September 14, 2015

Book Review || A Feast For Crows by George RR Martin

It’s official - I am determined to read the next book in George RR Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series before the next television series because a) the series is really ruining the literature for me and b) this book was altogether too boring to sate my Westeros fix.

I simply cannot bear watching the television series on HBO and being disappointed in the books. Books are supposed to be the better part of adaptations, are they not? Watching Season 5 of the show before reading the book really did spoil the book for me. Aside from the fact that the show is veering so far away from the original story, I was left railing at Martin for the utterly lacklustre novel.

Spoiler warning, by the way.

After the excitement of A Storm of Swords 2: Blood and Gold, A Feast for Crows truly has nothing to offer in the excitement stakes. Seriously, Blood and Gold broke our hearts during the Red Wedding. It made us cringe when Tyrion and Sansa were forced to wed. It made our justice-loving hearts do victory punches in the air when Joffrey turned purple at his wedding and quickly destroyed our celebration with the arrest of Tyrion. It shocked us to find Littlefinger rescuing Sansa while her sister Arya slowly lost all hope and humanity. We witnessed Daenerys’ victory in the slave lands and watched the Night’s Watch defend the Wall from the wildling horde that finally fell to a surprise rescue by Lord Stannis and his Red God. We bemoaned Lord Oberyn’s head being squashed by the Mountain, even though we knew our prayers for him to live would go unanswered. We saw Jaime’s heart broken as his brother killed his father upon his escape and gasped with shock as Petyr pushed Lady Lysa of the Eyrie through the Moon Door. And we met Lady Stoneheart!

In comparison to Blood and Gold, A Feast for Crows was a windy summer’s day spent picnicking on Kipper’s Big Hill. The novel was almost unbearably slow, despite the underlying tension of other happenings in Westeros. Martin painstakingly attempted to keep up this tension with Cersei’s almost yawn-inducing narrative, which I believe not only served to show us how Cersei is working herself into a tight bolus of spider’s web but also kept us informed of the goings-on in the realm. I am not ashamed to say that just about the most exciting things to happen in the novel is the kingsmoot, Brienne’s single battle with a band of outlaws, and perhaps, at a stretch, reading about Arya’s experiences in The House of Black and White.

Other than that, we enjoy the company of Samwell as he describes the movement of his gut during the journey to Oldtown and Gilly’s neverending crying. The most enjoyment we get from reading about Brienne’s search from Sansa is cradling our face in our hands calling that she’s going the wrong way! Alayne’s fussing with food and clothing and the strangeness of little Lord Robert are all that happens see at the Eyrie - even the threat of lords kicking Petyr out as Lord Protector is damp and ends too soon.

I was almost relieved upon reaching the final chapter only to find that it was not a chapter at all but an apology from the author for not including anyone else in the novel. Imagine that! An apology! Well, after dealing with my outrage and not reading about Jon Snow and the Wall or Daenerys or Tyrion, or still being left entirely in the dark about the whereabouts of Bran and the Reeds, I understand his reasoning: if Martin had included everyone in this novel, the readers would have been thrown all over the place, even more so than in the first few novels where we were still learning our way around. However, my argument is that his readers are already invested in the story - already know their way around the world; perhaps they even have the poster of Westeros and the Land of the Summer Sea that they bought with the box set on their wall. His choice to only feature a dearth of action in the tales of a few people who do very little goes against the very tenets of a good narrative and I would argue that this is why the novel stays on the airport runway all the way through.

His clever use of ravens and word from the North or the South or the East is the most important thing that keeps this book alive: I would argue that the people he has chosen as narrators for this part of the story are only thinking of themselves and are not directly involved with the happenings of the realm. Not even Cersei is truly involved: she is more involved in eking out those unfaithful to her and defeating the ‘young queen’ of Maggy the Frog’s curse than she truly is in ruling the realm. It is all this introspection that has made the novel into a very long speedbump in the story.

I have heard A Dance With Dragons: Dreams and Dust is much better. But Martin could truly not have done much worse!

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