The next day, several more lords visit and propose themselves as suitors to Lady Hornwood. Rodrik, Luwin, and Bran discuss what should be done. They do not see an easy solution, though Luwin wonders if Bran’s idea about letting Ramsay Bolton become the heir might be best. Another visitor brings word of Stannis’s letter and the incestuous affair between Cersei and Jaime Lannister. This news shocks Bran into remembering that he did not fall from Winterfell’s walls, but was pushed by Jaime.

Analysis

This section of A Clash of Kings moves between all three of the novel’s main plot lines—the civil war in Westeros, the mysterious events north of the Wall, and, for the first time, the action across the narrow sea, where Daenerys Targaryen has brought dragons back into the world. These three stories may initially appear to be only distantly related to one another, but they share strong thematic connections. Specifically, each involves one or more characters coming of age and learning to be a leader. In Westeros, Bran Stark finds himself in charge of Winterfell though he is not even a teenager yet, while his older brother Robb finds himself at the head of an army and bearing the title King of the North. Jon Snow, meanwhile, is becoming a leader in his own right among his peers in the Night's Watch. Finally, the young Daenerys Targaryen is suddenly leading a khalasar through a foreign land.

As is the case with both Robb and Bran, Daenerys finds herself in a leadership role at an incredibly young age. Just a teenager, she has responsibility for the remains of her khalasar. But her situation also differs from theirs in significant ways. Whereas Robb and Bran have authority because of their family name, Daenerys’s khalasar follows her out of a mix of personal loyalty and awe: not only could Daenerys not be killed or maimed by fire, but she has also brought three dragons into the world. As not a single dragon has been seen for centuries, Daenerys has an almost supernatural aura about her, and the end of her chapter makes clear that her dragons are going to be at the center of her development.

Notably, Daenerys, Jon, and Arya all move through desolate landscapes, where homes, villages, towns, and even an entire city have been abandoned. The novel presents each of these abandoned landscapes in a slightly different way: the area around God’s Eye has been abandoned because of war, while the land Daenerys crosses is empty because it is environmentally inhospitable and the villages north of the Wall have emptied for reasons that remain mysterious. Despite these differences, each character encounters the same thing, the absence of civilization. Whether from war, natural causes, or forces unknown, civilization has vanished from these places. In these chapters, the novel shows how tenuous social life is and how easily it can be destroyed. It also sets an ominous tone that suggests the characters will face greater dangers ahead.

Arya’s chapter reveals the complete breakdown of the old social order in Westeros, but it also shows Arya's own resourcefulness and strong sense of morality. Where once the men of the Night’s Watch were respected by everyone and treated with generosity, now they must move furtively across the war-torn landscape, trying to avoid notice by the rampaging war parties. The lack of social order is evident in Ser Amory Lorch's decision to attack the party even knowing Yoren is with the Night's Watch. It suggests law and order have deteriorated so much that Lorch knows there will be no consequences to his actions. There is no force to arrest him or court to punish him. That he attacks a party of mostly children and teens only serves to emphasize the lack of moral order in Westeros. Arya holds her own against the soldiers as she depends on what little training she's received. More notably, however, despite the dangers of her situation she retains enough conscience to save the orphaned girl and release the prisoners, who would have otherwise burned to death. The contrast between Arya's actions and those of the Lannister men makes her seem all the more noble and moral.

We also see the division between Tyrion and Cersei deepening in this section, and the conflict emphasizes the difference in their natures. Cersei wants to take a hard line against Stannis’s letter revealing her and Jaime's incest, burning the copies and punishing anyone who talks of it. Tyrion disagrees with her, setting up another conflict between the two. He thinks that Cersei’s plan will only convince people that Stannis tells the truth. Their respective approaches to the situation reveal a great deal about their characters. Cersei acts out of pride and passion, but Tyrion acts pragmatically. He recognizes the truth of Stannis’s accusation. Rather than try to hide it, he seeks to control the damage it can cause. This difference in approaches suggests that the struggle between Tyrion and Cersei will not be a short or simple one, as they approach the world from very different points of view.