Not sure if this is an 'official' review yet, or just a comment. Hobbit.
A Feast for Crows, George RR Martin.
Book Four of A Song of Ice and Fire series.
775 pages. Published UK, October 2005; the US, November 2005.
I guess it’s no big secret here at sffworld that I am, and have been for a long time, a fan of George RR Martin’s work. Going back to Dying of the Light, Windhaven and Fevre Dream, reading the Tuf Voyaging stories in Analog in the 1980’s, and then tracking down the difficult to get (well, at least in the UK) book version… you get the idea.
I was, and am, a hardcore fan.
To me, George seemed to cover it all – horror, science fiction, fantasy, TV, even comics.
And when the first book in the Song of Ice and Fire series came along in 1996 (A Game of Thrones) I was further astonished. The book had everything – horror, chivalry, violence, complex motives, treachery, deceit, sex, death, a huge and wonderful (and not so wonderful!) range of characters, a fabulously varied and well-realised land to explore…. It was something magnificent. Rereading the book recently reminded me how much I enjoyed it, (and how complex its multi-layered narrative was!).
Book 2 (A Clash of Kings) followed in 1999. A slower read for me this one, but still eagerly read.
Book 3 (A Storm of Swords) fell into my hands in 2000. What an ending!
And then – nothing.
I waited. Waited. Waited. Waited.
The two Dunk and Egg short stories, in the Legends books, though good, did little to sate my appetite.
And now, nearly ten years after the series started, and five years since Storm, I have a copy of A Feast for Crows. Here. In my hands. Now.
After the delays, the expansion from the originally planned trilogy to something that looks like being seven books, the need to overlap events and repeat events from a variety of perspectives, the controversial re-editing of this book in particular to concentrate on the characters of the Westeros and King’s Landing regions (leaving Daenerys and the dragons pretty much behind for the next book, A Dance with Dragons) - the questions raised in my mind over the past five years still resurface.
After five years of what has clearly been a long and painful process, has it been worth the wait? Is it possible that George may have lost it? Could the book possibly meet the expectations set by voracious readers, hungry for more but rarely fed for the last five years or so? How has the splitting of the book affected the narrative?
OK. The book is fabulous. FABULOUS.
From the opening sentence of the Prologue’s fifteen pages to the last of the book’s 685 pages, (with a multisectioned Appendix of 90 pages), I have been entranced. It is an interesting game George plays, and undoubtedly not an easy one. But I am pleased to write that yes, the book is worth it. The fact that I have read this huge tome in a matter of a few days proves it to me.
There are definite surprises; I was very pleased that George can still surprise. Though I suspect that in the whole scheme of things the revelations in this book will not have the same impact as the ending of A Storm of Swords, there are moments when Feast is pretty close.
And no, I’m not going to give away any spoilers.
Complaints? Having said earlier that I am a fan, I must also declare that if I thought there were things wrong with the book, I would say so. If pushed, I might say, for example, that I was disappointed that in the UK the cover has changed style, from one of my beloved Jim Burns covers to something more esoteric, yet more commercially friendly.
I might also say that the fact that this is not a stand-alone book might create problems for some readers. Feast is not a ‘book’ in the conventional sense of the word. There are typical mid-series book concerns - the beginning will leave those who have not read previously confused, the ending will leave those who have followed the long journey so far thinking ‘Where’s the rest?’ But I guess coming into the series at this point is not something most people would do.
My main gripe with the book itself was that at times there was a feeling that this was book ‘three-and-a-half’ rather than book four, as it was rather strange not to have the broad multi-stranded narrative of the previous three books. I did miss some of the characters that have been left to appear in A Dance With Dragons, and I can see some readers being both disappointed and frustrated at this or that character’s absence.
Having said that, I applaud George for making a stand and not just splitting the book in half. What is here together feels right.
The sum of it, despite my (very minor) moans, is that for those who have waited for the arrival of Feast, it has been a long wait.
But it has been worth it.
And the fact that the end left me wanting: hell, it kept me awake for nights whilst I finished it! - is a good sign that the series is not done for yet.
Hopefully not too long until mid-2007, when Dance of Dragons is allegedly due. But just in case, I’m not holding my breath.
Hobbit, October 2005