A Feast For Crows — Chapters 16, 17, 18, 19 & 20

Here is my commentary on Chapters 16, 17, 18, 19 & 20 of A Feast For Crows.
I have been reading the various Game of Thrones novels for the first time and posting my thoughts over in the tor.com A Read of Ice and Fire.
This has been quite the interesting experience as it is a very odd way to read a book (or even odder a set of books). Since Google is awash with Game of Thrones spoilers, this limits my ease of look-up of details from earlier books. Funny how quickly the internet has become an external reference point/expanded memory. On the other hand, I have eBook editions and that helps balance things out as it is wildly easier to search them than paper monsters.
Since I am reading these for the first time, don’t post any comments about events later in the series, but also be warned that each chapter’s posts will contain all the details I find in the chapter or happen to think of as I am reading. I may even put in some extra material that I think I have figured out that I either don’t put in the tor read or white out there to not spoil others reads who may not have thought of such things.

Chapter 16 – Jaime:Kevan isn’t taking too kindly to Jaime’s remarks, either. He let’s Jaime know pretty clealry that he knows about Jaime’s and Cersei’s shenanigan’s. Maybe not the wisest move on Kevan’s part.
Jaime is trying a little too hard to convince himself that Cersei didn’t sleep with Lancel.
This:

Lord Stannis appeared to have left only a small garrison behind him when he sailed north, so two thousand men would be more than sufficient, Cersei had judged.

has the feel of foreshadowing to me. Two thousand doesn’t sound like a lot for a possible siege. We’ll see how good a military judge Cersei turns out to be.
The Queen of Thorn’s chest of coins seems a likely origin of the gold they found in the dungeon.
“Stannis and a few thousand broken men.” They didn’t look all that broken when we saw them last. This seems like another possible poor judgement on Cersei’s part.
“The Kingmaker.” Well, that’s an interesting name to highlight for the end of the chapter. Cersei seems to be discarding people who could be useful for her in favor of people who are pleasing to her. This seems like a bad strategy for someone whose realm is just barely out of a civil war.

Chapter 17 – Cersei:And, now we get to see what Cersei is thinking. Well, that’s nice (not). People are out killing random dwarfs in the hopes that they will get a reward. Arbitrary (in)justice.
Ah, a large skull cleaned by beetles in a nice box. Is this Gregor? It would seem that it is. She announces it to her small council. Although, I am thinking that the death is a tad convenient–being off screen and all.
I am guessing that Balon is going to contact Arys Oakheart for some sort of scheme down in Dorne.
I wonder what Littlefinger wants with some old tapestries. As we saw, he has his own plans going against the rebels.
“Varys would have known.” Maybe Qyburn isn’t quite the replacement that Cersei was thinking just a page ago.
I have a feeling that deferring payment to the Iron Bank of Braavos will be much worse than Cersei is thinking. In addition to military matters, she is showing a distinct lack of economic sense. Also, a bank with access to sorcerous assassins is probably not the best set of people to piss off. That and the whole point of it being hard to borrow more money once you start not meeting your obligations. I notice she doesn’t mention deferring payment on the money owed to Lannister debts.
And, now she plots to kill off Jon with fake black brothers and then to defame Margaery through seduction and then combines the plots. Two for one! Like, nothing could go wrong with any of that plan.

Chapter 18 – “The Iron Captain“:Victarion is heading towards the King’s Moot. His inner thoughts are not particularly endearing:

He had beaten four men to death with those hands, and one wife as well.

and

Men black as tar stared out at him, and others squat and hairy as the apes of Sothoros. Monsters, Victarion thought.

Marks him as both a sexist and a racist.

But, his helm wrought in the shape of an iron kraken sounds pretty coolly badass, though. So, at least he has a nice hat.
The crew of Silence are all mutes. That says rather a lot about the captain.

But, Victarion is basically completely out of touch. He would do well to
take Asha’s advice but he clearly doesn’t place much value in women (see dead wife). The North is much larger than his thinking. He may be engineering himself right out of the throne.
So far, Asha seems like the only even slightly palatable choice and I doubt these crazed people will go for a Queen.

Chapter 19 – “The Drowned Man“:Back to Aeron. Or as I’m thinking now, Uncle the Nutty priest. “Still stiff with salt from their washing a fortnight past.” Well, at least he spends a lot of time in the water. He must have a unique smell about him. I would be thinking that all these iron men should have some real problems with chaffing. Salt water isn’t kind to skin. Maybe that is the true benefit they get from their god. The miracle of uncracked skin!

Gylbert wants them to sail to the land beyond the Sunset Sea. I can’t say I am opposed to the ironborn sailing away, but that sounds like a longshot political campaign.

Erik tries to bribe the Moot, but can’t stand up. Good question, Asha.
Drumm doesn’t bring enough goods. It seems the ironborn want their king well supplied with money for bribes.

Victarion is doing well, but he really should have allied with Asha. She pretty much takes the wind out of his sails and makes her claim.

Euron has his man blow a magic horn and asks them why stop at the North. They can take all of Westeros. Well, it is a dragon binding horn he claims. That is an interesting turn of events. The moot thinks so also and elects Euron.

That wasn’t really unexpected although the horn was something pulled out of nowhere. The ruins of Valyria are still smoking–that’s interesting. Blowing the horn seems to take quite a toll upon the blower. Also, just how does Euron know that this random horn he found works to enslave dragons and just how it should be used. Lot’s of story room for missteps there although it does give a reason for this whole ironborn storyline.

The ironborn we have seen are nasty people in a nasty culture. No one’s saying that holding an election excuses them of anything. Elections aren’t inherently good or evil. You can sort the morality out by who is doing the killing and raping.
None of the societies we have seen so far here have been sterling examples of moral behavior. Many of the individuals slot nicely into these molds. In the few cases (Brienne?) where people act with actual honor, we get to be pleasantly surprised.

Chapter 20 – Brienne:Nimble Dick is not doing very well in showing trustworthiness. Is his bungled thievery really a ploy to make him seem more incompetent than he really is? Hmm, we’ll have to see on that.
“Lucifer” Hardy. That’s a fairly specific Latin word to be using here. Most of the names we’ve met have not been that specifically derivative.
I don’t doubt the existence of squishers quite so much as Brienne seems to do. They have a nicely Innsmouth sound to them. Actually this whole setting seems Lovecraftian in a way.
Well, GRRM is certainly piling on the “It’s a trap” iconography here. Nice increase in tension.
Interesting twist. Dick wasn’t leading them to a trap, it seems, but here are three of the Bloody Mummers none the less. Brienne kills them with a notable assist from Pod. Good teamwork there.
This was a nicely structured chapter. While embedded in the overall quest that Brienne is on, this was a nice standalone. It has that Lovecraftian feel about it to me, but also a bit of old school Sword and Sorcery feel.
It seems that Brienne is now going to go off on Arya’s path. I wonder if she will follow it all the way to Braavos. And, how she would get into the Faceless Temple of Death.

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