Holy crap! An update! (Chapters 18 - 20)
All sort of stuff been going on in my life lately have pushed reading books onto the back burner. I can't promise any frequency of future updates.
Chapter 18: Samwell
Oh, cool! Sam's now a POV character. You know, I don't believe I've ever seen a story from a zombie's point of view. This is going to be really interesting, and I'm really looking forward to seeing how Martin manages to make a zombie sympathetic...
Oh, Sam's alive.
The survivors of the zombie attack trudge through the frozen forest, and Sam weeps and whines about how much of a useless coward he is. Why, when the zombies attacked, a bunch of his homing ravens managed to escape without messages! After a while, he decides to just lie down and die.
We are then treated to a flashback describing the fall of the Fist to the relentless march of the zombies, interspersed with a compellingly realistic and fatalistic narrative of Sam's delirium. This is one of the high points of the book so far, and is some really great writing.
Grenn and Small Paul come across the frostbitten Sam and, against the advice of their comrades, haul him to his feet. Paul, whose nickname is naturally ironic, manages to carry Sam on his back. Grenn encourages Sam to sing a song to keep awake, and suggests "The Bear and the Maiden Fair", because that's the song everybodt knows. Fortunately, Sam hates that song, and so we are spared another rendition.
After some more flashbacks, Paul is unable to carry Sam any longer, and lets him down. We now meet our first Other. It's a Slender Man
-esque, milky white man made of pure cold, riding a disemboweled horse and carrying a sword with an atom-thick blade. Pretty creepy.
Grenn tries to fight it off with fire, but the Other just slices through his torch, and then cuts off Paul's hand when he tries to attack with an axe. Sam, in a moment of madness, charges the Other and stabs it with one of the obsidian knives Jon found and passed out in the last book. This kills it, making Sam an awesome hero, and the trio hurries to catch up to the rest of the Watchmen.
Martin's background as a TV writer is in evidence in this chapter. Sam is built up as a worthless coward, only to find the inner strength to be a true hero right at the end, when he needs it most. Based on the books' reputation, one might have expected a subversion, wherein Sam is easily dispatched by the evil spirit who then goes on its merry way. Good untwist
Chapter 19: Tyrion
Tyrion sits in on the small council; with Tywin in the Hand's seat, Tyrion claims the seat that was once held by Pycelle, who having been returned to the council now sits next to Cersei. The new members say good things about Tyrion, but Tyrion is quite rightly suspicious of the lot of them.
Varys reports on the status of the war. The Lannisters have won a few victories in recent days, though nobody has yet managed to defeat Robb in open battle. Balon has offered to ally with Team Joffrey is they acknowlege him as king of the North; Paxter and Mace think that this is a fair trade, and Tywin moves swiftly on to the matter of Lysa Arynn without giving an opinion on the matter.
Paxter and Mace think that Lysa is harmless, and they should just leave her be. Tyrion, still bitter about that whole false imprisonment thing, offers to make her dead, but Mace goes all "Hush, Tyrion, the grownups are talking." Before Tyrion can unleash a torrent of snark, Tywin says he has plans for the dwarf and sends Littlefinger off to sort out Lysa. Tyrion, seeing how Littlefinger's empty title of 'Lord of Harrenhal' makes him cool enough to marry into the aristocracy, goes all "Littlefinger you magnificent bastard
, I read your book!" in his head.
Oh, and with Littlefinger gone, Tyrion is to become the new treasurer. For some reason, he isn't pleased at this.
Discussion turns back to Balon, and Tywin says that Balon isn't offering anything worth half a kingdom. The best thing to do here is to wait while the Greyjoys and Starks beat each other up, and hope that a better opportunity presents itself. Tyrion helpfully informs the reader that Tywin is plotting something, and reminds us of those letters he was writing several chapters ago.
Next up, plans for Joffrey and Margaery's wedding. It seems a troop of Dornishmen is crossing the Reach to attend the wedding, which Mace isn't happy about for historical reasons. Also, Prince Doran is going to take a seat on the council, and Tywin indicates that he's going to give them Gregor Clegane. Following some discussion on how to fit the Dornishmen all in, conversation turns to how to divide up the remaining spoils of war, and then the matter of needing a new crown for the High Septon.
Varys reports on some rumours from the east, deserters are punished, there are also rumours of freemen up north. All non-Lannisters leave, and Tyrion explodes in rage at being made the treasurer. People start yelling and snarking, end everybody is certain Littlefinger is up to something. Tywin informs them that Littlefinger brought word of a plot by the Tyrells to whisk Sansa off to Highgarden to marry Willas. Since they would be unable to reasonably stop them taking Sansa away, they must do something to keep Mace happy, such as marrying Cersei off again. Cersei is dead set against this, but doesn't dare defy Tywin. There are a few suitable men, but Willas seems like a good choice...
Tyrion makes an interesting comment that officially, Cersei has authority over Tywin, which serves to underscore just how forceful a personality Tywin is. Cersei leaves to 'think about it', and Tywin and Kevan announce that Tyrion will marry Sansa. Sansa is the best a deformed freak like Tyrion can ever hope for, and he just might get Winterfell out of it. How? Why, Robb has broken his vow to Walder Frey, of course...
Lots of intrigue and discussion here, but little progress. Now, Sansa marrying Tyrion? Boy is she in for a rude awakening. Even with her idealism smashed, marrying a raping whoremonger is going to be harsh on her. Poor thing.
Chapter 20: Catelyn
Two of Edmure's Lannister prisoners have been murdered by Rickard Karstark and some accomplices in revenge for Jaime going free, thus depriving them of their own vengeance. There is a slightly repetitive discussion of morality, and Catelyn goes off on a mental tangent about how the Karstarks got their surname which displays in incongruously detailed and nuanced grasp of genealogy and etymology, and which could really have been cut without harming the book.
While Catelyn may be the narrator, Robb drives this scene as he tries to deal with the challenges of kinghood using the lessons his father taught him, and finds himself in a situation where nothing he can do could reasonably be described as right. Martin describes all this with unflinching steadfastness, but unfortunately spoils it by taking entirely too long to go about it.
Anyway, Robb announces he will execute the murderers; as Eddard taught him, he will do the deed himself. Rickard thanks him for at least taking that responsibility.
Later on, Jeyne comes to Catelyn and, saying she wants to be a good wife, asks how she can bring Robb out of his mood. Catelyn advises her to give Robb his space, as she did with Eddard. Oh, and she should try and give Robb and heir as soon as she can.
Aaw. That was a sweet moment. Jeyne is such a nice girl; she's going to be raped to death while Robb watches, isn't she?
There seems to be a bit of a call back here to Catelyn's first appearance. Then, she was trying to give Eddard another son. Here, she advises Jeyne to do the same fir her own eldest son. And so the cycle continues, or something.
Well, here we are about halfway through the book, or a quarter of the way through if you have the American edition. This is a far, far better book than #2. Here we are, only a small part of the way through the plot, and we've had murder, executions, daring escapades on the waves, rogue knights and rangers, zombies, demons, our first Other, and Daenerys' dragons are coming along well. This is distinctly cool. Gripping stuff.