A Feast for Crows — Chapters 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27 and 28

Here is my commentary on Chapters 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27 and 28 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 21 – “The Queenmaker”:We’re back in Dorne. Hmm, Arianne describes a fun day milking sand vipers in the desert with their uncle. I’m not recalling a “Darkstar” before this. He is a Ser, but not a member of the Kingsguard and Ser Gerold is part of his name. Ah, and the full name is Ser Gerold Dayne. That’s interesting as I believe Ser Arthur Dayne was a past member of the Kingsguard.
A little more talk and Myrcella appears with Arys Oakheart. Myrcella is confused by their calling her Queen and Arthur Dayne is mentioned as the Sword of the Morning. Nice little conspiracy shaping up. They then begin riding off to the Greenblood.

The door on the poleboat slammed open. Out into the sunlight stepped Areo Hotah, longaxe in hand.

Well, I can’t imagine that this is going to go well for the conspirators. Nope, especially Arys who is now minus one arm and one head. Fairly stupid and needless action on his part. That plot line didn’t last very long. Now it seems headed into a different “being captives” plot as I don’t think the Prince is going to let Arianne out of his custody for quite some time. Myrcella is also down her Kingsguard.
That chapter seemed a tad abrupt and unfinished. Maybe that is the intent to convey the shift from a happy bunch of conspirators into a complete rout. Oh, and I’m guessing that it was Darkstar who got away as Hotah shouted that someone must not escape.

Here is a list of “major” characters who have died as far as I can recall:
Men:
Ned+, Robert, Robb, Joff, Renly, Drogo, Viserys, Mycah, Yoren, Oberyn, Tywin, Gregor*, the Old Bear, Arys Oakheart+

Women:
Cat+**, Lysa, Shae, Mirri, Ygritte,

*Gregor–not sure I buy that he is actually dead and **Cat is now Zombie Cat as far as we know.
+ denotes POV characters

I’m defining major as someone who was at least appearing in multiple chapters. A little more nebulous than POV. There are, of course, heaps of bodies of unnamed characters.
But the important thing is that the women who have been killed aren’t being used as manpain sources so far. We haven’t seen how Tyrion reacts to having killed Shae. No one seems real upset that Lysa or Mirri is dead. Brienne seems to be the most upset over thinking that Cat is dead.
Arya wants revenge in general, but seems more upset over Ned than Cat. Sansa seems to be in general shock. Jon has been kept too busy to reflect much on his family.
Cersei is setting up Tyrion as a saint in her memory but is more self involved.
In general, GRRM has lots of deaths and the absence of the dead people has effects on the world, but it doesn’t seem like people are using death as their sole raison d’être.

Chapter 22 – Arya:Yay! While it is all well and good to take a look at the Ironborn or Dorne, I really do prefer the original character lines. It is always good to get back. It is especially good to get back to Arya.
She is in the temple of the faceless men–the temple of death. The temple of the Many Faced god. The head priest is quite kindly although I have my doubts on that.
I found the phrasing of her thought:

The eldest was her father’s age; the other two could not have been much older than Sansa, who had been her sister.

Very interesting. She knows that Eddard (her father is dead) but uses a present tense in reference, but I don’t think she has reason to believe that Sansa is dead, but she uses the past tense phrasing of “had been”. Sansa once was her sister but is not any longer–either through death or Arya has simply relegated Sansa to a state of non-sisterhood. Or, as the next paragraph implies, Arya is casting off her own identity. Keeping her father’s identity would seem to go against that somewhat. This doesn’t seem to be an entirely healthy psychological state to be within.
Ah:

All men must serve beneath this roof. Valar dohaeris is how we say it here.

And then, he further modifies this with an admonition towards obedience. So, dohaeris is the strict form of serve with complete obedience implied.
Well, at least it seems that it isn’t a cannibal death cult. Arya has that at least.
The teachings of the kindly man are heading towards an abandonment of the self. But, this abandonment seems to lead towards the obeisance/ subjugation of self for the Many-Faced god. Arya is not yet quite willing to give up on Arya. Needle and memories of her father and Jon show this.
The tale of the first Faceless Man sounds a tad more on the sociopath side than the saintly side, but I guess a death cult assassin would sound that way.
Cat–not just a cat, but short for Catelyn; the mother Arya believes to be dead.
OK, Arya is not being actively hunted or starving or anything and the chapter ends with her being happy and dancing. But, I don’t think the teachings of the Many-Faced god are exactly a life full of warm fuzzy kittens. Arya is already fairly clearly suffering from a form of PTSD and is fairly ripe for being indoctrinated by a death cult. She seems to be maintaining a central core of Arya-ness. We’ll have to see where this goes, I guess.

Chapter 23 – Alayne:And, Alayne is Sansa, of course, but interesting how both Arya and Sansa are having other identities being forced upon them. Arya is getting “no one” forced upon her and then a host of surface identities. Sansa is getting just one, but has to conform to the bounds of that single identity. I would wish they could both be themselves, although this could all be a meta comment about how no one really gets to be who they want to be and are instead just reflections of others desires.
The Lords Declarant are gathering–presumably to decide what to do about Littlefinger. I will guess that Littlefinger has a plan and that things aren’t going to turn out as the Lords expect them to turn out.
Sansa is thinking of herself as definitely aligned with Littlefinger. Lots of Us and Them thoughts here.
Littlefinger doesn’t think much of Cersei and rightly so as far as we’ve seen. I think I recall that Cersei mentioned sending some old tapestries off to Littlefinger. Seems like an odd thing to mention twice now.

While the details were interesting, the outcome was as I thought. Littlefinger twisted the lords about his finger with a nice card up his sleeve–Corbray. They fell right into line after the blatant display. Sansa does seem to be learning the rules of Littlefinger’s designs here and that could be quite useful for her in the long term.

I found the phrasings that GRRM is using in both chapter 22 & 23 quite interesting and fairly delicately nuanced. Both Arya and Sansa seem to me to be in places that are essentially forcing them down paths that may not be entirely of their own choosing.
Arya is getting fairly extreme conditioning while suffering from PTSD. Sansa almost certainly also has some form of PTSD and seems to be falling into a Stockholm Syndrome type of mindset.

Chapter 24 – Cersei:Cersei appears to be heading down a path of bad choices. She is grasping the reins of power and pushing off both Tommen and her advisers. Historically, these regent haven’t worked out well for one or both parties.
Pycelle has announced the beheading of the Onion Knight. I’m not buying that at the moment (although I would not like it if true). Something smells off there and it isn’t onions.
Cersei is very busy blaming everything except herself for her problems. ~Tyrion must be hiding. Hiding in the walls or under the beds. People aren’t respecting her because she is a woman.~ Well, there may or may not be some of that, but mostly, people aren’t respecting her because she is not doing a creditable job.
The business with the Braavos ambassador is definitely going to come back and bite her quite firmly in her ass.
The “slave revolt” is spreading. Way to ignore really important info, Cersei. Also, she needs some better sources of info. It seems like someone should have an inkling of what Dany is up to. But, on the other hand, Qyburn is really fulfilling the role of mad wizard. Whatever experiments he is doing down in the dungeon are NOT GOOD. But at least he is really owning that part.
At least, she does seem to realize that Tommen’s treatment of kittens is much better than Joff’s. Too bad Cersei isn’t trying to raise a king rather than keep power for herself.

Chapter 25 – Brienne:Hyle Hunt has a cast iron nose at the least. Three rotting heads are not what I would choose to travel with. He also doesn’t take credit for Brienne’s fight. I think we’ll have to keep watching Hyle.
Randyll Tarly continues to show himself to be a massive a-hole. He can’t allow himself to believe that Brienne is fully capable in her own right and that she isn’t just a freak. She just happens to be a well trained and capable woman. I am guessing that Tarly has some fairly deep seated insecurities that we are seeing manifest themselves here. He can’t allow himself challenges to his preconceptions. We see this with Brienne and we saw it with Sam. All that may be, but, of course, that leaves Tarly as the essence of a complete dick at this point. I look forward to his eventual demise/downfall in the story.
Brienne sticks to her guns and insists on continuing her quest to find Sansa.
We hear some possible news on the Hound who seems to have gone feral and on Dondarrion and on Stoneheart (whom I wager is Cat and I will bet Breinne meets her at some point. Not sure if that will be a good thing).
Ooh, Brienne just misses getting on the Titan’s Daughter. I wonder how long it is since Arya was on the ship? Or if she is on it right at that point? Nice tease there GRRM.
While I would like to see what is going on at Winterfell, I don’t think Brienne is going there any time soon. She is, however, going to the Saltpans and Hunt seems to have been fired (or he could be a double agent so to speak).
We learn a little bit about the Seven from Meribald and then a little about life in the Saltpans. Dog is a cool dog. Nymeria (Queen of the Wolves!) continues to roam at large.
Meribald then gives us a very nicely told tale of what happens to peasants who seek glory in the service of the armies of their lords. Short version–nothing good.
This was another good Brienne chapter. GRRM is displaying some of his nicest writing in these. The Quest continues.

Chapter 26 – Samwell:Sam was still on a boat when we last saw him back in (wow, looks and it was…) chapter 15. Since he is now looking out a window over rooftops, it doesn’t seem that he is on that ship anymore. And, Braavos is where he is. It seems they are lacking in money as “it had been days since they’d last had a fire.” Although, if Daeron can afford wine, it would seem that a bit of wood shouldn’t be a problem. Something going on with that obviously. Daeron storms off for days at a time. Sam should assert himself a bit and mention that Daeron has an oath and they have a mission. Wood is costly in Braavos and they have spent most of their money on the room and on dreamwine. Aemon keeps asking to go to the docks and Sam is putting it off until Aemon gets better. Unfortunately, as the healer said, you don’t get better from being 102 and having a fever.

“He is not a lord,” a child’s voice put in. “He’s in the Night’s Watch, stupid. From Westeros.” A girl edged into the light, pushing a barrow full of seaweed; a scruffy, skinny creature in big boots, with ragged unwashed hair. “There’s another one down at the Happy Port, singing songs to the Sailor’s Wife,” she informed the two bravos. To Sam she said, “If they ask who is the most beautiful woman in the world, say the Nightingale or else they’ll challenge you. Do you want to buy some clams? I sold all my oysters.”

That’s got to be Arya! Yep:

“No one.” She stank of fish. “I used to be someone, but now I’m not. You can call me Cat, if you like. Who are you?”

Too bad, but Sam hurries off and doesn’t take Arya up on her offer of showing him the way. Fun bit of synchronicity from GRRM. We’ll have to see if they run into each other again.
He finds Daeron in a brothel wasting their money and:

Sam hit him.

Good for Sam! He reminds Daeron of their oath and then smacks him upside the head. Hopefully, Daeron will be actually helpful and useful, but maybe not. Sam almost certainly should have done this some time ago instead of sitting around thinking about his being a coward (when he isn’t). He’s had some tough choices that he has put off and that hasn’t gotten him anywhere. I guess being in the Night Watch isn’t just happy fun times playing with pink bunnies and all. Randall really did a number on Sam.

“Xhondo knows these dragons.”

Here is a potentially useful person–both from information wise and that he actually seems willing to be helpful.

Chapter 27 – Jaime:Cersei sends Jaime off to quell the Riverlands. And to limit the number of people who disagree with her, I suspect. A nice travelogue of the trip. I would think that Jaime should spend a bit less time worrying about what people think of his style and just practice. He lost a hand, of course he isn’t as good as he once was. Everyone around him knows that. Practice can eliminate a good percentage of that. So, keep working at it Jaime.
Harrenhal is quite the nice place. They fed Hoat to the other captives and to himself. Ser Bonnifer is another in a long line of twits. It doesn’t look like Pia was apt to doing much part flaunting from her reaction.
Nice backhand of Connington with the golden hand. (Jaime just needs a soundtrack by Lulu.) Jaime doesn’t seem to approve of people disrespecting Brienne.
This chapter gives us a chance to get into Jaime’s head a bit and see his growth of character. Not that there are many ways to go except upward from being an incestuous, king killing, (attempted) child murderer. But, hey, at least he isn’t a cannibal.

We don’t know what Pia’s motivations were in the past as we don’t have a POV from her, but whatever they were, they don’t make her a bad or even immoral person. After the “Weasel Soup Coup”, Roose put her in the rape stocks along with other women. This was not at all voluntary and was almost certainly psychologically damaging.
Her motivation in the present appears very clear. Shear abject terror of the highly privledged psychopath Gregor and his crew.
Being beaten into submission also does not make you a bad person.
We don’t know a lot about the underlying principles of the Seven but Bonifer Hasty certainly seems to exemplify the cookie cutter mentality of the more dogmatically inclined. X did Y so X is good or evil depending on Y and no other considerations. It seems pretty safe to say that her prime motivation has been terror for quite a long time. Pia did nothing to in any fashion “deserve” her current state.

And now for something completely different:
Whenever we get back to undead Cat:

CAT:(Communicated via the poignant Westros sign dance as her throat was cut when we last saw her):

I feel vengeful. I feel vengeful.

I am not dead yet–
I can dance and I can sing.
I am not dead yet–
I can do the Westros fling!
I am not dead yet–

No need to go to bed.
No need to call the maester
‘Cause I’m not yet dead!

BANDITS:
She is not yet dead!
That’s what the lady said!
Oh, she’s not yet dead!
That man is off his head!
She is not yet dead!
Put her back in bed!
Keep her off the cart because she’s not yet dead!

(to be continued whenever we get to what could be an interesting chapter and assuming GRRM doesn’t just keep giving vague hints in favor of writing about watery priests from the islands.)

(Cut to corner of cave. A man in an ice-cream girl’s uniform is standing in a spotlight with an ice-cream tray with an albatross on it.)
Man: Albatross! Albatross! Albatross!
(A bandit approaches him.)
Bandit: Two choc-ices please.
Man: I haven’t got choc-ices. I only got the albatross. Albatross!
Bandit: What flavour is it?
Man: It’s a bird, innit? It’s a bloody sea bird . .. it’s not any bloody flavour. Albatross!
Bandit: Do you get wafers with it?
Man: Course you don’t get bloody wafers with it. Albatross!
(The camera zooms past back onto the screen. On screen appears another ‘Intermission’ sign.)
First Voice Over: There will now be a very short…
(The intermission sign explodes.)
We now see a series on animated captions: ‘NOW SHOWING AT OTHER DANK BANDIT CAVES’ ‘AT THE PORTNOY CAVE RIVERLANDS’ ‘WINNER OF THE GOLDEN PALM, TORREMOLINOS’ ‘RAINWEAR THROUGH THE AGES’ ‘COMING SOON’ ‘AT THE JODRELL CAVE, HARENHALL’
Second Voice Over: The management regrets that it will not be showing a feature film this evening as it eats into the profits’
(Cut to Cersei on horseback; first few bars of “The Bear and the Maiden Fair”. Cut to Bandit sitting in cave seat clutching albatross.)
Bandit: Well that’s quite enough of that. And now a gold cloak near King’s Landing… Albatross!

Chapter 28 – Cersei: It seems that Cersei is engaging in a dangerous game in trying to cast aspersions upon Margaery in terms of the marriage bed since Cersei is far from clean in that respect.

The Sparrows nesting habits don’t seem to be all that neat about Baelor’s statue. The new high Septon seems to really take his faith to heart. Unlike the previous political toadies. This isn’t the type of person that Cersei has any experience in dealing with. That they are also feeling (and being) preyed upon by the various bandits, rogues and just plain old nasty armed groups doesn’t help the state they are starting out in here.

The whole “Hound and the Saltpans” incident continues to not seem right. I continue to smell a red herring rather than a hound.

Rearming the “Faith Militant” seems like a most crucial mistake on Cersei’s part. While it may help the sparrows and pilgrims, church’s having their own independent armies has not worked out at all well here. In addition, transforming the civil war into a religious and civil war is a far more dangerous step to take than Cersei has any idea. This is going to come back to haunt her, I think. While Cersei believes herself to have gotten a great deal, she may have just started a ball rolling that a million dragons won’t be able to stop.

My guess is that this High Septon is at this momnet quite sincere in wanting to protect the faithful. My second guess is that this is going to prove to be a slope covered in the slipperiest of oils and that protecting the faithful is going to turn into a full blown religious war and Cersei is not going to be seen as the best front woman for the faithful.
The best laid schemes o’ Mice an’ Men an’ Hig Septons an’ Queens …

Something that will be interesting to watch for as events work out will be instances of possible divine intervention. The Seven seem to have been fairly inactive in the direct intervention realm with Davos’ rescue from the island being the only big possibility that I can recall.
We’ve seen Melisandre and Thoros perform various acts that they claim as divine intervention.
Underlying all of this, GRRM has not given us very much insight into the underlying nature of the religions of Westros and indeed has left ambiguity as to the actual existence of the beings all of the groups claim as gods. All quite interesting areas for observation.

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