[This post contains spoilers through and beyond 'A Dance with Dragons'.]
For Tyrion so valued his own life that he killed his one and only Father, that whoever placed him on the privy shall not perish but have the realm's eternal gratitude.
A Storm of Swords, chapter 69, Tyrion VII
Yes, A Song of Ice and Fire is a religion now, according to a dream I had last night. Statues of various characters from Martin's world were on display in town, and people gathered around them to give praise. Naturally, perhaps, people began to fight over which character was the most worthy of praise. Well, why not. Jedi is a religion, why not Ice & Fire - or perhaps the religions of Martin's world. I'll go with the Black Goat of Qohor! My favorite almost never mentioned godhood in the saga. He would totally fit in with my (seemingly) limitless supply of metal shirts.
All right, powerful visions of the future aside, let's check out this next chapter FEAT. TYRION. Lannister. And Martin goes poetic on us from the first sentence, with Tyrion "dressing himself in darkness". I like that line, although it feels a bit, well, different than Martin's usual arsenal of "first-sentence techniques". It does tell us right away that Tyrion is using the darkness as cover, as a cloak, telling us he does not want to be seen, or rather, that he doesn't want to show himself. To whom? Sansa, of course. He listens to her; she is in bed, but he isn't. Though it is not stated explicitly, I do get the feeling from the way Tyrion thinks about Sansa that he, somewhere deep (?) inside, longs for her attention - in the sense that he wishes she could see things from his point of view, thus clearing up the issues between them. Issues caused not by Tyrion, but the rest of his family. The world is so unfair to Tyrion, a man almost sheds a tear on the Imp's behalf. Out of concern for the girl, Tyrion has withheld the gruesome details of her brother's murder at the Red Wedding, but George of course wouldn't be George if he didn't give us the lowdown (again), reminding us of hacking and mutilation and dumped naked corpses. And the head transfer, of course.
Tyrion continues to ponder how distant and cold Sansa is, but he shows that he understands how she's become this way. He shows empathy, if only in his mind's internal workings; the problem is that Sansa's behavior always reminds him, of necessity, of who he is and what he represents. A sign of things to come, perhaps - an early development in a new direction for the character who has used his name as a protective shield all the way, and now seems to want to distance himself from the rest of his family, which of course comes true eventually (in a rather surprising manner, the first time around!). This is further embellished in a later paragraph when Tyrion thinks that the less he has to see his sister Cersei, the happier he will be.
Not able to sleep, he decides to slip out into the night. After his marriage to Sansa, Tyrion has been allowed to take over Lord Gyles' apartments "atop the Kitchen Keep" (have we ever heard of the Kitchen Keep before? The name just stuck out to me right now), which are described as quite luxurious, and I want to step into the book to high-five Tyrion and tell him he deserved some luxury after all he's been through. I am sure it will last, Ty. For real. He even has separate rooms for Pod, Bronn and Sansa's maids.
There's a woman named Brella snoring, and we learn that she has come on the recommendation of Varys; apparently Brella has belonged to Renly Baratheon's household - eyebrow raised in suspicion at this detail slipped oh so casually into the text. Well, I can second-guess Varys all day long but it won't get me anywhere as there is so much to be revealed yet about him and his schemes (and plots ^^) but it does sound like Varys has just planted a Tyrell spy in Tyrion's household. Or maybe Brella just works for Varys. But there I go trying to second-guess our favorite cockless wonder. But I do suspect something, Mr. Martin, since you're not letting Tyrion give it a second thought..
...Tyrion lights a taper and descends down into the basement, follows a long dark passageway to emerge into the room with the dragon skulls, where Arya once upon a time overheard Varys (there he is again!) and Ilyrio Mopatis. Shae awaits him, standing naked in the bone jaws of Balerion - or Vhagar, Tyrion isn't entirely sure, which is kind of surprising. Anyway, dragon skulls are awesome but Shae is naked, so there's no real competition for Tyrion's attention. Shae is being playful and coy, much more so than her portrayal in the TV show, and I like how Martin weaves in the game of monster and maiden here, giving the text depth; and, as Shae says, Tyrion is no more a monster than she is a maiden, which reminds me that in the books, Shae is a funny whore. He has to catch her, and she let him catch her after a while, and they, without the need for the author to go into details, have a happy time together. Afterward they lay "entwined amongst the dragon skulls" and Tyrion begins to worry that if he doesn't get back to his new apartments, Sansa might wake and find him gone.
|Shae by Amoka|
Shae suggests giving Sansa dreamwine, just like Lady Tanda does with Lollys (reminding us of those two minor minor characters, which is smart, because it gives some punch to Bronn's eventual knighthood story. Giggling, she suggests that if he does give Sansa dreamwine, they could be doing their thing right next to her. Shae is definitely a different kind of character in the books - one who is less easy to define and understand, her motivations are never clear and I find myself wondering when she's serious and when not (I mean, even in the upcoming trial she's got some great comedic timing going on). I can understand why the show writers went for a clearer picture of the character, so to speak. She notices how tense Tyrion is, and gives him a massage; and he lists up his worries (illustrating what makes him so tense): "My wife. My sister. My nephew. My father. The Tyrells. Varys. Pycelle. Littlefinger. The Red Viper of Dorne." I love how this list reminds me of Arya's "to-kill" list, and I'm convinced Martin thought of this as well and let it be a parallel. Also, three characters on his list will indeed have fallen by the end of the book. I also enjoy how Tyrion mentions the Red Viper last, because then it sticks better in our heads that Tyrion is worried about him, which again makes the surprise more pleasant when it is revealed later that the Viper will actually help Tyrion. It's just a tiny bit of clever writing that I enjoy.
After having listed up all these people, he does add himself, or rather, his maimed and scarred face. Shae tells him it is a good and brave face, and Tyrion thinks that "all the sweet innocence of the world was in her voice", showing us that he is kind of a hopeless romantic (he has to be, considering her occupation). And again Tyrion reminds us that if they are discovered, Shae will be a dead woman.
Varys is mentioned for the third time, when Tyrion thinks back to their deal (Varys helping Tyrion with his "access" to Shae), and Varys has told him that he won't lie to Cersei if she asks about Shae. Keep it in mind, Ty! Varys explains, in his own always ambiguous way, that he must do what he can to keep alive/stay ahead and that he only has his little birds. What he is really doing is that he is downplaying his own ambitions and his own power, as he often does. Yet the Spider lives where many other notables of the Red Keep have either fled or died. Varys wonders why Tyrion is taking such risks as keeping Shae close, and Tyrion tells him he doesn't understand because he doesn't have man parts, which I find kind of uncharacteristic of Tyrion who usually knows people well (but maybe not so well as he likes to think); surely a man without his equipment still knows what desire is? Love? Is that why they are stressing Grey Worm and Missandei in the TV series, perhaps? Might Varys be doing all his works for...love? Who knows. I know - George knows. Varys suggests he should be grateful he was cut, but I sense he's just feeding Tyrion what he wants to hear, and indeed Tyrion goes straight into guilty feelings and thinking himself a fool for carrying on as he does. And maybe, he tells himself, Sansa would be happy to know Tyrion has a lover, because then she would be comfortably safe knowing he gets to sate his sex drive elsewhere.
We learn that Tyrion doesn't trust Sansa (for having spilled her father's plans to Cersei, and because she is a "girl of her age"), and he knows that the safest thing to do is to get rid of Shae, simple as that. Yes, Tyrion, it is that simple. But it isn't simple, is it? He truly loves her. He considers sending her off to Chataya's brothel, where Shae would have a better life than she had before meeting him. He also considers arranging a marriage for her, instantly thinking of Bronn - and then Ser Tallad (Ser who?!) who has been looking at Shae. I like how, without really being setup at all, this part still helps set up the fact that even mercenary bad boy Bronn can get married. Shae wakes him from his pondering, wondering if she has displeased him. He tells her that she hasn't, and tells himself that she hit the nail on the head re: his woes. The fact that she is so pleasing to him makes it all so difficult. And now he sees light filtering in through the darkness, and that dawn is at hand.
It is the first day of both a new year and a new century. He tells himself he's survived so many challenges, he will survive Joffrey's wedding too. I wonder how many readers thought of this as setting up Tyrion's death? It doesn't, but it does begin the foreshadowing of his fall. He's been falling for a while, of course, ever since Ser Mandon Moore attacked him during the battle, but he hasn't hit the bottom yet. Brella gets another mention, surely Martin means to keep her name in our minds, and she slips her dress over her head and leaves, telling him she "loves him so". And we're still not certain exactly what Shae is feeling. I love that Martin kept it realistic in the sense that we as observers can only infer from her words and actions. He doesn't reply, just thinks he loves her too, and feels she deserves better. The chapter ends with him seemingly deciding that, yes, he will have her married to Ser Tallad (even though earlier in the chapter, Tyrion seems to think that if the man learns she is a whore he will be displeased at the least). And tall.... is Tyrion's last thought before the chapter ends, and it is quite interesting in a way. There is this overriding sense here that what really bothers Tyrion is that he's a dwarf. It is never stated until those last two words describing Ser Tallad, but when he thinks that Shae will probably be best off with this knight, it's because the knight is tall. Poor Tyrion. Love how his subconscious mind comes to the fore here. Well written, as they say.
Next up is Sansa, and the story continues directly (chronologically) from this one, which is very nice. I wish we had more of these transitions between chapters. It gives the tale more coherence (which is rare of course when you have thirty-eight hundred characters all over a world); it gives the feeling of one story, just seen through different lenses and all that.
All right, that was a very chapter, but an important one because it begins setting up the book's endgame for Tyrion; it is really more of a scene, in which Martin relays Tyrion's thoughts, giving us the insight we need to understand the decisions he makes (or not) in the future. I like it, though I wonder how it would play out if Varys and Ilyrio suddenly dropped by.
Wow, just wow. I just checked out Ser Tallad and he appears in the last four books and I am scratching my head wondering who this guy is all through the chapter. All right, just for your information: Bronn recognizes Tallad as a good fighter in A Clash of Kings but thinks he's too predictable; in this one, we have of course his mention in this chapter but he's also seen beating one of the Redwyne twins (observed by Sansa); in A Feast for Crows, Ser Jaime sees him practicing at a quintain, and later he's arrested, having been accused of being one of Margaery Tyrell's lovers; and in A Dance with Dragons he's still in the dungeons (he did wound three men resisting, though). Will we see more of Ser Tallad? I have no idea. The great thing is that Martin can drop in these minor characters and then use them later for whatever reasons the plot demands. Smart move. But can a reader be expected to remember all these seemingly inconsequential characters? Tallad is being set up as a good fighter, so we'll have to wait and see if he shows up and gives someone a good fight before the saga is over.
Poor Tyrion. He really has some dilemmas and issues to wrestle with. If only he sacrificed to the Black Goat of Qohor, maybe things would go easier for him.