Let's Read A Song of Ice and Fire Part XVII

A Storm of Swords part one! 1-~100!

A new book begins. After the packed ending of the second book, it's nice to settle into the slow pace of the introduction to a new book. Martin's good at making sure the things most needful to know for a reader who has missed the previous books get brought up as early as relevant so the reader isn't completely lost. It's not helpful to me, since I'm reading the whole series, but it's a nice touch that makes each book more able to stand on its own – that's the way these things have to work, too. A series of books may be conceived as a coherent, singular whole, but it's written as a series of individual books that link up to one another.

That said, it's time to begin. We'll do it in the usual way. There's a note on chronology at the beginning from Martin. Thank you for the tip, George.

Prologue: We start among the Night's Watch. In order to carry over the sense of impending doom from the last book's final chapters set among the Night's Watch, we open here, among conspirators hoping to abandon the Watch, kill the Old Bear, Sam Tarly, and a few other sworn brothers, and make good their escape.

It's a plan that could work, I suppose, but the plan gets torpedoed after the Old Bear lays down his plan and it begins to snow. Chett thinks he can at least kill Sam Tarly, but he winds up being stopped by the horn. One blow for returning brothers. Two blows for the wildling army. Three blows for Others.

Three blows. Doom is on the march. What a positive, upbeat start to the book.

Jaime: I'm slightly disappointed by the lack of maiming, but it's interesting that we now get a peek inside his head. It's him, Cleos Frey, and Brienne heading toward King's Landing. Catelyn Stark has a plan for a prisoner exchange.

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There's the problem that only one of her daughters is in King's Landing, so the exchange as planned cannot happen. If they make it to King's Landing, we'll find out, I suppose. Something tells me they'll wind up separated or off course, though. And bald Jaime sounds like he resembles his father quite a bit.

Lastly, feats of strength and cunning from Brienne to deal with the galley come to retrieve Jaime. Any escape plan Jaime comes up with – and he's smart, I'll give him that – will have to contend with both her intellect and with the lack of intelligence belonging to the "chinless cretin" that is his cousin. Action, a little intrigue, and clever quipping – that's what these chapters promise.

Brienne has the same ideas of true knights as Sansa, but there's a difference. Brienne is a knight, and thus in a position to be the knight she idealizes the profession to be. It would be interesting to get Sansa and Brienne together.

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Catelyn: A chapter of patience. She's confined to her father's quarters – presumably he may die in this book, which would make enough of a shakeup that something interesting might come of it. There's a lot of interior exploration of Catelyn's character here, and the mystery of Tansy, but not enough yet to say for sure just what's going on. The Tansy mystery will probably be the major Catelyn's plot-relevant thing, while the interior exploration will be the main purpose of her chapters this book.

Arya: Arya, Hot Pie, and Gendry are on their way to Riverrun. Or they would be if they weren't lost. They forded a few rivers, though, which should make pursuit less of an issue. If they make it to Riverrun, then Catelyn's going to have a wrench thrown in her plans and Jaime's chapters could get very interesting should he make it to King's Landing. What happens with Arya could affect a few different plotlines. I'll keep my brain on notice.

And at the end, Arya has a wolf dream. Nymeria is near, and her wolves are following. It's all coming together.

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Tyrion: Tyrion's lost a lot. Alayaya has been cast out of the city after being whipped – Tyrion's especially peeved about that. The wildlings are gone. Bronn is a knight now and his loyalty is uncertain. He's convinced Cersei has been attempting to kill him. And then there's his father.

Tywin is the Hand, and that means Tyrion's out of a job. Not only that, but Tywin tells him that Tyrion can never expect to inherit Casterly Rock. Jaime legally can't, but the Lannisters have never been much for following the rules.

So, I'm going to get on the subject of the Red Robin Wedding. Tyrion's the one who orchestrates it. Or at least part of it. I'm expecting two plots to collide and cause more death than either alone would have produced – Cersei being the other instigator. Tyrion's got reason to be there, being Joffrey's uncle, and he has a good motive: his father and sister are fully on his hate list, Joffrey would be a disaster for the kingdom, and who knows who else might be there.

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Cersei might take it as an opportunity to be rid of Tyrion, as well as any enemies among Margaery's family and other dignitaries. If she gets word of Jaime's "escape" from one of the birds sent out by Riverrun, she might take it as an opportunity to be rid of Sansa.

Looks like a bloodbath of a wedding in the making.

Davos: I'm sure after the last update some of the spoiler boxes concern our Onion Knight and my premature call of death. Guess he's not dead. The poet in me saw a pretty good death there in Clash of Kings, though. Although he seems pretty rattled and changed, so he gets the metaphorical death and rebirth to fit the theme of the last book, at least. Call it purification by wildfire.

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This does bring about the possibility that I wasn't wrong about the Onion Knight being instrumental in bringing Stannis (and more importantly/interestingly Melisandre) down for the count. That's about all I have to say about this particular chapter.

Sansa: We meet Margaery, her grandmother, and the rest of the entourage here. I have to say, I like Margaery's grandmother. She's direct and smart enough in the ways of court to get her fool to lay cover for frank conversations you don't want the walls to hear.

Sansa has some things to learn from this new delegation of ladies. Learning how to subvert the system is important for any highborn lady who intends to actually have any power.

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She did well in filling them in on Joffrey's true behavior. I'm not sure what we'll see out of that information, but Olenna wants Sansa to marry Willas. Willas has a lame leg, but I would hope Sansa will have learned by now that a good person with a disability is far preferable to Joffrey (spinsterhood would be too, but being highborn doesn't make spinsterhood a terribly likely event). Even so, obviously political motivations are afoot.

Jon: Jon meets Mance, and Mance quickly points out that he's seen Jon Snow twice. Mance seems something like a Robin Hood figure so far, with his merry band and commitment to being free, whatever free means, exactly. This is all pretty introductory, and we meet Mance's most esteemed lieutenants, but not much happens here.

We do learn why Mance left the watch – because he couldn't wear a cloak patched with red – and Jon spins a pretty good lie himself. Mance accepts him, but I have to say I think Mance is probably smart enough to see that the story is a lie. It wouldn't be the first time a lie was recognized but played along with in order to fulfill a different purpose. If he bought it, we still learn a bit about Mance and what he values.

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Things of importance:
* Jaime is out in the world again. He should still have been maimed a little.
* Arya has the wolf dreams.
* Others on the march

Predictions pulled out of my ass:
* The Red Robin Wedding – Joffrey and Margaery, with Tyrion and Cersei as instigators and plotters. And the Queen of Thorns for good measure.
* Mance Rayder's attack against the Night's Watch will see Jon having to fight and kill the Old Bear.

Dany's Threes:
Three heads: Three identities. Mother of dragons and child of storms are obvious – the third, though… the one she seeks is Queen of the Seven Kingdoms. Too obvious, though. Not the third head.
She thinks: the three ships she's naming after the great dragons.
Three fires: life, death, love. There's the obvious fire of Drogo's funeral – the fire of life. The other two will come. No predictions as yet.\
Three mounts: To bed, to dread, to love. Drogo was to bed. She will have another to dread, and if the Jon Snow as secret Targaryen and match to her thing works out he's the one to love.
Three treasons: For blood, for gold, for love. Viserys feels okay for gold at the moment (the golden crown being a symbol for the power, wealth, and army he desired), and I think Ser Jorah might betray her out of love. For blood, Dany seems to have a good idea.
She thinks: Mirri Maz Duur for blood.