’s not necessarily really how Y looks/acts/behaves, even if X absolutely believes it to be so.

In case it wasn’t already obvious, this is a thing at which Martin obviously excels, and it ought to be pointed out that this is often a thing in which even otherwise excellent writers conspicuously fail, so it’s worth pointing out. In so many works, it’s so clear that even when various characters disagree on what is or is not right/real/going on re: events or philosophical issues in the plot, there is a definite undercurrent emanating from the author (deliberately or otherwise) informing the reader of what actually is right/real/going on, in the author’s opinion, whether the particular character in command of the camera at that moment realizes that or not.

It’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it is definitely a thing. And Martin is notable in that he mostly seems to completely avoid that tendency. Which is refreshingly realistic on one level, and terribly disturbing on several others.

So Brienne in particular is a fascinating character to see through other characters’ eyes, because while she clearly deviates from the “norm” of what a typical Westeros person thinks of as the standard of feminine beauty (which is, by design or accident, fairly close to what a typical American thinks of as that standard as far as I can tell), it can be quite the conundrum to try and figure out what Brienne really is like when not filtered through, say, Jaime’s personal set of hang-ups re: women and what they should look/be like.

I’m not actually pointing this out as a flaw, by the way, not at all. I am naturally frustrated by Jaime’s inability to accept that there is more than one way for a woman to be beautiful, but at the same time I also acknowledge that it would be untrue to the character to make him miraculously cognizant of that fact without a lot more character development/relationship development than we currently have on board here.

All that said, I wonder if Jaime will actually try to put up a fight for Brienne here, or if he will let it go in his eagerness to get back to Cersei. At this point I would say it could go either way. We shall see.


Chapter 38: Tyrion

What Happens
Tyrion awaits the approach of the Dornish contingent, and amuses himself by having Pod identify all the banners of the accompanying Houses coming with the Martells. He is concerned that those banners represent the most powerful of the Dornish houses, and then Pod points out that there is no litter with the Martells’ banner, indicating that Prince Doran is not with the company. Tyrion and his entourage ride down to greet the Dornishmen, and he is dismayed to discover that the leader of the party is Prince Oberyn Martell instead, the “Red Viper of Dorne,” whose reputation is fearsome, and more importantly had been the one to cripple the heir to Highgarden. Tyrion thinks there is no one who would be less welcome at a Tyrell wedding, and no one more likely to start something while there.

As they ride, Oberyn remarks that he has seen Tyrion before, when he came to Casterly Rock as a young man, just after Tyrion had been born. Tyrion thinks it an odd time to visit, considering Tywin’s wife Joanna had just died giving birth to Tyrion, and the whole place would have been in mourning. Oberyn complains that Tywin ignored them the entire time, and tells of how Cersei and Jaime had snuck him in to see Tyrion as an infant, and how disappointed Oberyn had been to see that Tyrion was not nearly as monstrous-looking as rumor had made him. Tyrion expresses mocking chagrin that he let Oberyn down. Oberyn tells him how Cersei said “he killed my mother,” and twisted the infant Tyrion’s cock, making him scream, until Jaime made her stop. Tyrion goes cold at the story, but plays it off.

Oberyn asks if it is true Tyrion has imposed a tax on whoring; Tyrion confirms it sourly, for even though it had been Tywin’s idea, he had received all the blame for “the dwarf’s penny.” Oberyn jokes that he will be certain to keep pennies on him, then, and Tyrion asks why he would need to go whoring when he has his “paramour” Ellaria Sand, a bastard-born girl who Tyrion is sure will cause more problems at court as well. Oberyn says Ellaria is interested in sharing.

Oberyn more seriously asks after the promised justice re: his sister Elia’s killer. Tyrion says they have not yet had time to look into it very deeply, and Oberyn warns him that he did not come for a farce of an inquiry, but for real justice. He wants Gregor Clegane, but more importantly he wants whoever gave Clegane the order. Tyrion points out to him how outnumbered he is while in King’s Landing. Tyrion also mentions Willas Tyrell, but Oberyn claims that Willas holds no ill will for him for accidentally crippling him at jousting. Tyrion brings up Loras Tyrell’s prowess as a fighter, but Oberyn is unimpressed. Tyrion finally recommends him to Chataya’s, and advises him to keep two of her girls with him at all times, since he had expressed a wish to die “with a breast in hand,” and rides ahead.

He had suffered all he meant to suffer of what passed for Dornish wit. Father should have sent Joffrey after all. He could have asked Prince Oberyn if he knew how a Dornishman differed from a cowflop. That made him grin despite himself. He would have to make a point of being on hand when the Red Viper was presented to the king.

Well, THIS isn’t going to go badly or anything. Because that’s just what King’s Landing needed: more political complications! Whoo!

*rolls eyes*

And yes, Tyrion, I’m sure we can absolutely count on Joffrey to be as offensive and idiotic as humanly possible, because duh. It’s pretty much his thing, I’d say. I would be gleefully looking forward to it as well, except for how the whole thing is probably going to end in (a) tears and (b) excessive amounts of collateral damage. Sigh.

Aside from the overwhelmingly likely possibility of dear young Joffy jamming his snotty little foot directly down his own esophagus, I am quite interested to see what happens (assuming we ever get that far) with this whole sham of an investigation into Elia’s murder. Because it surely is a sham, as I’m about 99% sure I remember that when Tyrion first set this thing up in the first place, he thought to himself how he already knew it was his own father Tywin who ordered Clegane to kill Elia and her kids. So I guess the only question is whether Tyrion is really planning to sell his own father down the river there, or if he plans to punt the blame to someone else.

I’m sure Tywin thinks the latter, otherwise he’d never have allowed this whole thing to happen in the first place (um, assuming he could have, because I think Tyrion put the whole thing in motion before Tywin even got there, but anyway), but I can’t help wondering whether Tyrion might not have some nascent ideas about the opportunity he has here to throw dear old Dad under the metaphorical bus.

God knows if Tywin were my father I’d at least be considering it. The “dwarf’s penny” tax on whores? SUBTLE, Tywin. Ugh.

So, “Prince Oberyn”? As in “Oberon”? Interesting. Not sure it has any real significance, storyline-wise, but the (possible) reference caught my eye, so I thought I’d mention it.

Also interesting that he is apparently openly bisexual, and no one really seems to care, though that may be a by-product of his fearsome reputation (i.e. no one dares to bring it up/throw it in his face). Hmm.

Maybe I am having a massive brain fart here, but is this really the first time we’ve come across a character in this series who is not (entirely) heterosexual? I find that incredible, if so—and a little disappointing. (The thing with Dany and her maid doesn’t really count, in my opinion, for a number of reasons, the question of consent not the least among them.)

Anyway. I don’t know whether to be impressed or appalled at how skilled Tyrion is at playing off insults. It’s hardly the first time we’ve seen him do it, of course, but daaaaamn. Oberyn was going for the fucking gold here in trying to get a rise out of Tyrion, and Tyrion just sloughed it off every time. That is… wow.

I don’t know that I could ever have maintained my cool like that. But then, I’ve never really had to. I guess everyone has their own version of survival skills.

As for the thing with Cersei… well. I can’t say I’m surprised, but I can definitely make a kind of unshocked-yet-horrified noise that is sort of a mash-up of “ew” with “wow,” because, yeah.

(“Wew?” “wee-ow”? “Ewe”? Nevermind.)

And last but not least:

“The last [banner is] a golden feather on green checks.”

“A golden quill, ser. Jordayne of the Tor.”


*blink blink*

Is that a shoutout?

I… think that might be a shoutout.

Huh. Hah!

That’s sort of awesome. Heh.

And that’s the post! Have a weekend! Friday returneth next… er, Friday! Whoo!


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