A Feast For Crows

February 2nd, 2006
This entry is part of 1 in the series A Song of Ice and Fire
  • A Feast For Crows

If it could be said that Jordan’s Wheel of Time established the potential modern market for massive epic fantasy series, Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series comes closest (thus far) to fulfilling that genre’s promise. The first book of the series, A Game of Thrones, impressed everyone (excepting those who require larger initial doses of frozen zombies) with it’s willingness to sacrifice major characters and allow them to suffer from failures of judgement and character. The second book, A Clash of Kings, cemented that impression and showed us that Martin could truly develop characters through these tribulations in depths that aren’t often seen in genre fiction. The third book, A Storm of Swords showed us all that there was effectively no limit to the potential character sacrifices to be made…and that even an established villain could be a sympathetic character from the right viewpoint. We waited a long time for this fourth book, A Feast for Crows, to be released, but Mr. Martin has rewarded our patience at the same time as he asks us for more… (If you consider the names of the characters from whom we have POVs to be a spoiler, there are spoilers below) This book tracks the doings of the folk of the Iron Islands, the people South of the Neck (including POVs from Brienne, Jamie, Sansa, Cersei, several people in Dorne, and a handful of others), Sam Tarly (who’s been sent on a Mission away from the Wall), and Arya. Annoyingly, Martin broke with the conventions he’d previously used (in my memory, anyway) and the chapters began to be labelled with the pseudonyms of the characters when they were “in character” for that chapter. I suppose there might be some good reasons for this, but it just felt like an odd change to occur four books into a series in which people often go by names other than their own. The Iron Islander portions were interesting for the glimpses of their culture and religion, but not terribly compelling to me; likewise with the scenes in Dorne. Brienne fleshes out reasonably well, although her thread leaves us with one of the mightiest cliffhangers in the series so far, with the other big one in this book belonging to Arya, whose chapters are otherwise some of my favorites. Cersei makes her POV debut with several chapters in this book, and stands out simply because seeing things from her perspective might actually make her more repugnant than second-hand accounts, in stark (no pun intended) contrast to the other members of her family. Sam’s thread is interesting, as are the events and characters that surround it. This is good Martin, if not quite Martin at his best. In some ways, reading this book feels like a total bonus, because Martin never intended to write it. There was, in his original plan, supposed to be this large gap of years in his character’s lives as the younger generation grows up into more capable roles and abilities the better to fulfill his overall design. Reportedly, however, as he worked on that book set after this gap in time, he kept having to return to his outline of the missing period to flesh it out and add more detail, until it occurred to him that there was almost enough material already there to make another book. The solution to Martin, then, was to tell the stories of some of his characters during that period in this book, A Feast For Crows, and to cover the rest in the next, A Dance of Dragons. What that means to us, is, this is only half the story, and we’re all going to be waiting a little bit before finding out what the characters North of the Neck (i.e. Jon, Bran, and Rickon) and across the sea (Daenerys, Tyrion) have been up to. Hopefully, Martin’s original plan and this book’s “surprise” arrival means that he already had most of that next book finished and we won’t have such a long wait in store for us. At any rate, if you’re a fan already, then you’re probably accustomed to the patience needed to enjoy this genre’s stop-and-go pace, and this book is highly recommended unless you just can’t stand a cliffhanger.

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