Many of us have been waiting for the sixth book of George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire for quite some time. And slowly, glacially — like the encroaching cold magic of the Others — Martin reveals chapters from The Winds of Winter piece by piece to us online.
Just recently, he revealed this chapter: Alayne.
Beware: there be spoilers here.
Alayne is the pseudonym given to Sansa Stark by the clever and manipulative Petyr Baelish and, my goodness, she is definitely coming into her own. The young, naive girl from Winterfell lost most of her innocence at King’s Landing and through Lord Baelish’s “guidance” is starting to truly learn “the game of thrones.” Her dark thoughts and cynical mockery of her interior monologue, in contrast to the silken demure veil of her public persona, is a nice little treat to read.
What’s more is that Sansa — or should I say Alayne — is realizing just what the game of thrones actually is and beginning to implement it. Alayne knows it to be all about interacting with people. It is about finding out what they want, suggesting it, being polite and cordial while inserting doubt and poisonous barbs in her words, observing others, and realizing that a tool in the game — a pawn — can very well be the real enemy that they pretend to be.
Even so, Alayne still has aspects of her original personality. She still enjoys lemon cake and appreciates acts of kindness. Westeros’ betrayals and intrigues have not destroyed the core of decency and idealistic dreams that was once Sansa Stark, but she has learned how to bury them down and not let others exploit them. Now we can just wait for the time when she can turn them on Petyr Baelish.
As for Petyr Baelish himself, his own grander plans are continuing to unfold and it only occurred to me, towards the end of the chapter, that he is well aware of the fact that “winter is coming.” I mean, it’s no stretch that with his network of spies, contacts, and agents that Little Finger would have influence in the Citadel of the Maesters. While the other Kingdoms had been fighting in the War of Five Kings, he kept the Eyrie in reserve: in both its military strength and its store of … food. Certainly the Tyrells and the Lannisters have not been as frugal with their resources and, for the long winter to come, that would be a game changer. Meanwhile Lord Baelish engineers the succession of the Vale and uses his “bastard daughter” to do so.
I think what I appreciate the most are the development of these two characters. When I was first introduced to Baelish and Sansa, I had very different opinions of them. While I believed Petyr Baelish’s skill at the game of political intrigue and social engineering was second only to Varys, I didn’t really think much of Sansa herself as a character. But while both the show and the books illustrate the depths that Lord Baelish aspires to — with still more information to come — to me it seems like Sansa is only starting to apply in A Song of Ice and Fire what she has demonstrated towards the end of Game of Thrones Season Four.
Really, Alayne is becoming one of my favourite characters and I look forward to seeing her skills improve in the game: assuming, of course, that she survives. This is Westeros after all. But tell us: what do you think of this excerpt? And where do you think it will all go?