mark monday's Reviews > A Feast for Crows

A Feast for Crows by George R.R. Martin
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Sep 13, 2011

really liked it
bookshelves: fantastickal

Behold: the Ugly Stepchild of A Song of Ice and Fire!
Behold: the Readers of A Feast for Crows: Angry, Sullen, Vengeful!


silly readers. i'm not sure i've ever read such a collection of resentful reviews for one book. one reviewer just decided to repeat the same phrase over and over and over again (sorry Joel, had to say it). another decided to note that "...kids are inherently boring. Kids aren’t clever..." er, wtf?

sigh. i suppose i can understand the backlash. Martin took a long-assed time to put this out into the world and then - WHAT THE HELL - reader favorites Tyrion & Jon Snow & Daenerys have dropped off of this book's radar. but i am also perplexed - despite the loss of these wonderful creations, this is an excellent and challenging novel. come on readers, grow a pair!

personally, i savored this book from beginning to end. the intricate plot, the propulsive narrative, the intelligent world-building, and most importantly the depth of characterization that were all hallmarks of prior volumes are still in place and undiminished in this installment. one of the things that is often overlooked about Martin is that he is a brilliant writer of quality prose. his descriptions are not just lavish, they are often quite beautiful. he has an expert grasp of language; the man knows how to create imagery that is by turns stark, subtly threatening, strangely enchanting, morbid, nostalgic, and ambiguous. the only reason the novel does not earn a top rating from me (but really, who cares anyway) is because of an unfortunately heavy reliance on repetition - mainly of key phrases and dream imagery. still, this novel should stand tall as an excellent continuation of this amazing series.

first and foremost, A Feast for Crows is A Story of the Women of Westeros. because this is set in a medieval land that has very little wish fulfillment in terms of rectifying gender imbalance, it is fated by its own nature to be an unsettling and unfufilling narrative.

CONSTANT SPOILERS FOLLOW

The Queen Regent. Cersei Lannister is this series' chief villain and so it was with much anticipation that i approached her POV chapters. they did not disappoint. quite unlike the POV chapters from her formerly villainous twin Jaime, there is not much redemption coming Cersei's way. she's such a fuckin bitch, as the saying goes. she remains cold, grasping, machiavellian, murderous, and extremely petty. she is also incredibly entertaining: a villain in the Grand Old Style, full of swallowed rage and sweetly-uttered put-downs and viciously cruel schemes. she takes to drink and she lets a fellow viper into her bed (which also allows Martin to indulge in an enjoyably laugh out-loud lesbionic interlude). she makes a classic mistake in allowing fanatics to arm themselves. in the end, she literally outsmarts herself, and is the victim of her own foul trap. best of all, she is going crazy! her dreams haunt her, dreams of her death and the deaths of her children. much of her villainous nature is explained by these dreams...what mother wouldn't stop at anything to protect her children? and so Cersei doesn't stop at anything.

but what i mainly took away from her chapters were two important lessons that i learned, oh, years ago, probably in my various college Gender Studies classes. first: a woman in power within a patriarchal structure is a woman in constant battle with her peers. she will not receive the automatic respect granted to men; she will have to "earn it", whatever that even means. she will be constantly reminded that her job is actually to marry and to bear children, and that her position of authority is somehow unnatural, against the natural order of things. i despised Cersei, but i also despised those around her who did not give her the automatic respect a man would have in her position. i appreciate that Martin made this inequity crystal clear: he is against Cersei (of course he is - she's the villain) but he also gives the challenges she faces in her new position a rather timeless quality. gender inequity is timeless.

and the second lesson: a woman who gains power within a patriarchal system by mirroring the gender essentialism that supports that system has, sadly, sublimated that structure as natural and right - and will therefore enact that chauvinism. Women's Studies 101, folks. Cersei does not "challenge gender imbalance" - she supports it. her interior monologues are full of the same bullshit as any sexist dumbass. she despises "weakness" in men. she condemns "slutty" behavior while indulging in it herself. she uses classic chauvinistic tactics to bring down a rival and even-more-classic male brutality to destroy men and women alike. as i mentioned...she's a fuckin bitch! but her character is a fascinating one to contemplate.

The Sand Snakes and The Dorne Princess. i suppose the chapters set in Dorne could contribute to many readers' disengagement with this novel. oh, whatever. i love Dorne! Dorne is the ugly stepchild of Westeros: matrilineal and distantly threatening, with a great big chip on its shoulder. but what a place it is: aggressive and volatile, sure, but also a land where women are automatically given the same respect as men, where a princess is the natural heir to the throne, where bastards are not automatically disrespected. the brief glimpses of the Sand Snakes, despite their inability to start the war they craved, were compelling in how differentiated they were in their various proposals to begin battle. and i also appreciated how fallible Arianne Martell turned out to be: a girl unused to schemes but still scheming away, a seductress who fell in love, a woman loyal to her friends and disinterested in cruelty, an heiress and misguided leader-to-be, one whose time in the limelight approaches.

Sansa/Alayne and Arya/Cat. sometimes a girl has to literally convince herself that she is someone else, simply to survive. sometimes a girl has to forget the parts of her that make her herself, in order to achieve her goals. of course in one case, this is a girl who has lived her life as a pathos-ridden pawn. in the other case, we have a girl who is slowly losing her humanity as she becomes a kind of living weapon. eh, so what? they both have my full support. go Sansa & Arya, go! survive this series, you can do it!

Catelyn/Stoneheart. and sometimes a woman fails. to accomplish her goals, to protect her loved ones, to save her children. i imagine that some women can get past this and can go on to define themselves anew. and other women cannot, or do not. they swallow their bitterness but do not forget: it becomes their fuel, their purpose for being. it can turn a heart to stone. and, um, it probably doesn't help having your throat slashed at your brother's wedding and then being revived as a monstrous quasi-zombie. and so Catelyn becomes a dread avenger, and not a pretty one. she is a killer without regard to reason or even justice, and she turns Dondarrion's Merry Men into a grim and bloodthirsty cabal. i never thought i'd see Thoros be so sad, so lost. i never thought Lemoncloak could be such an uncaring asshole. i never thought Catelyn would hang an innocent woman or a mere lad. well, i suppose that's what can happen. so i know that Brienne survives, that's obvious. but if Podric Payne dies, i'm coming after you, George Martin!

The Maid of Tarth. i saved one of my favorite characters of the series for last. i don't think Brienne is a lot of readers' favorite; i assume they find her constant integrity and her equally constant naivete, repetitiousness, and lack of imagination to be tedious. but that's not how i feel! i loved her from beginning to (probably not her) end. there is such genuine realism to her loyal, awkward, lovelorn character. she is a warrior woman, but this means nothing in male-dominated Westeros except constant and automatic disrespect. she is, i suppose, "physically unattractive" and is constantly reminded of that by nearly every person she meets. she is always Doing The Right Thing; that integrity causes her to be disrespected even more, and it often means nothing to the people around her. well it means a lot to me! her quest may have been aimless, but it was also useful in illustrating the true and awful tragedy of war: the lives lost, the tormented survivors, the bleak landscapes, the sense of a world turned dark and bloody and soulless - a world without meaning. seeing such a brave person travel through this blighted landscape and continuously, stubbornly, mulishly trying to do good was hard to read - but it was also what i really needed in order to truly connect with this novel: a hero, tried and true. her two fight scenes, vanquishing members of the appalling Brave Companions, were awesome. what a brave lady and what a unique addition to the fantasy genre's Hero Archetype. i love her. as i loved this book.

now on to the next one!
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Comments (showing 1-50 of 118) (118 new)


Jessi My issue with this one was totally Dorne. Its like Westeros is so badass and then Dorne is like Boca Reton, its nice and everyone there is toothless and aggravating, really not a threat to anyone outside of the condo board. The Sand snakes need to get a reality check, cause Lady Nym was talking about attacking and that would be a disaster. I don't even want to think about what Gregor would do to her, it would not be pleasant.I found Dorne sort of a snozefest.


message 2: by Kay (new) - added it

Kay Great review, Mark! Book 3 is on deck for me (just finished the second book and needed a breather). I tend to avoid spoilers like the plague, but I couldn't help but skim over the individual descriptions of the womenfolk of Westeros. Fascinating character portraits—makes me want to read Book 3 asap. Will return to discuss if I get to Book 4 relatively quickly.


mark monday Jessi - love the comparison of Dorne to Boca Reton! ha!

Kay - thanks! my favorite so far is probably Book 3, i envy you reading it. it's awesome


Nastassja I totally agree with most of your thoughts on this book, I actually enjoyed the Cersei chapters and watching her slowly self-destruct. She is a rather fascinating and depraved character. I also really do love Brienne, for all the same reasons - she epitomizes so much of what most of the other characters do not - an unrelenting commitment to doing the right thing, despite being constantly insulted, trodden on, and disrespected. She embodies everything I have respect for in the real world. The only thing I do have to disagree with slightly is the whole Dorne thing... I find it so boring! I cringe every time I have to read about Dorne or Meereen. I have to say I did enjoy the book overall, it just wasn't as breath-taking as the third one, which I assume it due to it's place in the centre of the series. I definitely didn't hate it though.


mark monday i'm glad there's another fan of Brienne out there!

although i've heard, sadly, that Brienne only makes a cameo appearance in all the 900+ pages of ADWD.


Jessi This is true, she says one line that is all. To say it was a bummer would be an understatement


mark monday argh


Nastassja Damn. This. Series.


Jessi Nastassja wrote: "Damn. This. Series."

Word.


message 10: by j (new) - rated it 4 stars

j one reviewer just decided to repeat the same phrase over and over and over again (sorry Joel, had to say it).

i gave it 4 stars. but you can't pretend martin doesn't repeat himself over and over and over and over.


message 11: by mark (last edited Sep 30, 2011 12:18PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

mark monday yes i can yes i can yes i can yes i can martin perfect yes i can yes i can martin perfect.

but yeah, that's the major problem i had with the novel (i did note it in the 4th paragraph). it is a problem with several charactes' POV chapters - Brienne, Cersei, and Jaime.

i don't think i realized you gave it 4 stars!


message 12: by j (new) - rated it 4 stars

j yeah i liked it better than book 2. i even liked brienne's chapters. i just got sick of the little tone poems, which continue into ADWD, but aren't as prominent.


message 13: by Tara (new) - rated it 4 stars

Tara Richardson Mark, I like your take on the book. I'll have to go see what you said about book 5. I am totally for the virginal, loyal, warrior woman, but I just can't seem to get attached to Brienne.

The repetion does get a little annoying, but these characters are experiencing a quickly changing world. They need something to hold tight to and other characters surely aren't a good choice.


message 14: by mark (new) - rated it 4 stars

mark monday thanks Tara. i have yet to read book 5 - hopefully next month.

good point about the repetition!


Ronald Lett I love the fact that you took the time to spell out the gender studies analysis of Cersei and Brienne. I agree, Brienne is written as a classic hero, constantly trying to prove herself in an uncaringly antagonistic and apathetic world.


message 16: by mark (new) - rated it 4 stars

mark monday thanks Ronald!


Laura Wise Best review so far! Thanks! Really thoughtful.

Cersei = Lady Macbeth, anyone? ;)


message 18: by mark (new) - rated it 4 stars

mark monday thanks - and that is really a great comparison, Laura.


message 19: by Tom (new) - rated it 3 stars

Tom Weaver You know, this review actually made me enjoy the book more in retrospect than I did reading it.


message 20: by mark (new) - rated it 4 stars

mark monday i'm glad the review made you like it more! it's funny how some books are like that. i had that same experience (enjoying a book in retrospect when contemplating it, more than the actual reading experience) with The Ravishing of Lol Stein.


message 21: by Lisa (new) - rated it 4 stars

Lisa Great review Mark! I just finished the book and with the mini cliffhangers - Brienne, Cersei, Arianne, Sam & Gilly, Arya/Cat and Sansa/Alayne - I want to hurry on to the next book. But you say there's only one line said by Brienne?!? NO!!!! She is one of my fav characters and like you, have loved her from the beginning. Oh, and I'm fond of Pod too. I look forward to reading your review of book #5.


message 22: by mark (new) - rated it 4 stars

mark monday thanks Lisa! yep, sad to say, only one line and one appearance for Brienne - during Jaime's sole POV chapter. well, as far as i've been told, that's how it is. which i guess makes some sense since the first half or so of ADWD is supposed to take place parallel to AFFC. i hope to read and review ADWD sometime in December.


message 23: by Dokz (new) - rated it 3 stars

Dokz I'm glad that there isn't any Bran or Snow in this book, but the ironmen... Boring chapters. And the Cravern? please die Sam!


message 24: by mark (new) - rated it 4 stars

mark monday ha! well i loved the ironment (along with Dorne)... but agree with you about Craven Sam. he is 100% boring. and so is his tv counterpart.


message 25: by j (new) - rated it 4 stars

j UGLY TOO THERE I SAID IT THE SEX SCENE WAS ICK


message 26: by mark (new) - rated it 4 stars

mark monday UGLY PEOPLE NO HAVE SEX!!! NOT IN FRONT OF ME AND NOTEVER EVER!!!!!


message 27: by j (new) - rated it 4 stars

j TO BE FAIR I WOULD PREFER GEORGE RR MARTIN NEVER EVER WROTE A SEX SCENE EVER


message 28: by mark (new) - rated it 4 stars

mark monday GEORGE RR MARTIN LOVE WRITE SEX SCENES BECAUSE GEORGE RR MARTIN IN SEX SCENES, SECRETLY! EVEN LESBIAN SEX SCENE! SECRET GEORGE RR MARTIN SEXUAL SECRETS IS NO SECRET AT ALL!!!


message 29: by j (new) - rated it 4 stars

j yes, you have nicely illustrated why i would rather not read them.




message 30: by mark (new) - rated it 4 stars

mark monday i think we should really get him in touch with KI, she may have some life-saving advice for him. plus he needs to live so he can finish the saga. FINISH THE SAGA, GRRM, YOU CAN DO IT BABY I BELIEVE IN YOU!


message 31: by Mar (new) - added it

Mar EnCalma LOVED your review... One thing though... I am not suprised by what Catelyn has turned into, she is also a hard-core bitch, although not as megalomaniac and psychotic as Cersei, this is not a sweet, gentle woman... Never much liked her when she was alive... dead she might become interesting...


message 32: by mark (new) - rated it 4 stars

mark monday thanks Mar!

Catelyn is one of my least favorite characters as well, but sometimes i feel that she gets a bad rap. her flaws come from caring too much for her family, which is something i can understand a lot more than megalomania or viciousness. she annoys me, but i feel some empathy for her. and despite her many annoyances, i do think she is a perfectly developed character. very three-dimensional.


message 33: by Tony (new) - rated it 3 stars

Tony Great review, was a little disappointed with this one, but the series is so good it's like saying it was one of Kenny Rodgers lessor known songs...it still rocks!


message 34: by mark (new) - rated it 4 stars

mark monday thank you Tony. i do think that AFFC has a bit of a drop-off in quality when compared to the first 3 books (same with ADWD), but i think it is still pretty great, particularly in comparison with many other fantasy novels.

never thought i'd read a comparison between ASOIF and Kenny Rogers!


message 35: by Abha (new) - rated it 4 stars

Abha Brienne is one of my favorite characters in the book series now. She picked up Gendry being Robert's so fast, and her love for Renly was the reason for that. I also cannot believe how much I've come to like Jaime. I hated him in the first and second books. How things change.


message 36: by mark (new) - rated it 4 stars

mark monday it is pretty amazing what GRRM has done with Jaime's character. this is a murderous, incestuous guy who tosses a kid out of a window. and yet he is one of the reader favorites (including mine), because GRRM has slowly walked the character through the steps of how a person can actually change. it has been amazing watching Jaime grow over the course of the series. i would say Jaime - and his growth - is one of the best things about ASOIF.


message 37: by Abha (new) - rated it 4 stars

Abha The changes in Jaime started so small with with his treatment of Brienne and the way he admired her. Despite his stump, I think she's the biggest catalyst to his change. Brienne is such a simple and straightforward character, but I think that part of her brings out the realness in others. She says it how it is and is annoyingly honorable.


Amber this review is AWESOME! Just sayin. And I am another Brienne fan. :)


message 39: by mark (new) - rated it 4 stars

mark monday thank you Amber!


Margot Props to referring to Cersei as 'Machiavellian,' that is exactly how I thought of her when reading her chapters.


message 41: by mark (new) - rated it 4 stars

mark monday thanks Margot!


Margot Oh, and booo to the person who said Bran's chapters are boring and are glad they weren't in A Feast for Crows. That is all. :)


Chamberly This review is wonderful.


message 44: by mark (new) - rated it 4 stars

mark monday i always love Bran's chapters and missed them in AFFC.

thanks Chamberly!


Daria I love your review!!!
you've just said it all!


message 46: by mark (new) - rated it 4 stars

mark monday and thank you Daria!


message 47: by Sonja (new)

Sonja Fantastic review, can you recommend any similar books? Thanks


message 48: by mark (new) - rated it 4 stars

mark monday in some ways, a difficult question. if you are looking for complex and textured fantasy worlds that resemble our world in their lack of magic, i would say try the post-Fionavar Tapestry novels of Guy Gavriel Kay. if you are looking for an extremely detailed historical saga, minus the fantasy elements, i would try the novels of Colleen McCullough or Ken Follett. or if you want both deeply complex and immersive world-building with lots of fantasy, perhaps the Valentine series by Robert Silverberg starting with Lord Valentine's Castle.


message 49: by Leah (new) - rated it 3 stars

Leah I agree with Tom Weaver; this review made me enjoy the book more after reading your review. I don't have the eloquence to put my thoughts into words like this! thank you


message 50: by mark (new) - rated it 4 stars

mark monday thank you very much Leah!


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