(Index to previous ADwD posts is here.)
Sorry for the gap, guys, I felt the need to review something else at the weekend, but my Reviewing Through the Time Machine posts tend to be a bit more in-depth, and it sort of took it out of me. Anyway – onwards and upwards!
Chapter 19: Davos
Bless him, Davos sort of gets to do something, this time. He gets hauled before Wyman Manderly, Lord of White Harbor, but is treated as somewhat less than a King’s Hand. A bunch of Freys are present, and Davos is unable to get an audience alone with Lord Wyman. The Freys have fed him and his some rather astonishing lies that cast the Red Wedding as Robb Stark’s fault. Rather than a Frey blood bath, they maintain that Robb and his men turned into wolves, and that it was they who killed Wendel Manderly. Some of the court are apparently convinced of this, others seem to be paying lip-service to the belief because the Lannisters apparently have Wyman’s son, and he’s therefore unlikely to move in any case, and it’s in his best interest to keep the peace with their side.
There’s a really interesting moment when the tide almost turns. With how much Davos considers himself a man of few words, it was inevitable that he would say something to catch someone’s ear. He appeals with honesty to the cost and a reminder that they have common enemies with those who killed the king. He may mean Robert, but he strikes an emotion with those who feel the pain of Robb’s death in his role as King in the North. Northmen (and women) have always felt an intense loyalty to Winterfell, almost over the King in King’s Landing. The real crime – what divided this country and made war inevitable – was the death of Eddard Stark. Robb was just a symbol, but Eddard? That blunt, honest man – that good northern man – their true king, who they had followed into war before. Yes, they’re angry about that. They want blood for that. And they find voice in Wylla, a young girl. Young enough to think you can show defiance without consequences, or idealistic enough to believe it is worth it. She almost has them, for a moment, but in the end, these people know the pain of war better, and their lord’s head is in a noose as long as the Lannisters have his son and there are Freys in his court.
Although by the end of the chapter we’ve effectively returned to the status quo, I loved it. I loved the politics, I loved the tensions, I loved Wylla. I was crying out for more non-objectified female voices, and there she is, speaking naturally and powerfully, even if she’s then silenced. I loved the stories that can be told and accepted without the advantage of instant news-transmission and images we have in our modern age.
Most of all, I loved the way the blood was stirred when Davos and Wylla called to their murdered lords and ladies – to their murdered kings, and, most of all, to Ned Stark. He was never crowned, but he was their king more than anyone who has claimed the crown since Robert died. And, of course, he’s our king, too. It’s a nice synergy of dramatic tension with reader-emotions. He’s been dead these many books, but we still love to hear his name. He was the protagonist in an ensemble cast in the first book – good and true and doomed. Whether you thought he was stupid or not you had to root for him. I was surprised at the outrage people who hadn’t read the books felt at his death at the end of the recent TV series. And yet, it’s that depth of attachment that we’re all called back to. As I mention in my summary, his death is the turning point of this whole story: Bran’s fall, Cersei’s infidelity, Daenerys’s growing army, even Catelyn’s blunder in accusing Tyrion – all of it could have come to much less if Joffrey hadn’t commanded Ned’s head be parted from his shoulders.
I like that Martin is weaving the emotions of the characters through with the emotions of the readers in this way. It’s skillfully done.
Chapter 20: Reek
Oh, this is a nasty chapter – in a good way. I think.
Our good friend, Reek (née Theon) is dressed up in normal people clothes and sent out under his own banner to treat with those who hold the ruins and towers of Moat Cailin. Unknown to everyone, including those who man the towers, they’ve already effectively lost them. They are manned by the rejects of their army. They have the advantage of position, and could still do damage to the Boltons if they stayed put, but disease and each other would kill them all in time. The scenes inside the tower are sickening in a way that draws forth the brutality of war in a way we in our safe homes are rarely exposed to. This is not the violence of war; this is the neglect of war. This is the dehumanising grind of war.
With some little resistance, Reek persuades the men manning the towers to surrender on condition of safe passage. Of course, the mad Ramsay
Snow Bolton reneges on that promise, killing them all. He is then able to present these towers to his father, Roose Bolton. In a nice touch, even hard man Roose has the decency to be shocked at Reek’s appearance: ‘What is this, some mockery?’ he asks. The twist in the chapter comes when the captive Arya is revealed, however, for this is not Arya. Reek, or rather, Theon, knows Arya. And with all the growth spurts in the world, he knows this is a different girl – a girl he recognises, too: Sansa’s friend, Jeyne Poole.
This brings back some stirrings of memory. It probably seemed like a good idea at the time to pretend to be Arya, and, again, without our world of instantly knowable faces, it’s a plausible pretense. Oh, but poor Jeyne, as you bow meekly to the man you have said you’ll marry in Arya’s name… this will not end well for you, I fear. And, lord, I hope something happens to spoil this little ruse and thwart Ramsay’s claim before he can convince people that he really has married Arya. That would give him a more powerful claim than any army could. As we just saw in the last chapter, the Stark name means something.
This is a chapter made of exciting but horrible and worrying things. Two thumbs up!
I’ve read much further than this, so should be able to get you another update soonish, but I’ll sign off now to maintain the bite-size chunk. Toodle-pip!