A Read of Ice and Fire

A Read of Ice and Fire: A Feast for Crows, Part 32

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 32 of A Feast for Crows, in which we cover Chapter 44 (“Jaime”), Chapter 45 (“Samwell”) and the Epilogue.

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 44: Jaime

What Happens
Emmon Frey and Jaime are furious that Edmure Tully had allowed Ser Brynden to escape before surrendering the castle, but Edmure placidly tells them his agreement said nothing about surrendering his uncle. Jaime tells Emmon that Brynden will be found, but privately is doubtful of the fact. After Emmon leaves, Edmure tells Jaime that it makes him sick to see him standing in his father’s castle, but Jaime tells him he has “been despised by better men” than Edmure, and sends him away.

He sees Jeyne Westerling, Robb Stark’s widow, and her mother Lady Sybell. Jeyne flees sobbing when Jaime asks her if she is carrying Robb’s child, but Lady Sybell assures him that she made sure Jeyne was not pregnant, as Lord Tywin had bid her. She presses sharply for the fulfillment of the promises Tywin had made to her, including the release of her son Raynald, who had been at the Red Wedding and whom, she says, knew nothing of her “understanding” with the Lannisters. Jaime despises her as a “scheming turncloak bitch,” but says that he will uphold the bargain. The Westerlings and Edmure Tully leave the next day for Casterly Rock with an escort of four hundred men; Jaime instructs Ser Forley Prester to shoot them if they try to escape, including Jeyne.

He visits Edwyn Frey, who informs him that his father Ser Ryman was ambushed and hung on his way back to the Twins, even though he had been guarded by three knights and a dozen men-at-arms. Jaime doesn’t care that Ryman is dead, but worries that the raiders are growing ever more bold. Jaime tells Edwyn that Tommen requires the captives taken at the Red Wedding, and asks if Ser Raynald Westerling is among them. Edwyn says he took wounds trying to save Robb Stark and fell into the river; no corpse was definitively found.

Jaime declares he means to deal with Lord Tytos at Raventree himself, but privately is not sure he can match even that old man. He spars with Ser Ilyn, doing marginally better than previously, and afterward drinks with him, speaking openly of his love and hatred for his sister Cersei, and fantasizing about gelding Kettleblack before sending him to the Wall. Ilyn pantomimes a suggestion that Jaime should kill Cersei, but Jaime says Tommen would hate him for it, and Margaery would find a way to turn it to her advantage.

Ser Dermot returns the next day to report his men were set upon by hundreds of wolves, led by a giant she-wolf he claims is a direwolf, but Jaime sends him back out to search for Brynden anyway. He sends away the riverlords, promising them all the captives at the Twins will be ransomed. Strongboar he gives permission to go to Darry after the Hound, but warns him Beric Dondarrion is to be captured alive; he must be executed publically, or no one will believe he is dead. He sets the Tully garrison free over Lady Genna’s objections.

Jaime feels rather good about the situation as it stands: the war is nearly over, with Stannis sure to be destroyed either by Roose Bolton or the oncoming winter, and he had succeeded in taking Riverrun without raising arms against either Starks or Tullys. He reflects on what he should do once back in King’s Landing, whether to tell Tommen he is Jaime’s son, and who to get to be King’s Hand once Cersei and the current Council are set aside (Petyr Baelish is one of the men he considers).

He listens to Emmon Frey’s interminable speech to the castle denizens about his expectations of them as their new lord, and chats with Ryman Frey’s former singer, who tells him he decided to stay at the castle rather than go with Ryman when he left. He gives his name as Tom of Sevenstreams, but adds “most call me Tom o’ Sevens, though.”

Jaime dreams that night of his mother, who asks if he has forgotten her, and comments that he never really knew his father Tywin either. She says Tywin dreamed his son would be a great knight and his daughter a queen, and that “no one would ever laugh at them.” Jaime points out that he is a knight, and Cersei a queen, but his mother weeps and turns away. He wakes to find it is snowing, and thinks that winter is nearly here, and half the granaries are empty, with no hope now of further crops. He wonders how the realm will be fed now.

Riverrun’s maester, Vyman, comes to deliver a message from King’s Landing, which he apologizes profusely for reading. Jaime sees it is from Cersei, begging him to come and save her and saying she loves him thrice.

Vyman was hovering by the door, waiting, and Jaime sensed that Peck was watching too. “Does my lord wish to answer?” the maester asked, after a long silence.

A snowflake landed on the letter. As it melted, the ink began to blur. Jaime rolled the parchment up again, as tight as one hand would allow, and handed it to Peck. “No,” he said. “Put this in the fire.”

Commentary
Well, I guess that answers that question. I can’t say I’m terribly surprised, though I honestly did think last week that there was a chance Jaime would still feel compelled to go to her. But after the way he was so casually thinking about ousting her as Regent in this chapter, the end of it wasn’t much in doubt after all. It seems that the bloom is officially off the incestuous rose. So to speak.

Well, and I can’t say it probably wasn’t the smart thing to do, seeing as Cersei has a definite air of Impending Doom about her, and will most likely drag down anyone who takes her part with her. Though there’s certainly no guarantee Cersei won’t find a way to get her revenge on Jaime anyway, once she discovers that he has abandoned her. But really, she was so, so stupid, alienating Jaime the way she did, and yet she still doesn’t see it! Sheesh.

…Yeah, I guess if I were Jaime and Cersei’s dead mom I’d be pretty weepy myself, because damn.

Of course, Cersei is hardly alone in her stupidity, on the grand scale. Jaime’s thoughts about the oncoming winter here made me want to run through this series smacking just about every last character with a board, because seriously, you guys, how idiotic can you be, to engage in a disastrously bloody, expensive and disruptive civil war right before an apparently decades-long winter season? Have y’all even heard of the concept of “foresight”?

Ugh. These people are going to wish that all they had to deal with was mere famine once this shit really kicks in, because as far as I can tell, they’re looking at not so much “famine” as straight-up mass starvation, and who will give a shit who sits on a big, pointy, (inedible) metal chair then, eh? No one, that’s who. You morons.

Maybe the apocalypse that’s been pending all this time in this series will turn out to be a lot more mundane (if no less horrific) than the one I’ve been picturing. Though I’m sure the frozen zombies will also play their part. But if you ask me, they look like nothing more than overkill at this point.

(And seriously, I still don’t have a satisfactory explanation for how seasons could possibly work this way, but at this point I’m just sort of reduced to shrugging and being all “sure, whatever” about it, because, well, sure, whatever. Winter lasts decades, everywhere, and yet the human race (and, indeed, all life) on this sorry ball of mud somehow hasn’t gone extinct a hundred times over. Sure. Whatever you say. It’s MAGIC! *jazz hands*)

Bluh. Okay, let’s see, what else.

So, Brynden’s on the loose, I’m sure that will not turn out to be a giant pain in everyone’s ass at all. Really, he could end up anywhere. I wonder if he will hook up with Undead!Catelyn. I wonder if she’ll blame him for… something, and hang him, too, since that seems to be her jam these days. Good times!

And Jeyne’s mom was conspiring with Tywin Lannister? Did I know that before? I don’t think I did. Either way, wow, mom, way to be utterly shitty – as even your putative new allies concur. There are varieties of Shitty People I find to be shittier than traitors, but there really aren’t many. If Ser Reynald is in fact alive, I’m betting he’s not going to be very happy with Lady Sybell. Not to mention what will happen if Jeyne finds out. Girl will flip her shit, no lie. As well she should.

And is Jeyne pregnant? This is another thing which, if I got any indication on that front before now, it happened so long ago that I’ve totally forgotten it, so I just don’t know. I’d tend to think not, but there was just a little too much of a big deal made about the possibility of a Stark heir here, so I’m kind of on the fence about it. We’ll see.

Ser Ilyn smiled in a way Jaime did not like. An ugly smile. An ugly soul. “You talk too much,” he told the man.

*snort*

I mostly get why Jaime talks to Payne, since after all that’s probably about the closest thing to therapy he’s likely to get in Westeros, but I still think it’s foolish to trust the man with so much sensitive information no matter how much of a tongue he doesn’t have. Truth will out, and all. I just think he’s playing with fire being so open with a guy who so clearly despises him. I don’t know what to make of Payne’s suggestion that Jaime should kill Cersei, for one thing.

Also, Nymeria is still around, whoo. I am much less excited about her existence now that she and Arya are on completely different continents, but presumably at some point she and her super-pack will start influencing federal elections doing something more significant than just killing random sentries here and there. Presumably.

The bit with Tom o’ Sevens, I presume, was to indicate how Undead!Catelyn/Beric/whoever knew where to ambush Ryman, but of course the more importance thing is that now Tom is in a prime position to be the mole in Riverrun to… do whatever the raiders are going to do with that. Maybe Undead!Catelyn wants her dad’s castle back. Seems reasonable. Of course, I’m not sure Catelyn and “reasonable” are so much BFFs anymore, but still.

And, in conclusion, I’m thinking Jaime shouldn’t rest too much on his laurels, because fit is sure to hit the shan sooner rather than later. It’s a shame that I feel like his brief bout of Doing Things Right is almost guaranteed to get him kicked in the teeth at some point, but that is just how we roll in ASOIAF Land, yo.

 

Chapter 45: Samwell

What Happens
Ironmen swarm the Redwyne Straits, making the last part of the Cinnamon Wind’s voyage to Oldtown perilous, but they make it to Whispering Sound unscathed, though there is evidence all around of the ironmen’s depredations. They are boarded and inspected by a ship from Oldtown, whose captain tells them the reavers have tried to disguise themselves as trade ships and infiltrate the bay before. Aghast, Sam asks what Lord Hightower is doing, but the captain answers he is “locked atop his tower with the Mad Maid, consulting books of spells”, while the other lords try to raise a sufficient fleet to drive the ironmen out. The news makes Sam worry about Gilly and the babe’s safety even at Horn Hill, and he determines that he will escort Gilly there personally and ascertain its defensibility before leaving her there. He is tempted to keep Gilly with him in Oldtown, but knows he must let her go or abandon his vows.

Once docked at Oldtown, Sam leaves Gilly aboard the ship and hurries to the Citadel, hoping he will not be recognized on the way. He laments that he did not run off to become a novice there long before, and reflects bitterly that his father would likely not even have noticed if he had, as long as he hadn’t taken anything valuable with him. He goes to the Seneschal’s Court, but finds himself barred from seeing the Seneschal by the corrupt clerk. At length a youth of Dornish descent comes to find him and advises him that Lorcas won’t let him through without a bribe. He says his name is “Alleras, by some called Sphinx,” and Sam is jolted, remembering Aemon’s words (“The sphinx is the riddle, not the riddler.”)

Alleras questions him adroitly, and Sam soon finds himself telling the novice the entire story, save for the parts he is sworn to keep secret (Bran Stark, and the baby swap). After hearing the story, Alleras brings him to the Isle of Ravens to see “the Mage,” Archmaester Marwyn. On the way they run into Leo Tyrell, whom Sam knew from his childhood; Leo’s tongue is as cruel now as it was before.

Marwyn yanks Sam into his chambers, calling him “Slayer,” and Sam is astonished by the burning candle of obsidian in the room. Marwyn tells him the Valyrian sorcerers used the glass candles to see and communicate across great distances, and to see into men’s dreams. As his behest, Sam tells his story again, concluding that Aemon had been convinced that Daenerys Targaryen was the fulfillment of the prophecy, not Stannis or Rhaegar or Rhaegar’s son. Marwyn dryly quotes a philosopher who opined that “prophecy will bite your prick off every time,” and says it is good that Aemon died before he reached Oldtown, or the “grey sheep” would have had to kill him themselves. Sam is shocked, and Marwyn asks him, who does he think killed all the dragons?

“The world the Citadel is building has no place in it for sorcery or prophecy or glass candles, much less for dragons. Ask yourself why Aemon Targaryen was allowed to waste his life upon the Wall, when by rights he should have been raised to archmaester. His blood was why. He could not be trusted. No more than I can.”

Marwyn says he will go to Slaver’s Bay in Aemon’s place, and attempt to beat there the “official” maester the grey sheep will send to Daenerys. He advises Sam to stay and forge his chain quickly, as he will soon be needed on the Wall, and to tell the other archmaesters only that he was sent to become a maester, and nothing about prophecies or dragons unless he wants poison in his food. Marwyn leaves, and Alleras confesses that he was sent to snatch Sam before he could talk to the Seneschal; Marwyn had seen Sam coming in the candle. Alleras offers to find him a sleeping place near his.

“My thanks.” There was something about the pale, soft youth that he misliked, but he did not want to seem discourteous, so he added, “My name’s not Slayer, truly. I’m Sam. Samwell Tarly.”

“I’m Pate,” the other said, “like the pig boy.”

Commentary
Crap crap crap crap brain why will you not work

Because, Pate. I know I know him, I’ve met him before, but where? Ugh, I’m annoyed. Annoyed enough to look for him in the Dramatis Personae lists at the end of the book, but the only “Pate” I saw was one of the urchins at the crossroads inn where Brienne fought Biter…

Oh, wait, there’s another Pate listed at the Citadel, who tends the ravens, but he’s separate from Alleras, who’s also listed there. So… I’m totally confused. Maybe I haven’t met this person before? Why would Alleras say he’s “like the pig boy” when the actual Pate in the Citadel apparently tends the ravens?

Well, maybe he is the Pate from the crossroads inn, who may or may not have pig-related duties, but it seems like Alleras has been at the Citadel for a while, so that doesn’t seem kosher to me. Blah, whatever, I don’t know. Except that I know that Sam should probably trust his instinct not to trust this guy.

[ETA: The comments have alerted me that I in fact completely misread this scene. There are four people in the room, not three: Sam, Marwyn, Alleras, and another novice named Pate. I somehow read it as Alleras saying his real name was Pate, when it was actually a totally different person introducing himself. Oops?

The comments also say I met this Pate in the Prologue of AFFC, and that he is apparently supposed to be dead, and now that they mention that scene I sort of remember it, but I kind of wish y’all hadn’t told me what the significance of it was. There’s a fair chance I’ll be going back over all this stuff eventually anyway, and if I miss something the first time around, I miss it, you know?

And now back to my original commentary, where I was talking about Sam.]

Though, you know, way to go with your gut there, man – i.e. spilling your guts, everywhere, to this person you met literally two minutes earlier, what the hell, Sam. Paranoia, dude, it’s a survival skill, start practicing it, please.

In that vein, I am wholly baffled as to what to make of Marwyn and his bulldozer approach to taking over Aemon’s self-appointed task. Is he to be trusted? No idea. But I guess I have to give the guy points for brute efficiency.

And his little revelation here was nothing short of shocking, at least to me. The maesters killed the dragons and put the general kibosh on magic? Whoa.

I suppose symbolically that makes sense, assuming a “magic messes up all our nice empirical scientific method stuff and we don’t like it” attitude, but as a generally intellectually curious person, if not an actual academic, I find it rather startling that a group of people supposedly dedicated to the gathering and preservation of knowledge would even be constitutionally capable of systematically destroying (a) an entire species of animal, and (b) an entire category of human knowledge. Based on the scholars I’ve known, that would seem to go fundamentally against the grain.

But then, politics and power infects everything, and as I’ve had cause to learn, academia is not only as subject to this corruption as any other endeavor, it can actually be worse an influence there than in privately-owned corporate venues. Let’s just say, it’s possible to be megalomaniacal in the oddest ways. And I certainly must acknowledge that selective bias/slant/bigotry in the pursuit or preservation of knowledge is, sadly, not so much an issue as it is the norm.

History being written by the victors, and alla that.

In any case, it seems that Marwyn is the subversive element working from within that system, which (perversely perhaps) makes me more inclined to trust him than not. So hopefully he is actually going to be Dany’s ally rather than the opposite. Because even though I am unsure of whether her endeavor to retake the Iron Throne is ultimately a good thing or not, I still am rooting for Dany as a person, so no poison in her porridge, please.

Another thing I didn’t quite realize until now is that coming to Oldtown is actually something of a homecoming for Sam, which is why his dismay at what the ironmen are doing to the area is so visceral. I don’t know whether to anticipate or dread his upcoming visit to Ye Olde Homefront, but even if it is a disaster it should still be interesting to see how his family reacts to the new and at-least-theoretically-improved Samwell.

Although it seems that it might be a while before I get to see it. Because after this there was the (sort of) Epilogue.

 

Epilogue: Meanwhile, Back on the Wall…

Commentary

[I’m not going to summarize this because it is not actually text, but the upshot is that Martin says that, rather than cut off everyone’s story arcs halfway, he decided to more or less complete half of the characters’ arcs in AFFC, and complete the other half in the next book, A Dance with Dragons.]

Well, that was a rather startling breaking of the fourth wall, there.

Technically, I think, I was not supposed to know about this structural oddity until this point, but there had been enough references to it in the comments during this portion of the Read (inadvertent or otherwise) that I had more or less figured it out a while ago. Plus it was pretty obvious that a good many characters’ stories were simply being ignored during this book, so it seemed clear they had been shunted off for a later installment.

I also gather that there was (or is) quite a bit of controversy over whether this was a good decision or not. For my part, I certainly find it a little disconcerting, and it definitely introduces the possibility for (more) confusion, chronologically, but at the same time I have, ahem, rather a lot of experience at dealing with a huge, sprawling, and untidy narrative that is forced to yo-yo around its own timeline in order to keep up with its Cast of Thousands and keep them all on something approaching an even keel, story-development-wise.

I can’t know for sure at this point, obviously, but let’s just say that I can’t imagine that this will turn out any worse than what Robert Jordan attempted to do with the Wheel of Time’s chronology in Crossroads of Twilight (and if you don’t know what that is, just know that even Jordan admitted later that it had been a failed gamble). That might be damning with faint praise, but I managed to survive that and get through the rest of the WOT series just fine, so I’m betting I will manage to deal with this, as well.

And I won’t deny that this has a slight flavor to me of “I wrote myself into a corner somewhere and now I need time to unfuck it,” but you know, that happens. As long as Martin does manage to unfuck it, it’s all good. Only time (hah) will tell.

And thus we come to the end of A Feast for Crows! Which is so weird, y’all, I didn’t even realize I was at the ending until I was right on top of it.

I am… undecided on what’s going to happen next. I am not sure whether I am going to do a wrap-up post on AFFC, or just jump right into ADWD, or pause for that Princess story I think was published in the interim between AFFC and ADWD. Either way, there may or may not be a hiatus week before I start anything new, I haven’t decided yet. My brain is kind of fried right now. Gideon Smith amazon buy linkWhatever happens, I will let y’all know about it as soon as possible in the comments to this post, so watch this space.


And in the meantime, Talk Amongst Yourselves. I love you all, you’re like butter. More As It Develops. Until then, cheers!

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