November 2nd, 2012
|07:49 am - A Feast Fit for a Crow|
A Song of Ice and Fire is the song that never ends! Yes, it goes on and on, my friends. After the thousands of pages of A Game of Thrones, A Clash of Kings, and A Storm of Swords, there are people still left alive to have stories to tell.
After A Storm of Swords, anything was bound to be a disappointment: it's an extremely hard act to follow. While A Feast for Crows, by George R.R. Martin, is easily the weakest installment in the series so far, it is still a strong book with a lot to like about it.
The last book had so many game-changing moments that George R.R. Martin now has to build up a new game so he can change it. To that end, he opens up the world even more by giving us POVs in the Iron Islands and Dorne. The former chapters are nigh intolerable because the Greyjoys are awful, awful, misogynistic assholes—it turns out Theon is actually not that bad compared to his kin. Thankfully, the presence of Asha Greyjoy is slightly redemptive, and the look into their society's religion and politics is illuminating. I could have used some more Dorne chapters, as the characters down there are more likable, plus they actually allow women to rule. These chapters are very interesting on a structural level because with A Storm of Swords, GRRM essentially resolved the War of the Five Kings (which had been winnowed down to one king and change by the end of it), so he introduces two smaller conflicts that are microcosms of the larger power struggle. Wherever you are, people are going to fight over who will rule.
But what of our returning cast? Well, half of them aren't even in this book, so there's that. Although Jon does make a brief appearance, he, Tyrion, Dany, and others are relegated to A Dance with Dragons, but that does leave some of my favorites for this book. Brienne finally gets chapters of her own as we follow her search for Sansa, and the strong sense of purpose in her story made her chapters some of my favorites. Of course, we know she's nowhere near Sansa, who is stuck in the Eyrie with the scheming Littlefinger, forced to pretend to be his daughter, a ruse she makes herself embrace. There is a strong sense of characters searching for their identity in this book, as Arya finds herself having to strip hers away in Braavos, and Jaime tries to come to terms with who he is after the events of A Storm of Swords. The identity theme even extends to the chapter titles, which are no longer required to be a character's name. Meanwhile, Sam is on a boat. But the spine of the story is always the King's Landing POV, which in this book is Cersei, who is every bit The Worst we have come to believe. It is kind of fun to be in her bitter, devious head, although her constant paranoia can become tiring.
A Feast for Crows may not have as many mindblowing, earthshattering, game-changing moments as previous books, but it certainly has its share of WHAT THE FUCK moments, some of them hidden in the text, requiring the reader to make certain connections between characters. The storytelling remains dense, never completely straightforward when it comes to what is going on, who a character may be, whether or not a character is dead. But it continues to be extremely compelling on the level of characterization, as the characters in the book grow and change over the course of the story, subtly and dramatically, our understanding of them ever deepening.
And yet, A Feast for Crows is only half the story! Now to discover what was happening to the other characters all this time in A Dance with Dragons.
Current Mood: groggy
Current Music: Minipop - Like I Do
Sadly, I think this is where the series started declining for me - and, in my opinion, ADWD doesn't make up for this book's lack of pace either.
I saw a review somewhere that said it felt like GRRM was enjoying being in the world of Westeros so much that he was willing to pack out the stories just so he could spend more time there.
ADWD was painful to me - GRRM needs to get a editor who is really willing to cut out the dross and extended travelogue that filled ADWD. That said, there are still some wonderful WTF moments in there too.
Having just started the fifth book, I still love the series overall, but given all the wandering that didn't amount to much in Feast, I can't help but feel like GRRM is either:
* Bound by non-story constraints, where he's got 7 books he needs to fill because 7 is the magic number, and he maybe had a book-and-a-half of material for 4 and 5, but couldn't turn it into 2 books that are 3/4 the size of the other books because that would be weird.
* So completely in love with his world that he's totally fine spending 50 pages to talk about a corner of it that just doesn't matter all that much. Did Brienne's wild goose chase need to be quite so wild?
It could have involved some actual geese, am I right?
I'm a few chapters into the fifth book, and it does seem to herald another book of "Well, here's a thousand pages of characters getting from point A to point B." I'm hoping that these two books of setup will lead to boffo payoffs in the last two books.
Sadly, I think this is where the series started declining for me
This is where it declines for everyone. It is objectively not as good as the first three books, but opinions vary on whether ADWD is an uptick or more decline. Opinions also vary on whether this decline is a slanted line or just a different plateau that is still good to be on. I'm still feeling pretty good about the series, especially as I can see some big overarching things taking shape in the first few chapters of ADWD. It looks like we're moving toward the Dany endgame, and I'm interested to see how it all goes.
(That being said, he could probably get there faster if people didn't take so long to get to places...)