Welcome back to A Read of Ice and Fire! Please join me as I read and react, for the very first time, to George R.R. Martin’s epic fantasy series A Song of Ice and Fire.
Today’s entry is Part 15 of A Feast for Crows, in which we cover Chapter 21 (“The Queenmaker”).
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!
Chapter 21: The Queenmaker
Arianne Martell arrives in the ruins of Shandystone at sunset with her entourage, and Arianne fondly remembers coming there with her uncle Oberyn as a child. They make camp and discuss the news from abroad, in particular the Golden Company’s break with Myr; Arianne assures herself that even if her brother Quentyn has the Company behind him, he will not be able to challenge her right to the throne. Ser Gerold Dayne, called Darkstar, leaves the camp to urinate, and Arianne’s companions express their doubts about his presence here, but Arianne says they will need him, though she is unsettled by his obvious lust for her.
She remembers her mother’s rage that Prince Doran had fostered Quentyn out to Yronwood so young, and thinks of Quentyn being sighted at the Planky Town, seeking passage across the narrow sea. One of her milkbrother Garin’s orphan friends had snuck in and rifled through Quentyn’s belongings, and found scrolls sealed with the sun and spear of Dorne, which worries Arianne. Ser Gerold returns and opines that this plan will neither put the Lannister girl on the throne nor achieve the war she wants. He obliquely suggests assassinating Myrcella instead, and Ser Arys Oakheart as well, but Arianne thinks she is no child murderer, and tells him Myrcella is under her protection.
Ser Arys and Myrcella arrive soon after, and Myrcella is alarmed and confused by Arianne’s companions’ obeisance to her. She asks if something has happened to Tommen; Arianne says Tommen has “fallen in with evil men” who conspire to take Myrcella’s throne away from her. She says as the elder, Myrcella has the right to the Iron Throne before Tommen. She presents her companions: Ser Andrey Dalt (“Drey”), Lady Sylva Santagar (“Spotted Sylva”), her milkbrother Garin, of the orphans of the Greenblood, and Ser Gerold Dayne. Myrcella recalls his cousin Ser Arthur Dayne, and after Sylva leads Myrcella off, Gerold complains that no one remembers anyone of his House except Arthur.
Arys leads Arianne aside, and tells her the news that Tywin Lannister is dead, murdered by the Imp, and Queen Cersei has assumed the regency. Arianne is shocked by the news, but considers Cersei’s regency a good thing, hoping it will ease the way for Myrcella to assume the throne later. They discuss the success of Arys’s plan to keep Myrcella’s departure a secret for a few days (by pretending she is quarantined with redspots). He wants to know the rest of the plan, but Arianne laughs and puts him off.
They set out in the night, and Arianne reflects on her plans to free the Sand Snakes and graciously retire her father. She believes all Dorne will rally to her once she crowns Myrcella, with the possible exception of the Yronwoods, who might declare for Quentyn, but she thinks they alone are no threat. Garin explains to Myrcella the history of his people, who call themselves “orphans” but are actually not, and will meet them at the river Greenblood. They travel into the miserable heat of the day, but reach the river soon enough, and Arianne thinks that they will travel down it to the Vaith, and from there to Hellholt, where they will crown Myrcella.
They reach the boat, and Garin leaps aboard, calling for his friends, but Areo Hotah steps out instead, to Arianne’s horror. She cries for the party to run, but a dozen more guardsmen appear with crossbows, and Hotah calls for Arianne to surrender or see all in her party save Myrcella and herself be killed. Drey and Garin are ready to stand down, but Arys declares that no one will take Myrcella while he draws breath. Arianne wants to urge him to yield, but cannot speak. Arys charges the boat, and Areo Hotah decapitates him. Arianne throws up, and Myrcella is screaming.
“The prince said I must bring you back to Sunspear,” [Hotah] announced. His cheeks and brow were freckled with the blood of Arys Oakheart. “I am sorry, little princess.”
Arianne raised a tear-streaked face. “How could he know?” she asked the captain. “I was so careful. How could he know?”
“Someone told.” Hotah shrugged. “Someone always tells.”
Well, that sucked.
Well, maybe it didn’t suck in the aggregate, seeing as how this “crown Myrcella in absentia” scheme had always struck me as extremely sketchy and doomed to failure, but it definitely sucks in the short term. Especially for Myrcella, who just had to watch her protector be dismembered in front of her. Ugh. ASOIAF: traumatizing fictional children since… er, always, actually.
Not to mention how bad I feel for Arianne, who from her POV seems like an actual nice person, which basically means she is a unicorn in this series.
…Of course, she is a “nice person” who also wants to start a war and force her father into early retirement and take his throne, but hey, compared to some of the gems we’ve met in this story she still qualifies merely on the basis of the fact that she’s trying not to be a total douche while doing it. At this point I’ll take what I can get.
But points to Doran, I guess, for being, apparently, a downright political savant. So far he’s outmaneuvered every single one of his opponents with ease, so clearly he is a force to be reckoned with in the brains department. Yes, someone tattled on Arianne’s plan, but anyone who thinks that happened by accident is probably deeply wrong.
Still, it’s kind of a shame; I was pretty sure the Myrcella Gambit was destined to crash and burn, but I still would have liked to see how it would have played out, for anthropological reasons if no others. It sucks for Myrcella to be used as everyone’s pawn, of course, but since there is basically no scenario in which she wouldn’t be used as everyone’s pawn, so I think it’s probably a matter of choosing the lesser of a large array of evils.
And this is why people who wish to be princesses probably really aren’t thinking that wish through.
I guess I should feel bad for Arys, who I suppose was doing his duty as he saw it, but really, that was just rank stupidity. If your job is to protect Myrcella, then your job is also to stay alive in order to do that, not do the equivalent of running face-first into a combine harvester, because Honor. Sheesh.
One thing I have to point out here, even though I mostly elided it in the summary, was the easy and relaxed and just friendly demeanor of Arianne and her companions in this chapter, and the stark contrast between that and the (by comparison) extraordinarily tense behavior of the mixed-gender groups we’ve seen in Westeros. Granted, this qualifies as anecdotal evidence, since it’s bad science to assume that all mixed-gender groups in Dorne are as comfortable as this one (or that all mixed-gender groups in Westeros are as fraught as the ones we’ve seen), but statistics and stories are two different things, and I think the point is made. Fancy that: treating women as equals and comrades rather than impositions and/or commodities makes things better for everyone, male and female! Who’d’ve thunk it?
I’m sort of a little lost with the Quentyn business. I have a feeling I’m supposed to know who he is and where he actually is, and given the pointed business about the Golden Company I suspect he’s with Dany, possibly masquerading as someone else, but honestly it’s been so long since I’ve read a Dany POV that I’m sort of hazy on it all.
In other news, there seems to be a weird continuity gaffe in this chapter:
[Gerold:] “Crowning the Lannister girl is a hollow gesture. She will never sit the Iron Throne. Nor will you get the war you want. The lion is not so easily provoked.”
[Arianne:] “The lion’s dead. Who knows which cub the lioness prefers?”
[Gerold:] “The one in her own den.”
This exchange is a couple of pages before Arys shocks Arianne with the news that Tywin Lannister is dead. So, I’m not really sure why this news shocks her, since apparently she knew it already. Oh well.
Last and definitely least: “redspots” obviously refers to chicken pox, but apparently shingles is not a thing in ASOIAF, since Arianne thinks that you can’t get redspots again once you’ve had it. Which is a good thing, because shingles? BLOWS GOATS, y’all. I don’t speak from personal experience here, thank God, but my father had shingles in his forties, and to say it sucked would be to vastly understate the sheer epic suckiness of it.
And that’s it for now, kids! Sorry this entry is short, but this has been kind of a crazy week. Nevertheless, make sure you come back next Thursday for Moar!