Monday, September 15, 2014

Review: A Feast for Crows by George R. R. Martin


Title: A Feast for Crows (A Song of Ice and Fire, #4) 

Author: George R. R. Martin

Rating: 4 Stars

Note: This review is spoiler-free for A Clash of Kings and A Storm of Swords which is why readers will notice that I am intentionally vague while mentioning certain plot points. There is a minor spoiler for A Game of Thrones where I mention an event which occurs early on in the novel (and in the first episode of the show, actually). You can read my reviews of the previous three books in this series here, here, and here respectively. 

I wound up pleasantly surprised by A Feast for Crows. Unlike its predecessors, Martin's fourth volume in the Song of Fire and Ice Series is far more introspective than originally anticipated. While it lacks the ominous build-up of A Game of Thrones, the battle-torn scene of A Clash of Kings, or the twist-heavy climax of A Storm of Swords, it forces us deeper into the minds of the characters we've come, in equal part, to love and hate.

Very early in the text Martin introduces us to the perspective of Arianne Martell, princess of Dorne and niece to Oberyn. I found much to love about Arianne but, perhaps, what struck me the most is the subtle juxtaposition of her character to that of Cersei Lannister's. Not only are both Arianne and Cersei women in positions of immense power, but they both detest their fathers and simultaneously yearn to emulate and become better than them. Moreover, both women are aware of their attractiveness and use their sexuality as a weapon. Yet, somehow, Arianne comes across in a far more sympathetic light than Cersei. By using these two women as foils for one another Martin hints at the fascinating concept that the qualities Cersei prides herself in possessing uniquely--her relationship with Tywin Lannister, her incredible beauty, her power, her intellect--are not, after all, the traits that make her her. Instead, by this stage in the story line, Cersei has evolved into a woman beyond a simplistic mold and, looking upon Arianne, it is clear that Cersei's change is certainly not for the better.

Speaking of Cersei, I found myself both in awe and in fright of her throughout the course of the novel. Cersei, time and time again, throws herself into the political game in Westeros and fails. Not only does her fear propel her to put into power individuals who are of little help to the realm, but it also ensures she is the sole ruler in King's Landing. One plagued by nightmares, whose pride errs her judgement. Yet, what I find most compelling, in many ways, about Cersei is that she looks upon her failures with contempt at others. Instead of finding fault with herself, she believes that if she were a man, her decisions would reveal the outcome she hoped for. While Cersei has used her feminine wiles as a weapon, she nevertheless feels burdened by them as well. Why I find this entire concept to be achingly familiar is because, quite simply put, in a rage of feminist fury I often blame my failures on my sex as well. It is all too easy for women to claim that their gender is a hindrance to their success because, in most cases, it is. But not in Cersei's situation and this, above all, stuck with me.

Jaime, in contrast with his older sister, pulls himself away from the politics of his nation. Plagued with guilt concerning his actions towards Tyrion, mad with disbelief at the barbs Tyrion threw at him, A Feast for Crows sees Jaime and Cersei finally turn against one another. Now, perhaps more than ever, both these siblings need one another's support but it is oddly absent. Not only has Cersei changed, as hungry for power as she is fearful of her son's life, but Jaime is forced to reconcile himself to the life of a cripple. How fitting, isn't it, that Jaime who pushed Bran to his crippled state now finds himself in a similar position? Yet, I love Jaime. I love this Lannister whose past is defined by physical prowess and future will, sadly, not be determined by it. From his struggles to re-define who he is without his sword-fighting hand to his all-too-true suspicions concerning Cersei, Jaime's tale is both enlightening and heart-breaking. We know it's necessary for him to wander down this path but that doesn't make it any easier to watch--not for me, at any rate.

And Brienne. Brienne stunned me in A Feast for Crows. I loved that her arc showcased the truth of Jaime's words in A Storm of Swords--a knight is torn by his vows. More than just that, though, Brienne is, for the first time since we've met her, surrounded by men who despise her occupation and want nothing more than for her to fade into the background as just another household wife with a brood of children. While we're familiar with this mentality concerning Brienne, we are also familiar with the occasional glimpse of a respectful face whether it be Catelyn Stark or Jaime Lannister. In A Feast for Crows, however, Brienne is truly alone to face not only her fears--taking a man's life--but also the past she has escaped from. I thoroughly enjoyed learning of Brienne's childhood, her path to pursuing her dreams, and her kick-butt sword-fighting skills. It is difficult to determine, yet, just how important of a character she is to the series as a whole since she removes herself from political games but, regardless, I love her character. (And, if you can't already tell, I ship Jaime and Brienne so hard.)

A Feast for Crows is yet another masterful work of fiction from Martin. I've yet to complain about this series and, truly, if you are a fan of high fantasy or political drama, the Song of Fire and Ice Series is the finest you will find.

14 comments:

  1. Brienne was definitely the highlight for me of this novel, Keertana! She was such a force to be reckoned with that she offered a glimmer of true power, and that's what saved this installment for me. I think you liked it a bit more than I did in the end, but you make some very valid points. Great review :)

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  2. I am glad you are still enjoying it :)
    *write faster Martin!* ;)

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  3. Martin is an author I have yet to try but really want to at some point in time. I am so glad you liked this so much.

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  4. It's been quite a few years since I read A Feast for Crows, and my memory of this specific installment is clouded by the series thus far, as well as the show. I do recall, however, not being as satisfied with this and the fifth installment. I do believe thinking the same thing about this being a more introspective installment in that not much actually happens. And I felt the same way about the fifth book. For me, it is here that Martin really started losing grip of the story he is telling by making it far too large, far too unmanageable. But you bring up a fascinating point about Arienne and Cersei. After reading this positive review, I kind of want to go re-read it again now!

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  5. I haven't read any of these books Keertana, but I so love the show. It's twisted and dark and has characters in it that I want to forcibly shake they make me so angry, but I adore that about it. There's nothing better than getting emotionally involved in a piece of fiction!!!

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  6. While I missed many of my favorite characters in this book (am I thinking of the right one? No Arya or Jon Snow? Or minimal? Gah. I'm blurring them together now.), I did love to see Cersei at it again. And Jamie's such a fascinating character, as is Brielle. I got really sick of Sam though. So whiney. And, though I'm sure there's a reason he's going to get training (besides going to get trained), it was a drag.

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  7. I definitely need to get cracking with this series! Only having read the first two, I am putting myself ever in danger of having spoilers for the rest of the series! Great review and I am pleased to hear you are still enjoying it so much.

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  8. I'm still on the fence about reading these, but you are making me lean toward reading them. I don't get HBO but have seen several eps (free weekends ftw!). I might have to read these and then when the series has ended... binge. Adding the series to my list!

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  9. The sheer lenght of this series and the energy it takes to read is quite intimidating when you have my reading schedule. Or yours. I admire you for deciding to go for it anyway. I think I'd enjoy the character development in this book, that's just the type of reader I am. I fully intent to read these sooner or later, though.

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  10. I'm such a bad reader! I mean for someone who claims that fantasy is her favorite genre I for sure haven't read some milestones there and this is one of them. I've started watching series but then I stopped for whatever reason. I'll have to get these books. I'm really glad that you've enjoyed this one :)

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  11. I'll be completely honest here - this series has intimidated me because it's so darn thick. It sounds weird, but I always get scared to read thick books, even though, oddly enough, I usually end up loving them.

    There has been so much hype around this series, and I am glad this installment is just as good as the first three books. Your review has definitely given me the motivation to give it a try Keertana - so thank you for that!

    ~ Zoe @ The Infinite To-Read Shelf

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  12. I have a friend begging me to read this series with her, but the books are soooo long! I have too many review books on schedule right now. I hear Martin pulls no punches and deaths are abundant! Cruel man. Anyhow, I'd love to watch the series sometime. Lovely review, Keertana! :)

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  13. Ah Can I say that I haven't watch the TV show nor read the book? All my friends love them but well one day I'll try it! for sure!

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