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 3 of A Game of Thrones, in which we cover Chapters 4 (“Eddard”) and 5 (“Jon”).
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 4: Eddard
Ned watches the king’s entourage enter the gates, and is shocked to see how much weight Robert’s gained since the last time Ned saw him nine years ago. The Starks welcome the king’s family and introduce the children to each other, and Robert immediately wants to go to the crypt to pay his respects. The queen begins to object until her twin brother Jaime takes her arm, silencing her. Ned and Robert head down into the tombs underneath Winterfell. Robert complains about the cold and the emptiness of the North, and extols the virtues of living in Highgarden. They visit the grave of Lyanna, Ned’s sister, who was supposed to marry Robert but died when she was only sixteen; Robert is upset that she is buried in such a dark place. Robert comments that he vowed to kill Rhaegar Targaryen for what he did to her, and Ned reminds him that he did; Robert answers “only once.”
They discuss Jon Arryn’s shockingly swift decline and death, and Robert opines that grief has made his widow Lysa mad; he doesn’t understand why she fled with her son Robert (named for the king) rather than let him be fostered with Lord Tywin Lannister. Ned thinks “a pit viper” would be a better choice, but does not say so. Ned is shocked when Robert mentions that he is replacing Arryn with someone else as Warden of the East rather than letting his son inherit; Robert answers that he needs a war leader there, not a boy. Then Robert finally brings up why he came to Winterfell: he wants to appoint Ned Hand of the King. Ned isn’t surprised by this, but he doesn’t want the position at all. Robert also mentions that he plans to wed his son Joff to Ned’s daughter Sansa. Ned asks for a day to consider, which Robert grants impatiently. Ned feels foreboding at the idea of leaving the North.
So I’m a little confused here, because Ned remembers in this chapter that Lyanna died of a fever, and I’m unclear on how Rhaegar could have been responsible for that. …Of course, I just realized I’m assuming that whatever Rhaegar did had to do with her death, which may not be the case at all. There are several things he could have done without killing her to inspire that level of retribution from Robert. If it’s the obvious alternate option, I think I agree with Robert about one death not being good enough.
That’s about the only thing I like about the king so far, though. He strikes me as one of those characters who aren’t evil or even unsympathetic, but instead are just dangerously oblivious. It’s a very common thing in authority figures in fiction, mostly because their positions of power enable them to make their obliviousness stick, and ergo screw up everyone else’s lives, and ergo create conflict. Yay? Yeah, probably not.
Ned himself, on the other hand, is very likeable despite clearly not being the warmest guy ever. There’s something fundamentally appealing about fair-minded people who just get their jobs done and don’t waste everyone’s time complaining or grousing about it. Probably because these people tend to be rarer than you’d think.
Ned’s thoughts about Theon’s father make Theon make a little more sense, too. I suppose if I were a sort-of hostage to the man who had participated in taking down my father, justly or otherwise, I might have something of a chip on my shoulder, too.
The Lannisters are going to be trouble. This statement has been brought to you by Noshit Sherlock and the letter Duh.
Robert Arryn: Man, is this going to be one of those Wuthering Heights-type things where half the characters all have the same name? I hate that. Also, his father Jon (see, already two of those, too) was totally poisoned. Sick, my ass. This I Foretell.
The Lords of Winterfell watched them pass. Their likenesses were carved into the stones that sealed the tombs. In long rows they sat, blind eyes staring out into eternal darkness, while great stone direwolves curled round their feet. The shifting shadows made the stone figures seem to stir as the living passed by.
I don’t have anything to say about this, I’m just quoting it because it’s cool.
Chapter 5: Jon
At the welcome feast for the king, Jon is glad that he was sent to sit at the end of the table with the younger squires instead of with the king’s family, as this means he can drink as much as he wants. He thinks of his impressions of their visitors: the king (disappointing, fat), the queen (beautiful, fake), Princess Myrcella (timid, probably stupid), Prince Tommen (plump), Crown Prince Joffrey (pouty, disdainful), Jaime Lannister (regal-looking), and his deformed and dwarfed brother Tyrion (fascinating). Jon feeds his direwolf Ghost half a chicken, and watches the pup silently face down another dog three times his size.
He is joined by his uncle Benjen, who is sympathetic to Jon’s awkward position in the household. Ben is impressed at Jon’s perceptiveness and skills, but when Jon entreats him to let Jon join the Night’s Watch, Ben demurs, telling Jon he doesn’t understand the enormity of the decision. Angered, Jon jumps up and rushes out, fighting tears, and runs into Tyrion Lannister in the courtyard, sitting on a ledge above a door. Tyrion asks to be introduced to Ghost, and startles Jon and Ghost both by leaping down with a somersault into a back handspring. Tyrion asks if Jon is “Ned Stark’s bastard,” and seeing Jon has taken offense, comments that dwarfs don’t have to be tactful. Tyrion opines that Jon has more of the North in him than his half-brothers, which pleases Jon, and advises Jon to make his status as a bastard, which he equates to his own as a dwarf, a strength rather than a weakness.
Cool, a Jon POV. I continue to like him. He is clearly much more a fourteen-year-old boy here than he appeared to the much younger Bran earlier, but that’s only to be expected, since Bran obviously worships him, and Jon is still cool even so. His perceptive (and unflattering) appraisals of the royal family were pretty amusing.
It must really suck having no real place in a society where pretty much everyone does. Have one, I mean. I agree with Ben, though, that Jon shouldn’t go to the Night Watch. It seems like a pretty grim fate, even compared to the plethora of other grim fates this world apparently has to offer. At least have sex first, kid, seriously.
Ser Jaime Lannister was twin to Queen Cersei; tall and golden, with flashing green eyes and a smile that cut like a knife. He wore crimson silk, high black boots, a black satin cloak. On the breast of his tunic, the lion of his House was embroidered in gold thread, roaring its defiance. They called him the Lion of Lannister to his face and whispered “Kingslayer” behind his back.
Jon found it hard to look away from him. This is what a king should look like, he thought to himself as the man passed.
From the mouths of babes… With a title like A Game of Thrones, it’s not hard to guess what the central conflict is going to be here. Unless I’m wrong, of course, but this, put together with the little foreshadowing, er, shadow of Tyrion’s at the end of the chapter makes me pretty sure I’m right. Fat King Robert might want to watch his back, is all I’m saying.
Speaking of Tyrion:
“Too hot, too noisy, and I’d drunk too much wine,” the dwarf told him. “I learned long ago that it is considered rude to vomit on your brother.”
I won’t lie, this made me laugh out loud. Tyrion’s clearly got a chip on his shoulder that makes Jon’s look like a paint flake, but I feel like he and I could get along. And, can you blame him for being bitter? Being physically different and/or handicapped is still a major stigma here and now in the real world, so for this decidedly Darwinist medieval fantasy world I can only imagine it’s exponentially worse.
Especially with Mr. Pretty brother Jaime to compare himself to constantly. Ugh, Jaime hasn’t even had a line yet and I’m already predisposed to despise him. I guess we’ll see if I’m right to do so, eh?
And that’s about what I got for this one, kids. Have a delightful weekend, and I’ll see you with a fresh new AGOT installment next Friday!