A Feast For Crows by George R. R. Martin
A Song of Ice and Fire, Book 4
Listened June 1st – 20th, 2016
30-something hours long
Where do I even start with this book. Reading it, I had so many different thoughts and feelings that I began writing them all down so I wouldn’t forget anything… and likely, I’ll still forget some things.
Let’s just say overall I liked it and I feel it was a good addition to the story arc, but man did I have some issues with it. As I’ve stated in my June wrap-up, this book knocked me out of the blind-love I had for this series. Don’t get me wrong – I still very, very much enjoy it, but this book highlighted some things that I didn’t find particularly amusing.
And before I go any further: This review will be mildly spoilerific. I won’t mention any deaths specifically, but I will mention elements of scenes in passing. So if you want to be blind about this one, back out now. If you don’t mind a bit of non-necessary detail, dive on in.
The first notable thing about this book is the huge expansion of characters and locations. Some of the chapter titles were things like ‘The Queenmaker’, making it impossible to know who was being talked about until the chapter actually began. Many times, these oddly named chapters were new characters altogether. It gave an air of excitement to reading the thing – you’d never know where in this world you’ve find yourself. I really enjoyed the massive expansion and the world building. More motivations, more intrigue. This book series is amazingly detailed, and I love it. I always appreciated the family lists that were in the back of the book, but this time they became essential. So. Many. People. Wanting so many different things. I feel like when all these separate motivations finally come together, this book series is going to blow me out of the water.
Another thing I want to mention has to do with the general attitude people get when reading this book. Looking into other reviews, there seems to be a bit of an argument going on. To preface, for those who don’t know, the time line of this book takes place simultaneously as the time line in the fifth book. This book focuses on one set of characters while the other another set. A lot of people I’ve seen have issues with the particular set of characters focused on in this book. So you have one side, ripping into the book for not having their favorite characters, and you have another side, ripping into the first side for complaining. And then you have another side, ripping into both other sides for whoever knows what reason.
So it really depends on where you fall into the spectrum how much you will enjoy this book. Personally, I enjoyed it. It definitely was a bit slow – all the focus characters, save a few, were those involved in the politics of the land. So if you don’t like political intrigue, there’s a reason you might find this book lacking. What this book did have though was character development. Characters that I was luke warm towards before have become my favorites – namely Jaime and Brienne. Both of them, I love. And Cersei… well, I still dislike Cersei, but I can see her motivations and her feelings now that chapters have been written from her point of view. It makes her feel more real instead of just this antagonistic force.
One small issue I had with this book were the off-scene deaths. People were mentioned in passing and the characters were like ‘Oh, we had news so and so is dead now’ but it would be one of the characters not mentioned in this book so we wouldn’t see it happen. My biff with this is small, solely for one reason: I know about the book five timeline. Book five was clearly out before I read this one, so I know that (hopefully) I’ll read from these characters’ POVs and get my questions answered as to whether or not they truly died. I feel like if I was reading this book right as it had come out, before book five, before knowing about this timeline stuff, that I would be rather sore about it. I don’t know – maybe I’m being silly, but it left a foul taste in my mouth.
And finally, the main issue with this book was also something I really liked – the characterization. As said, the character development was wonderful, but on the other hand, it was grating. I’ve mentioned before the love/hate relationship I have with how George R. R. Martin writes women. On the one hand, I love how different each one is, each with their own goals and motivations and personalities. And my favorite part: Not all of them are strong. I know that’s probably a weird thing to be happy about, but it makes them all realistic. I’m not saying they’re flat characters – not at all – but not all of them have nerves of steel or can kick ass. Some of them are weak, and that’s a good thing. Not all people are strong, so it would be weird to write them that way.
On the other hand, the issue I have with the female characters in this book ties in to the book’s tone over all. This book, while full of wonderful women and terrible women, is still clearly written from a male perspective. Now, I know that George R. R. Martin is in fact a man, so I guess it’s expected, but it still struck me how male the women were. Case in point: When a new female character was introduced, even when in a chapter told from another straight female character’s POV, that woman’s chest size was mentioned in the initial description of that character. I could understand a mention if the chapter was a straight man’s or a gay woman’s POV, but the women who noticed how big other women’s boobs were had been established as heterosexual. And sure, a passing glance would be fine – I’ve noticed women’s chests upon meeting them but it’s never more than that – a notice. I don’t focus, I don’t wonder. But they seemed to focus on them for just a bit too long, making me feel like there was another looking instead. It made me feel like the tone of this book said now how matter how weak or strong or in the middle this woman was, all the mattered was how big her chest was, because it was mentioned every time. I mean if it’s a sex scene – sure, describe some boobs. Boob yourself to death for all I care. But if you’re in the middle of a counsel meeting or whatever, is that detail relevant? Especially coming from someone who (in theory) wouldn’t focus on it anyways?
Maybe I’m alone in this, who knows. But it irritated me, mostly because it was so one-sided. Did I get to read about man butt? Man forearms? Man peen? No. Wasn’t relevant, wasn’t mentioned. But boobs are relevant all the time, apparently. So like I said: I have a huge love/hate relationship with how the women are characterized in this book.
Sigh. Enough of that.
Overall, I enjoyed this book, but I can understand why people have had issues with it. I still highly enjoy this series, but I’m seriously getting tired of reading about boobs. Gonna read the next one, hopefully will love it. Wish me luck.
Rating: 4/5 stars