Customer Reviews: A Feast for Crows: A Song of Ice and Fire (Game of Thrones)
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on November 20, 2005
OK, I did something a little different in this review. Soon there will be literally hundreds of reviews for this book, all giving similar reasons why people like or dislike A Feast For Crows. Instead of adding, and probably losing, my voice in amongst the clamour, I've done a bit of mathematics for you. I actually went through the book and noted which characters had chapters of their own and how many pages each of those chapters had, then I figured the numbers out as percentages (yes, I know, I need to get out more). So now, for your literary edification and illumination, I present to you a list of what actually happens in the book, according to my calculations (all rounded off).

CERSEI: 22.5%. That's right, folks, the Lannister Queen has more than one page in five, and nearly one page in four, devoted entirely to her point of view. If you've always wanted to know what goes on in her scheming little mind, then boy, do we have a show for you! Considering that there are thirteen people altogether who get chapter viewpoints of their own, Cersei's 22.5% share means that, on average, everyone else only gets 6.5% each. You could say that Cersei has the lion's share (terrible pun, I know).

BRIENNE: 17.5%. Next on our little list comes the Maid of Tarth. Most of the time we spend with her is on character development, rather than juicy action. Not that there's anything wrong with that at all, but you've been warned. If you were expecting her to become Lara Croft: Tomb Raider reborn, think again. Also, of some small statistical note, more than 60% of the pages in this book are devoted to the female character's points of view. Just so you know.

JAIME: 15.5%. The ever-more-interesting brother, and erstwhile lover, of Cersei continues in his evolution from out-and-out bad guy to, well, kind of a good guy. We're going to have to read the next book to see which way he jumps for sure, but so far he's certainly more inclined towards honesty and honour than he seemed to be in the first couple of books.

SAMWELL: 9%. The first character with less than ten percent of the ink investment is Sam. One of the more down-to-earth minor characters from the previous book, he gets fleshed out a little more here (excuse the pun).

SANSA: 8%. One of the few remaining Starks, and one of only two who get chapters of their own in this book, Sansa is also evolving as a character. In this book she is very slowly starting to show signs of an independence that she heretofore lacked. Of course, with only three chapters of her own, she doesn't show much. Not that she was ever on the front lines of either political intrigue or physical combat.

ARYA: 6% The only other person from House Stark with chapters from her own viewpoint. Arya has always been an interesting character to me. Her moral ambiguity, like Jaime's, is stretched further in this book. I'm a little nervous as to how she'll shape up in the end. At this point, it's a little difficult for me to tell, though I have optimistic expectations.

WHO? WHAT? HUH?: 21.5%. Seven people, some of whom are hardly mentioned, or not mentioned at all, in previous books, have their own chapter or two each in this book. So more than one page in five is from the viewpoint of someone you probably can't remember reading about before. And half the time the same viewpoint doesn't come up again in this book at all.

TYRION, JON, DAENERYS, STANNIS, DAVOS, ETC.: 0%. These characters don't appear at all. We have to tune in to the next episode for updates on their adventures. I wondered about this when I bought the book and saw that the maps at the front only showed Westeros.

So there you have it. If you're here reading reviews because you've gotten halfway through the book, don't like it, and want to see what everyone else thought, then I'd recommend that you keep reading. Slog through a few more pages; it does pick up at around the halfway mark. Although, in my mind, the endings for the various characters are fairly anticlimactic. Nothing is really resolved, unlike the previous books. And it's going to be the same for the next book, apparently, since Martin says that it will only focus on the characters who were expected to appear in this book but didn't.

I've given A Feast For Crows three stars, where the previous books in the series would have each earned at least four stars from me.
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on November 15, 2005
It's doubtful that any sort of review will stop someone who has read the first three books from reading this long-awaited and justly anticipated instalment. Nevertheless, I'd like to voice an opinion which falls between the extremes which seem to be the most prevalent sort of reponses to this book.

Mr Martin is a great fantasy writer, and I don't think that has changed. However, A Feast For Crows is not up to the standard of this first three in the series. What I suspect HAS changed is the commercial pressure that has been placed on Mr Martin, combined with (I hate to say it) a growing over-indulgence which has been allowed him. When George Martin defends the delays, longer-than-expected lengths, and the seemingly extraneous side-stories, he is fond of referring to Tolkien by saying that "the story writes itself" (or something like that). I don't doubt that Martin experiences this "divine inspiration" like many other great artists, but this time around he seems to have been unable (or more likely, unwilling) to step away from that feeling to undergo the painful process of editing. When the pressure to make a release led to a cutting in half of the anticipated book, thus allowing two books of about 700 pages rather than one of about, say, 1000, it seems that Martin took it as a cue to go easy on the editing. The splitting of the book is itself substantially detrimental, but Martins lack of self-criticism is the real reason why this book is somewhat disappointing. Not everything created by the divine inspiration of great artists is great art.

People who are claiming that there is no plot development, either within the book or for the series, are of course exaggerating. There are certain interesting revelations and developments that will no doubt play a role in the eventual (and I say that optimistically) resolution of the series. Take for (spoiler-free) example the potential rise of the Church of the 7 gods as a major political player, the implied motivations of the masters in Oldtown, the (loss of) direction that Berric Dondarions outlaws have taken, the grand plans of the new king of the Iron Islands etc. However, these sort of developments are only seen accidentally through the characters, who have become the real focus of this book.

This is where Martin seems to have gone astray. The chapters of the three characters who by far dominate this book in terms of length (Cersei, Jaime, and Brienne) are all in turn overly-dominated by a personal theme. Cersei has become paranoid to the point of insanity, particularly with regards to a prophesy she was given as a girl (which, by the way, felt like a new idea of Martins specifically for this book, but doesn't seem to fit entirely comfortably with Cersei's character from the previous books). Jaime is torn between love/trust and hate/mistrust of his sister. Brienne struggles with doubt about her worth in playing the role of a knight as opposed to an ordinary, though ugly, high-born maiden. The problem is that not only are the bigger events of the "game of thrones" made subordinate to these longwinded inner struggles and dialogues, but that they tend not to go anywhere. Admittedly Cersei's paranoia has important ramifications in her final 2 chapters, but is it really necessary to spend her first 8 chapters or so just to give the sense of her paranoia? I feel it could have been done in 3 or 4 chapters, and thereby made more engaging rather than tiresome. The same applies at least as much for Jaime and Brienne.

Speaking of Brienne, I think that Martin has blatently sacrificed the flow of the story within and between books in favour of setting up a "cliffhanger" ending. In the previous books, anticipation for the following book has been achieved by a partial resolution of the characters (Jon Snowe becomes Lord Commander and refuses Stannis' offer, Tyrion kills Tywin and leaves Westeros, etc) and leaves you able to intelligently speculate about their future. Brienne's predicament at the end of her final chapter is a matter that would be resolved in a matter of seconds in real-time, but unfortunately Martin has opted to finish it like a lame soap opera full of cheap tricks to make me watch the next episode, or a typical horror movie setting itself up for a money-making sequel. I dare say she will survive, but I am still left feeling a little more cautious of Martins artistic credibility.

When I say that those three characters dominate the length of the novel, I am not exaggerating. The rest of the POVS are a mixed bag. I thought that the ones covering Dorne and the Iron Islands contained some interesting developments, although they are yet to take on their full significance, which makes them less engaging. I felt Arya had potential to become one of the more interesting characters at the end of the previous novel, but so far (in her 3 chapters) has failed to deliver. Her primary role here seems to be to describe life in the city of Braavos. Sansa's chapters are somewhat interesting but still contain a lot of filler (especially her last one, which I barely skim read up to the last page, something I never felt inclined to do in any of the prevous books). The same goes for Samwell.

Essentially, AFFC contains writing that is as good as any of the previous books, but it is hidden and scattered between too many words, which costs us readers more of our time and money. Martin just seems to do a little too much taking and not enough giving in this instalment, and if things continue like this in the next instalment, he will lose my interest. I'm sure he is aware of the dangers of prolonging a story to the point of tedium. Let's hope that feedback to this book will make him raise his editing game, and get this song back into a refined composition rather than a noodling free-jam.
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on November 29, 2006
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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on December 6, 2006

I've enjoyed this series, honestly I have, but the latest entry--A Feast for Crows--has forced me to seriously reconsider whether it has been worth it.

In the first place, frankly, this is no longer the series I'd signed on for. The first novel introduced a group of characters, the Starks, and led us to believe that they would be central to the narrative. Now with most of them dead or scattered, they're almost incidental to it. Since this volume only deals with half of the current "main cast," some of my personal favorites completely disappear (like Tyrion and Daenerys). In short, when I decided to continue on after A Game of Thrones, I didn't know I'd be reading 1000 pages of Brienne and the Iron Born.

Aside from this literary 'bait and switch,' there's also the fact that... well... nothing really happens in this book. Okay, maybe "nothing" is harsh, but it certainly feels like it. *Lots of things* should happen in a 1000 page book, but Martin strives to put all of the relevant happenings at the very end. Before that, characters spend an endless amount of time wandering from place to place. We readers get to meet all sorts of new and extraneous characters, instead of spending time with the countless we've met before. (Though in fairness, given the time between publishings, it's unlikely we'd remember all of those older characters. I can't keep straight who's died anymore... I forget, is Theon dead?) Incredibly, most of the exciting action (battles and the like) take place between chapters, and we only learn about it through conversation after the fact.

Many of the new characters introduced here get their own POV chapter, sometimes one to a character. The series is becoming increasingly disjointed, and there's certainly no kind of resolution for anything in sight. The one real thru-line is Cersei's story. She probably gets the most chapters, and something like an actual plot. Of course, I can sum up all of those chapters to you here with: Cersei hates and is suspicious of/jealous of everyone and everything. Cersei sits around and snapes at everything, over and over again, and lord but it doesn't get much more exciting than that until page 900.

The series is, at least, consistent in that the worst things always happen to the best characters and things can always be counted on to go wrong (unless you're a villain). While it was once possible to say that Martin was being "realistic" in showing that, sometimes, bad things happen to the heroes... well, it's almost ridiculous now, in how nothing good ever seems to happen to anyone who could be described as "virtuous." Though, of course, very few of the remaining characters could so be described. Most have been decapitated well before this novel. There is a line between "realism" and "sadism," and it isn't all that "fine." Martin has crossed it some time ago.

Man, I was looking forward to this book. But really what I was looking forward to was a sequel to the novels that had come before it. Instead, this book (and, increasingly, the series) abandons the characters who have come before and, rather than offer any resolution, creates new conflicts spiraling off into the aether. It doesn't deal with any of those conflicts, either. Instead, it contents itself with having all of its main characters walk from locale to locale, talking, thinking and dreaming but never doing.

George R.R. Martin has taken up close to 4000 pages now, more than three times what Tolkien used in The Lord of the Rings and more than twice War and Peace. He has accomplished very little for all that, and given us little hope that there's any relief in sight. His preferred method of resolving conflicts seems to be having his characters abruptly die, and so that's how I figure he'll tie the loose ends here. It's all rather depressing, if like me you feel you have to finish what you start. Martin is capable of good, snappy storytelling--his graphic novel which takes place in the same world, The Hedge Knight, was really quite good. But it has one large advantage over A Song of Ice and Fire in that it has a beginning, middle and end. A Song of Ice and Fire, on the other hand, seems to be nothing but an endless middle. (The fact that it's a series doesn't mean it can't have both rising and falling action and resolutions to conflicts sprinkled along the way. Examine almost any other series, ever, for examples.)

Not all of these flaws are new to the series--in fact, they've been there since almost the start--but over time they're becoming more and more inescapable and damaging to the overall experience. Two stars for this novel. If things don't rapidly improve, and there's no reason to expect them to, we'll quickly find ourselves at a solitary star. A shame.
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on September 23, 2011
Unbelievably disappointing.

*****SPOILER ALERT*****: Nothing happens. And then nothing else happens, and then some more nothing, and WAIT HERE'S A TWIST: it's nothing.

I can't even give you a spoiler alert, because there's nothing to spoil. NOTHING HAPPENS. Character go on quests...that they never complete, get close to completing, and are in no way ever even close to the right path. Characters train and prepare for trials that never happen. Plots are hatched and then forgotten. Nothing happens.

The first three books were really phenomenal and engaging and I can't recommend them highly enough. But skip this one. Here, I'll spoil the plotlines for each of the characters followed in this book:

Brienne: Nothing happens. She goes on a quest to find and protect Sansa (or maybe Arya, too) and is never within 1000 miles of them. And since you as the reader know exactly where Sansa and Arya are, you know she's spending 3 chapters traveling to the wrong place.

Jaime: Nothing happens. He's mulling over his tarnished honor and lost hand, but also trying to train to use his left hand to sword fight, so you're kind of thinking maybe at the end he's going to be in some morally ambiguous situation where he tries to regain some of his lost honor by standing up for some injustice, even though he knows he'll likely lose left-handed...but no. He's training and preparing for a conflict that never occurs. Nothing happens.

Arya: Nothing happens. Hey check out this temple where they train badass assassins. I guess I'll do that or maybe I won't but I'll hang out for awhile and maybe get a little better at being kinda zen, but maybe not.

Sansa: Nothing happens. Hey I'm all hanging out at the Eyrie and no conflicts occur except for one slight annoyance quickly handled by somebody else. Oops, it's snowing, guess we'll go down the mountain for a bit.

Sam: Nothing happens. I'M ON A BOAT. That never gets attacked. And nothing really happens except for a love interest against my vows exactly like what Jon did in the last book. But then it's all okay and nothing happens.

Asha: Nothing happens. Hey I'm kind of a cool sexy pirate chick although you never actually get to see me fighting anything and I'm tough and I want to lead the Ironmen but they say I can't because I'm girl and oh look they're right they want some other dude as king and he says they're gonna take over the world but then they don't do anything except raid a couple of islands.

Arianne: I've got a plot to start a war but it doesn't work and then nothing happens.

Cersei: Okay, this is the ONLY character where anything is different at the end of the book than at the start, so I won't spoil this one...but really only read the last 3-4 Cersei chapters and you'll get the whole picture. Even then it's not that surprising, and you don't get to see the ultimate conclusion anyway.

On top of the fact that nothing happens...none of the stories have ANYTHING to do with each other. Except for Jaime and Cersei (and even then it's only in the first few chapters), none of the characters ever meet any of the other characters, or impact each other in any way. It'd be like watching Star Trek, except for the entire series Picard is on one starship and Riker's on another and every other character is on their own ship with different crews in different parts of the galaxy and none of them know each other or ever meet or interact in any way and they don't do anything anyway. Why are they in the same story? They have nothing to do with each other!

And it's not like the potential isn't there! You'd think Brienne might actually meet up with Sansa and have a confrontation with Jaime or Cersei...but nope. Or that the Ironmen and their conflict are fleshed out because they're going to capture Sam's ship and then all go off to find Dany together but...nope. Or that Jaime is going to investigate Arianne's plot with his daughter...but nope.

And the get to the end and discover that the next book in the series runs concurrently with this one. And since nothing happened in this big new wars broke out, no undead monsters descended upon the southern realms...that means nothing is going to happen in the next book, either. It's going to be another giant snooze fest where absolutely nothing happens.

tl;dr: nothing happens.
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on October 3, 2010
I was a soldier in Iraq when this book was released. I had been eagerly waiting for 4 years for a new installment of what I felt at the time was the best and brightest light in the fantasy sub-genre. I was disappointed. By now you know that every major character that GRRM had cultivated for nearly 3000 pages, 10 years and 3 novels was absent or only mentioned peripherally at best. But that's not the biggest betrayal of this novel. The biggest betrayal is the introduction of new POVs that we, as readers, have nothing invested in. We couldn't care less about them and aren't given any compelling reasons to begin caring. Brienne, Samwell, the Greyjoys, and anything happening in Dorne were minor ornamentations to the first three novels -- and that's being generous in some cases. In this one, they are center-stage for a solid 2/3rds of the text and they contribute nothing. NOTHING. They don't advance the plot, they don't illuminate motivations of the major players, they don't even bother to capture your interest. Brienne LITERALLY rides around and looks for someone the whole book. That's it. I just summed up in eleven words what evidently takes a dozen or so entire chapters for GRRM to convey.

For a fan of the world of ASOIAF, this is an "okay" novel. It provides depth of background and expands the tapestry of this world, letting you into the minds of characters that, prior to this novel, you had no access to. For fans of the STORY of ASOIAF, this book is a virtual waste of time. There are perhaps half a dozen chapters that advance the story and, after all, I believe thats what most of us are craving. As I type this, we've been waiting almost 5 years for the next installment, A Dance with Dragons. I won't bore you with reasons why I'm irritated about it. (At this point, you're either a GRRM apologist and have forgiven him for making you wait almost a decade for something new to happen in his creation, or you're not. I am not.) However, to say that I've moved on to other stories and writers is an understatement.

If you're new to ASOIAF, I'm advising you to avoid these novels. I have a feeling GRRM will end up breaking our hearts. He is notorious for not keeping notes and "writing from his mind". So unlike Jordan, who had extensive outlines, notes and ideas for a future ghostwriter to work from in the event of his untimely death, GRRM may leave nothing but an unfinished series.

At the very least, you can probably skip this novel. What "A New Spring" was to the Wheel of Time series, this book will be to ASOIAF. An interesting side-journey for hardcore fans, but, to the casual reader, ultimately a marketing diversion intended to soak you of more money.
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on March 4, 2007
I guess it's a little bit silly to declare in a review of Book 4A that I'm a big fan of the Song of Ice and Fire. After all, why else would one have waded through 3,000+ pages?

In fact, I felt Book 3 was perhaps the best installment to date. Perhaps it was for this reason that I was so bitterly disappointed with A Feast For Crows. Having read many of the other reviews, I can only repeat what many others have already cited as its most glaring deficiencies.

Most obvious, how can an author pen 1,000 pages of prose that fail to advance the already 3,000 page storyline even a little bit (with the possible exception of the Iron born). Two of the most intriguing threads, Tyrion and Daenerys, do not even make an appearance. It is only at the conclusion of the book that this is explained and very poorly so.

"The more I thought about that, however, the more I felt that 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". Martin

ALL THE STORY? Did anyone else get all the story? Instead, he arbitrarily ends the story for these characters no further along than when he started. And we must wait for another partial installment featuring the characters of most interest. And what choice do we have? We've already invested in over 4,000 pages of reading.

Even more troubling is that Book 4B will not even address the numerous cliffhangers left from Book 4A, most specifically Arya and Brienne. Book 5 will not likely be published until after 2010. How many will remember the background for these characters at that time (or will Martin spend 250 pages bringing us back up to speed).

I can distinctly recall thinking that with writing as good as Martin's, storyline resolution was not even necessary. Book 4A has proven me wrong. Excellent writing that leads nowhere soon becomes frustrating. Martin has disrespected his readers with this obvious cash grab. But again, I feel trapped after putting in the effort to read the first four installments.
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on November 29, 2005
George RR Martin claims that the format of AFFC is due to his desire to tell "all the story" for half of the characters rather than "half the story" for all of the characters.

If he honestly believes this, he's deluding himself. AFFC isn't "all the story" for half the characters by any stretch of the imagination. It's a tiny fraction of the story for half the characters - along with bits and pieces of story for a host of thinly fleshed out minor characters.

Martin has broken with the format he has used for his three previous Ice and Fire books, which was telling the story through the points of view of several main characters. The format of the three previous books served to 1) give his main characters fully fleshed out personalities and 2) preserve a certain tightness and momentum to the plot.

In AFFC, suddenly Martin gives minor background characters point of view chapters. One of these characters has a couple of chapters devoted to her, but most have just one. As a result, AFFC has a rambling, disjointed, unfocused quality that the previous Ice and Fire books avoided. Since the reader is stepping into and out of the lives of these minor characters for just one chapter apiece, it is very hard for the reader to care about the characters' histories, or eventual fates. In short, much of AFFC feels like a collection of short stories that happen to take place in Westeros at the same time in its history, rather than a singular, cohesive novel. The point of view chapters for the minor characters are passable at best, tedious at worst.

Sadly, the chapters for the major characters do not fare much better. Cersei and Brienne are new point of view characters, and both are overly burdened with the responsibility of carrying AFFC on their one-dimensional shoulders. They just don't have much personality to them. I find the other main characters more interesting, but sadly they just don't have much to do in this book. Arya is my favorite character, and I thought that since she was in AFFC I would definitely enjoy it, but her chapters are few and far between. There are no real surprises. It's been said in other reviews, and it's true: not much happens. This is a book that feels like nothing but filler.

Martin says that if we don't like the format, we can take a knife to it and combine it with the next book when it's published. I'm inclined to take him up on it, and in the process edit out a good 75% of this book, and hope that A Dance With Dragons has more of what made the first three books so engaging.
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on November 16, 2005
Having read most of the reviews, I think it's important to consider this novel's place in the series' milieu. The problem most people who didn't enjoy the book seem to bring up is that "not much happens." This is an accurate assessment. Pound for pound, there is not as much going on in the foreground of this book as there has been in the previous novels.

However, one has to remember what has passed to this point. Royalty and commoners have been killed by the thousands, and the resulting desolation across Westeros is the focus of this novel. The emptiness of the land is palpable. This is the long autumnal dusk before the impending snows. We must remember that this is a time of sorrow and of opportunism. No great battles should or even could be fought. This is an exhausted people, stuggling now against the real enemy - the comming winter.

This is not a novel that bends to the whim of the reader. It is instead one that spends some of the capital that the series has earned to this point, demanding that the reader pay careful attention to the little breadcrumbs that Martin lays along the way. Hints about the location of Tyrion, the plottings of the Dornish throne (including the identity of the betrayer), and the fate of the members of the Brotherhood provide delicious morsels for those willing to invest the time and patience into the book. And more, Martin (I expects) demands the attention of the readers to the rich tapestry of royalty, to their individual interests, and to their plans for the future. Without such understanding, the later activities will seem so much random action, rather than what they are - the inevitable result of careful and considered plotting by the cast of thousands.

The novel is not a feast for lovers of high drama and fast paced action. Instead, it is a mournful sigh, taken after untold bloodshed with the knowledge that there is only more bloodshed to come. Its characters are unspeakably sad, nearly void of hope, yet knowing they must rise if they are to survive the coming winter.

I will not say it is my favorite of the series. More than once I've remarked that it is, at times, more like reading an encyclopedia than a novel. It was not uncommon to cross-reference some name or description with something somewhere else in the book or even in one of the previous books. My advice to the reader - get used to it. There is so much going on in this book just out of the sight of the characters. The smart reader will realize when Martin is dropping hints that you should give further thought to what is really going on. Anyone can easily devour and enjoy the other books in this series. It will take especially studious readers to appreciate this novel to the same degree. In its place, it is an appropriately somber addition to the world of Westeros and will, I think, when viewed against the series as a whole, be seen for what it is, for what it must be - the dark quiet moment before the the storm.
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on May 24, 2011
I don't want to add to the hate of this book and the series as a whole has given me much enjoyment, so I'll keep this brief.What you really need to know is if you can skip this book.

The answer is...mostly. There are no doubt things that happen in its' half a story that are going to be significant later, but for now you'll struggle to care. It's not that the random and new characters aren't interesting or that their situations are boring, it just all seems so unnecessary. At times, it feels like reading a textbook when trying to get through these seemingly random side stories and their maddening details. The endings to these chapters are good, but they're the only thing that are. It's like someone who blows all their time setting up a joke, and the punchline just doesn't hit the same.

Not that the regular characters fair much better. Here's a guick rundown. Cersei? Ungodly long for a character no one really liked before. Fail. Brienne? Almost no redeeming qualities and ends on a groan worthy cliffhanger. Fail. Samwell? Geesh, just wake me when we get there. Fail. Sisters Sansa and Arya? Better, but each only get a few chapters. Sansa grows a little, Arya grows a lot, but you'll ultimately want more. Finally there's Jaimie who gets the best arc. It's not near as good as previous ones, but is so fantastically solid it stands apart in this installment.

So it comes back to skipping. I stay stick to skim reading. You can read the notes of this one yeah, but there are still little things that are better experienced. Just bull through it even if your eyes wander a few paragraphs.

It's a Feast for Crows, but there is slim pickings here for us readers.
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