Tuesday, December 8, 2015

A Feast For Crows Book Review

by The Wanderer

Author: George R. R. Martin
Publisher: Bantam
Genre: Epic Fantasy
Series: A Song of Ice and Fire Book Four
Pages: 685 

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(Spoilers for A Game of Thrones, A Clash of Kings, and A Storm of Swords are below).

A Feast For Crows was the long awaited fourth installment to George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire Series.  Delays in publishing this book, according to Martin, were due to his having to scrap his original plot plan for this book and then having to start the story over.  Originally the fourth book was going to be called A Dance With Dragons, however once Martin realized it was going to be too long he split the book in two with the first part being called A Feast For Crows and the second part being called A Dance With Dragons.

The split of these two novels was done geographically, meaning specifically, A Feast For Crows specifically only tells the stories of the characters in the South.  That means Jon Snow, Daenarys, Tyrion and some other major characters do not narrate any chapters in this book.

After A Storm of Swords Martin starts to wind things down and to starts to look at his characters in a more inward direction.  A Feast For Crows may not be as action packed and violent as previous volumes in this series yet despite being only half a book it still continues to tell a great story.

The newly added narrators are one of the biggest plot points in this book.  The only returning narrators from the previous three books are Jaime Lannister, Samwell Tarly, Arya Stark, and Sansa Stark.  Eight new narrators are added to the story and they are Cersei Lannister, Brienne of Tarth, Aeron (The Damphair) Greyjoy, Victarion Greyjoy, Asha Greyjoy, Areo Hotah, Arianne Martell, and Arys Oakheart.

With the War of the Five Kings now over, Tommen sits on top of the Iron Throne, but he rules in name only.  With the death of Joffrey Baratheon and Tywin Lannister, and the exile of Tyrion Lannister, Cersei is ruling the Seven Kingdoms unopposed.

The only remaining King from this war is Stannis Baratheon and he is now at The Wall preparing to build another army and defeat the Lannisters.  Samwell Tarly is being sent to the Citadel by Jon Snow so that he may learn to become a Maester. Accompanying him is Gilly, her son, Maester Aemon, and Dareon.

Brienne, now given the Valyrian blade Oathkeeper, is tasked by Jaime (and previously by Catelyn) to find Sansa Stark.  Jaime, meanwhile, is sent by Cersei to take control of the Riverlands by force.

In the Eyrie Sansa Stark continues to pose as Alayne Stone, Littlefinger’s bastard daughter, while Littlefinger plans to subdue the rest of Lords of the Vale who are upset about Lysa’s death and Pyter’s claim to power.  Arya Stark begins her journey to Braavos where she hopes to find Jaqen Hagar and to learn how to change her face and the other the skills she had seen him perform.

With the death of Balon Greyjoy a new leader is needed to lead the Iron Men and the newly added narrators Asha, Aeron, and Victarion will tell this part of the story.

Finally, the Kingdom of Dorne is now entered into the mix as Areo Hotah, Arianne Martell, and Arys Oakheart tell their stories, and plot the roles they will play in the future of the Seven Kingdoms.

A Feast For Crows is really about re-expanding the storylines of the Song of Ice and Fire series.  With a whole new host of narrators,  Martin not only expands the characters development he also expands the geographical and cultural elements of his series.  In A Feast For Crows we get much deeper look into two of the more enigmatic kingdoms in the series in Dorne and The Iron Islands.

Unfortunately not all of the new narrators make great characters.  Areo Hotah and Arys Oakheart in particular are very weak narrators and Arianne Martell isn’t necessarily a bad narrator, but she isn’t strong enough by herself to carry the Dorne storylines.  It’s hard to blame Arianne when the two other narrators that should be helping her tell the story are simply weak characters.

The Iron Island story fairs a bit better as Asha Greyjoy makes for a very entertaining narrator, and Aeron Damphair makes for a mysterious narrator.  Victarion Greyjoy is a decent narrator but he isn’t on par the with other narrators the Martin has introduced to his readers along the way.

Arya and Sansa are once again highlights in this book, but unfortunately they don’t get much story time, combined they only have six chapters.  However, Brienne proves to be a fantastic new narrator and her storyline was probably the most engaging.  Jaime’s narrating is well done again, too.

The inclusion of Cersei Lannister as a narrator was an exciting prospect, because you finally get to see what she’s thinking.  Unfortunately, I was a little disappointed by some of her chapters in the book which seemed a bit pointless and rambling a times.   She does pull a few chapters in the book that are certainly among the best in the book.

One of the great new things about this book is the changing of many of the characters chapter titles.  As identity proves to be a huge issue in this series, Martin begins to change the identities of his characters symbolically, which is very effective.  For example as A Feast For Crows progresses Sansa Stark chapters are longer titled Sansa, but rather they are titled Alayne.  This is done to symbolize Sansa’s loss of her original identity as she becomes more accustomed to being Alayne.

A Feast For Crows is ultimately a book that is about rebuilding the destruction caused by the previous three books.  The major war is over and an uneasy peace now sits in its place.  Even with major characters like Jon, Daenarys, and Tyrion not narrating Martin is still able to continue to tell a great story and be faithful to his world and characters.

Score: 9.4

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