Tuesday, 28 August 2012

A Feast for Crows–George. R. R. Martin

Spoilers for previous volumes, may include minor spoilers for this one.

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After the rollercoaster of shocks and plot twists that was A Storm of Swords, book four of A Song of Ice and Fire is a quieter, more contemplative instalment. I understand that in his planning of the series, Martin originally intended to skip straight to five years later. It shows. Most of A Feast For Crows concentrates on the reactions to the events of the previous volume, introducing characters who will presumably become key players in the game of thrones, and moving people to where they need to be. Politics feature prominently, but most of the people we’ve been following have been killed off and replaced with new, unfamiliar names that are hard to keep track of.

For the first time, there are chapters titled with more than just a character’s name: “The Prophet,” for example and “The Reaver*” These chapters are for the most part focused upon new settings: The kingdom of Dorne (where Princess Myrcella is being fostered) and the Iron Islands which we have seen briefly from Theon’s point of view in Clash of Kings (which reminds me – what has happened to Theon?) This ambiguous titling seems to be testing that readers have been paying attention.

Several of the main characters from earlier in the series are not even featured in A Feast For Crows – Tyrion is absent, as is Daenerys, Jon Snow is only seen briefly in passing, while Arya and Sansa only get a few chapters each. Both of these girls have taken on new identities, and the book itself has started to refer to them by their new names, as if to indicate that their old lives as members of the Stark family are being erased.

The main focus of the story is on Cersei Lannister, ruling as Queen Regent as her son Tommen is only eight years old. Cersei’s development as a character has been well-handled, really interesting but unpleasant. She started off as an Ice Queen, later revealed to be a pawn first of her husband, then of her father and even her teenaged son. With all three of these now dead, and with her relationship with her twin brother Jaime growing more and more fraught, Cersei has finally reached the position of absolute power that she’s always dreamed of. For the first time we see from her point of view, and it becomes abundantly clear that she does not have the first clue about ruling a kingdom. I suppose that, being a woman, she was never expected or intended to hold such power, nor taught the game of thrones as a player. Instead of ruling, she spends most of her time obsessed with engineering the destruction of her daughter-in-law Margaery Tyrell. As a girl, Cersei heard a prophecy that she would be replaced by a younger, prettier Queen, and as such she will go to extreme lengths to rid herself of Margaery. And yet, surely it is clear to the reader that this young Queen of prophecy is Daenerys Targaryen, not Margaery at all.

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Next up: A Dance With Dragons, which is another book split into two volumes for the paperback. I understand it returns to the characters who were not featured in this book – hurrah for the return of Tyrion, Daenerys et al. I wonder if there will be any mention of those who featured but briefly in Feast For Crows, or if I have to wait for book 6 to be published. So many of the characters’ stories ended on unsatisfactory notes – I want to know what happens next!


*The word “Reaver” made the Browncoat in me run away screaming. It’s a strange word to see out of the Firefly ‘Verse.

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