Fri
Jan 27 2012 2:00pm

A Read of Ice and Fire: A Clash of Kings, Part 4

A Read of Ice and Fire on Tor.comWelcome 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 4 of A Clash of Kings, in which we cover Chapter 7 (“Catelyn”), and Chapter 8 (“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 7: Catelyn

What Happens
In Riverrun, Catelyn watches Robb fidget under the weight of his newly-forged crown as he confronts the prisoner before him, Ser Cleos Frey, who is also Tywin Lannister’s nephew. Robb uses his wolf Grey Wind to intimidate Cleos, to the amusement of the court, and informs Cleos that he is to carry Robb’s terms of a peace offering to Cersei Lannister, before returning on his honor to resume his captivity. Cleos agrees stiffly. At the mention of a peace offering, Catelyn notices Lord Rickard Karstark shove his way out of the hall.

Robb lists the terms: in return for the return of two of the queen’s cousins, Cersei must release his sisters and cancel Sansa’s bethrothal to Joffrey. He demands the return of his father’s bones and his greatsword Ice, and a general exchange of prisoners of war, with the exception of Jaime Lannister, as well as a renouncing of all Joffrey’s claims to the northern lands, which are now Robb’s, and a withdrawal of Tywin’s forces pillaging there. Lastly he demands ten highborn hostages, to be treated well and returned gradually as long as the pact holds.

After the audience, Catelyn meets with Robb and her brother Edmure alone, and points out how Karstark walked out. Edmure sympathizes with Karstark not liking the idea of peace, and advocates marching on Tywin at Harrenhal before their forces dwindle any further. Catelyn snaps that that was his doing, for insisting all the river lords be allowed to leave and defend their own lands. Robb says he will speak with Karstark, but is clearly not very happy with the idea of peace himself. Catelyn tells him an offer had to be made, though she thinks the terms could have been “sweeter.”

“Cersei Lannister will never consent to trade your sisters for a pair of cousins. It’s her brother she’ll want, as you know full well.” She had told him as much before, but Catelyn was finding that kings do not listen half so attentively as sons.

“I can’t release the Kingslayer, not even if I wanted to. My lords would never abide it.”

“Your lords made you their king.”

“And can unmake me just as easy.”

“If your crown is the price we must pay to have Arya and Sansa returned safe, we should pay it willingly.”

Robb repeats that he will not free Jaime, not even for Arya and Sansa. Catelyn is angered at the implication that his sisters are worth less than his father would have been; hurt, Robb insists he will do all he can for Arya and Sansa. He tries to convince Catelyn that she should go somewhere further from the fighting, and Catelyn realizes he doesn’t want her there anymore, speaking harsh truths. They also argue over the wisdom of sending Theon Greyjoy to treat with his father Balon; Catelyn thinks they will betray Robb, but Robb says he doesn’t care if Balon wants to be king of the Iron Islands so long as they help him against the Lannisters.

Catelyn goes to visit her dying father, and finds her uncle Ser Brynden Tully with her father. Brynden has just returned and not seen Robb yet. They discuss Hoster’s declining health and the ominous comet and various interpretations of its meaning. Brynden opines that allowing the river lords to scatter was a foolish mistake, as they are being slaughtered by Lannister forces, even Lord Darry, who was only a child; he was killed by Gregor Clegane.

Catelyn reminds him that it is Tywin Lannister who holds Clegane’s leash, and Brynden agrees that the atrocities are deliberate attempts to provoke Robb into attacking Tywin first, at Harrenhal. Catelyn thinks of the fortress’s dark and cursed history, and frets that Robb may fall for the bait. Brynden also tells her that there is yet another Lannister army massing at Casterly Rock, led by Ser Stafford Lannister, Tywin’s cousin. Though he adds that Stafford is “a bit of a dullard,” he believes that Tywin’s caution will more than offset that, and that he will not march from Harrenhal until Stafford’s forces are ready. Catelyn counters, unless Tywin must leave Harrenhal, to face another threat.

Her uncle looked at her thoughtfully. “Lord Renly.”

King Renly.” If she would ask help from the man, she would need to grant him the style he had claimed for himself.

“Perhaps.” The Blackfish smiled a dangerous smile. “He’ll want something, though.”

“He’ll want what kings always want,” she said. “Homage.”

Commentary
Look at Catelyn, being all devious and clever and shit. There’s a million ways this plan could go wrong, of course, but then that’s true of just about any plan.

Well, now I know where Robb is, at least. And from all appearances, we are still on the fence as to whether he’s going to be a good king or not. Catelyn articulates very clearly in this chapter the internal battle she sees between the boy Robb still is in many ways, and the leader he is forging himself into becoming – and that at this point it’s still very much touch and go on whether he’ll screw up that forging in the process.

This both annoys and pleases me. Because it is, after all, very realistic, and very much in keeping with Martin’s talent for creating characters whose flaws ring unsettlingly true. As usual, I find this simultaneously gratifying on a meta level and frustrating on a practical one, because while I really like realism from an aesthetic point of view, the problem is that in general, reality, well, sucks.

It’s a very interesting thing I have developed as a consumer of more-or-less popular entertainment, which is that I demand the grittiness of realism while longing for the sensawunda of idealism. I want a hero/heroine I can trust to believe in while also wanting to be able to believe such a person actually exists.

I think this means I am high maintenance. Or a glutton for punishment. Or, possibly, just plain delusional. It certainly means that in more cases than not, I am destined to be disappointed. We’ll have to wait and see where ASOIAF leaves me.

Anyway, back to the chapter. I don’t know about anyone else, but I was frankly surprised at first by Catelyn’s admonishment to Robb that the terms of peace he set for Cersei were too harsh, because if you ask me they seemed downright reasonable. He didn’t even demand reparations for Tywin’s pillaging! And of course he’s not going to be willing to give up Jaime. Emotional reasons re: Ned aside, Jaime is Robb’s trump card. He shouldn’t play it unless he absolutely has to.

But then as I read further, I realized Catelyn was right: they are “too harsh” if you know the other party’s priorities well enough to know which term or terms would be absolute dealbreakers – in this case the refusal to return Jaime – and then demand precisely that. In my opinion, the problem is that both Robb and Catelyn are right. Robb is right that Jaime’s release is unacceptable, and Catelyn is right that to Cersei, no other outcome is acceptable.

Whoops. So, war then? War then!

I think they are also both right about Arya and Sansa. Robb is correct in his estimation of their worth politically and Catelyn is right about their worth emotionally. The question is, which of those, if used, does the most good and the least harm? Don’t get me wrong, I really really want to see Sansa get out of King’s Landing, but at the cost of inflicting Jaime Lannister on the world again? Erm.

Ned had the truth of it, she thought. His place was at Winterfell, he said as much, but would I hear him? No. Go, I told him, you must be Robert’s Hand, for the good of our House, for the sake of our children . . . my doing, mine, no other . . .

Oh, Catelyn. You’re… not wrong, unfortunately, but only hindsight is twenty-twenty. At least take comfort in that you thought you were doing the right thing? A cold comfort, maybe, but still.

 

Chapter 8: Tyrion

What Happens
Tyrion dines with Janos Slynt, getting him drunk while they discuss who is to replace him as Commander of the City Watch when he goes to take lordship of Harrenhal. Slynt says any of the six men he recommended will do, but singles out Allar Deem as the best choice. Tyrion mentions he’d been thinking of Ser Jacelyn Bywater, but Slynt dismisses him as too “rigid” in matters of honor, and a cripple besides (he’d lost his hand in battle). Deem is better; he’d never meant to kill that whore, only her babe as instructed. Tyrion asks why he chose Deem for that, and Slynt says it takes “a certain sort” to be able to do that kind of task. Tyrion asks casually who sent them after the whore’s bastard in the first place, but Slynt laughs and refuses to answer.

Tyrion turns the talk to Eddard Stark, and confirms that Cersei and Varys had had no knowledge of the order to execute him beforehand, that it was all Joffrey’s doing. Tyrion congratulates Slynt on his trade: a lordship and a castle for “a spear thrust in the back”. Slynt grows angry at the taunt, but Tyrion tells him to be thankful it is he Slynt is dealing with and not his father. He tells Slynt his eldest son will inherit the title of Lord Slynt, but he will not have Harrenhal any more than Janos will, as Janos will be on a ship in the morning for the Wall, to join the Night’s Watch. In disbelief, Slynt goes to leave to appeal this to Joffrey, but is stopped at the door by Ser Jacelyn Bywater, the new Commander of the City Watch. Tyrion hands Bywater the list of six men Janos gave him and tells Bywater to make sure they join Slynt on board, though he’d be best pleased if the one named Deem accidentally drowns on the way. Bywater agrees calmly and takes Janos away.

Varys comes in and congratulates Tyrion on a good job; Tyrion responds sourly, and accuses Varys of leaving out the fact that it was Cersei herself who ordered that baby killed. Varys admits it, but says that while he’d taken steps to remove the older bastard boy from harm’s way, he hadn’t thought a baby girl born to a whore would be at risk. He remarks how the mother had loved the king; Tyrion wonders aloud if a whore can truly love anyone, thinking of Shae and how she seemed dissatisfied despite the wealth he’d showered on her.

Varys comments that now that Tyrion has control of the Night Watch he will be in a position to prevent things like Stark’s execution from happening again, though Tyrion reflects that he may have only changed Littlefinger’s man (Slynt) for Varys’s (Bywater). Tyrion asks Varys why he is being so helpful, and Varys protests that he always serves the Hand. He asks if Tyrion has thought on his riddle, and Tyrion replies that it is a riddle with too many answers, as it all depends on the man with the sword.

“And yet he is no one,” Varys said. “He has neither crown nor gold nor favor of the gods, only a piece of pointed steel.”

“That piece of steel is the power of life and death.”

So does that mean the swordsmen all have the true power? Varys asks. And if so, why do they obey kings, even when they are children or “wine-sodden oafs”?

“Some say knowledge is power. Some tell us that all power comes from the gods. Others say it derives from law. Yet that day on the steps of Baelor’s Sept, our godly High Septon and the lawful Queen Regent and your ever-so-knowledgeable servant were as powerless as any cobbler or cooper in the crowd. Who truly killed Eddard Stark, do you think? Joffrey, who gave the command? Ser Ilyn Payne, who swung the sword? Or… another?”

Tyrion cocked his head sideways. “Did you mean to answer your damned riddle, or only to make my head ache worse?”

Varys smiled. “Here, then. Power resides where men believe it resides. No more and no less.”

“So power is a mummer’s trick?”

“A shadow on the wall,” Varys murmured, “yet shadows can kill. And ofttimes a very small man can cast a very large shadow.”

Tyrion asks Varys intently who he really is and how he came to be a eunuch, but Varys avoids the question and moves on to his report. Tyrion decides to submit a traitorous captain to Joffrey’s justice, and thwart the Redwyne’s brothers’ attempt to bribe themselves out of captivity, but ignores the report that Timett killed a man who cheated him at gambling, as well as the glut of beggar “holy men” in the town, and a report that a nobleman had made a joke at the king’s expense. Varys leaves, and Tyrion wonders whether he has done enough to be safe from Cersei’s retribution over the Slynt business.

He goes to his rooms and tells Bronn about Slynt’s new vocation, and asks how the recruiting goes. Bronn tells him he got three new men tonight; he vets them by making them try to kill him. Tyrion asks Bronn, if he told him to kill an infant girl, would he do it without question? Bronn answers, no: he’d ask how much he’d get paid first.

And why would I ever need your Allar Deem, Lord Slynt? Tyrion thought. I have a hundred of my own. He wanted to laugh; he wanted to weep; most of all, he wanted Shae.

Commentary
Yeesh.

Well, I like Bronn a lot less than I did before, that’s for sure.

Also, good to see Tyrion’s self-appointed quest for justice is off to such a scintillating start! Ow.

Though I do think he’s doing better than he gives himself credit for. Certainly no one else would have even bothered to try avenging that baby’s murder – well, not anyone alive and currently in King’s Landing, anyhow. Except Sansa, maybe, but unfortunately she doesn’t count.

Anyway, the only thing that sucks in my opinion about Slynt getting the boot is that now Jon Snow and Co. are going to have to put up with him. Here’s hoping he gets eaten by a MONSTER BEAR almost immediately. If Harrenhal’s lords are cursed (even those who never even saw the place, apparently, heh), let’s fulfill that curse in style, sez me!

[Shae] wanted to be with him more, she told him; she wanted to serve him and help him. “You help me most here, between the sheets,” he told her one night after their loving as he lay beside her, his head pillowed against her breast, his groin aching with a sweet soreness. She made no reply, save with her eyes. He could see there that it was not what she’d wanted to hear.

Well, of COURSE it wasn’t, Tyrion! Jeez.

Here’s my prediction for this one: Shae really does love him – and why wouldn’t she, when he is so good to her (well, when he isn’t inadvertently telling her he only values her as a whore, anyway) and bloody well worships the ground she walks on? I suppose there are women who wouldn’t fall for that if it came from an ugly man, but Shae doesn’t strike me as being that foolish. But, Tyrion’s own self-esteem issues are going to fuck everything up between them anyway, because he’ll never be able to bring himself to believe she could possibly love him for real. Sigh. I hope I’m wrong.

Very interesting philosophical conversation between Tyrion and Varys, I must say. And Varys is totally right, in my opinion. Perception, more often than not, trumps reality. Power is a construct, a mutually (and often unconsciously) agreed-upon optical illusion used to attempt to impose order on chaos, and create structure where there otherwise would be anarchy. War happens when some people discover that they don’t buy the construct anymore – like, say, when they find out the line of succession is a big giant lie – and decide to substitute their own version instead.

It is often very weird to contemplate how much of so-called civilized life that we subconsciously consider immutable and inevitable only exists because a bunch of people got together at some point and decided This Is How It Is.

And it was Varys who rescued Gendry! Not out of the goodness of his heart, I’m sure, but I can still be pleased for Gendry’s sake, who I bet is going to do well at the Wall provided he survives long enough to get there. However, I do have to wonder, if Cersei knows enough to send guards searching for Gendry in Yoren’s caravan, does she also know who put him there? Varys might want to watch his back, is what I’m saying.


And that is about what I’ve got for this one, kiddies. Have a lovely weekend, as always, and I’ll see you next week!

42 comments
Rmb
1. Rmb
Nice summary Leigh. Minor correction : Slynt (and now Jacelyn Bywater) are Commanders of the City Watch not Night Watch.
Rmb
2. Vazkor Javhovor
Leigh, you've made a little mistake : it's (mostly) not the Night Watch in this last chapter, it's the City Watch (the goldcloaks).
Thanks for the post !
Rob Munnelly
3. RobMRobM
Quick typo to be fixed: "Varys comments that now that Tyrion has control of the Night Watch..." Should be "City Watch" in this context.

More comments to come in a bit.
Jennifer McBride
4. vegetathalas
Heh. Janos and Captain Vimes would make an interesting team.
Rmb
5. sushisushi
I get the impression that Varys is not simply able to watch his own back, but has installed his very own stereoscopic, surround-sound 360 degree watching system of the politics in King's Landing. Let us just say that I don't think he got the job of Master of Whisperers on his good looks and charm.
Rmb
6. Skyweir
The conversation between Varys and Tyrion is one of the best in the book. The nature of power is a hard nut to crack. I agree with Varys too, and he grows on me chapter by chapter.

The way he deftly dodges the question about his castration is also interesting, we see a glimpse of something besides the effete and polite servant there.
Vincent Lane
7. Aegnor
One thing that is very realistic about this series is how Catelyn's decisions turn out. Her decisions are very well thought out, logical, and seemingly correct from her perspective, yet they turn out disasterously. She convinces Ned to go to Kings Landing and he gets his head chopped off and Sansa held captive. She arrests Tyrion and that kicks off a war (and Tyrion was completely innocent to boot). She takes Tyrion to the Eyrie, instead of heading for Winterfell, but it turns out her sister is a nutcase.

It's true to real life that sometimes people make good decisions for good reasons that turn out terribly, while other people make foolish decisions for foolish reasons, and it turns out great. Though I was glad to see Janos get what was coming to him in the next chapter. Go Tyrion!
Rmb
8. Tenesmus
“A shadow on the wall,” Varys murmured, “yet shadows can kill."

I didn't notice that before now... GRRM you sneaky bastard!
Juliet Kestrel
9. Juliet_Kestrel
I worry about Robb as King of the North. There are a few too many kings running around in this story, and I do not think they will all off each other in a melee with tourney rules. Some of them are going to self destruct. Which ones? I dunno. But GRRM wouldn’t give us so many Kings to have them all go down in the same way. Plus, I like Robb, which makes me think he is the number one candidate for screwing everything up himself. I bet he will make a bad call regarding getting his sisters back. He is in a tough spot there. No matter which way he jumps someone is going to be pissed about the decision and maybe decide someone else would make a better King of the North.

Cat’s mission to Renly seems like a good idea to me, one that might actually work. Renly did approach Ned and try save all this nonsense from happening in the first place. I am hopeful.

Also Theon is a bad apple kids. Sending him as an emissary was a bad call. This is the guy that grinned and kicked the recently chopped off head of a Night Watch deserter from the first prologue. Trouble is written all over this little mission folks.

Maybe Slynt will drown on the way to the wall too. Fingers crossed.
Sneeky Sneeky Varys. I still can’t figure this guy out. He is shaping up to be one of my favorite characters precisely because I cannot figure out his motivations, or even which side he is playing for.

Tyrion is also sort of awesome here the way he out maneuvered Slynt. I realize out maneuvering this guy is like out maneuvering a tortoise, but it was still clever and fun to read.
Rmb
10. Carolyn H
Even when no one is pulling out a sword, there's still a lot of conflict and gray areas where both sides have a valid point of view. So we never know which side is going to win, in either the big conflict or the little ones.

This series isn't big on having people agree with each other.

In the scheme of kingdom politics, Arya and Sansa don't count for much, particularly when compared to Jaime. In this case, it's not just that Arya and Sansa are girls. It's that they are children, too, and Jaime is a Big Deal on more than one level. A warrior, a leader, his sister Queen's lover. No, Arya and Sansa (or for that matter Bran and Rickon) can't compare to that.

I always thought Cat was beating herself up too much by blaming herself for Ned's death. There was really no choice there, either, and Cat simply made Ned see that. What was he going to say, "Sorry, King Robert, my old friend, I'm happy just to hang here up north in Winterfel. Sorry about your luck." I don't think so.

The Tyrion chapter is, as ever, a good one. Varys' riddle has many answers, few of them satisfactory, let alone definitive. The answers would change with the situation. Perhaps that's why so many governments are overthrown by armies, the modern-day equivalent of a sword. The swords decide the ruler has to go, and though they may have obeyed his orders for years, once they decide "no more," ridding a land of the ruler is in their hands.
Rob Munnelly
11. RobMRobM
Catelyn's chapter is interesting, as it shows hard it can be to rule after winning a big victory. Tywin responds to his disaster by taking decisive action - move to Harrenhall, raise new forces in home territory. Robb has to deal with those around him - Edmund sending Riverlands lords back home where they were cut to pieces; Rickard Karstark expressing open anger at any thought of using Jaime as a bargaining chip to strengthen their hand; Catelyn expressing real concern that sending Theon as an envoy to his father to get Greyjoys to attack Lannisters from the coast might not be a good idea. He also takes a middle ground position on what to do with Jaime - he could either ignore any talk of settlement at this time and prosecute the war (in the hopes that Lannisters would be forced t be the ones to make him an offer); or offer a more reasonable package in the hope of getting real concessions now that would let Lannisters focus on southron enemies. He chooses to offer something, but to make the offer patently unpalatable. Whether this makes sense compared to alternatives is open to real question. Is Robb true leadership material? Jury is still out, of course.

As always, the Tyrion chapter is awesome. Beautiful set up and disposal of Slynt. Beautiful entry from stage right of the admiring, enigmatic Varys. Just great.

Rob
Rmb
12. Lsana
The value of Sansa and Arya is something I don't think can be dismissed quite so easily, particularly Sansa.

Something notable about Tyrion's chapter: both Varys and Bronn feel the need to mention to Tyrion the incident with Timmet. Tyrion laughs it off, but the fact that it was mentioned twice suggests that it might not be that much of a joke.
Steven Halter
13. stevenhalter
Letting the various lords go off on their own and deal with things in their own lands individually seems like a pretty bad plan. Usually dividing your forces is to be avoided--especially when it looks like the enemy is consolidating.
Tyrion is doing a good job so far, although I am with Leigh in not really liking Slynt at the Wall. On the other hand, Mormant seems skilled in making use of what comes to him.
Tomas Gerst
14. IamnotSpam
Hmm Varys in Songs cooler then Verin in Wheel of Time? The same kind of catalyst to those around them? I think Varys has a ways to go but he sure seems on the right track.
Wolf Bro Joe
15. Wolf Bro Joe
Re: Asunawa of idealism. We already have the gold cloaks, Leigh -- why did you have to bring the whitecloaks in, too? #WOT
Leigh Butler
16. leighdb
@ 1, 2, and 3:

Whoops! Thanks, guys. Error corrected.
alex
17. jerec84
Love this Tyrion chapter. Slynt's whole arrogant act starts slipping when he realises how serious Tyrion is.
Rmb
18. The SmilingKnight
Only Lsana @12 is correct so far on the issue of true worth of Sansa and Arya.

Everyone else including our shrewd observant miss Leigh makes the mistake of seeing only the superficiality.

Not only do they seriously limit what Robb can do on battlefield but they represent the very real way in which you may take control of the North, say in case when all male heirs would be dispatched.
Give Catelyn a bit more credit then seeing her as a woman behaving only "emotionally" will you?

And the same thing happens with Jaime. It would be terrible to see him unleashed onto seven Kingdoms? Really?
As opposed to Mountain that Rides or Tywin Lannister?
And he isnt that worthy either as warrior or especially as a leader - which was quite sufficiently proven very recently in Whispering Woods.

And why? Because he seems as a badass or even evil?
Hah and double hah.
I mean, really, you throw one kid through the window and suddenly your evil. hmpf.
Its not as if even pushed him so hard. And he could have taken Bran, turned him upside down and thrown him on his head.
Lets be honest here.
Im pretty sure most of us had done it just for a good laugh or two anyway :)


But let us just forget that he saved the lives of his sister and her children by doing it. And while many probably think it wouldnt have been so bad to see Cersei and Joffreys (although at that point we didnt know what he was inside) heads smashed by a certain royal warhammer im not so sure everyone would enjoy seeing that done to Tonmen and Myrcella.

And i wont even mention his second "evil misdeed" cause im not sure have we gotten there yet really.

Varys should watch his back against who? Cersei?
:lolcopter:
Rmb
19. Another error
Fourth paragraph of the Tyrion chapter summary, opening sentence also has a night watch for city watch.

Was kind of surprised that some see these parts of ACoK as slow (Leigh's only about 1/8 of the way into it), but then it's been a long time since it was new to me :)
Stuart Hobbs
21. rocketshobbs
You can apply the Tyrion and Varys riddle/conversation to Robb's situation.

Because of The North's anger at Ned's mistreatment and death, Robb can be a King. For now. Were he to release or ransom the Kingslayer, it seems as though Karstark would move his swords. If Robb seems weak or overly wary, he could lose the Umbers. He keeps the North in a tenuous hold.

@7 This is exactly why I've never been fond of her. She is always caught up in emotions and makes poor decisions because of it. She is brave and headstrong, two traits which haven't been paying off so well lately.

@18 True, the daughters are very strong political incentives. That whole Arya joining the Night's Watch thing must really be trying Cersei crazy(er)
Jacqueline Carleton
22. DorneSand
At this point of the story while the value of Jaime as a badass battle commander does seem to be overrated the best place for him to be from a Stark point of view is in their chains,

It's way too early in the game for Robb to give away his best card and treating with Stannis or Renly is a much better bet. Tywin would need a much sweeter deal than just the return of his son for him to ignore and forgive Robbs rebellion

I think it is pretty clear though that Catelyn is coming from a very emotional place and Robb seems to be dealing with the death of Ned and his sisters captivity much better than she is

Is it worth giving up Jaime for his sisters from a strategic point of view - absolutely not and Catelyn isn't letting herself see it through her grief

Agree that the beginning of Robbs kingship isnt off to the best start despite the battle win

And I know I shouldn't be but am still shocked when I read about Cersei killing Roberts kids, how many do we know about? - her own abortion, the twins at Casterly Rock and now the baby, anymore?
Rob Munnelly
23. RobMRobM
One thing that is missed here is that Karstark is in the wrong here. He wisely or not offered both of his sons to be in Robb's personal bodyguard. Both gave their lives in battle to protect Robb from Lannister forces - that was their job. The fact that Jamie killed both should be irrelevant. They would have been just as dead if Jamie and one of his lietenants broke for Robb and a Karstark kid died from each one. It was battle - Jamie did his job, the Karstark kids did their jobs, end of story. If the Karstark view held, there would never be any ransoms of noble leaders, as any nobles they killed would seek revenge. Karstark should have been sent away on another mission away from Jaime and the Lannister cousins ASAP, where he could have time to grieve without being reminded of revenge every day. Leadership fail on Robb's part.

Rob
Rob Munnelly
24. RobMRobM
@22 - Ned refers to Robert's first one, a baby girl in the Vale, when he was living there as a teenager. Query whether the girl became Mya Stone, who took Cat up to the Eyrie by mule. I don't recall knowing of any others as of this point in the books.
Jacqueline Carleton
25. DorneSand
@24 we also know about the only acknowledged one err... Edric Stone?? the one Robert got on Selyses relative (her niece a high born Florent I think) on Stannis' wedding night

Sorry meant how many of Roberts offspring has Cersei killed not how many we know about

Karstark is like Catelyn I think, can't see past his grief, completely understandable of course but like Catelyn just because he is wrong about the hostage situation doesn't mean his advice to Robb about other things isn't worth considering
Or maybe your right it is such a personally felt disagreement that it colours
Jacqueline Carleton
26. DorneSand
post continued - that it colours all other advice
Rmb
27. My Amyrlin > Your Amyrlin
Besides the two sons killed while protecting Robb, Lord Karstark has another one, Harrion, who stayed with Lord Bolton's part of the Northern forces and got captured by Tywin Lannister in the battle, where Tyrion fought in Ser Gregor's van.
Rmb
28. The SmilingKnight
Jaimes only actuall worth is that he is the only thing that Tywin Lannister truly cares about above anything else.

He has all the fighters and commanders anyone could want, many better than Jaime at commanding troops and planning battles.

As far as Karstark i agree with RobMRobM. He should have been redelegated somewhere else.
Its generally a mistake to expect perfection from anyone in these books because it simply does not happen.

21. rocketshobbs
I dont think Cersei knew nothing about Arya joining the Nights Watch. As far as i can remember she didnt say anything about it even much later on. Basically, nobody knew where she disappeared.

oh, yes, miss Leigh, welcome to "hatred of Catelyn" as envisioned by a part of "fandom".

Looking forward to impressions of a certain talk two characters will have soon.
Rob Munnelly
29. RobMRobM
And now, without further ado, the relevant chapters in the Blog of Ice and Fire. The Catelyn chapter has a particularly nice bit.

____________________________

Robb's a king now and is busy drafting a peace treaty. He makes all these demands but refusing to give up the only thing the Lannisters truly care about -- Jaime. While Robb is reciting terms, the Greatjon is apparently stuck in the last chapter of Game of Thrones because he can't stop yelling "THE KING IN THE NORTH!!" repeatedly. Anyway, much of Robb's badass northern army doesn't like this peacemaking. They'd lose it completely if they knew that Cat wants to take it a step further and trade Jaime for her two daughters. Come on Cat, you're a northern woman, and Jaime's family executed your husband. Robb should wait until it's dark and "accidentally" release Grey Wind into Jaime's cell. The next morning he can tell Cat it was an accident while secretly fist-bumping Lord Karstark.

Robb's clearly annoyed at Cat's nagging, so she leaves him to visit her dying father. She learns from her brother the Blackfish that the Riverlands are a chaotic mess. War, death, brutality, and GREGOR are everywhere. Robb has no options against Tywin, who sits in the Fort Knox of castles, Harrenhal, while another Lannister army grows back at Lion City.

Cat and Brynden think their only hope lies in asking Renly for help, but I have a better solution. "Looking 2 buy dragonReply to: THEKINGOFWINTER@coldmail.comWanted: 1 dragon. must be able to fly.Offering: 1 direwolf, mint condition. not afraid of men.Location: Riverrunit's NOT ok to contact this poster with services or other commercial interests"

Robb should just post that and wait for xXxpRiNcEsSDaNy13XxX to respond. She can afford to trade, because while she has three magical dragons, she has zero magical wolves. However, going by rarity, a dragon is worth more than a direwolf -- exactly 1.33 times more. Plus the shipping for a wolf is probably greater. I can imagine Robb eagerly waiting for delivery then being super disappointed at the tiny dragon. Be more thorough in your product description Robb, you gullible newbie. Naturally, Cat would leave negative feedback. "Bad seller... dragon 2 small 2 carry son."

___________________________

Tyrion chats with former City Watch commander Janos Slynt, who can't tell the difference between Arbor and Dornish wine because he's an uncultured dumbass. Janos was the guy who helped promptly execute Ned after Joffrey's command. He also sent a certain Mr. Deem to brutally kill one of Robert's infant bastards. I don't understand exactly why Tyrion is so pissed at this guy. Maybe Tyrion is just a nice guy who wants to have justice for Eddard and Bob's baby. More likely, Tyrion is just tywining up loose ends, and this guy is one of them. Lord Slynt acts tough for about ten seconds before Tyrion hits him with "I'm Tyrion from House Lannister, bitch!" Poor Janos is immediately deported to the Wall.

Afterwards, Tyrion and Varys talk about that riddle Varys posed earlier about the king, the priest, and the rich man. Something about how power is really a shadow but shadows can kill, whatever. Varys then proceeds to mentally fellate Tyrion with the "often, a very small man can cast a very large shadow" line. If Tyrion was smart, he'd whack Varys right now. Why? Because this guy is worst kind of threat. There are two types of power -- hard and soft. Kings and City Watch Commanders and rich Lords have the hard kind, capable of decreeing and ordering and buying whatever they wish. Tyrion can out hard power just about anyone with the wealth and power of House Lannister at his back. But Varys has no hard power. He's just a fat, dickless man who listens through the walls. However, Varys is the Bill Gates of soft power, and his all knowing information network is a far larger danger to Tyrion as Hand than any army of swords. Of course, Varys succeeds, convincing Tyrion to keep him around because Varys "serves the realm."

____________________
Julian Augustus
31. Alisonwonderland
RobM @11:
As always, the Tyrion chapter is awesome. Beautiful set up and disposal of Slynt.
You and I had a discussion about a year ago in which I nominated aCoK as, for me, the best book in the series, and this is but one example of why I love this book. The way Tyrion identified the evildoers in Kings Landing and went after them one after the other is simply masterful. This is what Ned failed to do, and this book clearly contrasts between a good hand and a bad hand, and the qualities that lead to one or the other.
Rmb
32. The SmilingKnight
@31
This is what Ned failed to do, and this book clearly contrasts between a
good hand and a bad hand, and the qualities that lead to one or the
other.

Oh really? Oh REALLY?
Rmb
33. mbettik
Regarding Leigh's conundrum over realism vs. an idealistic hero to cheer for: I think GRRM provided just that in the form of Ned Stark in the first book. Ned was a nearly pristine hero, and in the harsh world of Westeros, those honorable traits bore him a particular type of bitter fruit. And this may only be my opinion, but I think the character of Ned was a stroke of genius on GRRM's part. Amidst all of the corruption and backstabbing, we had one character with a generally reliable moral compass. Ned made it easier to handle the unrelenting setting for those who might be new to this brand of fantasy. The genius comes from the fact that the reader slowly experiences what this world is really about, no matter what ideals Ned clings to. Ned, and the reader, are methodically beaten down until you understand just how gritty Westeros is going to be and just how poorly an honorable hero might fair in it.
Stuart Hobbs
34. rocketshobbs
@28 That isn't what I meant. "arya joining nw" was meant to be synonymous with "disappearing" and that it would be a burr in Cersei's stocking. She hasn't joined the Night's Watch either, she is being escorted home per Yoren.
Rmb
35. The SmilingKnight
@31
of course we cannot really discuss that theme in full because a lot of it would be heavy spoiler teritory but ill just expand by saying that Eddard got some really good results himself and that must be recognized. Royal bastards plot, who killed John Aryn (well sort of but still) and Cersei adultery to mention just a few. His problem was that he didnt heavy any real allies. Especially Robert who went with him as long as he didnt uncover something that bothers Robert, and then went and basically killed himself.

And he came into it without any knowledge of who is who in Kings Landing, while Tyrion has the advantage of knowing his close family very well and has some knowledge about the rest of the players.
Not to mention direct support of his father.
Dialogue with Slynt was well written, thats true. But does it really take a genious to fool fat corrupted Janos Slynt who is less cunning than a usual Flee Bottom thug?
You think Janos would do any better against Lord Stark if he doubted him or wanted to grill him about something? With those gray eyes (if im not mistaken) and Ice openly out. Hah.

Anyway, we will see how that all develops, wont we?

What i think could be called a genious stroke of Martin is that if you look a bit deeper you come to quite astounding realization that Tyrion and Eddard Stark are more alike then superficials would point out.
At least in the sense of their desire for... what? Justice baby. Justice.
Different methods, sure, sure. But the core is almost the same.

@33
Very much so. Yes.
What i think is quite brilliant is that neither the bad guys, or villains dont do much better either.
Lets take a look at Jaime, for example. All that skill, all that arrogance - and the first serious battle he goes into? Fail.

The mean Lord Tywin? Battles lost. In retreat.

"The rain falls hard on just and unjust alike", in Songs.
Doesnt it? Oh does it not...

:does a happy insane dance:
Rmb
36. The SmilingKnight
My spelling checker doesnt work well here. Sorry about occasional slip up.
And i meant to say that Robert went and basically killed himself.
I see that might not translate as clearly as i thought it does.
Rmb
37. TBGH
http://www.tor.com/blogs/2012/01/the-first-game-of-thrones-season-2-trailer-is-here

Hopefully the mods will let this through since it's an internal tor link. Interestingly the season 2 trailer (link above) features the conversation from Tyrion and Varys in this chapter.

A couple parts there gave me goosebumps.

As for Robb, I think some of you are being too harsh on him. If he holds the river lords back with his army he loses their lands to the Lannisters which is probably where his army is currently getting its food. Not to mention he risks their loyalty as they watch all of their wealth get stripped from them. If he lets them go, they get overwhelmed one at a time. If he goes on the offensive, he's taking on fortified positions without superior numbers and as his supply train gets longer their supply train gets shorter.

Ideally he would meet all of these raiding parties with his army but he's just not mobile enough and doesn't have good enough intelligence. Not to mention if the Lannisters get behind him he's screwed in a big way. Holding the bottleneck while letting his river lords do what they can might just be the least evil of the strategic options he has. It's not his fault they can't manage any coherent defense against a tithe of the enemy's total force.
Jim Crumley
38. crumley
@8
That seems like a spoiler to me.

You are taking forboding text and making it clear that it is going to payoff sometime.
Teresa Nielsen Hayden
39. tnh
SmilingKnight, please be careful about spoilers.
Rmb
40. sofrina
“A shadow on the wall,” Varys murmured, “yet shadows can kill. And ofttimes a very small man can cast a very large shadow.”

What I got from that last sentence was Varys firmly naming Littlefinger as Ned's true killer, and Tyrion recognizing that. But maybe I was wrong.
Rmb
41. The SmilingKnight
@39
Trying to... trying.
Stuart Hobbs
42. rocketshobbs
Isn't there a thread specifically for spoilers and discussion of future events?

http://forum.tor.com/threads/57-SPOILER-thread-for-A-Game-of-Thrones-Read

Oh my goodness!
Rmb
43. Michael20
@40

I am only reading along with Leigh so I dunno if this pays off later, but I assumed the line was supposed to refer to Tyrion.

The whole speech was about how power is where man perceives it to be. Tyrion is clearly not phsyically imposing in any way, but he was beginning to have forces backing him up. I took the line to mean that Tyrion, the very small man, could cast a very large shadow...ie....be as dangerous and powerful as anybody else as long as men perceived him to be powerful.

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