Friday, July 10, 2015

A FEAST FOR CROWS


Review of A FEAST FOR CROWS by GEORGE R.R. MARTIN
(fourth in the A SONG OF ICE AND FIRE series)

Same old, same old if you’ve read earlier books in this series - but if you loved them that’s not a bad thing. Betrayal, murder, rape, and on it goes. We meet new characters and lose even more, but the elements nevertheless start feeling very familiar. I kept a metal list of who I thought might die next - kind of an irresistible game with a book like this (and I couldn’t accurately predict anything; I have to give the author that).

I will mention that most people I know who lost interest in this series did so during this book, often before finishing it. I suspect perhaps due to what I mentioned above about same old, same old. That feels an odd statement regarding a story so layered and complex, packed with an abundance of vibrant characters, and overflowing with turnabouts and twists. However, sometimes stories with such wide scopes can feel less focused compared to simpler stories that connect with fewer or even a single character’s experience. A story about humanity overall can easily feel much less universal than a story about a single individual. It’s emotions we connect with and that’s hard if we don’t spend enough time bonding with single characters. Martin introduces quite a few new viewpoints in this installment. (Well, perhaps he has to after killing off so many previous viewpoint characters!) I grew increasingly interested in each as I kept reading, but at first it frustrated me opening the novel with brand new people I don’t yet care about when there are so many already established ones with unresolved storylines. There’s even a note at the end of the book explaining that this novel grew too long, so rather than divide it in half the author focuses on certain characters in A FEAST FOR CROWS and will focus on others during the same time period in the next book, A DANCE WITH DRAGONS. So be prepared to learn hardly anything new about some of your favorite characters in this installment.

I’m very hopeful that magic will start playing a greater role in the story. I’m often more interested in the fantasy elements than the court intrigue and war politics, but the book’s weighted significantly more towards the latter. However, the series has been steadily building towards a magic revitalization that never really comes. The next book is tilted A DANCE WITH DRAGONS, so I’m crossing my fingers that magic - or at least dragons! - will play a significant part.

This is an animated series with dynamic characters and countless interlaced plot threads. I adore the varied cast, though often wish I could focus closely on fewer characters for a deeper connection and understanding. I also find that, while I enjoy the storyline, it’s frequently buried beneath extraneous detail, especially regarding the setting and day to day life. I occasionally catch myself more skimming than carefully reading if pages upon pages focus on the scenery, clothes, food, etc. more than moving the story forward.

That said, the ending is a brilliant setup for the next book and I can’t wait to start it. Dragons, ho!

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