Ladies (not hello, ladies, see Weston for that), a poll: for those of you who took your husband’s last name upon marriage, how many continued to think of yourself as Firstname Maidenname fifteen years down the line? I changed my last name six years ago and I’m used to it. I just can’t pin down the convention for this in the Seven Kingdoms. On one hand, Catelyn seems to be treated as a member of House Stark, on the other, she thinks of herself as Catelyn Tully. Lysa is referred to as “Lysa Arryn,” but Cersei is called “Cersei Lannister.” Does Littlefinger spend his days doodling “Catelyn Baelish” and “Mr. and Mrs. Petyr Baelish” on the treasury accounts? This is important! Meanwhile, in the back of my mind, I know that I’m thinking about this way more than GRRM ever did, and I feel like he’s trolling me and doesn’t even know it. GRRM can troll you by just being, he’s that good.
Sansa’s in a weird in-between state where she understands that she’s a hostage and that things are bad for her and her family, but still clings to the delusion that Cersei and Joff give a damn about her. I myself am also in an in-between state where I don’t dislike her as a character anymore, but don’t look forward to her chapters because they’re basically misery with very little forward movement in the plot.
I’ve missed Tyrion. That’s nothing new, I always miss Tyrion. Not even specifically in this book, just generally, in life. Somehow, his chapters are always so much less horrifying than everybody else’s. Either fewer bad things happen to him or I just have selective memory when it comes to my favourite.
This chapter’s drinking game: drink any time someone mentions goats or penes; two drinks for the threat of feeding someone’s penis to a goat; finish your drink if a goat actually eats something; find all the alcohol in your home, mix it together, and chug it if a goat actually eats a penis.
Catelyn and her uncle have taken the sea route to Robb, travelling to the White Harbor — the North’s primary port — and then on to where Robb’s gathering his forces with the sons of White Harbor’s lord, Manderly, as escorts. It’s nice that at least one of the Stark kids gets to be reunited with a parent, but think about it: out the six kids, only one gets to see a parent again, and it’s the oldest to boot. The babies will have to fend for themselves!
It’s Dany’s first chapter AV — After Viserys. Life is somehow a little brighter AV, like that scene post-sex from 500 Days of Summer. Sex happens a lot in A Game of Thrones, so that’s nothing special, but even here it’s not every chapter a slimy bastard bites it.
Bran is watching men arrive in Winterfell for the army Robb’s gathering. The latest (and last) arrivals are the Karstarks — a thousand-year-old offshoot of House Stark, they are descendents of Karlon Stark. Bran doesn’t think the look like Starks, but he looks like a Tully, so I don’t think he should talk. In a society where genetics and heredity are so closely tied to appearance, Catelyn sure didn’t do a good job of giving birth to Stark-looking children, did she, only one out of five. I suspect if Robb looked like Ned instead of her, she wouldn’t hate Jon quite so much. (I was looking through my previous entries to check if I already shared this theory when I realized that I use the word “hate” a lot when writing these.)
Having climbed our way out of the pit of teenaged girl suckitude that is vintage A Game of Thrones Sansa sprinkled with a good dose of Cersei’s vileness, we’re transported to the testosterone-steeped Utopia that is Castle Black. Whereas last chapter left off with a human hand in FYC’s mouth, this one begins with the stump of the arm to which the hand belonged. I am not even slightly joking when I say that a chapter full of rotting corpses is very much preferable to the last one.
After chapters of chasing cats and balancing precariously at the top of stairwells, Arya is finally getting to practice some swordplay. Syrio is calling out his blows (high, low, left, right) and she’s parrying accordingly, but then he calls left when actually swinging right and Arya starts that eternal refrain of the adolescent soul: it’s not fair! Syrio tells her that she should’ve paid attention to the cues from his body language instead of just relying on him to tell the truth. Get it? It’s thematically appropriate, because it’s the mistake Ned made. Oh those silly Starks and their touching attachment to truth and honour.
Ned! Back again so soon? Yes, yes he is. On one hand, King’s Landing is where all the action is reaching its climax, so it makes sense that we’d spend so much time there. On the other, when you have a book with multiple POV characters, it feels really unbalanced to be favouring one character so heavily. I’m not complaining, exactly, I’m just saying it’s really noticeable and also I miss Tyrion. Luckily, I have an active imagination and I’m still having fun pretending that Ghost!Tyrion is commenting on the action.
It’s been a while since the book’s last visit to the Wall. I believe we last left Jon on a high note — he’d just arranged a suitable placement for Sam, probably saving his life in the process — don’t worry, it won’t last long. If this book was plotted as a chart, it would be in the shape of lightning: a series of false peaks in a downward trajectory.