Friday, November 25, 2005

A Feast for Crows by George R. R. Martin

This is the fourth volume of Martin's series called A Song of Ice and Fire. Volumes 1, 2 and 3 came out in 1996, 1999 and 2000, though I didn't discover them until 2002, when I read all three books between November 2002 and March 2003. That was a pleasure; the story stayed fresh enough in my mind so that one book led seamlessly to the next, and I was able to retain the details in such a way that I got the maximum impact from this complex, fascinatingly interconnected story. Now, after a two and a half year delay, the job is much harder, and not as enjoyable. There are so many characters in this book! Their names are so similar! Am I supposed to remember who every one of these bannermen are, and to whom they are allied?

I find myself having to return frequently to the third volume, A Storm of Swords, to find out where Martin left off with a certain character or situation. Most of my favorite characters are dead or missing, and not much is going well for those characters who remain. Arya Stark has had only one chapter in the 169 pages that I've read so far, and Jon Snow appears only as a mention in another character's point of view; we seem to have lost his point of view completely. Instead, we have a new set of narrators, none of whom I particularly care for.

I really don't like this whole new plotline about the Kraken's daughter; it feels like a total digression to me, and no one is sympathetic. Is Theon dead? I can't remember. Some characters think he is, but something makes me think he isn't. I can't even remember where I should look to find this answer. The maps are also inadequate. They haven't been updated since the last volume (though there is a new one of the Iron Islands) and we've got Brienne wandering through towns and cities that don't appear on any map -- where is she? One of the wonderful things about Martin's whole world was the specificity and consistency of the details. That seems to have suffered in this volume.

I wonder if everyone else is having the same trouble, and if a lot of people are just going back and rereading volumes 1-3 in preparation for this one. I would think that would be especially necessary for those who read these when they first came out.

I heard Martin speak a few weeks ago as he came through town on his book tour. He filled the whole second floor of Borders, and came across as a sweetly nerdy man. He apologized for the lateness of this volume, and promised that the next would come much sooner. I hope so.


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