After centuries of bitter strife, the seven powers dividing the land have beaten one another into an uneasy truce. But it's not long before the survivors, outlaws, renegades, and carrion eaters of the Seven Kingdoms gather. Now, as the human crows assemble over a banquet of ashes, daring new plots and dangerous new alliances are formed while surprising faces—some familiar, others only just appearing—emerge from an ominous twilight of past struggles and chaos to take up the challenges of the terrible times ahead. Nobles and commoners, soldiers and sorcerers, assassins and sages, are coming together to stake their fortunes...and their lives. For at a feast for crows, many are the guests—but only a few are the survivors.
This is the book in the series that divides most readers. GRRM indicated that he had to split the book into what became A Feast For Crows and A Dance With Dragons because of the sheer volume of material. Instead of giving us the POVs of everyone in this book and half of their story, continuing each thread in the next book, the author decided to do half of the characters in the book and complete their arcs, then in the next book deal with the other half of the characters and their full arcs over this same time period. I get why he did it and chose to do it geographically but I don't think he did the right thing. Considering the 5 years and more gaps between the books, this means that some of the characters the fans love in A Storm of Swords in 2000 ie Tyrion, Dany and Jon, don't appear again until A Dance With Dragons in 2011! That is a long wait! Anyway he did it and now I review this book on it's own merits.
POVs in this book are Aeron Greyjoy, Asha Greyjoy, Victarion Greyjoy, Areo Hotah (Prince Doran's bodyguard), Ser Arys Oakheart (Myrcella's bodyguard), Arianne Martell, Brienne, Arya, Cersei, Jaime, Samwell, Sansa, Cat (Arya in disguise on a mission), Alayne (Sansa pretending to be Littlefinger's daughter).
Balon Greyjoy's death now means a fight for his throne. His brother Aeron favours Victarion over Euron but Theon's sister Asha is not going to lose her birthright without a fight. Euron is prepared to do whatever it takes to win and lead his people to conquer more of Westeros than ever before. Even when the decision is made, the brothers both like the idea of taking Dany as a bride. The people of Dorne are screaming for revenge on the Lannisters after the latest death of one of their people. Prince Doran has a long term plan in effect to gain more power and get revenge but fears that the ruthless Sand Snakes will try to start a war that Dorne is not ready for, and even they cannot agree on which revenge path to take. His daughter Arianne is already plotting to crown their guest as Queen after she marries, as a direct challenge to the Lannisters in King's Landing.
Cersei is told of her father's death and is furious that Tyrion and Varys have escaped. She begins a power struggle with Kevan over Tommen's regency. She has to let the wedding go ahead but is paranoid that someone is going to kill her remaining son. She realises how useful Qyburn may be and starts plotting to have Bronn, Jon and Davos killed, and to find the right man to seduce Margaery and bring down the Tyrells. Her lust for power bothers Jaime as does her involvement with The Sparrows. He is fuming to be sent to take charge of the Riverlands but discovers that there are advantages to being away from King's Landing. Lancel has returned and decides to join The Sparrows, which could bring its own trouble.
Brienne continues her hunt for Sansa but soon discovers that everyone else on the road is searching for her to get a bounty from Cersei. Trying to keep her plans secret is proving difficult, and knowing who to trust, until the arrival of Pod. They soon hear a rumour about a Stark girl being with The Hound. Arya arrives at the House of Black and White, ready to begin her training. Sansa and Littlefinger have to convince the Lords of the Vale that Lysa was killed by a musician and not her husband, while keeping her true identity hidden by posing as Littlefinger's daughter. Samwell is told by Jon that he must flee to Oldtown to train as a Maester, taking Gilly, Aemon and the baby with him, to stop Melisandre from using Aemon as a sacrifice for royal blood. It is on the journey that he discovers why Gilly is so upset and the terrible thing that Jon has done.
OK lets deal with the elephant in the room first and the issues with the book. There are three Greyjoys that we follow to show the fight for Balon's throne. Aeron is the priest who drowns and revives the believers, Victarion is the warrior and Asha (Yara in the series) is the female challenger. I liked Asha's chapters, and Aeron's were interesting enough but I have to ask the question-why bother with Victarion who merely moans about Euron destroying his life and does nothing about it? To be honest the politics of the Greyjoys would have been better served with just Asha and Euron. Euron is way more interesting than Victarion but didn't get a POV which was a pity as I wanted to know more about the horn and huis travels. It was nice to see Brienne getting a POV on her travels with Pod and clashes with Randyll Tarly but a little more excitement in the early chapters would've been nice.
Dorne. *sigh* It should be way more interesting than it was with the plot to crown Myrcella Queen to challenge Tommen's King. Instead we get Ser Arys plotting this with Prince Doran's daughter Arianne and the affair they are having. That was kind of dull and added nothing of interest to the story. Areo Hotah was more interesting and just sticking with him as the whole viewpoint on Dorne would've been much better. Instead we are told of another plot to marry Prince Doran's son to Dany which will complicate the many threads already laid. But that is for a later book. I just feel there was too much on Dorne and the war of the Greyjoys and it could have been trimmed a bit. Finally, why are we getting a whole POV of the Stark sisters pretending to be other people? There is no Alayne so a POV of her is just Sansa so why not call it Sansa? Same with Arya pretending to be this Cat. Just call it Arya!
On the plus side, it was so great to finally get the POV of Cersei as she starts to go a bit mad in her battles with the Tyrells for power over Tommen. The POVS of her, Jaime and Samwell were certainly the highlights of the book for me. The redemption of Jaime comes a lot quicker in the books and I liked seeing his adventures on the road. It's a pity Bronn isn't with him, but he is amusing even when we don't see him. You have to laugh at him calling his wife's bastard Tyrion to annoy Cersei! I did still enjoy the book despite the issues I highlighted. I liked seeing Littlefinger doing his power grab through Sansa, the Riverlands through Jaime and King's Landing through Cersei.
I did miss seeing Tyrion, Jon, Davos and Dany but on the bright side, I didn't have to wait to read the next book so I don't feel I greatly missed out the way the original readers did! Yes this book wasn't as good as the others so I really do need to rate it as 4 stars. Had the Dorne and Greyjoy stuff been a bit shorter I would've given it 5. But it was still a really great read.
Read December 2017