Fiction — print. Bantam Books, 2011. Originally published 2000. 1060 pgs. Borrowed from a friend.
Eight-year-old Tommen Baratheon is now the king of the Seven Kingdoms, but his reign is mere puppetry because his mother Cersi Lannister rules in all but name. Without her father, Tywin, or her brother, Tyrion, to guide her, Cersei has become paranoid about the influence House Tyrell is trying to inject into her rule through the marriage of Tommen and Margaery Tyrell, which alienates the only two people from House Lannister who could help her properly rule a kingdom.
Her brother, Jamie, has left King’s Landing for the Riverlands to assist Brienne of Tarth in honoring the oath they swore to Catelyn Stark by finding Sansa Stark, who is falsely believed to have aided Tyrion in murdering Joffrey and rumored to be hiding in the Eyrie under the protection of her maternal aunt, Lysa Arryn.
The rumor is only partially true — Sansa is hiding out in the Vale/Eyrie, but she being protected by Petyr Baelish, who has secretly murdered Lysa, and named himself Protector of the Vale and guardian of eight-year-old Lord Robert Arryn. Meanwhile, Samwell Tarly is traveling across the ocean from the North to the Citadel in order to study to become a Maester with Gilly and her baby and Arya, referred to as “Cat of the Canals” in the novel, has begun her training at the Temple of Him of Many Faces in the free city of Braavos.
“Crows will fight over a dead man’s flesh and kill each other for his eyes. We had one king, then five. Now all I see are crows, squabbling over the corpse of Westeros.” (pg. 237)
At the end of the novel, Martin explains that he chose to leave out the events occurring outside of Westeros due to the sheer size of the novel. I wish he had included this explanation at the beginning of the novel because I spent the entire time wondering what was happening to the characters I have come to love the most, particularly Jon Snow, Tyrion, and Daenaryus. Rather than being engaged with the story unfolding in this novel, I became completely disengaged and had to force myself to read chapter after chapter.
The lack of consistency with the narrators’ names makes reading this book a complicated, messy game of “Guess Who?”. Arya now been referred to as Arry, “no one”, and Cat of the Canals, which is easily confused with Catelyn Stark, who is referred to as Cat, The Hooded Woman, and Lady Stoneheart in the span of a single novel. This wouldn’t be such a problem if Martin had stuck to naming all the chapters as the characters’ original names but he, unfortunately, chose to do otherwise. I had nothing to ground me as to where I was in the novel.
And while I’m excited to return to my favorite characters, I’m nervous about the way the next novel is supposed to occur parallel to this one. My understanding of the events in this novel is so superficial compared to the previous novels I’m concerned I will be completely confused when the characters of this novel join with the characters of the next.