Clash of Kings, Chapters 9-11
Chapter 9 (Arya III): The band of recruits for the Wall is starting to run into trouble. Hot Pie was brave before, but now we see he still has his moments of fear. They have to leave the Kingsroad for safety, and forage for food. That proves difficult, since those they meet on the way are unwilling to help them, and make a point of running them off. Yoren is disgusted by this behavior. Ayra runs into some wolves in the woods, and they leave her alone. I wonder if they're part of Nymeria's pack, and she still cares enough for Arya to make sure she is left alone.
Chapter 10 (Davos I): Yay, a new POV character! In a couple of ways, I'm not surprised by this. First off, the story sort of needs a new POV to replace Ned, cause one less POV means events aren't as varied in how they are viewed, and a full breadth of what's going on across the realm won't be available. Second, the prologue with Cressen gives us our first glimpse of what's going on with Stannis's part of the fight, but then Cressen has to go and die on us. I figured at the time that GRRM wouldn't have bothered showing us events on Dragonstone for one chapter if he didn't mean to follow up on it. Therefore, there needed to be a Dragonstone POV brought in for longer than Cressen was around. Stannis is burning the statues of the Seven, and it isn't going over so well. The septon get locked away, along with a few lords and their sons who stay loyal to their faith. Other lords stand by Stannis but are clearly uneasy. The people present at the burning are confused at best, alienated at worst. Umm, right. Forcing a religion on a populace generally has unpleasant consequences for the ruler, the populace, or both. The Spanish Inquisition comes to mind, except that was the faith of the majority imposed upon a minority of the population. More fitting might be the pro-Catholic reign of James II in England over a Protestant realm, or the Catholic government of South Vietnam trying to rule a Buddhist nation. And don't get me started on the Thirty Years War, when differences in religion became the excuse for untold miseries. "Because God said so" has been used to justify so much bad stuff in human history, and it seems like Westeros isn't immune to this. The kicker here is how Stannis doesn't even believe in his new religion; he is just using R'hllor as a means to an end.
Stannis has all the ravens in Dragonstone sent out to deliver the news of his claim to the throne, and the reasoning behind it: Joff, Myrcella, and Tommen are all illegitimate, and aren't Robert's kids but Jaime's. Which goes with my earlier guess that Ned had no need to inform Stannis in a letter that he was the true king, Stannis already knew from Jon Arryn taking him to those brothels to meet Robert's bastards. I bet Jon showed him the big lineage book before dying, too. Now while I'm presuming Cersei is telling the truth about not killing Jon, that doesn't change the fact that he was onto something with the whole bastard issue. It may even still be why he was killed, even though it wasn't by Cersei like we were led to believe in Book One.
Chapter 11 (Theon I): Now I wasn't expecting two new POV characters in this book. Theon lands on the Iron Island and is met by his uncle, who has changed considerably since Theon last saw him. Before, Aeron was quite the party animal, loving women, ale, drinking songs, and all-around good times. Now Aeron has found religion, and he's really into it. Yay, another unlikable religious zealot. Not that all people of faith in the series are unpleasant, Septa Mordane was likable, and the other Septons and Septas have been okay. I wouldn't mind sticking Aeron and Selyse in the same room just to see what happens between them. Lord Balon basically wants nothing to do with Robb's plan, and sees it as Robb wanting him to bend the knee to Winterfell while nominally being a King of the Iron Islands. He doesn't seem to think it strategically sound, either, scoffing at Theon's plan to capture Casterly Rock. Instead, now that Theon is no longer a hostage of the Starks, he has plans to go ahead and seize a crown for himself. He isn't hitting the Lannisters, but we aren't told what he is going after. Theon figures it out, but the readers are left to muddle out what is implied. I have this feeling he wants to hit Stark territory while Robb is occupied fighting a war in the riverlands. Maybe Robb should have heeded his mother's advice, and sent someone else instead of Theon after all.
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