Saturday, June 23, 2012

[Re-read] Tyrion I: Wounds of Betrayal

Time to tackle another chapter from A Storm of Swords. Now let's see, where were we? Believe it or not I have to go recheck my blog to see which chapter I am going to read. That means, of course, that it's been too long by far since the last time. And that my brain doesn't work in mysterious ways. No wonder I need to read these things so many times. All right, going to turn off the rather disruptive but oh so perplexing and extreme metal from unknowns Mirrorthrone, who manage to blast out so many ideas in the span of a few minutes it makes my head spin (and not just from the sheer assault on the old ears; you get the idea if you feel like following the link). 

Ah, I read Arya I on the 5th of June. That is actually quite a while ago. Perhaps not compared to intergalactic time, but you know. That's two weeks. Two extremely busy weeks with little to no fun except for a couple of hours spent exploring the world of Diablo III (and I'm already feeling like I've been there, done that and I doubt this game will keep me interested much longer; how does this type of game get to be so popular? Because of it's simplicity? The endless click-fest? I do love the visuals, though. Those dungeons are great), reading a little bit now and then, working on a fantasy map in Campaign Cartographer 3, and, today, looking through some old classic D&D adventures just for fun. Fortunately, my summer holiday starts tomorrow. Tomorrow! Woot, yay, and woohoo. It will be a time for dark spells and powerful swords. Or some such. 

Anyway, after Arya I we get nothing less than Tyrion I. He's always good for a chuckle - and in many cases, a feeling of pity as he, being heroic and all, never gets cred. Never! Will we see Tyrion triumph over prejudice before the saga ends? Or will he get even lower than riding a pig (I doubt it)? Or is the pig-riding sequence in A Dance with Dragons symbolic of Tyrion having reached the lowest rung on the ladder and from there on, he's only going to get up (literally speaking if we can get him to meet a dragon)? Time will tell. Maybe in The Winds of Winter. Martin has publicly stated that he needs to hurry up, so there's that (tried to find the link to the statement, couldn't find it - and now I have to take a break from writing this post as the family has returneth and demandeth my immediate and compassionate attention). Oh well, that just means I'll jump straight into the chapter once time again is on my side and yadayada. I was supposed to do some writing too. Arf.


Oh my, I wrote the above two days ago. Not been off the hook due to real life stuff. And by stuff I mean home improvement. I do so understand what people meant when they told me that buying your own house is buying yourself more work. It's all beside the point of course, for here we have the first Tyrion Lannister AKA The Imp chapter of A Storm of Swords, arguably the best and most beloved of what I've begun to call "the original trilogy" (nudge / wink). Today's edition is the Kindle version as I'm too lazy to go downstairs and pick a printed edition from the shelf. Hey, I've demolished an outhouse all by myself today. Tiring for a man more akin to, ah, I don't really know who I'd compare myself to in A Song of Ice and Fire. I know there's a "What House are You in Westeros" thingy online, and I believe I ended up serving House Baratheon. I do have some similarities to one of the Baratheon brothers - King Robert - I also don't mind a cup of wine or good strong ale from time to time, and my exterior may just have expanded a bit over the last couple of years. And like Selyse Baratheon, I have a hairy upper lip. But that's it. Always felt more like a Lannister-man. Go Lannisters! Long may they reign upon the Iron Throne, I even agree with Tommen's decision to outlaw beets. Boo beets! Oh yeah, Tyrion I. Sorry.

Oh hey, this scene has already been implemented in Game of Thrones, the TV series. Would have been so awesome if they had dared leave Tyrion's fate hanging for the viewers. I do understand the choice though. Tyrion awakes to the "sound of old iron hinges", having the reader immediately curious about his surroundings. There's scant light and Tyrion has no grasp of time or place, and I'm right there with him, throughout this whole chapter as I remember it Martin does a great job of putting the reader in Tyrion's shoes bed and really feel just how rotten life is for Tyrion at the moment. It's so ridiculously immersive. A shape moves towards him, and Martin by calling it a shape lingers on suspense as we have no idea who this can be, maybe it's one of Cersei's lackeys come to finish his job for all we know. Good writing, that, keeping the suspense like that, if only for a paragraph. The shape is a man, and the man speaks: "Cut yourself shaving, did you?" It's witty, granted, but extremely disrespectful considering the damage done to Tyrion's face. Imagine visiting a friend who's undergone surgery after a car accident and you say something like that. Unfriended in an instant. Tyrion is his usual self though, not taking himself too seriously (dialogue-wise; we know from his interior monologues that he does indeed take himself seriously): "With a fearful big razor, yes." The hint here to the reader is that Tyrion is the same character, only physically changed. The man speaking is Bronn, and who else could it be with that kind of line of dialogue. I like how Bronn wears a doublet with a burning chain embroidered upon it. It's a cool image but it also is the first warning sign that, well, Tyrion Lannister may end up a little overlooked when it comes to the honors of saving King's Landing from Stannis Baratheon's assault from the sea. I mean, here is Bronn wearing heraldry that in essence depicts Tyrion's triumph - the chain that locked Stannis' boats in the bay, and the (wild)fire that consumed them. But it is Bronn wearing the doublet, and not Tyrion.

Turns out Bronn has taken the sigil as his personal heraldry, as he has become knighted in the aftermath of the battle. A quick and effective way of telling us that certain things have changed since last Tyrion was conscious. Tyrion also tells us that he is convinced Cersei is behind the attack on his person, and there's no real reason to doubt him (though of course it could be Joffrey). Oh, Tywin knighted Bronn. Wonder if that will turn up in the TV-series. Tywin of course is moving pieces around to remove the power around Tyrion, and Tyrion realizes this. Martin's theme of power comes to the fore, and the phrase "Easy come, easy go" comes to mind as well in this sense. Tyrion has lost everything - even his nose - but his life, while those around him have gained prestige, status, rank. I remember the first time I read this I was so angry with the Imp's situation, I felt bad for him and wanted justice for him, I wanted him to be recognized as the real hero of the Blackwater battle. And, of course, I loved how things didn't work out for the dwarf, but still holding out hope that things might turn out all right for him in the end.

There's a quick recap of what happened with Tyrion at the battle, and how things turned out for some of the other characters present, but Martin puts it in with deft writing, not turning it into a boring recap. Recaps are for books that take a little longer to be published, where readers may have forgotten details. /trollface
The Hound is gone, Jacelyn Bywater is dead by spear, and Ser Addam Marbrand is the new leader of the Gold cloaks. I am sure the cloaks long for better days, under the command of Janos Slynt. Let's face it, he was the best man for the cloaks. All that came after him just botch it. Another important bit of information both for the reader and for Tyrion is that the clansmen of the Mountains of the Moon are basically out of the story. Just like that. Wooosh. Sad, but true. And Alayaya was whipped many times (she's standing in for Shae remember? Sometimes I find myself confusing certain plot points because of the changes in the TV show, it's a bit annoying to be honest; not this particular one, though, as Ros was never in the books to begin with). Slowly Martin strips Tyrion of all hope for the future; Alayaya whipped, Tommen taken away so he can't deliver his promised vengeance should anything happen to the whore; the Kettleblacks having turned against him after serving him in A Clash of Kings. Tyrion sums it up best:
"My hirelings betray me, my friends are scourged and shamed, and I lie here rotting (...) Is this what triumph tastes like?

Bronn goes on to tell Tyrion about the return of Lord Renly Baratheon, another surprise I would have loved to see intact in the TV series (well, it was kind of there with Loras arriving in Renly's armor, but there was no talk of it before hand to build up suspense). Tyrion is given an account of Stannis and Robb, before the whole loss of power-theme comes to a head with Bronn, staunch and loyal and disrespectful but ultimately fun and rude sidekick, also gives up on poor Tyrion. I hate Bronn for this. I love the character, and it's a perfectly reasonable development of the character, but still. I guess I believed he had grown fond of Tyrion (and I guess he did in his own way) and wouldn't abandon him. I also happen to think that Tyrion and Bronn is the greatest of many good pairings in the series, so it was sad to see them part from each other. I would much rather have Tyrion and Bronn strolling the countryside cracking bad jokes and bantering than Tyrion travelling on a boring boat up a boring river meeting flat characters and ending up on a pig's back, so to speak. Fortunately, Martin revealed that Bronn still has a role to play (could Bronn's son end up on the Iron Throne, the irony being that Tyrion did in the end gain power - only it's Tyrion Bronnson?)

We are prepared for the arrival of another player of the game of thrones - House Tyrell, which is more salt in Tyrion's wounds (not literally) because everybody is waiting for the Tyrells as if they were the second coming, while get the point. Everyone is thriving on the aftermath of the Blackwater, while the only one deserving accolades is rotting in bed. Bad mr. Martin. Awesome.

Tyrion tries to get out of bed, but unlike the dashing heroes in the fantasy literature of yore, it is too painful and nauseating an experience for him at the moment. He calls for Podrick Payne, whose screentime is increasing by the chapter. I like Martin's description of Tyrion's pain, likening it to being bitten by a toothless dog. Bronn and Pod end up helping him get into clothing, oh wait. Wait.
Now I realized there was a Tyrion chapter in  bed in A Clash of Kings, with Maester Frenken. Maybe that's why his time in bed feels like such a long stretch of torment, because it is placed across two books?
Tyrion lets them lead him out of the chamber and down the tower, people looking at him as if he were a ghost, or someone back from the dead at any rate (funny how this gets literal in the series later on). We get yet another description of Maegor's Holdfast, which was already well described in the previous books, which I feel is a tiny tad unnecessary here but all right. There's some banter with Ser Meryn Trant (did he, or did he not, slay Syrio Forel?!! Waiting for an answer since '96) to get across the moat, and there's a great quip when a Kettleblack asks, "Feeling stronger, m'lord?" and Tyrion replies, "Much. When's the next battle?" Shame Martin added another line to this response ("I can scarcely wait") because it kind of dampens the spirit of the reply, if you know what I mean.

When they have to move up steps, things get worse for Tyrion and he has to ask Bronn to carry him. A new low point in Tyrion's career as a magistrate of King's Landing, but he swallows his dignity. This can be read, I guess, as a subtle contrast to Bran and Hodor. The outer ward they appear in is crowded with Tyrell tents and pavilions, and it turns out they are present for the king's wedding. Oh, a wedding! Those are cozy. I love Tyrion's thoughts on weddings: There was this to be said for weddings over battles, at least: it was less likely that someone would cut off your nose. I see what you did there, mr. Martin. Creating the illusion that even in the brutal world of Westeros, weddings are sacred and pure and innocent and nice. I approve.

He meets Ser Addam Marbrand on his way, who gives us an update on the status of the Gold Cloaks. Marbrand has just come from Lord Tywin and warns Tyrion that the old head of House Lannister is in a bad mood. For some reason we're reminded of Tyrek Lannister, who disappeared during the riot in A Clash of Kings. What precisely is Martin planning with this character who is mentioned a couple of times and that's all we know? Well aside from the fact that he is a cousin, son of Uncle Tygett, and... Wait. Here is a clue: Just before he disappeared, he married a baby (!), Lady Ermesande of House Hayford (widowed before she was weaned, Tyrion thinks - how medieval). That's a clue, I'm certain of it; someone with an interest in House Hayford's legacy? Could Littlefinger be involved? Something is going on at any rate, no matter Bronn's dry "He's feeding worms," because the author surely wouldn't put this into his carefully constructed narrative just to show us that sometimes people disappear and no one's the wiser...or...? Marbrand finishes by giving the directions to Tywin, who is in the solar that belonged to Tyrion for most of the previous volume of lore. More salt please.

He climbs up the stairs and we get a scene between father and son. Whenever two Lannisters face off in a conversation, it's time to break out the popcorn. I'll wait for you.

And really, dialogue like the one you get here is best to read for yourself, it's so full of characterization yet also advances the plot (if minimally). We learn that the wedding will take place on the first day of the new century, we're given an explanation as to why Tywin remains in King's Landing instead of returning to the field of war. There's an ominous line from Tywin about Tyrion's appearance that I dearly hope is not foreshadowing of any kind ("Your face is pale as death, and there's blood seeping through your dressings"), we're reminded that Littlefinger is Lord of Harrenhal (mmm, interesting he's mentioned so soon after Tyrek Lannister), and it's interesting to see that Tyrion has a better gauge on Littlefinger than his father. Tywin wonders what Tyrion wants, and Tyrion wonders too. Now, having come to know the Imp for two books, it shouldn't come as a surprise, but it is still a very human and very emotional response when he replies, "A little bloody gratitude would make a nice start." And that's what I, as a reader, would love to see too; some gratitude for the true savior of the city. They get into a dispute, and the interesting thing is that they both have points. Usually such conversations are a bit one-sided. Tywin does, however, admit that Tyrion was important in the grand scheme of things (but doesn't truly express gratitude), and he also reveals for our convenience that Myrcella has arrived safely at Sunspear in Dorne, there's some setup for A Feast for Crows (though I'm not sure whether Martin knew, for example, that he would end up writing a chapter about Ser Arys Oakheart and Arianne Martell), there's setup for later in this book (the arrival of the Red Viper) which is clever; I love how there is a "real" reason for the Viper to come, if you know what I mean; of course it's all a constructed tale, but within the structure it makes absolute sense. It's all in the politics.

Another nice thing: Tyrion asks his father if he's grown too fond of Ser Gregor and his slaughterwork to let go of him; and Tywin replies that Tyrion has been doing just the same, keeping some "beasts" at his side (Bronn, the Mountain Men). It is a clever and subtle reminder that these two characters, when push comes to shove, are quite alike. And Tyrion taking after Lord Tywin turns out to become a minor but important plot point in A Feast for Crows. The conversation closes with a small but explosive bomb: Tyrion admits that he wants Casterly Rock. And why not? His sister is, well, a woman, and his brother is sworn to the Kingsguard. By rights, if I'm not mistaken, Casterly Rock is his to inherit. Tyrion's proclamation comes as a shock because we haven't really seen him reflect on this matter before, but there it is. Lovely. And how does the mighty Tywin react? His father's mouth grew hard. Better his mouth than...What a great character Tywin Lannister is. So hard, so unassailable. For now.

The word hung between them, huge, sharp, poisoned.

'Nuff said. Sometimes a simple word is enough to convey everything that needs to be told. It's brilliant. It doesn't even really need the addition of the word hanging between them and all that. A line break could be just as effective. I am confident we'll see Charles Dance utter this line, all icy cold (though I must say, the TV Tywin is warmer than the novel version). But why, Lord Tywin? Why do you not acknowledge your son's birthright?

"You ask that? You, who killed your mother to come into the world? You are an ill-made, devious, disobedient, spiteful little creature full of envy, lust, and low cunning (...)"


That's not really a description of Tyrion and certainly not TV-Tyrion but there you have Martin playing with perspectives again. It's fascinating reading. Oy, it was Tywin who ordered Alayaya whipped. That's interesting and something to file away for Tyrion's closure in this book. Nudge and wink.

The chapter ends with Tywin rising from his chair to tower over Tyrion, snapping that this is the last time Tyrion will bring a whore to his bed, because if he does so again, he'll hang her.

This, of course, ups the suspense for the Shae/Tyrion storyline of "forbidden love" (not sure Shae loves him, but aside from that minor point, the Shae/Tyrion story has all the trappings of the classic tale of forbidden love, you know, Romeo/Juliet-style). Not sure if I ever was that tense about Shae being discovered because I never really warmed to her as a character but there you have it, an author can't please everyone all the time, and for every character I haven't warmed to in this series there are ten awesome characters.

Have an excellent weekend.
Peac eout

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