Grade: Γ — Good book within the genre. Solid story, good characters, if you like this genre, read this book.
It is with mixed feelings that I recommend this book. The fourth volume of the ever growing series more frequently known as the Game of Thrones is well written and a surprisingly fast read (considering it comes in at over 1000 pages), but in some ways only serves as a place marker in the middle of the series. Other than adding what seem to be unnecessary complications to an already convoluted plot, I cannot say that I feel that the story has made any significant strides forward at the end of this very long series.
A High Fantasy world with a magic system that does not include D&D style spell casters (i.e. wizards who throw fireballs) or Tolkienesque non-humans (i.e. no elves, dwarves, orcs or other demi-human creatures), but does include dragons and undead. The story follows the political complexities between the multiple power factions that exist in a medievalesque kingdom that very vaguely resembles a scaled up geography of the UK (in that it is divided into three sections: The South, the North and Scotland… er… sorry… Beyond the Wall).
In an afterward comment at the end of the book, George R.R. Martin explains that he did not write about some of the key characters in the series because he knew that he had written so much that he needed to break the book into two volumes. He goes on to say that he felt: ‘…the readers would be better served by a book that told all the story for half the characters, rather than half the story for all the characters.’
I get that. I really do. Unfortunately, what A Feast for Crows presents is half the story for half the characters. It ends with a cliffhanger for each point-of-view character, not any resolution (at all). What is more, for the most part they aren’t even the characters we care about. Indeed, some of them are characters we never really saw in the previous volumes.
Added to that, much of what occurs in this volume appears to add unnecessary complexities to a story that is already overly complex. In fact, when I really think about it in terms of plot progression, much of what occurred within this book could have been dealt inside of two hundred pages. Sure, that would have cut out some of the twists and turns, but we would have ended in the same place with the same amount of character growth and development. As that most of the story lines follow characters who were secondary (or tertiary… or barely even mentioned) in the previous books I don’t think we would have cared much.
Having said that, I still enjoyed the read, particularly the developments of Jamie and Arya. Martin has a wonderful style and the ability to make you care about even the most reprehensible of characters. His writing reads easily and keeps your interest going throughout, once you get into this volume (for problems on that, see my earlier review of the series to date).
While A Feast for Crows is a must read for anyone who has already invested in reading the series, I would suggest waiting until the next volume comes out before picking it up.
In fact, I might suggest waiting until the whole series is complete before doing so. I would certainly do that if I hadn’t read any of them to date. After all, in Martin’s afterward (written in 2005) he says he hopes that the next volume, A Dance of Dragons, would be out in the following year. Present release dates on Amazon say 2012. That’s six years late… and Dance of Dragons is not the conclusion of the series.