A Feast For Crows by George RR Martin
Published by Bantam (USA), Voyager (UK)
Readily available in paperback RRP £8.99
WARNING WILL CONTAIN SPOILERS
The War of the Five Kings has left Westeros on the brink, countless thousands are dead, the harvest is ruined, and as the first snows begin to fall realization sets in the winter is nearly upon them. It appears the Lannister’s are triumphant, the Starks are all dead or missing, and the North is beginning to turn on itself. Cersei Lannister now rules in her young son’s name, and without any checks on her, surrounds herself with sycophants. Jamie Lannister embarks on a quest to redeem himself, further distancing himself from his sister. Brienne of Tarth sets out to find Sansa and Arya Stark, but must travel the ravaged Riverlands to do it. Samwell Tarly heads South from the Wall, bound for Oldtown on a mission from Jon Snow, who is now Lord Commander of the Nights Watch. And across the sea Arya enters the service of the many faced god, and learns her past is not so easy to out behind her. In the far South House Martell broods and plots as long planned events get closer and closer.
George RR Martin got himself into trouble with the fourth book in the series entitled A Dance with Dragons. He’d somehow managed to let the story get out of control, and he found himself in a situation where he had too much material to make the book workable. So he hit upon a solution, in order to free up the story, and clear the log jam he’d written himself into, he would create a new volume entitled A Feast for Crows. Into this new volume he would move half the characters, and story, make it the fourth installment and then A Dance with Dragons would be the fifth.
The result was that Feast only has a handful of the surviving major characters from the series, and for many readers it was the half that was least interesting. In creating the extra volume Martin created more problems for himself. His original idea was for there to be a five year gap, within the narrative, between A Storm of Swords and A Dance with Dragons, he wanted the characters to have moved on, in some cases grown up before that last few books in the series. Because of having to split the book he had to abandon that idea.
The result was a sort of non-book, that’s not saying that Feast isn’t important, it is. A lot of it is seen from the point of view of new characters, none of which have been mentioned or seen before, and covered events well away from the main areas of action from the previous books. Some say it’s a filler novel, it ties off some stories but creates more. Personally I enjoyed it, I did miss the trio of Jon, Tyrion and Daenerys, but then it was nice to see where Cersei was coming from, get inside the head of Brienne and Jamie and meet the Martell’s.
Another drawback to Martin’s creation of this additional installment was it buggered with the timeline. Because of the sheer size of the original book, and additional problems he created in splitting it, there would end up being an eleven year gap between the end of Swords and the start of Dance, a gap that isn’t addressed in the narrative. That gap wasn’t helped by Feast because, with half the characters missing from it, it meant readers had to wait eleven years to see what happened to Tyrion, Jon and Daenerys. None of the chapters touched on what was happening with them, mainly because of the new point of view characters being at opposite ends of the continent to them or simply because there wasn’t the room.
As I said, personally, I liked Feast. Of all the books it is the fastest moving, the writing is tight, the new characters are interesting and add to the overall tableau that is A Song of Ice and Fire. My only quibble would be the omission of some more of the main characters. You do get one chapter at the beginning with Jon, but it is a Sam point of view chapter, so you only see Jon from his perspective.
So I have read A Dance with Dragons (released July 12th) sets everything back to where it was. All the characters are back in play, the timeline problems as are corrected and it sets everything up for the, planned, final two books. My copy is on its way to me, see the review soon.