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Review Revisited: George R. R. Martin – A Feast for Crows

August 19, 2011

Re-read. A Feast for Crows by George R. R. Martin (2005)
A Song of Ice and Fire, Book 4

Read my review of book:
1. A Game of Thrones
2. A Clash of Kings
3. A Storm of Swords

Length: 1062 pages
Genre: Fantasy

Originally Read: 15 August 2006
Re-read Finished: 10 August 2011

Where did it come from? My fantasy favorites shelf; originally purchased from Amazon.

Putting “Crows” in the
title but not including
the Night’s Watch is mean.

Summary: Now that the War of the Five Kings is essentially over, things could begin to get back to normal… but of course, they don’t. Cersei has two goals: to make sure that nothing happens to Tommen, and to use her the power that was denied her as Queen to her fullest extent as Queen Regent. She turns to Jaime for support, but Jaime is tired of the politics and the scheming; by way of redemption, he’s sent the lady knight Brienne out to find Catelyn Stark’s daughters. But Arya has fled across the Narrow Sea to Braavos, where she is in training to be of service to the Nameless God, and Sansa is in the Eyrie, posing as Peter Baelish’s natural daughter. Meanwhile, Sam is taking Maester Aemon back to Oldtown, the Iron Islands are in the throes of a bloody battle of succession, and the kingdom of Dorne may be fomenting rebellion. And everywhere there are rumors from across the sea… rumors of dragons.

Original Review: The note from the author in the back of the book says that this book should be considered the “first half” of book 4 in the series, as it only deals with half of the character’s viewpoints. Unfortunately, the half that the author picked to go in this book were by-and-large characters that I either didn’t care about (the Greyjoys), or characters that I got bored with very, very quickly (*ahem* Cersei). A lot of chapters seemed repetitive and unnecessary; maybe a few more passes of the editing knife would have let everything fit into one book that actually held my attention. He also seems to be getting a kick out of re-introducing minor characters from several books ago, and it’s clear that some of them are supposed to be significant, but I don’t remember who they are three thousand pages later, and I don’t care enough about the storyline they’re re-entering to bother going and looking it up. Hopefully the next book (narrated by more of the characters I like) will be better.

Thoughts on a Re-Read: Okay, this was a little better the second time around – I read it with a fresher eye, and caught a lot more of the subtleties (also having read The Hedge Knight helped me understand some parts way better) – but on the whole I’m sticking by my original opinions. I do not care about the Greyjoys. I mean, I like Asha well enough, and I’d like to know what happened to Theon (who is obviously not dead; in fiction, and especially in this series, when everyone is saying “Oh, he’s totally dead, but no, I didn’t see him die and I haven’t seen the body,” that person is basically guaranteed to still be alive.) But they succession and the squabbling and the Kingsmoot? Don’t care. Also, Dorne? Don’t care. Certainly don’t care enough to have multiple chapters from multiple points of view to deal with a plot point that could have been handled just as well as hearsay in someone else’s storyline. I’d be trucking along with my re-read, and then I’d hit a Greyjoy or a Dorne chapter, and it was like a brick wall; the book got put down and not picked up again until the next day, when I could start fresh and slog through.

I did care about what’s going on in King’s Landing, but Cersei’s arc (which basically boils down to “Cersei sucks way worse at scheming than she thinks she does, and is also totally losing her shit”) could also have been dealt with just as effectively in half the space. Similarly, Jaime’s, Sansa’s and Brienne’s POV chapters were interesting enough and didn’t feel like overkill, but they’re going around in circles (literally, some of them), and not much actually happens in any of those arcs until the very end of the book. Conversely, Arya’s storyline was pretty interesting, but wasn’t given nearly enough time to get somewhere really interesting. Samwell’s really the only character that I thought had the right ratio of forward story momentum : number of POV pages.

All of that stalling and slow plot lines – especially compared to how much stuff happens even within the first two hundred pages of A Game of Thrones – is what makes the author’s note re: the splitting of A Feast For Crows and A Dance with Dragons really chafe. I found it pretty annoying back when I originally read this book, when my impression was that all of the characters’ chapters were essentially done, but they would just be published separately (“next year (I devoutly hope)” according to the note dated June 2005 in the back of my copy). Now, six years after that was written, and with a fresh-from-the-“new-arrivals”-shelf copy of A Dance With Dragons in hand, I find it really annoying. But I’m dying to know what’s going on with the rest of the characters, and I find that even after a few days, I’m already anxious to dive back in to Martin’s world, so I guess I will forgive the authorial and editorial (and publishorial? I don’t know the whole story behind the split) hijinks and keep reading. 3.5 out of 5 stars.

Oh, also, the “minor characters” I was complaining about in my first review was Pate; I apparently totally missed the connection between the prologue and the epilogue of this book my first time around.

This Review on LibraryThing | This Book on LibraryThing | This Book on Amazon

Other Reviews: Roughly a bazillion of ’em over at the Book Blog Search Engine.

First Line: “Dragons,” said Mollander.

Vocab: (see the whole list)

  • p. 323: “As he trotted up the column, Jaime passed boars, badgers, and beetles, a green arrow and a red ox, crossed halberds, crossed spears, a treecat, a strawberry, a maunch, four sunbursts counterchanged.” – a conventional M-shaped representation of a sleeve with a flaring end used in heraldry.
  • p. 348: ““I propose we build new dromonds,” said Aurane Waters.” – a large, fast-sailing ship of the Middle Ages.
  • p. 800: “Over it he wore greaves, gorget, gauntlets, pauldrons, and poleyns of blackened steel, none half so dark as the look upon his face as he waited for Jaime Lannister at the end of the drawbridge.” – a piece of plate armor for the shoulder and the uppermost part of the arm, often overlapping the adjacent parts of the chest and back; a piece for the knee, made of plate or leather.

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8 Comments leave one →
  1. August 19, 2011 8:47 am

    Hmm. It’s reviews like this which make me wonder if it’s worthwhile continuing with the series. I do dislike bloat in a novel.

    • August 22, 2011 8:42 am

      Ela – I do too, but I was so involved with the characters that I couldn’t help but keep reading. And the good news is that A Dance With Dragons, which I’m most of the way through at the moment, does pick up the pace again.

  2. August 19, 2011 2:49 pm

    I cannot AT ALL keep track of the Dornishmen. I am at least medium interested in them — especially how they want to get the Lannisters back because of Elia (Elia? the dead queen) — but I feel like they never have a chance to interact with characters I like in an interesting way. Then it’s hard for me to care about them as independent characters.

    I do like Asha though! I vote for more Asha. Did you see the girl they cast as her? I’m sure the girl will be fine but she’s not at all how I pictured Asha. I pictured her more like Rebecca Hall or Jaime Murray or someone like that, someone cool and slim and elegant.

    • August 22, 2011 8:46 am

      Jenny – That’s a good point about the Dornish interacting with anyone else, and I think that is at the heart of why I have a hard time caring about their storyline. But as I’m getting into ADwD, I’m seeing the point of the Dorne story in AFfC, so retrospectively I don’t mind it so much.

      I did see the girl they cast as Asha Yara, and she’s okay… not quite how I pictured her, but I don’t normally picture faces all that clearly, so it’s hard to tell. Lena Hedley was not at all how I originally pictured Cersei, and she did a fantastic job.

  3. August 21, 2011 9:03 pm

    I really need to get around to this series…. I have only read the first book.

    • August 22, 2011 8:47 am

      Kailana – Indeed! They’re dense enough that some space between books is probably a good thing, but they’re detailed enough that you don’t want to wait *too* long between books.

  4. Kate permalink
    November 2, 2011 4:44 pm

    I started reading this series about a month ago and was hooked I couldn’t put the books down I read one after another. With The Feast of Crows I have to force myself to read the book. It’s been so disappointing. I agree that I don’t care about Cersi, Dornish and the Iron men are really boring as well. The books are filled with so many characters that I don’t think the dornishmen or the ironmen were needed. I do not like how he changed the sequence up and introduced different chapter titles- if it’s not broke than don’t fix it. I will keep reading though because like you I’m totally invested. I’m just hoping that it will get better. Keeping my fingers crossed and not giving up!

  5. Dexx permalink
    January 12, 2014 7:11 am

    I just started reading the AFFC and it’s a torture to read about the ironmen and the Greyjoys. I do love Asha and I think she’s by far the only interesting and readable character in that mess, but the rest of them make it so unbearable it makes me wonder if I’m better off just waiting for the show to gloss over it. But I’ll keep on reading for Bran, Jon, Dany, Tyrion and etc since I want to see ADWD.

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