Thu
May 30 2013 1:00pm
A Read of Ice and Fire: A Storm of Swords, Part 30

A Read of Ice and Fire A Storm of Swords Part 30Welcome 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 30 of A Storm of Swords, in which we cover Chapter 51 (“Catelyn”) and Chapter 52 (“Arya”).

Previous entries are located in the Index. The only spoilers in the post itself will be for the actual chapters covered and for the chapters previous to them. As for the comments, please note that the Powers That Be have provided you a lovely spoiler thread here on Tor.com. Any spoileriffic discussion should go there, where I won’t see it. Non-spoiler comments go below, in the comments to the post itself.

And now, the post!

Before we begin, scheduling note: as you may have noticed, it’s Thursday, not Friday, and yet there is a post. This is because, as I mentioned in the last post, the Read is moving its regular posting day to Thursdays until further notice. Mark your calendars, yah? Yah.

Also, as a warning, those readers who disapprove of profanity may want to give this post a miss. I am not even fucking kidding.

 

Chapter 51: Catelyn

What Happens
The packed hall is stifling and the poor feast unappetizing to Catelyn. She watches Edmure fawn over his new bride Roslin, and notes that Roslin is stiff with what Catelyn assumes is nervousness over the impending wedding night. Most everyone is already drunk, but she is glad to see Robb’s guards are not. She is seated next to Roose Bolton, who had earlier made a veiled threat to Walder Frey regarding his grandsons still in Roose’s bastard’s custody. Catelyn wonders if there was ever a more joyless wedding, and then remembers that Sansa had to marry Tyrion Lannister.

She recalls how Lord Walder had refused to allow Grey Wind within the walls of the keep, and how furious that had made Robb, but he had accepted it just as he had all of Walder’s insults. Robb comes over to Catelyn and Ser Ryman Frey and asks after Olyvar, as he had hoped to have him as a squire, but Ryman says Olyvar is “gone” from the castle. Catelyn asks in turn about his cousin Alesander, but Ryman says he is also away before staggering off. Robb goes off to dance with Dacey Mormont, and Catelyn remembers how loyal Olyvar was to her son.

Walder soon silences the crowd and proposes that Edmure and Roslin get on with consummating the marriage, to loud cheers. Robb approves, and a chorus of ribald jokes accompany the couple as the men take Roslin and the women Edmure; Catelyn sees that Roslin is terrified and crying, and hopes Edmure is gentle with her. She does not join in, in no mood to be merry, and sees that neither Robb nor Lord Walder have left with the party as well. Dacey Mormont whispers something to Edwyn Frey, and he jerks away from her violently, declaring he is done with dancing, before storming toward the doors. Something about the exchange makes Catelyn uneasy, and she follows Edwyn. She catches up to him and realizes he is wearing mail under his tunic, and slaps him.

He shoves her aside, and then Robb is shot twice with arrows, in his side and leg. He falls, and Catelyn sees that the musicians in the gallery have crossbows. She runs for Robb and gets shot in the back, and falls as well. Smalljon Umber throws a trestle table over Robb to shield him, while Robin Flint and Ser Wendel Manderly and more of Robb’s men are swiftly murdered. Ser Ryman Frey reenters the hall with a dozen armed men; Catelyn screams for mercy, but no one hears her. Ryman kills Dacey, then northmen enter. Catelyn thinks it a rescue at first, but they attack and kill the Smalljon. Lord Walder watches it all eagerly from his throne.

Catelyn drags herself to a fallen dagger, vowing to kill Lord Walder herself, but then Robb flings the table off himself, pierced through with three arrows. Catelyn hears Grey Wind howling.

Heh,” Lord Walder cackled at Robb, “the King in the North arises. Seems we killed some of your men, Your Grace. Oh, but I’ll make you an apology, that will mend them all again, heh.”

Catelyn grabs the fool Jinglebell and holds the knife to his throat. She shouts to Lord Walder that he has repaid betrayal with betrayal, and let it be enough. She pleads for the life of her last living son. She offers herself and Edmure as hostages against Robb’s vengeance if Walder will only let Robb go. Robb protests, but she tells him to go for Jeyne’s sake. She tells Walder that she will trade Walder’s son’s life (Jinglebell) for her son’s. Walder answers that Jinglebell was never much use.

A man in dark armor and a pale pink cloak spotted with blood stepped up to Robb. “Jaime Lannister sends his regards.” He thrust his longsword through her son’s heart, and twisted.

Catelyn slits Jinglebell’s throat. She feels as if she is being torn apart.

It hurts so much, she thought. Our children, Ned, all our sweet babes. Rickon, Bran, Arya, Sansa, Robb… Robb… please, Ned, please, make it stop, make it stop hurting… the white tears and the red ones ran together until her face was torn and tattered, the face that Ned had loved. Catelyn Stark raised her hands and watched the blood run down her long fingers, over her wrists, beneath the sleeves of her gown. Slow red worms crawled along her arms and under her clothes. It tickles. That made her laugh until she screamed. “Mad,” someone said, “she’s lost her wits,” and someone else said, “Make an end,” and a hand grabbed her scalp just as she’d done with Jinglebell, and she thought, No, don’t, don’t cut my hair, Ned loves my hair. Then the steel was at her throat, and its bite was red and cold.

Commentary
Fucking hell.

Fucking HELL.

FUCKING HELL, WHAT THE FUCKING FUCK WAS THAT FUCKING SHIT??

Fuck.

Fuck!

I’m sorry, we are experiencing rage blackout difficulties. Please come back later when my urge to find George R.R. Martin and slap him with a wet fish has died to a dull roar.

Fuck. I need a drink.

*walks away*

Okay, I have a drink now. I’m all better.

No, fuck that shit, I am NOT all better. Jesus H. Christ. Y’all, my heart is actually hurting me right now and my fingers are kind of shaking, and I’m maybe a little too much invested in this and that is really bad because this is obviously the LAST story one should get invested with the characters in it because they ALL FUCKING DIE and WHAT THE FUCKING HELL.

Because, okay, I knew Walder was going to pull something and I kind of worried that it was going to be an assassination attempt but even though I really REALLY ought to know better by now I still convinced myself it was just going to be something humiliating re: Roslin and not a fucking massacre, because JESUS, WALDER, HOW THE FUCK IS THAT A PROPORTIONAL RESPONSE TO A JILTING, YOU FUCKING WEEPING PUSTULE.

And even if there was an assassination attempt, I convinced myself, surely Robb would survive it. Or even if Robb didn’t survive it, surely Catelyn would survive it, because that is what she does, she survives, right? Martin can’t kill off Catelyn, right?

AAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHH

I would *headdesk*, but that doesn’t seem like a proportional response either.

Of course, this wasn’t actually about the jilting per se, I don’t think. This was about that gangrenous ass-licking dicknozzle Walder using the jilting as an excuse to throw in with the Lannisters. Not that that makes it any better; it makes it worse, in fact. Although I’m a little puzzled that Pink Cloak Dude (who I feel like I’m supposed to know who that is but I am drawing a total blank) mentioned Jaime Lannister specifically, because isn’t Jaime still blundering around the countryside with Brienne? When would he have made a let’s all be traitors together agreement with Walder Fuckface Frey?

Well, whatever. Ugh, this is all just so sad and ugly and terrible.

Holy shit, Catelyn and Robb are dead. I can’t even fucking believe it. Jesus, when I decided to root for the Starks that was like the worst decision ever.

…Oh my God, and Arya is about to walk in on this shit. There is not enough vodka in the world.

Shit.

*goes to get another drink*

 

Chapter 52: Arya

What Happens
Arya notes that the castle is not closed just as Clegane knocks her off the wagon. A party of armed riders thunders out of the gates, and Arya hears a wolf howl; she feels its rage and grief. The feast tents go up in flames from fire arrows fired into them, and screams cut through the music. Some of the riders come for them, and Clegane jumps astride his horse to meet them. Arya is confused, knowing the Freys for allies, but when one rider comes for her she throws a rock at him, and then Clegane kills her attacker.

Clegane demands his helm, and she gets it from the wagon and throws it to him. He shouts to her that her brother is dead, and gestures to the pitched battle among the feast tents as proof. Clegane says they have to get away, and Arya shouts that she has to get to her mother. Clegane says they will die if they go in. She darts for the gate as the drawbridge is lifting, and Clegane chases her.

Not for her brother now, not even for her mother, but for herself. She ran faster than she had ever run before, her head down and her feet churning up the river, she ran from him as Mycah must have run.

His axe took her in the back of the head.

Commentary
Ow.

Well, I suppose this was the better outcome. I mean, assuming the blow to Arya’s head didn’t kill her, since apparently we are KILLING ALL THE STARKS TODAY, FUCK.

*throws things*

But, I’m pretty sure Arya is alive. Which is the only dubious bright spot in what is otherwise a veritable sea of shitty shit, because aaaaaah we couldn’t even have Catelyn see that one of her children survived before she got her fucking throat slit?

Okay, seriously, I know this is Arya’s chapter but once again it was super-short and cliff-hangery so I need to talk about Catelyn for a minute instead, and how infinitely more angry I am that she is dead as opposed to Robb.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m very upset that Robb is dead, from a philosophical standpoint if nothing else. Because his assassination is just one more example of how this series takes the adage no good deed goes unpunished to frankly psychotic extremes. I mean, what is the lesson here? Try to make amends for your wrongs and get slaughtered like cattle? Really?

Essentially, the moral here seems to be that if Robb had been a dishonorable bastard who Nelson-laughed at Walder Assmonkey Frey’s grievance and not bothered to attempt to make amends, then Robb would be alive and well and winning battles and whatever right now.  As parables go, I’m pretty sure that the moral of this one is, shall we say, problematic.

(Of course, you could also flip that around and say that if Robb hadn’t betrayed his honor by reneging on the marriage contract with the Freys in the first place, it would never have happened. And you would have a point, but still I reiterate to Lord Shitstain Walder, NOT A PROPORTIONAL RESPONSE, FARTKNOCKER.)

So, RIP Robb Stark. Like father, like son, apparently. Seriously, what did honor ever do to George R.R. Martin? Why you gots to be like that, homes?

BUT, my upsetness at Robb’s death is dwarfed by my upsetness at Catelyn’s. Because, what the fuck? I went through two and a half books of her constantly upward-spiraling morass of grief and misery, and she doesn’t get even an IOTA of relief from it before she is brutally murdered? What the hell kind of character arc is that?

And yes, I know Martin’s kind of doing the whole “screw your narrative tropes, I am serving the-fundamental-pointlessness-of-death realness over here, no tea no shade gurrrl,” and I get that, but there’s a point at which your bucking of traditional tropes becomes a trope in and of itself. (Don’t click that.) Maybe I’m just too upset in the heat of the moment to be objective, but I kind of feel like while Ned’s death was amazing in its shocking trope-shattering plot-twistiness, Catelyn’s death just borders on gratuitous angst-mongering.

Not to mention, it just sucks to lose such an awesome character. Catelyn did a lot of things I didn’t agree with, and she infuriated me on more than one occasion, but you certainly could never accuse her of being uninteresting, and in many ways she was awesome. She was herself, flawed and complex and possessed of her own agency, and that’s still a rare enough thing to see in a female character in mainstream fantasy fiction that I resent it when it’s taken from me.

Dammit.


All right, there’s probably more to discuss here but I am upset and pissed-off and desperately needing to go look at happy fluffy calming things for a while, so we’ll stop here. Next time on AROIAF, rainbows and puppies, right? RIGHT?!?! *sigh* Yeah. See you next Thursday.

272 comments
Zorila Desufnoc Eht
1. AlirozTheConfused
Yay! You made it this far, farther than I expected you to go.

This is the point at which about 20-40 per-cent of the readers stop reading the book.

None of us would blame you for doing so.
Kieran B
2. Isengrim
Been waiting for this recap for a while! One of the biggest wtf moments in the series to date - "the "Red Wedding".
Karen Morrell
3. karenm83
I'm sorry it hit you so hard. I remember sitting on my bed for a good 10 minutes and then re-reading that part just to make dure hey acutally died. I think I may have let a few tears slip. Then I was PISSED.
George Jong
4. IndependentGeorge
Deleted - double posted again below.
corejay
5. corejay
Hey Leigh Butler, what have you read?
Hey Leigh Butler, what did you dread?
Hey Leigh Butler, who's your favorite Stark?
Hey Leigh Butler, I know the hour's dark.
Hey Leigh Butler, swordpoint!

It's a nice day to start again.
It's a nice day for a Red Wedding.
It's a nice day to start again...

Oh, by the way... any idea who offed Robb, ultimately? :)
corejay
7. Aerona Greenjoy
The Dothraki would consider this a wedding truly blessed.
David Goldfarb
6. David_Goldfarb
So, Leigh, remember a while ago when you called Tyrion and Sansa's wedding "worst wedding ever"? Now you know why all the people over on the spoiler threads were rolling their eyes and snickering.
Kieran B
8. Isengrim
@1 I doubt its that high!

I certainly put the book down for a few days though.
corejay
9. Mai
From the moment you started this read-through, I've been waiting for you to get to the Red Wedding. The reaction is exactly what I expected.

Now I'm looking forward to how the TV fandom who don't know the books respond when the series gets here. I can already here the screams on Twitter, echoing back from the future.
corejay
10. Andrew38
This is the moment you think to yiyourself
"what is the point of reading this series?"

i have read the rest of series, but the red wedding just puts you on edge in every future chapter.
and I have to assume there will never be a happy (or satisfactory) ending.
Rob Munnelly
11. RobMRobM
GRRM couldn't write these chapters until he finished the rest of ASOS. He put them off until the end. Yikes.

There is a lesson on honor here, somewhere. Robb chose his personal honor (sleeping with Jeyne and then marrying her) over family honor (commitment to a Frey wedding in exchange for troops and support) and paid the ultimate price. Lesson: don't screw up big, important honor decisions.

I also don't necessarily see this as disproportionate. From a Frey standpoint, they stuck their necks out for Robb, in exchange for blood ties with the family (Robb and Arya). Big risk for big reward. They got nothing from either of them, and the reward of a mere Tully didn't justify the growing likelihood that Robb ultimately wouldn't prevail. Thus, they could do better long-term by backstabbing Robb. (You'll have to see how the Frey's are positioned once things settle out.)
David Goldfarb
12. David_Goldfarb
I remember reading this chapter, incidentally, and having this be the point where I was pretty much done with Westerosi nobility, and starting really rooting for Danaerys to come and give us some Targaryen-style fire and blood.
George Jong
13. IndependentGeorge
Look at video, Leigh!

Dog sleeping with kittens!
Baby deer with kitten!
Pit Bull cleans baby bunny!
Sleeping puppy gets bath from kitty!

I literally could not go on after I read Catelyn's chapter - I think I stopped for two whole days when I got to this point. I thought Robb was safe for no other reason than it was barely halfway through the book - if he was going to die, it had to be at the end, like Ned, right? But no.

GRRM can taste your tears.

*I think my previous attempt at posting got flagged as spam due to the links, so I'm cutting it down somewhat. Hopefully this one goes through.
Bryan McMillan
14. bmcmolo
"there’s a point at which your bucking of traditional tropes becomes a trope in and of itself."

I couldn't agree more, and this was the exact moment in the series the very same occurred to me. (I stuck with it through Dance with Dragons, but then, enough was enough. I started to feel like I was enabling GRRM's irrationality.)

That said, I love the show.
William Carter
15. wcarter
Welcome to A Song of Ice and Fire.

Abandon all hope ye who enter here.
corejay
16. Rowboat
Ahh. A lot of people have been waiting for this moment, yes! It's obviously too early to discuss some of the ramifications of it without spoilers, but it's no spoiler that this is one of the big ones. HBO's adaptation is about to hit this same part on Sunday, too, so this has been a nice preview of what half the internet will be like come Monday. ;)

You are indeed supposed to recognize pink cloak dude, but I'll leave his identity out of this comment anyway just in case. It'll become clearer later on.
corejay
17. TBGH
Probably not in the mood for humor right now, but I have to point out the quote you chose in part 27: Clegane talking to Arya.
Keep your mouth shut and do as I tell you, and maybe we’ll even be in time for your uncle’s bloody wedding.
I hope you recover emotionally in time to enjoy watching the entire Internet go ape$%^+ when this episode airs on Sunday.

Nothing heals wounds like seeing them passed along.
Chris Nelly
17. Aeryl
This is the chapter that let me know I was hooked.

After I put the book to breathe a few times.

But I like not getting what I want. And to an extent, I liked how killing Robb completely changes the trajectory of the story. Up until his death, he was the one we were sure was gonna "win" because, he's the strong, upstanding son of the wronged man, OF COURSE he's gonna win. Which is why he had to go.

Now we are left with only the completely improbable as possible "winners"(at least acceptable ones). Dany, a young untested girl who's only power(so far) comes from her dragons. Bran, a crippled boy. Arya, a untested younger girl than Dany with NO dragons. Sansa, trapped in marriage to her enemies. Tyrion, a maligned and misunderstood man with dwarfism. Jon, an illegitimate child with no political power. None of these people are storybook "heroes"(I did the "herpes" typo again, one day I'll leave it). But they are what we got*. And I LOVE it!

I'm not sure(book and show changes confuse me, and I haven't read in a while), but the guy in the pink cloak was a man who was at Harrenhal with Jaime & Brienne. Jaime knew the Boltons were pulling out of Harrenhal to attend the wedding.

*While Jaime is being redeemed, I still put him on the "unacceptable for the throne" list, for throwing a child off a building.
corejay
18. Welcome2theFold
Well, you've made it. What most of us have been waiting for since the beginning.

This destroyed me. Didn't pick the book back up for a few months after, when I could be more objective. My reaction was much the same as yours, although I think I was equally upset about Robb & Cat.

The pink cloak was Roose Bolton, fyi. I don't think that's spoilery since it was there in the text and I think you were delirious by that point.
corejay
19. zambi76
This will teach you to say anything untowards GRRM's street cred ever again, right? ;)

Catelyn's death is very powerful indeed. I can tell how powerful it is because I was totally spoiled for this chapter before reading it, plus I don't give a shit about the Starks (I've always been a baddie's girl in fiction) and it still made me double take, pace around my apartment, re-read it twice to make sure it actually happened. Ugh.

Not falling for the Arya axing, are we? Heh.
(Okay, that was mean).
corejay
20. i can't think of an alias
As hard as it is to take, this is what makes GRRM great. There is no last-ditch escape because if you walk into someone's castle, you are at their mercy. That's reality. The more reality a fantasy has, the better.

It also makes you sit on the edge of your seat for other dangerous situations. No other author does it as well. For all I love WOT, did anyone really think that Rand al'Thor would fail? Or would die during the many threats he faced? If GRRM wrote WOT, I would be afraid, very afraid.
Morgan Anderson
22. white_walker_01
This is the point where I was like I am reading a shakespeare tradgedy then I thought he would have a feild day writing plays in westros I felt bad for arya at this point I actually thought something good was going to happen a happy family reunion well that didn't happen
Vincent Lane
23. Aegnor
Is it a spoiler to say who Robb's killer is?

I'm not really sure why GRRM phrased it like he did, with having Catlyn saying a "A man in dark armor and a pale pink cloak", when she definitely knew exactly who he was. Unless she was completely out of it due to the circumstances. It seems a wierd choice to make the man's identity so ambiguous.

In any case, the pink cloak is a clue if you know house colors of major Stark bannermen. Also, you saw Jamie tell this character to give Robb his regards earlier in this book.

And great job recognizing that Arya is, of course, not dead. So many people think that after this chapter even though it makes absolutely no sense whatsoever.
1) Why the hell would the Hound kill her? He has absolutely no motive whatsoever, and had plenty of opportunity earlier if he di want to for some inexplicable reason.
2) But even if he did want Arya dead, all he would have to do to accomplish that is...nothing. She makes it through the gate and she almost assuredly ends up dead. "Oh let me kill you before you get killed!".

I never even considered that a cliffhanger when I read it and I really don't think it was even meant to be.
corejay
24. ebev91
LOL, I've been waiting for this to be posted for quite a while.

When I read the Catelyn chapter, it was late at night, and I was speechless. I had to skim over the last few pages again to make sure I didn't just fall asleep and dreamt whatever happened. So I decided to stop reading for the night, and someone over the internet told me to read the next chapter, so I said "ok". Then read it. The Arya chapter. If I knew that person IRL, I probably would've kicked him in the groin.
corejay
25. BPR
...and this is where I stopped giving a shit about what was going to happen in this series...
Chris Nelly
26. Aeryl
@23, That's why I don't believe the final killer is the person everyone says it is, because of that fact that Cat OBVIOUSLY knows that person.

As far as Arya, I think he just like doing that with Arya. He did it before when Yoren cut her hair, ended the chapter in a way left it ambiguous.
Steven Halter
27. stevenhalter
Chapter 51 - Catelyn:Back to Catelyn right away (she was last two chapters ago. By the way, I am about to read Chapter 51 but haven't started yet other than seeing that the title is Catelyn. With all of the build up of tension among the readers out there (I picture vast expanses of people jumping up and down eagerly awaiting these next chapters) it is obvious something is about to happen and so I'm going to pay close attention here. From chapter 50, it seems that Edmure's wedding feast has started, so unless we go back in time, I will guess that we will join Catelyn mid-feast. I don't recall from Tyrion and Sansa's wedding if the actual wedding happens at the start or the end of the feast. At the end, they are taken to their honeymoon suite. But, I guess we'll see where the marriage happens pretty soon. Drums, loud and pounding and not very well played. Cat seems to be getting a headache. The food doesn't sound that great but maybe it is Walder's favorite stuff. OK, Cat is thinking of Edmure and Roslin as currently married, so the ceremony? must happen before the feast and we are beyond it. Ha--Walda in her pink lace and ape of vair. As I recall from earlier in the read, vair is squirrel-skin. So, there's a picture. Robb is supposed to go off and battle the Iron men tomorrow. As I recall Bolton will be in charge of the rear guard. It doesn't seem like everyone should be getting drunk today if there is a battle tomorrow, but is the battle tomorrow or are they just leaving? I would think it would be the just leaving with a bunch of hangover's. Robb is being very polite as Lord Walder was fairly insulting on keeping Grey Wind out of the feast hall. Since dogs and drunken North men are allowed, it doesn't seem unreasonable to allow a wolf inside. It does seem like a little point where Martin is doing a small ratchet of tension. I'll note that Cat also called out guards and swords being along the wall. The call out of Bolton's potential threat against Walder's grandson's is also interesting. Walder seems to care about the lives of his decedents in more of a point of honor fashion than the actual people. Now Walder has called for the "bedding" to begin. Roslin seems pretty terrified and it does seem to be a pretty raucous affair. The band has changed the tune. Catelyn has caught something amiss and when she catches Edwyn Frey's arm, she feels iron rings--armor in other words. This feels foreboding--is treachery planned? I guess it is as a quarrel sprouts from Robb's side. A quarrel also seems to have hit Catelyn in the back. Everyone's leaving and the bad musicians is explained. Well, everybody there is dead. (At least I think even Catelyn is dead also). I hadn't expected that. Dead they kill Edmure also? If so, both regicide and killing your immediate liege lord. And people protected by your sworn bread/salt protection oath. That seems pretty low. Robb should have paid attention to grey wind. I am not really surprised that Robb was killed as his POV has been neglected. I am (very) surprised at Catelyn. I also thought that Robb would have been killed in the upcoming battle with Bolton's betrayal coming there. So, good fake out there, George. This clearly changes a lot of things. Oooh, and Jon was made heir, but the other brothers are actually alive. Too many implications and I think I am a bit in shock at all of that.
Julian Niquille
28. Gesar
Robb's death is as essential to the trope discussion as Ned's death was. Ned was for the honor trope and Robb is for the love trope. I never quite understood why so many people could see why Ned had to die, and so few can see why Robb has to (or think it's just because we need to be kept on our toes and be always worried for the characters. That's a consequence, not a cause...)
corejay
29. TG12
A lot of people have really been looking forward to the patented LB touch on this chapter, myself definitely included! It did not disappoint.

(Pause to reflect on the unseemly ghoulishness of so many anticipating another's shock and dismay. {pause} Moving on...)

Opinions differ, obviously, on whether GRRM is just "keepin' it real," or whether he's gone pathologically overboard on the grimdark side. I personally come down on the keepin' it real side, but mileages, they will vary.

I think this shocking incident is faithful to a fairly solid narrative logic, and as such, shows that its creator is willing to not flinch from the hard choices, including killing off some sympathetic, well-realized characters. It certainly has repercussions down the line...
corejay
30. BPR
And THANK GOD GRRM didn't write WOT. Can you imagine? Perrin would've been killed by the Whitecloaks in the Shadow Rising after letting them take shelter in Emond's Field during the trolloc seige; Mat would have never gotten rid of the dagger and become Fain-lite; Elayne would've been gang-raped by Hanlon and his mercenaries; Egwene would've stayed damane in book 2 and become brainwashed when she returned and capture Nyneave; Lan would've broke his neck falling off his horse on accident; and Rand would've turned to the dark side and ruled the world ruthlessly before being stabbed in the back by Demandred. Fuck.
corejay
31. Cass3
Leigh, you have the information to know who the guy in the pink cloak is and why he said what he said about Jaime. I'd recommend skimming back to Jaime's chapters if you want to know.

@11

Yes and no. For the setting, it's not vastly out of proportion; it is easy to forget that the Freys started this thing neutral and in a position of power and threw in with arguably the weaker side in a big gamble to have a grandchild be a king. To be repaid with Edmure Tully is not remotely amends, and if they'd stopped with killing Robb and the other lords, that might be one thing, through a Westerosi lens.

However, the other side of the coin is that no matter how many or few people were killed and how, guest right is *huge* in Westeros and is a crime against not just men but gods. By breaking guest right (even with a "mayhaps"), Frey has contravened basically the most fundamental moral rule that anyone in Westeros can agree on.
corejay
32. lampwick
Like @17, I thought Robb was going to end up with everything, be king and make peace throughout the realm. And the thing was, I didn't really like Robb all that much, didn't think he made a very good redeeming hero, but I put that down to bad writing, to Martin's inability to create a character like that.

And then Martin just Faked Me Out. He wasn't going for that overused trope after all, he was doing something much more interesting and complex, something I'd never seen any writer do anywhere. Yes, the chapter was painful, but I was hooked after this point.
lake sidey
33. lakesidey
Whoa, someone's sure seeing red today. I still remember reading this, a dozen or so years ago. At around 2 in the morning. In a flat with 3 roommates, all fast asleep.

I envy you for being in a position to curse out loud, Leigh. Sometimes you just have to curse out loud.

~lakesidey
Lisamarie LiGreci-Newton
34. Lisamarie
Not discounting the grief for the other characters, but I always felt bad for how Jinglebell's life was just totally thrown away and nobody really seems to care. Not that Westeros is likely very progressive in their attitudes towards the mentally ill! But that was a bit of a moral event horizon for me, regarding Catelyn.
Nathan Martin
35. lerris
Just looking for clarification here...
But what was Walder Frey's middle name again?
Beth Meacham
36. bam
Robb's marriage to Jayne wasn't just a "jilting". It broke a treaty. The promised marriage was just the seal on the treaty, a blood alliance to go with the political one. Robb spurned the Freys, spat on the alliance, and insulted Walder Frey's honor. Robb should have listened to his wolf. And his mother.
TW Grace
37. TWGrace
The Red Wedding didnt bother me when I read it the first time. But the whole Robb storyline had never hooked me.

I remember thinking that GRRM was cutting off one of the story lines of the book and it meant progress towards a conclusion...

Back then I was, as Old Nan would put it, a "sweet summer child" who didnt know winter.
Rob Munnelly
38. RobMRobM
By the way, nice perceptiveness last week in being concerned that some Freys close to the Starks weren't around. As you can see from absence of Olyvar and others, that seemed to be part of a deliberate strategy.
Scott Silver
39. hihosilver28
Regarding @18: I think we should let this one stand. There is more than enough past information in the text to make this pretty blatant.
corejay
39. ebev91
Can't wait to see this shit on TV this Sunday.
Bridget McGovern
40. BMcGovern
Welcome2TheFold @18: This keeps getting flagged, and I don't have my copy handy--it seems like kind of a grey area, so I've just whited out the name in question.

I was on a train when I read this chapter, and I distinctly remember looking around at all the happy, peaceful commuters while I quietly freaked out all the way to Philadelphia. I feel like maybe certain chapters just weren't meant to be experienced in public :)
Colleen Palmer
41. arianrose
I'm with BPR@25. This was where I think the contract between author and reader was damaged. After this, I untangled myself emotionally from the story.

I still read the books, though I've thought often enough about stopping. I'm the kind of person that has to finish books/series once I start them, which can be kind of a pain, sometimes. But even though I read, I refuse to care. And I think that damages my enjoyment of the books. After this point, I'm reading for information, not necessarily for entertainment.

I actually had a similar problem with the Honorverse. "Shock" me with death often enough, and I'll start to see characters as simply players on a field - not worth the emotional investment.
corejay
42. Carsten
A line from this season of the TV show comes to mind: "If you think this has a happy ending, you haven't been paying attention."
Chris Nelly
43. Aeryl
Some more VERY interesting things will make sense, as you become aware that Bolton and Frey have been planning this for some time.
Vincent Lane
44. Aegnor
Gesar@28,

Robb's death was also the deconstruction of the boy-king trope. History has shown that boy-king's are nearly universally terrible kings, and yet fantasy always shows them as being awesome. Robb was a great battle tactician, but he made critical mistakes because he is just a boy of 15.
George Jong
45. IndependentGeorge
there’s a point at which your bucking of traditional tropes becomes a trope in and of itself. (Don’t click that.)
Tsk. The next time you do that, you should embed another link.
corejay
46. Cass3
@41 arianrose

I think that's part of the point, honestly, and this goes with what Leigh wrote in the post about senselessness and "gratiutous angst-mongering". It is senseless, but I don't think it's gratiutous at all; Robb has been fighting a *war*. Tywin and Stannis and Balon too, and Renly meant to. War is often senseless, and it often has no mercy on people who had nothing to do with the violence, who weren't even really in the line of fire until someone else decided they should be. Catelyn's a mother of a soldier, the wife of a soldier. She's lost her husband and her children to war and politics, and by all rights she's suffered enough. But she dies anyway, just like countless other mothers in this war who first lost their husbands and their children to war and politics.

It's senseless, yes. And when people see that enough, they start to see people, real people, not just characters, as "players on a field". They dissociate. They refuse to care. And people seeing other people that way makes the carnage all the worse, in the end. That this is the gut reaction of so many readers speaks to something very dark and very true about human beings, and I think it's something worth reading and learning about. Investing in characters after scenes like this is one is difficult--now imagine how difficult it is when the people are real.
Gary Singer
47. AhoyMatey
I have a bad habit of swearing, unfortunately. But that was bloody impressive! I expected no less at this point though. Well done Leigh! :)

One thing I found very interesting is that Martin (and Cat) go to great lengths throughout the books talking about guest right - having salt and bread protects you as a guest. Frey heavily violated this (and then some!), so I think there's major shit coming down on he and his in the future.
Church Tucker
48. Church
I don't post much, because I know how easy it is to inadvertently spoil things. I just want to note how eagerly I've been waiting for this and how cruel it was to take last week off.
corejay
49. BPR
That's right, arianrose@41. I think the ability to invest in the characters was irrevocably snapped at this point. For me, at least. People can hive five GRRM on the supposed "keepin' real" trope, but when you lose the ability to care what happens to the characters you've lost what makes a story compelling and engrossing. Eagerly anticipating "who's going to die next in the anti-hero trope thing" just is not the same as following the story because you care about the characters.
Chris Nelly
50. Aeryl
I don't accept that there is any "contract" between authors and readers. Authors write for the own gratification, NOT for your enjoyment, and readers forget that at their peril.

I could only accept that. if the story was damaged by this act. And as I point out above, if anything, the story has been enhanced by this act, not damaged.

Is it painful? Yes. Does it hurt? Yes.

That means the story is working.

Has the author essentially closed off all the "easy" paths to telling this story? Yes.

That means a better story.
corejay
51. BPR
And we all saw what happened when George Lucas wrote the Star Wars prequels for his own gratification, now, didn't we?
Deana Whitney
52. Braid_Tug
Wow! We exploded today. This post might hit 100!
Sorry for the pain Leigh!

Now, aren’t you glad you were delayed? At one point you were on track to hit this chapter right around JordanCon. The Spoiler thread was abuzz.

I was spoiled before I ever picked the books up, but when this chapter hit, the shear graphic nature of the event was shocking. Had such a brief moment of hope with Robb exploded from under the table.

Totally agree with everything you said about the Freys.
Rob Munnelly
53. RobMRobM
Just wanted to point out that there is no proof that Edmure died during the wedding. Frey seems to position himself to have his cake and eat it too (kill off Robb but have his grandkid be in line to rule the Riverlands).

I also felt bad for Darcey Mormont, one of my favorite minor characters. So sad.
Steven Halter
54. stevenhalter
Chapter 52 - Arya:Man, if Martin kills off Arya here I'm going to have a major problem. He can't be going to do that. That would suck. OK, deep breath and start. Riders pouring out, the Hound saw and is getting his sword. Grey wind is howling.
Oh, wow, they are burning the oiled feast tents. This sucks, but the
treachery is quite well planned. Get out of there Arya and Hound! Three of them. Arya hits with her rock and yes, the hound comes through.
"His axe took her in the back of the head. " Damn. I think that is a feint though and the Hound just tapped her. I hope. I refuse to believe arya is dead also. Otherwise, a large portion of these books just got tossed.
No, Arya must be alive and the Hound just saved her from running into the castle where she certainly would have been killed. Wow, this is a hard (rough, sucky, ...) place to stop. If Arya ... nope not going there.
Chris Nelly
55. Aeryl
You are free to like a dislike a story all you want(I love the prequels, flawed as they are, so that argument doesn't work with me, FYI).

But I despair for your work, if you are writing it for anything other than yourself.

For me, individually, this does not make me disengage with the characters less, or feel less invested in them. That would be like saying, because my cat died, I stopped loving my other cats.

The risk that I could lose a character I love, like Arya or Dany, drives me to cherish every page I get with them, because it's fleeting, just like life.
Vincent Lane
56. Aegnor
Aeryl@43,

That is the thing that is so shocking upon reread. There are so many freaking clues that you are just shocked you didn't pick up on it. I mean Bolton orders Glover to take Duskendale way back in Book 2 when Arya was his cup-bearer. Then later on we find out Glover was defeated and Tyrion considers it a huge inexplicable blunder by Robb. And Robb finds out and is like "Why the hell did he go to Duskendale?!". Because Roose told him Robb ordered him to.

And the whole thing with Jamie? Letting him go, and telling Jamie to let his father know he had nothing to do with Jamie losing his hand? Roose leading the forces across the river, and them all getting slaughtered except the Karstarks (who hate Robb) and the Boltans?

Then there's the House of the Undying and Dany's vision of a feast where everyone is dead and at the head of the table is a man with a wolf's head and an iron crown?

Over and over it has been set up. That is what makes it fantastic writing. It isn't that some plot twist comes out of absolutely nowhere. It is meticulously set up in plain sight and yet remains a complete shock.
corejay
57. BPR
The "contract", such as it is, is that readers will continue to buy and read the series, which they still are. He obviously didn't lose many readers, since the TV show was started well after book three and the two books since then were still good sellers. Anyway, I did somehow manage to finish book three but never bothered with four and five. Though that might have more to do with him not having finished the series yet. Putting up with that scenario with WoT was enough for me. Nevertheless, the Red Wedding broke the emotional connection I had with the series, which definitely diminished my desire to follow the rest of the story.

Is there a trope for when keeping it real goes wrong? Judge for yourself: http://www.comedycentral.com/video-clips/t0brk3/chappelle-s-show-when-keeping-it-real-goes-wrong---vernon-franklin
Steven Halter
58. stevenhalter
And now I've skimmed through the comments and Leigh's post. I'm with Leigh in that it wasn't proportional. Especially given that they had guest rights.
Of course, as Leigh said, this wasn't really about the betrothal but about greed. Lord Walder is hoping to get big bucks with no whammy out of this.
Hopefully all of the Frey's will get dealt with eventually, although Walder is most liely just going to die of old age.
corejay
59. cisko
I always think of this scene when I imagine people reading this chapter.

GRRM is, among other things, bringing home the point that breaking a betrothal like this isn't just jilting a suitor; it's breaking a treaty and betraying a vassal. If Robb has already captured King's Landing (or maybe if Robb just holds the North) then Frey might swallow his pride and accept the apology, because it would still be advantageous to do so. But Robb's losing the fight, and Frey stands to gain a lot and to protect his people and lands by throwing in with the Lannisters. It's even easier when it comes at the cost of punishing a family that had disrespected the Frey family (costing it prestige and influence) and abrogated the duties of a lord to a vassal.

Betraying the Starks to the Lannisters is an act of political realism.
Killing them brutally is a horrid act of revenge - but its one that has foundations in real damage that Robb has done to house Frey.
Melanie DeJulis
60. Shonagon
Like everyone else, was eagerly awaiting this day... Take a breather, Leigh, and don't expect time to heal this wound. The Red Wedding hits me hard every time it's referenced.

However, it didn't make me disengage with the characters. Rather, it made me sit up and pay attention to my emotional investment. We are so used to following the usual subtle/not-so-subtle cues that tell us which characters to cheer for in stories; this just makes you realize there's more going on here than the surface currents. And yes, it makes the story real. IMO, the only truly disappointing stories are the ones in which the ending is clearly visible from chapter one. Why keep reading?
Chris Nelly
61. Aeryl
That clip kinda makes my point, IMO.

The whole point of that sketch, is to point out that The "Real" World is anything but, by selecting the craziest white people with the sanest POC to create dramatic tension, Chappelle flips it by making it just as unreal, but does so by playing into racist tropes about black people.

Martin is writing in a genre, where characters miraculously survive things they shouldn't. He's about making it more real, by playing with the tropes of fantasy. I see Chappelle and Martin making a similiar point.
corejay
62. Aerona Greenjoy
@34: Agreed. @30: YES.

@29: Yeah, I've thought about that too. Emotional torment as a spectator sport...mmm...pass the locusts.
Julian Niquille
63. Gesar
I agree with Aeryl.

Even though your emotional investment in Catelyn and Robb is obviously very real, I feel it isn't supported by the writing. Robb wasn't in the story for you to get attached to him, he was there to prove a point, much the same as Ned: "here are fantasy-hero type of characters, watch how hard they fail at Warcraft III: Reign of Chaos". Now the point is made and Robb is dead. We feel bad, but that's because we're on team Robb. If you stop for a minute and consider what Robb has done, he's been dooming himself for a while now, and all of it was very intentional.

Hell, even the characters know that Robb is gonna bite it, as proven by how much they fight for Sansa. If they could figure it out, why couldn't we? Well because we're still reading fantasy instead of reading Asoiaf.

So I don't think GRRM broke the contract in killing Robb. I just think you didn't read the terms of the contract carefully enough.
corejay
64. Aerona Greenjoy
The Red Wedding shocked and upset me less than some other (past and future) events, but the last paragrah is sooooo horribly memorable. I once dreamed that someone was reading the scene aloud and I was trying to run away before they got to that part.

@56: Yeah. Everyone and his fool foretold this, but of course neither we nor the other characters knew what the omens meant.
Colleen Palmer
65. arianrose
Aeryl@50 I think it's absolutely awesome that this enhanced your reading experience. (And try as I might, I couldn't find a way to make that not sound sarcastic, even though I mean it sincerely.)

For me, no, it didn't. It damaged my enjoyment of a series. That doesn't often happen with grimdark, but it is frequent enough by now that I shy away. (As I recall, I hadn't really read anything else that dreary before ASOIAF.)

And I completely agree with you that authors write the story THEY want to tell, not a story catered to who wants to read it (a losing proposition, that). But I meant the term "contract," not as a binding one, but along the same lines as suspension of disbelief. The author implicitly asks for my trust as they lead me along the journey they've written. I implicitly give them that trust, commiting to invest myself in the journey too.

When that trust is taken advantage of, when the author continues to use melodramatic and deliberately shocking deaths to try to twist you around, and the Nelson-laugh at you when you stumble wide-eyed behind, then I remove my trust from the work. It's important to note that I'm NOT saying this is what GRRM set out to do, or why he wrote. Yes, there are perfectly plausible reasons, in the story, for all events to have played out as they did. But that's not what my reaction was.

And my reaction is certainly not the only one that possible, or the only valid one. You were delighted, which means that GRRM is one of "your" writers. He gets you, and you get him, and you have the same expectations as to what a story sets out to do. GRRM is not "my" author, though I have learned to like his books. And that's okay, too. Not everyone has to be my writer. I was simply pointing out that this particular moment in time is when it really crystallized for me that that was the case.

This would go on to color my reading of the later books. In ADWD, I recall quite a few sections (that I will not discuss) that seemed to attempt to be shocking, or quite tragic. I shrugged my shoulders and moved on, having lost my trust that the characters were worth the time to invest in.

ETA: Gesar@63 "
o I don't think GRRM broke the contract in killing Robb. I just think
you didn't read the terms of the contract carefully enough."

That is an elegantly succint way of putting what I just wasted so many words on above. I completely agree with you. Allow me to revise my statement:

This was the point that I realized that I had mistaken this series for something it was not, and that led me to emotionally divorce myself from any of the characters in it, retaining an interest only in plot gratification and language artistry.
corejay
66. littlebit_liz
I read this book in under 24 hours, literally, I stayed up all night, and the only time that I stopped at all was after the Red Wedding. I had to put it down for about 10 minutes and just pace around my room like a crazy person, and try to my screams internal and not actually scream out loud (because it was like, 2 in the morning and everyone else in the house was asleep).

I was super upset. By that time, Robb was one of my top 5 favorite characters, and because I read the book so fast, I really didn't see his death coming at all. I remember thinking it was not good that his direwolf was acting all hinky, but I read it too fast to really be suspicious.

And then, yeah. Catelyn's death was super upsetting. She wasn't a favorite character, but I'd always liked her more than a lot of fans do. I really felt for her, the way she was losing children left and right (or felt she was). So when Robb was killed and she went nuts and then they killed her...gah. It was awful.
Emmet O'Brien
67. EmmetAOBrien
Count me in as one of the people who just Does Not Get how bad things happening to characters you are invested in as a reader can damage your ability to care about them or connect to them. For me if anything it's the reverse; surety that nothing terrible can ever happen to a central character, or not without some sort of greater good gained by it (noble sacrifices and so on) breaks my ability to believe in cause and effect in the setting I am reading about, and that destroys the possibility of real connection.

Also, as well as all the other set-up noted, a moment to salute how clever Martin was being in setting up the Lord of the Crossing game way back when, so that Walder Frey slipping a "mayhaps" past his guests a couple of chapters ago could be so effective a warning. I was a bit surprised Leigh didn't get that one, actually.
corejay
68. martinezt
This is where I had to take a break from the story. I think I didn't go back for more than a year. I did go back, though, because I had to find out what happened to Arya, Bran, and Jon. Also, after this, I was like one other poster above, where I couldn't care less who won this war and wanted Dany to come over with her dragons and burn down all of Westeros and start over!
Stefan Mitev
69. Bergmaniac
We are such vultures, all of us have been waiting for this moment just to see Leigh's outrage... ;)

I wouldn't say Martin is going overboard with the death of main characters given the story he is writing. There are still plenty of unlikely escapes from death and characters with thick plot armor in the good old fantasy traditions, just less than in most other series.

Catelyn's death hits hard, and that's what makes the scene so good and powerful IMO. If she wasn't so well-written and masterfully developed, it wouldn't be nearly as moving. Though on a meta level losing the most interesting character certainly hurt the series in the long run IMO.

Too bad Martin had to spoil the effect of all the tragedy a bit by including yet another forced cliffhanger at the end of the next chapter. I bet about 99% of the first time readers immediately skipped ahead and searched to see if Arya really is dead, I certainly did so. Leigh must stay firm though and can't cheat this way, that would be tough...
Marcus W
70. toryx
I'm with those who loved the series all the more after the Red Wedding occurred. What happened is terrible and brutal and cruel, which is pretty much the way things went back in the day (and still happens now). Too much fantasy paints the Middle Ages and Renaissance in pretty colors. GRRM tells it as it was/ is.

I'm also far more invested in the characters when I know that there are no guarantees for their safety just because they're important to the plot. If they're in real danger I worry more for them and feel greater elation when they triumph. Like others have suggested, I never doubted that Rand would succeed in WoT and I rarely ever worried about any of the main characters. Subsequently, I wasn't as emotionally vested in that story as I am in this one.

Choosing Catelyn as the POV for the scene was brilliant and I thought it was a beautifully written chapter. I was definitely stopped in my tracks when I read those final words but there was never any doubt that I would read on. I'm pretty sure that this was the point when I realized that A Sword of Storms was my favorite fantasy novel of all time.

And in my opinion, the book only gets better from here.
Chris Nelly
71. Aeryl
@65, Fair enough. Everyone's interpretations are valid, of course.

It's very similiar to how people said "Enough!!!" after season 6 of Buffy. Or season 8. I, personally, find a lot of value in those stories, but not everyone does.

There is a point I've reached, where I don't trust any of the purported deaths in the story now, because I feel he's gone to this well too many times. But I don't feel the story has less value. I care MORE now for how this is going to turn out for everyone I care about, and how they will move on from the tragic events.
George Jong
72. IndependentGeorge
For all the curses and hand-wringing, the only differences between Walder Frey and Hoster Tully are that (1) Hoster got a better price, and (2) he was paid up front.

In one of the previous Arya chapters, we saw what Hoster did to bannermen who put their oath to the crown above their oath to their liege lord.
Marie Veek
73. SlackerSpice
And yet another one of the Ghost of High Heart's prophecies has come true: "I dreamt such a clangor I thought my head might burst, drums and horns and pipes and screams, but the saddest sound was the little bells."
corejay
74. Quintas11
I read this chapter 4 months ago and haven't picked up the book since. I was almost thinking of starting again, but I can't decide what the payoff would be? There is a reason I read fantasy, because its not realistic. If I wanted realism in my fantasy I would just read a history book. I can't get on board with what GRRM is doing. I'm taking my ball and going home!
Thomas Jeffries
75. thomstel
I'll confess as well: I threw this book down when it was done and quit the series. One day (maybe...depends on GRRM actually finishing it and my willingness to give it another go) when it's complete, I may swing back and read the whole thing.

Reading it piecemeal over years? Having my enjoyment dashed again and again? Three books was plenty, thanks.
Chris Nelly
76. Aeryl
@67, I must say, that one slipped past me as well.

Bloody hell! I'm in the middle of CoK again, I'm gonna have to go back and read about that again, just so I'll keep it in my mind when I get back to this.
Vincent Lane
77. Aegnor
@67,

I have to admit I don't have a clue what you are talking about with the mayhaps or why it is significant.
Chris Nelly
78. Aeryl
The Walder boys played that Lord of Crossing game in the Winterfell Godswood! In front of Bran, cuz he was all bummed. And "mayhaps" is one of the answers you give, and something happens, but I forget what!!!!!
Melanie DeJulis
79. Shonagon
@67 and @76 I totally missed that too! I will have to re-read again too. It seems this pops up in some other scenes as well.
corejay
80. BPR
@70: Actually I was more than half-expecting the final WoT book to go all "George RR Martin" on the major/upper minor characters left and right. That Rand would succeed did feel somewhat certain, but whether he lived or died (like anyone else) was an open question. To me, at least. I was genuinely surprised that only one major character bought it in the end. And they never explicitly determined whether Aviendha's future vision of the Aiel being destroyed in the long run was bound to come true or not, so the sado-masochists out there can console themselves that it did indeed happen ;)
corejay
81. westernstorm
I had to stop myself from looking ahead to see if there was another Arya chapter
Vincent Lane
82. Aegnor
Ahh...wow. Yeah I totally missed that.
corejay
83. Cirion
I actually think that Catelyns death is the perfect ending for the arc of her character. Right from the moment Bran fell from that tower, everything went downhill and grief and sadness more and more overwhelmed her. It would have been lame and a stupid cliche to give her a happy ending after all. In the same manner, the young and handsome king avenging his father and beating the evil guys, because of course he is smarter and stronger, would have been utterly boring.

I also think that there is no such thing of an anti-honor-moral resulting out of the Red Wedding. Robb and Catelyn were both betrayed more than once (Greyjoys, Karstarks, Freys....), but they have also made ENORMOUS mistakes (breaking the marriage alliance, setting Jamie free, taking Tyrion captive (omg) and take him to Lysa, executing lord Karstark, sending Theon himself to the iron islands, letting winterfell in the hands of an unexperienced boy and old men, not telling edmure the plan to lure tywins forces in a trap, pissing off both Renly and Stannis with this absolutely stupid KING IN THE NORTH-thing (!), not make contact to the Tyrells for a possible alliance (!!) as Robb himself admits, trusting the Boltons, and finally trusting the Freys and entering the twins while ignoring Grey Winds warnings.

Robb was a good tactician, but a desastrous king and diplomat. His defeat happened not because of too much honor, but because of a too high amount of incompetence
corejay
84. BPR
I'm assuming the hub-bub over this "mayhaps" business is that Walder Frey can claim a Clintonesque "I never said I'd give him guest right; I only said MAYBE!"...?
Chris Nelly
85. Aeryl
@84, I can't remember, but I think, in the game Big and Lil Walder played, if you said Mayhaps, the person that said mayhaps beats you with a stick(starts a fight). So Walder saying it isn't an attempt to get out the guest right, just a smug little Frey in-joke about what was to come. He'd surely watched all his spawn play that game.
David W
86. DavidW
Yes, this is where I quit reading a few years ago. It took a few months to recover and to continue on. And, now I might quit reading this re-read. Sometimes, I absolutely hate A Song of Ice and Fire.

Edit: I want to agree with some of the posters that I never did feel the same emotional attachment to any of the characters. I just feel dead inside when I think about them.
Philip Thomann
87. normalphil
These chapters are still moving on a reread. I agree with the sentiment that having the attribute "anyone can die", which is interesting, is worth risking giving the impression of "everyone dies", which isn't so much.
Vincent Lane
88. Aegnor
@84,

I went back and re-read the Bran chapter where they play Lord of the Crossing. It is kind of like the inverse of the Simon Says childs game. It's essentially that because Walder didn't say Simon Says it doesn't count.

The game is played where there is a Lord of the Crossing standing on a log placed over a creek with a stick in their hands. Someone comes up to them and requests crossing. The lord of the crossing makes the person wanting to cross tell their story, swear oaths and tell truths. The person crossing can't knock off the lord of the crossing (or they are out of the game) because they swore the oaths, UNLESS they managed to say "mayhaps" while swearing the oaths without the lord of the crossing noticing. Then they can knock the lord of the crossing off and become the new lord of the crossing.
corejay
89. SKM
@73, also don't forget:

"I dreamt a wolf howling in the rain, but no one heard his grief."

And Patchface predicted it as well:

"Fool's blood, king's blood, blood on the maiden's thigh, but chains for the guests and chains for the bridegroom, aye aye aye."

GRRM all but shoved a flashing neon sign advertising the Red Wedding in his readers' faces...and it was STILL shocking. That's masterful writing, right there.
corejay
90. GarrettC
Honestly, at this point in the story I though GRRM killed off Catelyn because he just couldn't figure out anything else to do with her. Her story had been spinning in place for more than a full book at that point. She was really just "follow Robb around and worry about my kids and think about how young Robb is while following him around and sometimes offer advice and show the audience what Robb is doing."

So, honestly, it felt right to me. It was time to either get the character going somewhere, or get the character out of the picture so somebody else could get somewhere. I suppose that sounds harsh, but I guess I spent so much time wanting **more** out of Catelyn's chapters because she should have been such a good character that I was happier with her dying than with her continuing to spin in place.
Kimani Rogers
92. KiManiak
I had to pop in for Leigh's reaction to this. Needless to say, she did not disappoint!
Irene Hipo
93. zambi76
Next time on AROIAF, rainbows and puppies, right? RIGHT?!?! *sigh*
Well, we already had "rainbows" in ACOK and look how that turned out. (RIP Renly)

We also have had a great amount of puppies since almost from the start. Well, only four puppies now. So *sigh* indeed.
Brian Carlson
94. images8dream
Contracts can either be verbal or implicit, so:

1. An actual promise from the author to the fans? I guess these should be kept, but Martin rarely makes any of these.
2. A tacit agreement that because you have become invested in the series, then it must continue in a way that suits you, being just surprising enough not to be boring, but not too differrent in order to remain exciting? This is just plain ridiculous. Writers cannot please all of there audience members. What seems realistic and meaningful to one person can seem far fetched or egrerious to another. Martin didn't breach the contract here, as evidenced by all the people in this very thread who love the red wedding despite the pain it causes.

I really don't understand people who seem to feel taken advantage of emotionally/intellectually/etc. because the story went a place they didn't like. That means you stop reading it, and you have negative feelings, but that is life. You meet people for friendship or romance, you take a chance on them, and things don't work out. Unless Martin is intentionally hurting his fans (which I very much doubt given his interviews; he cares about his story and his fans), then don't blame him when you two are not compatible.
Scott Silver
95. hihosilver28
@93-zambi76
HAHAHAHA! You sir/madam win the internet for today. *bows and doffs hat*
Chris Nelly
96. Aeryl
Deleting comment, because I read too much into another comment, forgetting context.
corejay
97. GarrettC
And I would amend my comment @90 that perhaps the order wasn't specifically "GRRM couldn't figure out what to do with Catelyn, so he killed her" so much as "GRRM knew he was going to kill Catelyn, so he found himself unable to make her story go anywhere."

In either case, the effect for me, the reader, was the same.
corejay
99. Darth_Katie
HBO-version Brynden the Blackfish said it best: "I've seen wet shits I liked more than Walder Frey."
Adam S.
100. MDNY
Ahhh...The Rains of Castomere, lovely song.
Yep, this reaction of yours is actually milder than many of us were expecting. Refraining from heading the desk? Bravo, Leigh. Granted, you only did so because you would have to go through several hundred desks to do this scene justice, but even so, impressive. And only a couple drinks! The first time I read this I decided 2 things: I'm never getting married, and I needed at least 5 drinks STAT.
But I chiefly want to welcome you to reading ASOIAF. You have now offically begun the journey of this tragedy. The first 2.5 books were just the fuzzy prelude when it seemed like the Starks were the protagonists and there was happiness SOMEWHERE around the corner for SOMEONE. Now you know better.
Robb was obviously dead from the start. He never even had his own chapter in the whole series. But Cat's death is shocking. SHOCKING! One of the chief protagonists, one of the most complex and compelling characters, and poof! She's desparate, then she's insane, then she's dead.
Oh, and Arya took an axe to the head, which doesn't fool anyone after everything else that's gone down in this series. Sandor just saved her life with that move. Thank god she didn't make it to the castle.
WHOO my first hunny ever!
Bridget McGovern
104. BMcGovern
Comments deleted for the sake of general clarity, given all the confusion. Any other questions, take it up in the spoiler thread!

@Aeryl: Thanks for looking out! It's hard to keep up with you guys today :)
corejay
105. GarrettC
And the thing I was referring to @101 has been whited out now, so it's no problem. I don't mind these two comments of mine being deleted, as they're just taking up space now after the edits.
Scott Silver
106. hihosilver28
Thanks, Bridget. :-) Excellent job wrangling these cats.

I do think an extra look at #18 is warranted. I think it's pretty clear from the text, and therefore not a spoiler, but I don't have my book in front of me either.
David Scotton
107. Kaxon
@BPR #30 - that sounds like an AWESOME series. I like the Wheel of Time but that version sounds ten times better.
corejay
108. BPR
Yeah, I figured there'd be ppl who'd get off on that GRRM'd version of WoT, lol
Drew Holton
109. Dholton
While we have all been waiting since the beginning for your reaction to this, the Red Wedding, Leigh, it is not schadenfreude. We merely wish to welcome you to the community of our own pain.
corejay
110. Zeynep
Because his assassination is just one more example of how this series takes the adage no good deed goes unpunished to frankly psychotic extremes.

Ding ding ding ding!

Essentially, the moral here seems to be that if Robb had been a dishonorable bastard who Nelson-laughed at Walder Assmonkey Frey’s grievance and not bothered to attempt to make amends, then Robb would be alive and well and winning battles and whatever right now. As parables go, I’m pretty sure that the moral of this one is, shall we say, problematic.

Ding ding ding ding ding!

And yes, I know Martin’s kind of doing the whole “screw your narrative tropes, I am serving the-fundamental-pointlessness-of-death realness over here, no tea no shade gurrrl,” and I get that, but there’s a point at which your bucking of traditional tropes becomes a trope in and of itself... Maybe I’m just too upset in the heat of the moment to be objective, but I kind of feel like while Ned’s death was amazing in its shocking trope-shattering plot-twistiness, Catelyn’s death just borders on gratuitous angst-mongering.

Ding ding ding ding DING ding ding ding ding!

I'm dinging all those alarm bells because you've beautifully phrased things that I have felt but haven't been able to articulate nearly as well. There's a point ASoIaF became... wearying, for me, and it was the Red Wedding, in retrospect. (Not the kind of wearying that made me stop reading, though, and still isn't.) Just...

OK, let me try it this way. We all know about the eight deadliest words in the English language, at least from the PoV of a writer: "I don't care about these characters any more." The reader wants to get engaged with characters. The reader wants to care. If the reader stops caring, the reader is likely to stop reading.

And although it is not necessary to a successful story structure (or even necessary for the readers to keep caring about the characters), stories tend to be rewarding for readers willing to engage. Hence "the reader wants to care." And writers put in all sorts of things to make that engagement rewarding. Satisfying story arcs and moments of catharsis are two big examples, in my (heh) book.

With ASoIaF... it's hard, because GRRM does not easily reward the reader for being engaged. As you've now found out, he can outright punish us. ASoIaF is demanding the readers to find their own rewards, and they are findable, but not easily and directly in the narrative.

(In other aspects it's easier---easiest example, worldbuilding. But that's another kettle of fish altogether.)
corejay
111. DRBlaise
As many have noted, the "Red Wedding" is THE turning point of ASOIAF. For me, it was the climax and fall ... from here on out it is just GRRM trying to shock the reader more and failing. I read the rest of the books but have not really been able to enjoy them. I just can not find a character that I like anymore or that I can relate to. I just don't like where GRRM takes the story and I don't think he does either ...
corejay
112. Lsana
One correction: Robb's death had nothing to do with honor. If Robb hadn't decided to "make ammends" with the Frey's, he'd be trapped below the neck while the Greyjoys looted the North and the Lannister/Tyrell alliance slowly closed in on him. He didn't try to restore his alliance with the Freys because he felt guilty about betraying them and wanted to do the honorable thing by arranging another marriage, he did so because he needed the Frey alliance if he was to have any chance of victory. Robb died here, but his cause was lost as soon as he married Jeyne; since the start of the book, the Kingdom in the North has been a Dead Dream Walking.
corejay
113. BPR
I'll admit, on a dispassionate level I can appreciate what GRRM is setting out to do with his trope-upsetting plot twists. But for me it comes with a price, which I spelled out earlier (my ultimate emotional disconnect from the series that was the direct result of the Red Wedding).

I mean, I get it, alright; good doesn't always win, blah blah fucking blah. But there's a fine line between bucking tropes and gratuitousness, and if he didn't cross that line here, he came damned well close. Anyway, there's enough bad shit that happens in real life as a result of war (Syria, anyone) that I don't need that in the fantasy FICTION that I read. I mean, sure, I guess bashing a balling three year old kid's face in (book two's walk of tears to Harrenhall for Arya) may all Keepin' Realz, YO YO! but it only serves to highlight the depraved bent of the series.

(Though I'll take this moment to go slightly the otherway to say how pleasantly surprised I was at a rather DIFFERENT turn that happens later in this book. So that's as far as I'll go in recognizing GRRM's ability in being able to go the other way. When it suits him.)
Chris Nelly
114. Aeryl
@113, Join us in the spoiler thread, b/c I am interested in hearing what that turn was!
Julian Niquille
115. Gesar
@113: See that's where I can't go with you because I don't think Robb's death was gratuitous at all. I can totally sympathize with your general feeling, that's what I felt watching 24 kill off everyone in a seemingly random fashion, and that's also related to what I felt when Scandal told me you could be a president and have two mistresses scandal, an election scandal, be shot once and kill someone during a single mandate... But I don't think Martin jumps the shark on his characters' true deaths, actually I disagree that he even comes close to doing it. (on the fake ones, well... Can't really say the same thing)
Aaron Miller
116. altarego
@113 At some point, you need to diassociate yourself from the characters and focus on the narrative as a whole. Sort of like people do with "soap operas".

I have to admit that I was pissed off by the red wedding; but, there are events coming which redeemed the series for me.
Brian Rice
117. briantium
@116 You could say that's exactly what I did...
corejay
118. Cass3
I've seen a lot of coments decrying certain book events as being only for shock value, or only for upending expectations. And simultaneously, I'm also detecting something of a split between the people who stopped reading or stopped caring after the Red Wedding as to the "point" of fantasy. I've read several "it might be realisitc, but I don't want that in my fantasy" or "that's not why I read fantasy" comments, and it seems to me that the events of the wedding most strongly rubbed the wrong way the people who read fantasy in large part because it is not real and tends to turn out differently from how things often do in our world. Which is cool; people read things for their own reasons and have their own preferences and expectations based on the reasons why they read. What you read and why is totally up to you, and I think there are valuable conversations to be had here.

But a lot of people *don't* read fantasy, or anything else, for escapism--and a lot of authors don't write for it. A lot of people read (and write) fantasy and science fiction precicely because of the unique way in which they can approach things which are very real about human beings and even about our world from a different direction, in different clothes. This is just as valid a reason to have. A lot of us don't stop caring about people because bad things happened to other people--or a lot of us do have the gut reaction, as I mentioned in another comment upthread, but we consciously resist it. A lot of us aren't turned off by a story because it reflects some of the darkest elements of our own world or our own hearts--we find value in a story *because* of that. And that's one purpose I think the Red Wedding and surrounding events serve.

If you don't like it, if you find it offputting, great; we all have our own preferences here. But it's *not* just to shock you and it's *not* just to upset tropes and expectations and it's *not* just gratiuitous sadness porn, and I think it's quite unfair to reduce an author's reasoning to that because his goals in writing don't always align with your interests in reading.
Sky Thibedeau
119. SkylarkThibedeau
This is the point where i got mad and threw the book against the fireplace cursing GRR Martin then remembered I was on my Kindle reader! On the bright side, my new Fire lets you watch the show too.
corejay
120. Gilbetron
Well, it took me about an hour to get through the post and all the comments, but here I am -- god only knows how long it would have taken me if I'd waited until tomorrow morning...

I'm not sure if I've ever commented on the re-read (I can't be sure), but I was definitely one who was waiting with glee for Leigh to arrive at the infamous Red Wedding. That same glee is one of the reasons why I can't wait until Monday morning -- after all those millions of unspoiled Game of Thrones fans begin a march to a certain someone's home in New Mexico with murder in their hearts...

The Red Wedding was spoiled for me sometime while I was in the middle of Book 1, and it still had a massive impact on me. What a horrible, doom-filled experience it was to read about Robb and Catelyn's stories for two books.

Anyway, I'm not sure if I have a point, but I side with the people whose enjoyment of the book was *enhanced* by this development. You *should* be pissed off. That's the point. How tragic that someone could get this far, then be so demoralized and saddened that they decide they don't want to continue on with the story. I suppose there's just no part of me that can understand or sympathize with that stance.

One more thing. It's been suggested that Robb's demise was somewhat forecasted by the fact that Robb never got any POV chapters of his own. Robb's death was *certainly* forecasted well in advance, but his lack of chapters didn't have anything to do with it. GRRM has pointed out that, in fact, not *one* of the kings in the series get a POV chapter -- which is an interesting choice.
Brian Rice
121. briantium
Well sure, maybe, but nothing you've said changes the fact that evidently a huge percentage of readers were turned off of the series as a result of the Red Wedding. He can write what he wants, but we can react the way we want. But when you add up all the depraved parts of the story—bashing a balling three year old's face in with a mace, anybody?—I mean, come on...(Because we all know how vital to the plot bashing a three year old's face in was...)
George Jong
122. IndependentGeorge
I didn't dissociate myself from characters because of the Red Wedding - I doubled down on the ones I already loved. It's because of Robb's death that I care even more about Arya & Sansa.

Furthermore others have mentioned, this was not a case of being punished for being good; it's a case of being punished for being stupid. Robb losing the war came down to two things: (1) marrying Jeyne, and (2) Stannis being defeated on the Blackwater. Robb was directly responsible for #1, and indirectly responsible for #2 (first by not allying with him once Stannis' letter went out, and later by neglecting to let Edmure in on his plan).

Had Walder Frey decided to just seal his gates instead of luring Robb into the wedding, Robb would be just as dead. The manner of death is horrific and infuriating, but it's also directly the result of Robb's own (understandable) errors in judgement.
corejay
124. Irishdan123
@113

I disagree with saying that Robb's death comes close to being gratuitous. I get that some people prefer the typical fantasy story were the hero always lives, but Ned's death should have clued everyone in that this wasn't going to be that kind of story. I, for one, am thankful for it because I can't stand reading stories where the good guy always wins. Heck, if people are looking for happy-go-lucky fantasy reading there is an abundance. I don't believe it is fair to criticize GRRM for giving people a new kind of fantasy series that doesn't fit the previous molds. I mean, that was the whole point.

That said, when I first read the RW it was an extremely rough read. As it became clear that something terrible was about to happen my reading pace slowed dramatically (same thing happened when I read Ned's death) because I didn't want to read what I knew was coming. At the time, I was the only person I knew that had read the books, so I sat there needing to tell someone what just happened but having nobody I could talk about it with. The RW is what got me to recommend the book to a bunch of people, so that I would have people to talk to about what I had experienced while reading that chapter. I love when books make me feel some emotion very strongly, and the RW does that more than anything else I've ever read. The rest of the book is so friggin awesome, too, that SoS immediately became my favorite fantasy book of all time.
Brian Rice
125. briantium
I think it's more that the Red Wedding was the culmination of a lot of other Bad Things that had happened throughout the series: Ned's death, Renly's death, the little three year old having his face bashed in (I'm not letting that one go), the Lannisters always winning, various other things, and finally the Red Wedding. All of it just wore me down. So the storyline went from "What's going to happen next!" to, "Gee, who's gonna die next?" It's a whole different experience. Obviously people like it, and that's fine. But I never read the later books as a result.
corejay
126. Gregor Lewis
This is what separated this series for me.

When I read this for the first time and every subsequent time I have read through, my most powerful reflection has been a sense of disbelief.

Despite - as has already been shrewdly pointed out - the clear signposting, our conditioning as avid readers of fantasy and Martin's clear command of his plot and timing at this point of writing, keeps me on a rapier point's edge.

Every time I read this scene (and one other, still to come in this book), even though I know the outcome, the writing is so good, I get sucked in every time and I put all prior knowledge aside. Every time, I get sucked into investing in the POV characters' hopes of success, even though as a reader I KNOW there is no hope at all.

For me, this is GRRM's greatest success. Bravo to him.
And Bravo to Leigh for recapturing this moment so emphatically and so vividly!

grl
corejay
127. DRBlaise
@118 - as I said in my previous post and I think for many people, the "Red Wedding" itself did not rune the story ... in fact, I consider it the climax. It is the story afterwards, the continued descent into depravity, that turned me off. If you have an event like the "Red Wedding" in a book, it should be the bottom of the story ... instead it is just the beginning of the downward spiral. It will be interesting to see Leigh's response to the rest of the books.
corejay
128. Aellinsar
I'm terrible at reading omen in fantasy literature, but this is one event that did not shick me at all. I saw the Red Wedding coming a mile off. That made reading it all the harder, knowing what was going to come if not the exact form.
Liz J
129. Ellisande
@120 It's not the other kings, it's that Robb is the only one of his family to never get a POV (okay, except the four-year-old) and yet his often terrible choices are what a lot of the plot hinges on. So we get more context and sympathy for Jaime's decisions and development than we do for Robb's, which in essence made Robb a plot device. GRRM might have tried to disguise that by not giving Stannis or whoever a POV, either, but that was kind of irrelevant, when the very structure made Robb the Odd-Stark-Out. So while I can't claim I called the how and the why it would happen, I will tell you very definitely that his unique lack of POV (in terms of his family) made him pretty doomed in my mind, from quite early on.
corejay
130. Cass3
128--

Yeah, I think I've read borderline too much fantasy to be hugely surprised. I knew Robb was toast after the Undying; I just didn't know when or how until we started getting closer to the wedding, when there were all the fools/witches leading up to the event. I did not remotely peg Cat dying at the same time until during the chapter itself though, and even then it was just a hunch until near the end. That last paragraph still hit me really hard ("Ned loves my hair" is probably the most heartbreaking line of the whole series for me, personally).
Scott Silver
131. hihosilver28
"Bashing a three-year-old face with a mace"
When was this? The Targaryen children? Some other thing with Gregor? Or when Robert's bastards were being murdered?
Julian Niquille
132. Gesar
@130: I'm going to post my answer in the spoiler thread actually.
Steven Halter
133. stevenhalter
Ellisande@129:The lack of POV or even actual appearnces in other POV's was something I keyed off of also. So Robb dying in some way didn't surprise me. Cat's death was a surprise--especially the violence of it.
Corkryn Williams
134. MadCow21
I was absolutely rejuvenated in my enthusiam for reading the book following Cat's death, not out of any particular animosity for the character, but because it meant that I wouldn't have to read any more of her plodding and dreadfully depressing chapters. It was truly a mercy killing, and I was grateful. Losing Robb was also not really much of a loss from an emotional investment standpoint. I honestly think I was sadder about Grey Wind.
corejay
135. shinerfan
And that's why we don't move our blogs to Thursday.
Brian Rice
136. briantium
@131. See Book 2, while Arya was being taken to Harrenhall with a bunch of refugees. I don't remember the entire sequence clearly (maybe because it was so depressing), but the toddler's parents were either killed by the guards or otherwise harmed, and the toddler started wailing uncontrollably until a guard did him in. Just a random refugee child.
Bridget McGovern
138. BMcGovern
DRBlaise @127: Whited out a bit in your comment, since it was repeatedly flagged; even without specific spoilers, discussions of where the books go from this point on should still probably be relegated to the Spoiler Thread, just to be on the safe side!
corejay
139. sofrina
i'm surprised leigh's taking it so hard. she saw it coming. i love the way the scene feels as uncomfortable as possible. the horrible, loud music, the crappy food, the boatload of insults, lord frey's insolent gloating. the only soft spot is dacey mormont being in a dress instead of battle armor for once, and the second that is disturbed, catelyn's guard is up. i do like that dacey managed to get in a few blows considering she was unarmed. it would have been great if catelyn had hurled that dagger straight into walder frey's gut.

the one thing that disappoints me about the tv show is that robb's honor guard is absent and so, no dacey mormont.

have to say, frey's treachery isn't motivated by a jilting. it's motivated by the very last straw. he says plainly in the first book that the tully's have always looked down their noses at him. hoster tully refusing to marry of his children to a frey. he asked for the one thing he wanted in exchange for that bridge crossing: marriage contracts with high houses. losing arya and then having "king" robb literally break his oath is the last - and largest - in a series of tully/stark insults going back decades. you have to expect this from someone you treat like they're not as good as you are. which is clearly how walder frey felt the tullys regard him.
corejay
140. michael bolton
Those lines when Cat sees Dacey and Robb dancing were heartbreaking. I bet she was thinking how nice it would have been if Robb just married her, the nice girl-next-door. (next door being a frozen island) I suppose there is zero advantage into marrying a Mormont as they are poor and already very loyal.
Don Barkauskas
141. bad_platypus
I'm reminded of a comment I saw once that the "main characters" of ASoIaF have just as much "plot armor" (don't click that link) as in any other series; it's just that people don't realize who the actual "main characters" are. To those who have figured out who the real protagonists are, there's less tension.

Once I adopted that mindset, I have 5 characters I believe are reasonably safe (and a 6th possibly so) to get to the end. It will be very interesting to see how close I am.
corejay
142. Gilbetron
@129: That may very well be, but I definitely read somewhere, in a quote straight from GRRM, that a specific choice was made not to give POVs to the king characters, in order to show how power was reflected in the people *around* the kings -- hence no Robert, no Stannis, no Robb, no Joffrey, no Balon POVs (to this point in the re-read). That's not to say that Robb's lack of POV didn't factor into his "doomedness" in a lot of readers' minds, but I don't think it was GRRM's primary reason for structuring the story the way he did.
corejay
143. Aerona Greenjoy
I did enjoy one RW moment -- that it shocked even ol' Cynical Sandor. "Seven bloody buggering hells!"
Marcus W
144. toryx
I can understand that all the death and torment of the characters (minor or major) can be off-putting to some people, but to criticize them as gratuitous doesn't make any sense to me. GRRM grounded this series from the beginning in historic-based reality and he's maintained the bitter truth of medieval society from the get-go. It really was as harsh and cruel and brutal as it's been betrayed all along. Just because most other fantasy novels gloss over that aspect of it doesn't make GRRM's violence gratuituous. He's just telling a different sort of story.

I also understand the desire to use fantasy for escape and that's certainly broadly available in the field. If you want to read fantasy to escape from the harshness of reality that's fine. Just don't read these books. Let's face it: no one forced you to do it and you should have had a pretty strong clue from the first chapter of what kind of fantasy ASoIaF is.

In my opinion, for what it's worth, you can't have a reality-based fantasy without terrible scenes like this or acknowledging that in such a violent world children get killed as readily as everyone else. To hide that under a thin veneer of politeness doesn't serve the story and GRRM puts the story and characterization first in these novels.

Personally, I think it's important that people see this kind of thing. The world has always been a harsh place and maybe if people acknowledged the cruelty in it more rather than seeking to escape from it all the time, something might actually be done to change it.

Is it a terrible thing to read about a child being brutally murdered? Absolutely. But you know what? It happens all the time, even today and to try and deny that does no service to those children or the murdered children yet to come. I don't expect anyone to like it. I certainly don't myself. But I admire GRRM all the more for making me acknowledge it's existence.
corejay
145. AM Gray
I think mentioning Jamie is also a metaphor, pink cloak is slaying the King in the North so that makes him a king slayer for a second.
corejay
146. DRBlaise
@144. toryx - "But I admire GRRM all the more for making me acknowledge it's existence."
Wow, if it took GRRM for you to acknowledge that some people can be brutal in this world, then you truly have been living in a fantasy world. All it takes for me is to read the news, and yet there is also a lot of good in this world. You seem to think that it is a fact that people in "historic-based reality" were much more brutal than people today. I would also call that fantasy. I see plenty of example of brutality in today's world and see no reason not to assume that there was a lot of good people in "historic-based reality". GRRM has chosen to have a series that overwhelmingly focuses on the perverse and brutal: that does not make it any closer to "historic-based reality" than other fantasy series.
corejay
147. NotAlice
"Jesus, when I decided to root for the Starks that was like the worst decision ever." I also decided to root for the Starks so I definitely did not like this "Red Wedding" scene. I was able to finish the rest of this book and the following book - " Feast for Crows". Unfortunately, with this event I just didn't have the desire to re-read these books which made it impossible for me to continue reading the series. You need to re-read books when there is 5 or more years between new books in a series to remember what happened. I am glad that HBO decided to make a TV series and that TOR and Ms. Butler are doing this "read" blog. Now if my fantasy of "bad, evil" people getting their comeuppance is fullfilled when this series ends, I will be happy!
Tricia Irish
149. Tektonica
Ah well, I had a feeling this would be your reaction, Leigh. This is where I learned to NEVER trust GRRM with a character. From here on out, I read these books with a very dispassionate eye. I put my emotional armor on, so to speak. And although I have read them all, they will never be favorites of mine, because of "the remove" I've had to hold myself to, in order to get through them. I just don't trust the man.

That said, I think RobM has the right of it, way back in the early comments.....I think old Walder Frey saw the writing on the wall with Robb. Because Robb betrayed his oath, and has lost half his army, old Walder saw weakness, and didn't want to end up on the wrong side of the war. His bread was buttered with the Lanisters. His actions here were part reaction, and part total calculation.

Why Catelyn had to go is a bit of a mystery, but as far as Walder Frey knows, now all the Starks are gone.
Zorila Desufnoc Eht
150. AlirozTheConfused
So, Leigh, if you've read this far, this far, this far

you're sure that Arya survived the spar, the spar, the spar

but really, think of the mechanics of motion, motion, motion

and for just a moment put away your emotion, motion, motion

a good destrier weighs 1500 pounds ty pounds, ty pounds

and "Giant" is a word for bodies like the Hound's, ooooooh, the hounds, the hounds

Accelleration times Mass equals force, my dear, my dear, my dear

so that's close to a ton times a lickity-split, I fear, I fear, I fear

assuming it was the blunt end of the axe in her head, her head, her head

Arya's skull, which hasn't hardened yet, rather, instead, instead, instead

it's soft so it can grow into its later size, ter size, ter size

and the bones of the skull aren't fused together yet, you realize, oooooooh, you alize, alize

her skull won't provide much protection from blows, from blows, from blows

and as your mass increases, the force, well, it grows grows grows grows

will Arya's skull CRRRRACK

with a SMMMMAAAAACK

in the BBBAAAAAAAACK

of the WHAAAAAAAACK

leaving little pieces of skull-bone

to float in her brain, all alone

piercing through synapses and things that don't grow back

or, when her head's BACK was SMACKED with a WHACK

did sheer blunt force trauma damage her brain, her brain, her brain

luckily, though, she'd feel no pain, oooooooh, no pain, no pain

because the mind has no nerve endings, endings, endings

but the cerebellum is what is for sendings, sendings, sendings

to the body to move, and it's the only part, ly part, ly part

of the brain that grows back. It's a work of art, of art, of art

the brain is, truly; but the Cerebellum is the thing

we hope is broken, and in a number of months time will bring, ooooooooh will bring, will bring

healing to her; but until that happens to our poor, poor dear, poor dear, poor dear

she'll be paralyzed completely, I fear, I fear, I fear,

She'll be paralyzed completely I fear, oooooooh, I fear, I fear
C R L
151. Maac
I first read this when the book was first published (2000, or thereabouts) and so had no *choice* but to take a long break after it. Probably that did me good.

I would like to point out (by citing the year) that when this book was written, "grimdark" wasn't a thing. Whatever contract GRRM drafted with the readers was 1. not really beaten into the ground back then, but also 2. clearly intended as a deconstruction, or at least a rebuttal, to the standard (and kind of sanitary) tropes that the genre was doing AT THAT TIME. So yes, expectations are dashed, yes, the Capitalized Character of Archetype doesn't always win, and that is and always has been the point. Unfortunately the series has taken so long to reach (or, well, near) completion that other, grimmer, darker fare has overtaken it and the point that Martin was making back in the mid-90s when he started this thing has gotten so elongated, that it's easy to miss. If it were whole and of a piece right now, I think its place in the canon would be more known. Established. What it set out to accomplish, and to what extent it succeeded, would not be so much in dispute. (I am aware, by the way, that Martin is not my b-word. :-D I took that line as a battle cry for quite some time. He can finish when he wants. But it is undeniable that if it were finished before now, it would look different.)

I personally look at it, in a way, like I look at Lord of the Rings. For me it's the story of the world, first and foremost -- the characters and their endings, happy or sad, satisfactory or not, serve the larger purpose of demonstrating the trajectory that this particular universe will take. Their individual journeys are simply less important. (That could be the exhaustaion talking. No, that is *totally* the exhaustion talking.) I'm far too invested to give up now.
corejay
152. Black Dread
I have vivid memories of throwing the book across the room after the Red Wedding. (Which made me feel kind of bad since it was a library book)

But... I agree with @134 - no more Cat chapters was a relief.

And, when I did start reading again I still enjoyed the books. I pay more attention and have more apprehension with these books than with anything else I've ever read. I have no idea who will survive the next book or even the next chapter - which keeps me interested.
Dirk Walls
153. dirk
Just a 'me too' for all the responsed above. I think I threw the book at the couch and went to find my housemate (who was also reading the series but was a book behind me) to just stop now. He didn't and so got his own 'wtf moment'.

We both continued with series, of course.
Mike DMonte
154. MickeyDee
Leigh, welcome.

Many of us have been waiting here for you for quite a while. And thank you. Your reaction was all we hoped for. Because pain shared is pain...I dunno, something crappy!


corejay@5 - hahahaha - awesome
Aerona Greenjoy@7 - nice. Yes they would.
Aeryl@17 and toryx@70 - yeah. I totally agree. When I read this in the book it was about 2am and I actually started to mutter to myself: "What the fuck? No! What the fuck? What the fuck? What the fuck George?"

I was in disbelief. I was actually panting aloud, blinking at nothing. I then caught my breath, poured myself a massive tumbler of spiced rum and started reading again.

This book has more "Oh no, what the fuck?" moments than any other fantasy novel I have ever read. This is exactly what makes SoS the best book of ASoIaF and the best fantasy book...ever.

And this is the point that you realise that every character is in peril. No one is safe...well except for Arya and Tyrion I reckon.

When you read about them being backed into a corner you don't think "oh I wonder what clever device will get them out of this?" you think: "Is this fucking story going to grab me by the fucking throat and hate-fuck me again? Fuck!"

You enter into this strange twisting, dark, gloomy, slippery literary path, following the grim, weak glow of Martin's torch. You better watch out though. The path is perilous. And that bastard Martin does sneaky, sneaky things like tell you blatantly what he's about to do. Though invariably you miss it, 'cos you're too busy looking down at your feet, because did I mention that the path is perilous? And gloomy? And....Oh fuck he did it to me again!

In the end it is far more satisfying to me than rainbow-farting unicorns and lollipops.
Mike DMonte
156. MickeyDee
Aegnor@ 137: It is an Arrested Development joke.
George Jong
157. IndependentGeorge
@139 - The Freys gave more than just a bridge crossing, though; they joined them in treason/open rebellion, and sent 4,000 men (the bulk of their forces) south to fight & die. That was a huge risk and commitment to the cause, which Robb took for granted because he didn't think he'd ever need to go back and use the crossing.

It doesn't justify the manner or scale of the death, but really, that was no small insult Robb paid to the Freys. It's on the scale of Cat kidnapping Tyrion.
Josie Chang-Order
158. eisoj5
@89: I think there is also an early omen pertaining to the RW that Dany sees in the House of the Undying.

Can't wait until Sunday for the reaction :D I've gotten to witness several different people's reactions to just reading it, so seeing the viewing audience lose their collective shit all at once will be quite an experience.
corejay
160. Sourabh
I do love your recaps, but the main reason that I'd kept up with your column so long, was for this very day.
corejay
161. Heronimus Rex
I will not rationalize the Frey Betrayal, nor will I accept any attempt by broad-minded people. This is a line I vowed myself never to cross. I hate them all. All of them. Every single rat bastard one of them. Yes, the good ones too. Just for good bloody measure!

The north remembers. All I'm saying.

Also: it's so amazing, really, what this book did to me. It made me hate people that don't exist. AARRGGHH!!! Mr Martin, seriously, you are a fucking wizard, I tell ya.

PS: My heart bleeds for you, Leigh. It really does. Thanks for sharing!
Julian Niquille
162. Gesar
@141: I think this is very important and way overlooked, thanks for the insight.
corejay
163. funker
If you don't like situations like the Red Wedding, how exactly do you guys enjoy these books? I did stop reading the saga when some people have been resurrected by R'hllor, I've always hated those stupid plot tricks even in childish stories like Dragon Ball. Moments like Ned's beheading or the Red Wedding are what I liked the most.
Rob Munnelly
164. RobMRobM
I want to hearken back to ACOK - two chapters.

House of the Undying - take another look: at least one vision will make more sense now.

Last Arya chapter - the one where she escapes from the Boltons at Harrenhall. In my comments to that read, I noted to Leigh that she needs to beware the long chapters. She covered many of the important events but left uncommented upon many others - notably, the open anger of the Freys that they were betrayed and their discussions with certain Boltons. Pretty clearly, this chapter was the start of the conspiracy that led to this wedding.
Chris Chaplain
165. chaplainchris1
Heh. I've had a couple of weeks from Hell, and so I've only barely been able to keep track of your reads, Leigh. When I logged on to the site yesterday, I thought, "hey isn't this the week that LeIgh gets to the Red Wedding?" Then I read the profanity warning.

QUESTION ANSWERED.

Heh.
Scott Silver
166. hihosilver28
@150. Methinks perhaps your name should be changed to AlirozTheCruel. ;-) But, I tip my hat to you as well.
corejay
167. Mochabean
Many thanks for an outstanding write-up. Agree with so many of the great comments here. Yes, Cat's last thoughts are heartbreaking. @ 147 (AM Gray) brilliant point! @150(AlirozTC) To paraphrase another poet, wonderful, wonderful and still more wonderful. Need the National to set that to music.
corejay
168. Aerona Greenjoy
A fan on another website amusingly called Lord Frey "just Cersei with prodigious testicles and less comeliness." But he also has 29 legitimate kids, 45 grandkids, 23 great-grandkids, and 4 great-great-grandkids (now minus a few). Progeny is power in Westeros.
Brian Rice
169. briantium
@144 Toryx: "I also understand the desire to use fantasy for escape and that's certainly broadly available in the field. If you want to read fantasy to escape from the harshness of reality that's fine. Just don't read these books. Let's face it: no one forced you to do it and you should have had a pretty strong clue from the first chapter of what kind of fantasy ASoIaF is."

Hey guess what: I DID stop reading the series as a result of this.
corejay
170. lyraadriana
I've been waiting for this post for so long.
I cried and cried and cried when I read these chapters. I knew GRRM didn't pull punches, but I was still so nieve.
I'm somewhere stuck in the middle of DwD, got distracted a while ago, but I'm fully expecting no one with a narrative from GoT to live at the end of the series. *sigh*

Thank you for the rage you feel.
I'm really hoping you won't quit on us now.

See you next week?
Brian Rice
171. briantium
To elaborate on my previous post: For me, the series effectively ended with the Red Wedding. I did somehow manage to make it to the end of book three (which in its own way serves as one long epilogue for me), but my emotional investment stopped with Robb and Catelyn's deaths. I never bothered to read the following books (though I did read the plot summaries and so have some idea of what happened, though I can't really bring myself to care what happened to whom...and will Daenerys just get the hell over to Westeros already? ...Fuck!).

I can't at all relate to or understand some enthusiasts insistence that we not invest in the characters and just appreciate the "narrative" or whatever. The key to any story is the CHARACTERS, more specifically having a character (or set of characters) to get behind and root for. GRRM is a great writer, or else we wouldn't be here arguing over this right now, and it was interesting to be put in a situation of cheering for both Robb AND Tyrion at the same time, even though they were on opposite sides. Now it's just cheering for Tyrion, but instead of cheering for Tyrion, it's "when is Tyrion going to die?" Fuck that.

Anyway, I'm just anticipating the inevitable retort of, "If you're done with the series why are you here writing about it?", so I just want to say that I actually do care about what happened in the first three books up until the Red Wedding, so I still have enough energy to write about it. Everything afterward (with one or two exceptions towards the end of book 3)...not so much. Again, there is one thing that happens later that impressed me because I didn't see it coming (though in retrospect I guess I should have), but overall it wasn't enough to redeem the series for me. Somebody else mentioned that if the series was complete we'd be able to take it all in as a whole and appreciate the developments once they're in context, etc, and I tend to agree with that, and so if I ever do resume the series, it will only be after the series is finished (if that ever actually happens).
corejay
172. Lsana
@171,

I get that. I think there were a lot of people for whom the story was the story of the Starks and the attempt to rebuild the Kingdom in the North. The Red Wedding ended that story; perhaps it was the appropriate ending, perhaps not, but either way that story is over. For the people for whom that was THE story, it doesn't work to just be told "now go care about the amusing dwarf and the dragon lady." I've done that in several series: when my favorite character is killed, I stop reading, not out of hatred or some idea of revenge against the author, but just because the story I cared about was over.
corejay
173. Cirion
So, knowing that main characters never die, always wear their undestructible plot armor and will surely win at the end, makes you invest in the characters MORE, not less, cheering for them MORE, not less? Mh, okay. For me, that would be like cheering for the best football team in the world which wins every game anyway.

Also, people are overreacting in a hilarious way. After two and a half books and several thousand pages, TWO POV-Characters died, TWO, while all the others still live. That's not that much.
And for the last, people should remind that the titel of the series is A SONG OF ICE AND FIRE, which clearly implies the large scope and the mythic dimension of the narrative, not "Starks and Lannisters going to war". From the prologue onwards is it clear that Robb's war is not at all that important in the grand scheme of things. Even Osha says that to Bran back in the first books.
I would also say that the fall of Renly and Robb and the defeat of Stannis was clearly implied in the narrative starting at the end of the first book. At the end of GoT, the Lannisters are simply loosing and in a horrible position. But instead of working together and being competent, all their foes do the exact opposite of what would be wise. The Red Wedding is the logical conclusion to the whole "War of the Five Kings"-arc.
corejay
174. Mid-MO Joe
Leigh, first off I'd like to apologize for waiting all of this time, reading your excellent readthroughs for exactly this moment. Sadly, I was spoilered slightly when I got to this point, but your reaction was pretty much my reaction as well.
Steven Halter
175. stevenhalter
I've been mulling over the implications of the killings. Clearly this is a turning point in the story and many lovely possibilities vould emerge. Here are some guess-thoughts.
Depending on how pessimistic we want to be there are a number of possible storylines that can spin off here. In the worst case, Jon is the heir and the other brothers (and Sansa and Arya) don't like this and all sorts of nasty civil wars erupt. An obvious addition to this would be if Jeyne turns out to be pregnant. Her child would be another useful pawn in the internecine affairs that follow. So, we could have a North with multiple claimants to the throne all fighting amoungst themselves. Some of these claimants could be independent while others would be pawns. Rickon and the potential Jeyne child would be the most obvious pawns with Sansa and her possible children following depending on how Martin develops that storyline. The Lannisters will clearly be wanting to use her for their own ends and how much Tyrion will allow that should make for interesting tension.
Bran seems more likely to be going his own way and not getting involved in the civil strife amoung brothers. An interesting possibility as some sort of sorceror ruler could develop there either independent or supporting one of the other lines.
Jon will probably be torn between staying as a brother or avenging Robb and taking up as king. Could go in any direction. The conflict between becoming king and staying in the watch seems like an obvious one once he finally learns that Robb did make him heir. Not sure just how many people are alive who knew about that, though. There is also the whole Others, frozen zombies and Wildings issues.
It seems unlikely that Arya will let anyone use her for their own ends. I'm guessing that a number of Frey (Walder at least) names will get added to her litany of vengence. Unless, she's dead and I think that unlikey.
In a better case, the various Starks wandering about could merge together and reforge a new North. Probably the actual story will be somewhere in between these two poles--although given the overall theme, I'll guess that the more bloody direction is where things will lean.
And, on the other side of the world, Dany will (probably) eventually get her army into position and invade Westeros.
corejay
176. GarrettC
Does something up in 163 need to be whited out there?
Tricia Irish
177. Tektonica
RobM@164: You are so right...thanks for those references!
Brian Rice
179. briantium
@173, that's not what I'm saying at all. Go back to my previous posts and you'll see that the Red Wedding was the culmination of a lot of other depressing crap GRRM has been piling on for a while now (which only continues going forward).
corejay
180. Procrastigator
Another trope that is being broken with this outcome relates to "the underdog will find a way". From the start Robb Stark is placed against grim odds at best, and multiple events make things worse and worse, even while his personal skill allows him to snatch important victories.

So the story leads us to believe that somehow, Robb will manage to come up once more with the brilliant plan or accept sacrifices that will allow him to prevail in the end, which is what the whole interaction with Lord Walder is: Robb getting his pride stomped on and accepting it because it's what must be done to win. Except there never really was a way for the Starks to win. It's not so much about honor being bad, it's about honor not being enough to win. And if you're going to play the game of thrones, you win or you die...
Sydo Zandstra
181. Fiddler
Three words: The North Remembers...
Rob Munnelly
182. RobMRobM
@180 - Nice point. Sad tale of Robb as brilliant underdog leader undone by his moment of weakness and bad luck that Stannis could not kick Lannister butt in KL. Always hoped he could find a way.

@179 - not the place to talk about things going forward - can we white out that part of text?

@178 - agree with you that all sorts of interesting plot lines remain but let's also white out the later on discussion.

@175 interesting thoughts, none of which we can comment on. Certainly, if one tries to find story arcs, the Starks are scattered and pretty low at this point. One can hope there is no place to go but up but not sure we can say that with confidence (winks).

@173. Two POV characters, plus much of the remaining Northern joint forces. Not clear at this point where it leaves the remaining Starks or Jon if they need to bring armed forces into play against adversaries at some future date.

@169, 171-72. Several stories and possibilities met their end in these chapters. It remains interesting to me where things go from here. Without details, I can say I like a lot about where the story heads from here. Stopping here is a denial of some interesting developments going forward.

@general - very happy to see the silent majority step forward with comments on these important chapters. *bows* Feel free to stick around and chime in as things progress.
corejay
183. Black Dread
@161 - The north remembers!

Damn right.
Rob Munnelly
185. RobMRobM
Fid - I had viewed those descriptions as being at least somewhat ambiguous....
corejay
186. Aerona Greenjoy
Varys, right before Blackwater: I've always hated those bells. They ring for horror. A dead king, the city underr siege...
Tyrion: A wedding
Varys: Exactly

(This was in the show. I don't remember if it's in the book, so no discussion necessary. Made me laugh)
corejay
187. Lady Lisbeth
I've read the whole series even though I wanted to throw this book in the trash after the red wedding. I cried! For a long time...over a story! I've had a soft spot for the Starks as I hoped that one of them would triumph some how. These chapters broke me for a few weeks. Catelyn should have lived dammit! I agree with others that Robb was hard to take but Catelyn...you all know what I mean. I love the HBO series but really wish GRRM would just get on with the next books! I have to know how it all ends. Too many of the characters have wormed their way into my heart. And I can't believe that honor will not win the day at some point. Call me an optimist or old fashioned or whatever you like. I have to hope that in playing the Game of Thrones, being the good guy will eventually win the day. Let some of the others die, George. Don't kill off all of the good guys/girls! I guess I'm just old because I wish for the happier ending.
Amy
188. amyangyl
Another long-time Leigh reader here who hasn't commented up til now. Been following her blog posts since, oh, about the middle of LoC on the WOT re-read. I've been looking forward to THIS post since she announced doing the ASOIAF read. Like many others, I decided not to emotionally invest myself in any other characters after this event. I thought. Fast forward to summer 2010 while reading ADwD, near the end. I found myself sitting there staring at the book with tears running down my face I realized that just wasn't possible for me. I'm in it for better or worse, much respect for an author that can pull me that far into a story, even when I've vowed it wouldn't happen again.
Tricia Irish
189. Tektonica
Maybe this series will end when all the characters are dead? That would be novel! Like playing musical chairs with characters' lives.

This is a joke...I have no idea how this series will end.
Pirmin Schanne
190. Torvald Nom
briantium, Tektonica

just out of curiousity: have you read the Silmarillion or The Children of Húrin? Or the Malazan Book of the Fallen? If you did, how did you like them?
corejay
191. Looking Glass
Arianrose @41: Comparing ASoIaF and the Honorverse books, I don’t know that Weber’s out to shock the reader the same way. ASoIaF seems to deliberately address reader expectations by setting them up in order to demolish them, while the Honorverse is just straightforward about the “all named characters are invulnerable” expectation not applying to its worldview.
--

Aeryl @50: It’s not a contractual relationship, no- authors generally follow their own goals for in the stories they’re telling, and well they should- but most authors are trying to have some effect among some audience. (Really, if you’re not, why go through the hassle of publishing what you wrote?) It’s perfectly valid criticism of an author’s craftsmanship to say something like: “I think he was trying to make me feel shocked and upset, but instead I just don’t give a crap anymore”.

It may or may not be a correct criticism- maybe that reader is wrong about their intentions, and the author wanted you to feel numb or apathetic. Maybe the author didn’t want you to feel anything, because the book was written to someone else- stay-at-home housewives, or members of a different political party, or their eight-year-old kid. Heck, maybe the author genuinely doesn’t care about the work’s audience, and the manuscript was sent in by some enthusiastic relative, or because they know any old rubbish with their name in big font will pay the bills for another six months. But often, “the author intended audience reaction X and achieved audience reaction Y” is a position that can be reasonably argued from the available evidence.

(Admittedly, even if you reasonably believe you’re part of the intended audience, generalizing from “me, personally” to “the intended audience, or some significant portion thereof” isn’t always valid… but absent statistical surveys, anecdotal evidence is what we have to work with. And it cuts both ways, too; even if the author’s approach succeeded with you personally, that doesn’t mean that is worked for everyone or that it was the best approach the author could have taken.)

On ASoIaF, generally: is there doubt in anyone’s mind that Martin’s intentionally playing with reader expectations and reactions? I certainly think he is, so I think that readers commenting on their actual reactions (and that this scene took them from "engaged" to "apathetic") is useful to looking at the writing.

On the Red Wedding, particularly: I did like the scene, though.On a story level, I think the consequences of the event for the overall story and other characters are interesting enough to outweigh the end of certain characters and storylines. On a more meta level, I was certainly surprised and somewhat shocked by the scale of the catastrophe, but I wasn’t turned off the books. I think that’s because I went with the “Martin’s rules of the road are different, but still present, and will ultimately strengthen the themes of the book” interpretation. I know other readers who concluded “Martin is arbitrary and killing major characters just for shock value, and the ten million pages I spent following Robb and Catelyn expecting their arcs to go somewhere were just wasting my time and why am I even reading this”. I think they were incorrect, and the world has someplace more interesting to go than “terrible things always happen to everyone, then they die, the end”, but it’s hard to blame those readers for stopping.
--

IndependentGeorge @72: On the contrary, Walder Frey just hit quite a few notes Tully didn’t, to the tune of treachery (and the Sacred Hospitality violation particularly is a big deal in Westeros). Prior to this, people thought he was an cranky, unlikeable SOB on a personal level, and somewhat greedy unreliable, but he wasn’t seen as any worse than the other lords. Most people- heck, Robb himself- would’ve understood if he’d just said “our alliance is null and void and I’m going to do terrible things to any Starks we catch”. (The exception being Tywin, who likely would not have forgave and forgot that Frey went with the Starks first; he’s who the Freys bought with their treachery).

Whether his various backstabby deeds are worse than the sort of retribution even the best ASoIaF lords dole out to their enemies is an exercise left to the reader, but they're unusual by Westeros standards and are certainly additional bad deeds that other lords, Tully included, didn't do.
--

Lsana @112: Robb’s honor is what led him to marry Jeyne, though (after she “comforted” him on his sickbed), despite knowing at the time it was phenomenally stupid and politically suicidal.
--

Gilbetron @120: Not one of the kings gets a POV chapter, no. How many dead kings are we up to now?

It’s not like he doesn’t give any monarchs those chapters; Danaerys certainly has no shortage.
--
corejay
193. jonjon
Hey, I've been following this (awesome) blog for a few months now (stumbled on it while reading some Storm of Swords chapter summaries to refresh my memory and prime myself for Season 3 of the show) and now seems like a good time to finally chip in.

Somehow the Red Wedding did not create as visceral a reaction in me as it seems to in most people. At least not on an emotional level. I mean of course there was shock & awe, "Holy Shit, did that actually just fucking happen!???!?" but I didn't feel sad or angry, or a need to break something or pour a stiff drink. I certainly didn't quit the series or even take a break from reading. I don't know. I guess it just seemed in keeping with the rest of the series, I just rolled with it.
Chris Nelly
194. Aeryl
About Walder Frey, the Knight of the Laughing Tree story illustrated that this streak of cruelty in the Freys goes back some time. And Catelyn was TERRIFIED of him, and what he might do, which is why she harped so much on invoking guest rights. So I definitely feel there is more to his repuatation that being a cranky SOB. This is a nation that has a prominent lord that BRAGS about the people he's flayed the skin from after all.

And I disagree that Robb's decision to marry Jeyne had to do with his honor. It was more to do with JEYNE'S honor than his own. By the rumors, Ned had a sexual relationship with a noble born woman, which didn't hurt his repuatation or honor at all, but the woman in question committed suicide(not necesarily for that reason, but given Ned's reticience to talk about Robert's Rebellion, Robb could have easily believed THAT was the reason, and took action, IN OPPOSITION TO HOW HIS FATHER ACTED, interestingly enough).
Scott Silver
195. hihosilver28
@188 amyangyl
Fast forward to summer 2010 while reading ADwD, near the end. I found myself sitting there staring at the book with tears running down my face I realized that just wasn't possible for me.

You mind sharing what that moment was over in the spoiler thread? Because A Dance With Dragons is hands down my least favorite book of the five, and the ending just pissed me off. Well, there were one or two characters where I liked how their arc concluded.
Tabby Alleman
196. Tabbyfl55
Ahhhhh the day has finally arrived.

I first found this read a few months ago, when Leigh had already started aSoS. First thing I immediately did was check and then breathe a sigh of relief that she hadn't gotten to the Red Wedding yet. Then it was just a matter of sitting on my hands and waiting for it.

I'm in the "I love this chapter" camp. Not because I'm happy about what happened, but because I respect the reaction it evoked in me when I read it. The only other chapter in all of literature that's made me hold my breath like this is Chapter 7 of The Bonehunters (some of you know whereof I speak...er, type).

The post and the comments (for the most part) have not disappointed.

So let's see, this is obligatory in the unlikely event that anybody cares: IIRC, I was reading on a beach when I got to this chapter. I got some strange looks from anybody in earshot from my random outbursts of "Oh Shit!", "No fuckin Way!", "Dayyyyum!!!" and things of that ilk. But I didn't throw the book in the ocean. I did put it down in my lap for a while and just smile, shaking my head, thinking "Well played, sir. Well played. You got me."

Now to wait for the reaction videos after the HBO show airs...oh that's going to be some goooooood entertainment.

And finally, @whoever did it up there.... Awesome! WoT spoilers in the ASOIAF read!!! Now I don't have to bother reading that Memory of Light lying as yet unopened on my bookshelf! Thanks a fucking lot!
Scott Silver
197. hihosilver28
@196. Tabbyfl55
There really aren't any spoilers regarding AMoL. Even knowing what people have said on this thread, there are still 99.7% of the moments unspoiled in that book. Unless you were being facetious...then it doesn't come across via text. Still well worth reading. Been busy for the past five months?
corejay
198. Ser Pazuzu
You have to admit - though it's heartwrenching, Robb made idiotic political move after idiotic political move. He was doomed within the first few pages of this novel. Choosing the honor of his enemy over his allies at every turn. Wedding Jeyene Westerling - Westerlings were LANNISTER bannermen, executing Karstark men for killing LANNISTERS, making sure his prisoners are "comforted" over his allies, taking prisoners at ALL really. Sad, but he just couldn't see the big picture, was too much a boy.
Vincent Lane
199. Aegnor
Looking Glass@191,

The secret to getting the whited out text to work is as follows:
1) Write your post and hit preview (don't even bother whiting anything out before this)
2) In preview screen white out spoiler text.
3) Post comment.

RobMRobM@185,

I don't really think it was ambiguous at all. I didn't even realize there was any debate about that until much later. There is no doubt, and the text is very clear, which just makes the "debate" a bit wierd for me.
Tricia Irish
200. Tektonica
TorvaldNom@190:
just out of curiousity: have you read the Silmarillion or The Children of Húrin? Or the Malazan Book of the Fallen? If you did, how did you like them?

....Could not get through the Silmarillion or Children of Hurin, but I LOVE Malazan Book of the Fallen. I see you over there on the reread.

btw...what is briantium?
Chris Nelly
201. Aeryl
I couldn't finish The Silmarillion. I tried so hard, it's as dense as the Bible.
Vincent Lane
202. Aegnor
I read both the Silmarillion and the Children of Hurin. The story of Hurin makes ASOIAF seem like a happy tale. I mean holy s@#*, when Morgoth lays down a curse on you, you are better off just killing yourself.
corejay
203. sadfascist
Cass3,

just wanted to say your posts in this thread are super awesome and i agree 100%

people are way too quick to blame the author and far too slow to judge themselves
Pirmin Schanne
204. Torvald Nom
Tektonica@200: I found that Eriksson can invoke similar visceral reactions from me as Martin; seeing Mallet die like that is just as gut-wrenching as reading about Catelyn. If you ever want to give the Silmarillion another try, start in the later parts; the Lay of Beren and Lúthien is even somewhat uplifting, even while moving me to tears.
(briantium is another poster who seems to have emotionally withdrawn from ASoIaF, so I just adressed the question at both of you.)

Aeryl@201: Much of it is very similar; I mostly stick to the Quenta Silmarillion. The rest is more like a transitional history piece to get to the Lord of the Rings (though there are some interesting parts in there). And the creation myth doesn't do much for me.

Aegnor@202: Oh yes, indeed. The fate of Túrin Turambar makes Robb seem like a lucky kid (and the acts of the Noldor make Walder Frey almost harmless). It's one of the best exhibits for showing how grim and dark traditional fantasy could get (and considering some of the origins in Norse and Germanic myth, that's no wonder). In a way, I consider Martin's work something of a return to that tradition; in his world, I can imagine such stories being told as well.
corejay
205. Gregor Lewis
Reading the flood of comments here brings back some vivid memories.

Some keen analysis has added some perspective, to what for me has been a visceral experience.

Looking at Frey's situation from a military perspective, I find his actions to be the only logical course. I think that is lost in the brutality of the moment. He entrusted his family's future to Robb - for great rewards to be sure - and was betrayed. He kept every inch of his end of the bargain, while Robb betrayed the most integral part of his.

Furthermore, it is curiously enlightening for me to expound on this rationally - being so far from my copy of the book - because the read IS so visceral. I have to admit, Catelyn is my least favoured character but (like previous commenters) my head reels with suspicion, my stomach churns with tension and finally my heart breaks with her & for her as the carnage unfolds. Every time I finish this scene I have to push the book away and lament Cat's choices that led to this.

Why Cat did you trust Littlefinger? Why couldn't you hold fast to the thought of physically protecting your children, instead of trying to avenge them, by taking Tyrion prisoner?

Why?

Ahh! GRRM, you sly silver bearded FOX! You've stuck your stilletto in my ribs early and often. And prescribed multiple repeats.

Lastly, through this perspective lens, WAR is death & hopefully victory. Whoever bemoans Walder Frey's lack of "manner's", I repeat he kept every part of his bargain and was betrayed.

How resonant is his "......i'll make you an apology......." line?

He betrayed nothing. Frey merely stamped the sealing wax on Tywin Lannister's authoring of his declared enemy's destruction.

Ruthlessly, brutally, rationally Frey ensured the protection and survival of his family, after the King, to whom he had entrusted those things, betrayed that trust.
corejay
206. MegaZeroX
I forgot that it is now on Mondays. Anyways, I think I will post the not-so-long awaited continuation of poster number 5's "Red Wedding (part 1)

Hey Leigh Butler who is it you mourn?
Hey Leigh Butler what is it you wish?
Hey Leigh Butler sword point (oh yeah)
Hey Leigh Buter who's your favorite Stark?
Hey Leight Butler sword point!

It's a nice day to start again (come on)
It's a nice day for a red wedding
It's a nice day to start again.

(Pick it up)
Take me to Winterfell

Hey Leigh Butler what have you read?
Hey Leigh Butler what is it you dread?
Arya has been away for so long (so long)
Arya has been away for so long (so long)
Arya didn't return for so long

It's a nice day to start again (come on)
It's a nice day for a red wedding
It's a nice day to start again.

There is nothin' fair in this world
There is nothin' safe in this world
And there's nothin' sure in this world
And there's nothin' pure in this world
Look for something left in this world

Start again! Come on!
It's a nice day for a red wedding
It's a nice day to start again.
It's a nice day to start again.
It's a nice day to start again
Janet Hopkins
207. JanDSedai
Anad who else thinks that Jeyne "comforting" Robb was a plot on the Lannister's part to sink the Frey alliance? Maybe it wasn't Tywin, but certainly on her parents' part as Lannister lackeys. And the grandmother probably knew some herbs to cloud Robb's judgement when he was sick.
corejay
208. AuttieB
this scene is the first time in my life I have actually thrown a book.
corejay
209. Hardcore
Awesome post, Leigh, as I knew it would be!

I'm a bit surprised you made no mention of the role the music played in this chapter; the sudden change to "The Rains of Castamere” as the attack began, the deafening booming of the drums throughout it all...there was a true psychological warfare aspect to it and I remember that unnerving me much more than the actual attack when I first read it.
Lisamarie LiGreci-Newton
210. Lisamarie
@briantium -
I just want to say that I kind of love that you specifically bring up the three year old whose face was bashed in (his dad was killed at some point, he was crying, so a soldier bashed his face in when his mother couldn't calm him down, and then killed his mother when she started screaming) because that was kind of the moral event horizon for these books for me (maybe killing Mycah was, come to think of it). Especially as I have a two year old who would probably react the same way and I would be unable to calm. Of all the things in the book that is the part that haunts me the most.

ETA: I should also add, that learning about how baby Aegon had his head slammed into a wall in front of his mother also affected me pretty deeply.

I honestly don't remember having a strong reaction to the Red Wedding - by then I knew what kind of series it was and that there really wasn't anybody to 'root for' and my interest in it is to see what happens. That's the level I enjoy GRRM on...while I certainly agree that there is brutality in the world, and that fantasy can also be used to explore deep/dark topics, so far I'm not getting that from these books - I'm not sure what, if anything, they are really trying to say (aside from an interesting story). Unless it's just that people are depraved. or that things don't always work out how we want them to, and doing the right thing doesn't always mean you'll win or horrible things won't happen to you (that last bit I do agree with, actually).

I do also enjoy reading fantasy for escapist purposes (which is why I don't like when they make Star Wars all gritty) but I can also enjoy this kind of thing too, although I do have to divorce myself from it. Otherwise, the imagery is just too intense and can trigger anxiety in me. I keep reading basically because I enjoy all the intrigue and twists and turns. I actually find Jon and Danerys's plot lines the least interesting as compared to what's going on with the Lannisters.

That said, I doubt that any deaths will truly shock or surprise me or make me mourn, unlike other books I read. But it does really make me wonder what will happen.
Tricia Irish
211. Tektonica
TorvaldNom@204: Oh yes. Ericson is visceral. But I trust him. He can make me love a character in a single line. And while his world is violent and unmerciful, the characters can be so full of compassion and comraderie, that the loss is deeply felt.

The loss of Catelyn, was not as much of a visceral reaction for me, because I didnt' care about her as much, as say, Mallet. Catelyn was deeply flawed in many ways, but not a bad person. She was always motivated by an honorable desire, but she "reacted", and was more selfish, in a maternal way. And after Neds loss, I just didnt' trust GRRM, so my armor was on. GRRM seems sometimes, to me, to just create chaos and break tropes for the hell of it....and then he has to work his way out of them...which can take 5 years ;-)

With all the death and destruction in Ericson, I find him much more positive and hopeful about the human condition....and heart. I find GRRM very cynical about us humans.
C R L
212. Maac
@ 198
You have to admit - though it's heartwrenching, Robb made idiotic
political move after idiotic political move. He was doomed within the
first few pages of this novel.
Too right.


(I am saving the comforting links from above to post for people after this Sunday's HBO episode. :-D Bunnies! Pit bulls and Bunnies!)
Steven Halter
213. stevenhalter
tek@211:I like Erikson and the Malazan books better than the ASoIaF books. Martin has a very good world here and I am enjoying it, but I certainly couldn't do the couple chapters a week with SE.
I thought the past two chapters were well done. Martin does a good job of writing in tension in the moment. I felt quite sorry for Catelyn but wasn't surprised or touched that much by Robb. Arya I do care about. Erikson has a masterful touch of making you care deeply about a character in just a sentence or two as you say. The multiple entwinned complexities can overwhelm some first time readers but well worth it. I also really like the magic in Erikson vs the long slow intro in ASoIaF.
Obviously, if I didn't like Martin I wouldn't be doing this, so it really isn't a criticism of Martin as much as a paen to Erikson.
Julian Augustus
214. Alisonwonderland
A few times in this re-read I have mentioned that I believe this is the most powerful, gut-wrenching, emotionally draining book in the series so far, and I believe it is easily his best book yet. But it is NOT my favourite book in the seies. I much prefer aCoK, where I get to enjoy Arya's awesome survival skills, Tyrion's cunning manoeuvres to outwit the many snakes in Kings Landing, and Theon's travails when he bit off more than he could chew. For me, there's no such enjoyment in aSoS, where I get to grin from ear to ear and soak in the moment, because the book is so relentlessy dark and depressing.

But I have tremendous respect for the intensity of emotion George was able to wring out of me in this book. In all my reading so far, the only scene that beats the Red Wedding for sheer emotional intensity for me was a certain scene in the middle of tGS involving Rand, Min and Semirhage (I felt like I was going to black out as I read that scene).
corejay
215. PugVudu
Someone may have alredy posted this. I only read the first 100 posts or so. One of Patchface's songs fortells of the wedding.

"Fool's blood, king's blood, blood on the maiden's thigh, but chains for the guests and chains for the bridegroom, aye aye aye."
Brian Rice
216. briantium
@214; I agree. GRRM IS a brilliant writer. Also to your reference to tGS.

The Red Wedding is so visceral for me that I've decided I can't even watch Sunday night's episode on HBO (how fortuitous that Leigh's re-read sync's PERFECTLY with the airing of the same scene). I've seen every episode up til last week, but now I just know I can't stand to watch it depicted on screen. Crazy, huh?
corejay
217. o.m.
@182, can you think of a good political move by Cercei so far? Recalling Joffrey during ACOK 60 was about par for the course ...
corejay
219. Aerona Greenjoy
Y'know, as hard as the Red Wedding is to read about, it's relatively easy to respond to -- with pure grief and anger. Robb may have been a doomed traitor, Catelyn made some bad choices, but they were basically "good guys," so killing them and their army was "wrong." Pretty low on the moral ambiguity scale, compared to some events ahead...
corejay
220. Wortmauer
DRBlase@146: You seem to think that it is a fact that people in "historic-based reality" were much more brutal than people today. I would also call that fantasy. I see plenty of example of brutality in today's world and see no reason not to assume that there was a lot of good people in "historic-based reality".
Life really did used to be more nasty, brutish and short. It is fashionable, I know, to look upon our guns and bombs and assume we're getting more brutal. But the numbers don't hold up. According to Stephen Pinker:
In tribal societies, hunter-gatherers and hunter-horticulturalists, an average of 15% of people met their ends through violence. In the 20th century, if you try to come up with the highest estimate you can, combining all the wars, all the genocides, all the man-made famines, you get to about 3%.
...
Samuel Pepys in his diary talks about going to a town square and watching a general being drawn and quartered, and in the next sentence he talks about going to a pub and having some oysters, it was such a routine part of his day. In the era of Henry VIII, I think 10 people were executed a week.
— Pinker, on a podcast
A bit eye-opening, perhaps, but then, whitewashing history is a pretty common tendency. (See also: "the poor are getting poorer.")
Cirion@173: Also, people are overreacting in a hilarious way. After two and a half books and several thousand pages, TWO POV-Characters died, TWO, while all the others still live.
Indeed. Well, a couple more if you count Gared (POV, book 1 prologue), Maester Cressen (POV, book 2 prologue).... But nobody ever cared about them.

I agree with the assessment: GRRM's main characters have just as much plot armor as anyone else's main characters. (Look at Bran: he has survived not one but two chapter cliffhangers where he was heavily implied to have been killed.) It just took awhile to figure out — perhaps we still are figuring out — who's a main character and who's really just in a side plot.
James Kendall
222. JKsilver
Ah, The Big Red One.

I can understand why this scene makes a lot of people give up reading, but for me, it's my favourite in the entire series. Not because I enjoy it as such, but because it's all but unique in fantasy in the visceral reaction it evokes, and the boldness and frankness displayed by GRRM in writing it. Not everyone is saved at the last minute, not everyone gets a happy, or even narratively neat, conclusion, not everyone survives.

In fact, it's almost spoiled other series for me which don't have the same approach towards death. There's far less tension in a series where it's abundantly clear after the first book that the main characters are in absolutely no danger until, say, the very last chapter or the very last book.

I think that's also part of the brilliance of the Red Wedding - it's placement in the book. It comes in about two thirds of the way in, and is thus truly shocking as it isn't neatly placed in the climax of the book. Death in real life certainly doesn't come at a convenient or expected time, and ASOIAF is one of the few series (or, indeed, any work of fiction) where I've felt that that's fairly represented.
corejay
223. Aerona Greenjoy
To the show's Facebook page, angst leeches! I'll be right behind you.
Marie Veek
224. SlackerSpice
Regarding the bleakness debate, I will only say this - if you liked it, fine. But at the same time, these chapters got other people quite pissed off - and that is equally valid. (Quite frankly, after these chapters, I don't blame them.)

Your Mileage May Vary, Your Kink is Not My Kink, etc.
Brian Rice
225. briantium
I still can't decide if GRRM is a brilliant writer for eliciting such a visceral response from readers as to their reactions to the Red Wedding. I myself decided not to watch the episode as it aired on HBO tonight, but read the recaps just to see how differently it would play out regarding Robb's wife since she was re-written from the books.

Or is he just a sicko who gets his jollies by building up these characters only to kill them off. But you have to hand it to him that he's able to take fictional characters and leave me literally ANGRY at what happened. As I said before, I somehow managed to finish the rest of the book but never continued, and I'm not sure I'm going to continue watching the show (one episode left for this season). I guess I'll just wrap this up by venting my anger at GRRM saying FUCK YOU. Robert Jordan's a better writer anyway.
Benjamin Moldovan
226. benpmoldovan
I too have been waiting a long time for this one. I was pretty ticked off, not at GRRM, but at the Freys. What Robb did was wrong and incredibly stupid, but Frey should have just declared the treaty broken. Giving guestright, and then slaughtering your guests, no matter the provokation, is as sleazy as it gets. I loathe the Freys, as a general rule now. Dear God, they almost make the Lannisters look like saints by comparison - but only by comparison. (Why is it not letting me make a new paragraph here, arggh? Oh well, just a freak I.E. thing, I guess.) As for WOT, I also kind of expected a GRRM-like slaughter. It's the freaking APOCALYPSE, for crying out loud. And certainly, many people died, if not all of them major characters. , many AS, etc. Ben
Chris Nelly
227. Aeryl
One thing I'd like to point out, as the show did it too, but when Walder Frey agreed to the marital alliance, he wasn't agreeing to marry King of the North. He was agreeing to marry the Heir to Winterfell, and the son of the Warden of the North. Who was in rebellion against the throne.

So to claim that Frey threw his family's security behind Robb for a chance that his grandson would be king isn't the case. He threw his family's security behind Robb for better marriage prospects, that's all.

Now this isn't to say that Robb didn't wrong him, or that Frey hadn't gotten used to the idea of being grandfather to a king. I just think this is a distinction that's gotten lost, as SO MUCH HAS HAPPENED since that initial alliance to cross the Twins to SAVE NED!!!!
Chris Nelly
228. Aeryl
@226, The trick is, don't even try to change the text color, until after you've "previewed" the comment.
Tabby Alleman
229. Tabbyfl55
And now there's Malazan spoilers in ASOIAF! But at least I've already read that far in that series.

No I wasn't being facetious, and I'm sure that 99.9% of the details of aMoL are unspoiled, but just to see something to the effect of "everything works out ok for Rand in the end" completely sucks ALL of the tension out of the ENTIRE book for me. Now instead of "does it work out ok", I'm reading to find out exactly how it works out ok, which is .. well, depressing.

I don't remember the exact spoilant words, because as soon as I realized what was being said, I immediately stopped reading the rest of the post and don't want to scroll back up to it in case I managed to not read something I didn't want to.

I'm not saying I have a right to expect people not to discuss other books in comment threads, but just saying, how would you like it if I spoiled the end (or any major plot point) of a book you were looking forward to reading and hadn't gotten to yet?
George Jong
230. IndependentGeorge
The thing to remember about the RW is that this is all a part of a larger narrative. ASOS is the end of Act I of ASOIAF - the Starks have lost the war, and the remaining Stark children are scattered and hunted, but still alive.

There is still a story to tell. The Lannisters have effectively won the War of the Five Kings, but it's very evident that they are not the slightest bit prepared for either the Targaryen resurgance, or, more importantly, the Long Night. Without the Starks to unite & lead them, and the Watch in shambles, the Kingdoms are now effectively defenseless against the Others.

Furthermore, Dany's story itself can serve as foreshadowing for what can happen when a great house is defeated, but not destroyed. Dany has her dragon, and the Starks (particularly Bran) have their warging.

I won't spoil future events, but suffice to say, the fall of House Stark is only the end of the beginning.
Brian Rice
231. briantium
@229 Tabby: Well, to say things "work out in the end" for Rand and company depends on your point of view. I'm assuming you've read all the books up until aMoL? If so, then you know he's already lost his hand, and that Mat has lost an eye. And it's never explicitly stated that Aviendha's bleak future vision for the Aiel is only a possible future and not set in stone (though some of the other Wise Ones somewhat optimistically opine that it's changeable).

aMoL semi-spoiler follows: I mean, sure most of the major cast don't die...but it's not like they (or a lot of other characters) don't have to endure some harsh sacrifices. Rand's future in particular is not exactly triumphant glory but rather bittersweet.
Scott Silver
232. hihosilver28
@229 Tabbyfl55
The comment stated that Rand accomplished his goal, not that it worked out alright. I can understand why you would think that would mean it all ended hunky-dory. I won't say one way or another, but just tell you that it is absolutely worth reading, and that the comment didn't spoil what you think it spoiled.
corejay
233. Looking Glass
Aeryl @194: On Walder Frey: it is indeed a bad, bad thing to be an enemy in Walder Frey’s power, especially if you’ve both: seriously insulted him, and now have less to offer than your opposition. My point was that that is pretty much par for the course in Westeros; and prior to the Red Wedding, Frey was notable for a sort of unlikeable petty viciousness on a personal level, but not otherwise seen as outside the bell curve for how Westerosi lords conduct themselves.

(Admittedly, I do recall that some of the most straightforward lords (Ned and King Robert, maybe? Tully?) were also down on Frey’s general reliability- figuring he’d make it a point to be on the winning side- but while good foreshadowing, nothing they said struck me as particularly outside the norm for Westerosi nobility in general.)
-

On Robb’s honor: You’re conflating Robb’s honor and his reputation there, but Robb’s committed to the former even at the expense of the latter. That is, he married Jeyne Westerling not because casting her aside would harm his reputation- given he put his word on marrying a Frey, I'd say rather the opposite- but because he thought it would be dishonorable of him to do otherwise (partly, but not exclusively, because it would harm her reputation).

Of course, it wasn’t honorable of him to break his word to the Freys either, but that seemed both the lesser dishonor and the easier to set right.
--

Aegnor @199: I had thought that’s what I did- indeed, the fact that I’d done that dance is part of the reason I was extra frustrated to see it didn’t work. It is quite possible I screwed up the sequence somewhere, though.
--

Gregor Lewis @205: Indeed, Frey was extremely justified in turning on Robb. He was both betrayed and insulted… and not only are the Lannisters now in a much stronger position, but whatever else you may say of them, well, it’s well known that the Lannisters pay their debts.

What’s dubious, ethically, is the manner in which Frey turned on Robb- a (in fact, literally) spectacular act of treachery, false friendship, and the betrayal of the previously-inviolable tradition of hospitality.

I personally don’t actually think that Frey’s invite-them-in-and-kill-them-all tactic was worse, morally, than a lot of the terrible practices routine in Westerosi war (though some ASoIaF characters might disagree). However, it was certainly outside the norm for Westeros in a way that casual brutality and even deliberate cruelty are not. Even Catelyn, worried though she was, thought that hospitality offered and accepted constituted an agreement that will bind Frey.
--

JanDSedai @207: Given the obvious coordination between Frey and Bolton, someone was clearly setting things up behind the scenes. Under the circumstances, it wouldn’t be surprising if the collusion extended in that direction, too. Tywin has been writing a lot of letters recently…

Of course, going forward it should be really easy to tell. Either Tywin comes down like the wrath of god on the Lannister vassal who had the temerity to marry his daughter to Robb Stark… or he doesn’t. Given Tywin’s ethos, either outcome says something pretty conclusive.
--

Lisamarie @210: Perhaps I’m just optimistic and destined for disappointment, but I’d say there’s still a space for idealism of a sort in the series- a going-into-this-with-eyes-open sort of idealism, in vein of “life won’t be easy or even fair if we try, but we can still make the world a better place”. Under that formulation, Robb’s death could certainly work in service to a theme of not letting your worldview obstruct your view of the world- he certainly wouldn’t be the first or last character to die the death of faulty assumptions- and it could still work in service of the idea that “we can and should try to improve things, but ignoring the faults of the world or of human nature is not the way to do that” sense.

Perhaps I am being too optimistic; maybe this story really will end with “the worst people win, and everything is terrible forever”. Or even just “lots of blood and tears to end up in the same place we started”. It’s still a risk I’m willing to take.
--
corejay
234. Black Dread
Once again, the reaction to the series doesn't disappoint.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=78juOpTM3tE
Chris Nelly
235. Aeryl
@233,
but because he thought it would be dishonorable of him to do otherwise

I don't buy that. Everything we've seen in Westeros shows that what Robb did was completely acceptable. What Jeyne did was not.

He wasn't concerned for acting honorably, like his father. He wanted to act more honorably than his father. And that led him to be blind about his actual honor, as a king who honors his vows.

In the show, Margaery said that boys take after their mothers. Cat's made this same point several times in the books, that Robb was more hers than Ned's. I think it's very easy to see that Robb, because of his closeness with Cat, viewed this situation w/Jeyne through her eyes, as she was the wronged party when Ned fathered a bastard and "had" an affair with Ashara Dayne.
Deana Whitney
236. Braid_Tug
Hello to everyone who's come out of the woodwork to post this week!
Watching the sparks fly has been fun.

@7. Aerona Greenjoy - Ouch! But funny and true.


I'm going to be watching the HBO version tonight (Monday), since I don't have it, and my friends couldn't watch it last night. They are both book readers, so no shock there. Still, I'm expecting a punch in the guts.

Re: Spoilers about other works, people who have been complaining have some valid points.
The main commenters here jump all over anyone who make a comment too close to a spoiler for this work. But those who haven't read WoT or the Malazan or the Erikson books are spoiled. (Read WOT, not the others). Guess we all have a hard time talking about how one book makes us feel without referencing other works that affected us.
Don Barkauskas
237. bad_platypus
benpmoldovan @226: To fix the paragraphing problem, click on the "Compatibility View" icon in IE (the icon that looks like the torn sheet of paper). That'll take care of it.

Aeryl @228 posted the trick for whiting out.
Chris Nelly
238. Aeryl
@237, It will leave you in such anxiety. And they did a truly beautiful thing with the end credits, that really helps the impact.
Brian Rice
239. briantium
I saw an article link for How I Met Your Mother with a pic of the just revealed mother, and I immediately visualized her being brutally murdered at Barney and Robin's wedding in the series finale...FUCKING GRRM
corejay
240. Looking Glass
Aeryl @235: Really, the only honorable choice would’ve been not to sleep with Jeyne Westerling in the first place. Once he had, he faced a dishonorable act on either path: he could either break his word to the Freys, or he could abandon someone who’d given him aid and comfort (and “comfort”) and nursed him back to health to an untenable position (something to the effect of “seduced and abandoned by a traitorous mortal enemy of her liege lord amid his campaign to ravage the surrounding countryside”).

(One could try for the case that they were two consenting adults who went into the relationship in full knowledge of the political realities, and therefore he’s not responsible for the repercussions she could face and can’t weigh them against his own responsibilities, but there are a number of problems with that argument, by Westerosi standards or modern ones.)

Once in that position, neither choice is entirely honorable, but I think he tried to find the most honorable path available out of the thicket his libido (and, in fairness, possibly-injury-and-medication-dulled decision-making) had led him into. He could have chosen to do right by the Freys and try for an imperfect solution for the Westerlings; instead he chose the reverse. That he made the choice he did at that juncture may have been political (and, as it turns out, actual) suicide, but dumb isn’t necessarily dishonorable; I think it was a good-faith attempt to do the honorable thing. He absolutely put his honor as a man (particularly but not exclusively as a lover and potential father) ahead of his honor as a king and the honor wrapped up in his duties to his people, but (aside from the sheer bone-headedness of that decision in context) that’s a defensible choice, and I think he thought it was the right one.

(Of course, the context I’ve just cavalierly tossed aside meant the consequences of his decisions screwed everyone he cared about; had he foreseen those consequences, the choices before him would have looked very different. But hey, we just saw that those consequences crept up and surprised him. Just because he was dumb enough (or, slightly more charitably, was naively idealistic enough) not to see it coming doesn’t mean he didn’t die in the process of trying to do what he thought was the right thing.)

I do absolutely agree that he was deliberately trying to avoid what he saw as the one great failure of Ned’s honor in fathering Jon. I think that has more to do with closeness to Jon than Cat, though- the whole Westerling affair doesn’t have a Cat-figure (besides whatever Frey girl got thrown over for Jeyne). It did, however, have the potential for abandoned lovers and sons, and Robb is well aware Jon's life was never a barrel of laughs.

I also think that Robb was young man besotted with a young lady; even his best attempt at decision-making was probably less impartial than he intended.

Still, I think that given a situation with only imperfect solutions (admittedly, one he got himself into), he attempted to find and take the most honorable course available to him. He may not have been particularly forsightful in that attempt, and may have had emotional baggage unintentionally swaying him from perfectly rational decisionmaking, but I think he was genuinely trying to do the honorable thing.

(Really, I’m relying on the notion that (the act of trying to do the honorable thing as best you can see) is itself (the honorable thing to do).)
-

(And I’m nesting parentheses (and sometimes using them in different ways, too) (because I don’t really trust any of the brackets to work right (and because it’s fun (even though I know it’s wrong (perhaps because I know it’s wrong (yes, it's a decadent pleasure))))).) :)
Debbie Solomon
241. dsolo
This is the point where I started to lose interest in ASoIaF. I did buy the next couple of books, because I still care about what happens to Arya, Daenrys, Jon Snow and Tyrion. However, the GRRM is living up to his initials, because the grim keeps on coming. I don't always have to have a happy ending, but I want to have some happy moments. I have reread WoT several times, beginning to end. I have not done that with this series. I did reread the first 2 books before this one came out, and then the rereads stopped. Now, I'm reminding myself of what happens through reading your reread posts.
Benjamin Moldovan
242. benpmoldovan
Aeryl @ 228: I was. I wonder if my internet program was just acting up yesterday. Let me try something here... Still not letting me make a new paragraph. Or change font colors either. I don't understand it... Ben
Benjamin Moldovan
243. benpmoldovan
weirder and weirder. tried to type something new, and it reposted my last comment. Editing to revise. THAT at least, seems to be working. Have version 10 of I.E. Ben
Chris Nelly
244. Aeryl
@240, It's been awhile, but wasn't he under the influence of milk of the poppy? I've always questioned his ability to consent to what happened with Jeyne more than I ever questioned hers.

So while, yes you're right, not having sex with her would have been the best thing, but the impression I got was that he didn't actually get to choose. He was wounded, grieving and drugged.
Chris Nelly
245. Aeryl
The middle of the third book is the actual apex of this series. The hero family has been brought low. Next, other characters who are riding high must also be brought low. This is literature 101. After everyone's been brought low, you find out who can come out on top. I don't expect happiness, I expect bloodshed and battles to the death. YMMV, of course.
George Jong
246. IndependentGeorge
@245 - I still think it's more the conclusion of the first act than the apex; there's still a lot of story left to tell. I think it only seems like the apex because Books 4 & 5 really seem more like an extended intermission than a new arc.

Act I: The fall of House Stark
Act II: //Exploring new geopolitical reality//
Act III*: //The fall of the Seven Kingdoms, and the war for dawn//

*Obviously, this is pure speculation on my part.
Chris Nelly
247. Aeryl
I don't necessarily disagree, but I still feel, all evidence to the contrary, that this is still MAINLY the Starks story, because while everyone has counted them out, most of them are actually still alive and involved in what's happening to the country. So, to me Act 2 & 3 are mostly about the slow climb to prominence, as their enemies fail to adjust to the new geopolitical reality.
Adam S.
248. MDNY
The story is "A Song of Ice and Fire". Not Winter is Coming, Wolves vs Lions, or anything like that. Not even anything about dragons. Remember Dany's vision in the house of the undying:

The man had her brother's hair, but he was taller, and his eyes were a dark indigo rather than lilac. "Aegon," he said to a woman nursing a newborn babe in a great wooden bed. "What better name for a king?" "Will you make a song for him?" the woman asked. "He has a song," the man replied. "He is the prince that was promised, and his is the song of ice and fire." He looked up when he said it and his eyes met Dany's, and it seemed as if he saw her standing there beyond the door. "There must be one more," he said, though whether he was speaking to her or the woman in the bed she could not say. "The dragon has three heads."

Regardless of who we want to win, or who seems to be winning, or who seems LIKELY to win or even MAY POSSIBLY win, I think the title of the series is all you need to know to have SOME idea about how things will progress. That's all I can say here.
Chris Nelly
249. Aeryl
Ice=Starks Fire=Targs, nothing in your post contradicts that this is still mainly about the Starks, as there is only one Targ.
corejay
250. Browniesbane
Before we give up on the Starks, let me point out that Rickon Stark serves no obvious purpose other than to be the heirsheirs of Winterfall someday


That is, unless he gets killed
Janet Hopkins
251. JanDSedai
@ benpmoldevan: I'm having the same problem with paragraphs. I figure it is the laptop I am on. My tower was taken by the FBI after I got hacked...
Deana Whitney
253. Braid_Tug
@251, JanD - o.O !!! Sorry to hear that.
Hope you get your comptuer back from them at some point. But my sister has had dealings with them, so the realistic hope is small.

Re: paragraphs, glad to hear there is a fix.
When I'm at home, my Windows 8 desktop and Tor.com don't see to get along. I have the same problem.

So, just under 48 hours until we get to see the reaction to the Red Wedding fall out!
Adam S.
254. MDNY
Browniesbane-
I agree. Bran seems lost to the rest of the world, heading north to the children- can't say more w/o spoilers, but I doubt he'll return. Even if he returned, you have to figure he can't have children, being crippled below the waist and all. So Rickon is the future for the Stark name, and for their power, whatever remains when all is said and done. All Jojen said was that he saw the Starks would return to Winterfell, not who would be the new Stark leader. Arya and Sansa may return but they can't propogate the Stark name. However, while the Starks have a future, they are currently out of the running for any power, with the survivors scattered, and most unknown to even be alive. The majority of people in Westeros now think only Sansa survives, which is why the Tyrells, Lannisters, and Littlefinger are so focused on her.
corejay
255. Ragnarredbeard
@17 Aeryl,

"*While Jaime is being redeemed, I still put him on the "unacceptable for the throne" list, for throwing a child off a building."

To be fair, Jaime didn't throw Bran. He pushed him. Big difference.
Bill Stusser
256. billiam
I was going to put this comment up Saturday night but gave up when I couldn't get the comment box to work like several others above. Thanks bad platypus @ 137 for the solution. I hadn't even noticed that the torn piece of paper icon had turned from blue to gray.

I know I've said this before but I think it bears repeating, one thing to keep in mind while reading GRRM is that he used to write for televion. That is where the use of cliffhangers comes from. When GRRM first started writing ASoIaF his goal was to write a story that was too big to ever be filmed.

@ Tek & steven
I have to disagree with both of you up thread about TMBotF. To me, Erikson uses character death (and gratuitous violence) for no other reason than to simply shock the reader. Every time he introduces a new POV character I immediately think, huh, how long until this one dies? The mortality rate is way higher in TMBotF than ASoIaF. Even when my favorite character (a certain gray skinned spear wielder) died it didn't elicit as much emotion in me as when Cat, a character I couldn't stand, died in this chapter here.

Also, as you can see by some of the comments here, the RW was being set up over the course of the series, it does not come from out of the blue. Erikson has a tendency to be too DEMish, in my opinion. I'm thinking of a certain mage introduced about halfway through one of the books with the sole purpose of saving everyone from some nasty sorcery later in that same book.

And one last thing, GRRM is a master of the POV structure while Erikson can be downright clumsy at times. Like when he breaks into omni perspective for no reason and it really bothers me when he changes from character A's perspective to character B's perspective right in the middle of character A's POV. I also hate the whole 'when so and so would look back on this event years later' thing that Erikson uses sometimes.

But of course, this is just my opinion, your mileage may vary.
corejay
257. Aerona Greenjoy
Many GoT-viewers, are declaring their intent to stop watching the show or even cancel their HBO. I expect many of them are long accustomed to murder-filled films/shsows (GoT and others). I couldn't watch the episode (no cable, boo) but it must've been done exceptionally well. Killing Robb's pregnant wife undoubtedly amped up the heartbreak factor, but the worldwide outpouring of grief is remarkable. Guess I'll know the truth when the DVDs come out...in about nine flaming months.
Steven Halter
258. stevenhalter
billiam@256:As you say, YMMV. For example, I don't think that Erikson uses death merely to shock the reader and I rather enjoy the revisiting of scenes.
Martin and Erikson have quite different styles and goals for their worlds. I am enjoying both of them (and many others).
Daniel Holm
259. dholm
First time I read the series, this is where I stopped. I threw the book across the room in a rage, and didn't read ASIOAF for another three or four years.

I must admit I've been looking forward to your reaction, Leigh, and you didn't disappoint.
Anthony Pero
260. anthonypero
The Red Wedding is where I lost a lot of interest and passion for this series. I never re-read any of the books after that. I had re-read GoT and aCoK prior to the release of aSoS, but didn't bother to re-read anything prior to aFFC or aDWD. As you can imagine, my understanding of what was happening in those later books suffered a great deal. I just couldn't bring myself to care what happened anymore. 13 years later I am FINALLY starting a re-read of this series. It took me that long to get over the Red Wedding.
Tabby Alleman
261. Tabbyfl55
I LOL at the thought of people cancelling their HBO over the Red Wedding!!!

Kill the messenger much? heheheheheh...
corejay
262. Firegoat
My two cents... I read to be entertained. I don't need to be fed pablum, but Jeebus Fucking X. on a unicycle with a flat tire enough already. Ooh, isn't GRRM a BAADASS(HAT)? He puts realism in his fantasy! Fuck bro, if I wanted me some realism I'd walk outside, sit on the stoop and watch the crackheads and the drunks stagger past on their way to nowhere. I pick up a book to escape the fact that life is 99.9% shit, not to have more shit shoved up my nose. Fuck off. I've got other, far better things to read.
Trae Ashleigh
263. Trae
Let me just say that I'm cancelling my HBO because GoT has only one episode of this season left to air. I subscribe to HBO ONLY for Game of Thrones. It's a "wax on, wax off" kind of relationship. This relationship definitely has its advantages; I watch what I want to when I want and I don't pay for what I don't watch. The main reason I do this, however, is because I've read the books. To those who've responded within this commentary who haven't done so, shame on you! While the HBO series, GoT, is extremely close to that which has been written by G.R.R.M. in his novels, the show still isn't the written word! My advice? Read the books first and enjoy the HBO series for what it is. What it is is probably the best ever representation of a fantasy series of novels on cable television!

Additionally, I have to pose the following question: Just how many successful fantasy series have you (i.e.: fandom) ever witnessed achieve such success as has GoT? (You can't include SciFi series in your responses.)
Michał Kubalski
264. nosiwoda
I cannot understand all these vivid emotions and reactions. Maybe I'm emotionally crippled or smth (although I don't think so), but...

Starks are not real. GoT is fiction. I read "the Red Wedding" part a long time ago, I acknowledged what had happened, I moved on with the reading. Really, crying? Throwing a book across the room? Not buying later installments in the series? I mean, REALLY?!
Bridget McGovern
265. BMcGovern
"To those who've responded within this commentary who haven't done so, shame on you!"

Trae @263: In terms of reading the books, this particular series, Leigh's Read of Ice and Fire, is a book-by-book, chapter-by-chapter read-along of the novels. Most people commenting on this thread *have* read the series before, while some people are keeping pace with the posts, but either way, "reading the books" is the entire point of this column, just to be clear :)

If you're looking to discuss the HBO series, we also have weekly coverage of the show here.
corejay
266. Carolyn H
I guess I'm in the minority, but after I got over the shock, I came to appreciate the deaths of characters were cared about. In most fiction, when a character dies, it's some faceless peasant that we didn't care about, or the evil guy that we were glad finally got his comeupance or the sidekick, secondary hero dies a heroic death, none of which isn't usually all that unexpected. Here, we got to know and care for major characters over a long period of time (books and books) and then we had to feel the sorrow and shock of their deaths. To me, my reaction to that was far more visceral than is typical when I read. I can't always say I liked that, but I sure did appreciate it. Kudos to GRRM
Chris Nelly
267. Aeryl
@266. I don't think you're in the minority, a lot of us are still reading the books. But I agree with you that these deaths had a great deal of impact, because they were characters were invested in, and that matters, IMO.
Steven Halter
268. stevenhalter
Aeryl@267:Robb was always a bit abstract, no POV and really mostly observed at a distance (Robb won battle X reported by someone else). Mostly we see him through Catelyn's viewpoint, so it seems that most of the investment in Robb is really a transferred investment through the eyes of Catelyn.
Then, killing both of them at the same time makes a bit of sense. It is rather like a rubber band snapping back to give us a jolt. Robb is killed, POV is at and through Catelyn. She also then snaps and is killed. A double hit to the readers perceptions in the scene made visceral as the characters are closely linked.
I think that is a very interesting writting technique for getting readers to care about a character (Robb) whom they really don't meet that much.
Chris Nelly
269. Aeryl
I think a lot of it too, was a transference from Ned. All the affection we had for Ned went to his children, including Robb, because he seemed like such a natural heir to Ned's legacy. He was stoic and honorable, while badass("Surely, Lord Umber only meant to cut my meat"), confident and cunning.

In my case, it isn't helped by the fact that I was first introduced to Robb through the show, where the delineation between POV and Non POV characters isn't clear, so I became as invested in him as I did Jon, Arya, Bran and Sansa. (And he's portrayed by the adorable Richard Madden, which didn't hurt)
corejay
270. DougL
I have come around partially on Walder Frey.

Robb lost this war when Winterfell was torched. He knew it, Walder Frey knew it, Bolton knew it, and the Lannisters knew it. Everyone knew it.

In the same way that Tywin had to kill Rhagar's kids to prove his loyalty to the new King, Walder had to do something extreme to prove himself to the Lannisters.

He's still a total dick, but he kind of did what he had to do here.
Steven Halter
271. stevenhalter
Aeryl@269:Yes, also from Ned, good point.
Chris Nelly
272. Aeryl
Off topic, but not, I just to point out, I've never really cared about Rickon AT ALL! In the books he's too young, though he's good for some comic relief. In the show, they ignored him. But after this week, I care, because that little kid they got to play him, KILLED IT this episode! I hope they keep his story going, like they have with others we lost touch with.
corejay
273. RoryB
First and only time I have ever thrown a book was after reading the Red Wedding chapter...
Tabby Alleman
274. Tabbyfl55
I'm pretty sure I've never thrown a book.. unless it was maybe one of the Myth-adventure books after a spectacularly bad pun.

They were a long time ago...can't remember.
C R L
275. Maac
I threw "I Am the Cheese" and a couple Robert Cormier books right into walls when I was a teen. Scared my roommate with "I Am the Cheese." I was older when I got to ASoIaF. :-)
Bill Stusser
276. billiam
Ok, so I know I'm late to the party here with this but I thought I would share it anyways. Back in ACoK, part 27 (Theon) on the reread, Theon has a dream that is very interesting considering what happens in this chapter here. This is from pages 808 and 809 of my paperback edition.

Theon has a dream about the feast at Winterfell when King Robert came to make Ned Hand. But in the dream everyone is dead, Robert's guts are spilling out, Ned is headless, etc. Lyanna, Brandon, and Lord Rickard are there too, even though Theon hadn't known them when they were alive.
"And then the tall doors opened with a crash, and a freezing gale blew down the hall, and Robb came walking out of the night. Grey Wind stalked beside, eyes burning, and man and wolf alike bled from half a hundred savage wounds."
corejay
277. Princeps Angelus Mors
George R.R. Martin took inspiration from the non-fictional events of the War of the Roses, and, mark my words, fucked-up things like murdering people over a feast did happen. I get why one can be upset by the death of one or two characters, but to be mad at the author himself?! For fuck's sake, the whole story is of his own design! Hell, I'd be pissed off if hadn't killed them.
Zorila Desufnoc Eht
278. AlirozTheConfused
I counted, and that's 36 swears.

enough for triangles and for squares.
corejay
279. naupathia
I know this is long after the fact but I want to throw in some viewpoint anyway.

I never liked Catelyn and actually had the complete opposite reaction to her that you seem to (just a note I am female too so from that perspective). Not saying I'm glad she died here, but... I wasn't exactly sad to see her go.

I personally found her (Catelyn's) and Bran's chapters to be about the most horrible to slog through. Both for being so overly angsty and waaaaah inducing, but at least Bran being 7 and crippled made it more excusable (but then almost nothing happens in Bran's chapters which made it slow going too).

Catelyn though - you keep aplauding her "strength" and character and how she had purpose. I saw the complete opposite - to me Catelyn defined herself by her children. Every chapter is nothing but wangsting over her loss of Ned and her loss of her children. And constantly second guessing her son, thinking she knows better than him, still trying to be overly motherly, etc,etc. Not to mention that Catelyn is de facto the entire reason this series went to shit - she is the one who convinced Ned to get involded™. So I could never forgive her that - for being too concerned for her own selfish reasons to let Ned just say "who the fuck cares" and stay in Winterfell. Basically every bad thing that happened to her family was because she was too stupidly emotionally wrong in being only concerned with her children, in all the wrong ways. I see her as a woman ruled only by emotion (and selfish emotion to boot - re: the way she treats Jon), which is just not a character I can like.

I get that's my take, which is why I find it interesting you went the opposite direction.
Joyce Crane
280. jyc
Okay, I know this is a bit back in history but I'm reading Leigh's read of aSoIaF from the start, and reading the comments as I go. I just had this urge to skip ahead to see her reaction to the Red Wedding because I was very curious to see it. And it was more or less everything I thought it would be, which I think has been said numerous times already. I don't remember what my reaction was, at this point, but I'm pretty sure I didn't believe it was happening and had to read it again.

That said, can I just put in a plea to commenters to not talk about things happening in other series, even as a point of reference? I, no joke, am 1/3 of the way through the FIRST book of Malazan (which, funnily enough, I started because commenters in previous posts talked generally about what a great series it was). And then came across @204's comment. I'm really a little annoyed, because I had figured it'd be safe to read the comments here seeing as I'm all caught up on aSoIaF.
corejay
281. AlexStark
This chapter was awful! I've cried reading about this massacre! Robb!! My Robb!!! He can't be dead! He was so charming, the best king Winterfell could ever have.. but, like all the good people, he has been killed by GRR Martin! Sigh! Why? Why this non-sense massacre? Why all the shitty bastard people have to live? Why Cersei, Jamie, Greyjoys, Booltons, Freys are still alive?? Is this the message we have to get? "Be a jerk, a bitch, a dick and you'll live, be good and you die!"
Seriously, I didnt like this chapter at all, bad narrative choice. Robb, I will love u forever!!

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