Fire & Blood, Volume I: A Surfeit of Rulers

Holy hell, this chapter is so long…

  • One thing that continues to puzzle me is how opaque the Faith of the Seven continues to be, despite all the words that have been written about it. For example, here we learn that there are “Fathers of the Faith” whose writings on religious matters are considered significant. I know from outside context that we’re talking about the Faith’s verion of the “Church Fathers” but the text doesn’t make it clear.
  • I like the quote from Septon Barth, gives you a sense of the worldly, pragmatic man who doesn’t get nearly enough screentime. I do wonder why he went with the Faith rather than the Citadel, given his interests.

 

  • This chapter has a slightly weird structure, since you have one group of political conflicts around the Three Queens and another that’s the Regent and Hand vs. the King, and GRRM keeps cutting back and forth.

 

  • The conflict between Rogar/Alyssa and Jaehaerys/Alysanne flows a bit more naturally out of the previous chapter, grounded in both political considerations about the marriage and policy but also personal grievances. Jaehaerys’ comment about “he did not need a second father” really sums up the Oedipal dynamic, but I did like the way in which Alyssa’s divergent motivations from Rogar’s complicate the conflict somewhat.
  • The quote from Alyssa about “my children ride dragons, and we do not” does speak to the slight anti-climactic nature of the conflict; I don’t really see a situation in which Jaehaerys would ever lose or Rogar ever win.
  • Speaking of Alyssa, the quote about her desiring “above all to be loved, admired, and praised” really does not track with the previous chapter where she’s calling for wholesale executions.
  • However, I do like the way that the whole scheme with the handmaids shows the difference between Alyssa and Rogar’s political styles: Alyssa sends women of faith to try to “impress upon Alysanne, and mayhaps even Jaehaerys, that for brother to lie with sister was an abomination int he eyes of the Faith,” which isn’t a half-bad strategy, whereas Rogar sends a honeypot to break them up.
  • More on this later.

 

  • Rhaena as the “Queen in the West” doesn’t quite track out of her last chapter; if she’s particularly motivated by being passed over by her “baby brother” and “my own mother,” then self-exiling to Fair Isle, marrying a second son of a lesser House, and separating from both her daughters is an odd way to go about it. I suppose the idea is that she changed her mind too late, but I’d like to see the turn happen.
  • Incidentally, having seen The Favourite (which you should all see, btw), I cannot read about Rhaena and her “Four-Headed Beast” without thinking about Olivia Colman as Queen Anne. Let’s just say we’re all very lucky the Stuarts didn’t have dragons.
  • Let’s talk about Androw Farman, who gets a lot more characterization in this chapter, but whom I have something of a hard time getting a grasp on. There’s a suggestion that Androw might be gay or genderqueer (“half a girl”), but that doesn’t track his final statement about his marriage; my guess is that similar to how Sam’s sexuality was called into question because of his inability to perform masculinity, Androw’s inability to acquire “martial skills” (or any accomplishments beyond his appearance) was equated to his gender and/or sexuality by his peers.  There’s also a suggestion that he had some sort of mental disability, as he “could hardly read nor write” (although given the way his marriage and life ends was that something of a Claudius-like sham?). In the end, he seems to be a bit of a cipher, a human blancmange.
  • By contrast, Elissa Farman’s personality really explodes off the page, as someone who cannot wait to circumnavigate the globe. And once you read that in light of what eventually happens to her relationship with Rhaena, it makes you wonder about Rhaena’s extreme lack of communications skills, because it’s not like she was quiet about her character or her plans.

  • Speaking of Farmans (Farmen?), Franklyn goes down on my list of Jerkasses With a Point (a rather long list in this particular book). On the one hand, he’s rude to the point of obnoxiousness, and at one point he literally gets a 80s Movie Villain defeat. On the other hand, not a lot of lords would be happy about their in-laws acting like they owned the place while going about as far from upholding their end of the dynastic alliance bargain as one can go.
  • My appreciation for Lyman Lannister (and his – take a drink! – “formidible lady Jocasta”) grew substantially with his whole plan to have Ser Tyler Hill seduce Rhaena in the hopes of getting his hands on a dragon. It didn’t work due to Rhaena’s sexual orientation, but it was worth the effort, and you really have to admire his subtlety and cunning.
  • By the by, I think the Casterly Rock incident speaks to Rhaena’s fundamental political weaknesses: she just didn’t have the backing she would need to make a play, nor did she have the skills need to build the kind of political coalition that she would have needed.

 

  • I don’t really get how this whole scheme where they’d keep the King’s marriage secret and keep the King secluded on Dragonstone was ever going to work. In a polity where the king’s physical presence is crucial, there’s no way that the political class of the nation weren’t going to notice.
  • Indeed, the line about “this was a king who never acted without thinking..he had chosen the queen he wanted and would make the realm aware of that in due course, but at a time of his own choosing, in a manner best calculated to lead to acceptance” (which, btw, is a wonderful passage that really evokes J-man’s personality) suggests to me that Jaehaerys was well aware that his absence from court would undermine Rogar’s political position. No wonder that the traditional King’s Landing loyalists – the Masseys, Stauntons, Darklyns, Bar Emmons, Stokeworths, etc. – show up at Dragonstone to form his faction. Also doesn’t help that Daemon Velaryon sides with Jaehaerys instantly.
  • While the Jaehaerys training montage sequence is a bit 80s-tastic, it does make sense from a symbolic politics perspective. As the text points out, “King Aenys had been slighted as weak, in part because he was not the warrior.” But I think it goes further: since Jaehaerys was already a scholarly reformer type, he needed to balance out his image in order to get public acceptance for his big ideas. The nobility of Westeros will accept a warrior-poet or warrior-scholar as their monarch, but not the suffixes on their own.

 

  • This line about Alysanne Targaryen being initially overlooked because “observers at court found her of less interests than her older siblings who stood higher in the line of succession” could not be more Eleanor Roosevelt vis-a-vis Alice Roosevelt if it tried.
  • Also, the bit about her companions being rotated to prevent any rumors about her sexuality makes me feel sorry for a royal, which is hard to do. That is not good for childhood development, and it’s a testament to her character that she came out ok on the other end.
  • I quite like her resilience in the face of ongoing lobbying from the Wise Women, although she definitely does take on a more pious sensibility in all matters not involving Targaryens. (Which fits the whole Exceptionalist thing later on.)

 

  • So let’s talk about “A Caution for Young Girls.” I feel very ambivalent about this addition to the narrative. On the one hand, the approach to historiography is really impressive, leaps and bounds above what GRRM’s done before. (The bits about plagiarized knockoffs larding on the smut to gain a wider audience than the original used to happen all the time, especially in eras with much weaker copyright law.) And this kind of pornography-disguised-as-prurient-moralizing (known as “picaresque” novels) was a very popular genre of fiction in the early modern era: think Moll Flanders or Vanity Fair. I think of them as quite similar to the quasi-underground films of the 1950s which escaped the censors by having a last reel in which the wayward youth or gangsters received their just deserts, only to omit the final reel whenever the local sheriffs weren’t around.
  • On the other hand, it’s not plausible that the books Martin describes would exist in the world he’s created. Without the printing press, you can’t really mass-produce books to the point where they can “pass from hand to hand in the low places of Westeros.” There just aren’t enough “septons expelled from the Faith…failed students…hired quills…or mummers” to sit down and copy out whole books on hand to produce hundreds if not thousands of copies floating around that you would need to make this kind of book both widely circulating and affordable enough to find a market. Similarly, there just isn’t a big enough literate population to make up the market given how few readers there are, even among the nobility.
  • I’m also not entirely sure about devoting this many pages to something that’s ultimately a non-event. At the end of the day, Coryanne’s exploits with Jaehaerys don’t really matter, since she fails in her main political task no matter which carnal version one follows. Indeed, I would have preferred it if Jaehaerys gave in but was ultimately forgiven by Alysanne – sort of a FDR/Missy LeHand and/or JFK/take-your-pick situation – because that would have at least have some thematic relevance in prefiguring the Two Quarrels and complicating Jaehaerys’ character somewhat.

 

  • But hey, there’s also some public policy in this chapter. We start with the public treasury: as we might have expected from last chapter, throwing massive coronations and weddings right after two major civil wars is not fiscally prudent, however good it might be for morale.
  • I don’t really get why Rogar chose the Dragonpit of all public works to focus on, doesn’t seem to fit his character particularly, in that the Dragonpit is particularly associated with the Targaryens-as-dragonriders (and with Maegor for that matter).
  • Edwell Celtigar continues the family legacy as Master of Coin and being a bit of an also-ran. I’m rarely in favor of anti-tax arguments, but going gung-ho for regressive taxation, then compounding it by focusing taxation on just King’s Landing, hitting both exports and imports, and taxing new construction is really a poor way to raise revenue.
  • I feel like more could have been done with Rogar and the second Vulture King. Feels like a bit of a missed opportunity.
  • The rebellion of the Rimegate and Sable Hall is a great addition to the history of the North (although having a Bracken being a baddie is a bit of a cliché at this point), showing some of the downsides of having the Night’s Watch on Stark turf, but also having some major dynastic implications in that Walton’s death (going three-on-one against giants, no less!) makes Alaric the Stark in Winterfell. Moreover, the added context helps to explain why Alaric was so standoffish with Alyssa, since there’s the whole matter of his brother’s death.

 

  • Speaking of losing respect for Rogar, his plan to unseat Jaehaerys is laughably bad and boorishly implemented. If this was his plan, why not bring Rhaena to King’s Landing, or you know, do any basic pre-meeting lobbying among the Small Council?
  • By contrast, you have to give credit to Donnel the Delayer’s clever actions in response.
  • I also wonder why GRRM doesn’t have Rogar die in battle against the Vulture King. Feels like his story is done in this chapter, but he keeps hanging around.

 

 

 

 

70 thoughts on “Fire & Blood, Volume I: A Surfeit of Rulers

  1. AzureOwl says:

    I got the impression that the reason for the inclusion of the “A Caution for Young Girls” bit was to provide further evidence that Gyldayn is really a dirty old man.

    After all, he may put all the disclaimers in the world afterwards, but he ALWAYS includes the smutty rumors.

    • Hedrigal says:

      Okay, but what does the character of Gyldayn really mean here when Gyldayn is basically just a stand in for George rather than his own meaningful character in the narrative.

      • AzureOwl says:

        I disagree.

        Gyldayn and Yandel are not merely stand ins for GRRM, they are distinct characters in and of themselves.

        Reading both books, their personalities come through in a way that I find fascinating. GRRM has added another layer of world-building by endowing his mouthpieces with enough distinct biases and personality quirks that we can actually use them to try to suss out the truth from what they tell us and how they tell us.

        • medrawt says:

          (I have not read F&B and have no upcoming plans to do so)

          I think GRRM handing over the narrative voice to a character who’s explicitly drawn to be a dirty old man shows either a comically high level of self-awareness or a comically low level of self awareness.

    • We needed more evidence after all the Mushroom stuff?

  2. Hedrigal says:

    I just can’t get over how ridiculously gross and pointless the whole section on “Tales for young Girls” is. Like, this is unnecessary, and unimportant. The number of words used to get across this information was a ridiculous waste of time, even though I do respect the historiographical detail.

  3. Tywin of the Hill says:

    1. “In place of a frightened girl, the Baratheon men found themselves confronted by thirty armed septons under the command of the steward, Casper Straw.”
    Looks like old habits die hard, Maegor’s laws or not.
    2. In this chapter we learn the Farman’s family words: The Wind Our Steed.
    3. “for a long while he had no good to say of King Jaehaerys, for he blamed the king’s clemency for his brother Walton’s death, and was oft heard to say that His Grace should have beheaded Maegor’s men rather than sending them to the Wall.”
    That seems a bit out of character for a Stark. If even Theon Greyjoy thought he could get away by taking the black, you’d think Alaric would be more understanding of Jaehaerys mercy.
    4. “From there they made their way to the Disputed Lands, where Ser Howard signed on to a free company called, with a singular lack of inspiration, the Free Company.”
    Looks like all the good names were taken 🙂
    5. Something tells me Tyrion has read more than one version of ACYG.
    6.

    Dressed in the rags of a common girl of the lowest order, with her silver-gold hair dyed a muddy brown, Princess Aerea would spent the rest of the regency working in a stable near the King’s Gate. She was eight years old, and loved horses; years later, she would say that this was the happiest time of her life.

    I’m sure this passage is meant to be heartwarming, but it kind of feels dark on a reread, once you know how the rest of Aerea’s life is going to be like.

    • Grant says:

      Theon might have been able to escape Robb’s wrath if he’d taken the black and Robb retook the North, but there’s no way Robb wouldn’t be livid at Theon being around.

      Setting ASOIAF aside, the events of F&B meant that instead of the NW being made stronger and the North more secure, the reverse happened. Because of some fool Southron war and the decisions of a Southron king, a lot of Southron men with no appreciation for the vows and responsibilities of the NW were made part of it, and they proceeded to break their vows, weaken North security, and even kill a Stark.

      Honestly, I’d say that a Stark would be even more inclined to view all this with a lot of anger. The king might have been following the law, but to Starks with all of their history with the NW, all of this is really the opposite of what’s supposed to happen with the NW.

      • Sean C. says:

        I mean, the Night’s Watch has been receiving large numbers of POWs and criminals for its whole history. The idea that there was some big difference between the guys Jaehaerys sent north and, say, all the people that Nymeria exiled to the Wall, doesn’t really hold up.

        • Grant says:

          So far as we know, they didn’t break their vows and kill a Stark. I don’t see any reason why the Starks wouldn’t have a similarly bad view of other NW men who stirred up trouble by ignoring their oaths like Lord Commanders Hill, Mudd, and Rakenfell (to say nothing of the NW officers at Snowgate and Nightfort who first fought each other and then allied to kill their lord commander), and a view that men like Lord Commander Hoare are what NW are supposed to be. Men who don’t cause problems for the North, men who keep the North secure against threats from the far North, and men who remember what they vowed to do and do it.

        • Hedrigal says:

          Yeah the only real difference here is the watch is significantly weaker now, and thus a major influx of new men all connected to each other isnt leavened by others coming in outside of those bonds who would have made such a conspiracy harder to carry out.

      • Technically, t’was the giants who killed the Stark.

    • jedimaesteryoda says:

      1. Those armed septons could have been former members of the Faith Militant.
      2. Some house on the Iron Isles is probably thinking “Why didn’t we think that?”
      3. I think he was less understanding given that it resulted in the death of his brother.
      4. No comment.
      5. I would say the same. I wonder if Pycelle read it too?
      6. Yeah, it does make the passage sad in hindsight. She is very much a proto-Arya, as her mother is a proto-Sansa (eldest daughter with 3 brothers and 1 sister, pursued for her claim, betrothed 3 times, etc). It’s no wonder she and Elyssa got along so well they were kindred spirits as adventurous girls who were kept at Dragonstone in spite of their wishes by Rhaena. One took dragon eggs, and the other took a dragon.

    • 1. Yeah, probably.
      2. Kind of like Goodqueenaly’s better.
      3. I don’t think it’s out of character at all for the Starks. This is the same family where Brandon the Burner reacted to the death of his father at sea by burning the entire Northern fleet at anchor. They are notably extra when it comes to the death of their kin.
      4. Yeah, I dunno what was up with that, unless GRRM is making fun of himself for running out of ideas for names.
      5. I would not be surprised for him to mention it in TWOW.
      6. I can’t wait to get to that section; it really tickled my Lovecraftian sensibilities.

  4. KrimzonStriker says:

    Geez Steven, since when does being an effeminate man automatically suggest being gay, even in this world? All the singers and poets out and about don’t seem to have much trouble with the ladies despite how unmartial they are :p

    • Grant says:

      All he does is focus on what the text says, and concludes that the phrase “half a girl” probably isn’t an indicator of anything more than just that Androw was like ASOIAF’s Sam in interests.

      Considering that Rhaena chose him for her husband, and Rhaena herself was lesbian, it’s certainly possible that she’d choose a man who wouldn’t be expecting her in his bed, even if it doesn’t look like there’s anything to it in this instance.

      • KrimzonStriker says:

        I disagree on that last part, the text specifically stated that Androw was infatuated/devoted to her if I recall correctly. He was just a lovesick sap she thought she could play and would be easy to manage, not that he was a closet gay she could reach a mutual agreement on in terms of their marital expectations. I’m still not quite convinced Rhaena is full on gay either, she seems to remember he brother/first husband well enough, but feel like she mostly just resents men or something, if that makes sense?

    • I’m not saying he was, I’m saying the text suggests that he was, or at least that his peers thought he was. GRRM generally has two ways of indicating a character’s hidden sexuality: either he mentions a “favourite” that they’re attached to, or he illustrates how they don’t perform the gender they’ve been assigned to. (Think “Queen Lorea” Lannister or Sabitha Frey nee Vypren.)

      • KrimzonStriker says:

        I think that was offset by the lines about his adoration for Rhaena when they got married though. And again there are unmartial roles straight men play even in this universe going back to artists, singers, and poets that have elicited derision for it without calling into question their sexuality :p

        • Hedrigal says:

          Oh totally, but the reason that George peppers them into his in universe historical accounts is because they’re short hand for the details which we use in the real world to speculate on whether or not a given historical person was LGBT or not. Whether or not it is a good method in itself, George invoking it is signaling to us the audience they are gay.

  5. jedimaesteryoda says:

    1. Rogar’s worst moment was when he wanted to go for the nuclear option of replacing Jaehaerys with his niece Aerea, and later her twin Rhaella, ostensibly over his marriage to Alysanne, but actually over his humiliation in the yard on Dragonstone. In other words, he was willing to potentially start another civil war just to get even with a 15 year-old.

    2. Regarding your comments on Alyssa over “above all to be loved, admired, and praised” and wanting executions, remember that even as gentle a woman as Catelyn said she would gladly swing the sword on Theon after Rickon and Bran’s ostensible deaths, and Alyssa’s son Viserys was tortured to death, saying nothing of her other son, Aegon. Desiring retribution is completely natural.

    3. Regarding Borys Baratheon, he sounds like a Baratheon version of Lyn Corbray. Rogar said their relationship deteriorated after his son Boremund was born. Borys was likely Rogar’s eldest brother, and given Rogar remained unmarried for over thirty years and when he did marry, he married a woman in her forties, Borys thought the Rogar would die without issue, and he would inherit Storm’s End. That dream died when Boremund was born. Remember, while Rogar’s other brothers were pushing rebellion, Borys advised him to take the black, which conveniently would have a childless Rogar go to the Wall, leaving Borys the one to replace him as Lord of Storm’s End.

    4. Rhaena has my sympathy. She has no luck with husbands. The first one was good, but he died in battle. The second one was her psychopathic uncle who killed the previous one. The third one turned out to be a psycho too, who poisoned her friends.

    • KrimzonStriker says:

      Let’s be clear on the third of Rhaena’s husbands here, she turned him into that psycho. She doesn’t get any sympathy from me regarding Androw, he tried to make their marriage work and got slapped down repeatedly. One need only look at Rhaena’s neglect when it came to Androw’s sister or her own daughter. She brought a LOT of her misfortune herself in the latter part of her life.

      • Grant says:

        The guy could have always killed himself or (plain and unjustified murder though it would have been), poisoned her if he really was obsessed with it. He chose to murder other people. She mishandled him badly, he still was the one who decided on killing.

        • KrimzonStriker says:

          Other people? You act like they weren’t just as much a part of his abuse as she was which he categorically listed in how they were a part of everything Rhaena did. If he was obsessed then this was the best way to actually make her suffer for years as he did.

          • Grant says:

            Their abuse, assuming they were really an leading part of it and not simply choosing whether or not to follow the authority of someone who had none and never showed competence, was in no way something not being pushed forward by Rhaena, he deliberately chose to murder people Rhaena liked and not ‘just’ people who were involved in it (note that it makes clear not a single man was killed by the poison even though it’s made clear that absolutely no one followed his lead, that’s blatant gendered violence) and even setting aside all of that for some idea that this could possibly be justified, he murdered a child for this.

            He had choices to make, he chose what he would do and who he would do it too.

          • KrimzonStriker says:

            I’m simply talking about the logic of the revenge factor here, not the morality factor, which is accomplished by avenging himself on them while also extracting the sweetest revenge against her by letting her live and making her suffer. It’s perfectly logical as far as revenge murder plots go. Reprehensible as it may seem on the outside it makes perfect sense looking from his perspective once you’re willing to cross that murder line period. You want to make your murders actually count before dying yourself. It’s a well thought out and logical thought process once you start actually thinking about it.

          • KrimzonStriker says:

            I also don’t buy they weren’t influential or accomplices in his abuse either if you look at the one example we know more of, his sister, who was quite independent and forthright in her thoughts which earned her favoritism by Rhaena in the first place.

          • Grant says:

            His sister’s listed as his closest friend by our source on this, Maester Culiper.

          • Hedrigal says:

            Yeah, she definitely wanted the relationship to work only on her terms, but like, you don’t get made into a mass murder by someone being mean to you. He’s responsible for that, and there were more mature and workable solutions than mass murder including the murder of a child.

      • Andrew Mumford says:

        I’ve seen husbands neglected by their wives who didn’t go around murdering their wives’ friends. Even though she did neglect him, that doesn’t justify his murders. The chances are that deep down he was already a psycho to begin with.

        • KrimzonStriker says:

          His wives co-conspirators to his abuse you mean. Don’t act like they’re innocent bystanders. And I’ve heard many stories where husbands murdered their wives and associates (like their lovers) as well. You don’t need to be born a psycho to be driven to murder at some point in our lives. Anyone can murder people under the right circumstances and motivations, which Androw’s self-esteem issues growing up provided fertile ground for. And I could easily have seen myself be driven to that at some point under the same conditions, and if I was vengeful enough I would have probably hit on the same scheme to make her suffer as well.

          • Abbey Battle says:

            I think that it’s fair to say that the Princess poisoned their relationship, but also fair to say that Farman himself was – by his own deliberate choice and actions – a vicious, a twisted and a singularly unrepentant murderer.

            We might pity the man, but it is difficult to feel sympathy for him.

      • Hedrigal says:

        Yeah, she definitely wanted the relationship to work only on her terms, but like, you don’t get made into a mass murder by someone being mean to you. He’s responsible for that, and there were more mature and workable solutions than mass murder including the murder of a child.

        • Abbey Battle says:

          Even leaving aside the possibility of sensible and mature solutions – given the sheer level of Hatred required to inspire such a Diabolic plan and carry it out to the bitter end, more constructive options are almost certainly off the table after a certain point – as plans for a Murderous Revenge go, Farman’s are extraordinarily sadistic and cold blooded even by the standards of other men who “Break Bad” (in all honesty for sheer cold-blooded sadism, meticulous planning and theatricality Farman the Murderer verges on outright super-villainy; most other husbands who take a turn for the homicidal would limit themselves to killing their wife and not a few would have killed themselves afterward – whereas Farman killed not only his rivals, but his wife’s entire support structure and, judging by the otherwise senseless murder of Dragonstone’s Maester, would appear to have held onto SOME hope of escaping the consequences of his actions even to the last).

    • 1. Yeah, that’s a bit OTT.
      2. True, but Catelyn doesn’t fit the mold of a woman who wants to be loved, admired, and praised by all.
      3. Yeah, a little bit.
      4. True, but at the same time, as we will see, she’s godawful at managing relationships inside or outside of marriage.

  6. Abbey Battle says:

    I have to say that the bit with the on-his-guard Steward was one of my favourite bits in the entire book; as for Septon Barth’s decision to enter the priesthood rather than academia, my guess is that he was either pious or too attached to the idea of something beyond Human understanding to settle with the Maesters.

    Perhaps he was simply born too poor and too far from Oldtown to boot!

    – Concerning the rather curious decision to finish building the dragon pit, it might simply have been the simplest way to make a symbolic point; since it was already partly finished it was likely somewhat less time consuming and expensive to finish that monument to Targaryen supremacy rather than work out the particulars for a new one.

    It is also possible that Lord Rogar used the construction of “more adequate facilities” for the Royal Dragons to place a more positive spin on the Kings increasingly embarrassing absence;

    “Why is His Grace still on Dragonstone and not in his capital?”

    “Why because the King wishes to ensure that his royal mounts are kept in the most comfortable conditions, lest they incinerate half the city in their outrage at being kept penned in at the Red Keep; the minute this great stone stable for dragons is done, Hs Grace will be RIGHT back.”

    • I dunno, Septon Barth doesn’t strike me as a particularly pious man. Interested in the supernatural, certainly, but not as much in the metaphysical.

      Yeah, the symbolism is just a bit weird. If Rogar had gotten the whole business about how the gates and barracks were rebuilt instead of J-man, that might have fit better.

      Eh, seems a stretch.

      • Abbey Battle says:

        So is the idea that a single man would be able to swive seven maidens at his Stag Party and still have the energy to be married the next day!

  7. Will Rigby says:

    “I do wonder why he went with the Faith rather than the Citadel, given his interests.”

    Well Barth was the son of a blacksmith, and the Citadel puts up a lot of barriers for lowborn people. It might have been more practical to join the Faith.

    • I don’t know about that. Pate, Yandel; plenty of people come to the Citadel from nothing.

      • Murc says:

        It’s worth noting that Pate and Yandel are both foundlings; given to, or found by, the Citadel as infants.

        We have scant information on what sort of options are available to you if you’re a poor-ass commoner of no particular note who just shows up at the Citadel looking to learn. You might get show the door with the stern lecture of “The Citadel is a place for a grown man to complete his education, not begin it.”

        We also might just be overthinking this. Maybe Barth was just a man of genuine faith who became a septon out of an earnest desire to serve the Seven on earth. Lots of smart people did that.

        • Pate’s not a foundling. “He had been five years at the Citadel, arriving when he was no more than three-and-ten, yet his neck remained as pink as it had been on the day he first arrived from the westerlands.”

          • Murc says:

            Damn, I was sure I remembered that Pate was a foundling.

            Well now I’m just confused as to what the criteria for being accepted at the Citadel is. It can’t just be that you’re a warm body, or they’d be thronged all the time with people using it as a social safety net.

  8. Brett says:

    Barth was a blacksmith’s son, but we don’t know where physically he came from. It could just be that joining the Faith was a far more available option for a guy who is fascinated in knowledge and books than joining the Maesters, especially if the Maesters are in a whole different city (and they don’t really seem to recruit).

    If I could wish for a book set in the setting that wasn’t the next one in the main series, it would be for either a diary-style story with Septon Barth as our POV character, or a story centered around Elissa Farman’s adventures.

    • Murc says:

      I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Barth gets short shrift in this volume, and that’s maddening. This is a guy pilloried by his enemies as “more sorcerer than septon” and whose book on dragons was so incendiary that half a century later King Baelor tried to have all the copies burned.

      But we get almost NOTHING about his, shall we say, extracurricular activities. There’s his involvement in Aerea’s death but that’s it.

      • Brett says:

        It was disappointing, although I guess the focus on Jaeherys and Alysanne was to the detriment of showing more on Barth (plus showing more of what Barth was doing and thinking might have been a spoiler for stuff to come in Winds and Dream).

        Still, the Barth we get was pretty good. Aside from the Elissa Farman stuff, it was the best part of the book (Barth’s account of the Aerea incident is pure Lovecraftian-style horror, including the narrative style).

        • Murc says:

          (plus showing more of what Barth was doing and thinking might have been a spoiler for stuff to come in Winds and Dream)

          I guess my response to that is the same as my response was to the MASSIVE Summerhall elision in WOIAF; if you’re not willing to commit to your conceit because it undercuts your other conceits, don’t goddamn publish at all.

          It is very interesting that Fire and Blood cuts off at the start of Aegon III Dragonbanes rulership rather than at his death, isn’t it? It means, gosh, we didn’t need to go into the death of the Targaryen dragons and Aegon’s last-minute change of heart to try and get them back, doesn’t it?

          We’re also unlikely to get the second volume of this for a very long time, because the second volume would have to go in-depth on, say, the childhood of Aegon V, on Summerhall, on a BUNCH of stuff.

        • Agreed that what we got was good, just wanted more than an amuse-bouche.

      • Hedrigal says:

        I will say getting a pretty intense vignette about his investigations into Aereas death is still pretty awesome.

    • Crystal says:

      This is true; we don’t know where Barth was born, so it’s possible the Faith was a more accessible option, as there were septs everywhere but the only place maesters are trained is the Citadel in Oldtown.

      If, for instance, Barth is from the Vale, he’d be far away from Oldtown and brought up in a region where the Faith is held in high regard. It’s also possible his parents saw how smart their son was and sent him to the Faith just as highly intelligent working-class boys in real medieval Europe might be given to the Church so they could have a career.

      • Brett says:

        Agreed.

        We also don’t know if Barth had any older siblings, especially older brothers. He might have been a younger son whom, if apprenticed to a blacksmith instead, might have struggled to find a place (since his elder brother would probably inherit their father’s shop eventually).

      • Andrew Mumford says:

        Barth came to King’s Landing from Highgarden, likely suggesting he was from the Reach. I agree that he likely was a younger son, and he was given over to the Faith when he was a child.

  9. Kandrax says:

    Little offtopic. But since you uses tvtropes, i want to ask you what do you think about their Complete Monsters page for ASOIAF?

    • I’m assuming you mean the “Monster” page, because I can’t find a “Complete Monsters” page. Probably just renamed.

      Seems mostly ok, although I think Hugh Hammer and Ulf the White are a bit of a stretch.

  10. Andrew Mumford says:

    6. The rebels at the Wall were former members of the Faith Militant led by their former enemies, the men who served the man they fought against: members of Maegor’s Kingsguard, Bracken and Mallery. Misery loves company it seems.

    7. I got to hand it to Alyssa, despite being called weak by Rogar, between her and him, she was the stronger of the two. She stood up to her husband, and dismissed him from service.

    8. The incident at the docks show that Franklyn Farman really needs to learn how to read a room.

    • 6. Indeed. I think getting free of the Watch was the only thing they had in common.
      7. True, but also not super in-line with the whole “loved above all else” thing.
      8. Yup.

      • jedimaesteryoda says:

        6. It does make for an interesting what-if. What if Bracken and the former members of the Faith Militant managed to successfully establish some kind of society beyond the Wall? Would it be the only one north of the Wall that worships the Seven or would it have given way to the Old Gods over succeeding generations?

  11. Murc says:

    I like the quote from Septon Barth, gives you a sense of the worldly, pragmatic man who doesn’t get nearly enough screentime.

    Barth has three strikes against; he was a mystic, he was a septon, and he was dragon-affiliated. That’s going to immediately not endear him to most Archmaesters.

    The Citadel can’t openly disparage one of the greatest Hands in the reign of the greatest Targaryen king… but boy, they can avoid talking about him if they don’t want to, can’t they? And that’s precisely what Gyldayn, who on top of that is absolutely a Jaehaerist of the first order, devoting SO MUCH time to the nuances of his reign, does.

    Let’s talk about Androw Farman, who gets a lot more characterization in this chapter, but whom I have something of a hard time getting a grasp on.

    This is what, the third Westerosi variant on Andrew we’ve seen? There’s at least one Andrew proper, an Endrew, now an Androw. I wonder if it could be explained in-universe as a regional accent thing.

    Androw frustrates me immensely. He wasn’t martially inclined; fair enough. He also wasn’t bookish. Okay, also fine. But… what DID he do? What did he like? He was apparently a good horseman, and okay, sure, a man could fill a lot of his life with horsemanship and horse husbandry, but he doesn’t seem to have done that. He doesn’t seem at all outdoorsy, a huntsman or falconer, either. Nor was he a big partier, enjoying booze and food Robert Baratheon style.

    What the hell did he spend his time doing? At the end of his life he indicates he wanted to have a voice in public policy, I guess, but dude, if you wanted to do that maybe you shouldn’t have been so pig-ignorant.

    And once you read that in light of what eventually happens to her relationship with Rhaena, it makes you wonder about Rhaena’s extreme lack of communications skills, because it’s not like she was quiet about her character or her plans.

    Rhaena seems like she often expected the people around her to kind of just… work out in her favor. And when they don’t, she doesn’t have much of a backup plan.

    Like the thing with Marq Farman. She has NO backup plan when he dies and his heir, who openly hated her, assumes the Lordship. She just bails.

    Rhaena spends a lot of her life running from the consequences of what little stability she managed to claw out for herself imploding around her. With Elissa… I dunno. It seems like she decided Elissa wasn’t ever going to leave, because she didn’t want her to leave, and that was that. She could have tried keeping her imprisoned, but that would have defeated the point of keeping her around.

    Although I don’t think it was forseeable that Elissa would bail with some eggs. Daenerys owes her a massive debt, doesn’t she?

    The nobility of Westeros will accept a warrior-poet or warrior-scholar as their monarch, but not the suffixes on their own.

    Boy, ain’t this the truth.

    The Westerosi nobility hate philosopher-kings. They’ll grudgingly accept one, if the weight of law and tradition is behind one (Baelor the Blessed, Aerys I) but they will not like it and they’ll start looking around for someone who conforms more to their prejudices to cleave to. Daeron the Young Dragon was one of the three or four worst Targaryen monarchs ever (Top spot is Maegor: rounding out the top three is any two of Baelor, Daeron I, Aerys II, or Aegon II depending on how you’re weighting) but he’s a fucking hero to every young nobleman with a sword because of his goddamn book about how he got tens of thousands of people killed while failing to kill the perennial Targaryen White Whale that was Dorne. Meanwhile, Viserys II spent his entire life actually running the country his damaged relatives were either too fucked up or incompetent to run, and is barely a footnote.

    And then we’ve got Daeron II, the Good, whose noblemen couldn’t WAIT to betray him for Daemon Blackfyre because Daeron didn’t have rock-hard abs.

    To be fair, most of the Targaryen philosopher-kings have not been particularly good at it. Daeron II was an above-average monarch; you don’t get “the Good” for being shitty at your job. But the others… Aenys was weak-willed and indecisive, Baelor was mad, Aerys I incompetent.

    (Which fits the whole Exceptionalist thing later on.)

    What’s funny about this is that… by my conservative count, there were at least four serious, concerted attempts to break the Targaryen incest habit; the revolt of the Faithful after Aegon I died, Rogar and Alyssa vs. Jaehaerys and Alysanne, Baelor I, and Aegon V.

    And NONE of them worked, not even the ones with ruling monarchs behind them.

    Maybe the Targaryens really ARE exceptional.

    On the other hand, it’s not plausible that the books Martin describes would exist in the world he’s created.

    I’ve got an explanation for this: it’s Gyldayn’s provincialism showing.

    Oldtown may not be the most cultured city in the world, but it is almost certainly the most literate. Its populace probably has a literacy rate that approaches something we’d call adjacent to universal, and of course the maesters pay good gold for books they don’t already have. (Which has almost certainly led to a few scribes constructing a “hitherto unknown variant” of a well-known text, written by some dude from the Free Cities they totally made up, to try and get paid.)

    I absolutely believe that in Oldtown, and perhaps among the large, populous towns of the southwest Reach and at the highly romantic and chivalric court of Highgarden, a book like Sins of the Flesh absolutely has many different variants and copies that are passed hand to hand among, hehm hehm, gentlemen of a discerning nature.

    But Oldtown isn’t the realm as a whole, and Gyldayn, like many of the Archmaesters, may have the same kind of provincial attitude towards it that you sometimes get from Parisians, New Yorkers, Londoners, etc.

    It’s the best I can do to make it fit, anyway.

    I also wonder why GRRM doesn’t have Rogar die in battle against the Vulture King. Feels like his story is done in this chapter, but he keeps hanging around.

    That’s for Jaehaery’s benefit, so he can do some more conciliatin’. Gotta really own that sobriquet.

    • Re: Barth. Maybe that’s it, that the Citadel is hugely jealous that one of the greatest scholars in Westerosi history wasn’t one of them.

      Re: Androw. Yeah, he’s a bit of a cipher, having no accomplishments nor any interests. (Indeed I think his life would have gone better if he’d had some sort of hobby.) As we see in the comments, there’s no consensus as to whether he’s a bonafide psychopath or a victim of abuse, or anywhere in-between.

      Re: Rhaena. Agreed. Part of me thinks that Rhaena wanted everything to be like how it was when she was young and had all her favourites around her and everything went her way.

      Re: philosopher kings. Yeah, our conversations on the subject were on my mind when I read this.

      Re: Exceptionalism. Hah.

      Re: Caution. I could see that if there were say, dozens of copies, maybe hidden interpolated in other books, etc. It’s more the scale that bothers me.

      Re: the Vulture King. Oh, no doubt. It’s just that I don’t think Jaehaerys needed more laurels.

      • Murc says:

        Re: philosopher kings. Yeah, our conversations on the subject were on my mind when I read this.

        Yeah, I’m sorry to keep banging the drum on that so hard, but it really sticks in my craw. Especially when contrasted with how lionized Daeron the Young Dragon (who, again; one of the worst monarchs) is in-universe among much of the nobility.

  12. lluewhyn says:

    “There just aren’t enough “septons expelled from the Faith…failed students…hired quills…or mummers” to sit down and copy out whole books on hand to produce hundreds if not thousands of copies floating around that you would need to make this kind of book both widely circulating and affordable enough to find a market.”

    Just read this section last night (I’m going through the book slowly with other stuff going on IRL). This was exactly my thought as well. These have got to be awfully short and to the point books to get this kind of copying. Plus, who else but the nobility and the like could read them?

  13. scarlett45 says:

    I enjoyed The Favorite. Olivia Coleman is going to be so captivating in The Crown.

  14. […] I discussed last time, I’m less interested in his reconciliation with Rogar Baratheon. While the stage-managing is […]

  15. JG says:

    “Speaking of Alyssa, the quote about her desiring “above all to be loved, admired, and praised” really does not track with the previous chapter where she’s calling for wholesale executions.”

    Agreed. It also doesn’t fit with any of her past actions such as supporting young Aegon’s claim when it was hopeless or escaping from Dragonstone, which essentially condemned Viserys to death.

    “Rhaena as the “Queen in the West” doesn’t quite track out of her last chapter; if she’s particularly motivated by being passed over by her “baby brother” and “my own mother,” then self-exiling to Fair Isle, marrying a second son of a lesser House, and separating from both her daughters is an odd way to go about it. I suppose the idea is that she changed her mind too late, but I’d like to see the turn happen.”

    On the surface it doesn’t track but it seems to fit her character. Most people aren’t wired like Jaehaerys, who knows exactly when to be practical and when to be bold. Also people are pretty good at stewing and getting overwhelmed by past grievances. I can’t imagine her fan club helped with this either.

    “While the Jaehaerys training montage sequence is a bit 80s-tastic, it does make sense from a symbolic politics perspective. As the text points out, “King Aenys had been slighted as weak, in part because he was not the warrior.” But I think it goes further: since Jaehaerys was already a scholarly reformer type, he needed to balance out his image in order to get public acceptance for his big ideas. The nobility of Westeros will accept a warrior-poet or warrior-scholar as their monarch, but not the suffixes on their own.”

    I liked it a lot because of the Jon Snow vibes. And Jon’s birth name might be Jaehaerys…

    “This line about Alysanne Targaryen being initially overlooked because “observers at court found her of less interests than her older siblings who stood higher in the line of succession” could not be more Eleanor Roosevelt vis-a-vis Alice Roosevelt if it tried.”

    Agreed but the emphasis on her short stature and how she was overlooked by most people gives me overwhelming Dany vibes.

    “I’m also not entirely sure about devoting this many pages to something that’s ultimately a non-event. At the end of the day, Coryanne’s exploits with Jaehaerys don’t really matter, since she fails in her main political task no matter which carnal version one follows. Indeed, I would have preferred it if Jaehaerys gave in but was ultimately forgiven by Alysanne – sort of a FDR/Missy LeHand and/or JFK/take-your-pick situation – because that would have at least have some thematic relevance in prefiguring the Two Quarrels and complicating Jaehaerys’ character somewhat.”

    Totally disagree here because the Jaehaerys/Alysanne relationship is ultimately nothing like the FDR/Eleanor one. The two breakdowns in the Jaehaerys/Alysanne relationship come from a very different place than the hostility between FDR and Eleanor. The Jaehaerys/Alyssa relationship is also completely dissimilar to the FDR/Sara one since Jaehaerys outmaneuvers his mom while FDR was always a weak-willed mama’s boy. Now of course having a dragon helps when you tell your mom to go fuck herself.

    Also, having Jaehaerys fall for the honeypot undermines his characterization. The whole point of this episode is that, while he acted suddenly, he did not act rashly. Getting seduced shows that he is actually a rash actor and his mom and Roger were right about him not knowing what’s best for him in his love life.

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