Thursday, 12 July 2012

A Feast for Crows - George R.R. Martin

As much as I hate this disclaimer, I have to say it again: I will be discussing the fourth book of the Song of Fire and Ice series in this review. As events in this book are most likely three seasons of the television show away, I would recommend avoiding this review if you're not too keen on knowing things. I do my best to avoid spoilers but it's really quite hard.

Okay, now that that's over and done with, let's get on with A Feast for Crows!

The fourth book in the series, A Feast for Crows mainly deals with the aftermath of all the events from A Storm of Swords. After all the battles and the killing and the kidnapping and all of that, it seems hard to forget that life simply goes on. But this book had to deal with a lot of betrayal and wariness and, to be honest, just simple hurt feelings and did so in an interesting way. 

One thing that I really liked about the book was the way Martin played around with character names. In this part of the story, several characters are currently pretending to be different people and as such, have taken up new names. To emphasize this, and perhaps to play with our heads a bit, Martin switches between referring to them as their real name and their new name, in both narration bits and chapter headings. The first time you see the chapter heading change, it really reflects a change in the ideas and personality of the character. It's a very powerful move. I especially like how he flits between names in the narration, giving you an idea on which aspect of the character is reacting to events and what it means to them. It's a very interesting and useful narrative device.

This book is also interesting because it only focuses on half of our cast of characters. According to a note in the back of the book, this book was getting out of hand and Martin decided to focus book four on the characters in and around King's Landing and save book five for everyone else that didn't get a turn in this one. This is very interesting because it creates questions and suspense without actually having to resolve them. There are mentions of characters and acts without us actually knowing if they're true or not. Is Davos okay? Where the heck is Tyrion? You spend the entire book wondering but you never actually know and I really, actually, like that. Plus, Dance of Dragons is out so you know that at least you'll find out soon. The only downside to this part is that all the characters that ended in cliffhangers in this book probably won't really be around in the next book. And that's a little disheartening.

One thing I have to say that I didn't like about this novel, and only this one has had this problem in my opinion, was the gratuitous sex scenes. Now, I know that Game of Thrones has a lot of sex. It does and we deal with it. However, for most of the scenes, I've understood the purpose behind them. Either it was to further the plot or to add to character development. Also, usually the scenes aren't very long or are only referenced if not told which adds to them being able to be put out of your minds. There was one sex scene in this book, however, that made me completely uncomfortable. It was a completely random, out of nowhere, lesbian scene between two characters, one new and one previously very straight. Now, I have no problem with lesbian sex, don't get me wrong, but what made me uncomfortable was the fact that all I could see while I was reading it was George R.R. Martin's face. I don't mean to be rude but when there is a random lesbian sex scene written by an older man, I feel a little dirty reading it. Although I think I know what point he was trying to make with it, it really didn't pan out and didn't read like a woman trying to become more like a man but more like an older man with a lesbian fantasy. I don't know Martin and I don't know anything about his habits but it was just very uncomfortable. That's all.

I constantly find it amazing how Martin is able to completely change and manipulate characters so that your feelings are always on the line. I have a friend who's currently reading Clash of Kings and he kept sending me texts reacting to it last night, my favorite being "I'm on a roller coaster of emotion here!" That is how it feels, though. And also, the way he makes the characters grow and change really impresses me, too. One of my favorite characters was one I seriously disliked in the first two books. In fact, when I was talking to friends that were on books one and two, respectively and told them he was one of my favorites, they were aghast and one said "Ugh, I just want him to die already!" Which I can see from where they are in the books. And one of the characters that I thought would always be a favorite, or at least hard to dislike, completely changed my opinion of her in the last forty pages of book four. And yet, looking back, I can see where it is all coming from. It is honestly very impressive the power he has with molding characters.

I did not think Feast for Crows was as powerful as Storm of Swords but it also had less intense moments to deal with. Its intrigues were smaller but just as powerful. The way our characters ended up, especially Cersei, was really well thought out and gives a lot of room for play in future books. All I can say is that I'm excited for Dance of Dragons.

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