A Feast for Crows
George R. R. Martin
When it was first released A Feast for Crows was the target of a lot of anger for fans longing to reader more about many of their favorite characters. Roughly 400 pages shorter than A Storm of Swords, A Feast for Crows was a disappointment to fans more what it did not include than on the actual merits of its content. While on my first read through I’m willing to admit that I was amongst the displeased masses on my second read through I’ve come to appreciate many, if not all, of the different characters whose perspectives Martin uses in A Feast for Crows.
My favorite, by and large, is Jaime Lannister. Jaime is by no means a good person but there is something endearing about his slightly skewed perspective. He inhabits this moral gray area where he will trade on his dishonorable reputation while being simultaneously desperate to reclaim that same honor. I am a huge fan of Jaime’s arc in these last two novels and while I don’t think it will end well for him I have to admit that as a reader I’m completely invested in the ride. At the siege of Riverrun he tries his hardest to treat honorably with the Blackfish but is rebuffed at every turn and has to result to bullying and threats in order end the siege without blood. In fact all of the moments with Jaime at Riverrun are fantastic. His simultaneous frustration with his power grabbing allies and dissatisfaction with his own current state makes for some absolutely brilliant moments that tend to earn him more enemies than friends; even if he gets the job done.
Of course A Feast for Crows also gives readers more Cersei than any reader could ever really want. Cersei’s perspective is probably my least favorite in the entire series even eclipsing my distaste for Sansa. Cersei is a frustrating character in A Feast for Crows. Short sighted, manipulative, and cruel she wants power for power’s sake and has a sense of entitlement that is miles wide. She is an utterly loathsome character with few (really none that I can see) redeeming qualities. Of course, it’s easy for readers to make these observations given what we know about events elsewhere. Indeed the reader’s knowledge of events outside Cersei’s knowledge really just make her decisions all the more frustrating.
One of my favorite parts of A Feast for Crows is the introduction of Braavos during Arya’s first chapter. Martin doesn’t always flex his descriptive muscles but the appearance of the Titan of Braavos is near pitch perfect:
His legs bestrode the gap, one foot planted on each mountain, his shoulders looming tall above the jagged crests. His legs were carved of solid stone, the same black stone as the sea monts on which he stood, though around his legs he wore an armored skirt of greenish bronze. His breastplate was bronze as well, and his head in his crested halfhelm. His blowing hair was made of hempen ropes died green, and huge fires burned in the caves that were his eyes. One hand rested atop the ridge to his left, bronze fingers curled about a knob of stone; the other thrust up into the air, clasping the hilt of a broken sword.
Martin tends to fill his novels with intricate plots and bloody betrayals so in Arya’s entry to Braavos the sudden sense of wonder is a bit of a welcome reprieve. It is brief, though memorable.
A Feast for Crows’ major problem is that it feels like a set-up novel. None of the major plots introduced in the earlier books are really advanced too far and Martin spends a lot of time maneuvering new(er) or less well known characters into new positions. For that perspective it is easy to see how fans were frustrated. A Game of Thrones, A Clash of Kings, and A Storm of Swords were definitely parts of a series but were each surprisingly complete. Viewed on its own A Feast for Crows is not a particularly satisfying read and it notable more for what it portends than it what it accomplishes on its own merits. Not a bad book but certainly the least in the series so far.