In which I greatly miss some characters but get sucked into the continuing saga of Westeros nonetheless
Title: A Feast for Crows
Author: George R. R. Martin
What it’s about: Warning: Spoilers ahead for the three previous books in George R. R. Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire series. A Feast for Crows focuses on the aftermath of The War of Five Kings. Though only one of the original declarants remains (Stannis), the country is still at war as new kings are crowned. One Lannister is as good (or bad) as the next, so young Tommen takes the place of his brother on the thrown in King’s Landing. As Tommen is too young to rule and Tyrion is out of the picture following his trial for Joffrey’s wedding-night demise (the second death of a king at a wedding…curious) and the subsequent actual murder of his father, the ruling of the kingdom finally falls on Cersei’s shoulders. For the first time Cersei becomes a POV character, but I was disappointed that her chapters didn’t expand my understanding of her motivations much. While I did develop some sympathy for the once reprehensible Jaime when his chapters were introduced in Storm of Swords, Cersei is pretty much how I always imagined her: self-centered, paranoid, and clueless when it comes to politics. She orders deaths like I order pizza (usually while intoxicated and without much thought to how I’ll feel about it in the morning). When we do get glimpses into her past, they almost exclusively focus on a prophesy experienced as a girl which fortold her marriage to Robert, her three bastard children and eventual fall to another queen. This felt like a lot of energy spent foretelling things that had already come to pass. While Cersei assumes her doom will come in the guise of her new daughter-in-law Margery (three times a queen, twice widowed, and still a virgin? I’d like this girl unpacked a little), we all know the prophesy must mean Daenerys.
Which brings us to one of my biggest problems with this book: No Daenerys, no Tyrion, and no Jon Snow. With so many characters and the number of POVs growing, it would be hard to pick a favorite, but those three are certainly in my top five and with good reason. Tyrion is the wise fool, bringing much-needed levity and clearmindedness. Daneryes is the other, a stranger across the sea, and I always look forward to her chapters because they bring us into such a very different world. And Jon? I think many people see a bit of themselves in Jon. He’s still one of the purest characters, trying to “do the right thing” and also find his place in the world. Martin explained that he chose to leave some characters out because as he wrote he found that the scope of the book was unmanageable, but I question leaving these three out in particular. It left this installment feeling unbalanced.
We do get a few more new additions and visit old friends. I enjoyed our journey to the Iron Islands and closer interaction with Asha Greyjoy and her family of kraken lords. Arya’s voice is always welcome, but I don’t know if I approve of her path. Now an acolyte in the temple of the Faceless Gods in Bravvos, Arya’s teachers try to get her to abandon her identity, to no longer be Arya Stark. But though Arya has taken on many names since leaving Winterfell, she’s always quite passionately been true to herself. And with the Stark name dying out, Arya abandoning it feels like a betrayal of her family.
I was glad to be back in Westeros, but I found my visit less than fulfilling. Martin continues to add layers and his story still manages to surprise me (though often in ways that result in me exclaiming in anger or disbelief). My investment in the characters only deepens, which makes their struggles all the more wrenching. As the story becomes more sprawling in scope, I feel a bit of longing for the unified voices of Game of Thrones, populated by Starks and the odd Lannister or Targaryen. The world was smaller and simpler, but though it was easier, I respect the expansion of the world. It’s no easy task and Martin’s aims are ambitious. I’m along for the ride now.