Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Review: A Feast for Crows by George R.R. Martin

A Feast For Crows
(A Song of Ice and Fire #4)

by George R.R. Martin

Published: 2005

Synopsis(from book cover): Bloodthirsty, treacherous and cunnng, the Lannisters are in power on the Iron Throne in the name of the boy king Tommen. The war in the Seven Kingdoms has burned itself out, but in its bitter aftermaths new conflicts spark to life. The Martells of Dorne and the Starks of Winterfell seek vengeance for their dead. Euron Crow's Eye, as black a pirate as ever raised a sale, returns from the smoking ruins of Valyria to claim the Iron Isles. From the icy noth, where Others threaten the wall, apprentice Maester Samwell Tarly brings a mysterious babe in arms to the Citadel.


So assuming you've read my previous reviews I'm sure you're aware that I'm kinda in love with this series and so far have not faulted it a drop. Well hold on to your hats people, things are about to change!

A Feast for Crows begins where the previous book ended, which incidentally was my favourite book of the series so far, so I had pretty high hopes for this one. I've heard from other bloggers and friends that this book was by far the worst in the series but I was hoping they were wrong, or exaggerating or jealous of Martin's god-like storytelling abilities. Unfortunately they were right, well, to an extent. This book was by far the worst of the series, but when the four previous books have received 5 stars from me that doesn't necessarily mean much.

An epilogue from Martin at the end of the book explains that this books is merely half of what he intended to publish. When he realised the book was going to be excessive in size he decided to split it in half but struggled over whether it would be better to take the finished work, cut it in half and slap a "to be continued" at the end or to divide the characters in half and tell the complete story for half of the characters in one book and then release a second book that completed the story for the other half of characters. He decided on the latter, though I'm still debating over whether that was the right move to make or not. For instance in this book we learn that a mid-level character is dead and in the epilogue Martin says that we'll hear from that character. But will it just be telling the story that we heard in this book or does that suggest that there is more to the story and we'll find out perhaps he isn't dead or something else happened before he died which was kept from the Queen and those in King's Landing? If it's the second option then yay! But if it's the first and it plays out as it was told to the Queen then I think it'll be rather boring and something I don't care to read.

So in this book we see a Westeros that has been severely damaged by the war that has nearly petered out completely. The Northmen have died or bent their knee to the Iron throne, Stannis is at the wall but is excluded from this book, Rob is definitely dead and his resurrected mother features very little in this book (though I hope she has a place in A Dance with Dragons), Cersei is losing it and Jaime seems to have had a change of character and is actually proving to be a tough but just lord commander of the Kingsguard. Though the threat of war has been extinguished to the north the Iron men (Theon Greyjoy's family) have taken up arms and are threatening the southern realm, there are more and more outlaws and wolves (the four legged kind) roaming through the kingdom and in Dorne trouble brews.

One of my main concerns about this book was that it focused so heavily on the lagging kingdom and omitted where the action would be, i.e. the wall and with Daenerys. There is far too much focus on Queen Cersei's insane fear of opposition, desperation and utter stupidity. Seriously, she's the stupidest character in the series (in terms of intelligence) and it seems like more and more people are coming to realise that. It was interesting to watch her plot and plan and think how brilliant she was and then read a chapter from Jaime or another character which demonstrates how stupid her plans are, how transparent her schemes are and how disliked she is by everyone. I'll enjoy it greatly when she finally dies, which is such a horrible thing to say, but it's only fiction so I'm allowed to be heartless and bloodthirsty like that! Though this stuff was interesting and will serve in later books as the catalyst for the Lannister kingdom's implosion I'm sure, it did grow a little tedious to just read over and over about her little schemes and men fawning over her and her and Jaime's constant bickering. Similarly I found the travels with Brienne to be equally tedious. I never warmed to her character and now she's almost overwhelmingly obnoxious, always going on about honour and keeping oaths and freaking Jaime Lannister. Seriously Martin, just make them bang already. Though she isn't as pious as some of the other characters have become her self-righteousness is just as annoying and I'm sick of reading how ugly a maid she is.

I suppose this leads fairly well into my second complaint. Because this book only contains half the stories we've been following we also only hear from half the characters. Unfortunately these characters are some of my least favourite (Cersei and Brienne especially) and for much of the time I was desperately wondering what was happening with Jon and Stannis on the wall. What happened with Tyrion, where did he go and is Varys with him? Will he join with Dany, or plot some other war against his sister? And what about Dany, how is her endeavour going? The few characters that I did really enjoy (Arya, Samwell, Sansa etc) had chapters few and far between and are likely to go undocumented until the book after A Dance with Dragons if Martin's epilogue is still true in intent. A few new characters were introduced and held their own chapters but they were also in the minority. On the plus side A Dance with Dragons should be an absolute cracker since it'll tell the stories of the characters which hold my interest the most.

Complaints aside this was still and interesting book and equally as well written as it's predecessors. There are a few interesting story lines that have begun to be explored namely, without giving away any spoilers, the Ironborn Euron Crow's Eye and his recent trip to the depths of Valyria, what is awaiting Samwell in the Citadel and the hints of collusion and revenge mentioned in Dorne. Although these probably set up the events for A Dance with Dragons and more likely the book that will follow I feel like they could have been explored more thoroughly and earlier, seeing as the Euron Crow's Eye plot was the only one really mentioned earlier than 700 pages in. Obviously ends have to be tied for the new chapter in the tale to begin but I really do think too much emphasis was placed on it, and particularly Cersei, and a few hundred pages could have served a better story.

While the seeds for the new war/uprising/threat have been planted and the secrecy of this series has hit an all-time high I'm a little worried about beginning A Dance with Dragons and coming up against the same thing. Perhaps Martin's story would have been better served to have a 'to be continued' line at the end rather than the split it was published with but I won't know until I begin A Dance with Dragons and find out for certain. I know this review has been a bit of a downer but it was still a great book, just a let-down compared to the previous epic tales of the wars and worries of Westeros. Definitely don't give up on the series or skip this book, just be prepared for a dip in awesomeness.



3 comments:

  1. You're cruising through this series and leaving me in the dust! :P

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  2. I know Jason, i'm almost horrified at home much time I'm spending reading these books! It might be awhile before I read 'A Dance with Dragons' though because I don't really want to by it (hardcover=way too much $$) and the only friend who owns it is likely to take a looooong time with it. That's alright though, considering it'll probably be a decade before GRRM releases the next one (knowing my luck) I should probably try to drag it out!

    Thanks Lola!

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