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 24 of A Feast for Crows, in which we cover Chapter 33 (“Jaime”) and Chapter 34 (“Cat of the Canals”).
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 33: Jaime
Jaime meets with his cousin Daven Lannister, the new Warden of the West and commander of the forces besieging Riverrun. Daven greets him with cheerful coarseness, and they discuss the state of the siege. Daven is contemptuous of both the Freys and the river lords who have sworn sullen allegiance to them, including Lord Gawen Westerling, who fears for the fate of his daughter Jeyne, in the keep with Brynden Tully. He has especial contempt for Lord Emmon Frey, who has been promised Riverrun and constantly frets over the damage that might be done to it, and for Ser Ryman Frey, who threatens to hang Edmure Tully every day but has failed to ever do it. He confides that Roslin is carrying Edmure’s child, conceived in the midst of the Red Wedding, and Emmon is terrified that the child will be a boy and thus a challenge to his putative ownership of Riverrun.
Daven is shocked at the news of Lancel abandoning his wife to join the military orders, and assures Jaime he is not stupid enough to betray his eventual marriage vow to the Freys. He also mentions Ser Kevan’s coldness to him, even though Devan had sworn that he’d not wanted to be made Warden of the West. Devan tells Jaime that Ser Brynden is well-stocked for a lengthy siege, while the besiegers scrounge for sustenance, and regularly lose foragers to hangings in the woods. Daven concedes the latter might be Beric Dondarrion, but has suspicions that the river lords might still be “wolfish” at heart. Jaime hopes to treat with Brynden, and offer him good enough terms to get him to surrender peacefully, so that he will not have to violate his oath to Catelyn, but Daven is skeptical of his chances.
After Daven leaves, Jaime goes to find Ser Ilyn Payne for their nightly sparring. He thinks that Payne enjoys beating him up night after night. Jaime thinks he might be improving, but then Payne takes him down easily, and mockingly pretends to threaten to cut out Jaime’s tongue before walking off.
They arrive at Riverrun the next day, and Jaime is not impressed with what he sees of the besiegers, particularly Ryman Frey’s camp. He sees Edmure Tully standing on the gibbet with a noose around his neck as he apparently is every day, and feels pity for him. He notes that several river lords’ banners are conspicuously missing, and thinks that one way or another this siege must be ended quickly. Jaime has a message sent to Ser Brynden asking to speak to him at dawn on the drawbridge, and makes camp.
At his tent, he is soon joined by his aunt Lady Gemma Frey (nee Lannister) and her husband Emmon Frey, who is entirely dwarfed by his wife. Jaime confirms to her that Tyrion killed Tywin, and lies that her son Cleos died heroically. Gemma is impatient with her husband’s fretting over the potential damage to Riverrun, and Jaime no less so with his objections to being subject to Harrenhal once in place. Gemma kicks Emmon out, and remarks that Tywin wasn’t thinking to make him Lord of Riverrun. Jaime suggests it was more for her sons, but Gemma declares Riverrun “a poisoned prize” as long as any Tullys remain alive, and that Tywin should have given them Darry instead and given Riverrun to Kevan. He tells her about Lancel, and suggests she could go for Darry, but Gemma says Emmon is set on Riverrun now, and supposes Kevan can substitute his younger son Martyn in Lancel’s place.
She is incredulous at Cersei’s decision to allow the Faith to arm again, and explains to Jaime how much difficulty the Swords and Stars caused the monarchy before they were finally disarmed. He tells her of his plan to treat with Brynden, but she opines that terms require trust, and Brynden has no reason to trust either Jaime or the Freys, oathbreakers all. She advises Jaime to hang Edmure Tully and show Brynden his threats have teeth. She complains of Cersei’s bizarre promotion decisions, and is puzzled by Kevan’s refusal to become the Hand. Jaime knows Cersei thinks it is because Kevan knows about her and Jaime, but does not tell Gemma this.
Gemma reminisces about Tywin and how he overshadowed his brothers from childhood on. Jaime asks if she loved him, and Gemma tells him about how Tywin was the only one to object when she was married off to Emmon Frey. She says she loved him for that, even if she didn’t approve of everything he did, and asks who will protect them all now that Tywin is gone. Jaime points out that he left a son, meaning himself, and Gemma answers that that is what she fears the most.
That was a queer remark. “Why should you fear?”
“Jaime,” she said, tugging on his ear, “sweetling, I have known you since you were a babe at Joanna’s breast. You smile like Gerion and fight like Tyg, and there’s some of Kevan in you, else you would not wear that cloak… but Tyrion is Tywin’s son, not you. I said so once to your father’s face, and he would not speak to me for half a year. Men are such thundering great fools. Even the sort who come along once in a thousand years.”
(a) Ouch, and (b) how completely true.
What’s great is how that is simultaneously both a compliment and an insult to both Jaime and Tyrion, depending on how you look at it. I’m betting, though, that Jaime’s not going to pay much attention to the complimentary aspect of it on his own behalf.
But that’s the way it works, generally; a thousand praises can be dwarfed by a single criticism. It would be cool if our brains weren’t masochistic like that, but there you are. Insecurity: the gift that keeps on giving!
So Lady Gemma is awesome and I totally want to go have drinks and shoot pool with her or something (possibly the first Lannister other than Tyrion I have felt that way about), but the rest of this chapter was boring as all hell, consisting of Jaime repeatedly telling other characters things we already knew, and also continuing to not-so-metaphorically beat himself up via the offices of Ilyn Payne, and also also continuing to be mentally pissy at Cersei, and blah blah blah spinning wheels yawn.
And yes, I understand that it was a set-up chapter, positioning Jaime for whatever (hopefully) big-ass confrontation that’s going to go down over Riverrun, but did I really have to slog through seven million pages of redundant talking to get there? Sheesh.
The only other thing I feel worth mentioning about this chapter was the revelation that Roslin apparently got pregnant while the Red Wedding was happening, which, holy shit. I’m sure there have been other children conceived under skeevier and more horrific circumstances, but right now I’m hard-pressed to think of what they could be. I would not be surprised if Edmure won’t be able to stand the sight of his own kid—assuming Edmure lives to see his own kid, of course, which isn’t looking too terribly likely at the moment. Ick.
Poor, poor man. Talk about being dealt a shit hand.
Chapter 34: Cat of the Canals
Cat wakes in the attic room she shares with Brusco’s daughters, Brea and Talea, and goes with the family to the fishmarket, where Brusco purchases the oysters, clams and cockles the girls will be selling that day. Cat remembers her dream the night before of being a wolf, and tells herself she should not be dreaming dreams that belong to Arya Stark, but she can never get rid of them, and at least they are better than the dreams where she searches for her mother in the rain, crying, while a dog-headed monster keeps her away.
She thinks of how the kindly man had instructed her to learn three new things every time before she comes back to the temple each month at the dark of the moon to serve. She always does, and he asks who she is, and she replies “no one,” and he calls her a liar. She will be going that night, but for now she takes her wares to Ragman’s Harbor, where all the non-Braavosi ships must dock. Cat likes the noise and bustle, and trading insults and stories with the myriad folk there. She learns all kinds of things from the mummers and cut-purses and whores and sailors and so on.
She sells oysters to the crew of the Brazen Monkey and tells them where to find the best whores, who happen to be the ones who are kindest to Cat, and how she sold three cockles to a courtesan once. She asks them about the war in the Seven Kingdoms, and they laugh that there is no war, not in the Vale anyway. She discovers that Lady Lysa is dead, and tells herself Cat of the Canals doesn’t have an aunt, so she doesn’t care. At the end of the day she goes to Merry’s brothel, where she is angered to see the former Night’s Watch brother Dareon playing there. She wishes she had been there the night the fat one hit him, and thinks him “fair of face and foul of heart.” He leaves the brothel at the same time Cat does, and boasts of how he will soon be playing in the finest palaces. She asks if the fat brother ever found a ship to Oldtown, but Dareon indicates not. They step into an alley.
Cat returns to Brusco’s and gives him a pair of boots, then goes to the House of Black and White. She washes away all traces of Cat, and goes to work. The waif is teaching her about poisons, and slaps her when she chews her lip like Arya would. They practice her lie-detecting skills, and then the kindly man appears to ask her what she has learned. She tells him two things of little consequence, and then that someone slit Dareon the black singer’s throat. The kindly man asks who could have done this, and she answers “Arya of House Stark.” He asks who she is, and she says “no one.” He says she lies, and sends for warm milk “for our friend Arya, who has returned to us so unexpectedly.” Arya is surprised at this reaction, but drinks the milk and goes to bed.
That night she dreamed she was a wolf again, but it was different from the other dreams. In this dream she had no pack. She prowled alone, bounding over rooftops and padding silently beside the banks of a canal, stalking shadows through the fog.
When she woke the next morning, she was blind.
Oh, hell no. That better be temporary, crazy death cult people! Do not be permanently maiming my Arya! Do not make me throw this book at the wall!
You know what, I’m not going to stress myself thinking about the blinding thing anymore until I get another Arya chapter. Rassa-frassin’ cliffhangers mutter.
I am aware, by the way, that Arya’s actions re: Dareon are… well, actually I’m not sure how to categorize this at all. Her claim of the murder under her identity as Arya Stark implies she thought she was carrying out justice for Dareon’s desertion of the Night Watch, which I guess is sort of justifiable if you squint. But the far more unsettling impression I got from this chapter is that Arya was just using that as an excuse, and she really killed him because, basically, she just didn’t like him.
And that’s… that’s not good.
I mean, obviously it’s not good, but what I mean is that it doesn’t bode well for Arya’s already rather shaky grasp of ethics re: not killing people just because they piss you off and/or look at you funny. I like the idea of Arya being able to defend herself; I do not like the idea of Arya turning into a full-fledged sociopath.
So, on that level, I probably could agree that there needed to be some kind of consequences for what she did. But (a) I think BLINDING her is a little extreme, and (b) I think the punishment is a little undermined for me when you consider that Arya’s probably not being punished for slitting a man’s throat, but for slitting it while being Arya Stark. Which adds its own little layer of fucked-upedness to this… er, cake of fuckery?
Look, layer cake, free association, shut up.
Anyway, it probably also says something that I instantly guessed Arya had killed Dareon the moment she gave the boots to Brusco. Girl is going down a seriously dark path, and I really wish she wouldn’t.
[Dareon:] “We all were. Lord Snow’s command. I told Sam, leave the old man, but the fat fool would not listen.”
What I find interesting is that Arya appears to have totally missed the reference to Jon here. Of course, as a bastard appellation “Snow” could mean anyone, but still, I was surprised that she didn’t even blink at it, considering she knows Jon went to the Wall. Or, am I completely in the wrong here and Arya doesn’t react to the name because she already knows about Jon’s promotion? Not sure.
The rest of this chapter is more of a slice o’ life atmospheric piece than anything else, but oddly was much more interesting to read than Jaime’s chapter even though almost as little happened in it. That does not, however, mean I was interested in trying to summarize all of it, so you’d be well-advised to read the chapter yourself if you want to get all the little details of A Day In The Life of Braavos.
I did like the bit about the courtesans, though, mainly because it reminded me that Braavos is like Venice in more ways than just the canals for streets. Back in the day (16th century-ish) Venice was famed for its courtesans too, who had the distinction at the time of being the most highly-educated women in Europe, in a time where most women weren’t considered worth educating at all. Just a little bit of history there for ya.
“The Black Pearl,” she told them. Merry claimed the Black Pearl was the most famous courtesan of all. “She’s descended from the dragons, that one,” the woman had told Cat. “The first Black Pearl was a pirate queen.”
*tilts head* Huh. Perhaps Martin is a Johnny Depp fan?
This is, actually, probably one of the few “title” POV chapters that hasn’t overtly annoyed me in one way or another. Whether that has to do with the fact that it also was one of the only ones (so far, anyway) to concern a character I actually care about is a pretty fair question, but whatever. I’ll like what I wanna!
A mate on the green galley wolfed half a dozen oysters and told her how his captain had been killed by the Lysene pirates who had tried to board them near the Stepstones. “That bastard Saan it was, with Old Mother’s Son and his big Valyrian. We got away, but just.”
I met a guy named Saan somewhere in here, didn’t I? He was friends with someone. Tyrion? Davos? I think it was Davos. So… there’s that. Which reminds me that I still don’t know if Davos is dead or not. I don’t think he is, but I’m pretty sure I don’t actually know yet.
And last and also probably least, one thing this chapter definitely did accomplish was to make me really want some good raw oysters. Oysters on the half-shell are the bomb, y’all. I know they’re kind of scary-looking if you’ve never tried them, but it is seriously worth it.
And fortunately for me and my oyster cravings, I live in New Orleans, so that’s a want easily solved. Aw, yeah.
And on that yummy note, we out! Have a week, and I’ll see you next Thursday!