I haven't felt like diving into the next book quite yet. I'm still taking stock of the situation the world in the novels finds itself in after the third book.
Arguably the biggest mover and shaker in the world of Westeros is the Hand of the King.
- Eddard Stark, as hand, made the decision to punish The Mountain and his men for their raiding, and send out Lord Beric and many of his own men to bring them to justice. This felt inconsequential later when war broke out, but it turns out that those men are still out there, fighting.
- Tyrion Lannister was a much smarter Hand, and kept very careful track of who in the King's court was a pawn of the Queen, and who was working for Littlefinger, and who would likely betray him. This certainly kept him alive, and saved King's Landing long enough for help to arrive.
- Tywin Lannister was probably the smartest man in Westeros, and his moves and counter-moves won him the war when he was the Hand. His strength, and perhaps his weakness as well, is his utilitarianism. For him, the lives of individuals are not important if it helps the overall big picture. That's how he justifies individual monstrous decisions against certain people. And yet, this disregard for individuals ends up being his downfall. It makes him a master tactician for the big picture, but it also generates a lot of animosity from individuals.
I wonder who will be Hand of the King in the next novel? The likely choice is Cersei. She hasn't shown herself to be all that smart in her decision-making thus far. I fear Westeros might be in pretty bad hands now. Tywin cared about Casterly Rock first, Westeros second. Cersei, so far, seems to care about Cersei first. That doesn't inspire confidence. I think she will make a terrible Hand if it is her.
There was one other Hand: Lord Stannis' Hand was Davos, the Onion Knight. He reminds me a lot of Eddard Stark. Not a master tactician, but he sticks to honor and chivalry and Doing The Right Thing. That got Ned Stark killed, but whether Davos can stick to his principles and stay alive, we shall see.
So take stock, here's the status of all the major characters at the end of
Storm of Swords
- Riverrun is in the hands of Blackfish, probably out of the picture as far as big picture concerns.
- The land between Riverrun and the Twins and Kings Landing is still in flux, with Lady Catelyn and Lord Beric being brought back to life by the red priest, leading a rebellion there.
- Bran and Hodor and his two kick ass frog companions have made it beyond The Wall thanks to Sam. They are still searching for the three eyed crow North of the Wall.
- Poor Sansa is in the hands of Littlefinger, who now controls the Eyrie and is also officially Lord of Harrenhal as well. With Lysa dead, he might soon become a bigger player. I doubt if Sansa will remain a maid much longer, even though she's wedded to Tyrion.
- Tyrion has probably been shipped out of King's Landing after he murdered Shae and Tywin. There was talk of shipping him east across the Narrow Sea.
- Jamie has one hand, and is head of the Kingsguard. He set Brienne on the mission to find Sansa, but I have no idea how she would do that, given how few people know what happened to her.
- Tywin, before his death, had ordered the Maester to somehow save The Mountain, who was severely poisoned with his fight against the Red Viper of Dorne. His hope was that if he delivers them the Mountain alive, and weds Cersei to the Red Viper's brother, the Prince of Dorne, it might mean peace can be maintained.
- Tormen, the new King after his elder brother's death, is the young King, and is likely now going to marry the same lady who married Renly, and then Joffrey, so that this alliance with Highgarden can be maintained. Meanwhile, the Queen of Thorns, his new Grandmother-in-Law, is the one that killed his brother.
- Arya's epic journey continues. The Hound is dead, and she travels by herself, but her coin has helped her convince the trading captain to give her a ride to the destination of her choosing. She can decide to go to the Eyrie, or the Wall, or perhaps try to go back to Winterfell.
- Theon is likely dead. Last we saw, Reek, who was really the Bastard of Lord Bolton, had lay waste to Winterfell and likely killed Theon or captured him.
- Lord of Pyke was dead, and his throne was contested by his brother and his daughter last we heard in Clash of Kings. Storm of Swords never revisited this part of Westeros as none of the characters we were following went there.
- Sam had helped broker a deal that made Jon Snow the Lord Commander of the black brotherhood, watching over the walls. That means he will turn down the deal offered by King Stannis to become Lord of Winterfell. But this is the true battle in the fight between Light and Darkness. Stannis has proposed a peace offering with the King Beyond the Wall, to settle all their people in the Gift, the area north of Winterfell, but below the wall. In return, all these wildlings could be recruited to man the Wall, and keep the darkness at bay. Jon Snow seemed to agree with this plan. We shall see if all parties agree now that he's the Commander.
- And finally, across the Narrow Sea on the Unseen Continent (I love that none of the books ever show more than a small portion of this land, and you have to use your imagination), Danyrus (sp?) has finally decided to stop marching. After she freed the first two slave cities, she found out in Mereen that the first city she left behind has left horrible consequences for the people. She doesn't want that to happen again, so she's actually going to stop and actually govern. It's unclear if the two other betrayals she will suffer (for Gold and for Love) have come to pass yet or not. She was very upset that Ser Jorah lied to her, and cast him out of her city. But she kept Barriston the Bold by her side.
Phew. Wow, that's a lot of characters, and a lot of moving pieces. And GRRM always introduces new characters in each novel as well, and new points of view from which to follow the story. Thinking back, I guess I've waited about 14 years to read the next chapter in this tale. It's about time to get to it.