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This review is from: A Feast for Crows: A Song of Ice and Fire (Game of Thrones) (Mass Market Paperback)
I have to say this book was a disappointment. The first three books in this series were unquestionably 5-star reading.
A Feast for Crows, however, truly was -- as one reviewer described it -- a chore to get through. I wondered often as I read it whether Martin would have fared better to collapse this book and the sequel, A Dance with Dragons, into one volume after all. The argument that the book would have then been too long doesn't wash with me since many of the chapters here -- far too many -- felt like "packing material", the popcorn and bubblewrap that you have to dig through to get to the good stuff that you really wanted and paid for. A Feast for Crows would have been a far better book if the dross chapters had been eliminated and the pure gold chapters from the next book added in. Ah, well. Too late for that now.
Sadly, in this book, I just got bored. Not only once, but again and again. And I am astounded to say that because Martin is a magnificent writer and storyteller. But I was seriously bored with much of this book.
I did not like Martin's departure from the style of previous books of adding so many nameless ("The Prophet", "The Kraken's Daughter", etc.) point-of-view (POV) chapters. Sheesh. Why not just say their names? "Aeron" ... "Asha" ... Worse still, most of these "secondary" POV chapters were quite dull. I did not like these characters and I did not want to invest my time in them because it is not THEIR story I am interested in in this series. Many of these secondary characters are repellent, dull, and/or unpleasant, and each new character's chapter(s) carried the baggage of (seemingly) 50 to 60 new names and characters apiece.
Even the primary POVs in this volume, including Brienne, Jaime, and Cersei, are not particularly likable or interesting. That leaves about 20% of the book that really held my interest. Only the Samwell, Arya, and Sansa chapters held my attention here, and the latter two characters appear very little in this particular volume. The one good thing about this overall structure was that at least I knew before reading a chapter that I probably wasn't going to enjoy it: "Brienne", "Cersei", "Jaime", "Unnamed" = Not Terribly Interesting. Best not be sleepy if you want to get through any of these chapters in one sitting.
To the author's credit, the pace of Feast for Crows does pick up toward the end of the book, which, alas, once again leaves us hanging for heaven knows how long until the next book is published -- longer still if these particular "King's Landing" POV plot threads are not to be picked back up until Book 6. Patience, more than any other quality, is required of readers of this series.
Even so, I am committed to this series for the long haul. Martin at his worst is better than most writers in this genre at their very best. He is a most gifted and talented writer, and I trust he can get back on course for the next book in this series. I am keeping my fingers crossed that there is someone in this process that can effectively tell Martin, for future volumes in this series, "Yo, dude. This chapter is well written, surely, but it really ought to be cut..."
EDIT, June 10, 2011--
In anticipation of the publication of Book 5, A Dance with Dragons, next month, I have been rereading this series. The first three books were a joy (yet again), but this one, not so much. If you are tackling Book 4, A Feast for Crows, either for the first time or if you're rereading the series, and you find yourself struggling with this particular volume, I recommend the following:
(1) Read the Prologue.
(2) Then skip to chapter 5, the first Samwell chapter, and read it.
(3) Thereafter, read ONLY the Jaime, Sansa/"Alayne", Arya/"Cat of the Canals", and Samwell chapters. Skip all of the Cersei, Brienne, and remaining "Unnamed" chapters -- all of them.
(4) Finally, after that, check the A Feast for Crows Wikipedia entry for brief plot synopses of the portions you skipped past.
This cuts the book by more than half, I know, but trust me. It's better this way.
The Prologue and final Samwell chapter give the book a satisfying sense of completion and closure, and the story overall moves along at a much brisker clip. Of the two Lannisters represented here (how I missed Tyrion in this book!), Jaime is definitely more interesting than Cersei, and he lets you know all you really need to know about Cersei (and Brienne, too) from his point of view.
And, of course, the skipped chapters will always be there, waiting for you, just like the La Brea Tar Pits, should you ever feel inclined to wade through them.
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Showing 1-10 of 41 posts in this discussion
Initial post: May 11, 2011 9:38:01 AM PDT
E. L. Van Hine says:
Sadly, particularly for those who were introduced to this series via the HBO series like me, I am left with the impression that Martin killed off his most interesting characters. I'm not quite sure why he set up the plot to off the central character from the first book - Ned Stark, and then sorta kinda replace him with his various family members as the Stark plotline, only to reset the focus more and more on Tyrion and have him exit stage left at the end of book 3. The only thing that keeps book 4 going is Jaime Lannister whose has hidden aspects of nobility that make him worth reading about - Sansa Stark is a perpetual victim, Brienne is another Sam Tarly with fighting skills, and there's too little depth to the other characters to keep an eye on them. I think Martin lost track of his plot. He should have taken a lesson from Tolkien who kept Frodo going through the whole series.
Posted on May 22, 2011 5:04:50 PM PDT
I have no hope that the author will improve or change. He is drunk on mead and lemoncakes- and as long as the dragons keep tumbling in, why would he change? He is no longer a captivating story teller in my opinion-- just a motley court jester who loves to hear himself talk for talking sake.
Posted on Jun 11, 2011 2:04:37 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Aug 12, 2011 1:16:08 PM PDT
Auntie Debs says:
I like fantasy/science fiction but haven't read any for quite a while because it can be very predictable and commercial. I only heard about this series because Sean Bean, whom I adore, is in the HBO series. I only get basic cable and toyed briefly with upping my service to watch Sean. However, I have now become engrossed in the books, 1-3 that is. I have skipped some of the chapters in book 3 especially and wondered if I should bother with book 4 so decided to read the reviews on amazon. I'm glad I did. I will most likely read book 4 but only by using your 4 point guide. I am interested in progressing in each character's storymand any new relevant character. I don't mind that characters I like get offed if it makes sense to the greater story. There should not always be a deus ex machina to save a lead character - boring and predictable. Life is unpredictable and messy and I find this to be a strength of this series. Thanks for your review.
UPDATE: I did read book 4 according to Tom's outline, though I have not read the wikipedia summary. I am happy with how I have approached this and am looking forward to book 5. If I need to go back and pick up anything I haven't read the books are always with my on my blackberry. I probably would not have skipped any chapters in book 4 except for the fact that I did skip in book 3. I had intended to skip book 4 altogether, but the selected reading has brought the joy of the story back to me. Thanks, Tom, for taking one for the team in order to make your recommendations. I missed Tyrion, too!
UPDATE - SORT OF, NO SPOILERS
Just finished Book 5 and was disappointed that the story still does not progress much. This is obviously not a continued review of book 4, but thought I would add this: If you haven't read book 5, you may want to wait until 6 and 7.... come out if what you are looking for is a story. For Book 5, GRRM gives crumbs instead of a meal. Is he an excellent writer - yes. Is he a good story teller - if he ever got around to telling the story I believe he would be.
Posted on Jul 3, 2011 10:06:33 PM PDT
M. J. Rodney says:
I think your advice to skip certain chapters is really a disservice. One could certainly skip Brienne's chapters but skipping the Dorne or Iron Island chapters would never understand these new characters showing up at Dany's feet in the the fifth installment.
In reply to an earlier post on Jul 4, 2011 5:24:09 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jul 5, 2011 11:52:44 AM PDT
I understand what you are saying, M. J. Rodney, and that is why I advised reading the wikipedia summary of the book in step 4.
The problem, as I see it, in A Feast for Crows, is that the story-relevant information in the skipped chapters is meager and could easily have been conveyed to the reader in a few sentences in someone else's chapter(s), such as through Daenerys, in the specific cases you mentioned. Kal Drogo did not need his own chapter, nor Ser Jorah, nor Pyat Pree, nor Strong Belwas, nor Brown Ben. Yet they all had fully realized histories and colorful personalities more than adequately related to the reader through Daenerys. As for Dorne, we already learned much of Dorne through Oberyn Martell, you will recall, in the Tyrion chapters of the last book, and it worked quite well. We did not need to "travel to Dorne" then any more than we did in this book. Martin is overcomplicating this story by introducing too many secondary separate threads and (relatively) minor characters.
A Feast for Crows reminded me of an old quote from Ambrose Bierce, "The covers of this book are too far apart." Either Martin's editors didn't see this problem (in which case, they really did the author and readers a disservice) or else they warned him about the problem and he overruled them. The result was most unfortunate, in either case.
In reply to an earlier post on Jul 11, 2011 8:42:48 AM PDT
I wouldn't suggest to do that. It is only his opinion- your's can be different. For example, I, in contrast, loved all Cersei's chapters. They were so smart and interesting. Jamie's chapters were boring. Like, really. I would skip all Jaime's chapters, if I knew.
But it is only me. And Tom is only Tom. You should read the whole book from the beginning to the end and have your own opinion. Because, who knows? I, personally, would hate the whole book without Cersei's chapters. If I followed his guide, I would loose lots of good stuffs which I liked.
Seriously, dude. Just read everything. Or otherwise you might loose something.
In reply to an earlier post on Jul 11, 2011 8:52:29 AM PDT
About your last paragraph- it depends on perspective. I didn't mind to monitor Greyjoys. Dorne was quite boring sometimes but also quite interesting often enough. Yes, everything could be portrayed a bit more concise. The book would be better in that case, I think. But other 3 books were written in the same style. So, I wouldn't be so strict with this one. It only lacks action. But overall, the book is still good. I enjoyed it, really. Some parts were boring but the vast majority of the story is so rich and interesting. I wouldn't suggest to skip so many chapters. The best part of the book is its descriptions, little details, smart dialogues. You will miss it all if you read everything from wikipedia.
Posted on Jul 11, 2011 9:01:18 PM PDT
Tom, I followed your advice and was very satisfied with the experience. Then I went back, because I had the time, and read the chapters you suggested I skip. I didn't feel like I'd missed anything crucial in the skipped chapters. Your reading guide was, for me at least, spot on. Your review is a very fine piece of work indeed.
In reply to an earlier post on Jul 25, 2011 8:16:20 AM PDT
Brian T says:
I totally agree with you E.L. I began reading A Song of Fire and Ice right after the HBO episode where Ned was imprisoned. Once i started reading AFFC, all i could think about was how every single chapter was dragging (except for Jamies' chapters). I agree with you also on Ned, i really liked his chapters but Martin had to kill him off to give the story some REAL drama (not some good guys vs. bad guys b.s).
Posted on Aug 16, 2011 12:21:09 PM PDT
Stephen A. Schwartz says:
I will say that if one were to follow your advice, they would miss out on one of the nicer bits of writing in the book; a speech in one of Brienne's chapters. Though that is my personal opinion, I'm sure a lot of people would enjoy it. While I get what you're saying, get through the thick of the boring bits to get to the next book, then I would ask: Why read them at all? Think of it this way: Getting to the top of a mountain these days is easy. Take a Helicopter. So why do people still hike anymore? It's not the destination, it's the journey. And in a story as intricate as this, who's to say a kernel of detail, presented in a chapter someone skipped to get to book five, may not come back around in a big way in the sixth or seventh book? Just saying. Feast for Crows really isn't that long.