‘A Game of Thrones’, ‘A Clash of Kings’, and ‘A Storm of Swords’ were all three masterworks of the fantasy genre. It’s easy to see why George R.R. Martin became one of the biggest names in the industry with those three works alone. They’re incredible reads that shock and amaze and engage, despite how long and slow they are.
‘A Feast For Crows’ fails to do these things. It isn’t bad! Don’t get me wrong! But it is much slower and far less engaging than the works that came before it.
The War of Five Kings has reached a silent standstill, and the land of Westeros licks its wounds. The Lannisters mourne the deaths of a King and his Hand while struggling to maintain order and power. The Stark girls each begin paths of training, each in letting go of their past identities. Sam travels back home to train as a maester for the Night’s Watch, while Brienne travels in search of Sansa to fulfill her promise to Catelyn. All the while, the political forces of Dorne and the Iron Islands begin to shift towards war. As the crows feast upon the dying land, will the people of Westeros have time to recover? Or will war light up anew before they have the chance?
You may have noticed a few missing names in my synopsis. Rest assured, that’s not because of my own stupidity (for once). Jon, Daenerys, Tyrion, Bran, and Davos, along with any other characters connected to their plotlines, are missing from this book entirely. This is rather unfortunate for me because all of the characters I listed (except for Bran) are my favorite characters in the series.
Not that the characters in this one suck. I love finally getting extensive time with Cersei; seeing her slowly go mad and gradually become more wicked is a delight! Brienne’s plotline isn’t nearly as engaging, as it can get really repetitive, but it’s still decent. For the first time, I actually enjoyed Sansa’s plotline!
Or should I say Alayne?
As per usual, however, not all plotlines are created equal. Sam’s feels more like misery porn than anything, which gets real old real quick. Jaime’s takes forever to start going anywhere. Arya’s is kinda neat, with all the creepy stuff that happens with the Many-Faced God stuff, but I’ve never liked Arya that much as a character and this book does little to change that.
Worst of all are the Dorne and Iron Island plotlines. See, unlike all the others, those two don’t have a single perspective character leading them. Rather, it jumps around from character to character as they experience the conflict. This is a neat idea; it makes the story even less predictable and makes the stories feel complex, as each character pushes and pulls for their own goals. Unfortunately, constantly hopping around characters makes it difficult to actually get invested in what’s happening, since you’re never around one person long enough to get attached to them. It feels more like reading a political documentary with some fantasy flare rather than engaging with a thrilling fantasy political drama.
There’s also the overall problem with the pacing of this story. Whereas previous books were broken up by massive shocking events that completely changed the course of the narrative, ‘A Feast For Crows’ just feels meandering. You’re always waiting for the next shocking twist or the pay-off to the buildup. But those don’t come, at least not for a while. This can make getting through this book a bit of a challenge compared to the previous three.
Well, at least it’s the shortest one so far. It’s still as thick as a brick, but hey! I’ll take what I can get.
Overall, I think ‘A Feast For Crows’ is the weakest entry in the ‘Song of Ice and Fire’ series that I’ve reviewed so far. It has some strong highlights, but overall it’s much slower and less interesting than the books that came before it. The absence of just about all of my favorite characters left me sorely wanting, and not in a good way. It’s still a good fantasy book, one that you should read if you’ve already gotten this far. But it definitely sits at the bottom of my personal rankings.
Now, onto ‘A Dance With Dragons’. Which is long as hell. So… I’ll see you guys in two years.