A Feast for Crows part ten! ~900-end

And we’re done! The book is finished, and there’s only one more to read for me to catch up to the other readers out there. I think I’m most looking forward to seeing if there are any events here that lead to anything in the next book, and vice versa.

Brienne: Brienne is ahorse, although she’s slung over its rump like grain. Presumably she is too unwell to ride properly. Pod’s calling for her, though, so perhaps she’s not been captured at least. At least not by Biter’s fellows.

Nightmares and pain plague her, and some man seems to express no sympathy over her possible death. Not Hunt or Meribald – someone against the Lannisters. Beric’s men? Unfamiliar prayers point that way, perhaps.

Broken arm, bitten cheek, and cracked ribs. And no master but rather a girl. Ah, not Beric’s men, but Gendry and one of the girls from the inn and some men as well, taking her and Pod to their Lady Stoneheart. They’re taking her to answer for her crimes.

Lots of passing out. Gendry turned back at some point, so there won’t be any answers there. And, if Brienne had her wits about her, she’d have picked up that the Lady is Catelyn’s body. This will be an interesting meeting.

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So much wanting Jaime. She’s got it bad for him. She wakes up in a cave, and Thoros provides a little information. Seems she definitely saved the orphans, and that earned her some small amount of healing. But Thoros also suggests they believe some of the more sinister tales about her.

Thoros says Beric’s fire has gone out of the world. Before any more information, a meal is in order. Pod and Hunt also await judgment.

It was Rorge who took Clegane’s helmet from the grave, and now a new Hound has scavenged the helm since Brienne killed him. Just what Westeros needs – yet another Hound.

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Her sword and letter will not help her here, and the men are very uninterested in hearing what she has to say in her defense. It’s up to the Lady to recognize her if Brienne’s to be saved from the noose.

So Dondarrion gave his unlife to Catelyn, and she has spoken to declare Brienne’s oath broken. Not good for Brienne. Brienne is offered a choice from Catelyn Stark’s own mouth – kill Jaime, or be hanged. Retribution for the death of Robb, or death.

She won’t make that choice, and all three are hanged. Damn.

Cersei: So we’ve had Brienne die, a major reveal with Arianne, and Sansa has hope to end the book on. I’m wagering our final chapters will be Cersei, Jaime, and Sam, and right now we’re going to have Cersei’s plan blow up.

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So Cersei’s plan is working right now, and the High Septon has Margaery and her cousins in custody until their innocence can be proven. Of course, Cersei feigns shock and surprise and outrage at this.

And of course being a girl who rides horses is working against Margaery, as the Faith’s zealotry plays into Cersei’s hands for now.

Well, Cersei, at least you’ve managed to shed your paranoia now that you think you’ve won. It’s not like there’s another young queen out there that can undo you, considering you’re destroying your own grip on power by pursuing this folly.

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Cersei’s even getting Tommen to sign the warrants, and she leaves the names off to be filled in later. Yeah, better not piss Tommen off with this. And she’s really hoping that the High Septon tries Margaery herself. Cersei’s even closing the city gates. Everything appears to be well in hand for her. How will it go wrong?

Oh dear. Cersei’s ready to throw away another member of the Kingsguard in pursuit of this pettiness. Remind Trant that he’s feeling ill should Margaery request trial by combat and a champion. He’s one of three remaining members of the Kingsguard from the beginning of the story – he might not be as tractable as the ones Cersei has installed, though.

Cersei visits Margaery, who is not dealing with confinement well. Poor girl. And Margaery says that making her take one of the Kingsguard as a champion must be a joke. Maybe she’s piecing it together in her head who really put her here.

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Yep. Suspicious eyes, and she point blank asks if Cersei would like to see Osney cut Blount or Trant down. The girl is sharp. Cersei leaves, trying hard not to be unruffled by this.

Cersei suggests that the Faith try the young queen, and the High Septon is very amenable to that suggestion. But here’s a wrinkle Cersei didn’t expect – she’s not able to take Osney back with her. The High Septon simply says “no” to that.

The High Septon brings Cersei to Osney, who is held in a cell severely whipped. The Septon was suspicious of how pleased he was to confess. I think Cersei’s plan has all begun to unravel – arming the Faith once more has backfired.

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Yep. Cersei’s done. Osney even confesses to killing the old High Septon on her orders. She’s finished now. She tries to run, but winds up captured and thrown into a cell naked with a roughspun shift. Not content to have any dignity at all, Cersei rages with no surcease.

And now Cersei gets to enjoy the hourly attempt to extract a confession and the attendant exhaustion. When at last someone comes aside from her captors, it’s Qyburn. And he tells her there will be a trial. Her trial. I do hope we can learn what he’s been making.

Oh yes, Cersei’s council is falling apart. Qyburn’s off it, Tommen has replaced Osfryd as captain of the city guard – Cersei trained him so well to just sign anything placed in front of him. The Faith has taken the Blue Bard and are attempting to get the truth out of him, but for now he’s still singing what Qyburn taught him to sing.

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Everybody’s abandoning Cersei. Swyft and Pycele are running the show and have sent for Kevan Lannister to take over as Regent. Not good for Cersei if he does – he knows.

Qyburn tells her the thing he made is ready, but Cersei laughs at the irony. A champion she can’t use, because she’s the queen. Lovely. Cersei has Qyburn send for Jaime. She wants him to be her champion. Oh dear. Cersei’s dooming herself one way or another by that order.

Jaime: Emmon is a thundering moron. But the Blackfish escaped, and Edmure’s not helping the investigation beyond telling them they raised the Water Gate. The Blackfish is gone and is now a rogue agent. Good.

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Jaime’s trying to figure out where the Blackfish could have gone. And that’s a difficult question. I have no idea where he would go. But first Jeyne Westerling is here.

She’s not pregnant, or at least doesn’t appear to be. She’s not getting on well with her mother right now. Lady Sybell is doing whatever she can for favor, but Jeyne loved Robb and refuses to abase herself that way. When the question of pregnancy came up, the answer is no, and Jaime lets Jeyne go.

Lady Sybell sure is getting a lot out of this understanding she had with Tywin. Or trying to, anyway. Jaime sure seems to lose patience when she starts getting to all the marriages she’s demanding.

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Jaime quadruples the guard to escort Edmure and the Westerlings to Casterly Rock and oversees them before they leave. Then he goes to have words with the Freys. Ryman Frey is dead, thanks to Lady Stoneheart probably. And the Freys are beginning to fall apart and turn on each other as a result. Can’t say that’s a bad thing.

Jaime asks if Jeyne’s brother is among the prisoners at the Twins. He’s not. He was killed in the slaughter, after liberating Grey Wind in a last ditch effort at heroism. At least, the Freys think he’s dead – he threw himself into the river with arrows in his shoulder and gut. No identified corpse, though. So, the Blackfish is on the loose, and Raynald Westerling may be alive as well.

Jaime and Payne drink, and Jaime is glad to have a companion so good at listening. Payne suggests killing Cersei, but Jaime doesn’t want to do that. It would hurt Tommen too much, and be disadvantageous politically. Of course, if she wants him to be her champion he may do it indirectly.

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Nymeria attacked a number of Jaime’s men with her pack. No luck finding the Blackfish for them that night. Strongboar gets what he wants – the opportunity to fight outlaws. Too bad for him Dondarrion’s dead. He’s not going to have a good time with that hunt, I bet.

Jaime’s not going to give in to Genna and Emmon’s demands that he put the garrison to the question. He wonders about Tommen and if he’d prefer a father or a throne, and notes that he needs to do something to prevent the boy from becoming Joffrey mark two. Jaime thinks a new small council would help as well, and thinks of Littlefinger as a new Hand would work. Jaime’s only able to think of threats in the form of swords and high birth, it seems, because Littlefinger is more dangerous than any highborn lord with a thousand swords to his name.

Some of the garrison are happy to take the black. Good, new men at the Wall will be worthwhile. The singer is Tom of Sevenstreams. Well, there’s our man feeding information to the King’s Men.

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Ooh, dream vision prophetic thing. Green eyes, golden hair, his mother? I think Jaime has realized that in living up to his father’s dreams, he and Cersei have only become him and driven their mother’s memory away.

It’s snowing in the riverlands and the war has left the continent poorly provisioned for the winter. Cersei’s letter arrives, and Jaime has it put to the fire. And that’s how you save Tommen.

Samwell: It occurs to me that there could be trouble if the Iron Fleet and this ship cross paths. They’re near the end of the journey, and of course the ironmen are there and that means possible trouble.

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Looks like Oldtown won’t be extremely hospitable a destination. Euron’s been raiding really close, and that’s a bit of a problem. Apparently they’ve been trying to get into the town to plunder, but they’ve been unsuccessful so far. The value of multilingualism, folks.

They don’t love Cersei in Oldtown. Or anywhere, really. And Oldtown is doing its best with nothing for defense. Sam thinks about it and decides to bring Gilly to Horn Hill, and if it seems too dangerous he’ll bring her back to Oldtown.

Sam goes to meet the Seneschal, and then he has to wait. And wait. And wait. One acolyte tells Sam that if he pays a penny he’ll get in sooner. Sam winds up telling everything, and the acolyte says the Seneschal won’t believe half, but there are archmaesters who will.

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Sam follows the Sphinx to Leo Tyrell, and Sam and Alleras the Sphinx meet with Archmaester Marwyn. He’s got the black candle from the prologue in his study. He’ll believe, I’m sure of that.

So, the Citadel and the maesters are playing their own game – they’ve been actively trying to suppress things like prophecy, sorcery, and dragons. This is interesting. Sam needs to learn and forge his chain and do it fast. Marwyn intends to get to Dany before the grey sheep do. So that’s three parties, all vying to reach Dany first.

Sam’s not to tell the Seneschal or other archmaesters about what he knows – he’ll be killed quick if he does. And there’s a Pate here, but a different one from the one in the Prologue? He’s not spotty. Hmm…

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Meanwhile, back at the Wall…: A note from Martin about the next book. That’s nice. Seems he missed his mark on getting it out when he hoped to, though. Oh well. I’m not bothered.

End of book impressions

And that’s the book done. Well, half done. From what I understand, this book and A Dance With Dragons are two halves of the same story. This is, as I’ve noted before, primarily about what’s going on in the Seven Kingdoms in the aftermath of the war – a war that is still going on, but which has ebbed significantly. The next, Martin tells us, is intended to be about what’s going on outside at the same time.

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Splitting up the narrative the way he did strikes me as the better option over giving us half the plot from each and then a second book finishing them. It’s a more unconventional choice, given the lack of certain very prominent viewpoints each book carries as a result. Even with this book being about the goings on within the kingdoms, we still get a bit of outside through Arya. We have Arya, Cersei, Jaime, Brienne, Sansa and Samwell as our principal narrators from this point. That leaves us missing Dany, Tyrion, Bran, and Jon Snow from our previous principals, and Davos as a minor one.

That’s a good quad to have for the core of the next book, but the book can’t be just them. Davos will die, presumably, so we might see him for a bit. We still have one to two more principals to add, then. Quentyn Martell seems like an obvious choice for a new one, based on what we’ve learned of his mission. Jorah’s story doesn’t seem over either. So those are my picks on that front.

That said, this is a more unconventional approach to putting two books together for a reason. By completely dividing the book into two this way, it does mean if you don’t care about Cersei, Jaime, Sansa, and Arya, there’s little in Feast for you to enjoy. Likewise, if you don’t care much for Tyrion, Dany, Jon, and Bran, there won’t be much to look forward to in Dance.

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Feast worked for me, but that’s because I adore Arya, find Jaime quite interesting, care about Brienne and her quest, and look forward to Cersei’s downfall. The book made me care more about Sansa, because in many ways her story is beginning to parallel aspects of Arya’s with the subsuming and re-emergence of identity. Brienne’s quest also invested me more in Sansa’s storyline, as I hoped that Brienne might find her and succeed at last.

A lot has happened over the course of this book, though nothing quite as flashy as the weddings in the last. Pieces are being put in place for the next stage of conflict, and I expect we may learn in the next book whether some of those pieces will be tractable. If not, they may decide to play for themselves.

I’m a bit disappointed Brienne’s story ends here in failure. She was certainly the noblest knight in the whole series, and to see her undertake such a quest and end up failing and dying on the orders of the corpse of the woman who sent her on it really pushes the fact that this world is just awful and any goodness must be destroyed.

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I’m highly satisfied, however, with Jaime and Cersei’s arcs. It’s been great to watch them grow apart and come to the final point where Cersei determines that she needs Jaime either to save her or to die with her, and where Jaime decides to leave her to her fate. Jaime is by far the less repugnant, and it would seem he’s learned quite a bit from his humbling experiences. Cersei, on the other hand, is too prideful even to be humbled – and her hubris is precisely her problem.

Arya’s story is intriguing, but it’s hard to comment on. I’m just not entirely sure where it’s going. Sam’s story is similar, although the arc of his journey from the Wall to Oldtown is completed. Intriguing, but I’m not sure what comes next.

Sansa’s story is the other tragedy of the book, after Brienne’s tragic heroism. Her tragedy is not the heroic sort, however, but all feeds from a loss of identity. She begins to assimilate into the persona of Alayne so much that it comes across heavily in the narration, so much so that I’m not really sure what she will do with the new information Littlefinger has provided her. I don’t trust it, but that’s all I know.

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One thing to note. Lady Stoneheart has her son’s crown again, and the Blackfish is swimming free, while two men of his are heading north to the Wall to take the black. And what does the Blackfish know? He knows Robb’s will. He protests against going to the Wall because he doesn’t trust Jon, but that could be a ploy as much as it’s genuine. I suppose we’ll have to wait until winter to find out.

Things of importance:
* Brienne is dead. So much for the S.S. Lannistarth.
* Cersei is done. Finished. As good as dead.
* Lady Stoneheart is taking revenge on the Freys slowly but surely, with the help of old Tom of Sevens. And just about everyone else. Jaime had best be on guard.
* Sam reaches Oldtown and Archmaester Marwyn is leaving to find Dany.

Predictions pulled out of my ass:
* Littlefinger is obviously playing Sansa. To what end, I don’t know, but he’s going to hang her out to dry at some point.
* Cersei’s sentence will be harsh. Death? Perhaps, but I think her children still have to predecease her. Something else, then. In either case, Jaime’s refusal to answer her call will spell her doom.
* The race is on to get Dany. As for who gets there first – Euron probably has his ships out ahead of Marwyn, but Quentyn has been out even longer. I’m guessing either Quentyn manages to win her over, or Marwyn enlists her aid. Dany will not go with the ironborn.

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Dany’s Threes:

Three heads: Three identities. Mother of dragons and child of storms are obvious – the third, though… I’ll have to go look things over again, but perhaps Azor Ahai is a possibility. Of course, this one’s most open and could have several meanings.
She thinks: Herself and two others to ride her 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 love. Irri seems a good enough bedmate.
Three treasons: For blood, for gold, for love. All three seem to have been in motion or completed before the prophecy. Jorah seems to have betrayed her for love, love of home. For blood, I’m on board with Mirri Maz Duur now. Depending on what happens with Illyrio Mopatis, we might have a winner for gold.
She thinks: Mirri Maz Duur for blood. Jorah for love.

Azor Ahai: “When the red star bleeds and the darkness gathers, Azor Ahai shall be born again amidst smoke and salt to wake dragons out of stone.”

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I’m going to have to go with Dany now, based on Aemon’s dreams.