A Feast For Crows

Excepting Robert Jordan and the Wheel of Time series, it seems the definitive word in modern tradtional fantasy (does that make sense?) is George R.R. Martin's Song of Ice and Fire, a trilogy that expanded in scope to five, then seven, planned novels, each one almost 1,000 pages in length.  But while the rest of the world awaits the 5th entry in the series with on tip-toes, I admit to being a little put off after reading A Feast For Crows.

A brief summary of my experience with Martin's modern fantasy epic. A Game of Throne was my initial "re-entry" into traditional fantasy after a decade or so of staying away. It was decent - Martin's writing was a bit rough in places, the action was (literally) all over the map with a real sense of cohesion, and to be honest it was, well, dull. That is, until the end with a scene so ridiculous I laughed out loud and bought into it. A Clash of Kings improved on everything from the first book - more action, better characterizations, and a plot that was massive in its complexity yet never incomprehensible. A Storm of Swords threatened to go nowhere: at over 1,100 pages it lacked any sense of direction for almost 600 pages before pulling itself up by its bootstraps and kicking a bucketful of ass to its conclusion. I was primed and ready for continued greatness.

Alas, it was not to be had in A Feast For Crows. The action only concerns half of the characters - and the end of 970 book Martin offers a quick apology, saying that after writing thousands of pages he saw the novel would be too big, and decided to cut the action into section, dealing with events in the South for A Feast For Crows and leaving the North to his next book, A Dance of Dragons (still not released five years later). What this does is leave out many of the best characters and only gives the reader a part of the pictures of what's going on. It seems an odd choice to make four books in - I think he would have better served his readers - and his story - by continuing in the vein he had, interweaving all his plots and couplings and ending on a cliff-hanger as he had before. Sure, there are good moments to be had: we see the almost total meltdown of Cersi's "reign" as her true nature comes to light, and the continuing story of Brienne the "Maiden of Tarth" segues nicely with the wonderful turning around of Jamie "Kingslayer" Lannister. Everyone else, though, plods through their portions of the tale with little in the way of insight. Events happen off-page and are related later in passing, motivations are clumsily spelled out, and prophecies are crammed in instead of flowing with a more natural poise as they did in the previous books.

Unlike his (deserved) millions of other fans, I'm not going to clang on the Web Bell to hand over that fifth book. There are obviously reasons he hasn't released it yet (it was promised in 2005), and hopefully some of the severe issues in A Feast For Crows are going to be addressed when it does get it's eventual release.

Until then, keep your chin up and let me know what's sitting on your shelf this week.