After having had such positive feelings about A Storm of Swords, it wasn’t long before I moved on to pick up A Feast For Crows, the fourth entry in Martin’s sprawling epic of the battle for the iron throne in Westeros. I had been warned that this was probably the weakest of the bunch, due to its frankly bizarre editorial decision to consider only half of the characters, and limit the book geographically to only the Southern half of the story. I still went in expecting something good, because there’s a lot to admire in the Song of Ice and Fire, but frankly, I cannot get on board with the way this and the next book were structured.
With A Feast for Crows, Martin delivers the long-awaited fourth volume of the landmark series that has redefined imaginative fiction and stands as a modern masterpiece in the making.
After centuries of bitter strife, the seven powers dividing the land have beaten one another into an uneasy truce. But it’s not long before the survivors, outlaws, renegades, and carrion eaters of the Seven Kingdoms gather. Now, as the human crows assemble over a banquet of ashes, daring new plots and dangerous new alliances are formed while surprising faces—some familiar, others only just appearing—emerge from an ominous twilight of past struggles and chaos to take up the challenges of the terrible times ahead. Nobles and commoners, soldiers and sorcerers, assassins and sages, are coming together to stake their fortunes…and their lives. For at a feast for crows, many are the guests—but only a few are the survivors.
A Feast For Crows runs concurrently with the first half of A Dance With Dragons. Martin is notoriously slow at putting out books anyway, so I think if I had read this when it was published (2005) and then had to wait for the arrival of the following novel, which wasn’t released until 2011, six years later, I might actually have exploded with fury at how it was split.
A Feast for Crows considers the south of Westeros, Dorne, Braavos, and the Iron Islands. It completely ignores anything that happens in Winterfell, at the Wall, North of the Wall, or across the Narrow Sea in Meereen, for example.
Although this is a hefty book, with a few new perspective characters that we had previously only seen through others’ eyes, it doesn’t feel like it’s a story on its own. A Game of Thrones plodded sometimes, and it took me a long time to get through it and keep all the characters straight, but it was a story in its own right. A Feast for Crows is a half a story. Several characters are left hanging, waiting for a resolution, but more importantly, half of the world is missing.
Admittedly, my favourite characters are all (with one exception) missing from this book, so I was obviously highly likely to take offence at their absence, meaning I was predisposed to dislike this book, but the characters that remain, although some are interesting, most are really not, and a huge proportion of them are background characters who we have previously not seen very much of. Expecting them to carry the book without the strongest characters that were left for A Dance with Dragons was a poor decision, and makes this by far the weakest Song of Ice and Fire book I’ve read so far.
I don’t want to get spoilery about who’s not in it, because obviously people die left, right, and centre, so I’m keeping this vague, but the strongest, most compelling, most interesting characters (imo) are almost all absent from this book.
Those that are left do get some interesting character development, but there is a horrendous reliance on repetition of key phrases (a highborn maid of three-and-ten… and Moonboy for all I know) which gets boring very quickly. Martin for some reason included a truly horrendous attempt at a lesbian sex scene (least attractive description of a lady’s nether regions ever award goes to the word swampy), and all in all this book felt disjointed, incomplete, and frankly, disappointing. If I had had to wait six years for the next instalment, I’m not entirely sure I would have bothered to continue.
As it is, though, I have one more book to go before I join the masses waiting for the arrival of The Winds of Winter (and A Dream of Spring), so I’m not as dejected as I could be by how poor Feast was.