Having just missed one hundred books in the first year of The Book Challenge, in 2010, I made the full tonne. Still reading, but without the challenge, take a look at the reviews for the books that I have read this year.

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Book 31 - A Feast For Crows

Book - A Feast For Crows
Author - George RR Martin
Year - 2005
Genre - Fantasy
Pages - Over a thousand
Series - A Song of Ice and Fire

A Feast for Crows is the black sheep of the A Song of Ice and Fire series.  A short publication history is probably in order to begin with (sorry, I will try to make it not dull.)

The third book of the series, A Storm of Swords, was published in 2000.  There are so many cliffhangers at the end of this book, that fans were desperate to know what was going to happen next.  Martin obliged by... waiting five years to publish the book.  It turned out that - after originally writing the whole thing with a five year gap included, before deciding that was a stupid idea and scrapping everything -  he had written something so stupidly large that there was no physical way to publish the thing.  So his series that began as a trilogy, and had grown to a six book series, was adapted so that this became two separate books - Feast and A Dance With Dragons.  However, instead of doing the thing that you would expect - splitting it down the middle - he decided instead to focus on half of his characters in this book, and would save the other half for Dance.  Even avoiding for now the fact that despite suggesting Dance would take another year until it came out due to it being nearly finished, and then it taking another six years to get done, Martin slightly shot himself in the foot by including all of the characters that no one wanted to hear about in this book, whilst saving all of the fan favourites until Dance.

All of this meant that I was very disappointed when I first read this book.  Not only were there the more dull point of view characters (if I haven't explained this before, each chapter in the series is written from the point of view of a particular one of around ten principal characters from the books), but Martin started a trend of putting in random new point of views.  We were used to our regular ten or so, plus a different one in the prologue and epilogue, but now people from Dorne or the Iron Islands - places we had never visited before - were introduced, and it all became very frustrating.  Instead of having our cliffhangers answered, we were expected to instead learn a whole new set of characters.  It was a bridge book, and one that posed more questions than it asked, and as such was not what we were expecting.

However, when I first reread this book about two and a half years ago, I was pleasantly surprised to find that it weathered far better on a second read.  Once you were over the hurdle of having to remember a couple of hundred completely new people, and you knew that your questions were not going to be answered, I was pleased to notice things that I hadn't noticed on my first read, and enjoyed it far mar.

This meant that I was quite looking forward to my big reread in advance of the publication of Dance in July.  I was mistaken however.  Once you are over the first read disappointment, and the second read of finding little bits you missed, you are left with a book that is actually pretty underwhelming.  Maybe it is unfair to judge things by Martin's high standards, but it does have to be done, and what he writes here is a perfectly adequate - to be fair, very good - book, that completely lacks the exciting verve that made the first three books so good.  I have a feeling that anyone who reads the series as a whole when he has finished writing them (so maybe in 2030 or so) will not find this an issue, as they can just plough onwards, and much like the first three seem to me - I read them all in about a week and a half - will blur a little as to what happens when.

So, disappointing.  However.  Still.  Read.  These.  Books.

7/10

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