“This one was a bitch.” – George R. R. Martin, Acknowledgments
While A Clash of Kings and A Storm of Swords were simply continuations of A Game of Thrones – ultimately amounting to a 3,000 page book broken into three sections, A Feast for Crows is a noticeable departure both stylistically and thematically. The fourth book in the A Song of Ice and Fire epic fantasy series has several new changes. George R. R. Martin had trouble embarking on this next chapter of the Westeros saga and wrote a book deemed too lengthy by his publishers, who first insisted on releasing A Feast for Crows Part I and A Feast for Crows Part II. Instead, Martin decided to split the book geographically instead of chronologically, with A Feast for Crows focusing on events taking place in the South and A Dance with Dragons focusing on events at the Wall and in the East. Of course, this inevitably leaves us with some problems. An entire book without Jon and Daenerys? And even Tyrion?
Yes, the entire book leaves out three favorite characters. Martin probably foresaw rioting in the aisles of Barnes and Noble, so he decided to introduce several new characters and narrators in A Feast for Crows. While this does provide a distraction, it also leads a slower pace and a less comfortable grasp on Westeros. As a follow up to A Storm of Swords, which is a universal favorite in the series with its lovable narrators and exciting action, Feast seems like a sluggish marathon.
Another disorienting element is Martin’s decision to use new chapter headings: for the past three novels each chapter has had a simple first name to announce the new narrator, but in Feast the reader is suddenly overwhelmed with chapter titles like “The Prophet,” “The Soiled Knight,” “Cat of the Canals,” “The Drowned Man,” and “The Queenmaker.” Even more confusing, most of the narrators are referred to by different titles each time they appear, so the reader must discover who the narrator is within the text rather than being immediately aware at the start of the chapter. This new style seems an odd choice for Martin, especially since the world of Westeros was already so well established within the first three novels.
But with a dose of bitter familiarity, a hero is brought to an untimely death, a favorite character is crippled, and Martin proves once again he knows how to defy fairy tale standards of who lives and who dies. A Feast for Crows is the uncomfortable hurtle you have to jump before falling into the welcoming arms of A Dance with Dragons, where you will smell the sweet spices of the East and the feel the cold chill beyond the Wall once more.
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