Martin’s fourth book in the A Song of Ice and Fire series, A Feast for Crows, is both frustrating and exciting. It is frustrating as it only includes certain characters, as the story of other key characters were kept separate for the subsequent A Dance with Dragons that was recently published. It is also frustrating because the novel introduces several new characters with POV chapters, some of whom were introduced in earlier books, but some of whom are brand new and whose identities remain hidden. Those characters also seemed to introduce new storylines into what is already a complicated series, and it feels like it is a bit late in the series to get truly invested in new characters and plots, when there are only a few books remaining in the series.
The exciting part of the book is that it is, for many of the chapters, a book about people in transition. Arya and Sansa are given chapters in this book, but the titles are given as their new identities, and are about their efforts to transform themselves. Jaime and Cersei keep their own names, but they are also in transition, albeit with varying degrees of success. Cersei’s chapters felt little weaker than normal to me – I understand that the sense of insanity and isolation pervading those chapters serve to reflect what is happening in King’s Landing, but her actions did not seem to have as obvious repercussions for the rest of the kingdom, as was made more clear in previous books.
More than half the book was devoted to female characters, including those mentioned above, as well as Brienne of Tarth, Arianne Martell, and Theon’s sister Asha. As the battles were far fewer in A Feast for Crows, that makes sense, and their machinations were much more subtle. I think it is interesting that those women who try to alter events by gaining control of a throne are thwarted – Cersei, Arianne, Asha; while those who are biding their time by learning and watching seem to fare better. Even hot headed Jaime, having had his heart broken, is using strategy rather than brute force to serve his purposes. Petyr Baelish has only a few scenes in the book, but he seems to exemplify how to best play the game of thrones – subtly, and with an eye on the long game.
So, A Feast for Crows was not my favourite of the series, with too many new storylines introduced, too many cliffhangers, and feeling a bit unsatisfying overall. However, it was still fairly enjoyable and has made me very eager to read the next in the series.