This essay contains spoilers for The Winds of Winter
Storm’s End had fallen to Aegon, and with that “impregnable” coastal fortress, the young dragon now held the most strategically and symbolically important foothold in the south of Westeros. However great this victory was though, Aegon’s situation was tenuous. The Golden Company was scattered across the Stormlands, Narrow Sea and Stepstones, and a Tyrell army was descending on Storm’s End. Though secure for the moment behind the massive curtain walls of Storm’s End, Aegon, Jon Connington and the Golden Company’s hope for long-term success did not reside at Storm’s End. Their only shot at victory lay in defeating the Tyrells marching for them and developing alliances and local support in Westeros. The bitter history of the Blackfyre Rebellions had proved as much.
The Blackfyre pretenders’ inability to garner widespread support after the First Blackfyre Rebellion had led to their repeated failures. In that first rebellion, Daemon I Blackfyre and Aegor “Bittersteel” Rivers leveraged the grievances and ambitions of secondary noble houses into a broad political and military coalition. In particular, Daemon and Bittersteel brought disaffected nobles from the Reach, Dorne and Westerlands under the black dragon banner against their regional and royal overlords. Though the First Blackfyre Rebellion was ultimately unsuccessful, the coalition that the first Blackfyre pretenders assembled was instrumental to their near-success. Failed subsequent Blackfyre rebellions, like the Fourth (which had barely stumbled past its landing at Massey’s Hook) and the Fifth (which had never even reached mainland Westeros) had proved to the Golden Company that without widespread organic support, Westeros could – and would – cast them off.
The Westeros upon which Aegon and his company landed, though, was much more favorably inclined to the young dragon’s particular foreign invasion than that of his Blackfyre forebears. The mood in Westeros had turned hostile towards the ruling class long before Aegon and his band of sellsword adventurers arrived; the Lannister-Tyrell alliance, which had been Westeros’ dominant political and military power since the Battle of the Blackwater, was crumbling. Better still for the would-be king, internal dissent against Lord Mace Tyrell was growing among some of his lords bannermen.
The taking of Storm’s End had provided a foundation for Westerosi nobles to take notice of the young dragon, but Aegon desperately needed their homage and swords along with their notice. If it were to press Aegon’s claim to the Iron Throne, the Golden Company would have to do more than win the allegiance of its surviving Blackfyre allies. The Reach had proved fertile ground for Daemon I Blackfyre and Bittersteel when they rose against the Iron Throne. The Blackfyres’ ideological (and biological) successors would now turn to the Reach once again.
In early 2015, Harper Collins UK in conjunction with Waterstones, a British Book Retailer, released pictures of a letter that George RR Martin wrote to his agent Ralph Vicinanza in 1993 outlining his idea for this brand new book that he was writing entitled A Game of Thrones, the first book in an exciting new trilogy that George RR Martin was calling A Song of Ice and Fire. This early letter provided insights to George’s agent on how he could promote this new series as well as provided a plot diagram for where GRRM thought that A Game of Thrones and A Song of Ice and Fire were going.
In Episode 10: The Book That Never Was, we do a detailed analysis of this letter and the book that could have been had GRRM written A Song of Ice and Fire to follow his initial diagram. We cover the topics of:
The History of ASOIAF: How it came to be and where we are now
GRRM’s original idea of plot, counterplot and murder centered on dynastic struggle
Daenerys Targaryen: Dothraki Conqueror
The, um, interesting love triangle had in mind
Similarities and differences to the material that was published
The foreshadowings that never were: leftover lines intended to foreshadow plot points that never came to be.
Our take on the blacked out text and what it could mean for the future of A Song of Ice and Fire
As you may or may not know, Wars and Politics of Ice and Fire has its own Tumblr page (as well as its own Twitter and Facebook pages). Even more excitingly, we here at the blog have partnered with ASOIAF University to answer questions about A Song of Ice and Fire. We – that is, myself and SomethingLikeaLawyer – take the text-based questions submitted to us, write up thoughtful text-based answers, and publish these answers on the Tumblr.
So every Monday we present to you The Ravenry. We collect the questions we’ve answered during the previous week over on the Tumblr in post form, with a brief description of each, and publish it here, and link that post on Twitter and Facebook as well. We were both busy answering a whole bunch of different questions this week, from explaining the Conqueror’s Dornish letter to looking at a Stark victory on the Green Fork to – ugh, R+L=J&M. Look, we here at Wars and Politics of Ice and Fire love to asnwer your questions. We strive to provide thoughtful, researched answers to your FOR THE LOVE OF R’HLLOR THAT THEORY NEEDS TO DIE AND THEN GET REVIVED BY BLOOD MAGIC JUST SO I CAN KILL IT AGAIN.
Ser Kevan seldom “had a thought” that Lord Tywin had not had first. (AGOT, Tyrion VIII)
Ser Kevan Lannister is one of the characters for whom many ASOIAF fans have a special fondness. Whether it’s his cool epilogue chapter from A Dance with Dragons or his tart retorts against Cersei Lannister in A Feast for Crows, Kevan is viewed with some affection by fans. We also briefly glimpse his time in power and see that he works to undo many of the follies that Cersei Lannister enacted during her time in power in A Feast for Crows. Characters from Jaime Lannister to Varys to even Sansa have a relatively positive impression of Kevan Lannister. However, is this good reputation earned or not?
If you’ve read my title, you know my answer on it. Ser Kevan Lannister is a well-developed character who in true A Song of Ice and Fire fashion is not drawn as white or black. Instead, Kevan resides in the grey territory that all characters in A Song of Ice and Fire occupy. The rub comes in when we start to talk shades of grey. Many would argue that Kevan Lannister occupies a lighter of shade of grey, but I think he’s a darker shade of grey than most fans would think. This darker shade of grey manifests itself in Kevan Lannister in a form that haunts all currently-living Lannisters: the less-than-dearly departed Tywin Lannister. In the entirety of A Song of Ice and Fire, Tywin Lannister might occupy the darkest spot on GRRM’s gray spectrum. And it’s only in relation to Tywin Lannister that Ser Kevan Lannister can be evaluated.
For Kevan Lannister is nothing if not Tywin’s shadow.
Spoiler Warning & Forward: This essay contains minor spoilers for The Winds of Winter. I invite you to follow us on wordpress, facebook & twitter
In terms of mysteries in A Song of Ice and Fire, there are major ones that exist (e.g. Jon’s parentage, the true identity of Aegon VI, who wrote the Pink Letter etc), middling mysteries (e.g. Who is the Hooded Man in Winterfell?) and minor ones (What happened to Weasel?) However, there are a handful of mysteries that belie categorization. One of the more interesting ones is how Stannis Baratheon discovered the parentage of Cersei’s children. It seems like a question with a relatively straightforward answer. He figured it out on his own.
But did he actually figure this out on his own? Or did he come across this information in a different way? In part 1 of the Agents of Chaos series, we puzzled out the identity of Taena Merryweather as an agent of Varys’. In part 2, we shift our focus from Varys to Littlefinger, but our focus will be on his methods of spreading chaos, and I’ll make a plausible case that Littlefinger was responsible for Stannis discovering the parentage of Cersei’s children with a bonus section of who Littlefinger’s unwitting agents might possibly be.
A new podcast that I’ve really enjoyed listening to is Radio Westeros. Recently, they interviewed me about STANNIS BARATHEON in which I got to wax ineloquently on Stannis’ military prowess, flexibility and I got to talk a little about the blog itself! So, check it out!
“I served Lord Arryn and Lord Stark as best I could. I was saddened and horrified by their most untimely deaths.” (ACOK, Tyrion II)
Lord Varys was feared throughout the Seven Kingdoms on account of his inexplicable ability to gather any and all information. The whispers, as he called it, were the lifeblood of his work and kept nobleman and commoner alike in fear of what Varys could report to the king and his small council. And the man was effective. High and low treason was discovered and punished. The activities of ships captains, high-born ladies, great lords and mountain clansmen were all monitored by Varys through his vast intelligence network.
But despite Varys vast network of little birds, there were major intelligence failures — two of which will be the focus of this analysis.
1. Did Varys know of Jon Arryn’s poisoning, and if he did, why did he stand aside and allow it to occur?
2. More importantly for the main story, how did Varys not hear whispers of Eddard Stark’s execution?
Both of these questions have perplexed me in my current re-read. The easy answer is that Varys and his intelligence network were fallible, but in light of information from all 5 books, I think the answer is much more muddled than a simple lapse in intelligence.
I’m in the middle of another re-read of the series, and I finished A Game of Thrones about a week ago. In this re-read, I’m giving special attention to a few plot points. One of those plot-points is Roose Bolton and when he turned against Robb Stark. In popular telling, Roose Bolton turned against Robb Stark when he determined that the Stark cause was lost after the Lannister victory against Stannis Baratheon at King’s Landing. However, after re-reading the first book, I think the evidence of betrayal goes farther back in the timeline than originally thought.
Now, before I jump too far into this post, I want to make a disclaimer. I don’t think that Roose Bolton was a Lannister stooge from the get-go. I think that Roose’s turn to the Lannister side occurred around the end of A Clash of Kings. Prior to that, Roose was as much an enemy to the Lannisters as he was a traitor to the Starks as we’ll see below. That said, I believe that Roose Bolton was never loyal to Robb Stark, and he actively worked to further his and his family’s ambition from the start at the expense of the Starks.
In part 1, we examined Hoster Tully’s actions before the A Song of Ice and Fire series began. 3 years before the beginning of A Game of Thrones, Hoster Tully became bedridden with a serious illness to the stomach. Despite this infirmity, Hoster was sitting comfortably, having married his two daughters to the Starks and the Arryns. Even more than this, he had the gratitude of the sitting king, Robert Baratheon. But like the wasting disease threatening his life, trouble on the horizon threatened to erode the successes that Hoster had worked so hard to achieve.
Editorial Note: While this is primarily a command analysis of Tywin Lannister, there is a significant section dedicated to Roose Bolton towards the end. While that section in and of itself is worthy of its own post, I thought it important to place it in an analysis of Tywin as it is related to Tywin’s skill as a strategist.
Cementing the Tyrell Alliance
Tywin’s decisive victory over Stannis Baratheon did more than simply lift the siege of King’s Landing; it upended the strategic picture in Westeros. As we discussed in part 3, Tywin’s alliance with Mace Tyrell added the necessary manpower for victory over Stannis at King’s Landing, but there were more ramifications of this alliance than simple victory in the field.
First, the influx of Tyrell soldiers ensured that Tywin had a larger army than all of his enemies combined. If we start with the assumption that Tywin had around 20,000 soldiers at Harrenhal and Mace Tyrell had about 80,000 at Bitterbridge, the combined army now totalled 100,000 soldiers. More than bringing more men under his command, Tywin also inherited good commanders through his alliance. While Mace Tyrell, Lord of Highgarden, was not a good commander, some of his subordinate commanders were. Mace Tyrell’s son, Garlan Tyrell, had led the vanguard of the assault on King’s Landing. In the course of the battle, he personally killed Ser Guyard Morrigen, the commander of Stannis’s vanguard. But however good a knight Garlan was, Tywin’s greatest command inheritance from the Tyrell alliance was Randyll Tarly. Lord Tarly was a skilled warrior with several wars under his belt. During Robert’s Rebellion some 15 years previously, he was the only commander to defeat Robert Baratheon in battle at Ashford. During the Siege of King’s Landing, Randyll Tarly was given command of the center. Having both commanders was a significant windfall for Tywin Lannister.