I’m on my first read-through and I am entirely in love with these books. Even if I could do without descriptions of a fourteen year old’s “wetness” every few chapters, GRRM is an excellent writer. I haven’t enjoyed fantasy this much in years.
I only just finished Reek II, so I would ask that the spoilers for the rest of the book are kept to a minimum, but goddamn this Reek subplot is fucked up.
We know horrible villains in ASOIAF. The Lannister twins (even though Jaime becomes a sympathetic figure), Euron-Crow’s Eye, the slavers of Slaver’s Bay, the Bloody Mummers. But not until Ramsey Bolton have I seen a character motivated by pure psychopathy.
The descriptions of what he does to Theon is horrifying. Beyond just the incredibly gruesome descriptions of his torture, Ramsey treats Theon like a pet, and has completely mentally broken him. He lives in fear of Ramsey, and thanks him for the fingers he did not take. It’s implied he was castrated.
He has been tortured into destroying his old identity, constant repeating his “name” to himself and disassociating from his past to avoid Ramsey’s displeasure.
Ramsey sends him on essentially an impossible mission. In a world where Moat Cailin hadn’t already fallen to the bogpeople, Theon would have been slaughtered by the ironmen. It was, just like Theon feared, a jape.
Ramsey could have taken the castle easily with his father’s army coming up from the south. Instead, he chooses to send Theon to his death, giving him only a day to take a castle. When Theon does succeed, his reward is becoming a dog, and the dinner he was promised is half a chicken thrown to the hounds.
All of this is made particularly tragic by remembering Theon’s character in the first two books; he was an attractive, cocky, always smiling boy with a cruel tongue, best friend to Robb Stark. While not exactly sympathetic in ACOK, he was an enjoyable character and I liked him.
The repressed memories of his past are tragic, remembering the glory of the Young Wolf’s army and the boy he used to be.
Not to mention, Ramsey and Roose on their own are scary as fuck. Roose was at the Red Wedding, Ramsey is a psychopath who speaks to Reek “almost tenderly, like a lover” before chaining him up like a dog.
GRRM is an amazing writer. The changes in mood between Bran’s mysterious journey north, Jon and Daenary’s more traditional fantasy stories, and this psychological horror shit are incredible. I feel like I’m reading Stephen King.