Thursday 30 June 2011

A Song of Ice and Fire So Far Part 4: Swords and Crows

This post concludes my look at the story so far for A Song of Ice and Fire, ahead of the arrival of the fifth book.

Note, if you are watching the TV series alone this article contains spoilers of such magnitude that your eyeballs will be sucked out of their sockets and catapulted into low orbit where they will hit the International Space Station and make it explode. Do not read on unless you want the entire future outcome of the TV series spoiled for you in detail.

A Storm of Swords
The newly-allied Lannisters and Tyrells have smashed Stannis Baratheon's attempt to take the Iron Throne, destroying much of his army and navy in a huge battle on the Blackwater Rush and the surrounding shores. King Joffrey Baratheon gave thanks to his new allies and agreed to uphold the bargain brokered by Littlefinger: he set aside Sansa Stark and became betrothed to marry Margaery Tyrell instead. Curious as to what sort of man Joffrey was, Margaery's grandmother, the noted 'Queen of Thorns', interrogated Sansa closely on Joffrey's character and nature, and was not impressed by what she had heard.

At the Fist of the First Men, the gathered strength of the Night's Watch waited for word from Qhorin Halfhand and Jon Snow, but they came under attack by both wights and the Others themselves. Samwell Tarly, to his own shock, killed an Other with an obsidian blade, part of a cache found under the Fist. The Night's Watch retreated to Craster's Keep, home of the wildling Craster who was a friend of the Watch, but there some of Lord Commander Mormont's men turned on him and murdered him. Craster was also killed. Chaos erupted and the Watch scattered. Sam escaped with one of Craster's daughter-wives, Gilly, and they fled south to the Wall. News of the disasters reached Castle Black, and Maester Aemon sent out ravens to the various kings begging for aid.

The original UK cover of the one-volume Storm of Swords (and Part 1 of the two-volume edition), art by Jim Burns.

Meanwhile, Catelyn Stark had decided to unilaterally release Jaime Lannister from imprisonment in Riverrun in return for Jaime ensuring that Arya and Sansa were returned to her, banking on Brienne of Tarth to escort Jaime to King's Landing and her daughters back. However, Cat's actions angered her brother, Edmure, who sent men to recapture Jaime. Jaime and Brienne escaped, sinking one of the riverboats pursuing them, but were apprehended by the Brave Companions, sellswords who had served Lord Tywin Lannister who had gone over to the Starks. The leader of the Companions, Vargo Hoat, cut off Jaime's sword hand on a whim and made Brienne fight a bear for his amusement, though Jaime intervened and, even one-handed, killed the bear. At Harrenhal, Lord Roose Bolton made clear his displeasure at Hoat's actions. Jaime was treated most courteously by Lord Roose, who had sent a large number of troops south-east to sack Duskendale, a bold but foolish move due to the proximity of King's Landing and the large Tyrell and Lannister armies. Roose allowed Jaime and Brienne to return to King's Landing, escorted by Qyburn, a maester of dubious repute. Before departing, Jaime asked Roose to pass on his regards to Robb Stark.

Returning to Riverrun from their campaign in the Westerlands, Robb Stark and Brynden Tully expressed their displeasure to Edmure. Edmure was supposed to allow the Lannister armies to pursue Robb and fall into a trap which would have either destroyed them or left them too far west to aid King's Landing when Stannis attacked. Edmure was angry in turn, as no-one bothered to fill him on the plan. The news of Winterfell's destruction - which Ramsay Snow had blamed on Theon Greyjoy, who was now his prisoner at the Dreadfort - filled the northmen with disquiet and Robb reluctantly agreed that he needs to abandon the military campaign in the south. He must withdraw to the North, retake Winterfell and make further plans from there. Unfortunately, this meant abandoning the Riverlands to the Tyrells and Lannisters. The river lords vowed to fight on in his name. Unfortunately, Robb's plan has been complicated by an unforeseen event: after being wounded in the assault on the Crag, the stronghold of House Westerling, and hearing of the deaths of his two brothers, Robb was 'comforted' by Jeyne Westerling. Robb married her out of honour, but in doing so broke his marriage contract with the Freys. As a result, House Frey had withdrawn its troops back to the Twins. In addition, Robb was forced to execute Lord Rickard Karstark for plotting to murder Jaime Lannister whilst he was a prison, losing him the support of the Karstarks as well.

The original art of the second volume of A Storm of Swords, by Jim Burns.

Arya Stark and her friends, fleeing north from Harrenhal, ran into the Brotherhood Without Banners, a group of 'outlaw' knights and fighters led by Lord Beric Dondarrion and the red priest, Thoros of Myr, as well as containing some of Lord Eddard's household guard from Winterfell. They were sent out by Eddard Stark to arrest Gregor Clegane before the Lannister coup. Bereft of orders from Eddard and not recognising the authority of Joffrey, they had fought against the Lannister armies in the Riverlands as an independent unit, mostly concerned with protecting the smallfolk. The Brotherhood welcomed Arya into their ranks, but were reluctant to go to Riverrun and hand her over to Catelyn and Robb, not wanting to officially ally with Robb's forces. They also encountered Sandor Clegane, who had fled the Blackwater in terror. They prepared to execute Sandor for his own crimes, but he demanded trial by battle and killed Beric. Astonishingly, Thoros was able to resurrect Beric using magic, though Beric seemed more distant and withdrawn afterwards. They let Sandor go. After marching around the Riverlands a few times, Arya got tired and broke off to head to Riverrun by herself, but Sandor Clegane caught her. He decided to take her home himself and collect a reward.

At Dragonstone, Stannis Baratheon was in a grim mood. The storm lords had gone over to Joffrey, leaving him with only a handful of troops and a few ships left. Any realistic chance of him claiming the Iron Throne appeared to be gone, and it was only a matter of time before the Tyrells and Lannisters assaulted Dragonstone and Storm's End directly. He debated strategy with Davos Seaworth, whom he had made his new Hand, and with the red priest Melisandre, to no avail. Davos decided to learn how to read, helped by Stannis' maester, whilst Melisandre drew some of Stannis' blood and vowed that she could curse Robb Stark, Balon Greyjoy and Joffrey Baratheon to ensure their deaths.

The current UK cover for A Storm of Swords, Part 1, art by Larry Rostant.

Robb Stark's host joined with Roose Bolton's army. Robb was aghast to hear that a large number of Stark troops were killed in a futile assault on Duskendale, which Roose blamed firmly on the impudence of their commanders. Robb noted that the ironborn had taken Moat Cailin, blocking the way back into the North, and that Moat Cailin had never fallen to assault from the south. He decided to send Lady Maege Mormont and Lord Galbart Glover into the Neck to find Greywater Watch, the stronghold of Lord Howland Reed, his father's best friend, and use the Reeds' knowledge to outflank the castle. He also needed to win back the Freys, which he planned to do by offering Edmure's hand in marriage in place of his own and making an abject apology to Lord Walder. Maege and Galbart depart, and the remainder of Robb's host headed for the Twins.

Walder Frey accepted Robb's proposal and a great feast was held to celebrate the wedding. However, during the ceremony Catelyn noticed that the Bolton and Frey men had secretly armed and armoured themselves. She tried to warn Robb, but the Boltons and Freys turned on the Stark forces and butchered them, though not without sustaining some losses themselves. Roose Bolton sent Robb Stark regards from Jaime Lannister and stabbed him through the chest, killing him. Catelyn took a hostage, an idiot grandson of Walder Frey's, and trid to bargain to no avail. She killed her hostage and was killed in turn by the Frey troops.

The current UK cover art for Part 2, by Larry Rostant.

News of the 'Red Wedding' began to spread and Sandor and Arya turned away from the Twins and fled down the Trident. They found several troops loyal to Sandor's brother Gregor in an inn and kill them, but Sandor was badly wounded. Arya harshly left him to die and made her way down the river to the mouth, where she found a Braavosi merchant ship at anchor. Using a phrase and a coin given to her by Jaqen H'Ghar, Arya was able to convince the crew to take her to safety beyond the Narrow Sea.

At Pyke on the Iron Islands, Balon Greyjoy was swept off a rope bridge by a high wave, killing him. The next day, his brother Euron, the infamous pirate and reaver known as the Crow's Eye, sailed into Lordsport, sat himself down in Pyke Castle and declared himself King in his brother's place. Thus act pulled the Greyjoys back from their various conquests: Asha Greyjoy returning from Deepwood Motte and Victarion back from Moat Cailin. To avoid the threat of an internal feud over the Driftwood Chair, the priest Aeron Greyjoy called a kingsmoot to decide on the new king. To Aeron's horror, the godless Euron won the moot and was confirmed as king after producing a horn from Valyria that he claimed could control dragons. Victarion reluctantly sweared loyalty to Euron, whilst Asha fled back to Deepwood Motte with her loyal retainers and Aeron began gathering opponents to Euron unhappy with his lack of piety to the Drowned God.

The original American cover of Swords, art by Stephen Youll.

At King's Landing, news of Robb and Balon's deaths reached the capital and was met with jubilation, with the expectation of total victory now close at hand. Lord Tywin took over as Hand of the King from the wounded Tyrion, whom he now married to Sansa Stark to give the Lannisters a claim to Winterfell. However, Tyrion, feeling sorry for the captive Sansa, refused to consummate the marriage. The rest of the castle rapidly learned of this and he became a laughing stock. In an attempt to win the Vale to their cause, Littlefinger volunteered to marry Lysa Arryn, who had been infatuated with him since childhood, and set out for the Eyrie. Shortly after this Oberyn Martell, the Red Viper, arrived at the city with a number of Dornish retainers to take up the small council seat promised to House Martell by Tyrion, and also to claim Gregor Clegane's head for the rape and murder of his sister Elia during the Sack of King's Landing.

The marriage of Joffrey and Margaery was held, and Joffrey and Tyrion clashed several times during the feast. Joffrey suddenly began choking and then died, apparently the result of poison. Cersei had Tyrion seized and charged with the crime, whilst Sansa, aided by Littlefinger (who had secretly remained behind whilst everyone thought he was in the Vale), escapes the city by ship. Tyrion considered asking for trial by battle, but knew that Cersei would name Gregor her champion, a prospect that scared off most potential champions, including Bronn. Oberyn Martell had no such fears, however, and in a fierce battle he was almost victorious, using a poisoned spear to badly wound Gregor. Gregor was still able to kill Oberyn by smashing his skull, and Tyrion was condemned to death.

The cover of the first part of the two-volumed limited edition, with art by Charles Vess. This is the unused Meisha Merlin edition of the book; the SubPress version has the same art but different lettering.

Jaime and Brienne reached King's Landing to find the situation volatile. The Dornish were furious with Oberyn's death, whilst Tywin had to negotiate a new marriage pact for Margaery, this time with Joffrey's young brother Tommen. In addition, Ser Loras Tyrell believed that Brienne was responsible for Renly's death, and ordered her locked up. Jaime found both Sansa and Arya missing, so was unable to send them back to Catelyn, which of course was moot once news of her death was known. Fed up with being told what to do by his father and sister, Jaime resolved to be the best Lord Commander of the Kingsguard he could be. To start with, he convinced Loras to release Brienne. Giving her the reforged Valyrian steel sword Oathkeeper (reforged from Eddard's own sword, Ice), Jaime asked her to travel the Riverlands, find Arya and Sansa and get them to safety, somewhere.

On Dragonstone, Davos Seaworth, fearing that Melisandre would demand the life of King Robert's bastard son Edric Storm to fuel her magic, sent Edric away in secret. He then took Aemon's letter from the Night's Watch to Stannis and Melisandre and read it to them. Melisandre, who believed a great war was raging between R'hllor, Lord of Light, and the Great Other, the god of dark and cold, realised that the struggle had already begun beyond the Wall. She convinced Stannis to take ship for Eastwatch-by-the-Sea with all his remaining strength. His remaining five thousand men were not enough to continue his claim for the throne in the south, but could make all the difference on the Wall.

Jon Snow, a captive of the wildlings, was taken by Mance Rayder, the King Beyond the Wall, and convinced him of his newfound loyalty. Rayder in turn revealed that the wildling clans and tribes had been driven south by the invasion of the Others. Rayder was looking for the Horn of Winter, the legendary artifact that could bring down the Wall, though he planned to take it intact to use as a defensive fortification. To this end, he ordered Jon and a group of wildlings to scale the Wall, loop round and take the almost-unmanned Castle Black from the south and allow the wildlings through. However, once over the Wall, Jon fled back to Castle Black and raised the small garrison, organising a defence that saw most of the raiding party killed, including his lover Ygritte. Jon began preparing defenses against the main wildling assault, aided by the survivors of the massacre on the Fist of the First Men who were trickling back in.

Bran Stark, fleeing the sack of Winterfell, headed north with his loyal servant Hodor and the two children of Howland Reed, Meera and Jojen. Jojen had the 'greensight' and determined that Bran must go north of the Wall and find the three-eyed crow who had spoken to him in his dreams. They reached the Wall at the castle known as the Nightfort but could find no way through until Samwell Tarly and Gilly came through the gate. They had been escorted to the Nightfort by a strange warrior named Coldhands, who was expecting Bran and his friends. Samwell and Gilly returned to Castle Black, having agreed not to speak of the incident, whilst the enigmatic Coldhands led Bran north.

The cover of the second volume of the Subterranean Press limited edition, art by Charles Vess.

The wildlings assaulted the Wall in force, using giants, mammoths, siege weapons and battering rams. Despite some minor successes, they were halted by Jon's defenses. Jon's work was nearly undone when Alliser Thorne and Janos Slynt arrived from King's Landing and had him arrested for the alleged murder of Qhorin Halfhand. They sent him out as a suicidal assassin to kill Mance Rayder under a flag of true, but instead the wildling army was routed by the arrival of Stannis' five thousand troops. Mance Rayder was captured and some of his commanders agreed to bend the knee to Stannis. The Night's Watch held its vote for a new Lord Commander and, thanks to some negotiations carried out by Samwell Tarly, Jon Snow was elected Lord Commander, to the utter fury of Thorne and Slynt. Stannis offered to legitimise Jon and make him Lord of Winterfell, but Jon refused.

In the far east, Daenerys Targaryen was returning to Pentos from Qarth on a ship arranged by Magister Illyrio. However, Ser Jorah Mormont convinced her to sail into Slaver's Bay and try to buy an army of Unsullied, the famous warrior-eunuchs of Astapor. Sickened by the misery of the slave trade she saw, Daenerys unleashed her dragons to kill the slave-masters of the city and freed all of the slaves. Aware that two other great slave cities lie on the coast, she took her followers to Yunkai and forced them to free their slaves as well, though the city's rulers remained in command. The rulers of Meereen, the largest and greatest of the slave cities, did not prove so cooperative. She discovered that Whitebeard was really Ser Barristan Selmy and that Ser Jorah had been sending intelligence back to King's Landing as late as Qarth. To make amends, they led a suicidal mission into Meereen via the sewers and were able to open the gates and allow her army to enter the city. Daenerys took control of Meereen, but learned that the council of rulers she'd left in Astapor had been overthrown by a tyrant, Cleon the Great, who had vowed to rule in her name. Aware that the same thing could happen to Meereen, she decided against pressing on immediately to Westeros. Instead she would stay and rule, and learn how to become a queen.

In King's Landing, Jaime and Varys released Tyrion from his prison cell and agreed to help him escape. However, on the way through a secret passage Tyrion discovered the tunnel connected to his father's quarters in the Tower of the Hand. There, he discovered that his father had been sleeping with a whore Tyrion himself had fallen in love with, Shae. He killed them both in a fury before leaving the city on a ship arranged by Varys.

At the Eyrie, Sansa found a new home, but also a new threat, as her aunt was insanely jealous of her even talking to Littlefinger. Sansa learned in one of her aunt's diatribes that Lysa had poisoned Jon Arryn and blamed it on the Lannisters at Littlefinger's urging. Littlefinger, aware that Lysa is going insane, pushes her thousands of feet to her death and blames it on the court singer, Marillion.

Finally, the Brotherhood Without Banners found Catelyn Stark's body in the Trident, some miles downriver from the Twins. They pulled her ashore and Beric was able to restore her to life, but only at the cost of his own existence. Catelyn, now dubbed 'Lady Stoneheart' by the Brotherhood, commanded them to seek out and murder all of those who had a hand in the Red Wedding.

The unused UK cover art for Crows, art by Jim Burns.

A Feast for Crows
In Oldtown Pate, a novice at the Citadel, was killed by an assailant who resembled Jaqen H'Ghar. Jaqen, apologetic about the need to kill him, took on Pate's face and infiltrated the Citadel for purposes unknown.

In King's Landing the funeral of Tywin Lannister was held. Cersei, the Queen Regent, asked her uncle Kevan to serve as King's Hand and Kevan agreed, but only if she would return to Casterly Rock and leave him to govern the realm. She angrily rejected his insinuation that she was an incompetent ruler. She named the biddable Harys Swyft as Hand and installed the small council with her own minions: Gyles Rosby as master of coin, the sellsail Aurane Waters as master of ships and the sinister Maester Qyburn as master of whisperers, since Varys had vanished. She also had the Tower of the Hand burned down. Qyburn had been trying to keep Gregor Clegane alive and requested Cersei's permission to carry out certain experiments on him he thought might be useful. She agreed.

The current UK edition, cover art by Larry Rostant.

At the Wall, Samwell Tarly was told by Jon that he must travel to Oldtown and become a maester at the Citadel, with a special focus on finding out as much as possible about the Others from the library there. Gilly and Maester Aemon would go with him, as would Mance Rayder's baby son, swapped with Gilly's newborn son, to protect them from Melisandre's fires. They took ship from Eastwatch and travelled to the Free City of Braavos. However, Aemon fell ill and they were stuck in the city for weeks waiting for him to recover. One of their escorts, Dareon, abandoned the mission in favour of making money and getting drunk in the taverns of the city. Samwell found a ship from the Summer Isles whose captain called in at Qarth and saw Daenerys Targaryen and her dragons there. The captain agreed to take Samwell's party on to Oldtown. Aemon realised that Daenerys must be the true Prince Who Was Promised, with her dragons as her sword of flame, and resolved to travel to Meereen to offer her counsel. Instead, he died at sea. Gilly comforted Sam and they become lovers.

In Braavos, Arya found refuge at the House of Black and White, the temple Jaqen served. She discovered that the House was dedicated to the Many-Faced God, the god of death, and served by the Faceless Men, the elite and infamous order of assassins. The priests agreed to train her in their ways, but insisted she must leave the identity of Arya Stark behind. She tried to do so, becoming Cat of the Canals, but upon finding Dareon, a deserter from the Night's Watch, her Stark heritage reasserted itself and she executed him for desertion and oathbreaking. The priests, annoyed by her lapse, took her sight away in punishment.

The unused US cover art for Crows, by Stephen Youll.

In the Riverlands, Brienne searched for Arya and Sansa to no avail. She found some assistance from Pod, Tyrion's former squire, and Ser Hyle Hunt. They found several surviving members of the Brave Companions and killed them all. At a septry in the mouth in the Trident, she learned from a holy brother that Arya Stark was seen taking ship for places unknown, and that 'the Hound' had been found nearby and had died. However, another warrior had taken on the name of the Hound, sacked a nearby town and was causing havoc in the area. Brienne found and killed him, but in turn she and her friends were captured by the Brotherhood Without Banners and taken before Lady Stoneheart, the resurrected Catelyn. Catelyn determined that Brienn had betrayed her mission by letting Jaime go free without finding her daughters first, and threatened to hang Brienne if she didn't kill Jaime. When Brienne refused, Catelyn had her hanged, but as she did so, Brienne screamed out a word.

Paxter Redwyne's fleet from the Arbor, loyal to Lord Mace Tyrell, put Dragonstone under siege whilst Mace's army did the same to Storm's End. Cersei had the High Septon, a vain man whom Tyrion had installed, assassinated, but was dismayed to find his replacement a religious martinet. However, Cersei then discovered that the new High Septon could be reasoned with and they reached a deal: the Faith of the Seven would forgive the crown its massive debt if in return Cersei would restore the warrior orders of the Faith Militant, which had been disbanded after a war lasting a dozen years against Kings Aenys, Maegor and Jaehaerys. To Pycelle's horror, Cersei agreed, and soon the Warrior's Sons and the Poor Fellows were armed once more.

At the Eyrie, the lords of the Vale confronted Littlefinger, angry with his position as Lord Protector of the Vale. One of the lords became angry and bared steel at the meeting in violation of custom, allowing Littlefinger to shame the lords of the Vale into agreeing to let him remain Lord Protector for one year. Sansa realised that Littlefinger set the whole thing up. Impressed, Littlefinger told her more of his scheme. Little Robert Arryn was sickly and weak. His heir was Harry Hardyng, a popular young knight and warrior. If Harry were to marry Sansa, that would give Sansa an army with which to retake Winterfell. With snow falling more thickly about the Eyrie, the court of the Vale removed itself to the more clement location of the Gates of the Moon, located at the base of the mountain.

The first part of the SubPress limited edition, art by Tom Canty.

Jaime Lannister rode to Riverrun with a number of men, including Ser Ilyn Payne and Ser Ronnet Connington, though he grows tired of the latter and sent him off to deliver Wylis Manderly, a former hostage now released since House Manderly has returned to the king's peace, to Maidenpool, from where he could take ship for White Harbour. At Riverrun Jaime forced Ser Brynden Tully to surrender the castle, but Brynden escaped by the river. The Freys took possession of the castle, their reward for the Red Wedding, and Edmure Tully was sent back to Casterly Rock as a captive. Jaime then saw snow falling across the Riverlands and realised, with horror for there was no time to gather another harvest, winter had arrived.

The ironborn launched a fresh campaign, invading and capturing all of the Shield Isles and raiding heavily along the coast of the Reach. King Euron summoned his brother Victarion and told him he was sending Victarion and the Iron Fleet to Slaver's Bay. There they would seize Daenerys Targaryen and her dragons using the magic horn, and bring her back to Westeros to be Euron's wife, after which he would use the dragons to conquer the entire continent. Victarion agreed, but secretly planned to betray Euron by taking Daenerys for himself. The Iron Fleet set out for Meereen.

At King's Landing, word of the ironborn attacks reached Margaery Tyrell, who angrily demanded that Cersei send help. Cersei had become increasingly tired of the Tyrells and their demands and refused to break the siege of Dragonstone. Ser Loras volunteered to take the castle. If he succeeded quickly, Cersei agreed that Paxter Redwyne's fleet could return to the west coast and fight the ironborn. Ser Loras set out and Dragonstone indeed fell, but at the cost of Ser Loras being severely wounded. Neverthless, Redwyne's fleet set out for home, as agreed.

The second part of the SubPress limited edition, art by Tom Canty.

Deciding that Margaery was an unsuitable wife for her son, Cersei set out to discredit Margaery by insinuating that she was not a virgin to the newly-powerful High Septon. The High Septon had Margaery imprisoned and examined, and it was confirmed she was indeed not a virgin (though Cersei herself noted that such a thing is not uncommon amongst young noblewomen who spend a lot of time riding horses). Cersei's plan spectacularly backfired when the High Septon puts the false accusers of Margaery to torture and discovered the plot, and so he had Cersei imprisoned as well. Mace Tyrell lifted the siege of Storm's End and raced back to the city. Cersei sent for Jaime, but he refused to return to the capital. Qyburn offered another choice: his experiments on Gregor had been completed (despite his head being sent back to Dorne to appease Prince Doran for Oberyn's death) and now a mighty champion stood ready to defend the queen in a trial by battle. However, Cersei knew that only knights of the Kingsguard could defend the royal family, and the Kingsguard were all still alive. During the chaos, Aurane Waters absconded with the newly-rebuilt Royal Fleet.

In Dorne, Princess Myrcella Baratheon, betrothed to Prince Trystane, fell into a conspiracy set in motion by Princess Arianne Martell, heir to the throne of Dorne. To avenge themselves upon the Lannisters, Arianne planned to declare Myrcella Queen of the Seven Kingdoms (by Dornish law, Myrcella would have a superior claim to the throne to Tommen), with Dorne - as yet untouched by the war - backing her. She had even convinced Myrcelle's bodyguard, Ser Arys Oakheart, a knight of the Kingsguard, to back the plan. However, the plan was discovered by Prince Doran. There was a struggle and Myrcella was injured by one of Arianne's allies, Ser Gerold Dayne, the Darkstar, whilst Ser Arys was killed by Doran's captain of the guard, Areo Hotah.

Taken back to Sunspear as a prisoner, Arianne was confronted by her father. He told her that the Martells were playing a long game designed to get revenge for the deaths of Elia and Oberyn. Arianne had been secretly promised in marriage to Viserys Targaryen (though he had not been told of the plan) since she was young. At the right time, Viserys would have crossed to Dorne with an army from the eastern continent and they would have made a play for the Iron Throne. However, Viserys' death changed all of that. As a result Arianne's brother Quentyn was now on his way to Meereen to win Daenerys' hand in marriage and bring her - and her soldiers and her dragons - back to Dorne to fulfil the plan and help them destroy the Lannisters once and for all.

Samwell and Gilly finally reached Oldtown, though the ironborn campaign had continued, with them raiding Oldtown and conquering a stretch of the Arbor as well. Samwell arrived at the Citadel and met Archmaester Marwyn, seen as a maverick by the other maesters for his interest is in the 'higher mysteries' or magic. Marwyn revealed that in the last few months the old Valyrian candles, used to help them communicate across vast distances, had suddenly started working again. When Samwell told him about Daenerys, Aemon and the Prince Who Was Promised, Marwyn realised that these events were all connected. He took ship for Meereen, telling Samwell to learn as fast and as hard as possible and get back to the Wall, where he would be needed. He commended Samwell to the care of two young students: Alleras (who is almost certainly Sarella, one of Oberyn Martell's bastard daughters, in the Citadel for purposes unknown)...and a boy named Pate.

SourcesThe novels.
The 'Dunk and Egg' prequel novellas.
The RPGs published by Guardians of Order and Green Ronin.
Information directly from George R.R. Martin collected at the So Spake Martin site on Westeros.


Davieboy said...

Thanks Wert, great job.

logankstewart said...

You said "The priests, annoyed by her lapse, took her sight away in punishment." I'm not certain the Kind Man's annoyance was the reason for this. Possibly, yes, but this "blindness" could also be a part of her training, too, perhaps? Either way, I hope it's not permanent!

Thanks for these great reviews of the first four books. They've been quite helpful.

Londo said...

A great read as always!

By the way, have you gotten hold of a copy of Dance yet?

Unknown said...

Thanks so much for these recaps. Enjoyed reading tremendously. I am saving these recaps for future reference as sometimes hard to keep track of the many story threads. Loved Part 1 as learned a lot of early years on Westeros.

Alexander Field said...

I cannot wait for book five—and for the HBO series on DVD. Thanks for the comprehensive update!

Elfy said...

Great recaps. The most complete I've seen anywhere. I'm almost finished my reread, but many will thank you for putting this together.

First Sword of Bravos said...

Great recap, its great becasue it has info from sources other than the books.

Although i would like to correct some point

Jaime did not kill the Bear single handed in the bear bit, his escort to Kings Landing intervened with some quarrels.

Jaime arrived in Kings landing to witness Tyrion's trial, and even witnessed the trial by combat between the champions.

SpaceSquid said...

Excellent as always, sir!

Am I misremembering, or is some of the Iron Islands stuff you've put in Storm actually from Feast? I thought it worth pointing out on the off chance anyone whose only gotten as far as the end of Storm happens to wander over here...

Adam Whitehead said...

The Iron Islands stuff happened chronologically halfway through STORMS, so it made more sense to move that section there.

Anonymous said...

Well, doesn't Jaime do EVERYTHING singlehandedly now?

Bill said...

Fantastic recap, Adam. I have just begun to read the prequel stories, of Dunk and Egg, and it's fascinating to see the history as a possible foreshadowing of the future. Even though I've read the series multiple times, you've picked up on a few details that had escaped current memory (such as Lysa Arryn poisoning Jon, I had forgotten that part).

Anyway, this was an amazing essay. Thank you.

Chris said...

Great summary!

- Regarding Arya's blindness: I also took it as a sign she was undertaking the next step in her initiation, the evolution being triggered by her killing someone.

- I had missed the fact that the champion Qyburn was offering must be some kind of Gregor zombie...

- Alleras/Sarella : completely missed it as well.

- To the poster above: interestingly, IIRC Pycelle has also admitted to poisoning Jon Arryn, so the poor man got double doses!

Anonymous said...

Hi, some questions: Wasn't Alleras referenced to as 'he' ?
And who would Sarella be anyway, other then a bastard daughter of Oberyn? Was the name mentioned in the series at all, and if so, what was the context?

Adam Whitehead said...

We're told in the Dornish chapters that Sarella is in Oldtown and up to something the other Sand Snakes were not privy to. Sarella is Oberyn's daughter by a Summer Islands trader, so has a distinct look.

Alleras (Sarella spelled backwards) claims to be the son of a Dornishman by a Summer Islands trader and is described as slender and comely. They're also about the same age. The Wiki of Ice and Fire expands on the possibility on their pages for 'Sarella Sand' and 'Alleras'.

Anonymous said...

Tower of the Hand has an incredibly detailed breakdown of why Alleras is almost certainly Sarella in disguise. Be warned, it is long.

dredd i knight said...

Great recap. Thanks a bunch.

Fantasist said...

Very nicely done, Adam. These proved necessary reading for me, since I was not in the mood for re-reading the entire series to be able to read the Dance.
Also I had forgotten a lot of the plot elements... anyway thanks for these summaries, they proved extremely helpful.

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for taking the time to write these recaps, Adam. Although I intend to re-read the first four books, thanks to you I will not need to do so prior to embarking on "A Dance With Dragons". Cheers:)

katakuta said...

Fantastic job man. Congrats. Ice and Fire is a huge serie and contains the most crowded characters and events (I think). and sometimes one cannot remember all of this epicness...
Great job again for all your work. Especially Part 1-2 was a delight...

Unknown said...

Great job on all of these. I was searching through the site, was a part 5 for dance of dragons ever made or is there a plan to make that pre-Winds? Now that it's been a few years I'm struggling to recall all the details :)

Thank You!

Anonymous said...

Super recap, great job!

Great to have such a detailed and yet concise summary to read before finally starting "dragons". Had forgotten so many details, and missed some others entirely.

Thank you!