Martin gives us half of the story in Feast of Crows. Review by Violet Kane

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As Martin explains in an after-note to his long-awaited sequel to Storm of Swords, the manuscript of this installment had become too large to bind. Faced with the necessity of either cleaving the story down the middle or focusing on half of the characters, Martin chose the latter. His decision is not without merit, but it will leave some fans disappointed.

As Feast for Crows opens, Cersei Lannister first learns of her father's death. Jaime's refusal to serve as her Hand inadvertently consolidates her power, but drives a rift between them. Meanwhile, Jaime has sent warrior woman Brienne the Beauty out into the Seven Kingdoms, charged with fulfilling their shared vow to Catelyn Stark to find her missing daughters. The daughters, however, are not easy to findóboth end up with new identities, living under assumed names. Arya finds herself embraced by an arcane cult of spiritualists in Braavos, and Sansa continues to masquerade as Littlefinger's bastard daughter in the Eyrie. Martin also reveals two new groups of viewpoint characters, each wielding their own fair amount of power politics. In the Iron Islands, Balon Greyjoy's death opens a contest for the throne. At the southern tip of the Seven Kingdoms, Doran, the crippled king of Dorne, and his daughter Ariana each have their own ideas of how to deal with the Lannisters they loathe. Samwell Tarly sets out on a journey south, charged with finding a home for Gilly and her baby, getting Maester Aegon away from Stannis's sorceress before he discovers her kingly blood, and with orders to undertake maester training himself at the Citadel. All the while, an increasingly embittered populous is united all over the Seven Kingdoms, bolstered by support from the clergy.

Aside from a brief meeting with Samwell at the opening of this book, Jon Snow remains unseen. Joining him among the ranks of missing characters are Tyrion, Dany, and Bran, to name the most notable disappearances. Martin promises that book five, A Dance with Dragons will cover their stories, contemporaneous but untold in Feast of Crows. A sample teaser chapter from the point of view of Dany makes good on this promise. By his reasoning, Martin felt it better to tell a whole story for half the characters rather than half a story for all the characters. His reasoning makes structural sense, and with the introduction of so many new characters in Dorne and on the Iron Islands, this decision saved me a headache. I, for one, felt that the population of named-characters burgeoned past my own comfort level in this book. However, in true Martin fashion, his "whole story" for most characters ends in a cliffhanger. Presuming that these characters won't appear in the next volume is frustrating in that senseówe likely have to wait until volume 6 to see what becomes of the characters left in various predicaments by volume 4. Despite these controversies of structure and the head-spinning number of character names, Martin's writing is still in top form. Feast for Crows does not provide the same payoff as Storm of Swords, which I found to be the highlight of the series so far. But it doesn't need to. In the ebb and flow of this series, it both fulfills expectations as one of the best reads in modern fantasy, and it promises juicy conflict and intrigue to come. As a reader, at this point, I trust Martin to dole out conclusions and payoffs as masterfully as he spins his story and paints his characters.

While Martin fans may be frustrated by the absence of some characters, they will not be disappointed. Due to the increasing complexity of this story, I strongly advise newcomers to become Martin fans first before attempting to read Feast of Crows by reading the other novels of the series in order: Game of Thrones, Clash of Kings and Storm of Swords.


Violet "Violanthe" Kane is the Webmaster and Founder of ARWZ.com. She is an editor of ARWZ Literary Zine and is currently pursuing a Master's degree in Medieval studies.