Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Review of A Feast for Crows - Book # 4 in A Song of Ice and Fire series

A Feast for Crows (A Song of Ice and Fire, #4)A Feast for Crows by George R.R. Martin
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

*Minor Spoilers ahead*
"A Feast For Crows" is a misleading title, as there is not much fodder for the crows here. The war of five kings is at its fag end, and there is an uneasy calm to the South of Westeros as it concentrates on rebuilding the ravaged settlements. Except for the ironmen, scattered bloody mummers and Beric Dondarion's troop of outlaws, there are not many swords out. "An age of wonder and terror will soon be upon us, an age for gods and heros", we are told earlier, and as we expectantly turn through nearly 800 pages of this novel, we realize that "in the game of thrones, even the humblest of pieces have wills of their own. Sometimes they refuse to make the moves you've planned for them". George R.R. Martin is a man of detail, and it is his attention to detail that sets him apart from other writers. It also lets him down at times. The Song of Ice and Fire is like a role player computer game, and some characters run out of things to do and end up in loops, repeating the same motions. We have seen it earlier with Bran and Sansa, and we see it now with Briene and Arya. At the end of the book, Martin writes a short, almost apologetic write-up explaining the absence of some of the most interesting characters. What we have as a result is a lot of episodic sub-plots, and POVs from a myriad, not-so-important characters, most of which do not move the larger story forward. We get to know Cersei as she becomes a megalomaniac, and we get to know Jamie, who becomes an unlikely hero. We also learn about a host of other random characters, and a numerous trivia. Why did Illyn Payne lose his tongue? What was Cersei's childhood like? Does Aemon have normal, humane feelings? What are the different harbours in Bravos? How many chains-links to a Maester?

Many of these sub-plots and tidbits are engrossing. Briene's quest through Cracklaw Point, for instance, takes us through a visually marvelous exploration. However when you already know that the object of her trip is not where she is looking for, the pay-off is underwhelming. Another such instance deals with a "Queenmaker", which is an engaging episode but ends up as a dud. Even when things happen, like at Kings Landing, it almost seems farcical with a touch of dark-humour (albeit without the requisite darkness). Which brings us to the thing about A Feast of Crows - without having read the subsequent books in the series, I would not belittle this part at this point of time. For all I know, it could be setting up things for a riveting climax. A calm before the storm. Or maybe, a calm before more calm. But then, how many pages more should I read before I get to find it out? Which brings us to the second thing about A Feast for Crows - did it have to be so damn long?

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