17 June 2013

A Feast For Crows

Author: George R.R. Martin
Series:  A Song Of Ice and Fire, book 4
Year published: 2005
Pages: 778 + appendices
Time It Took To Read: Three days
Oh, Game of Thrones! Oh, George R.R. Martin! Oh, misery! Oh, death! Oh, despair!
I read the first three SoIaF  books last year, on recommendation from multiple sources. The first one took ages to get into, the second was a bit slow going, the third was a neverending, heart wrenching tale of WOE. This is similar to the third. GRRM does not pull his punches. He's not writing a fairy story. It is difficult to fathom whether anyone will get a happy ending, at this point, especially considering he's writing another two volumes of the series, and writes them on a slow timescale.
It's difficult to know where to start when describing this series. It is set in a massive, realistic world. The scope of it is enormous. The amount of central characters is huge - nobody's story is really secondary. Instead of there being one protagonist, there are loads, and they are regularly killed off. Considering most fantasy work is based around one or two characters, who you know are almost certain to survive, it can be quite jarring. GRRM will not be second guessed, as anyone who saw the recent Red Wedding episode of the show can tell you. Imagine Lord of the Rings, but with more sex, and with Frodo brutally murdered halfway to Rivendell, and you may have a bit of an idea of what kind of epic you're dealing with. I don't actually watch the TV series, because of plot differences and the fact the TV show might give away things I haven't read yet.

This book concentrates on half the characters, with a note at the end explaining that there was just too much to fit in one book, so the other half of characters are in the next volume. I don't want to tell you WHO it concentrates on because I can't remember if there's a question mark over their deaths in the first few books, but I don't think I'm giving much away when I say this book is mostly concerned with the Lannisters, the Starks and the Ironborn. There are brutal murders, plots that seem straight out of the court of Henry VIII, religion, and lots of misery. Nobody is happy, nobody is safe and there seems no end to the endless suffering in the realm. And I love it. I saved the last three books to read after my exam, partly to stop myself becoming wholly entrenched, partly to give myself a goal. I started reading this literally as soon as I got home after the exam. It can be quite difficult to follow the myriad plot threads, especially when they cross over, but there are full character lists in the appendix of each book.
I prefer A Storm of Swords to this one, but I think that's because all the characters are involved (and it was SLIGHTLY less relentlessly grim). I would've been quite pissed off had I bought A Feast for Crows when it was released and had to wait six years to find out what happens to everyone else in A Dance With Dragons. As it is, A Dance With Dragons is sitting next to me, and I'm about to start reading. SQUEE for these books. SQUEE for them, and their refusal to comply with the usual fiction tropes of a happy ending, or hope, or even a little bit of happiness. SQUEE for complicated characters! SQUEE for female characters with actual plot! SQUEE for fantasy treating its readership as intelligent adults, not teenagers, with no knowing wink!
Squee indeed.

Book Count: 28/50

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