Benjamin's Reviews > A Feast for Crows

A Feast for Crows by George R.R. Martin
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's review
Jan 25, 2011

bookshelves: audiobook

The main problem with this book is--clearly--that it's too short: only 784 pages of war, murder, deeply hidden plots, and counterplots hid even deeper! (Or, if you're listening on audiobook, only 1.2 days!)

I'm not actually (entirely) joking here; as Martin tells us (in a note to the reader), the story he had for this book became too long to publish as a single volume, so he only published half. (And cutting books up for publishing reasons has a long history in fantasy; at least, ever since Tolkien's Lord of the Rings, which was written as a single book but split into three volumes for publishing reasons.) Except rather than tell half the story for all the characters, Martin decided to tell the full story for half the characters. (Or so he says. It's hard to imagine that this is really the "full story" for any of these characters.)

So, this book has a slightly different rhythm than the others, which I will demonstrate the best way one can demonstrate such a thing about a book--with math!

For comparison, the first book in the series, A Game of Thrones, is roughly the same size; and it has 73 chapters and has 8 POV characters (who get 15, 11, 10, 9, 9, 7, 6, 5 chapters respectively, plus a prologue). So, we get to know those 8 characters pretty thoroughly and we get to return to them over and over. (Yay for old friends and old enemies.)

By contrast, A Feast for Crows has only 46 chapters but has 12 POVs! So each POV character here gets fewer chapters--10, 8, 7, 5, 3, 3, 2, 2, 2, 1, 1, 1 (plus a prologue). And not only do we get a lot of new POV characters (so, Cersei Lannister has been around since the beginning of the series, but her first POV chapter is in this book), we get a lot of POV characters who are totally new to the series--and they're the ones who (by and large) get only one or two chapters.

(OK, so the quantitative stuff really seems to be supplementary rather than dispositive; I probably could've made the same points without the numbers. But doesn't it just feel more conclusive with numbers?)

So that apportionment of the POV chapters does really change the flow of the book; and many of our favorite characters don't actually show up. But I still think this book is another great addition to an amazing series.

Which is why I am so surprised by the Amazon reviews that I've skimmed: whereas the first three books in the series have mostly five star reviews, this fourth book has nearly even ratings--there are almost as many 1-star reviews as 5-star reviews. I don't think this is a worse book than the others, just differently assembled; and I think the reviewers might be judging it a little harshly because of that.

Anyway, all that to one side, I noticed (more in this book than in the others) that Martin seems like he's learned phrases / invented elements of this world as he goes along. So, for instance, throughout the series, we've seen the major religion of this nation in action--we've seen its priests and nuns and their temples and rites. But it's only in this book that we learn that the faith has a holy text. Similarly, Martin seems to have recently fallen in love with the phrase "many and more" as a delightful archaism--at least, I don't remember him using that phrase in the earlier books, whereas it's all over this one. Which can be a little odd when your ersatz-Viking warrior-woman uses the same language as your ersatz-Carolingian Paladin.
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