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 11 of A Feast for Crows, in which we cover Chapter 15 (“Samwell”).
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!
A note before we begin: I have been informed by TPTB that apparently there is some kind of discussion/controversy going on in the spoiler thread about the existence of a foreword in AFFC concerning plot structure that I should have read. Which I find puzzling, because neither the print edition nor the ebook version of AFFC I have in my possession has any kind of foreword; if there had been one I would have read it. So I have to conclude that if there was any kind of foreword in the original edition of AFFC, it has since been either moved or deleted from later editions, and I tend to think that that was probably for a reason.
In any case, since I am coming at ASOIAF as a first time reader, I feel that it behooves me to take the books as they come as I have them. In other words, if I were just reading this like a normal person, having bought the version(s) I own now, I would have no clue that there was a foreword I might possibly have been supposed to read, and I feel like I should continue on that way. It will hardly be the first time, after all, that things about this series have only become clear in retrospect.
So hopefully that helps settle the question: I don’t have a foreword, therefore I don’t have a foreword, and whatever it is that I’m supposed to know that I don’t know now, I will know later. You know?
Also, sorry that this is a little short, but I am still recovering from JordanCon (and yes, I am actually sick, not just hungover, shaddup), and I just cannot brain anymore for a bit. But some is better than none, eh? Eh!
Chapter 15: Samwell
Sam battles seasickness as Blackbird sets sail from Eastwatch, and thinks of how everyone is going to a happy ending but him: Gilly will be a maid in his father’s house, Aemon will retire, and Dareon will take Yoren’s place as a recruiter, far from the Wall, but Sam does not want to be a maester, or get anywhere near his father. Gilly, however, seems as miserable as Sam, and ignores his attempts to cheer her, and the baby is frequently sick.
Sam remembers his last time on a ship, a trip to Lord Redwyne’s hold where everyone had tormented him. He had found out on his return that he was supposed to have stayed there to be fostered, but Lord Paxter had rejected him. Sam fantasizes about seeing his mother and siblings again and maybe impressing them with his deeds with the Night Watch, but doesn’t know if he can handle seeing his father again.
After ten days Blackbird strikes east for the island of Skagos, whose inhabitants were rumored to be ruthless cannibals. Dareon makes a mocking comment about Gilly, saying he’d thought wildling women were supposed to be brave, and Sam insists she is, just that she is frightened of the sea. It begins to rain, and Aemon stays on deck until Sam finally carries him below. He and Gilly are trying to warm the old man when the whole ship heaves, and the storm doesn’t let up for days.
They skirt precariously around Skagos and the weather clears for a while, but then turns worse than before, and Sam, Gilly, Dareon and Aemon can do nothing but endure it. Sam overhears the sailors begin muttering that it is because a wildling woman’s on board, and they’ll drown if they don’t get rid of her. Dareon is hardly better, maddened by her constant weeping.
Aemon tells Sam that Gilly’s tears are not fear, but grief for her child. Sam doesn’t understand, until he realizes what Aemon is saying: that Jon had switched Dalla’s baby for Gilly, to keep the wildling prince from Melisandre. Sam is horrified and sickened, and goes up on deck. Dareon joins him, and opines that perhaps the worst of the storm is past. Sam disagrees, and points to lightning in the distance.
“The worst isn’t done. The worst is just beginning, and there are no happy endings.”
“Gods be good,” said Dareon, laughing. “Slayer, you are such a craven.”
Okay, that is—that is—
Because see, I can’t decide if that was the coldest thing ever on Jon’s part until I know whether he actually intends to just hand over to Melisandre Gilly’s kid to be sacrificed in Dalla’s kid’s place, or if he intends to tell Melly about the switch, and be all “OMG, I totally shipped off the wrong baby, that is so my bad, oopsie!”, and thus keep her from sacrificing Gilly’s child, since it would be pointless.
For the sake of my admiration for Jon, I really, really hope it’s the latter.
I guess I also have to hope, if so, that Melisandre takes Jon at his word, and doesn’t sacrifice Gilly’s kid just in case, or something. And also that she (or Stannis, for that matter) doesn’t fuck up Jon’s shit in retaliation. Given what I know of Melly, though, I’m thinking Jon might be in trouble.
But that would still be better, in my opinion, than the alternative of throwing an innocent infant to the wolves—or to the possibly-delusional-but-definitely-infanticidal sorceress, whatever, potato, potahto. Let’s hope Jon agrees with me?
It certainly seems that Sam has assumed the worst, though, which makes me very sad for him but not upset at him, because God knows his life thus far has been one long brutal lesson in Murphy’s Law. Or not Murphy’s Law, that other law. Whichever one says that statistically you will always be right by assuming the worst of people, or something like that.
(And if you’re applying it to ASOIAF the odds of being right go up by like 200%. Cynicism: part of your complete Westeros breakfast!)
So it’s not surprising that Sam would assume the worst of Jon, possibly because I suspect my hoping for the scenario where no babies get burnt alive, Jesus H., is the blithely over-optimistic stance. Joy.
In other news, I really just want Sam to go for Gilly, and her to be all into it, and they comfort each other and have lots of comfort sex and at least have something about this voyage not be completely awful, because you know the minute they get to… er, Oldtown? Yeah, Oldtown sounds right—you know the minute they get there Sam’s father is going to show up and get his douchewad abusive “compassion and indeed actual humanity is for pussies” assholery all over everyone, and I’m going to spend the whole time wishing he was real so I could Taser his ass and dump him naked in the filthiest back alley of the worst neighborhood I can find, and that’s just going to be a lot, so it would be awful nice if we could have some consensual and non-icky interpersonal relationship thingys before that, as like a palate cleanser, you know?
Wow, that was really all one sentence, wasn’t it. I am a piece of work sometimes.
[Aemon:] “Egg wanted me to help him rule, but I knew my place was here. He sent me north aboard the Golden Dragon, and insisted that his friend Ser Duncan see me safe to Eastwatch.”
Ohhhh, so Egg and Aemon were brothers? I thought they were at least a generation apart! At least I think I did? Of course, I think I also thought that Egg and Dunk were two hundred years back from the main storyline, not one, so clearly I’m all confused in general. Though I still say it’s the damn Targaryens’ fault for naming all their kids the same things over and over!
But whatever: Dude, Aemon is really fucking old. Like, to the point of stretching incredulity old, actually. He says in the speech I quoted above that he was thirty-five when he went to the Wall, which apparently is right after Egg becomes king (as he obviously does, given the “help him rule” line, and while that makes me proud it certainly isn’t much of a surprise), and presumably Egg gets to grow up a bit before that happens, so… eh, yeah, it’s within the realm of plausibility, I guess. Barely.
And last but not least: wow, I really hope that aside about the cannibals of Skagos was just some idle worldbuilding and not a Chekhov’s Gun.
Because, Cannibals = No. Crazy, I know, but that’s my stance and I’m sticking to it!
And that’s the thing that ends the thing! Or something! Happy Easter for all y’all Jesus and/or chocolate fans, and happy random week for everyone else, and I’ll see you next Thursday!