Let's Read A Song of Ice and Fire part XVIII

A Storm of Swords part two! ~100-~200!

If Game of Thrones is the prologue to the series, and A Clash of Kings seems to be the opening action proper, then A Storm of Swords begins the long middle of the series (until book 5), after which will be climax and denouement. Being its own book, and particularly being part of an epic saga in the literary sense, that doesn't mean that the middle is to be without its interesting moments. Indeed, the middle is often where all the good stuff happens, while the really cool one-off stunt moments happen either at the beginning or at the end. The middle is also where people move about and we start to see new situations arise from the opportunity for characters to mingle and interact who haven't before, or haven't in a long time.

That's all just a very long way of getting to the point that at this point in the story, many of our characters are on the move. Let's see where they're going.

Daenerys: Dany's dragons are doing well at this point, beginning to grow and mature, and she's also taught them how to breathe fire on command. A good idea. Dracarys is an interesting word; attempting to find any etymological roots to it in real-world languages led me to the amusing fact that in Finnish viserrys is the word for a chirp or twittering sound. Appropriate for Viserys, whose chirping made him a nuisance.

Dany holds loyalty very, very dear and appears to have trouble with the idea that some people put on fronts of kindliness and loyalty. If she learned anything from Mirri Maz Duur, it should have been the fact that a leader should never trust someone just because they've helped or offered help in the past. Ser Jorah is quick to remind her of this when it comes to Strong Belwas and his squire Arstan, as well as Illyrio.

There are a load of issues Jorah presents that make them suspicious, and he outlines an overland route designed to negate any trap Illyrio might have in the works. Illyrio's a potential candidate for treason and would be a clear winner for gold, but that will have to wait and see.

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There are interesting tidbits from Arstan and Jorah in terms of backstory. Arstan, who may be lying but I don't imagine so just yet, tells us a good bit about prince Rhaegar, and Jorah explains the story of the Unsullied. Of course, the Unsullied have for their claim to fame the fact that a force of them could defeat a much larger force that doesn't strategize at all, so their usefulness in a battle against worthy opponents might be less than advertized.

At the end of the chapter, Jorah makes a move and reveals his interpretation of the three heads: Dany and two husbands, with him as the first. Jorah now makes himself a candidate proper for a couple of these prophecies.

Bran: Bran's ability to enter the wolf at will is only hampered by his inability or unwillingness to control the wolf after the fact. Jojen wants him to learn to control the wolf, and insists on heading north in order to do so. Jojen makes a good point ultimately in that so long as people believe Bran is dead, he's safer that way. Giving Bran the final say worked – he's willing to go – but only because he thought it through. With luck, one day Bran will understand metaphor and be able to interpret Jojen's dreams.

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Davos: Somebody wants to kill Melisandre. And can't, because he's arrested pretty quickly. We see one of Robert's bastards here, Edric Storm, alive and well. Which means either Melisandre has had access to more of Robert's bastards and hasn't used him yet, or the bastard-fueled magic theory is a bust. I have a feeling this book may help me make up my mind on that, since we've been introduced to this particular bastard.

An astute reader might notice that Salladhor Saan has seized a ship belonging to one Illyrio Mopatis. I wonder what this ship was doing, and if this might be a hint that Illyrio looks to sell Dany to Stannis or Cersei at first opportunity.

Jaime: Jaime is lucky Brienne takes her duties seriously enough to not reveal who he is. They stumble upon an inn and trade some gold and their boat for horses. Not the best horses in the world, but horses enough for their purposes. Jaime's leg shackles are cut – this could have been a bad idea on Brienne's part.

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The chapter features flashbacks from Jaime about his relationship with Cersei and his role in killing Aerys II. That seems to be the chief purpose of his role as a viewpoint character, really – insight into the events which spawned the plot that we can't get from the other characters because they were either too young, not born, or absent from the action. Plus, he's quippy and interesting like Tyrion, so he's also a good character to have around to inject some humor into the book.

Tyrion: Speak of the devil. Tyrion's on the outs with the goings on in King's Landing, but he does have Varys as a source of information. He gets access to Shae, and he seems to have the beginnings of a plan to get Cersei and Osmund Kettleblack some unfriendly attention from Tywin. Wonder what would happen if Jaime found out.

We get a brief, frosty moment between Loras and Tyrion, though it does go better than Sansa's brief, frosty moment. Perhaps we'll see more of these and get some more info about Loras.

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Tyrion's got to watch himself, though. It's all well and good to get Varys to let him use his chambers, and see Shae, and plot behind his father's back, but he needs to be sure he's untouchable. Which is no guarantee, when everyone in power in King's Landing is watching him. We'll see soon what he does about this Symon Silver Tongue, too.

Oh, and we learned not long ago from Varys that he hates magic. What does Tyrion figure out with Shae's help? Vary's bed has a counterweight spell. It's reaching back a ways to a post from the first book, but Varys and Littlefinger are almost certainly the two people Arya heard talking about the book, the bastard, and the truth. Gendry's the bastard in question on that front.

Arya: There's a reason I started this post off with thoughts about characters on the move and such. This happens not long after Jaime's chapter, because Arya, Gendry and Hot Pie come upon the same inn and have eyes on the boat. The inn is held by people calling themselves King Robert's men, including an old friend from Winterfell: Harwin. Arya Underfoot is back. Being found and known will be a game changer.

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Also, Hot Pie's good at singing, and he likes the same song about the hairy bear that the Queen of Thorns used as cover for her conversation with Sansa.

There's also a "Braavosi sellsword" with them. Valar morghulis, everybody.

Catelyn: Well, Robb's back, and it's nice to see him.

There's some masterful manipulation of his mother in his pardon of her actions as a mistake made for love. Like seriously master class. Of course, this makes the complication that the Freys have now gone over to the Lannisters because Robb broke the one treaty keeping them with him.

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Robb's new wife doesn't quite like Grey Wind, and Grey Wind doesn't like Rolph Spicer. Catelyn knows to trust the wolf's instincts, but all Robb knows is that Lady's dead, Shaggydog and Summer failed to protect Rickon and Bran, and Nymeria was cast away. He's the least likely of the Starks to ever truly bond with their wolf now. At least he's going to put Rolph to some duty far off to ease his mother's mind. Still not likely to work out for the best, but better.

While Catelyn trusts the wolf, Robb is quick to remind her that there are six, not five. He's always going to do that. But if he doesn't learn to trust Grey Wind's judgment again, he's going to die before the story is done.

And while the harrying tactics used against Tywin before are something I mentioned as well done, it appears Robb had different plans. He wanted to trap Tywin behind their lines and prevent him from being able to rally at King's Landing. Smart, but might have been helpful to tell someone to make sure they actually did that.

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Robb's eyes are now turned north to retaking Winterfell, but first he needs to win back the Freys.

Things of importance:
* Robb's married
* The Freys are a wildcard again.
* Arya found friendly people – or familiar, anyway.
* We meet Edric Storm

Predictions pulled out of my ass:
* Arya's found someone familiar, but he seems to be part of a company loyal to Robert Baratheon. They're not like to be won over to Robb Stark's cause. Falling in with them is going to cause more trouble than it's worth.

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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.
Jorah thinks: Dany and two husbands (him as one).

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.

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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. I think Ser Jorah might betray her out of love. For blood, I don't know. Depending on what happens with Illyrio Mopatis, we might have a new winner for gold.
She thinks: Mirri Maz Duur for blood.