Chapters 56 - 60
Chapter 56: Sansa
As the swordsmen prepare to go to battle, Joffrey has Sansa kiss his new sword, Hearteater, for luck. He promises to kill Stannis for her; when Sansa blurts out that Robb would kick Joffrey's arse, Joffrey swears to deal with him
Sansa goes to the sept and prays for the surviving members of her extended family, her friends, Robert's soul, all the brave knights who'll die, as well as their wives and children, and even Tyrion and Sandor. However, she naturally enough refuses to pray for Joffrey.
Sansa goes to the keep, and encounters Shae trying to bring Lollys inside. It seems Lollys is a bit retarded herself, though it might just be shock. All the ladies in King's Landing are gathered into the hall, as well as a few guards and Ilyn Payne, the royal executioner, who is also a mute. Sansa wonders who Cersei intends to kill.
Cersei tells Sansa that Ilyn Payne is there to protect them in case Stannis' men break through, as the other guards are mercenaries, who are notoriously fickle. Sansa protests that true knights would never harm women and children; Cersei chides her for being so childish as to believe in true knights.
So, in spite of all the crap that's been piled upon her, Sansa still clings to the notion that there are true knights other than Dontos. Eddard must have kept her very sheltered indeed.
Chapter 57: Davos
Stannis' fleet arrives in Blackwater Bay to attack King's Landing. Davos doesn't like how hasty they're being; he'd much rather hold back and get a grip on the situation, but overall command of the naval operation has been assigned to Ser Imry, who is a proper knight and doesn't hold with notions like 'prudence' and 'caution'. Anyway, due to bad winds, they're several days behind schedule, and Stannis' land forces are getting impatient.
We finally find out what Tyrion's chain is for - it's a massive boom, spanning the harbour, to prevent any ship from crossing. For now, however, it is lowered.
Stannis' fleet enters the harbour and comes under attack from the catapults and trebuchets within the city, as well as war galleys in the harbour. Martin gives us a well-written, exciting, knowledgeable naval battle sequence which captures well the chaos and confusion of war. During this time, the trebuchets switch from pitch and boulders to napal, but Davos isn't too worried, as they aren't very accurate and hit Joffrey's ships as often as Stannis'. Also, Joffrey can't have very much.
But then one of Stannis' ships rams one of Joffrey's which it turns out Tyrion had filled with napalm. The ship bursts open, spewing napalm all over the harbour and setting the surface of the water and half the ships on fire. Also, the chain is now up, preventing the fleet from fleeing.
Further chaos and destruction ensue, and the last we see of Davos, he is treading water, being swept this way and that by the current.
As I said, Martin writes a good battle scene. Also, Davos rocks. Not much else to say about this chapter.
Chapter 58: Tyrion
Tyrion watches the events of the previous chapter from about the halfway point, when the napalm starts spreading across the battlefield. Joffrey gets whiny about losing his fancy ships, and also complains when Tyrion orders the trebuchets turned 30 degrees, as his mummy had said he
could use the trebuchets and it's not fair that mean uncle tiny stupidhead is playing with them. Tyrion lets him have them, thinking that a few minutes play won't do any harm; Joffrey rushes off to catapult the Antler Men into the opposing army.
Stannis' army brings a battering ram to the doors and starts heaving. Tyrion orders Sandor to bring him men back out, but Sandor refuses, saying the casualties from the previous sorties were too high, and he isn't going to lose any more men. Sandor, surprisingly enough, is afraid, somehow, so much so that he refuses to obey Tyrion's orders and tells him, in so many words, to bugger off. Frustrated, Tyrion decides he will lead to sortie, and the other knights and mercenaries fall in behind, not willing to be seen as less brave than a twisted dwarf. Sandor goes off to find some wine.
Tyrion gets some good character moments here, and Sandor shows an interesting duality of being at his most confident and self-assured when terrified of dying, as is shown when he refuses to obey Tyrion to avoid losing more men. He is a very cool character, and I want to see more of him in book 3.
Chapter 59: Sansa
Cersei serves up a nice meal. An interesting point here is that, while it still sounds delicious, there is little food porn, which I think is intended to show how Sansa's mind, as well as that of everyone else, is on other matters. Meanwhile, all the guests make utter fools of themselves, while Cersei gets drunk and goes on a quite depressing and sympathetic rant about the unfairness of medieval society - for example, when she and Jaime were kids, even their father couldn't tell them apart, yet Jaime gets a sword and is destined for greatness and glory, while she is given to some stranger like a horse, to be used for making babies as long as he wants and eventually to be tossed out in favour of a younger filly.
She also tells Sansa that a man's weapon is a sword and a woman's is tears, which should tell you everything. Oh, except women have another weapon - their vaginas. In a drunken ramble, she accuses Sansa of treasonously praying for Joffrey's defeat in the godswood; Sansa insists she is praying for Joffrey's victory, but Cersei sees right through that little lie.
The mercenaries report on how the battle is going poorly. The chapter ends with Cersei telling Sansa that the two of them are the ones Ilyn is truly there to kill - if King's Landing falls, Stannis won't get any of the Lannisters, and if the Lannisters go down, the Starks won't get any pleasure from it.
I think I'm actually getting to like
Cersei. This book overall has really fleshed her out beyond being a cold-hearted, selfish bitch. OK, she's still a cold-hearted, selfish bitch, but this seems to be partly due to the influence of society. Ever since she was a girl, she wanted the same glory that her father had attained, and which was due to her brother, yet she was denied simply due to her lack of a penis, and was instead forced into a subservient role to a man by nothing more than society's expectations.
A running theme throughout this book has been Cersei's grappling with an unfair society, and trying to twist it so that her apparent flaws are what give her strength, yet still falling short because she simply can't change entrenched attitudes. This was seen early in the book, when she wished she had been born a man so that she might be able to rule in person rather than through ever-scheming menfolk, later on when Pycelle praises her for doing such a good job of administering the realm in spite of being a mere woman, and later still when she tries to claim she is more dangerous than any man simply because she think with her head and not the penis she doesn't have. In the same chapter, she attempts to use her own breasts to distract Tyrion, and in the dinner scene spread over two discontinuous chapters, she dresses in a low-cut dress of maidenly white, appearing as both Madonna and whore
, and thus representing two of the only four roles society sees for women. Since she has three children, one of whom is the king and fighting in the current battle, she thus represents the mother as well; the fourth role, the crone, is so far beyond her.
And, throughout all this, she has developed a soft spot for Sansa, apparently seeing in her a kindred spirit. Sansa is the most utterly ladylike character in the series, and Cersei realises that she is playing into the role society expects of her, and even thinking this is good and fair. Cersei seeks to relieve her of this delusion so that she might better cope with disappointment later on, while also trying to give her some advice for the future and insight into the true workings of the world so that she can make the best of whatever life might deal her. Perhaps, in Sansa, Cersei subconsciously recognises one who seeks the same role she herself railed against, and hopes that if she can impress upon her the truth of society, then Sansa might take up the struggle for recognition of the power of women.
Yet I've just thought of Catelyn, the ever-dutiful lady, who managed to impress Brienne, the fierce warrior woman, with her womanly courage. However, Catelyn is still destined to be remembered as the wife of Eddard and the mother of Robb, rather than as Catelyn. She may do a lot of great things, and gain great honour, but glory is not her lot in life. And, really, that seems to be what Cersei rails against - whatever good she may achieve, her glory will inevitably be assigned to Jaime and Tywin, leaving her to be remembered merely as an adjunct to the men, rather than as a person in her own right.
She is, however, still a colossal bitch.
Chapter 60: Tyrion
Tyrion fights on the tournament grounds, big chunks of which are on fire, and realises that Sandor was afraid of the fire. The fighting moves to the dock, where he and his men prevent Stannis' men from making landfall, and kill those that do. The fight in the sinking ships a bit, and for some reason Meryn Trant of the Kingsguard tries to kill Tyrion, but he himself is killed by Podrik Payne, Tyrion's squire. Tyrion himself is well and truly delirious by this point.
Tyrion here gets to experience the bloodlust and battle frenzy that Jaime told him about, and he finds that he likes it.
It would appear that Meryn attempting to kill him was Cersei's bug secret plan, and look how that turned out.
Again, Martin effectively captures and violence, confusion, and overall messiness of hand-to-hand combat, which is only made worse by the fact that napalm fires are burning all around. That's good.