A Read of Ice and Fire

A Read of Ice and Fire: A Storm of Swords, Part 41

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 41 of A Storm of Swords, in which we cover Chapter 67 (“Jaime”).

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 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!

Scheduling note: I am going on a mini-vacay for Labor Day weekend, which may or may not affect the schedule of the ROIAF. I’m going to try to get next week’s post in, but I reserve the right to discover I just don’t have the time. Stayed tuned to the comments on this post to find out!

Chapter 67: Jaime

What Happens
Jaime has moved into the apartments of the Lord Commander of the Kingsguard, but his sword and uniform feel ill-fitting upon him. He has been ignored by everyone in his family during Tyrion’s trial, including Cersei. He wonders if the Kingslayer is fit to occupy the title that so many great men have held before him; he is amused to discover that Ser Barristan had taken the time to record his own ousting from the Guard before leaving in the Kingsguard history book. He notes how paltry his own record seems in comparison to Ser Barristan’s, and wonders when he stopped being like Ser Arthur Dayne and more like the Smiling Knight, noted for his cruelty as much as his chivalry.

The other five Sworn Brothers (Ser Osmund Kettleblack, Ser Boros Blount, Ser Meryn Trant, Ser Loras Tyrell, and Ser Balon Swann) arrive to the council, leaving a space for Ser Arys Oakheart, who is in Dorne. Jaime wonders if he needs to fear division among them, which had happened before; he has a fairly good opinion of Balon and Loras, but he doesn’t think much of Boros or Meryn, and Osmund is an unknown quantity. He asks them bluntly if they think Tyrion poisoned Joffrey. Meryn and Boros think so, but Balon points out that Tyrion was far from the only person who had access to the wine cup, and Loras states firmly that he believes Sansa Stark was the culprit, as she had motive to want both Joffrey and Margaery dead. Jaime thinks Loras might have a point.

Jaime tells them that Tommen is king now, and he means him to hold the throne until he dies of old age. He orders that Boros will taste everything Tommen eats or drinks first, which Boros takes as an insult. Jaime shoots back that he should have died before letting Joffrey be taken, and Boros shouts back that as the cripple, Jaime should be the food tester. Jaime dares him to challenge the “cripple,” and Boros spits at his feet, but walks out instead. Jaime is pleased that the man’s cowardice stopped him from calling Jaime’s bluff, as Jaime is convinced he would not have won the fight.

He asks Osmund how he had never heard of him before, and concludes from his evasiveness that he had been a common sellsword. He wonders why Cersei had chosen him, but dismisses him with no further interrogation. He then asks Meryn where it is written in their vows to beat women and children—referring to what he did to Sansa Stark at Joffrey’s behest—and Meryn replies they are sworn to obey the king. Jaime tells him from now on he will listen to Tywin, Cersei, and Jaime only, and bring questionable orders from Tommen to him first, and dismisses him as well.

Jaime tells Balon that the Kingsguard is honored by his presence, but wonders at his brother Donnel’s seeming fickleness in loyalty, and asks what Balon will do if one day Donnel comes storming into the throne room for Tommen. Balon sweats at the question, but answers that he will never do as Jaime did. Jaime laughs and dismisses him.

That leaves Loras, and Jaime hates his confident smile, but has to be amused that he is “comparing cocks” with him. He realizes suddenly that Loras is a younger version of Jaime himself, and changes tactics. He asks Loras who was really wearing Renly’s armor in the battle, and Loras reluctantly replies that it was his brother Garlan, at Lord Littlefinger’s suggestion. Loras swears that he will defend King Tommen with his last breath, but asserts that Renly was “the king that should have been.”

Jaime thinks he is sincere, and brings up Brienne. Loras thinks she should die, and that she won her place in Renly’s guard through a trick. Jaime idly recalls a knight using a mare in heat during a tourney, and Loras flushes, but insists that Brienne killed Renly, or at least let him die. Jaime points out that five of the Kingsguard—including Loras—were in the room where Joffrey died, and says that Brienne insits she could no more have prevented Renly’s death than they could have Joffrey’s. He asks how Loras would fight a shadow. Loras admits that he doesn’t understand how Brienne could have sliced Renly’s gorget clean through, but is still skeptical of her story. Jaime tells him to go to Brienne and get her story, and then judge her innocence or guilt fairly, as a knight. Jaime promises to abide by his decision.

Loras agrees, and goes to leave, but turns back to say that Renly found Brienne absurd, a woman playing at being a knight, but that Renly had said she only wanted to die for him. Loras refers to Robar and Emmon, who Loras had killed in his grief, and Jaime lies that he would have done the same in Loras’s place, and Loras leaves. Jaime wonders that it never even occurred to him to kill the Kingsguard who failed to protect Joffrey. He decides he needs a golden hand to replace the one he had lost, and thinks Cersei might like that.

His hand could wait, though. There were other things to tend to first. There were other debts to pay.

Commentary
So, this chapter is basically the equivalent of Jaime setting up his shiny new partner’s office and then calling in the associates to make sure they are appropriately cowed and know that He Is The Boss Of Them Now. Which… um. A for effort, I guess?

It’s ironic that Jaime might never even realize how closely this parallels his brother Tyrion’s earlier efforts to assert his authority as Hand. Nor, I imagine, will Jaime fully appreciate how much better he has it by not having to do so under the aegis of fucking Joffrey. Or how much less difficult it is having to be A Big Strong Man with a missing hand than it is as a deformed and (later) maimed little person.

Which isn’t to say that I think Jaime is having it easy; it’s just comparatively that I’m like, “yeah, you think you have problems, bub.”

It’s also ironic that I don’t particularly deride Jaime’s efforts to be ABSM™ for any of the reasons he thinks he might not qualify (e.g., his missing hand, not having enough extracurricular activities in the Kingsguard Yearbook, not caring about Joffrey’s death), but I do deride them based on things it doesn’t even (apparently) occur to him to think about. E.g., not defending Tyrion even though he clearly doesn’t really think Tyrion is guilty, leaving Brienne’s fate to an obviously biased Loras, and still letting his entire sense of self-worth revolve around Cersei’s opinion of him.

Because, okay. The missing hand? At least theoretically work-around-able. Maybe not easily, but supposedly Jaime was the best of the best of the best back in the day, so don’t tell me he can’t even try to compensate. Plus I don’t believe that physical prowess is the be-all and end-all of masculine worth, but I know that is like crazy wild-eyed progressivism by Westeros standards, so whatever. *rolls eyes*

The Yearbook? Um, you are comparing yourself to a dude (Ser Barristan) who was in the field for over five decades, Jaime. I’m not entirely sure how old Jaime is, but I’m guessing he can’t possibly be more than twenty-five or so, thirty at most, so he hasn’t even had time to rack up the Boy Scout badges Barristan has. I’m not saying you’ve always been making the best life choices, Jaime, but cut yourself a little slack here, jeez.

And as far as not caring about Joffrey’s death: well. I am obviously biased by my virulent hatred of the little psycho, but even leaving aside the kid’s deep and abiding (and thankfully now defunct) personality defects, I don’t find it nearly as surprising (or upsetting) that Jaime doesn’t particularly care about him as Jaime seems to.

I’m not really sure I have a good excuse for that, except in that I’ve always been a believer in the idea that the definition of “family” is “who you care for and who cares for you,” rather than “who you’re related to by blood.” The two things can (and often do) overlap, but not always. And since Jaime’s blood family situation is about the most fucked-up thing ever, on just about every level possible, I guess I just don’t find it very strange that Jaime has no real concept of how to relate to Joffrey (and by extension, I suppose, Tommen and Myrcella) as people he should deeply care about.

I’m not even saying that that’s healthy, or right, or whatever. I’m just saying that it’s not surprising, and for me, anyway, it doesn’t actually particularly affect my opinion of Jaime negatively.

Because there are plenty of other things that negatively affect my opinion of him. Like, oh, I don’t know, that time he THREW A CHILD OUT OF A WINDOW.

(Nope, still not letting that go. Sorry, child defenestration still a No Go for me. Too bad, too sad.)

Which goes back to the things I do judge him for, like his deeply unhealthy, self-and-other-people-damaging obsession with Cersei. I mean, the actual incest aspect of it is, I am coming increasingly to feel, only the icing on the cake of how many things are wrong with that relationship, which is sort of mind-boggling. Seriously, let me repeat that: the incest is the LEAST WORRYING PART OF IT.

I mean, what is this I don’t even. Jaime has, willingly, pretty much wrecked his own future at least twice over just to be with her, and he’s already resoundingly demonstrated that there is no moral line he is not willing to cross to protect that relationship, no matter how insane. Some people might find that romantic, but I just think it’s cuckoo bananas.

I think this might also be part and parcel of Martin’s habit of deconstructing tropes, in this case the trope of an all-encompassing One True Love, for each of whom the other will do ANYTHING so that they can be together. Including, apparently, engaging in incest, cuckolding an entire nation, and throwing children out of windows.

Yeah, not quite so pretty a concept when put that way, is it?

Not to mention, I have no idea what is up with Jaime letting Loras Tyrell, of all goddamn people, decide whether Brienne is innocent or guilty of killing Renly. Because, this:

“Renly gave me the van. Otherwise it would have been me helping him don his armor. He often entrusted that task to me. We had… we had prayed together that night.”

Yeah, “prayed.” Is that what they’re calling it these days?

I’ll confess I might not have twigged to this if it weren’t for leading (or outright explanatory) comments to the Read regarding their relationship (which I kind of am upset by, to be honest), but as a result this quote made it blatantly obvious to me that Renly and Loras were lovers back in the day. Which means nothing in the grand scheme of things, except that ergo, Loras Tyrell is the least unbiased person possible to be passing judgment on Renly’s possible murderer, and yet, that’s who Jaime sends to judge Brienne?

What.

Granted, it doesn’t seem that Jaime himself has actually realized their true relationship (at least he certainly doesn’t remark on it here), but even without that, it’s completely obvious that Loras flippin’ adored Renly, platonically or otherwise, and therefore is absolutely not equipped to be an equitable judge on the matter of his killer. So really Jaime, what the hell.

I feel it should be noted, by the way, that I am not even remotely abandoning my theory that Jaime is in love with Brienne. He can be unhealthily obsessed with his twin sister AND be in love with Brienne at the same time, while ALSO making terrible choices about how to protect them both. Because Jaime’s dysfunction MULTITASKS.

*headdesk*

Aside from all that, I feel I should take a moment to acknowledge, here, the truly remarkable depth and breadth of Martin’s worldbuilding, at least by all surface evidence. I left it out of the summary, but the tally of Barristan’s (and Jaime’s) accomplishments in the Kingsguard Yearbook was just one of many times where Martin has given the unmistakable impression that he has worked out every last bit of Westeros’s history and politics and relationships, in all its cast-of-thousands glory, and that’s pretty damn cool, if you ask me. And I’m not sure which would be more impressive: that he actually has worked all that out in such detail, or that he’s just that good at faking that he has. Either one is a pretty tremendous authorial feat in my opinion.

Either way, it cannot be overestimated how much flavor and authenticism it adds to the story, that implied weight of history behind the present-day story as it unfolds. Which is what any epic fantasy worth its salt aspires to achieve, of course, but I think Martin has accomplished it better than most I’ve read. That’s one fantasy trope, as far as I can tell, that he’s played absolutely straight.


And this is the end for now! See you (probably) next Thursday!

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