A Storm of Swords (Book 3 of A Song of Ice and Fire)
George R. R. Martin
Once again: SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS. It’s kind of impossible to talk about these books without giving away the plot.
Since I haven’t been reading the books back to back, I have a reasonable sense of the parameters of each of the ones I’ve read so far, and I remember where they begin and end. However, ASoS is the first one to have a recurrent motif of this sort; this is the one that is easy to describe: “Oh, it’s all about songs and weddings.” Of course, it also follows in the tradition of having each book a little bloodier than the one before. (I’m not sure this series can have a happy ending; sometimes I wonder if by the end, all the human characters will be dead and the zombies will rule the land.)
So here are the weddings, in no particular order:
Tyrion & Sansa
Joffrey & Margaery
Robb & Jeyne Westerling
Edmure & Roslin (The Red Wedding)
KINDA Jon & Ygritte—they don’t get married, but they do receive some social recognition as a couple, and it is largely a way for Jon to be accepted by the wildlings, just as marriage is seen in the other cases.
You also have Tywin insisting that he’s gong to set Cersei up with someone (plus her reunion with Jaime, who is seen to be cleverly avoiding marriage through his membership in the Kingsguard) and Jorah putting the moves on Daenerys (UGH).
…And some of these weddings don’t even involve murder!
So, okay. Let’s see. Skipping out on a political marriage in favor of an emotional one, as Robb does, is clearly A Bad Thing. This was really the pivotal event that led to his death and a lot of other things. (It hasn’t yet been revealed, by the end of Book 3, whether Jeyne is pregnant or not. If she’s less of a mouse than she appears, then this could be interesting…) On the other hand, there do seem to be more or less spectacular ways of successfully escaping a bad political marriage; Margaery’s wedding seems to have turned out well for her insofar as she doesn’t actually have to spend any time married to Joffrey, but this was accomplished through assassination. I guess it’s good to have relatives who are willing to help out?
But the political marriages don’t do what they’re supposed to do, either. The relationship between Jon and Ygritte is both political and emotional—and false. There’s no real alliance there and he didn’t really switch sides, though for a while I wished he would, because, frankly, I wanted them to win. If the point of the book is that monarchy is stupid and primogeniture is a joke, then the wildlings are really the heroes—and I liked them very much, with their hero-bard and their spearwives and their general values of liberty and egalitarianism.
The better example of the pure political marriage is Tyrion’s and Sansa’s. I have to admit, after I got over the initial shock (and once it became clear that Tyrion would not rape her), I had some hopes for that one. Tyrion seemed likely to stand between Sansa and the abuse of his family, and Sansa seemed likely to lend him some social legitimacy. Each of them had access to types of important information that were hidden from the other. They’re both pretty clever (and yes, I do think Sansa is smart) and they both understand that they are in the midst of a very corrupt situation to which they are both outsiders, to one degree or another. For them to function as allies, to plot together and make things a work a little better for themselves, could have been very powerful. There is no sex involved, of course, but since they know that, they could both take lovers—hey, Tyrion already had one!—and focus on the important stuff. But there wasn’t time for Sansa to adjust to this before Joffrey’s wedding and all its attendant chaos happened. I was disappointed; I wanted to see them work together and scheme and end up running the whole place. And I do think that she’d begun to adjust to the realpolitik thing; her choice of Tyrion over Lancel shows that she had at least learned something.
I’ve always liked Tyrion, and when the wedding came up, I was afraid I wouldn’t like him anymore, so when he refused the bedding, and declined to press himself on Sansa afterward, I really wanted to cheer. But then, it’s really depressing to want to cheer for that. I mean, you know, “Go Tyrion! Way to not rape that thirteen year old girl!” Greeeat.
All the jokes about Tyrion’s sexuality and his reliance on women he pays are kind of sad. He’s the only male character in the entire series who actually seems to understand the concept of sexual consent. Jon comes close, and his belief that he has invented cunnilingus is amusing, but there are moments when it becomes clear that he believes that rape=sex outside of marriage. Sigh. So while Shae’s effusions about Tyrion’s sexual prowess should be taken with a grain of salt, I suspect that they’re not totally groundless. He’s dismissed as ugly, but he’s undoubtedly a better husband or lover than most of the characters in the book.
(A sidenote on Shae: I haven’t liked her since she was all snotty about Lollys, and her betrayal didn’t surprise me at all. It’s possible, I suppose, that a person who demonstrates sneering contempt for the victim of a horrific gang rape and mocks her mental disability could also be a person who cares about Tyrion for himself and remains loyal to him once his social status has been stripped away—but it didn’t strike me as likely. I am nevertheless disturbed and upset that he killed her. And didn’t he know?)
Oh, and the Red Wedding. It all comes down to Lannisters, doesn’t it? Maybe as long as they are not involved, things at least have the theoretical potential turn out okay. Wasn’t it Tywin’s idea that Arya is now supposed to marry the Bastard of Bolton? Shudder.
In any case. I’m starting to think that Daenerys has the right idea here—consolidating her power by refusing to remarry and punishing anyone who suggests otherwise.