on 22 November 2005
well you kinda knew it had to happen sooner or later. it took robert jordan 6 books before it all started to fall apart so i guess george is about on track. i'm coming to the conclusion that you can only write so many pages on one project before it starts to eat itself.
the author sums it up in the first line of his aknowledgements...to start with the good bits: the characters are still reasonably complex and engaging, the plotting is as devious as ever, the dialogue snappy. there is no doubt the george rr martin can write.
the problem is that nothing much happens. jaime plods around the riverlands, arya plods around braavos, sam plods south and brienne plods all over the shop. lots of plodding not alot of action. the only people moving the plot along with any pace are cersei and the iron born and we catch only glimpses of the latter.
what some might call quiet and subtle plot advancement, i call static and flabby. all the plot lines in this book could be tied up in under a hundred pages leaving plenty left for events of more impact. and there are numerous events that need to happen if this series is to finish this side of 10 books. if we continue at this pace we may never reach the end.....hmmmmmm.
it's a shame as the series has been generally fantastic. the fact this installment took nearly five years to write suggests that the author is having trouble working out where the story is going, and that's exactly how it feels when you read it.
call me old fashioned but i believe stories should have a beginning a middle and an end; this one's middle is swiftly approaching obesity.
on 22 February 2012
This book is not like what has gone before. It looks at the main kingdom of Westeros in the aftermath of the war of the five kings, a fractured more 'Dark Age' milieu where royal power has to be imposed rather than acknowledged. Some of the very negative reviews here dwell on the long lists, descriptions of food and heraldry, convoluted descriptions of family trees, days spent in minutely described daily life with little 'plot' and the inherent problems of multiple viewpoint narratives (you are more interested in some of the characters than others). All these are stylistic features of the series as a whole. Some of us like them - I feel they have the smack of Medieval Romance fiction about them - some don't.
The warning has to be that most of the best characters have gone. Samwell Tarley has long outstayed his welcome. His function was to look at the Nightswatch from the point of view of outsider, the North from the point of view of a pampered southerner and those he did well. Left on his own to see a sea voyage, a dying old man and a poorly imagined fantasy Venice, his chapters drag and should have been left out.
The story arc about the fantasy vikings of the Iron Isles introduces several more characters and viewpoints, but as their viewpoints are little more than dark age fantasy cliches and not the high/late medieval ambience of the series they form a subset which will appeal to some readers but not to me.
It is unfair to say that all of the book is boring and pointless. There is a Dornish plot which is conceived and executed in the course of the book. Jaime Lannister is an excellent character, developing gradually and plausibly. Cersei degenerates into paranoia, but I hardly see this as contrary to her established character. it simply shows how reliant she actually was on the politicians of the small council, now nearly all gone. The main story arc unfolding is the subjugation of the remaining rebel strong holds, and the re-arming of the faith. This seems very significant as the 'Protestant' iconoclastic religion of Stannis receives its backlash as the 'catholic' religion of the Seven gets its inquisition, religious fighting orders and crusades of the counter reformation.
Unlike many reviewers I like the knight errantry of Brienne (romance heroism in a realistic world). I have no time for Arya Stark, but she had a vaulable perspective in Westeros, a less useful one on fantasy Venice. Sansa I really enjoyed as a polite 'standard' medieval noble woman looking on the terrible world of Kingslanding politics from the outside. Looking at the dull tidying up of events in the Vale is not a good use of this character and we could probably all have done well without that being covered.
And no Tyrion, no Jon, no Dany - well, I don't think they'd be making a TV series of this book! Expect heavy cutting by the time HBO reaches it.
My conclusion is if you are following the series, of course you'll have to read it. I feel that Martin has now become too big and too famous for his editors to hold any sway over him, but he ought to take note of the characters he writes about and realise that a wise councillor whose judgement you can trust might be exactly what he needs to carry him and the readers to the end of the series.
on 11 April 2012
Yes, many of the other reviewers are right. As I read this the first time, I was frustrated. It didn't really follow some of my fav characters, as they appear in book 5 (A Dance With Dragons). And even the first 2/3 of ADWD follow the same template as this one, there's much more talk and much less action than in the previous titles. Many characters travel long roads and it feels like nothing really happens. It's very tempting to rush through, wanting to get to the good parts, the ones you imagine will be filled with action, retribution, vengeance. Several plots are filled with walking and talking, chapter after chapter. Some characters fail in whatever quest they're set on, and even die (or did they now?). Some characters seem to devolve, they grow insecure, weaker, make mistakes and bad choices - or no choices. Others are still to young and I want them to grow older faster.
However, that has never been GRRMs world, not is it what makes the books great. The books have never only followed the success stories, the good guys, or those that survives. Not every character has enough luck that saves them at the last minute over and over. That's what makes the story great, now and in the previous books.
Once I think about it, this has to happen. And come to think of it, it has happened like that in the previous books as well. The action and tension did rise from book to book, but this is the middle piece, the "The Empire Strikes Back" (after Hoth). A lull in Westeros, as several plots have reached a sort of semi-conclusion, and most of the pieces and players are now being set up for the next big push.
Read the book with a calm mind, and relish in the stories and characters instead of wanting the stories to reach where you want them to go. They won't go where you want them to go anyway, and definitely not where you expect them to go. And you know it - they never did in the past! :)
In short, my expectations were more to blame for my frustration with the book than the book itself.
on 24 June 2012
I think I've benefitted from having re-read the first three books immediately prior to reading Feast. That meant I didn't feel the long wait so much between book 3 and 4. Also, I knew from having read reviews here that the story concentrated on events in and around King's Landing, and that the next book would pick up the other characters. Thus, forearmed (or forewarned?), I wasn't disappointed about who was missing.
Book 3 was just so explosive, there was no way GRRM could keep that pace going. So, he's taken his foot off the padal a wee bit, and what we get instead is some interesting and entertaining side story. At least I think it's side story - it's actually difficult to say what the central story line is. I used to think it centred on the Starks. It kind of still does, but four books in, I still don't know who is behind the main threat, or really what the main threat is. The writing's entertaining, though, and I'm happy to stick with it for the time being.
I found the events at Dorne interesting and liked the inclusion of characters there. I'm very much enjoying Arya's story and also found Brienne's story interesting. The events in and around the Iron Islands was good, too. Nothing jaw-dropping, but each moving the story along, albeit at a very slow pace. Out of everyone featured, I think Jaime and Sansa's stories were the least developed. While Jaime seems to be going through some sort or re-evaluation of his life and beliefs, Sansa continues to be pretty and go where she's told.
One final point, this book begins with a prologue (I don't really get prologues in sequential multi-volume books that tell a single story, but maybe that's just me). Stuff happens in that prologue, and you sense a new, and perhaps even major character, appearing. I'm a little wary of 'important characters' appearing at this stage, but my main gripe with the prologue is that it's not revisited until the final chapter, 800-odd pages on. By which point I'd forgotten the precise detail of the prologue, so had to go back an re-read it to appreciate the import and dramatic impact of the book's final sentences.
All in all, I don't agree with the comparisons to WoT, but can appreciate the point being made. I would mark books 1-3 in this epic as 5 stars; this book gets 4 from me ie 'I like it'.
on 14 September 2014
Firstly, a word of warning. This novel is paced very differently particularly to the second half of "swords". This is an altogether more thoughtful and in my opinion deeper novel filled with clues and insights into the motivations of some of the characters onscreen and off and the many plots afoot.
It is the genius of Martin that by using the unreliable narrator approach it is often what isn't said that is more important than the things that are, which lead this book to be the central premise of so many theories and suggestions which may (or may not) form the way this epic story will conclude in books 6 and 7. This depth also means that AFFC lends itself to rereads more readily than other books in the series.
True many of the characters from the previous 3 novels are not in it , particularly Tyrion , Danaerys and Jon as a POV as most of the action is set in southern Westeros but some of what you do get are a view of the aftermath of the war of the five kings from the point of view of the common folk as seen by Brienne aand what it means to be a common pawn as lords play their game of thrones. The iron born and their motivations and rivalries , Arya and Braavos , jaime's continued attempt at redemption in the riverlands ( the conversation between Jaime and Brynden Tully is priceless) Sams journey to old town , Dorne with arienne and the sand snakes , best of all Cersei Lannisters descent into madness and paranoia and the rise of the warriors sons . The prologue is also one that will be reread many times for the subtle reappearance of an intriguing character.
If you are hoping for easy or cheap resolutions to some of the outstanding plot lines you may be disappointed , but if you are invested in the world of westeros this is the book that expands and enriches on what has gone before and helps set the scene on what is yet to come.
Be patient , don't hope the story will go where you want it to and dive in.
on 12 December 2013
It suffers having some of the least interesting events and/or characters. Not a lot actually happens in a fairly long book. You keep hoping something will happen, but as events build towards some kind of moderate climax the book ends. Cersei's chapters are a brilliant exception. Again, not a whole lot happens, but it doesn't matter because finally getting a look at her madness, insecurities and driving forces is enough of a treat. I personally find Brienne rather bland- a fine character, but not an interesting one to make POV. Her chapters in particular are a dull trip, seemingly in circles, where I felt like I learnt nothing new. Besides that, finally getting some views from Dorne is nice, although the way they are presented makes it feel like a B-plot regardless of the clear significance of the region. Basically, all the biggest points of interest are in the partly concurrent book that follows this.
I got the feeling this book was something of a filler and way of arranging some of the characters so they are placed (geographically and/or emotionally) appropriately for subsequent events. Sam needs to get to Old Town, and develop a little along the way, Arya needs to be doing her own thing to prepare her for whatever she chooses next (this was sometimes interesting, but again didn't build to anything). Sansa needs to settle into her new role/location in preparation for that region maybe becoming important. Brienne needs to do stuff. Jaime needs to change how he sees Cersei (this point is quite important to be fair, and marks a fairly significant development of his character and identity) and resolve a few things in the Riverlands. Cersei needs to be Cersei. Iron Islanders need to reorder so they might influence later events but while still feeling like a distraction from main events.
on 12 June 2013
I'm afraid this was the point at which my desire to know what happens was overcome by my unwillingness to wade through any more of Martin's otiose and self-indulgent maunderings. Yes, an author needs to know far more about his or her imagined world than ever gets on the page, in order to lend substance and texture, but then you have to choose what actually matters. Martin just puts everything in, which is poor style, adolescent in terms of maturity of writing and in the end just tedious. How many times have readers groaned, "Oh, just get on with it!"? His claims that he is as interested in the detail as the story do suggest something of a disregard for the reader, as does his cavalier breaking of the compact between reader and author in the way he just disposes of major characters in whom readers have invested, almost it seems on a whim.
Others have remarked on his pointless sex scenes. Sex is indeed a powerful motive, but much better writers than Martin have foundered on attempts to describe the mechanics, which is rarely necessary in order to create an understanding of the characters' needs and drives. There is also the unsavoury dwelling on very young girls as sexual objects (he is not the only writer of a major fantasy series to evoke considerable unease by this). All this and the jarring Americanisms - if you are writing in an American context that can be endurable, but not in a world that is so essentially European.
The magnificent T.V. series scores in presenting the power plays and politicking in superbly designed settings and with a fine cast, but by reason of the medium having to miss out the endless pointless guff, which is in this case a really big plus.
No-one needs to know the details of every course at a banquet (although I do recommend 'A Feast of Ice and Fire', written by people who know about historic food). No-one needs to know every detail about some minor character who strays in only to get killed. Read Homer on how to introduce, kill off but make you care about a character in a sentence and with no disruption to the narrrative whatsoever. But then that's genius. Martin appears to think he is one, so that he can get away with anything, but he's been writing long enough and should know better. A good editor and a sturdy blue pencil could take a whopping proportion out of these increasingly annoying books and produce something compellingly readeable rather than just too tiresome to finish. I'm still not sure that would excuse the casual discarding of major characters though. The shock of losing Ned Stark in the first book did serve a really good plot purpose - for the rest, no, not convinced. I'll wait for the next T.V. series instead of paying good money to someone who clearly does not respect the reader.
on 28 June 2012
The book is a pretty good read though it is very slowly paced to begin with compared to the previous books, it follows the path of only a handful of characters- mostly Lannisters and leaves you wondering whats happening with the other characters and some of the plot thread which seamed relatively urgent in their need to be resolved.
One plot line a seemingly fruitless, a seemingly pointless quest - it was interesting to begin with but was ultimately a little disappointing. But did shed light on areas of Westeros and the final fate of a couple of characters.
The book does flesh out the Kingslayer in a lot richer detail, and for the first time in the series I started to empathizes with Jamie, and actually started to like the character.
Some nice threads on Arya, Sam, and distant Braovros.
Cersi is also given plenty of space, you can cringe as she plots schemes and sets herself up for a fall. Her internal dialogue is excellent, it gives her a desperate, paranoid, and isolated feel.
Overall- Slow to start up but gets better towards the end of the book, well worth the read
on 23 April 2006
I have read almost everything Martin has written. He is an amazingly good writer. I read and loved the first three books in the series, and then I waited five long years for the next. Then, just as I had about given up hope, it finally appears.
But what a disappointment. This book ambles along, going nowhere. Nothing much happens. It's nothing but politics, and it features all the least interesting characters from the first books. If Martin wasn't such a good writer I never would have finished. I did so only in the hope that the next book will be along soon and must surely be better. A note at the end of the book virtually apologizes, and says all the other (and more interesting characters) will be along in the next installment.
George, please don't keep us waiting for the next book. This one hasn't exactly whetted my appetite. You could lose a lot of fans if it doesn't appear soon.
on 6 September 2012
..and the first 3 books were so good! Game of thrones, clash of kings, storm of swords, were truly epic books that made me believe that, YES, it is true, this is the American 'tolkien'...
ok forget that.
for the forth volume, GRRM has firstly done away with all the characters that you truly want to hear about (so no Tyrian, no Arya, no Dany, no Jon) and given us only weak characters who, frankly, i dont care about atall - Sam, Brienne are probably the best. Its not a good gamble. With these characters - and some new anonymous characters, there is hundreds of pages of nothing. The characters wonder round the kingdom on pointles ,insignificant journeys. The 'missions' if you can call them that, i couldnt understand why Martin was devoting so much time to them. Gone is the fantastic plotting and manuvering of the first 3 books. No battles, no page turning plots, no scandals or plots at all. Very disappointing. Furthermore - the book is the same approximate number of pages as the others, so we have hundreds of pages of insignificant, boring, dull detail to digest.
Its such a pity, the 1st 3 books were fantastic. i have to give this book 1 star, its truly terrible. Where is the editor? obviously by now, Martin is surrounded by yes men who tell him his every word is a work of glory. A true shame. Avoid this dull heap of boredom at all cost.