Like, it starts out in Oldtown, and I'm like, okay, prologue, and then it takes us to Dorne, and I'm like, but I don't want to go to Dorne, and then it takes us to the Iron Islands, and I'm like, but I don't want to go to the Iron Islands, and then we're finally back in King's Landing, but we're in Cersei's head, and I'm like, dude, I totally do not want to be in Cersei's head.
Actually I do kind of enjoy Cersei's chapters, but mostly it's because she's the one character in the series that I really, really love to hate. A lot of readers/viewers seem to get the impression that she's evil but crafty, and I find that quite erroneous. From the beginning we've seen major hints about her incompetence at leadership, and every choice she makes once she's Regent makes it clearer. She's a great big stupid selfish evil moron. All she's got going for her is her high birth and her beauty and enough arrogance to not know when to stop.
And, of course, the willingness to squeeze as much as she can out of the high birth and beauty. If there's anything to be admired about her, it's got to be her ambition, and her skill at manipulating the weak. That leads me to the character I'm really talking about: Sansa.
The Sansa/Alayne chapters of AFfC are, in my opinion, the best parts of the book. For most of the series, her transformation has been slow and subtle, but here we see her blossoming into her full potential, and there's no way of knowing yet if that's going to be a good thing. Like Cersei, she's learning to use what gifts she has, but unlike Cersei, she's sharp and observant, and she could end up being extremely dangerous in her own right. But with no one left who really cares about her and Littlefinger pulling her strings, a danger to whom?
There's a lot that frustrates me about Sansa, mostly stemming from her beginnings and how hard it was to watch her simpering maiden stage. We know she's changed, but she herself doesn't seem to know or care exactly how bad that stage was, or look back on her actions with regret. I kept waiting for her to realize that Lady's death, and her father's, were in part her own fault, but she never makes the connection. I'm willing to chalk it up to trauma: she's spent the last few years focused on her own survival, and guilt could only destroy her, but that's the seed of losing herself and becoming what others want her to be.
It could be argued, of course, that she's always tried to be what others wanted her to be, but for the life that she was born into, that was really the best course she could take. She had a good mother and father, but they knew that her fate would eventually be marriage, and life was going to hurt if she wasn't happy with that plan. (Take a look at Arya - if things hadn't gone terribly, terribly wrong, she'd grow up a beautiful young woman with mad swordsman skills who hated everything.) Encouraging girls to enjoy the court, their own appearance, and romantic stories made a lot of sense in the context. Sansa's part in Eddard's death was also his own part. He made her into this; what did he expect?
Even with all the life-is-a-song foolishness, though, she also had some genuinely good traits that she's not only kept but developed along the way, and those are hers and hers alone. Whenever Catelyn thinks about her, she thinks about her gentle heart, and it's true: Sansa hates seeing anyone hurt, and will take risks for them that she would never take for herself. She loves her family very deeply. Too often we see the Sansa that Arya sees; here's the one that Ned sees, from the first book after Ned gets word that Bran has woken and takes the girls to the godswood to pray:
Sansa drifted to sleep as the moon rose, Arya several hours later, curling up in the grass under Ned's cloak. All through the dark hours he kept his vigil alone. When dawn broke over the city, the dark red blooms of dragon's breath surrounded the girls where they lay. "I dreamed of Bran," Sansa had whispered to him. "I saw him smiling."
Sansa's piety interests me more and more, too. During her time at King's Landing, of course, her constant prayer was mostly a symptom of trying to escape her life, but she does believe, she prays in earnest, and she follows two religions. This is never pointed out as anything sketchy by Westerosi standards, but it's clearly rare and I'd love to see how it will affect Sansa in the future.
Apart from her loving nature, she has one more major strength which I think could put her on the throne if she keeps honing it: she's a natural diplomat. So far we've mostly seen this on the small scale, particularly with Sweetrobin in AFfC, but she's always had a knack for dealing with people. There were a few occasions when she stopped Joffrey from doing something heinous just by talking to him, and this is Joffrey we're talking about - psychopath who despises her. Everyone sees her as a meek, harmless girl - that's even how she sees herself - but that's exactly what's going to make her so potent. She'll never have to force a hand; she changes minds instead, and nobody thinks it wasn't their own idea.
In conclusion, she's awesome and I love her. I'm also really hungry and in a rush, so I'm going to leave now and if you want we can talk about Sansa Stark some more later.