A Feast for Crows
Sure, I’m a late-comer to George R.R. Martin’s Song of Fire and Ice saga, and my interest was entirely fueled by the HBO Game of Thrones series, but I’ve finally had a chance to read the books and just finished the fourth title, A Feast for Crows. I only purchased the nice paperback-set of the first four books, so I haven’t had a chance to read the fifth title, but at the moment I’m feeling some major let-down for the series.
Without revealing all-important spoilers, the action takes a serious nose-dive after the events of A Storm of Swords, novel # 3, and hits a patch of self-indulgent malaise.
My chief problems with this book are its lack of direction in regard to the novels that came before it and the author’s choice of which characters to focus upon in these nearly-thousand pages.
If you care to not learn any events of the third book and beyond, stop now. As Vargo Hoat, the Goat, would say, “SPOILERTH AHEAD.”
A Storm of Swords is exactly that – let no man say that Mr. Martin does not accurately describe his novels – and its action is hard, real, and visceral. A Feast for Crows does not pick that up, but lackadaisically strolls through the after-math of its predecessor.
To take an example: the events of Brienne of Tarth’s story arc sees her charged with returning the Kingslayer-Jaime Lannister back to his kin at King’s Landing, but is set upon the road by outlaws, captured, rescued, taken hostage again once she reaches her destination, and eventually released by Jaime out of respect, nay, admiration. Next book: she self-appoints herself in thea search for the missing Stark girls, namely Sansa, and explores two red herrings before ultimately getting cliff-hanged by the author.
I have no problems with Brienne of Tarth as a character, I like her valiance, her attitudes, and I like her naivety. She gets dumped on by the world for her outward appearance in nearly every scene and perseveres on like an automaton of righteousness.
But why did I have to read nearly a fifth of this book to follow her luckless & fruitless searches when I knew, we all knew, that her search was folly because we could see that from the viewpoints of TWO other characters in the book? I found myself skipping paragraphs to get through Brienne chapters over and over again, just so I could escape the monotony of her hopeless quest. Really, some quick erasure of part of her quest could have been taken care of at the editor’s desk, especially when Martin is so very fond of flinging various characters to their doom willy-nilly. I’ve learned quickly that travelling companions, however much text and space they fill in his chapters, are quick to fall like wheat before the scythe.
The other problem, and this may be a more a dilemma of personal preference , is that none of the characters in this novel were the ones I cared about, the ones I really wanted to follow in the book. The majority of the book is Cersei Lannister being political, Jaime Lannister adjusting to life as the Head of the Kingsguard (or avoiding Cersei), Brienne failing at her quest, or poor, fat Samwell Tarly of the Night’s Watch telling us what it’s like to be on a ship. Ad(d) nauseum.
I had a personal bet with a good friend who claimed to me, as I watched the first season of Game of Thrones on DVD & having read no books yet, by the end of the published five novels I would come to love Jaime Lannister, when I swore he was an awful bastard based off the show. Well, by book four, she is right and I have to eat that bet.
However, I cannot stand following Cersei Lannister around and knowing her every thought, whim , dreams, and nightmares. It’s like being in the head of Kim Jong Il for four hours and hearing every little paranoia. I’d rather she was standing there singing the Batman theme in her head. Wait, I like that. Cersei Lannister is part Kim Jong Il with his paranoias, part Grand Moff Tarkin blowing up Alderaan out of spite, and part Kim Kardashian turning everyone in her country against her with every move. To quote my friend Michael, who said it best, “Cersei has no redeeming qualities at all. She doesn’t even love her children, they’re just vessels for her own failed (and, truthfully, denied-by-gender-and-culture) ambitions.”
There’s a handful of one-off chapters, as well, following new viewpoint characters briefly. The newness and alien-ness of the perspective change is good for breaking up the story, but I wasn’t sure I needed to know the broken view of the Iron Islands from three different people. I actually enjoyed this better from the Martell points of view, seeing the sun-scorched land of Dorne from three different sets of eyes as they were a little closer to the actions in A Storm of Swords. Those bits at least had some of the action the rest of the book sorely missed.
The next novel, A Dance With Dragons, seems to promise the viewpoints of the characters I seem to prefer thus far, namely Tyrion the Imp Lannister, Jon Snow, Daenerys Targaryen, Stannis Baratheon, and Davos Seaworth. Hopefully. Again, you can mock me as I haven’t finished the available works yet, but the Feast for Crows came up way short of the previous works.
2 out of 5 murders of crows.