Fri
Jun 22 2012 2:00pm
A Read of Ice and Fire: A Clash of Kings, Part 24

A Read of the Song of Ice and Fire series 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 24 of A Clash of Kings, in which we cover Chapters 49 (“Tyrion”) and 50 (“Theon”).

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 49: Tyrion

What Happens
Tyrion sends the last of his clansmen off to raid and terrorize Stannis’s forces, feeling uneasy that he now only has Bronn’s sellswords and the City Watch to protect him, neither of whom are especially reliable. Someone throws a rotten fish at him from the crowd as he and his escort head back to the Keep, but Tyrion ignores it. He orders Bronn to have the ersatz slum that’s grown up along the walls burned down, as it would be disastrous in a siege, but he orders that there be no killing or rapine when the inhabitants are evicted.

He thinks of the news that Winterfell had fallen to the Greyjoys, and thinks it is wrong that the place should belong to anyone other than the Starks, even as he tells himself to rejoice in the reprieve it will give him, since Robb will surely have to turn his attention back North before anything else now.

He attends the long and boring ceremony where Joffrey and the new High Septon inducts Ser Balon Swann and Ser Osmund Kettleblack into the Kingsguard to replace the deceased, Preston Greenfield, and Ser Boros Blount, currently imprisoned after his total failure to protect Tommen when waylaid by Ser Jacelyn Bywater. Tyrion approves of Swann, but knows Kettleblack to be inferior, though he supposes he shouldn’t complain considering Kettleblack has been selling him information on Cersei from the beginning. He hopes to catch a glimpse of Shae with Lady Tanda’s daughter, but is unsuccessful. After the ceremony, Tyrion tells the new Septon to spread the news that Stannis plans to burn the Great Sept of Baelor if he takes the city, which might even be true.

He reads a letter from Balon Greyjoy, offering alliance (at a heavy price), and sets it aside for now. He meets with Hallyne the Pyromancer, and is startled and suspicious to learn that the Alchemists’ Guild are far ahead of schedule in their production of wildfire. Nervously, Hallyne tells him that they are working just as hard as they ever were, but now certain of their secret spells seem to be working better than they were.

Hallyne smiled weakly. “You don’t suppose there are any dragons about, do you?”

“Not unless you found one under the Dragonpit. Why?”

“Oh, pardon, I was just remembering something old Wisdom Pollitor told me once, when I was an acolyte. I’d asked him why so many of our spells seemed, well, not as effectual as the scrolls would have us believe, and he said it was because magic had begun to go out of the world the day the last dragon died.”

“Sorry to disappoint you, but I’ve seen no dragons.”

After Hallyne leaves, Bywater reports that Tommen is doing well in Rosby, and plans have been made to take him to a safe place that even Tyrion does not know in the event the city falls. Then Varys comes to report of a new group of conspirators calling themselves “the Antler Men,” which includes the master armorer Salloreon, who believe Stannis will be victorious and are planning to seize the Old Gate to admit the enemy to the city. Tyrion sighs and begins writing out an order for Salloreon’s arrest.

Commentary
Ah, but Tyrion, there are dragons in the world again, aren’t there?

So that is very interesting information, I must say. The amount of magic in the world is commensurate with how many dragons there are bopping around, reallllllly. I am intrigued.

Though I’m guessing this isn’t terribly widespread knowledge, because otherwise I cannot account for how every wizard in the world isn’t trying to kidnap Dany’s dragons for themselves. Even Pyat Pree and Co. didn’t seem to be focusing on (i.e. trying to eat) the dragons, but rather on Dany herself, and so now I don’t know if that was just oversight on their part or lack of information on mine. All things considered, of course, it’s probably the latter.

So does this mean the bigger the dragons get, the better magic will work? ‘Cause that could make things real interesting in the long run…

In other news, maybe I’m just a sucker, but Tyrion’s thoughts in this chapter about Winterfell just reinforce how much I like him. Being able to genuinely mourn the fall of your enemy’s stronghold on, well, I guess you would say aesthestic grounds, even while acknowledging the advantage it gives you, takes a subtlety and intelligence a lot of people don’t have.

I just like that Tyrion recognized that, all political considerations aside, seeing the Starks lose Winterfell is still a tragedy from a historical viewpoint. Or something, I’m not sure I’m expressing this correctly, but hopefully you get what I mean. I like characters (and people) who can value something for reasons aside from how it affects them personally, I guess.

Aside from that, I’m getting a steadily-stronger whiff of fatalism from Tyrion these days. Which I guess is pretty understandable, considering the crap he’s been given to try and make an effective defensive force out of. Still, his father’s aphorism he thinks of here (“one man on a wall is worth ten below it”) is very true from what I know of siege warfare. I’m not saying Tyrion should be cheery about his situation, exactly, but I can’t help feeling there’s maybe less reason to feel totally doomed than he does.

Not to mention, the wildfire alone could be a decisive factor in denying an attempt to take the city. Because I feel pretty safe in saying that any given soldier’s combat effectiveness can be safely assumed to drop more or less to zero once he’s, you know, on fire. Call it a hunch.

Either way, I kind of have to hope that the situation comes to a head soon, if for no other reason that maybe when someone finally wins this thing, the poor city folk can start working on getting the infrastructure back up and running and stop all the very depressing starving to death they’re currently doing, because that shit is just not on anymore.

Not that it ever was on, of course, but you know what I mean. Enough is enough; it’s time for this war to shit or get off the pot. So to speak.

 

Chapter 50: Theon

What Happens
Theon wakes suddenly, and cannot immediately figure out why until he realizes that the direwolves have fallen silent. He sends Urzen and Wex to check on the wolves and the Stark boys, respectively, and soon they return to report that both are gone, and Theon orders that the whole castle be roused and gathered in the courtyard. He is furious that this is how the castle folk repaid his “gentleness,” and thinks it unfair that they blame him for the rapes and murders perpetrated by him and his men (including the septon, Chayle) even when he’d punished his men for going overboard.

At the Hunter’s Gate, they find the two sentries dead, one disemboweled and partially dismembered, and the other clearly killed mid-coitus. Theon curses to himself that he should have had the direwolves killed the day he took the castle, and goes to where the castle folk are gathered. Reek tells him in addition to the Starks and the wolves, “that bog boy and his sister, the halfwit from the stables, and your wildling woman” are also missing, but no horses were taken. Theon is heartened by the knowledge that his quarry are on foot.

He tries to appeal to the castle folk for help, reminding them that he could have had them all killed and/or raped, but he hadn’t, and is angered when they all just stare at him. He conscripts some of the huntsmen anyway, as well as Maester Luwin, to accompany him and his men on the search. To his surprise, the elder Walder Frey volunteers as well, saying he wants a wolfskin cloak.

The party follows the trail north-northwest; as they ride, Luwin urges Theon to have mercy on the escapees, reminding him of the hostage value of not only Bran and Rickon, but of the Reed siblings as well. Theon agrees to spare them if he can, and the halfwit as well, but Osha must die for betraying her oath. They follow the trail to a brook, where Theon realizes that the wolves’ trail they’d been following must have diverged from the humans’, and splits the group up to backtrack the trail thus far and also to search up and down the water.

The search is unsuccessful, and Theon is incredulous and enraged that a woman and and halfwit burdened with a cripple and a small child could elude him so completely. Walder opines that the “frogeaters” have unnatural powers of woodcraft and stealth; Luwin puts in that the crannogmen may have “secret knowledge” from their close association with the children of the forest back in the day, but Theon scoffs and continues the search. They continue to find nothing, however, and finally Theon is about to give up, despairing of what his father and Asha will say, when Reek approaches him and says that he believes the fugitives are holed up in the old mill on the Acorn Water. Theon demands to know why he is so sure, and Reek shows him a wolfshead brooch of silver and jet. Theon then tells all but his own men to return to the castle, as he knows where the fugitives are.

“Prince Theon,” Maester Luwin entreated, “you will remember your promise? Mercy, you said.”

“Mercy was for this morning,” said Theon. It is better to be feared than laughed at. “Before they made me angry.”

Commentary
Er, okay. I don’t get the significance of the brooch. Unless Reek is saying that Osha et al paid him off with it, and that’s how he knows where they went. In which case I have to be utterly boggled that Osha or the Reeds or even Bran could possibly be stupid enough to trust that a guy like Reek would stay bought. Because that would be a great big Hell to the No, kids. Seriously.

*shrug* But, maybe they had no choice in the matter. Maybe Reek caught them on the way out or something, who knows. But in that case I have to be boggled that Osha or the wolves didn’t just kill him, but whatever, I’m going on insufficient info here so I should probably shut up until I find out what really happened.

That aside, go Osha, for totally breaking her oath to Theon! Normally I am not big on people who don’t keep their promises, but when they are made to assholes like Theon I will cheerfully make an exception. I have always held to the philosophy that an oath given under duress (which I would say “swear fealty or get gang-raped” certainly counts as) has all the moral validity of… uh, a thing that has no moral validity. You know what I mean!

Because, really. Someone holds a gun to your head, threatens you or your family, then you swear to anything and everything they want you to – and then you fucking betray their bastard asses the second their backs are turned, sez me. Just as Osha did, which makes her my favorite person at the moment and a girl after my own heart. Though I am a trifle surprised that the escape happened so quick. But then again, why the hell would they want to stick around with Theon the Joyless Wonder? So, yeah.

[Kyra] came to him wet and eager and lithe as a weasel, and there had been a certain undeniable spice to fucking a common tavern wench in Lord Eddard Stark’s own bed.

Uh-huh. You stay classy, Theon. *eyeroll*

Actually I’m eyerolling at Theon anyway, with his “Wah, my former friends all think I suck now!”, because (a) you do suck, so the denizens of Winterfell are basically only guilty of accuracy here, and (b) of COURSE they hate you, Theon, you just overthrew their castle, murdered and raped their friends, and are now about to go hunt down their liege lords like animals! I think the operative word here is DUH, you blithering moron! The fact that you even momentarily entertained any doubts on this score just seals the deal on the sheer epicness of your fail! YOU ARE A GIANT DOUCHE, HELLO, DID YOU NOT GET THE MEMO.

Sheesh.

Also, wow, that Walder kid is a real little shit, isn’t he. Not that this comes as a shock or anything.

But, Bran and Co. have escaped! Huzzah! Now he’s off to see the wizard the elves the children of the forest! And hopefully not taking any mill-related detours on the way!


Well, we’ll see, won’t we? And until then, I solemnly bestow upon you a weekend! Use it well, my chickies, and I will see you again next week!

35 comments
Tricia Irish
1. Tektonica
Yee gads, Leigh, you are so funny! I just love your turn of phrase.
*chuckles* Thanks!
MegaZeroX
2. MegaZeroX
I actually felt SOME empathy towards Theon. Not much, mind you. I mean, he is a tool, for sure, but not Joffery, at least. At least, Theon didn't deserve to have everyone who ever cared for him to hate his guts and wish him eternal damnation.
MegaZeroX
3. joyceman
"Joyless wonder" is a very apt turn of phrase to apply to Theon. Especially considering the military version of that phrase.
Steven Halter
4. stevenhalter
The thing that came into my mind about dragons and magic here is that dragons are like Adam's "Infinite Improbability Drive." It is improbable that dragons exist and can fly and breathe fire and such. Once they do (and maybe more as they do) other things that are also improbable like shadow assassins become easier. Some sort of magical relativity.

I didn't really get the brooch reveal significance either. If it is a clue, I don't like Theon heading off in the right direction.
Totally with Leigh on Theon being clueless about others and that Osha rocked in this case.
Rob Munnelly
5. RobMRobM
Wow, I never picked up on that the ironborn guard was killed while "getting busy" - Osha really is a bad, bad girl, isn't she? LOL.
MegaZeroX
6. Gnewell
I always felt that Reek is a sneaky, trickys bad man who palmed before they left Winterfell just in case.....
MegaZeroX
7. Gnewell
palmed the brooch that is
Vincent Lane
8. Aegnor
I too had no idea what the significance of the broach was, when I was at this point. I knew it was Bran or Rickon's, but that is about it. Honestly I don't think anyone reading this for the first time is intended to get the significance or it would have been spelled out more in Theon's inner thoughts.
Pat .
9. dolphineus
So, could this be considered "A Song of Ice and Fire?"
George RR Martin, Write Like the Wind!
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j7lp3RhzfgI&feature=player_embedded

No spoilers at all, but LOL worthy.

Courtesy of the mighty geeks at Geek & Sundry.

Oh yeah, the Read. Another nice job Leigh!
@salter ... nice analogy. I like it.

Other than that, can't add much here that isn't spoilers.
MegaZeroX
10. DRickard
"...shit or get off the pot"BWAH HA HA HA!
Is this a bit of precog forshadowing on Leigh's part, or has she been sneaking peeks at the later books?
MegaZeroX
11. Insomnia333
Even knowing what happens next, I never did understand the importance of the brooch, how Reek had it, or how Theon picked up Reeks meaning so fast.

It goes without saying that I very well could have missed the explanation, but at this point I don't remember reading anything about it.
MegaZeroX
12. pwl
At least, Theon didn't deserve to have everyone who ever cared for him to hate his guts and wish him eternal damnation.
Uh, he led ironmen into the keep, knowing full well that rape and pillage is their thing. He's just lucky it was the blacksmith willing to stand up to him, and not an archer that was willing to die to put an arrow through his chest.

He deserved more than he got. And I say that as a general fan of the character (at least, how he's written).
Aaron Miller
13. altarego
Because of the craftmanship and the wolf visage, the only thing that the brooch signifies is implied ownership by one of the Starks. That's all.

When I first read through that passage, it was Theon's actions more than his words that confused me. From his comment, I simply assumed that growing up with the Starks, he'd know about various hide-and-go-seek games or hunting trails they may have frequented.
Vincent Lane
14. Aegnor
I don't really want to talk about what my speculations were, as it could be a spoiler by process of elimination. But it really was perfectly done. I'll wait until...some undetermined time later, to discuss it.
MegaZeroX
15. JohnnyMac
dolphineus @9, thank you for the youtube link! That was both very funny and right on the mark. I just hope GRRM is listening.
Peter Stone
16. Peter1742
The wolfshead brooch of silver and jet has been mentioned before in the text. I don't believe who owned it is much of a spoiler, but I'm whiting it out just in case. It belonged to Bran.
Steven Halter
17. stevenhalter
Re the video:
It's a fairly closely held secret (that I reveal to you here at great risk) that the person most people think of as George R.R, Martin is actually a body double hired to protect him after repeated attempts on his life by a splinter group of Hashishin.
You can tell the real GRRM by his artificial leg carved from the tomb of Ramesses II. He travels the world in a Dutch tramp steamer with a foul mouthed albino parrot and a hold full of enslaved young writers one of whom imparted this story after escaping and crawling through the high desert. I can't tell you which one (thanks I.T.!) but he now has his own secret fortress laboratory.
So, the hold of enslaved writers help speed things up but the parrot really slows them down as he is a cruel critic.

:-)
Lindy Brown
18. lbrown
I was also confused by the brooch and the sack that Reek was carrying. I was thinking how in the world would Reek know anything about where they are.

I did like seeing Theon bested, though, in this chapter.
Rob Munnelly
19. RobMRobM
I enjoy this Tyrion chapter. He does a Tyrion thing- sending his personal army into the Kingswood to harass Stannis' forces, even while noting he has deprived himself of his best personal protectors - a true sacrifice for the realm. He then does another Tyrion thing - mourn the Stark's loss of Winterfell. He then does a third Tyrion thing-using the Septon to spread propaganda to rile up the city folk to help out with the defense of Stannis. Well played all around.

Also, interesting to see the failures of the Kingsguard as an institution. It used to be service for life. Then they booted Ser Barristan, allegedly for age, and now are booting Ser Boras, who failed to give up his life protecting Tommen when Tyrion's men found him as Cersei tried to sneak Tommen out of the City. Pretty funny when you think about it - Ser Boros is the evident the fall guy for Cersei being outsmarted by her brother.
Rob Munnelly
20. RobMRobM
re the Theon chapter, not much to say but well crafted work. Hope events render the brooch more illuminating in a later chapter.
MegaZeroX
21. David B
Disappointing that I've got a great joke to that link that was posted, but it would be a spoiler. Grumble.

Leigh - if you watch the video, totally avoid the comments. Spoilers are within.
Julian Augustus
22. Alisonwonderland
Theon is worse than Joffrey, in my opinion. Joffrey is a common little psychopath who feels his position allows him to do whatever he wants to other people. That is real low on the scale of evilness. But to bring vicious pirates to rape and murder the people you virtually grew up with, and to expect the survivors to be grateful you haven't (yet) raped and/or murdered them too? That is about as low as it gets.

This book is by far my favourite of the five so far for three main reasons: one is Arya's awesomeness; tied is Tyrion's deviousness; and closely behind is Theon's travails. Obviously, as a child Theon never heard the phrase "don't bite off more than you can chew", and I find it absolutely hilarious being in Theon's head as he tries to cope with events in his attempt to swallow Winterfell.
Stefan Mitev
23. Bergmaniac
To be fair to Theon, compared to the ways of most of Westeros, he's treating those living in Winterfell decently.
Imagine if Tywin Lannister or one of his "mad dogs" were in his place - they'd torture everyone to learn where Bran and Rickon were. Or they would simply would've killed everyone immediately after taking over the castle except the two Stark kids and then would've burnt everything and leave.

He's still of course deluded to think people won't hate him because he's less horrible than others would've been in his position, but I can see where he's coming from.
MegaZeroX
24. faiz Imam
Re: Dragons as magic catalysts.

In my opinion their power is limited to fire magic. Both instances where we are shown their effect has been fire related.

Suffice to say, Bran and Jojen's green magic is not affected by fire,

and I think other kinds of magic we get a glimpse of is different as well. I'm thinking of the faceless men, prophetic hobbit lady and the Others obviously. Though now that I think about it, nothing else comes to mind.
Lindy Brown
25. lbrown
I don't feel sorry for Ser Boros at all. He was one of the knights that took so much joy from beating Sansa, a 12 year old girl.
MegaZeroX
26. papertiger41
Leigh, based on your impressions of the series so far, how do you think it compares to the Wheel of Time? I know they are vastly distinct epics with different agenda by each of their authors, but having developed an ear for GRRM's storytelling and decisions as a narrator, how do you feel about the worlds each man has built?

Incidentally, I also dare you to step up and opine as to which is better. No qualifications.
Deana Whitney
27. Braid_Tug
Totally missed the brooch in my reading, but that's been a few years.

@ 9. dolphineus - Thank you for the link! That was great! So many perfect lines! From the "GRRM is not our ..." to the "HBO show!"

@ 26. papertiger41 - It's not fair to ask Leigh that now. She had not read enough of GRRM for a fair comparison. And I don't think she could remember her impression of just up to book 2 of WOT for a fair comparison.

But maybe you could find someone who hasn't read either and ask them to both stop at book 2? Since WOT is much more "PG 13" to ASOFAI's "R" rating, I think the response would be based on what that reader prefers.

Edit: spelling
Rob Munnelly
28. RobMRobM
ASOIF v WOT - truly, apples and oranges. Hemingway v. Balzac.
Lindy Brown
29. lbrown
I think everyone should wait until the WOT and ASOIF are completey done and then compare.

A few months ago, I had just started GOT and I was talking books to a co-worker of mine and she asked me if I had ever read ASOIF and I said I had just started the first book. And she said she thought it was the best fantasy series ever written. And I thought, well, you haven't read Wheel of Time, have you? I'm a big WOT fan. Anyway, being 2 books into ASOIF, I can see why she said what she said but I will hold out judgment until both are completed.
Lindy Brown
30. lbrown
@ 27. Braid_Tug
But maybe you could find someone who hasn't read either and ask them to both stop at book 2? Since WOT is much more "PG 13" to ASOFAI's "R" rating, I think the response would be based on what that reader prefers.
So true. If it was ten years ago, I probably wouldn't be reading ASOIF at all. ASOIF is more like X-rated at times.
Rob Munnelly
31. RobMRobM
OK, I'm a deep fan of both series. As I noted above, they are very different. WoT is deep, detailed and subtle in its storytelling. It also doesn't rise above PG in its approach to sex and violence. ASOIF is much more to the point, grittier and R-rated. I like both of them very much and I decline to choose.

It would be even harder for Leigh because WoT starts with three quirky works (the Tolkein-esque EOTW and the near-Travelogue TGH and the excellent TDR - The Dragon Reborn - which, brilliantly, focuses on all the other main characters apart from the title character). The core of the series and strongest books are the 4-6 works. Quality varies more after that (8-10 aren't great but 11 is awesome; and Brandon Sanderson-written 12 and 13 are strong but very different from unadulterated Jordan). Leigh likely would not want to judge WoT from the first two books, as they would not give an accurate picture of the whole.

Leigh faces a similar problem here. Yes, she no doubt can form an opinion of AGOT, which is focused and tight and I personally like it very much. However, Leigh probably hasn't read enough of ACOK to characterize it and certainly has no idea how either book relates to what comes later. So, I don't see how it's fair to ask her to compare them at this stage, even if I would be interested (fascinated) to hear any answer.

Rob
MegaZeroX
32. Black Dread
I also thought it interesting that live Dragons somehow change amount of magic in the world. Pretty vague over what kind of magic they increase – just fire? Do they have anything to do with the dark stuff that seems to be stirring in the North or the wargish abilities of all the Stark kids? And what is the relationship with Melisandre and the powers she gets from R’hllor? They are both fire related, but otherwise have not had any connection in the book. I wonder if Melisandre sees Daenerys and her dragons when whe looks in the flames.
MegaZeroX
33. mmaak
You don't know yet just how funny you're posts are. I really enjoy reading the posts, and hope someday when you finish the series, that you can look back and read your comments with as much enjoyment (and hilarity) as we are now.
MegaZeroX
34. phuzz
I always thought of the dragons as symptoms of the increase of magic in the world, not the cause, (I think that the comet/'red star' is the cause, based on nothing but coincidence). Kinda like big scaly canaries in the mine, they can only survive when the magical conditions are right.
Mind you, that begs the question, what would have happened with Dany and the fire and the dragon eggs if there wasn't any magic around? Would her Targerean fire-proof skin have even worked?
Leigh Butler
35. leighdb
papertiger @ 26:

As of right now I feel it would be totally unfair for me to try to make that comparison. I think I should at least get to the end of the second book before I even attempt such a thing, and more realistically I ought to wait until I've finished most of the ASOIAF books currently available. However, I will say it is definitely a topic I am keeping in mind.

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