Saturday, April 13, 2013

Read-Along: In which Ned comes to a tough decision and two Stark children don't listen to their adults.

Here we are with another week's batch of AGoT chapters! Wonder what hijinks our friends and frenemies will get up to in Catelyn 2, Arya 1, and Bran 2...

Catelyn 2

Catelyn and Ned just had sex, and are now going to ruin the evening with an argument. Catelyn is thinking about how cool Winterfell is, with hot spring water running through its walls so it’s always toasty and the bath water is always warm, when Ned goes and opens the windows and lets all the cold air in. Uh oh, nothing good comes from brooding out the window into the cold darkness…

Ned doesn’t want to go south and be the Hand of the King for Robert. He says when he refuses Robert will be upset for a while and then get over it, but Catelyn disagrees. She says Robert has changed and will see such a refusal as a) possible plotting against him, and b) an affront to his pride. Ned must not refuse these honors! Sansa has basically been offered the opportunity to be queen someday, for goodness’ sake!

Then old wounds are prodded again, and Ned feels bitter that everything—Catelyn, Winterfell, power—had been intended for his older brother Brandon, while Catelyn’s bitterness is that Ned brought his bastard home from the war with him, raised him amongst his trueborn children, and still refuses to tell Catelyn who the mother is.

This fun party is interrupted by Maester Luwin, who has an urgent message. A strange gift was left for him—a telescope lens, with a message hidden inside. Not only was it hidden, but it is also written in a secret language! Someone must be pretty paranoid. Turns out it’s from Catelyn’s sister Lysa, who says that her husband, the old Hand Jon Arryn, was murdered by the Lannisters (specifically, the queen). Catelyn sees this as just another reason Ned must go south—to find the truth about Jon Arryn’s death. Maester Luwin takes Catelyn’s side, and Ned grudgingly decides he’ll go south and be the Hand.

A few provisos, though. Catelyn must stay at Winterfell. Robb will stay too, so he can learn about being a lord and ruling the north. Rickon is 3, so he’ll stay as well, but all the others will go south with Ned to learn the ways of court and bridge the Lannister/Stark gap by becoming friends with the king’s children. Catelyn is upset, but sees the necessity. Things seem to be more or less resolved until Maester Luwin brings up the subject of Jon Snow. Catelyn goes into flashback mode and remembers when the war ended and she moved to Winterfell with baby Robb, only to find Ned’s bastard and wet nurse already in residence. She did not begrudge Ned “whatever solace he might find between battles” and even expected him to provide for the needs of any illegitimate children he fathered, but could not forgive him bringing the child home with him to raise himself. After hearing some rumors, she suspected Ned may have had a thing for one Lady Ashara Dayne of Starfall and that she may have been Jon’s mother, but when she asks Ned about it, he reacts poorly and commands her to never ask him about Jon again.

She pulls herself back to the present, and says that Jon must go. Ned really wanted him to stay with Robb, but Catelyn won’t have it, and the court at King’s Landing is no place for even a highborn bastard. Luwin intervenes to suggest that Jon might do well in the Night’s Watch, and indeed the boy has even asked to join. Ned’s still not super into the idea, but it is a solution that everyone is able to agree on at last.

Alyssa’s Take!
It bums me out when Catelyn and Ned are at odds. And I can see it’s a crappy situation for everyone—I can sympathize with Catelyn, Ned, and Jon in the whole bastard-awkward-relationship-triangle.

Of course, my favorite part of the whole chapter was flashback info concerning the rebellion. And regarding Jon’s mother, I will cite two pieces of information and leave it at that: Ned says, “Never ask me about Jon. He is my blood, and that is all you need to know” (65), followed by Catelyn’s observation that “Whoever Jon’s mother had been, Ned must have loved her fiercely, for nothing Catelyn said would persuade him to send the boy away” (66). I see these as possible bits of evidence in support of my favorite theory of who Jon’s mother is. Just sayin’. :)

Susan’s Take!
Coming soon!

Arya 1

This chapter seems to have two purposes, the first being to show that Arya and Jon do not fit into Westerosi society, and the second being that Joffrey is a little douchebag.

Arya is up in a tower taking lady lessons with all the other ladies. Her stitching is horrible, while her sister Sansa’s is perfect. Everything about Sansa is perfect—everybody says so. Sansa is proper and polite and good at all the typical lady things, while Arya is only good at riding horses and math. (Sansa has no head for numbers.) Arya is envious of her older sister’s gifts, but she is not envious of what Sansa and her posse are talking about—that Sansa is to marry Joffrey. Arya comments that Joffrey looks like a girl, and then stands up for Jon Snow when Sansa basically calls him a jealous bastard, and draws the attention of their instructor Septa Mordane. She comes over and embarrasses Arya by criticizing her sewing in front of everyone (including Princess Myrcella), and Arya bursts into tears and runs off.

Arya joins up with her direwolf Nymeria, and they go to watch the boys practice swordplay in the yard. When she gets to her special secret vantage spot from a bridge, she finds Jon Snow already there. They commiserate—Arya is not allowed to learn swordplay because she’s a girl, and Jon’s not allowed to join in because he’s a bastard. They watch Bran and Tommen practice (Bran wins). Then, the master-at-arms suggests Robb and Joffrey go another round. Robb is all for it, but Joffrey doesn’t want to unless they up the ante by using real swords. Master-at-arms says ha ha nice try kid, I’ll let you have blunted tourney weapons. We meet the Hound, Sandor Clegane, who tries to throw his weight around and get them to use real weapons. Master-at-arms is firm, so Joffrey says some snide things that the Lannisters laugh at, and Robb wants to beat him down. Theon holds Robb back, Joffrey says some more rude things as he’s leaving, and everyone is left angry.

Since the kerfuffle is over, Jon Snow heads off somewhere else with his wolf Ghost, and suggests Arya head back to her room and face up to her mom. Things just aren’t fair for either of them, and those Lannisters sure are jerks!

Alyssa’s Take!
No wonder Jon and Arya get along so well—they are the only Stark-looking Stark children, and they are both outsiders. Jon wants to fit in with the normal sort of Westerosi society and expectations, but he can’t because of the circumstances of his birth, which are of course not his fault. Same for Arya—she is envious of those who are able to fit in with the social expectations of Westerosi women, but realizes that that’s just not her. She can’t help being born a female, and she can’t help that the things she is good at aren’t deemed socially appropriate for women. Life just isn’t fair for those two. But don’t worry, guys, Westeros is equal opportunity when it comes to life being unfair! As we shall soon see.

Susan’s Take!
Coming soon!

Bran 2

The king and his entourage will soon be leaving Winterfell, and everyone has headed off on one last hunt. Everyone, that is, except Bran, Jon, and the girls. We glean from the fact that Bran knows Jon is going to the Wall that Ned has told his bastard son at last, and he is not as pleased as one could hope. Bran, on the other hand, is very excited at the prospect of going to King’s Landing. We learn that he dreams of becoming a knight and member of the Kingsguard. This excitement at heading to the capital is tempered, however, when he finally starts to go around Winterfell and say all his goodbyes to those who will not be going along south. He sees his pony in the stable and gets some feelz, and then goes to hide out in the godswood with his wolf so he doesn’t have to deal with emotional goodbyes.

Bran decides to climb up to the broken tower instead. Bran loves climbing. He’s very good at it, even if it terrifies his mother and she has tried to rally everyone in the castle to show Bran that he could die if he falls. No dice for Catelyn! Bran adores it—he loves that it gives him a view of Winterfell all laid out before him, and it teaches him the castle’s secrets. So Bran shinnies up a tree to begin his ascent to his favorite climbing haunt, but his as-yet unnamed direwolf starts to howl. Uh oh, upset direwolf…

Bran ignores him and continues to climb. Right as he gets to the tower, he hears voices coming from inside. This is very surprising to him, because for as long as he’s been alive the tower has been abandoned. He remains hidden as he listens to a man and a woman as they discuss the king, how they are worried about Ned becoming the Hand, their concerns regarding Lysa Arryn and her son…all these worries make them sound very suspicious. Bran doesn’t quite understand what they’re talking about, but does understand that it’s important, so he tries to edge closer to get a look at who’s doing the talking. He sees a man and a woman “naked wrestling” and kissing, and then realizes that the woman is…the queen! He is startled and slips, the queen sees him and begins shouting, and the man turns around. Being remarkably observant for a kid holding onto a windowsill by one hand, Bran realizes that the man in question is the queen’s brother. The queen keeps shrieking about how he saw them, but Jaime hauls Bran in through window, much to the boy’s relief. Bran, thinking he’s been saved, answers Jaime’s question about his age. Then the man simply states, “The things I do for love,” and shoves Bran backwards out the window.

Alyssa’s Take!

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again—I heart Bran! I think GRRM does a really good job of writing this chapter from the perspective of a 7-year-old. I also think it’s clever how he uses Bran’s POV to follow up on the previous Catelyn chapter, when Ned states that he’ll tell Jon he must join the Night’s Watch when he decides the time is right.

We get a couple of fun foreshadow-y bits, such as the first glimpse of a psychic connection between Bran and his wolf (howling as his boy begins a climb that will end badly), and also Bran’s noting possible spoiler. There are also a couple things dropped in there that you can’t help but imagine are a little Chekov’s gun-esque and just might make an appearance later. The ones that I really wondered about were the secret passageways and connections between different parts of Winterfell that Bran has picked up on from looking down on the castle during his climbings. I wasn’t looking for those to come up again in my initial reading of the books, but I will definitely be paying more attention this time. (I’m sure a quick Google search could answer that question for me, but I think it’ll be more fun to look for myself as I re-read.)

And of course, we get our first icky instance of Cersei/Jaime twincest. Yuck. The little bit of sympathy I had for Cersei a couple chapters ago is gone in a flash, as she starts to wave her crazy-paranoid flag. (I had really thought her paranoia was something that slowly developed as the books went on, but I guess judging from this chapter she’s like that right off the bat.) I mean, come on—I understand you don’t want anyone to find out that you, the king’s wife, are sleeping with your BROTHER, but killing a kid? Really? Which brings us to the famous Jaime line, the things I do for love. I think it’s an interesting choice that he says that line “with loathing.” It is left rather open, so the reader is left to wonder, what sort of loathing? Self-loathing since he knows what he and Cersei are doing is wrong? Loathing for Cersei that she asked him to kill a kid, knowing he loved her enough that he’d actually do it? Loathing for himself, that he is such a slave to love that he would kill a child for it? Things to ponder.

Susan’s Take!
Coming soon!

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