A Feast for Crows is the fourth novel in George R.R. Martin’s epic series, A Song of Ice and Fire. Set in the fictional lands of Westeros and Essos, the saga follows its participants as they play “the game of thrones”. King Robert Baratheon died in the first novel, and was succeeded by his son Joffrey – but given the allegations that his children were actually the product of incest between his queen, Cersei, and her brother Jaime, this did not sit well with the kingdoms. Other kings declared themselves, and war followed.
At the opening of the saga, the main family was the Starks of Winterfell, but due to the loss of various members of the family, there are many other narrators by the time of A Feast for Crows. The choice of narrators for this particular novel, however, has been some cause for criticism – three fan favourites do not make an appearance in A Feast for Crows. These are Jon Snow, Tyrion Lannister and Daenerys Targaryen. Their stories will be continued in A Dance with Dragons, which is set at the same time as A Feast for Crows.
Previous novels in the series have been packed full of action, war and excitement, but A Feast for Crows is much more of a character piece. It has a slower pace, and has recieved criticism for this, but while more action and story development would have been a plus, I enjoyed the character aspects of A Feast for Crows.
There were a few which stood out for me, but chief among these were Cersei and Jaime Lannister. Since Jaime’s return to court following his imprisonment, the twins have not been as close as they once were. Jaime seems to be developing a conscience, and certainly isn’t quite as loathsome as he once was, while Cersei is getting worse and is possibly starting towards madness. Reading about her paranoia and fears is enjoyable, as you begin to feel that she might get her comeuppance after all.
Two stories which are rather plodding and dull are those of Samwell Tarly, of the Nights Watch, and Brienne of Tarth. Sam is dispatched to Oldtown with a couple of charges, to study to become the new maester for the Nights Watch. Most of his story seems to be about being cold, wet and miserable, and only shows the possibility of becoming interesting right at the very end. Brienne’s story follows a similar line, as she searches Westeros for Sansa Stark, at the secret command of Jaime, who she seems to be harbouring feelings for. As with Sam, her story becomes interesting towards the end of the novel, ending on a huge cliffhanger after an unexpected meeting.
Arya Stark’s story is one which has been frustrating ever since she left the capital, King’s Landing, following the execution of her father. She has always seemed to be going in the wrong direction and always just missing the people who could help her. Now she is across the sea in Braavos, and yet again is dithering about and getting involved with groups of people when you feel she should be heading back to Westeros, to the Wall where her half brother Jon Snow is.
Despite these delays and irritations and dithering characters, A Feast for Crows is an enjoyable read and a good addition to the world of A Song of Ice and Fire, but you do feel that it could probably have been done in about the half the length, and maybe given us a few characters without cliffhangers. Martin’s writing is as evocative as ever, but it could be cut down quite a bit without losing any of its magic. A Feast for Crows really came about when he found that he had written far too much and had to split it into two books – and it looks like the interesting stuff is to come in A Dance with Dragons, which features the parallel stories of the characters not covered in A Feast for Crows.
I enjoyed A Feast for Crows, and it is a part of the saga which cannot be skipped, but it is the weakest entry so far, and now I have read it, I am looking forward to A Dance with Dragons.
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