The fourth book in the Song of Ice and Fire series is aptly titled, given the staggering end of the third book. The entire series is left picking up the pieces, and while this causes the beginning of A Feast for Crows to move somewhat slowly in the beginning, the story reassembles and takes flight in exciting new directions.
This volume spends much of its time in King’s Landing, though we get to dart off to faraway lands with some new characters, along with some old ones going by new names. It was odd to see the Stark girls’ names changed to their aliases in the chapter titles, but that move helped to reinforce their drastic developments in response to the fall of their house. Both of them are far away, Sansa where we left her in the Eyrie and Arya on a new path in Braavos, which I wanted more of and hope to see in the fifth book. It’s nice to see Sam stand a little taller once his seasickness subsides. Brienne, on the other hand, you just feel sorry for as she has one near miss after another on her road to find Sansa, and if you haven’t learned the rewards of honor and duty in these lands yet, you’ll feel the full brunt of it watching her slog west.
After the fight between the Dornish prince and the Mountain at the end of the third book, I was excited to finally see Dorne, and I thought it would play a bigger role since it is the opening setting of the fourth book, but I still don’t have a feel for the place beyond its hot sands and wind. The Ironborn on the other hand we get to know quite well, and I can’t wait to see what they find when they sail east. Before that decision, we witness the choosing of a new leader, and while Victarion seems like the toughest man for the job, and that’s saying something with these drowned men, Balon’s other brother, Euron has his Crow’s Eye unflinchingly set on the driftwood crown.
The book is very heavy on Cersei, who is quite unpleasant and grows even more so as her mistrust and scheming worsens after the death of her father. I don’t really enjoy hating her, especially since Tyrion isn’t around to give her a hard time. Jaime is back home, but his interactions with her grow more strained as she spirals down, and for the most part, a chapter with Jaime is a chapter with Cersei, or at least thoughts about Cersei. The most intriguing aspect of Cersei’s new machinations is her determination to bring an end to little Queen Margery, though we don’t see much of her. I have a feeling this part of the story will seem very familiar once it airs on HBO since the actress playing Margery succumbed to similar plots and accusations of incest while playing Anne Boleyn on The Tudors. That history is likely where Martin is pulling from, which is fine, but I have to wonder what the casting director was thinking.
A Feast for Crows was enjoyable, but it does feel like a bit of a set up for greater things to come. The absence of the missing characters is greatly felt, but for some, like Tyrion, it is nice to wonder what’s become of them for a while. At no point did I feel like I was forcing my way through a holdover, but I am looking forward to the fifth book, which is the other half to this story.