Chapter 56 (Theon V): So now we're back to Theon. He's not made Winterfell very happy with him. Three of his men have died mysteriously, and he's executed the kennelmaster Farlen for it. Farlen manipulated him into doing the job himself, since he'd look weak otherwise. But I suppose he looks weak now anyway, since it took him three or four whacks with an axe. Then it turns out Theon himself killed his own men, to keep them from blabbing some big secret. Farlen was just a believable fall guy. But what's the big secret? Asha shows up; Theon had been getting impatient. Once again, she is quite disdainful and mocking of him. She points out that he would have had an awesome victory if he'd taken the boys hostage and burned the castle before heading back for the coast. Theon boasts about taking Winterfell in one night, with thirty men. He doesn't seem to have ever thought about holding Winterfell with thirty men. Theon isn't that bright. He comes up with one master plan, but fails to think it through fully before carrying it out. And now it's come back to bite him hard. He's been demanding reinforcements from her for a while now; Asha leaves him ten of the twenty men she brought with her. When he explodes, she responds that she isn't willing to commit more men to keeping a castle there isn't any point to keeping in the first place. So he's desperate, and readily agrees when Reek offers to go out and find some extra men. Two hundred, perhaps. Two hundred men supplied by a stinky servant to an illegitimate monster? I'd be leery of trusting any men Reek finds. He gives Reek some coin to do the job, but is sure he'll never see him again. At the end, he reflects on the mill they visited earlier. Bran and Rickon, who we all thought were dead, were never found. They just killed the miller's sons and skinned them, then dressed them in the Stark boys' clothes! So it's good knowing the boys are still out there somewhere... but where?
Chapter 57 (Sansa V): I think Sansa isn't going to enjoy herself during the battle, no matter which way it goes. Stannis's forces are approaching King's Landing. The battle is coming up. Joff is all dressed in super-spiffy armor, but won't be anywhere near the combat. He is commanding the trebuchets. Joff has plans to launch the Antler Men, the traitors who favored Stannis, over the wall and into the battle. Nothing says fearsome in battle like throwing prisoners at your enemies. Now if it had been
Chapter 58 (Davos III): So now we get to the big, huge battle for the book. Davos is with the rest of Stannis's fleet for the attack on King's Landing, combined with a land attack led by Stannis from the other side of the river.. I can't begin to describe how badass this battle is. Davos sounds like he has a better sense of strategy than the people in charge of the fleet. But they're all born nobles and look down their noses at him. This is what you get from medieval society: how much your words are heeded depends less on your deeds and more on your ancestors. Never mind that Davos has proved himself personally. Davos sees tow big towers at the mouth of the river, with a big long chain between them. I guess this explains why Tyrion had all the smiths making chain links earlier. Except the chain is lowered, and all of Stannis's ships sail right over it. Davos senses a trap but isn't sure what kind. He does see that several of the most powerful Lannister ships are missing. They'd be the ones taking Myrcella to Dorne. Things look good for Stannis's ships at first. But then Davos spots the trap right before it gets sprung. One of the enemy ships is leaking wildfire right before it gets rammed, revealing lots and lots of wildfire inside. KABOOM!!! Several ships blow up immediately, with many, many others on fire. Davos is knocked flying into the water, with no clue what happened to his sons that are in the fleet. The whole river is on fire. Now there's only one thing I can say to this:
Chapter 59 (Tyrion XIII): Tyrion is having a chat with Joff on the city wall while watching the battle. Joff is as petulant as ever, lamenting the loss of "his" ships. Tyrion is way too smart to tell him that he had to sacrifice some Lannister ships to bait the trap and lure Stannis's ships into the river. Joff goes off to command the catapults and send the Antler Men traitors back to Stannis... aerially. Now that's one way to promote loyalty among your citizens. From the high vantage point, Tyrion can see that some of the enemy ships survived, and are beginning to land troops. So it's time for a sortie, right? Except when he goes down to have one sent out, it turns out Sandor is the one in command down there. And Sandor's already taken three sorties out into a burning approximation of hell. Sandor is scared out of his mind and refuses to go out again. Let's review: what one thing is The Hound absolutely terrified of? Oh yeah, fire. So The Hound can't (and won't) lead a sortie. But since there's a ram being brought up to bash its way into the city proper, there has to be a sortie. Tyrion decides he has to lead one himself. And the sortie is epic, but more on that later.