This is the fourth book in George R. R. Martin’s ‘A Song of Ice & Fire’ novel series. To read my reviews on the rest of the series, click here.
This entire series is a monumental study of power. Fans will know that each novel explores the coveted crown from a different point of view. Feast‘s principal themeis easily reflected by the adage “Uneasy rests the head that wears the crown.” In this novel, power, the true fragility of one in a position of power is brought to light. No one can rule in complete security. There is always intrigue, suspicion, betrayal and angst. And in the end, a crow will feast upon kings and beggars alike.
There are a couple of things about the fourth installment of the series that make it different from the other books. First and foremost, a flurry of new characters are thrown into the mix. Our newest narrators include Ser Arys Oakheart, the member of the Kingsguard assigned to protect Princess Myrcella in Dorne; Arianna, princess of Dorne; and Pate, a novice at the Citadel.
Also, while the story is still told via the narrators, now the chapter titles have been switched up a bit. Instead of the chapter being named ‘Oakheart’, it’s titled ‘The Soiled Night’. It’s almost as if Martin is emphasizing certain personality shifts in the characters. This is especially evident when it comes to Sansa Stark/Alayne and Arya Stark/Cat of the Canals.
As readers we are given much deeper insight into previously neglected areas in this mythical world. Through Arya Stark we see the strange city of Braavos. Through Alayne, we see the Vale, and we are brought right into the middle of a fiery succession dispute in the Iron Islands through the Prophet. Most interestingly, it is in this book that we are finally introduced to Dorne – a place that has been frequently referred to in the previous books but never really explained.
It took Martin 5 years to write this book, and any reader will instantly know why. The width and depth of the storyline is amazing. In most fantasy series, the exaggerated detail is often mere bloat, and pieces of it keep fizzling out every now and then, replaced with new pieces – basically, it’s a continuous flow of temporary story-stretchers. Martin has raised the bar for all fantasy series. This book has no fewer than 10 story threads continuing over the approximately 1000 pages, and with so much investment in bringing each of the characters alive, and giving the story so much dimension, I’m wondering how long he’ll be able to keep this up.
In the words of a fellow blogger, “With A Feast for Crows, Martin found himself faced with so many characters and so many stories to tie together that, after half a decade of struggling with this Gordian knot of his own making, he made a crucial decision: to cut it. “
As mentioned in the Author’s note, Martin decided to present us with the whole story about half the characters rather than half the story about all the characters. So his book was chopped into two, and the first half was titled A Feast for Crows. The second half is the fifth book of the series, A Dance with Dragons – which I am currently reading!
And now, let’s take a look at my favorites aspects of the book:
Rhaegar Targaryen, for a man dead, certainly knows how to stick around. Eldest son of the mad King Aerys II, and brother to one of the principle characters, Dany, he is remembered as a hero by those loyal to the dragon kings. Famous for being excelling at anything he decided to do, he is also remembered to be a broody, melancholy man, who would prefer playing his harp to jousting any day.
With the lilac eyes and silvery hair typical of the Targaryens, Rhaegar was Cersei’s first obsession. He was the man she wanted to marry, the man her father had promised to her. Robert Baratheon, our beloved king now dead, slew Rhaegar in the rebellion, and for that, Cersei never really forgave him. This is a decidedly interesting twist in Cersei’s character. Up till now, she’s never really loved anyone except for Jaime and her children.
Every mother loves her children, and her love for Jaime was kind of just a love for herself. She loved Jaime only because he looked so much like her. In this novel and its predecessor, we have seen that she was quick to be disloyal to him when he was not around, and quick to reject him when he was weak (when he lost his sword hand). Even more to the point, she became downright disdainful towards him when he stopped jumping at her every command.
To know that Cersei Baratheon ever loved a man (albeit for his good looks and skill as a warrior) brings interesting dimension to her personality. I would love to see this further explored in later books.
Another interesting point about Rhaegar is brought to light by Jaime, reminiscing about the last time he ever saw the dashing prince. Jaime was apparently on quite good terms with the young Targaryen. “When the battle’s done I mean to call a council. Changes will be made. I meant to do it long ago, but … well, it does no good to speak of roads not taken. We shall talk when I return”. These were the last words Rhaegar ever spoke to him. He never returned from the battle, and so what changes he intended to make remain unknown.
Tywin’s younger and far less-glamorous brother was pleasantly surprising to say the least, when he turned from quiet side-kick to an intelligent, capable and independent man. After Tywin’s death, I expected him to fade into the background, another man added to Cersei’s army of sniveling, wheedling good-for-nothings. Alas, I was very very wrong. Tywin Lannister did not keep Kevan as his right hand man for nothing. Reliable and dependable, Kevan may be the other character so far to truly understand Tywin, and even to sympathize with him.
When Cersei starts to take control of the kingdom and put some truly disastrous policies into place, Kevan Lannister tries to set her straight. In a mini-monologue he gives her solutions, and makes it clear that he is not a pawn on her chessboard. In true Cersei style, she passionately throws him away and goes on trying to prove him wrong. Silly Cersei.