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 1 of A Storm of Swords, in which we cover The Prologue and Chapter 1 (“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, 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!
Before we start, a short procedural note: I saw that people were asking about whether I was planning to include the shorter novellas Martin has written in this universe as well as the main novels in this Read, and if so in what order. I myself have no clue in which order they should be read, of course, so I appealed to The Authorities to tell me what they thought I should do.
And after some discussion, it was decided that I should go ahead and read ASOS now, and then read the first of the novellas (The Hedge Knight, I believe) after that. So barring further developments, that is the plan.
Hence, today we start A Storm of Swords, in which, I gather, Things Happen. So let’s get to it, shall we? Booyah!
Chett, Small Paul and Lark the Sisterman are out hunting bear, but the hounds are starving and refuse to hunt. Lark opines that it doesn’t matter if they come back empty-handed, as Mormont will be dead before daybreak anyway. Small Paul is uncertain that killing the Old Bear is really necessary, but Lark retorts that Mormont will be sure to hunt them down unless he is dead. He’s in favor of killing all the officers, but Chett says that only a select few need to die.
Chett thinks of how the wildlings were coming down the Milkwater in force, some twenty or thirty thousand strong against the Watch’s three hundred (though many of those are women and children, laden with supplies and possessions), and of how Smallwood and Wythers between them were on the verge of convincing Mormont to attack them, and opines to himself that he intends to live, and has thirteen others ready to leave with him that night. He is especially looking forward to killing “Ser Piggy,” as he thinks of Sam Tarly, whom he deeply resents for taking over his old job of tending to Maester Aemon.
The men head back to the Fist, discussing where they’ll go once they’ve escaped the Watch, and Chett entertains a fantasy of killing Craster and taking over his harem. He thinks of how he’d ended up on the Wall, sent there after stabbing a woman to death for refusing to sleep with him. Small Paul, who is not too bright, insists that he should get to keep Mormont’s raven after killing the old man. They arrive back at the Fist, where Dolorous Edd and Grenn are encouraging Sam at archery practice. Chett makes fun of him, but Edd turns his barbs back on him, and Chett storms off.
It’s growing colder as night falls, and Dywen comments at supper that there’s no sign of wildlife in the woods anymore. Then they are called to assemble at the central fire, where Mormont announces that they will ride at dawn to attack the wildlings’ train, to do as much damage as they can. Someone calls that they will die, and Mormont agrees that they might, but says this is the reason they are here. He leads them in reaffirming their oaths, and Chett worries that this might weaken the resolve of some of his fellow mutineers.
He goes to his blankets, waiting for the third watch, but all his plans are dashed when it begins snowing, which makes their getaway impossible not to track. Maddened, he determines to at least kill Sam Tarly, and creeps to where Sam is sleeping. He is about to slit Sam’s throat when Sam is woken by three long calls on the horn, rousing the camp.
Samwell Tarly stood shaking, his face the same color as the snow that swirled down all around them. “Three,” he squeaked to Chett, “that was three, I heard three. They never blow three. Not for hundreds and thousands of years. Three means—”
“—Others.” Chett made a sound that was half a laugh and half a sob, and suddenly his smallclothes were wet, and he could feel the piss running down his leg, see steam rising off the front of his breeches.
Ooh, does this mean we will actually see some frozen zombies on screen? For the first time since the AGOT frickin’ Prologue, apparently, since I am assured the reanimated dudes who tried to kill Mormont and Jon back in the day were not official FDA-approved Frozen Zombies™, but like their cheap knockoff thrift store cousins. Or something. I dunno, it seems to me that if you were dead, and then you weren’t, and you’re icy cold and also trying to kill people, then saying you’re not a real frozen zombie is just nitpicking. But, okay, whatever.
And, well. Chett is a delightful human being, isn’t he? I mean, I’m sure growing up disfigured does not exactly make for happy fun times under any circumstances, but that’s still not getting you a pass on being a murderous asshole, dude. As his neighbors evidently agreed, which I suppose is a tiny bit of justice in a world distinctly lacking that quality most of the time.
Still, murderous bastard or no, I can’t say I’m exactly surprised that some of these guys were like “fuck this Night Watch shit” and planned a mutiny. I’m just more surprised it apparently doesn’t happen more often. If my life was that shitty I’d probably think about it, too.
On the upside for Chett (not that I care about having an upside for him beyond the sheer mental exercise of it), he’s the first POV character of a ASOIAF Prologue thus far who’s actually survived the experience, so that’s… something, I guess. Not that his survival chances beyond this are looking that spectacular. Not that I’m planning to shed a bitter tear over this.
And really, thank God his plans fell through, if for no other reason than that no one is allowed to kill Samwell Tarly, you guys! HANDS OFF THE SAM, I mean it. Otherwise I will get angry, and you wouldn’t like me when I’m angry. There will be flailing and headdesking and book throwing, and it will be VERY UNPLEASANT. Ye be Warned.
His father had spent his life grubbing in other men’s fields and collecting leeches. He’d strip down bare but for a thick leather clout, and go wading in the murky waters. When he climbed out he’d be covered from nipple to ankle.
Leeches, eewwww. You know that scene in Stand By Me? Well, I’ve seen something like that happen in real life, and trust me, I never need to see that shit again. Ever. And actually doing it for a living… *shudder*
“Nothing ever goes missing that they don’t look at me, ever since that time I lost my horse. As if that could be helped. He was white and it was snowing, what did they expect?”
Ahahhaha. Oh, Dolorous Edd. You are the Rodney Dangerfield of the Night Watch. I heart you from a careful distance. Hope you don’t die of frozen zombieness!
Chapter 1: Jaime
Jaime rides in a boat on the Red Fork River with his cousin Ser Cleos and a big “cow-like” wench, fettered with chains but enjoying immensely being in the open air after being in a dungeon for so long. He had been too drunk to remember most of their escape from Riverrun, engineered by Lady Catelyn, which he thinks Tyrion would find hilarious. He taunts the wench, who insists that her name is Brienne, though she refuses to call him anything but “Kingslayer.”
Catelyn had made Jaime swear in the dungeons that if she let him go back to Cersei, he would never again take up arms against the Tullys or Starks, and would compel his brother to return her daughters unharmed. Jaime thinks her a strange woman to trust the oaths of a man “with shit for honor,” especially those given at swordpoint while dead drunk, but thinks that Catelyn is probably putting her faith in Tyrion rather than in himself. He gets Brienne’s family name out of her, but then she tells him she has “no words for monsters.”
“A man who would violate his own sister, murder his king, and fling an innocent child to his death deserves no other name.”
Innocent? The wretched boy was spying on us. All Jaime had wanted was an hour alone with Cersei.
He taunts Brienne some more, comparing her to a milk cow decked out in battle barding. Cleos nervously declares it all lies, and Jaime derides him privately as a lickspittle. He thinks Cersei had been irate with him for the incident with Bran Stark, and wonders if she had sent the assassin later, but thinks that Cersei would have sent Jaime himself if she’d wanted the boy dead. Jaime asks Cleos to shave him bald, so that he will be less recognizable.
They come to a tree where numerous corpses of women have been hung in the trees, and Brienne insists on stopping to cut them down and give them proper burials. Jaime cheerfully points out to her the sign which proves that her own side did this, not the Lannisters, as punishment for sleeping with/serving his father’s soldiers. They discuss who might be responsible, and Jaime is concerned by the news that Roose Bolton has taken Harrenhal, as that means both the Trident and kingsroad will likely be watched. Brienne is uncertain, but insists that he is under her protection.
Their task is interrupted by the appearance of another boat. They hasten back on the river, but the other craft soon overtakes them, and Jaime prepares to go down fighting. The pursuing galley is commanded by Ser Robin Ryger, who trades shouted barbs with Jaime before demanding their surrender. Jaime tells him he was freed by Lady Catelyn, but Ryger replies that Lady Catelyn does not rule in Riverrun. Brienne steers their skiff into a narrow channel between high bluffs, and Jaime observes that she does not seem panicked, only determined. She orders them to take the oars, and jumps overboard to start climbing up one of the bluffs.
Ryger’s galley enters the channel, and Jaime distracts him from noticing Brienne climbing up the escarpment by challenging him to single combat. Ryger is about to order his archers to fire when Brienne reaches the top and succeeds in dislodging a large boulder, sending it crashing down and scuttling the galley. The skiff emerges from the channel, and Jaime thinks himself free of the “homely wench” for a moment, but then sees she has cut across to meet them and dove into the river. Jaime contemplates braining her with his oar, but instead helps her back aboard. He tells she is stupid, and asks if she expects him to thank her.
“I want none of your thanks, Kingslayer. I swore an oath to bring you safe to King’s Landing.”
“And you actually mean to keep it?” Jaime gave her his brightest smile. “Now there’s a wonder.”
Okay, before I even start reading this chapter, I just have to note: goddammit, a Jaime POV. I do not want to get in this guy’s head! I do not want to start sympathizing with him! DO NOT WANT! Curse you, GRRM!
And I tried not to examine the table of contents too closely as I skimmed past it, but even so I couldn’t help but notice that this is far from the only Jaime POV in this book, either.
And now that I’ve read the chapter: What the hell is this shit? Catelyn’s letting Jaime GO? Why in God’s name would she do that? Jaime is Robb’s trump card! She just took away like 80% of her son’s leverage! This is the worst decision ever! I don’t understand!
Seriously, I am beboggled here. Not least by Catelyn’s apparent faith that Tyrion (and more significantly, Cersei) will keep their word to release Arya and Sansa (well, if they had both Arya and Sansa to release, of course) when they’ll already have Jaime back, which seems like a plan just demanding a double-cross if you ask me, but also by the thinking that this little party will actually even make it to King’s Landing with just three people, one of them in chains and one of them a wuss.
Oh, no worries because Jaime swore he’d be good? Whatever. Not to mention that Jaime actually has a point about the questionable validity of oaths given under duress AND under the influence. The whole thing is just Looney Tunes, y’all.
I have to assume Catelyn came to the conclusion that Cersei was never going to release her daughters for anything short of Jaime’s return, and further that Robb was probably never going to let Jaime go, and that this is her version of cutting the Gordian Knot. Which, okay, but see above re: STUPID PLAN. And also, Catelyn, what the hell do you think Robb will do when he finds out you played his trump card behind his back? Cheer? Give you hugs and puppies? Because, I’m going with NO on the hugs/puppies/cheer front on this one.
So, the reader begins to get a handle on Jaime’s character in this chapter—even if the reader is totally against doing that—and one thing that becomes clear is that Jaime seems to pretty much entirely define himself by his ability to fight. But, that he is also smart enough to recognize this, and mock himself for it, which is more than can be said about a lot of guys whose self-worth is measured entirely by their muscles.
And he respects battle prowess in others, clearly, because that is the only possible reason he helped Brienne instead of braining her at the end of the chapter. Because c’mon, we all know that trick with the boulder was pretty badass. Including Jaime, apparently.
That said, he’s certainly not endearing himself to me with his taunts to Brienne about her looks throughout this chapter. Because expecting pretty people not to make fun of an ugly girl is apparently like expecting pigs to fly, or Uwe Boll to win an Academy Award, i.e. screamingly unlikely. Sigh.
Also, this thought on Jaime shaving his head:
I don’t look as much like Cersei this way. She’ll hate that.
Yeeeeaaaaah. No narcissism in this incest! Sheesh.
crupper, crinet, and chamfron
Wow. It’s been a while since I came across three words in a row that I have literally never heard of before. Well, I’ve maybe seen “crupper” before, but the other two, never. And I certainly didn’t know what a crupper actually was before this.
And now I’ve looked them up, and know more about horse armor than I think I ever needed to. And worse, now I will never be able to erase the notion from my brain that cruppers are the equine version of G-strings. This was not an image I needed, people. Gah.
So Jaime doesn’t think Cersei ordered the assassination on Bran, does he? I can’t even remember at this point who I last thought was responsible for it, but I’m pretty sure I thought it was Cersei. But if anyone would be in a position to know what Cersei would and would not be likely to do, I have to admit it would be Jaime, so now I’m confused. Because if it wasn’t Cersei, and it wasn’t Jaime, and it wasn’t Tyrion, then who the hell was it? Who besides the Lannister siblings would care about the secret Bran knew, or be in a position to know about that secret in the first place?
This leads to interesting thoughts about Lord Tywin, and whether he knows that his darling twin offspring have been fucking like bunnies (and producing illegitimate incestuous baby bunnies) since forever. I mean, he has to have at least heard (if not necessarily believed) Stannis’s accusations by now, but I’m wondering whether he knew before. I wouldn’t put it past him to have figured it out; he is a giant dick, but he’s not stupid from what I’ve seen. And if he did know, then he’s certainly cold enough to have ordered a hit on a seven-year-old.
Hmm. I shall keep this thought in the back of my mind, though the whole thing with Littlefinger’s dagger makes it less likely that Tywin was involved, since if I recall correctly (admittedly, there’s a distinct possibility I’m not recalling correctly) the two were nowhere near each other when all this crap originally went down, so the logic here is pretty thin altogether. Tywin’s just the only other person I can think of offhand besides his children who would have the motive to shut Bran up.
Either way, Jaime’s mild and backhanded regrets expressed here about shoving a child out of a window does little or nothing to mollify my thoughts against him—nor Brienne’s either, evidently, for which I give her kudos, though I think in her case it’s more loyalty to Catelyn that inspires her disgust than objections on sheer principle. Well, no, I take that back: Brienne’s reaction to the hanged tavern wenches proves that she’s got more principle than about 95% of the rest of the characters in this series put together—as Jaime’s words at the end of the chapter serve to highlight.
So, okay, but my point is, seriously, defenestrating children = beyond the pale, still.
But for better or worse, Jaime Lannister is out in the world again, and I will evidently have to be in his head a lot in coming weeks. We shall see whether Martin will succeed in making me hate him less. And you know, I’m pretty damn stubborn, but I have a sinking feeling that Martin is stubborner. Or something.
And on that disgruntling note, we out! Happy new book, peoples! Keep it spoiler-free below, and have a lovely weekend, and I’ll see you next Friday!