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Review: A Feast for Crows (A Song of Ice and Fire 4) by George R.R. Martin

By / July 30, 2011 / no comments

The fourth book in the Song of Ice and Fire series, A Feast for Crows continues the story of the War of the Five Kings of Westeros, the fate of the Night’s Watch and those beyond the Wall in the North and the plight of the true queen of Westeros, Daenerys Tagaryen who dwells across the Narrow Sea in one of the Nine Free Cities.

At least, that is the expectation. What in fact occurs in the book is the story of Westeros: King’s Landing, the river lands and the Eeyrie. The tales of Queen Regent Cersei Baratheon and her son King Tommen are tales of deep deceit, treachery and distrust. Whilst the story of her twin brother Jamie is one of rebirth and readjustment to his new role and duties in life.

The beautiful blonde Cersei is at court surrounded by people she can not trust, her father is dead, she is betrayed by both of her brothers and she fears constantly for the life of her young King. Fickle attempts to bind other wealthy and powerful families to her son’s cause have left Cersei with a council often torn by loyalty and ambition and as the book progresses Cersei’s power over her court slowly ebbs away. Eventually she becomes so overwhelmed by fear and suspicion that even her wits seem to dwindle and she starts making rash decisions, and disreputable allies.

Jamie Lannister, a once feared and fabled knight now finds himself short of a sword hand and back in King’s Landing as the head of his bastard son Tommens’ King’s Guard. Although Jamie has long been wearing the White Cloak of his rank he finds himself changed after the torments of captivity and torture; eventually leading him to make a secret pact to ensure the safety of his sister’s enemy for the sake of his own honour.

The stories of Jamie and his sister could not really be more different, where Jamie is learning things he never knew about himself, Cersei is becoming more and more isolated. Her thoughts, though logical in her head, are outrageous and treasonous, whilst Jamie finds himself turned more toward the honour of knighthood. A man once feared for his deadly skill with a blade finds himself ending sieges without bloodshed and making treaties so as to save the lives of his enemies. In many ways the two stories mirror one another, whilst Jamie’s chapters leave you with a sense of hope and defiance, Cersei’s chapters seem sullied with secrets and deceit, they are peppered with almost pornographic sex scenes that only further the already soiled image of Cersei, whilst her brother’s head is filled with tales of knights and valour.

A third story stems from the story of Jamie Lannister, that of Brienne of Tarth. At Jamie’s behest she is in search of Sansa Stark, who many believe is the last remaining child of Eddard Stark and Catelyn Tully. Blessed with Jamie’s own sword, now named Oathkeeper, Brienne travels across the lands of Westeros in search of any lead she can find. This part of the story is strange to read, as you are simultaneously reading of the true whereabouts of Sansa Stark. Yet with Brienne you meet characters you have come across previously, but now they are strangers to you: Gendry, the bastard of dead king Robert Baratheon, murderous madman Rorge and even the Red Priest Thoros of Myr cross your path and leave you wanting to shout into the pages as you know they have the answers Brienne seeks. Yet the finale of Brienne’s chapters leave you feeling as though it was all a little pointless, you did not expect her to discover Sansa’s whereabouts but somehow you can’t help but feel as though you ought to have learnt more. Brienne’s chapters provide you with nothing new to add to the collective bank of information and mysteries that have gathered over the series, they simply leave you feeling shocked and disappointed when she meets her unexpected fate.

Meanwhile Sansa and Arya Stark, the daughters of Eddard and Catelyn, are on opposite sides of the world: Sansa is in the Eeryie disguised as the bastard daughter of Petyr Baelish, whilst Arya finds herself in Bravoos, learning the ways of the Many Faced God. These chapters both sparkle in their own ways and like the Cersei and Jamie chapters show off Martin’s excellent ability to engulf you in his words.

Sansa’s chapters are snow white and frozen ice, reflected the chill within her. Forced to hide who she truly is Sansa feels almost overwhelmed by the weight of her disguise and with every sentence you can hear her true identify struggling in the cold depths of the mountain. Arya Stark is a particularly favourite character of mine and her feisty personality and desire for adventure explode like fireworks in the strangely neon city of Bravoos; where the rich where black, the poor bright colours and all worship the pale face of the Many Faced God. The finale to Arya’s chapters will bite into you like a hungry wolf and leave you agog and desperate to know more. Here Martin refuses you and simply leaves you starving.

The appearance of Samwell Tarly of the Night’s Watch is also another excellent series of chapters, his sweet nature and dark secrets are somehow humbling and humanizing and give the book a gentle and emotional feel.

These chapters, along with those of Arya Stark, are by far the strongest of the whole book. The other chapters, although Jamie’s and Sansa’s are full of intrigue, simply do not drive the plot forward enough. The war seems to be at a standstill and thus so is the plot. The introduction of Arianne of Dorne and the fighting men of the Iron Islands does little but kill time between interesting chapters and the marked absence of certain other characters makes you wonder how much of the book was simply created to make up the word count. Martin has included an appendix at the end of the book in which he explains his decision to remove the characters of Tyrion, Jon Snow, Brandon Stark and Dany from the entire book yet somehow, upon completion, you can’t help but wonder if it was a mistake.

About the author


Blog editor, admin and founder of BestFantasyBooks.comYou'll find me on the BestFantasyBook forums and spending my spare time reading fantasy books and writing lists for this site. In fact, I have no spare time -- running this site IS my spare time!


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