Date started: June 14th
Date finished: June 22nd
George R.R Martin has described A Feast For Crows as a bitch to write. Well, it was a bitch to read as well. By now just about everyone is aware of his rather infamous decision to split volumes four and five of A Song of Ice and Fire by character rather than putting in a ‘to be continued’, but I thought the reputation this book has stemmed from the time people spent waiting for it. I was wrong.
With Jon, Daenerys, Tyrion, and Davos Seaworth absent, what happens in A Feast For Crows? Truthfully, not a lot. The majority of the book is given to Cersei, and her ever decreasing grip on King’s Landing and her sanity in the wake of the events of A Storm of Swords. There’s bits of intrigue where a new religion moves into King’s Landing, but most of Cersei’s story is given to her moaning about how being ruler is hard. Elsewhere, Jaime prats about complaining that his sister/lover isn’t who she used to be. Arya goes to Braavos to study with the Faceless Men. Sansa does some babysitting in the Eyrie. Brienne looks for Sansa, but not in the Eyrie. Samwell Tarly is sick on a boat while Gilly cries a lot. Some stuff happens in Dorne with Myrcella and a Queenmaker. And the Iron Islands pirates choose a new king.
I try not to be too spoilery with these reviews, and that pithy summary does leave out the best bits of each subplot. Sadly, the best bits are confined to mostly the last 150 pages or so, where each story ramps up towards some genuinely good cliffhangers. I can see how a lot of the plotlines are starting to weave together, and it does make me excited for where the series is going next.
Unfortunately, the book wasn’t just those last 150 pages. It was 850 pages, and most of it was a slog to get through. For example, the Brienne chapters. It’s fairly obvious she’s not a detective, since her method of finding Sansa is to travel along a road asking people if they’ve seen Sansa. But, since Sansa has chapters here, I already know where she is. There’s no drama. There’s no question of whether Brienne will find her because I know she’s barking up the wrong tree.
The best bits were the Iron Islands chapters. Maybe it’s because I really like pirates, or maybe it’s because Asha Greyjoy is a kick ass woman in a world that favours men, but the stuff with the kingsmoot, and the intrigue that followed was really gripping. Sadly, I think only four or five chapters were devoted to it, the rest of the story given over to moving some pieces around.
A Feast For Crows feels incomplete. Each of the first three books has at least one major event, with book three having about four or five. Book four has nothing like that, it just grinds along until it stops, with only the promise that things will be better in book five, when all my favourite characters will be there to meet me. It reads like the start of the second act of the overall story. It’s b-roll stuff, the sort of chapters I’d roll my eyes at and tear through quickly in the hope that the next one will be about someone I like. In short, it’s boring. Necessary, but boring.
My recommendation (or lack of one) makes no difference here. If you’re invested in the series like I am, you’ll read this book because you have to. There’s a lot of set up here, very little of it interesting. I just hope it pays off in book five. I’d hate to have to wait until The Winds of Winter, especially at the pace Martin has dropped to with these things.
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