Another break in the classics and yet another fantastic read delivered by George R.R. Martin. While many have complained about this installment to A Song of Ice and Fire, and some complaints have merit I really can’t complain. I take online critiques in forums with a grain of salt as most commenters rip apart books to make themselves sound as smart as possible, a theory I also apply to textbook writers who are usually entirely too verbose. Nonetheless I grazed over a few before beginning and they made me slightly apprehensive. After actually reading the book I can confidently say many of those who were so hateful were exaggerating.
A Feast for Crows picks up where a Storm of Swords left off (which wasn’t the original intent of Martin), but it does to the dismay of many pick up through the eyes of some new characters. Rather than following Tyrion or Daenerys your focus is on Kings Landing, the Iron Islands and more through Cersei, Jamie, and Brienne’s eyes among others. At the end Martin divulges that this was merely half the story and because he feared the book would be too large with it’s second half he split them. Here is where I find fault, these books are tomes to begin with stretching over 1,000 pages except for the first, what’s another 1,000 between friends and fans? The only issue I would have had with it being 2,000 pages would have been that it would have been difficult to hold while I was reading, but I would have found a way to manage.
Beyond my missing of the Imp, The Mother of Dragons, and the Bastard Snow (who played a role but never through his point of view) I enjoyed the stories. I saw A Feast for Crows more as the start of a new act, as if after A Storm of Swords there was an intermission and A Feast For Crows started over in a new place. I can understand the people who have been with the series before this installment came out, and who waited years upon years for it to finally be published that are disappointed though. As each passing month lead into a new year their expectations grew and grew so they fell much further with this book than I. I would most likely be sore with major characters that the story circled around never playing a part, but since I didn’t wait and all I have to wait is until A Dance With Dragons is printed in paperback (it must match the rest of my set) I’m not that angry, more interested in what comes next.
There are seven major locations for this book: Kings Landing, The Riverlands, The Eyrie, The Iron Islands, Dorne, Oldtown, and the East. Each location had its moments that kept me reading on. In Kings Landing you mainly follow Cersei and see that she is skilled in gaining power and completely inept in holding power or ruling a kingdom. The Queen Regent fancies herself the equal of her slain father but in reality surrounds herself with fools and her increasing mistrust in the Tyrells begins her downfall to what appears to be her demise. Her paranoia also brings back the Faith Militant who she believes she can control with her hand picked High Septon but things only spiral out of control.
Meanwhile Cersei sends Jamie, her brother and ex-lover to the Roverlands to settle the siege in Riverrun. Jamie and Cersei’s relation deteriorates as they disagree more and more about the Queen Regent’s courses of action and ascension of unworthy men to the White Cloak. Jamie is able to settle the siege without any bloodshed after some slick negotiations. Jamie is also called upon by Cersei to defend her as she is being held by her reinstated Faith Militant, but Jamie tossed the plea in the fire. Meanwhile Brienne of Tarth was in search of Sansa Stark. Most of this story meandered and was what I thought detracted from the overall book. There were a few high points at the end where Brienne meets up with Gendry and is attacked by Biter. After she survives the attack we are reintroduced to Catelyn Stark now known as Stoneheart, who believes Brienne has joined the Lannisters and broken her oath to her and has her hanged. Just as the rope tightens around her neck and she is lifted off the ground she utters one word which is left unknown to us thus far.
The Eyrie is mainly uneventful as Littlefinger and Sansa/Alayne deal with the Vale after the death of Lady Lysa. Lord Petyr quickly becomes the Lord Protector of of the Vale until the sickly Lord Robin becomes old enough to take rule. However, Littlefinger devises a cunning plot that will allow Sansa to wed, take back her Stark name and take back Winterfell all in one stroke, as well as take control of her aunt’s former lands.
In the Iron Islands Aeron Damphair, a man of the Drowned God and brother to recently deceased Balon Greyjoy calls for a kingsmoot to declare a new person to sit the Seastone Chair. Balon’s daughter Asha, her uncle Victarion and her other uncle Euron “Crow’s Eye” Greyjoy are amongst those contending. The Crow’s Eye wins the thrown by promising the Iron Islanders will take all of Westeros in the “Old Way” and begin by taking the Shield Islands. Euron sends Victarion to find Daenerys so he can marry her, as she has the best claim to the Iron Throne but Victarion decides he will find her to wed for himself.
Dorne was one of my favorite sub plot locations in the book. I enjoyed Prince Oberyn in the last book and it was interesting to hear about the harsh lands he came from. His bastard daughters known as the Sand Snakes, led by the eldest three demand revenge in separate ways but each a declaration of war. Oberyn’s brother and Prince Doran refuses and has all eight locked away to make sure they do not act on their rash decisions. However Doran’s daughter Arianne does just that, dreaming to crown Myrcella queen and bring Dorne to greater power she hatches a plot with Myrcella’s Kingsguard knight Sir Arys Oakheart. Their plot is foiled, Ser Arys is killed, Myrcella is maimed but alive, and Arienne imprisoned. After a long while she is brought before Doran and he tells her he has devised a plot of epic proportions to exact his revenge on the Lannisters for Oberyn’s death promising “Fire and Blood.”
Oldtown was the location of the prologue chapter and like all Song of Ice and Fire books follows a minor character. In the prologue we meet Pate who is training to be a Maester. He steals a key to a book depository for a stranger for a reward but passes out. We meet Pate again, or so we’re made to believe as Sam Tarley on Jon Snow’s behest is sent to begin training to be a Maester. On his journey the Wall’s Maester, Aemon Targaryen tells Sam of his past and of a prophesy which he believes Daenerys is fit to fulfill. His dying wish is for Sam to have a Maester sent to guide her back to Westeros and protect her. Sam delivers this message to an Archmaester who takes off to her aid.
In the East we spend much of the time in Braavos. Arya finds herself in the House of the Black and the White home to a group of assassins known as the Faceless Men. Arya becomes an apprentice there and struggles to detach herself from her old selves, Arya Stark, Cat, Arrey, etc. and become “nobody.” Arya meets Sam though she doesn’t know who he is and learns of another Black Brother who has broken his vows and married. She kills this brother who was the singer Dareon, and when she returns to the House of the Black and the White admits that it was Arya who killed the Brother. She was then sent to bed with a glass of milk and the next morning woke up blind.
A Feast For Crows has some high points that stand out from the negatives that many people dwell on. For example you really loathe Cersei more and more as the book progresses. I kept hoping to see Martin to do what he does best: kill characters just as their gathering a full head of steam, but alas that is one thing that seemed ever so close but didn’t take place. You also learn of Catelyn Stark being resurrected of sorts by the Lightning Lord and some dark magic. I wish she stayed dead, but in her short time in this book she was nothing like the Cat we knew before the Red Wedding as evidenced by her treatment of Brienne. And I am really interested to know what the one word that was called out was as Brienne was strung up. I thought the plot that Littlefinger concocted for Sansa or Alayne Stone was rather exciting, I pitied her while she was under the control of the Lannisters (in previous books) and even though Tyrion made an attempt to atone for some of her misfortune it was too little too late.
The book does wander, as it takes some time to introduce new characters, catch us up on the Iron Islands (which was necessary for all the trouble they cause towards the end) and the lack of use Jamie has become without his sword hand takes away the best part of his character, his lust for his sword. I often told myself the famous J.R.R. Tolkein line “Not all who wander are lost,” while reading and fully expect Martin to have a rhyme and reason for these wanderings. As I stated before I am a little more patient I think because I was able to pick up A Feast for Crows right after I finished A Storm of Swords (with a little Virgil in the middle). I fully expect martin to have a plan for the book being structured the way it was. Maybe it’s more wishful thinking but I see this book analogous to a volleyball set: Game of Thrones was a serve, A Clash of Kings and Storm of Swords was a bump, and A Feast for Crows was the set. Now we just have to wait to see if a Dance With Dragons is in the set category or is the spike and where Winds of Winter and a promised seventh volume will take us. However if Martin holds true to form it will be a long time coming before Winds of Winter let alone the supposed final volume will be published.