I actually finished reading Clash of Kings by George R. R. Martin two weeks ago, but I haven’t had a good chance to sit down and compose my thoughts, reactions and predictions until now. (The beginning of the semester is always a little hectic). Like it’s predecessor, this book is so long and dense it’s a little overwhelming to dissect, and I’m resigned to the fact that I’ll probably forget to include some crucial plot twist or character dynamic in this post. Although, my system of marking noteworthy passages was much better organized this time. I used different colors for characters, quotes, cultural clues, and prophecies:
I have not started reading Storm of Swords yet, because I really wanted to write down what I was thinking and feeling about the series at this point before moving on. You only get to read something for the first time once. Also, once I’m caught up to what has been published so far I’ll still have to wait an agonizing few years before the last two books come out, so I might as well savor the journey I have ahead of me.
Arya: Still totally love this girl. She is probably my favorite character so far, (followed closely by Jon Snow with Tyrion in third place). She is so strong-willed, determined, and smart, and she is probably one of the only one in her family who could endure and survive what she has been through. I liked that she spent this entire book masquerading as a peasant, too, because every main character is high-born (or at least a bastard raised in privilege) and I was starting to wonder what life must be like for the common people. Whenever the narrative describes these elaborate, jewel-encrusted outfits that Cersei wears I think, how long did it take some seamstress to make that? It’s not like they have sewing machines, and they’d have to make or acquire all the fabric and materials, and it would take months or years and that would be their whole life, sewing sewing sewing all day long till their backs and fingers ached. Or what about these guardsmen, standing around in front of a door all day, loyal to one family and getting killed because of the other families that don’t like the family you serve, and it has nothing to do with you except that you had the misfortune to not be born to a lord.
Davos: Davos is so far the closest thing to a lowborn main character. I mean he actually was lowborn, but now he has a title. I liked his not-from-privilege perspective and I thought he was honorable, but I wish he would be more concerned with his sons’ futures than just hoping they’ll have higher stations. He should be instilling some of that code of honor into them–what good will a lordship be if they grow up to be horrible? They seem foolish and overly enamored with power. Also, I think it’s kind of funny, but mostly gross, that Davos carries his severed fingertips around with him. Fingertips: the new rabbit’s foot? I guess both are pretty morbid.
Theon: I hate Theon. I hadn’t really thought about him much at all during Game of Thrones, so when I started reading the first chapter from his perspective I was like, “yay, another new p.o.v!”, but two pages in, when I saw what a misogynist pig he is, I was like, NOPE! Shut it down. Not fangirling over this jerk. Then of course I thought it was hilarious when he accidentally hit on his sister. That’s what you get, Theon, for treating women like crap! I guess I felt a teeny bit bad for him when he wasn’t accepted by his father the way he thought he would be, but really, he just waltzes in expecting praise and responsibility and he hasn’t really done anything to earn anything. He’s a spoiled brat, and basically everything he did this book make me continue to dislike him, (hello, taking over Winterfell, fake-killing Bran and Rickon, actual-killing two innocent peasants?!), but when I ranted to my friends that have read ahead of me about how much I hate Theon they said, “he’s confused, he’s torn between his father and Robb!” I certainly didn’t see any confusion from him in this book, so I’m guessing he must have some more character development to come. But at this point I really hate him, so if I end up defending or loving him later, it had better be because he does some majorly redemptive rescuing of some other character or something.
Catelyn: I am getting really tired of Mrs. Stark. For most of her chapters I was wanting to shake her and shout, “Get your ass back to Winterfell!” Her four-year-old misses and needs her desperately, her other son is having to deal with adjusting to life without he use of his legs and she hasn’t even seen him since he was still in a coma! She doesn’t even act like she cares, she just says “Oh yes I miss my kids at Winterfell but I have to stay here with Robb, he needs me more,” when the truth is she wants to be wherever she thinks she can personally wield the most power and influence. If she were honest about her ambition I might not find it so annoying, although I would still think she’s a bad mother for abandoning her youngest and most vulnerable children, (and look how that turns out for them, by the way! Who needs you more now, Cat?!) I wish we could get Robb p.o.v. chapters instead of Catelyn.
Tyrion: This was totally Tyrion’s book. I loved seeing how clever he was at the manipulation and diplomacy involved in running a kingdom. His plans kept falling into place so perfectly that I started worrying about the inevitable downfall when everything would come crashing down. I really thought something bad was going to happen to Shae, and I guess it still might. I’m extremely curious to see what becomes of Tyrion now that his father has returned to take over the job of Hand of the King. I was cheering for him when he rode out into batle, though. Poor guy, getting his face cut up, like he needed another physical deformity! Tyrion definitely creept up the list of my favorite characters during this book. I want to see him get married and have kids–he would be such a good dad! And I want him to be happy.
Daenerys: I’ve decided that Dany’s chapters are primarily interesting for the cultural descriptions, (of the Dothraki, Qarth, the merchant shipyard, etc.), but not so much for her character. Maybe she will grow to be more compelling later, but for now I’m like, “Hey cool, you have dragons! And…not much else.”
Bran: I tend to forget about Bran until I get to one of his chapters, and then I remember that I totally love him and feel bad that I’d forgotten about him. I was so proud of the way he carried the responsibilities of Winterfell lordship in his mother and older brother’s absence. I’m heartbroken for his broken legs and broken dreams of fighting and becoming and knight, and I’m loving this whole wolf-warg business, mostly because he still gets to experience running and moving independently that way. When Jojen said Bran was the winged wolf who would never fly, I started to worry that Bran wouldn’t survive to the end of the book, and I almost held my breath from the time Theon put those decapitated heads up to the time it was revealed they weren’t really Bran and Rickon. Maybe, (hopefully), Jojen’s vision just meant that Bran would never walk again. (Please don’t die, Bran!) I do wonder, if Bran wargs into Summer’s brain right before he died, would he continue to live on in the wolf form? It seems like that’s what happened to the wildling guard Jon killed towards the end:
On a rock above them, the eagle flapped its wings and split the air with a scream of fury.
“The bird hates you, Jon Snow,” said Ygritte. “And well he might. He was a man, before you killed him.”
Jon: Speaking of Jon, who discovered in this book that he, too can warg into his direwolf, he continues to make me say “awww!” in a high, adoring/pitying pitch when I read about his bravery, loyalty, and noble character. His is a difficult path. When Mormont needled him about his brother being King while Jon could never leave the Watch, I loved his response:
“What will you do?” Mormont asked, “Bastard as you are?”
“Be troubled,” said Jon, “and keep my vows.”
I love Jon’s sword, Claw. I know he got it in the last book, but I think I forgot to mention it in my previous post. I still love his friendship with Sam, and I know that even if all the other watchmen believe Jon has betrayed them, Sam will always believe he’s still loyal. (I really love Sam, too. I love how gentle and well-meaning he is, telling Gilly that surely Jon can help her, teaching his ravens how to talk). I loved that Jon spared Ygritte, and that his squad leader probably based his decision to give Jon the most difficult mission of joining the wildlings in part based on that act, (my conjecture). When Jon asks why he was commanded to kill the girl, Qhorin say:
“I did not command it. I told you to do what needed to be done, and left you to decide what that would be.” Qhorin stood and slid his longsword back into its scabbard. “When I want a mountain scaled, I call Stonesnake. Should I need to put an arrow through the eye of some foe across a windy battlefield, I summon Squire Dalbridge. Ebben can make any man give up his secrets. To lead men you must know them, Jon Snow. I know more of you now than I did this morning.”
I’m still sticking to my theory about Jon’s real parents, but I put this book’s revelations on that front below in the Prophecies and Predictions section.
Sansa: I liked Sansa better in this book than Game of Thrones, because she finally realized the Lanniester suck and started acting more like a Stark. Too late, of course, because she’s trapped there now, but at least she’s wishing she wasn’t. That’s an improvement. And I like that she is resistant but still a lady–I mean, she has to keep dressing fancily and making appearances and keeping proper court manners, but not everybody would be able to carry on and maintain composure in that situation. She isn’t a warrior like her sister, but she does poses great strength, and I like the contrast between the two forms of strong females. I also love her “Florian,” but I’m afraid he’s pretty much worthless, except to keep her hopes alive. Oh, and poor girl, traumatized by her first period because she’s afraid she’ll have to marry Joffrey, (which she now doesn’t have to do, *phew*), I felt so bad for her, but also laughed a little bit:
“The blood is the seal of your womanhood. Lady Catelyn might have prepared you. You’ve had your first flowering, no more.”
Sansa had never felt less flowery. “My lady mother told me, but I…I thought it would be different.”
“I don’t know. Less…less messy, and more magical.”
Jojen Reed: thank goodness, a green-eyed character who is not evil! I was worried when I read his description that he would be another Lannister-type villain. Even better-his prophetic visions are called “greensight.” I’ll take all the posotive green-eyed connotations I can get! I really like his sister, Meera, too; she is now Arya’s main competition for the character in this series I would most like to be.
Cersei and Jamie and Joffrey Lannister: they still suck. Carry on.
The Hound: I’m still fluctuating, but I think overall I like him more in this book than I did in Game of Thrones. His best moment for me in Clash of Kings was when he saved Sansa from the mob. I also liked when he talks back to Joffrey, and that he refused knighthood. But what exactly was he planning when he waited in Sansa’s bedchambers? And why does he seem to be drunk all the time? I know patricide is awful, but I kind of hope he kills his brother. Because Gregor “The Mountain” Clegane needs to die, and I think The Hound would get the most catharsis from it.
Jaqen H’ghar: Loved him, by the end, because of the way that he helped my favorite character. Very intrigued about his background and abilities. Hopefully we will see more of him. Valar morghulis.
Hodor: Hodor! Hodor hodor, hodor hodor. Hodor?! Hodor! Hodor.
Quotes and Cultural Things I Loved:
Winter is coming, and it’s going to be fierce because this summer has lasted:
Ten years, two turns, and sixteen days it lasted, the longest summer in living memory.
We learned a lot more in this book about the religion of The Seven, as well as the Lord of Light and the Drowned God. We learned a little about the old gods, too, and the children of the forest. I think I’ll save an analysis of all those religions for a separate post, though, since this one is already pretty long. I also marked all the different ways people referred to the comet, so I can post about that later too.
These were some of the quotes I liked in this book, with pages numbers from the paperback edition I was reading, (ISBN 978-0-553-57990-1):
“Power resides where men believe it resides. No more and no less.” -Varys, p. 132
“When we speak of the morrow nothing is ever certain.” -Ser Rodrick, p. 257
“To Winterfell we pledge the faith of Greywater. Hearth and heart and harvest we yield up to you, my lord. Our swords and spears and arrows are yours to command. Grant mercy to our weak, help to our helpless, and justice to all, and we shall never fail you.” –Jojen and Meera Reed, p. 329
“That’s pretty.” He remembered Sansa telling him once that he should say that whenever a lady told him her name. -Jon Snow, p. 370
His stunted legs might make him a comic grotesque at a harvest ball, but this dance he knew. –Tyrion re:playing Cersei’s manipulative games, p. 450
“We can only die. Why else do we don these black cloaks, but to die in defense of the realm?” -Qhorin, p. 632
Jaqen made me brave again. he made me a ghost instead of a mouse. -Arya, p. 681
Tears filled Bran’s eyes. When a man was hurt you took him to a maester, but what could you do when your maester was hurt? -p. 967
I mean, Melisandre giving birth to Stannis’ assassin shadow. That’s the main one. It’s the only one I can think of right now. I did not see that coming, at all. I mean I knew she was up to something sinister but I never would have guessed it would take that form. It was…a WTF moment. There is no other way to describe it.
Prophecies and Predictions:
I’m not really sure what all the visions that Dany saw in the House of the Undying Ones mean, but I marked them all so I could check back later to see if they end up making more sense eventually. Like, could this one be talking about Ned Stark, whose sigil was the direwolf, who was led like a lamb to his slaughter?
Farther on she came upon a feast of corpses….In a throne above them sat a dead man with the head of a wolf. He wore an iron crown and held a leg of lamb in one hand as a king might hold a sceptor and his eyes followed Dany with mute appeal.
Then she saw the bit about the Targaryean baby, and that has to be significant somehow because they mention the name of the series, “song of ice and fire.”
Viserys, was her first thought the next time she paused, but a second glance told her otherwise. The man had her brother’s hair, but he was taller, and his eyes were a dark indigo rather than lilac. “Aegon,” he said to the woman nursing a newborn babe in a great wooden bed. “What better name for a king?”
“Will you make a song for him?” the woman asked.
“He has a song,” the man replied. “He is the prince that was promised, and his is the song of ice and fire.” He looked up when he said it and his eyes met Dany’s, and it seemed as if he saw her standing there beyond the door. “There must be one more,” he said, though whether he was speaking to her or the woman in the bed she could not say. “The dragon has three heads.” He went to the window seat, picked up a harp, and ran his fingers lightly over its silvery strings. Sweet sadness filled the room as man and wife and babe faded like the morning mist, only the music lingering behind to speed her on her way.
It seems like its gotta be referring to Rhaegar Targaryean and his firstborn Aegon by his wife Elia of Dorne, but as Ser Jorah says when Dany tells him about the vision,
“If [Aegon] was this prince that was promised, the promise was broken along with his skull when the Lannisters dashed his head against a wall.”
My theory about Rhaegar being Jon Snow’s true father could mean that Jon is actually “the prince that was promised,” but then I’m not sure what the meaning of this vision was. Did Rhaegar misinterpret a prophecy? Where did this “promise” come from, anyway? What is this business of the three heads? And does the fact that he plays a harp tie him to Ygritte’s tale about Bale the Bard, so is it all just a cycle that keeps repeating and the vision is not meant to represent exactly how it happened?
The tale of Bale the Bard definitely supports my theory about Jon being Rhaegar Targaryen and Lyanna Stark’s son. The blue winter roses! They’re everywhere! In Game of Thrones, Ned kept seeing them in his flashbacks of Lyanna, and she wore a crown of them in her crypt statue, and Rhaegar gave her a boquet of them at that joust before he supposedly kidnapped her. Well, in the Bard’s tale, (which is called the SONG O’ THE WINTER ROSE, by the way!) Bale sings so beautiful for the then-lord of Winterfell that he is told he can choose his own reward. Then, in Ygritte’s words:
“All I ask is a flower,” Bael answered, “the fairest flower that blooms in the gardens o’ Winterfell.
Now as it happened the winter roses had only then come into bloom, and no flower is so rare nor precious. So the Stark sent to his glass gardens and commanded that the most beautiful o’ the winter roses be plucked for the singer’s payment. And so it was done. But when morning come, the singer had vanished, and so had Lord Brandon’s maiden daughter. Her bed they found empty, but for the pale blue rose that Bael had left on the pillow where her head had lain.”
The story continues, as the father searches for his daughter to no avail, but a year later she shows up in her room with a baby, and it turns out they were hiding in the crypts beneath Winterfell all along. (Then the story gets sad and bloody and I think involves a Bolton ancestor who flays the grown-up baby.)
So, similarities to the Rhaegar/Lyanna theory: a Stark maiden is supposedly abducted but might actually love the guy, and has a baby, and blue winter roses are significant. When I type it out that way it doesn’t sound like such a strong argument, but the roses…the similarities…it’s got to be significant! When Jon refuses to believe Bael’s story, calling him a liar, Ygritte responds with, “a bard’s truth is different than yours or mine.” So maybe it won’t be clear what the meaning of these parallels are until later.
But then, we do find out that Bran and his entourage escape Theon Greyjoy by hiding in the crypts of Winterfell, while everyone goes searching far and wide outside the grounds for them! Just like Bael and the young lady Stark, in the song!
This is totally giving me Battlestar Galactica flashbacks: All of this has happened before, and all of it will happen again!
One last, minor prediction: I think that Varys can warg, possibly into that old cat that has been around King’s Landing forever. It would make a lot of sense as to how he is able to somehow know everything about everybody else’s business if he spies on them in animal form. I suspect that cat just because it has been mentioned several times. They call Varys “the spider” but do spiders even have ears? If he warged into an insect could he really see very much? (Although, I guess it worked for Rita Skeeter in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire!)
How I Felt At The End:
What is to become of my poor Starks, scattered to the winds? The winds of the WINTER that is coming?! Arya needs to rip that flayed man emblem off her tunic, because the Boltons are bad news. As much as I hope she and her small posse make it quickly to Riverrun, I’m afraid the fact that her direwolf Nymeria is still running wild and unaccounted for is prophetic of Arya’s fate to remain separated from her family and on her own. Jon is with the wildlings now, and had to kill a night’s watch brother to join! I was so happy when he spared Ygritte, and I hoped she wouldn’t betray him later. Well, I guess she’s probably part of the reason he’s still alive now, but I’m already worried about how he’s ever going to get back to his brothers, and whether they’ll believe he didn’t really betray them, and I’m worried about how lonely he’s going to be, unable to really trust anyone. What’s going to happen to Bran?! His optimism closes the book, but all I feel is anxiety. He and Rickon have loyal helpers but they are such small groups, if anyone finds them they are pretty much screwed. Their biggest protection is their direwolves, but that’s not going to help them if they run into one of the armies wandering around the country!
Writing this post has definitely re-ignited my desperate obsession with this series. I’m off to start Storm of Swords! Do NOT spoil it for me!
WINTER IS COMING!!!! FOR REAL THIS TIME!