A Feast for Crows: Book Four of a Song of Ice and Fire by George R. R. Martin (New York: Bantam Books, 2005. 1,104 pp)
George R. R. Martin is an American author and screenwriter of fantasy, horror, and science fiction. Born in New Jersey, Martin earned a B.S. and M.S. in Journalism from Northwestern University. He began writing fiction in the early 1970s with his first works earning him a Hugo and Nebula award. In the 1980s, he began writing in Hollywood for the Twilight Zone and Beauty and the Beast. Martin is best known for his critically acclaimed epic fantasy series, A Song of Ice and Fire, which was developed into Game of Thrones, an HBO television series.
*Spoiler Alert for Previous Books in Effect*
Praise for the Editing Process
Editing, in my estimation, is a seldom used but remarkably necessary process. We live in a world of instant gratification and quick-as-lightning technology. We can tell the world what we think about a movie seconds after we’ve seen it—actually while we are watching it.
To critically re-read something written, or give a second thought to any creative activity means time wasted. We gotta go. We gotta go. To the next task. To the subsequent event. But clear and precise communication matters. Whether you’re editing corporate communication, a poem, or a song. Reflect, reflect, reflect. Strengthen the language. Cut excess. It’s always better this way.
Which brings us to George R. R. Martin’s fourth installment in his Song of Ice and Fire series. A Feast for Crows, by Martin’s admission, is a half story. Setting out to write his sprawling, epic fantasy, this book became bloated. Martin had so many stories to tell—too many to fit in one book. So, bifurcation begins.
But the decision to split his story into two—A Feast for Crows and later, A Dance with Dragons—means an incomplete story. Characters readers have grown to love such as Tyrion, John Snow, and Daenerys are absent from the narrative.
Instead, Martin focuses A Feast for Crows on King’s Landing and introduces two new storylines.
In King’s Landing, we find Cersei Lannister establishing her power as Queen Regent, attempting the best impression of her father by playing in the game of thrones.
“She had played the dutiful daughter, the blushing bride, the pliant wife. She had suffered Robert’s drunken groping, Jaime’s jealousy, Renly’s mockery, Varys with his titters, Stannis endlessly grinding his teeth. She had contended with Jon Arryn, Ned Stark, and her vile, treacherous, murderous dwarf brother, all the while promising herself that one day it would be her turn” (345).
Meanwhile, her brother, Jaime, continues his transformation into a (word for redeeming) character. Simply put, he’s no longer a pawn in the Lannister strategy. Handless and shamed, Jaime is quickly becoming the wildcard of Westeros.
The Iron Islands
In the Iron Islands, the Greyjoys submit to the Drowned God and his High Priest, Aeron, as they seek a new leader in the wake of their king dying. These people worship the sea:
“The prophet was drowning men on Great Wyk when they came to tell him that the king was dead.
It was a bleak, cold morning, and the sea was as leaden as the sky. The first three men had offered their lives to the Drowned God fearlessly, but the fourth was weak in faith ad began to struggle as his lungs cried out for air. Standing waist-deep in the surf, Aeron seized the naked boy by the shoulders and pushed his head back down as he tried to snatch a breath. ‘Have courage,’ he said. ‘We came from the sea, and to the sea we must return. Open your moth and drink deep of god’s blessing. Fill your lungs with water, that you may die and be reborn. It does no good to fight’” (17).
If the Greyjoys can find a way to unite, their fleet poses a serious threat to a weakened Lannister force in King’s Landing.
In Dorne, the southern region of Westeros, the district Lords have difficult decisions in front of them. They have a Lannister princess in their possession and a need for retribution considering one of their principle leaders, the Red Viper, died in King’s Landing underneath Lannister rule.
A Feast for Crows continues the narrative—however incomplete—of Martin’s series. The qualities that made previous submissions such high quality remain. Martin writes well. His empyrean world building exists on a Tolkien level. But I can’t help thinking that Martin could’ve used some editing—or at least rearranging. If your story starts to flirt with 1,000 words and you’re only halfway done, it’s a sure sign that it’s time to edit.
We shall see where some of these new narratives take us in the battle for the Iron Throne, but it’s interesting when book three leaves you on such a cliffhanger with certain characters and book four completely avoids these narratives. Everything I hear suggests these narratives return in A Dance with Dragons, but I find it questionable to split the stories this way. If you’ve started this series, keep reading, even if A Feast for Crows doesn’t represent Martin at his absolute best.
Verdict: 3 out of 5