David Louis Edelman David Louis Edelman

George R. R. Martin’s “A Feast for Crows”

(Warning: spoilers ahead.)

A Storm of Swords, the third novel in George R. R. Martin’s projected seven-book “Song of Ice and Fire” series, had me believing that the author was just shy of walking on water.

He spent the first two and a half books building up a panoply of fascinating and believable characters who ranged the spectrum of moral grays. Then in A Storm of Swords, Martin proceeded to yank the rug out from under our feet by killing off two of the series’ principle heroes and one of its principle villains. And these weren’t noble deaths in battle we’re talking about — these were nasty fates. Robb and Catelyn Stark betrayed and murdered at a wedding feast, Tywin Lannister shot through the belly by his son Tyrion while on the privy.

Now, after a five-year wait, Martin has given us… a retreat?

It’s hard to think of A Feast for Crows as anything but a retreat, after the grand flourish of the series’ first three novels. We’re brought closer to a wealth of new point-of-view characters who seem to have only a peripheral relation to the main thrust of the story — the ailing Doran Martell and his three rebellious nieces, the various aspirants to the throne of the Iron Isles, Brienne of Tarth — while some of the series’ main characters are nowhere to be seen. Sorely missed are Tyrion Lannister, Jon Snow, Daenarys Targaryon, Brandon Stark and Davos Seaworth. And certain other characters who do put in an appearance, such as Sansa Stark and Arya Stark, seem to be stuck in a holding pattern.

One can’t help but think of another epic fantasy author whose series began to wander astray four or five books in. (Hint: his initials are RJ.)

The fault clearly lies with Martin’s decision (explained on his website) to lop this volume in two. The subplots revolving around the southern half of Westeros are recounted here in A Feast for Crows, while those in the northern half and overseas will have to wait for next year’s A Dance with Dragons. The decision seems arbitrary and hastily derived, more the product of a publisher looking for a Christmas blockbuster than a novelist trying to solve an artistic dilemma. We’re left with a book that sorely misses its vanished characters, a book seemingly without a center.

Even some of those subplots left in A Feast for Crows are meandering and without resolution. Brienne’s quest to find Sansa Stark, for instance, takes a lot of exposition to go nowhere. We leave Brienne hanging from a noose fighting for life. Do we need to wait another three or four years for Martin to reveal her fate? In King’s Landing, Cersei Lannister schemes endlessly against the titular queen of the realm, Margaery Tyrell, but it’s only in the book’s final fifty pages that the plotting bears any fruit. And once again, Martin leaves us here with a cliffhanger ending.

Martin still remains the reigning champion of epic fantasy in my book, but much will hang on his next novel. A Dance with Dragons could reinforce the strengths of “A Song and Ice and Fire” and propel the series towards a rousing climax, or it could further wander into the Jordanian wilderness. Time will tell.

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  1. Floricultura em Porto Velho on March 25, 2013 at 5:22 am  Chain link

    When I initially commented I seem to have clicked the -Notify me when new comments are added- checkbox and now every time a comment is added I get 4 emails with the same comment. There has to be a means you are able to remove me from that service? Many thanks!

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