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 30 May 2007
First, let me say that I will be sticking with the series and I have not written off forthcoming instalments based on my opinion of this book.
A Feast for Crows is an extremely frustrating book. Martin has taken the very dubious step of ditching half of the characters and leaving their stories for A Dance With Dragons. This results in a constant, nagging feeling that you really are missing out on half of the plot and that the story would benefit enormously from the perspectives of those characters that have been put on the back burner.
The plot is supposed to be charting the mess left after the various conflicts of the previous books but instead is itself just a tangled mess as the author, trapped in his character per chapter format, is forced to chop backwards and forwards too often between a silly number of threads and in doing so loses the overall continuity of the story.
Sadly, there is the real possibility that Martin has overreached himself and is struggling badly to stay on top of the various sub-plots he has created. I really hope that he quickly consolidates the multitudinous threads in the next book so that the climax has the time to play out properly in the final two volumes. It does not bode well that Martin admits that the writing for A Dance With Dragons is not proceeding quite as he had hoped!
One more thing to get off my chest - I am becoming extremely weary of Martin's love of inflicting cruelty on his key characters. Occasionally it is good for the story (Jaime's hand for instance) but the rest of the time is pretty pointless. Still, it seems Martin will not be happy unless he has killed or horribly maimed all his characters by the conclusion of the series.
Overall this book puts me in mind of a car stuck in a muddy field, frantically spinning it's wheels and beeping it's horn but not actually getting anywhere. I can only hope that Martin rediscovers some of the direction that made the first few books of the series enjoyable.
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.
I almost didn't buy this book because of the negative reviews and the litany of complaints about the quality of this book compared with the first three. I'm glad I wasn't swayed. True, some of the prominent characters from the first three books (who still survive) are missing, notably Tyrion and Daenerys as POV characters; but they are there in spirit and their (mis)deeds continue to influence the actions of the other main characters. With them missing, and a number of other characters killed off, who supplies the POV? Well, a number of new characters, sometimes only inhabiting one chapter; but unlike some reviewers I found that the new characters added a new dimension to the book, which together with the flashbacks to times long gone, added flesh to the bones of a rip-roaring adventure to make it a true classic.
The landscape is as dark and dreary as before but with new horrors. Perhaps the most understated is Qyburn, who carries out unspeakable acts in the deep dungeons of Kings Landing - well, maybe not always unspeakable, as some of the torture scenes are described in horrible detail. As always decapitated heads, rotting flesh, maiming, disfigurement and cannibalism are well covered in the writing, brought into vivid contrast by descriptions of juicy oranges being enjoyed in Sunspear the capital of Dorne. Meanwhile we get an in depth look at the Ironborn people, with their fiercely proud but cruel code of conduct. This is typified by the idea that going to sea without wearing full armour is craven because it shows that you are afraid of drowning; a novel, but somewhat warped concept!
One of the key elements in this book is the emphasis given to the different religions and their growing importance, which first became apparent in "A Clash of Kings" with the murder of Renly. Also, the divide between the living and dead is becoming blurred (Watch out for The Hangwoman!), possibly paving the way for fresh horrors from beyond the wall in the next books of the series.
Apart from the price of the Kindle edition, the only other area in which I would agree with some of the negative reviews is the complexity of the plot and the vast number of characters, often with similar names. To make it even worse, a couple of the characters change their name, and in one case the new name is used as a POV character. To follow all of this you either have to have an excellently organised memory, or read the book in one mammoth session. Failing that, do as I did - cheat! The only way I can manage the books in this series is to read them with a concordance alongside. As I mentioned in a previous review I have found a couple of Apps for the iPhone which work well for me. Game of Thrones - Wiki (online) and Game of Thrones Companion (offline). By occasionally referring to one, or both of these, I can just about keep my head above water (no reference to the Ironborn intended) and enjoy this masterpiece.
on 20 March 2012
I'm not going to waste my time and yours writing a pretentious review covering all the reasons why I feel this book isn't as good as the previous ones but just be assured it isn't.
Obviously if you've got this far you, like me you will continue to read everything Mr Martin produces in this series.
I just felt it got a little tied up in itself. This episode spends even less time on action and events and more on plot/character building and for the first time I found myself getting confused at the depth.(maybe more my failings than Mr Martins). Thank the seven gods for A Wiki of Ice and Fire!
That aside there are "some" exciting parts that literally had me unable to put it down.
Another observation is the increasing "titillation" in relation to the sexual scenes. I'm certainly no prude but it seems a little excessive for the sake of "sex sells" for me.
I still enjoyed it and would recommend. Just not quite up to Book 3 (part 1 and 2) which is my personal favourite.
on 12 July 2011
I thoroughly enjoyed the first three books in the series, managing to (somehow) cope with a personae dramatis that makes the castlist of Cleopatra read paltry in comparison.
However I think I've reached my personal limit now as to how many more irrelevant characters I need to be introduced to. Is it really necessary to give us a chapter featuring five? six? random whores with their names, what they're wearing, their background, who we will never meet again, who bring nothing but futher words and even more characters to the party, which is already thronging with nephews, cousins, fourth cousins of what seems like a trillion different families?
I've given up trying to keep track of all those people, all those fourth, fifth marriages, 16 bastards and gods knows what else.
Dear author, give us a break.
Just get on with THE STORY.
Give us some interesting, relevant things that move the story forward, or points of view on the story that are more interesting.
There is no need for this what I can only perceive as delaying tactics.
There is plenty of stuff to write a thousand more stories about this world, past, future and present. More than there's time left on this plane for the author to ever begin to explore or write down. Which is what worries me. Will the author live long enough to get around to Daenerys Targaryen ever mounting a dragon?
I'll give Book 5 a chance.
Book Four was exhausting, disappointing and definitely suffering from a dirth of dragons.
on 29 July 2011
Aftering watching a few episodes of GOT on the TV I went out and purchased the books and could barely put down the first 3, the pace was good the stories twisted and turned and the world came to life.
Then I picked up Crows and for the first time found myself putting down the book to do something more interesting. This seemed to move at such a slow pace, and nothing happened...
It reminded me of other books at this type of stage they have alot of pages alot of dialogue and small stories but when it came down to it 90% could have been ditched and the 10% left would have been a better book.
on 27 May 2011
When I first read this book I, like many other reviews here, found it very frustrating. A Feast for Crows takes place simultaneously with much of the forthcoming next book, A Dance with Dragons, and most of my favourite Point of View characters were held off for that story. Many of the new Point of Views in this book I found dull, especially the Iron Islands segments.
However, I have recently re-read the book in preparation for the near release of the next book, and I find it greatly improved upon the re-read. Instead of rushing through the story I took my time with it, and I learnt to enjoy the new PoVs. If you stop thinking about all the PoVs you are missing and are patient, and take the time to enjoy the new storylines, it's much better than rushing through the book just to get to the not-yet-released next book.
I have in fact found this to be true of the series as a whole.
That said, it remains the weakest book of the series so far. Hopefully, once combined with Dance with Dragons it will be redeemed in light of that (hopefully, great) book.