Readers of the first three A Song of Ice and Fire books – A Game of Thrones, A Clash of Kings, and A Storm of Swords – will notice a trend with them: the page count is steadily increasing with each book. It seems like there must be a breaking point when it simply won’t be possible to bind that many pages into one book . . . well, that’s exactly what happened with the fourth book of A Song of Ice and Fire. George R. R. Martin was given an ultimatum from his publisher that the book needed to be divided into multiple volumes. The resulting A Feast for Crows only features a limited number of the main characters readers have become familiar with in the earlier books, as well as a number of newer ones as further lands and parts of Westeros are explored and revealed for the first time.
The War of the Five Kings is coming to a close, as many of the rulers readers have come to know are now dead, or fled for their lives. King Tommen now rules at King’s Landing, though under the guise of his mother, Cersei Lannister, who has finally gotten her lifelong wish to rule the realm. She fills her cabinet with loyal elders who soon fail in their duty and she becomes ferociously angry, suspecting and suspicious of everyone, driving herself to incessant drinking. Then there is Margaery Tyrell, who is married to her son, the king, who she believes is looking to take over the realm as queen and do goodness knows what.
Meanwhile, Jaime has had enough of his sister and leaves to make what reparations he can to the kingdom, to regain control over the Riverlands in the name of Lannister and the realm. Brienne is in search of Sansa, to free her from whatever perils she is in, fulfilling an oath she promised. In the Eyrie, Sansa remains seemingly trapped by Littlefinger who conducts himself in a very strange way with her. In the Iron Islands, the king Balon Greyjoy is dead by a freak accident, and now begins the long and laborious process of choosing a successor, as Balon’s children come home to claim the throne, including his tough and determined daughter, Asha. Far to the south, in the lands of Dorne, unrest is stirring as new contenders look to play a part in taking the throne, through Myrcella Baratheon who is told she has every right to the throne as her brother Tommen does. Finally to the east is Arya who is learning and training in the ways of the people of Braavos, while Samwell Tarly travels on his own journey to Oldtown to become the new Maester for the Night’s Watch, and travels to Braavos along the way, meeting with Arya.
It seems after the third book, A Storm of Swords, Martin made some big decisions for his series that were not necessarily good ones. While A Feast for Crows took five years to be written, it is only half the intended book, with a number of new characters and lands that come as a surprise to the reader who has not been introduced to them before. Then there is the long plodding storyline of Brienne’s search for Sansa, which is made pointless when the reader already knows exactly where she is – the Eyrie; not to mention Jamie’s and Samwell’s ceaseless traveling that gets them absolutely nowhere fast. And finally, Cersei is reduced to an inkling of her former powerful character, as she becomes a suspicious, spiteful, angry joke.
Nevertheless, some important story is told in A Feast for Crows, as the characters – at least the interesting ones – are moved along, setting up for the next book and rest of the characters in A Dance With Dragons, originally intended a year or so after this book, and is now finally being released on July 12, six years later.
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Originally written on June 7, 2011 ©Alex C. Telander.
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