**This Post is Dark and Full of Spoilers**
I use to make the claim that I loved each of the ‘A Song of Ice and Fire’ books equally, however upon my re-read of A Storm of Swords (ASOS) I now realize that my previous claim was incredibly false. PS. Every time I type ASOS I think of the clothing website I’m often found perusing. Am I the only one? Regardless, back to the book. ASOS is by far my favorite of the series, with an astonishing number of crucial, key events being packed into one novel, e.g., Jamie’s hand, the Red Wedding, Joffrey’s Wedding, Jon’s Wildling adventure, and Bran’s journey north, to name a few. More importantly, the premise is introduced that the key battle that will inevitably take place is not for the Iron Throne, but for mankind, as the Others emerge from bedside tales to become real life terrors. In ASOS, Martin also takes characters that we had previously pegged as evil, and adds layers of depth to their personalty that allows the readers to begin to sympathize or even like the aforementioned scoundrels. As when I reviewed The World of Ice and Fire, which was broken up into four components, Ancient History, Seven Kingdoms, Free Cities, and the world beyond the Free Cities and my in-depth analysis of AGoT and ACOK, I will be formatting the posts in bullets containing the topics that catch my interest during the reread. Of note, I’ve highlighted in RED several of my theories, as well as interesting insights garnered from the novel. Please let me know what you think! I’m really looking forward to hearing your theories, however you’d better be able to back them up with references to the text.
Also of note, I finished reading this back in September and became completely burned out to finish writing up my notes. Lesson learned, next time, I will take my time and write up my thoughts as I go. Huge thanks to Suzanne for continually asking me if I’d finished this post.
- We finally get to hear Jamie’s perspective! This is where the reader becomes witness to George R. R. Martin’s magic. I’m still amazed how I can go from absolutely despising a character to evolving my opinion to one resembling pity and understanding, to actually liking this previously despicable individual. I believe the reader gains an inkling of doubt regarding this seemingly one dimensional character as they begin to hear about his ‘exploits’ from his perspective, especially those regarding his ‘Kingslayer’ nickname.
- Davos survived the Battle of Blackwater! We find him barely surviving on a small rock outcropping contemplating life and the gods. He eventually decides to save himself upon spotting a ship in the distance, however first he decides he is going to live in order to kill the Red Woman. During this scene I couldn’t help but drawing a connection to Patchface and Davos. They both should have drowned but somehow survived. Does this mean that Davos is now connected to the Drowned God?
- We also witness an early wolf dream of Arya’s, although she does not yet realize that she is linking to Nymeria. In this early dream, her and her pack attack the Bloody Mummers that are hot on her, Hot Pie, and Gendry’s tail, leading to their escape. Her dreams continue with Nymeria finding her Mother in the river around the Twin Towers, leading Arya to know for a certain that her Mother is dead. Throughout ASOS we see the importance of dreams as characters ranging from Jamie to Bran all had potentially prophetic glimpses while asleep.
- Poor, poor Sansa. Her chapters also become more interesting in ASOS as we see her caught in the middle of so many webs concerning the politics of King’s Landing. The Tyrell’s want to marry her to the Heir of Highgarden, the cripple Willis Tyrell and the Lannisters eventually win by marrying her to Tyrion. Willis would have been the easiest fate for her as we learn from several sources how kind and gentle of heart the Heir of Highgarden is. The Tyrell’s ignoring her after the wedding though is a tell that they only wanted her for her title. Alas, if only she had not told Ser Dontos, who eventually betrayed the Tyrell’s plans to Littlefinger. Throughout this exchange, we first glimpse Margaery and more interestingly her feisty old grandmother, Olenna Tyrell. Olenna wins much love on the show and throughout this story for her blunt insight and her alluded role in Joffrey’s death. She does mention in passing to Sansa that in her youth they tried to marry her off to a Targaryen.
- We meet up with Jon as he enters the Wildling camp to meet Mance Rayder, the King Beyond the Wall, for the first time. Martin again does what he does best and transports the reader into this unknown realm north of the wall with copious amounts of detail. Jon witnesses Giants and mammoths, both thought to be the stuff of legends and we even meet Tormund, another one of my favorite characters. During Jon’s interaction with Mance, we learn several fascinating tidbits, for instance that Mance knew who Jon was prior to him even joining the watch. Mance visited Winterfell under the guise of a singer when Robert and his vast entourage visited the Starks. This was our first indication that this turncoat of the Knight’s Watch is more than meets the eye. Another tale of importance is why Mance left the Knight’s Watch. Upon being attacked by a shadow cat he was healed by a Wildling woman who also repaired his cloak with red silken thread pulled from a wrecked ship from Asshai. Again with this mysterious city! Please, let us go visit Asshai Martin! When he returned to the Watch after healing they made him replace his tattered cloak with a new one, but he didn’t belong to the watch anymore and as such ran back to the Wildlings. His cloak is mentioned several times, specifically when Jon spots him during battle with Stannis, due to his cloak standing out. There are theories out there linking the red and black of Mance’s cloak to the Targaryens, claiming that this King Beyond the Wall is in fact Rhaegar, however I tend to link the red silk of Asshai with the Lord of Light. We know that Melisandre is from Asshai, and we know if future books that Mance is spared from the flames for some reason. What if he was ‘healed’ by the LoL in the past for some greater purpose other than Melisandre’s flames? I find his character intriguing and am looking forward to rereading about his future role.
- Arstan Whitebeard, who is revealed as Barristan Selmy by the end of ASOS, offers both Dany and the readers unbiased insight into her brother and father that we have not had an opportunity to witness previously. Early in this novel, Selmy tells Dany that it was once said that no man every truly knew Rhaegar, before telling a story about how in his youth this prince was totally absorbed into books until at one point in his studies he came across something that totally changed his attitude and direction, resulting in him becoming a legendary knight. It is widely thought that he came across a new or clearer interpretation of the Prince that was Promised prophesy, and in future books we know that he initially thought that he was this prince, however from Dany’s vision in the House of the Undying we see an image of Rhaegar talking to Elia about their son being the promised one. We also have heard from several accounts about Rhaegar’s talent at song and instrument, specifically a tale told by Jojen detailing the legend of the Laughing Knight at the Tournament of Harrenhal, which we will discuss more later, has Rhaegar playing a song so sad it made Lyanna cry. In a separate story from Barristan Selmy, he tells Dany that Summerhall was Rhaegar’s favorite place, which is strange because it was be was born there on the day of the great, mysterious tragedy. He would often go alone to Summerhall where he often spend the night and compose songs. The overall tone of Rhaegar was also set by Selmy, as melancholy, with a sense of doom. If ASOS we begin to glimpse more and more of Rhaegar’s character and it only makes me more curious to know more!
- Thankful, Tyrion finally woke up from his horrific injury on the Blackwater, but much had changed, including his facial features, much to his dismay. Tywin was now the Hand of the King, and had coldly removed Tyrion from the Tower of the Hand during his recovery. Additionally, his wild mountain clans had been sent home, his Gold Cloaks were no long under his control, Pycelle was restored to his former post, and Bronn was now a Knight. Having his hard work dismantled, Tyrion climbs all the way to the Tower of the Hand to confront his father and is hopeful to receive appreciation for his hard work saving the city. Instead, we see a very telling exchange between this father and son, in which their complex relationship is put on display. Tyrion, not receiving the thanks he feels is deserved, asks for public recognition as the heir to Casterly Rock, a right that Tywin has never acknowledged. Tywin harshly rebuffs Tyrion, making the claim that he will never hold the seat. Tywin’s feelings on this seem like folly due to Jamie being in the King’s Guard and forsaking any titles, inheritance, or family. Tyrion tries to hard to please his father, who cruelly withholds any honors or even small thanks, under the guise of expected duty. Here, under constant abuse and lack of appreciation with regard to Tyrion we begin to see his loyalty strain and crack.
- Arya’s journey takes an interesting twist as outlaws overtake her and her companions, taking them to the same inn that Jamie and Brianne saw fit to be wary of. Just as the situation seems most dire, more of the outlaws appear and Arya finds one of her father’s North men among them. She promptly reveals herself for the first time since fleeing the castle with Yoren. From this junction, her story deviates yet again as the outlaws take her much against her will away from Riverrun in search of their leader, Beric Dondarrion. In this search for Beric, the outlaws camp for the night on the crest of High Heart, a sacred place of the children of the forest. I have to be honest, much to my chagrin, I completely dismissed the following scenes and the Ghost of High Heart the first time I read this series. I had dismissed Rhaegar and the frequent mentions of the disaster at Summerhall as merely setting up Daenery’s tragic past. However, upon reading many, many blogs of other more observant fans I’m convinced that this Ghost of High Heart is actually Jenny of Oldstones’ albino, dwarf, Woods Witch, friend. This friend was reported to have the sight and prophesized that the Prince that was Promised would be born of Aerys and Rhaella’s line. The Woods Witch was reported to have died as a result of the destruction of Summerhall, however this Ghost of High Heart makes several comments referencing Summerhall, grief, and Jenny, along with several fascinating prophesies. This first visit she specifically, foretells Renly’s death by Stannis:
“The old gods stir and will not let me sleep,” she heard the woman say. “I dreamt I saw a shadow with a burning heart butchering a golden stag, aye.”
and Balon’s death by a Faceless man (perhaps Jaqen H’ghar), sent by Euron who is also known as the Crow’s Eye:
“I dreamt of a man without a face, waiting on a bridge that swayed and swung. On his shoulder perched a drowned crow with seaweed hanging from his wings.”
The last prophesy that Arya overhears this first trip to the sacred hill pertains to her mother:
“I dreamt of a roaring river and a woman that was a fish. Dead she drifted, with red tears on her cheeks, but when her eyes did open, oh, I woke from terror.”
As payment for her dreams she requests the same song every time from Tom Sevenstreams, ‘Jenny’s Song.’ When Arya returns the High Heart with Beric she hears a new set of prophesies with the first pertaining to the ‘Wet King’ being dead as she had predicted with the Iron Born now fighting amongst themselves. She also mentions Hoster Tully’s death and the goat (Vargo Hoat) awaiting the arrival of the ‘great dog,’ the Mountain in Harrenhal. The Ghost follows up these images with more pertaining to the Red Wedding,
“I dreamt a wolf howling in the rain, but no one heard his grief,” the dwarf woman was saying. “I dreamt such a clangor I thought my head might burst, drums and horns and pipes and screams, but the saddest sound was the little bells.”
However, the following images of Sansa help the reader piece together the happenings of Joffrey’s wedding:
“I dreamt of a maid at a feast, with purple serpents in her hair, venom dripping from their fangs. And later I dreamt that maid again, slaying a savage giant in a castle built of snow.”
Initially I was baffled by the giant in a castle of snow, however a future scene in the Veil soon clears up any confusion. After this montage of visions, the Ghost interestingly turns her attention to Arya with the most fascinating results, bringing us back to the connection between Jenny of Oldstones’ dwarf and this Ghost of High Heart:
“The dwarf woman studied her with dim red eyes. “I see you,” she whispered. “I see you, wolf child. Blood child. I thought it was the lord who smelled of death . . . ” She began to sob, her little body shaking. “You are cruel to come to my hill, cruel. I gorged on grief at Summerhall, I need none of yours. Begone from here, dark heart. Begone!” “
I’m not sure why Arya smells of death when she didn’t catch the Ghost’s attention on her first visit. I’ve read blogs that claim that it is her possession of the coin, however she had the coin with her the first time she visited the hilltop. What could have happened between visits that causes her to reek of death? The mention of ‘gorged on grief at Summerhall,’ which can only be linked to the tragedy at Summerhall, along side mentions of ‘My Jenny,’ and her constant requests for Jenny’s Song all add to her link to Jenny’s dwarf friend. There are several blogs that link this woods witch to Rhaegar as he use to spend the night at Summerhall ruins composing songs. One of the theories that I am particularly partial to claims that Rhaegar wrote Jenny’s Song for this Woods Witch, with the evidence of Lyanna crying as a result of an incredibly sad song that the Prince was playing at Harrenhal. Could that song have been Jenny’s song?
- A large amount of time in ASOS was spent on Hoster Tully’s mutterings before his death. Catelyn, ever attentive to her father, was present for several confusing exchanges while Hoster was in a delirious state. Initially, Catelyn thinks he is referring to an old lover when he keeps repeating about ‘tansey.’ However, she eventually figures out that he must have make Lysa drink the moon tea upon becoming pregnant out of wedlock. The connection to tansy tea is further strengthened with Lady Smallwood makes a comment about Tom Sevenstrings making many a maid drink the tansey tea. Toward the end of ASOS this theory is confirmed with Lysa telling Littlefinger that they tricked her into drinking the moon tea. That she was unaware that what she was drinking would have harmed their child that she was carrying. These exchanges were critical in developing not only Lysa’s character, but that of Catelyn and Littlefinger as well.
- So begins the demise of Rob Stark. I hated rereading his follies leading up to the Red Wedding. The greatest one was marrying Jenye Westerling, after she ‘comforted him’ the night after he found out that Bran and Rickon were dead. He, like Sansa, ignored the Stark and Tully codes of Honor and Duty when he forsake his oath the Freys, much as she betrayed her father.
- We find Daenerys on her way to Pentos with Arstan Whitebeard and Belwas after they brought her three ships courtesy of Illyrio. However, Jorah, ever suspicious drastically alters Daenerys course by encouraging her to go to Slavers Bay to buy herself an army instead of being Illyrio’s pawn reliant upon his every whim. It is worth pondering how Daenerys story would have been different without this drastic change in course, e.g., no Unsullied, Daario. Missandei or Greyworm.
- Jojen bran Ice and Fire conversation.
- Immediately following the exchange between Jojen and Bran regarding fire and ice, Bran asks for a story and Meera acquiesces by telling one he has not heard of before, the Knight of the Laughing Tree. Bran and Meera are both mystified that Bran has never heard this tale before from his father, confirming this fact several times. The tale involved a crannogman adventuring out of the march and first visiting the Isle of Faces where Jojen claims this wanderer actually met the green men. Jojen cuts this part of the story off claiming this is a tale for another day. Personally, I am still waiting for Martin to finish this part of the story. After staying on the isle for winter and spring the crannogman continues his adventure to the tournament at Harrenhal whereupon he is promptly bullied by three squires until Lyanna Stark comes to his defense. After the altercation he meets the Stark brothers, Eddard, Brandon and Benjen whom he describes as the quiet wolf, the wild wolf and the pup respectively. That evening he attends the feast in which several key events should stand out to the reader. First, it is during this feast that Rhaegar plays a tune so sad that it brought Lyanna to tears. This is the song that I suspect was Jenny’s Song. Secondly, Eddard danced with a maid of purple eyes, Ashara Dayne, after Brandon asked for his shy brother. As I write this passage I just pulled myself out of a wormhole of theories surrounding this purple eyed maid. She eventually commits apparent suicide after the death of the brother at Ned Stark’s hands, however did she love Ned or did she fall in love with Howland. Other people speculate that she is Meera and Jojen’s mother, which is how they know this story. While still others hold true, despite all counter evidence, to her being John Snow’s mother. There are other stories that involve theories from later books and I will let them be brought up in their turn, however Ashara does seem to be pegged for mystery by Martin. Bringing us back to the feast, the crannogman identifies his assailants to the Starks but hesitated to enter the tilts the next day for fear of being chagrined. That night the crannogman prayed to the Old Gods regarding the choices the next day would bring. After several days in the tournament and with the offending squires’ Knights holding places among the Champions a mystery knight of slight build, mismatched armor appeared with a laughing white wierwood on his/her shield. This new knight challenged all three knights and won, however he returned their property with the condition that they would reprimand their squires. Mysteriously this knight then disappears, sending Aerys into a rage, whereupon he postpones the tournament, sending Rhaegar in search of the missing knight. The Prince returns to Harrenhal claiming only to have found the shield. Rhaegar proceeds to win the tournament, after which he controversially names Lyanna the Queen of Love and Beauty and not his Queen wife. Of note, the crown handed to Lyanna by Rhaegar was made of blue winter roses, her personal favorite. I believe that Rhaegar found out that Lyanna was actually the Knight of the Laughing Tree, which is where they probably began their fatal acquaintance. At the end of the tale Meera acknowledges that Lyanna was indeed crowned the Queen of Love and Beauty however that is a sadder story. Again I’m left waiting for Martin to enlighten me on the details of this second sadder tale.
- Melisandre tells Davos and Stannis about the Others and the bigger battle at hand. This is one of the first times in the Seven Kingdoms that the bigger battle at hand is talked about. It is also a change in direction of the war for Stannis.
- When Bran, Meera and Jojen are discussing how to bypass the wall, the Wildling story of Gorne and Gendle, joint Kings Beyond the Wall, is brought up. The Kings lead a wildling party south of the wall through a series of caves called Gorne’s Way. However upon retreating after Gorne was slain by the King of the North, Gendle and his surviving host became forever lost in the caves, haunting them till this day. Where are these caves?
- Quaithe visits Daenerys again in Astapor in a dream whereupon she repeats her previous prophecy, “To go north, you must journey south. To reach the west, you must go east. To go forward you must go back, and to touch the light you must pass beneath the shadow.” Since this prophecy has been uttered not once but twice might we actually get to visit Asshai?
- Upon the revelation that the Tyrell’s were planning to wed Sansa to their heir, Tywin soon enacted his own clandestine schemes that were ultimately successful to wed Sansa to Tyrion. During Sansa’s despair at her wedding feast Garlan Tyrell offered kind words of encouragement to her regarding her choice of husband. He reveals that he has seen how she looks at Loras and that her current husband will make a better husband than his brother. Garlan also made the comment that Tyrion is bigger than he seems. It is amazing to me now the number of times this comment or something similar has been expressed by different characters. Also, I wish Garlan had a bigger role in the Game of Thrones series. Every time this obscure character opens his mouth it is to make insightful, kind, and wise comments.
- When Gendry and Arya travel to a brothel in the Stoney Sept they encounter Bella, a whore that claims to be the King’s daughter. Arya observes that she does have black hair similar to Robert, however makes the ironic connection that Gendry had the same kind of hair. How close she is to the truth of Gendry’s parentage!
- Finally the Horn of Winter is mentioned. Ygritte mentions to Jon that,
“We never found the Horn of Winter. We opened half a hundred graves and let all those shades loose in the world, and never fond the Horn of Joramun to bring this cold thing down!”
So Jon now knows that Mance was looking for in the mountains. I still think the Horn is the one that Jon found on the Fist of the First Men and gave to Sam. However, and this is time jumping, when Jon returns to the Wildling camp after several days of hard fighting, as a man of the Knight’s Watch, Mance reveals that he has a massive horn that he claims is the Horn of Winter. When asked why Mance hadn’t used it yet, Dalla wisely said that the shortest road isn’t the wisest, with the actual quote being:
“We free folk know things you kneelers have forgotten. Sometimes the short road is not the safest, Jon Snow. The Horned Lord once said that sorcery is a sword without a hilt. There is no safe way to grasp it.”
The Horned Lord is a King-Beyond-the-Wall before Bael the Bard who used magic to pass through the wall. Also Dalla asks wisely, once the Wall has fallen what will keep the Others out? Which horn is the one in question, and what will happen once the horn is sounded?
- We finally learn the fate of the Stark’s sword, Ice. Tywin had the large sword melted down into a smaller one and a dagger, with the unique color of the swords being specifically emphasized. The exchange between Tywin and Tyrion that is again telling of their relationship, in which the son is driven away from the family he is loyal to. We also hear about Tywin’s brother, Gerion that when in search of the Lannister Valyrian steel sword, Brightroar in Valyria. I wonder if we will happen to find out the fate of this favorite Uncle of both Jamie and Tyrion.
- After much traveling Arya finally meets Beric Dondarrion who has been kept alive by the Lord of Light through Thoros of Myr. Dondarrion has been reputed to have died at least six times and has developed quite the reputation throughout the countryside. In this initial meeting they have a trial by combat for the Hound who is fighting for his life. Dondarian’s sword lights on fire at the beginning of the fight, much to the Hound’s dismay. The Hound ends up besting Dondarrion much to Arya’s chagrin.
- Jon and Bran came so very close to meeting up when Jon was with the Wildlings south of the Wall and Bran was traveling north to the Wall with Jojen and crew. Jon and the Wildlings encounter a traveling man in an abandoned village, and the Wildlings want Jon to kill him to prove he is one of them. He hesitates, causing Ygritte to step up and do the deed, however it reveals Jon as not wholly a Wildling. The man didn’t say a word through the whole ordeal. Who was he? Does it even matter? Anyway, as Jon is about to be attacked, Summer saves him and allows him to escape.
- In an interesting exchange between Jamie and Brienne in a hot tub of Harrenhal, we learn more of Jamie’s back story, specifically about the Mad King. The foundation continues to grow regarding the reader’s sympathy toward this previously ‘bad’ character. We learn that Aerys wanted to burn all of King’s Landing. Of a side note, it is at this point that we see more of Qyburn the former maester that will take a future prominent role in King’s Landing as Cersei’s puppet.
- Soon Jamie and Brienne are separated as she is left behind at Harrenhal and he continues to King’s Landing. During the first night he has a dream as he is resting against a weirwood stump in which he is back at Casterly Rock, intact with both of his hands, surrounded by a dozen figures. The figures drive him deep into the Rock where he enters a large dark cavern. When he asks where he is, the voices of all of the Lannisters since Lann the Clever respond, “Your place.” At this point Jamie sees his father, sister and Joffrey, among a dozen other shapes. The following dialogue is worth pondering:
“Sister, why has Father brought us here?”
“Us? This is your place, Brother. This is your darkness.” Her torch was the only light in the cavern. Her torch was the only light in the world. She turned to go.
“Stay with me,” Jaime pleaded. “Don’t leave me here alone.” But they were leaving. “Don’t leave me in the dark!” Something terrible lived down here. “Give me a sword, at least.”
“I gave you a sword,” Lord Tywin said.
It was at his feet. Jaime groped under the water until his hand closed upon the hilt. Nothing can hurt me so long as I have a sword. As he raised the sword a finger of pale flame flickered at the point and crept up along the edge, stopping a hand’s breath from the hilt. The fire took on the color of the steel itself so it burned with a silvery-blue light, and the gloom pulled back. Crouching, listening, Jaime moved in a circle, ready for anything that might come out of the darkness. The water flowed into his boots, ankle deep and bitterly cold. Beware the water, he told himself. There may be creatures living in it, hidden deeps . . .
From behind came a great splash. Jaime whirled toward the sound . . . but the faint light revealed only Brienne of Tarth, her hands bound in heavy chains. “I swore to keep you safe,” the wench said stubbornly. “I swore an oath.” Naked, she raised her hands to Jaime. “Ser. Please. If you would be so good.”
The steel links parted like silk. “A sword,” Brienne begged, and there it was, scabbard, belt, and all. She buckled it around her thick waist. The light was so dim that Jaime could scarcely see her, though they stood a scant few feet apart. In this light she could almost be a beauty, he thought. In this light she could almost be a knight. Brienne’s sword took flame as well, burning silvery blue. The darkness retreated a little more.
“The flames will burn so long as you live,” he heard Cersei call. “When they die, so must you.”
“Sister!” he shouted. “Stay with me. Stay!” There was no reply but the soft sound of retreating footsteps.
Brienne moved her longsword back and forth, watching the silvery flames shift and shimmer. Beneath her feet, a reflection of the burning blade shone on the surface of the flat black water. She was as tall and strong as he remembered, yet it seemed to Jaime that she had more of a woman’s shape now.
“Do they keep a bear down here?” Brienne was moving, slow and wary, sword to hand; step, turn, and listen. Each step made a little splash. “A cave lion? Direwolves? Some bear? Tell me, Jaime. What lives here? What lives in the darkness?”
“Doom.” No bear, he knew. No lion. “Only doom.”
In the cool silvery-blue light of the swords, the big wench looked pale and fierce. “I mislike this place.”
“I’m not fond of it myself.” Their blades made a little island of light, but all around them stretched a sea of darkness, unending. “My feet are wet.”
“We could go back the way they brought us. If you climbed on my shoulders you’d have no trouble reaching that tunnel mouth.”
Then I could follow Cersei. He could feel himself growing hard at the thought, and turned away so Brienne would not see.
“Listen.” She put a hand on his shoulder, and he trembled at the sudden touch. She’s warm. “Something comes.” Brienne lifted her sword to point off to his left. “There.”
He peered into the gloom until he saw it too. Something was moving through the darkness, he could not quite make it out . . .
“A man on a horse. No, two. Two riders, side by side.”
“Down here, beneath the Rock?” It made no sense. Yet there came two riders on pale horses, men and mounts both armored. The destriers emerged from the blackness at a slow walk. They make no sound, Jaime realized. No splashing, no clink of mail nor clop of hoof. He remembered Eddard Stark, riding the length of Aerys’s throne room wrapped in silence. Only his eyes had spoken; a lord’s eyes, cold and grey and full of judgment.
“Is it you, Stark?” Jaime called. “Come ahead. I never feared you living, I do not fear you dead.”
Brienne touched his arm. “There are more.”
He saw them too. They were armored all in snow, it seemed to him, and ribbons of mist swirled back from their shoulders. The visors of their helms were closed, but Jaime Lannister did not need to look upon their faces to know them.
Five had been his brothers. Oswell Whent and Jon Darry. Lewyn Martell, a prince of Dorne. The White Bull, Gerold Hightower. Ser Arthur Dayne, Sword of the Morning. And beside them, crowned in mist and grief with his long hair streaming behind him, rode Rhaegar Targaryen, Prince of Dragonstone and rightful heir to the Iron Throne.
“You don’t frighten me,” he called, turning as they split to either side of him. He did not know which way to face. “I will fight you one by one or all together. But who is there for the wench to duel? She gets cross when you leave her out.”
“I swore an oath to keep him safe,” she said to Rhaegar’s shade. “I swore a holy oath.”
“We all swore oaths,” said Ser Arthur Dayne, so sadly.
The shades dismounted from their ghostly horses. When they drew their longswords, it made not a sound. “He was going to burn the city,” Jaime said. “To leave Robert only ashes.”
“He was your king,” said Darry.
“You swore to keep him safe,” said Whent.
“And the children, them as well,” said Prince Lewyn.
Prince Rhaegar burned with a cold light, now white, now red, now dark. “I left my wife and children in your hands.”
“I never thought he’d hurt them.” Jaime’s sword was burning less brightly now. “I was with the king . . .”
“Killing the king,” said Ser Arthur.
“Cutting his throat,” said Prince Lewyn.
“The king you had sworn to die for,” said the White Bull.
The fires that ran along the blade were guttering out, and Jaime remembered what Cersei had said. No. Terror closed a hand about his throat. Then his sword went dark, and only Brienne’s burned, as the ghosts came rushing in.
“No,” he said, “no, no, no. Nooooooooo!”
Heart pounding, he jerked awake,
This dream is so detailed, especially with him falling asleep on a weirwood stump that there has to be importance to the scenes. I’ve been able to draw potential foreshadowing between ice and fire, the future bear fight, Jamie outliving his family, Brienne saving Jamie in the future, however there are other scenes in this dream that have left me stumped. I’m excited to see what becomes of them.
- In a key conversation between Rob and Catelyn, the King of the North discusses his line of succession, until he has an heir. He tells her that he is going to have his men sign a proclamation naming Jon Snow as his heir and making him a Stark. Remember that at this point they believe Bran and Rickon as dead. Catelyn has an almost visceral reaction to this statement, solidifying my dislike for this cold, bitter character. With almost all of your family scattered or dead, how can she still hold such bitter regard for a boy that has been raised in her household. Due to the Red Wedding, nothing happens from this discussion, however could that document resurface in future books if Jon survives?
- The first of Melisandre’s and the Ghost of High Heart predictions comes true as we find out that Balon is dead. While we don’t know if his death was accidental or by suspicious circumstances, it is quite the coincidence that his brother Eulon makes an appearance back in the Iron Islands very shortly after the King’s death.
- After escaping the horrors of the Fist of the First Men, Sam and Gilly find shelter in an abandoned village. He makes a heartfelt prayer to the Old Gods before being attacked again by one of the Others. Just as everything felt lost, Sam’s prayers are answered as he and Gilly are recued by Coldhands, riding an elk. Coldhands appears to have been a man of the Night’s Watch. Who is he? Is he Benjen? In notes from George R. R. Martin and his editor that have been released, the editor asks if it is the Stark Uncle, after which George responds that it is not. If so, who is this mysterious character?
- The dreaded Red Wedding. I have been less than excited to revisit this bloody scene, which kills off a significant portion of the remaining Stark family. The betrayal was no less easy to read the second time around. Poor, poor Rob. There were so many hints leading up to the big event, especially Grey Wind’s response to the Freys. If only Rob would have heeded his wolf. Arya was yet again so close to reconnecting with her family, but the Freys changed her path.
- Another painful death was that of Ygritte. Jon managed to defeat the Wildling attack south of the Wall, however he finds Ygritte dying in the aftermath. All of the tears.
- Based on a dream Bran knows that Rob and Grey Wind are dead. Bran and his group are headed specifically to a castle on the wall based on one of Jojen’s green dreams. Upon reaching the specific site on the Wall, they enter the Nightfort that doesn’t appear to have a way through the wall. Meera even climbs to the top of the Wall, but alas finds no way for the group to go over safely so they decide to spend the night in the castle kitchens. Bran tells Meera and Jojen the mysterious history of the castle in which they seek shelter in, the Nightfort, which is the oldest and largest of the castles. The Nightfort was often the location of several of Nan’s most terrifying tales, e.g., The Rat Cook and the Night’s King. The Rat Cook’s tale has future implications in A Dance with Dragons with the Freys and Wyman Manderly’s revenge. In the aforementioned tale is of a cook in the Nightfort that killed and then cooked a visiting prince into a pie and then served it to the King. The gods then cursed the Cook for violating guest right, as such was turned into a rat that could only eat his own young and is said to still roam the Nightfort. The second tale, the Night King has other interesting, curious tidbits, such as his lover is described the same as an ‘Other,’ with white skin, blue eyes and cold skin. The Night’s King started off as the 13th Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch, however upon falling in love with this strange woman ruled the Wall for thirteen years as King and Queen. The Wildlings and the King of the North formed an alliance to bring down this Night’s King who was making sacrifices to the Others, as such the conquers subsequently removed his name from the history books, adding to the mystery. Nan told Bran that the King was a Stark whose name was Brandon, which is contrary to many other theories naming a Bolton or Umber. The Nightfort revealed one more key secret, the Black Gate, which Coldhands reveals to Sam and Gilly, also commanding Sam to lead Bran and company through the Wall. The Black Gate, made of white weirwood, only admits members of the Night’s Watch. This is yet again another magical element that is linked to the Wall and wierwoods.
- So much happens in ASOS! Joffrey’s wedding was a cluster of activity, interactions and death. I’ll keep my notes to the specific observations that caught my attention, with the first one being Joffrey destroying the beautiful book that Tyrion gave him.
- My book-loving heart was broken by Joffrey’s violent act toward his Uncle that he took out on a very rare book that was gifted to the King. It is during these exchanges that Tyrion realizes that Joffrey was the culprit behind Bran’s attempted murder, even alluding to that fact. Separately, Jamie and Cersei come to the same conclusion as they discuss the fact that Catelyn Stark had accused both him and Tyrion of the attempted murder. He realized that it was Joff that had sent the man. Cersei recalls that Robert had said something of it being a kindness to the boy if he was dead and that Joffrey was probably trying to appease his father. So much harm and death done from the Prince’s cruel act.
- Sansa, obediently wearing the hairnet that Ser Dontos gave her, has Olenna Tyrell coming over and fixing it. As such, she must have pulled one of the poisonous beads from its holder.
- Upon Joffery’s bravery being falsely being praised, one of my favorite side characters, Garlan again came to the rescue with wisdom beyond his years, telling Tyrion, Sansa, and his wife, “A valiant deed unsung is no less valiant.”, and “My Lord of Lannister was made to do great deeds, not to sing of them.” Let there be more of Ser Garlan!
- Sansa sees Ser Ilyn Payne and wonders what has become of her father’s sword, Ice.
- The wedding digressed tragically from there with the midget troupe emerging, Joffrey and Tyrion having a war of words, Tyrion serving Joffrey wine, and the subsequent death. Even though we dislike Joffrey, the death scene with Cersei was so painful to read. The transfer of the Strangler to Joffrey’s cup must have happened with Olenna picked up the cup after it had fallen astray.
- With increasing pressure for Stannis to sacrifice Edrick Storm to R’hllor to raise the dragons from Dragonstone, Davos planned a daring escape for the young boy. When he revealed to Stannis and Melisandre what he had done he then told them of the letter from the Wall telling of the Others. Melisandre talking about the long night and the lightbringer.
- After his long captivity and damaging journey back to King’s Landing, Jamie is finally reunited with Cersei and his family, just after the death of his son. Jamie, who had been making such positive gains with the reader backtrack in this reunion scene with his sister/lover in which they engage in controversial fornication in front of the corpse of their son in the Great Sept of Baelor. As I’m sure you remember in the TV show they turned this passage into an act of rape, which caused an out roar by GOT fans. Martin has also pointed out since we hear the exchange from Jamie’s perspective, that we don’t know what was actually going on in Cersei’s mind and if it was in fact consensual. Food for thought. The first time I read this section, I couldn’t believe they were having sex in front of dead Joffrey and taking such a huge risk, however I did come across with the feeling it was consensual. Perhaps the show changed my perspective, because in the reread I definitely felt as though the TV show might have been on the right path.
- The evolution of the Hound’s character as a complex individual also continued as he tried and almost wanted to become domesticated, when he and Arya took up a short residence within a village where he helped with some tasks around town. But alas, this dream was shattered when they were turned out after the aforementioned tasks were completed.
- Martin expands the world of Game of Thrones yet again with the introduction of Dorne, through Oberyn Martell, who just happens to be another one of my favorite characters. In an early conversation with Tyrion, they discuss, rather dangerously, the ‘right of throne’, if Joffrey dies. In the traditional setting, the rule would fall to the next son, Tommen, however in Dornish tradition, the next oldest Myrcella (who if we remember is in Dorne), would be crowned Queen. Overall, it is an interesting concept to ponder, as Dorne could have caused another war, should they have crowned Myrcella after Joffrey’s death.
- As Jamie struggles to fit into his new role as the Lord Commander of the Kingsguard, he meets Loras Tyrell who reminds him of himself at a similar age. Upon Jamie interrogating Loras several of questions I had previously posed were answered regarding Renly. We find out that Loras was the knight who had donned his fallen King’s armor in the Battle of the Black Water as Renly’s Ghost. We also discover that Loras buried Renly in a place that only the two of them knew about, however he refused to divulge the location. Where is he buried and will it come into play that the location is a secret?
- We finally get another Sansa chapter after being kept in suspense for far too long! Pretty much this whole section is full of new revelations. So much happens in her few chapters!
- Littlefinger orchestrated everything from Joffrey’s death to Sansa’s escape. The Kettleblacks are actually his men and spies, with their father being one of his loyal men.
- Now to survive Sansa has to play a new role as Littlefinger’s baseborn daughter, Elane.
- Lysa and Littlefinger get married and she reveals that they had a previous child that her father made her unknowingly take a potion that killed the babe in her womb. See the ‘tansey’ remarks made by Hoster on his deathbed.
- Also, Littlefinger and Lysa have awkwardly loud and ridiculous sounding sex. I have to throw that out there. I’d forgotten how silly their exchanges are.
- Sansa is to marry Lysa’s child, Robert. A spoiled brat of a child.
- Marillion makes another appearance in the Vail. If you remember, he is the singer that got on Tyrion’s bad side. He has made himself irreplaceable to Lysa at court, much to the dislike of everyone in the Eyrie. He tries to force himself on Sansa, as has apparently happened with several maids who Lysa refuses to believe, only for Sansa to be saved before anything damaging could happen.
- Slynt makes his grand return to the storyline by making Jon’s life more difficult. Allister Thorne also returns simultaneously, whereupon even though a battle is ongoing at the Wall they interrogate and accuse Jon of lying and breaking his oath, whence he is locked away. After release, he is sent to kill Mance Rayder, thereby potentially breaking the guest right offered during the negotiations. It is during this meeting that Mance reveals the Horn of Winter and all seems lost. However, just as the cause seems hopeless, Stannis comes to the dramatic rescue.
- One of the most dramatic scenes in the TV show is when Tyrion demands a trial by combat instead of taking the black. His pride gets the better of him. We find out that Oberyn Martell will be representing Tyrion and the Mountain his sister, with the resulting battle being one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to watch. Why couldn’t Oberyn just finish the Mountain instead of toying with him?
- Arya and the Hound enter an inn, only to encounter the Tickler, and Polliver. In the initial conversation, Arya finds out that the Mountain killed all of the staff at the Harrenhal, which means that Hot Pie and Gendry were saved by her making them escape. After the following fight, Arya was able to remove two of the names from her list and retrieve Needle, however the Hound suffered a terrible, mortal wound. Arya ended up abandoning him and not fulfilling his wish for her to end his suffering. The last we see of our brave little Stark, she is sailing across the sea to Braavos by saying Valar Morghulis to the ship captain and showing the iron coin that Jaqen gave her.
- Back at the Wall, Stannis is offers a quite tempting deal for Jon. He will make Jon a Stark, whereupon he will become Lord of Winterfell, however he must marry Val to placate the Wildlings. In the meantime, there is a vote occurring in the Night’s Watch for the position of Lord Commander. Stannis, growing very impatient, struggles with the fact that the Watch votes over and over again until one person has the majority. Dangerously, it appears as though Slynt might receive the winning vote, until Sam starts to see what he can do regarding this vote. In a climax of suspense, Jon’s name gets put into the discussion, Ghost returns for the first time since Jon left him on the other side of the Wall, and Mormont’s raven flies out of the voting basket crying, ‘Snow!, Snow! Snow!’ The raven then flies to Jon Snow. Needless to say, Jon refuses Stannis and becomes the Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch. Interestingly, Sam claims he had nothing to do with the raven, if so who did?
- An interesting exchange is between Aemon and Melisandre. He asks to see Lightbringer. However, upon leaving the room Aemon remarks to Sam that the sword was not Lightbringer due to a lack of heat being given off.
- Facing imminent execution, Jamie comes to Tyrion’s rescue. Jamie reveals that Tysha had never been a whore, but indeed had been an innocent maiden girl that had fallen in love with Tyrion. In a rage, Tyrion falsely tells Jamie he killed Joffrey and makes his escape with the help of Varys. Tyrion makes a detour to visit his father’s chambers, whereupon he finds Shae in his father’s bed, and subsequently kills her before killing his father.
- Sansa’s final chapter was yet another one full of key events.
- She and Littlefinger built a castle (Winterfell) out of snow. He then kisses her. Robert comes and destroys the castle leading to Sansa slapping him. The scene with Robert was prophesied by the Ghost of High Heart.
- Sansa is then confronted by Lysa and Marillion where Lysa, while trying to throw Sansa out of the moon door admits to killing Jon Arryn and lying to Catelyn about it. She also talks about having her first baby with Littlefinger killed. During this exchange Littlefinger comes to the rescue and calms his hysterical wife, whereupon he promptly throws her out of the Moon Door. With Sansa and Marillion being the only witnesses, he calls for the singer to be arrested for the murder of Lysa.
- The epilogue has the arrival of another key character, Lady Stoneheart, who is Catelyn Stark, having been resurrected after death by Beric Donndarian at the loss of himself. We are given the perspective of one of the Freys who is going to ransom one of his kin, where we learn that Lame Lothar did all of the plotting for the Red Wedding. Lady Stoneheart is brutal, ordering the execution of all that have aligned with the Lannisters, regardless of their role.