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 23 of A Feast for Crows, in which we cover Chapter 32 (“Cersei”).
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 32: Cersei
Cersei and her council listen as Margaery Tyrell tells them about the ironmen’s incursion at the Shields, emboldened by their new king, the Crow’s Eye. Cersei is incensed that Margaery dared to rouse her in the middle of the night to demand that she send ships to retake the river, when she considers that the whole thing is probably Margaery’s crippled brother’s fault. Aurane Waters points out that their new fleet is not yet ready, and they are currently no match for the ironmen at sea. Cersei opines that the ironmen are in league with Stannis, ignoring Pycelle’s weak protests that that makes no sense, and declares she will not fall for the trap.
She says Highgarden must answer, but Margaery points out that most of their forces are besieging Storm’s End. Cersei refuses to consider the notion of lifting the siege, and suggests they hire mercenaries instead. Ser Loras begs her to reconsider, but Cersei says they can have their ships back when Dragonstone falls, and not before. Ser Loras then asks permission to take over command at the siege, and promises to have the castle fall within a fortnight. Cersei is delighted at the strong possibility that Loras will die in such an endeavor, and agrees. She again ignores Pycelle’s advice against the idea, and thinks that the old man’s usefulness is at an end.
In private, Qyburn observes that she will need to replace Loras on the Kingsguard if he dies, and says he has someone in mind, a champion that “no living man” will be able to withstand. He then asks about the armor he asked Cersei for; Cersei tells him the armorer thinks she is mad for asking for such impossibly heavy plate, and warns Qyburn of the consequences should he play her for a fool.
She goes to her chamber, where Taena Merryweather is sharing her bed. She tells Taena the news, gleefully observing that Margaery will be “next to naked” without her brother to guard her. Taena cautions her that Margaery has other allies, but Cersei is not concerned. She warns Taena that Cersei will give her to Qyburn if she betrays her, and Taena assures her that she only wants to serve Cersei. Cersei idly wonders what it would be like to have sex with Taena, and reminisces about her unpleasant sexual history with Robert, and how he always pretended he’d been too drunk to remember how roughly he’d used her when he came to “claim his rights.”
She is very displeased to be roused again from her bed, this time by Lady Falyse Stokeworth, who tearfully tells her that Ser Bronn killed her husband in single combat and drove her out of the castle. Infuriated, Cersei reminds Falyse that she had told them to arrange a hunting accident for Bronn, not challenge a seasoned killer to combat. She asks if Balman held his tongue about Cersei’s involvement in the plan, but Falyse indicates that he did not. Cersei summons Qyburn and gives Falyse to him to do as he will with her. Qyburn is pleased, as the puppeteers are “quite used up.” Cersei decides she will deal with Bronn later.
She returns to her chamber, drunk, and roughly fondles Taena awake. Taena protests that Cersei is hurting her, but Cersei tells her she is the queen, and means to claim her rights. Taena submits, but Cersei finds no pleasure in the act.
[Taena:] “Tell me what you would have of me, my love.”
“Leave me.” Cersei rolled away and pulled up the bedclothes to cover herself, shivering. Dawn was breaking. It would be morning soon, and all of this would be forgotten.
It had never happened.
I’m gonna go out on a limb here and assume we’ve got some of that there thematic parallel thingy going on in this chapter. Just a little. Little bit. Smaaall amount.
So the abused becomes the abuser, huh. Sigh. So sad, and yet so, so believable. Not that everyone who is badly-treated goes on to do the same themselves, of course, but I can definitely believe it of someone like Cersei, whose fundamental flaw seems to me to be not so much generic evil as it is a basic inflexibility—a rigidity of mind that leaves her apparently incapable of breaking out of the patterns her life has set for her. She is precisely the kind of person who is doomed to repeat history, possibly not so much because she refuses to learn from her past, but maybe because she can’t.
And it’s not just the rape thing either (and yes, it was rape, in both circumstances; consent given under duress is not consent). I don’t think all the parallels are exact, nor (I suspect) are they meant to be, but it’s probably not an accident that Cersei is turning out to be as shitty a monarch as Robert was in every way, not just in bed.
Maybe even down to the cuckolding, sort of, because Taena has seriously had pending betrayal written all over her since the moment the character showed up—to the point where I don’t even understand how on earth Cersei trusts her so much. But then, Robert trusted Cersei too, didn’t he?
PARALLELS, Y’ALL. Taste the literary magic!
(Speaking of which:
Ten thousand of your children perished in my palm, Your Grace, she thought […] Whilst you snored, I would lick your sons off my face and fingers one by one, all those pale sticky princes. You claimed your rights, my lord, but in the darkness I would eat your heirs.
I’m pretty sure I’ve said before that Martin has a gift for the poetically sordid turn of phrase, but occasionally it bears repeating, because damn.)
Mind you, just because I’m theorizing that Cersei doesn’t understand her own behavior doesn’t mean I’m excusing it. Cersei may not fully comprehend why she’s making the choices she’s making, but that doesn’t change the fact that she’s still the one making those choices. And is, therefore, the one who ought to pay for them.
Whether she actually will pay for them, of course, remains to be seen. In this series there’s no telling which way things will go.
In other news, one way she definitely outstrips Robert in the Shitty Monarch department is the thing with Qyburn, which just gets grosser and more disturbing every time I have to read about it. Clever, really, that Martin is not telling us what Qyburn is actually doing with these women Cersei keeps oh-so-helpfully providing him with, because having to imagine what it is is probably even more unsettling than knowing for sure.
At least I hope so. And I’ll also devoutly hope that we never find out if I’m right, because I repeat: I DON’T WANNA KNOW. Please to not be revealing this particular answer, ever, mmkay?
*glares at the future*
*and back at the future*
Bronn: Four for you, Bronn Coco! You go!
Obscure and random meme references aside, I… really don’t have a lot to say about Bronn, other than to be vaguely pleased that he is continuing to merrily stick it to Cersei in absentia. I mean, presumably Bronn’s unorthodox social climbing methods (Dude, you got a castle!) are going to have relevance at some point, but right now it seems pretty peripheral. Unless Tyrion ironically really is hiding out with him, but I don’t think…
…you know, actually I can’t remember right now where the hell we last left Tyrion. I have a very dim impression that he was heading overseas, though, so for now I will assume that Bronn, like Communism, is just a red herring. Because I can make obscure and random film references, too! Huzzah!
So, who is this supposedly invincible dude Qyburn’s promising Cersei? This is a new thing, I think. In any case, the remark that “no living man” can beat him makes me verrrrrrry suspicious, that’s for sure. He’s probably not the Witch-king of Angmar, because we’re in the wrong series for that, but I’m betting he’s not a normal dude with an intro like that.
My first thought, actually, was that it was Beric the Undead Outlaw, but then I realized that that made like zero sense and told myself to shut up. But, thing is, the existence of Undead!Catelyn proves that whatever was done to Beric to undeadify him (was that explained? Did I forget? Probably) can be repeated on others. So maybe there’s someone else running around collecting death blows for the LOLZ. All kinds of undead-ish folk up in here! Possibly!
(I also just realized that “Beric the Undead Outlaw” scans perfectly to “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” and now I want to punch myself in the ear because that will be stuck in my head all day, goddammit. …And now yours too. MWAHAHAHA.)
And is the extra-heavy armor for Supposedly Invincible Dude? Why would anyone want really heavy armor? What does it all meeeeaaaannnn, maaaaaan? And what are the odds of my hopes for Qyburn getting accidentally crushed under said armor coming to pass?
Low? Yeah, probably low. But a girl can dream!
In any case, clearly I need to root for Loras to make Supposedly Invincible Dude superfluous by not dying at Storm’s End, because while I don’t have any particular need for the Lannisters to win the siege against Dragonstone, I have a very big need for Highgarden to be free to go kick all the ironborn ass they possibly can, toot sweet. That’s a thing that needs to happen, y’all. So if Dragonstone falling is what it takes for that to happen, well then, sorry, Stannis. Have fun storming the castle, Loras!
Plus, it’ll be worth it just for the look on Cersei’s face when he does it. Hah!
And that is where we cease and desist for the nonce, my chicklets. Have a lovely week, and I’ll see you next Thursday!