A Feast for Crows by George R.R. Martin
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
After 400 pages or so, "nothing" was happening in this book, and yet I could not stop turning the pages and had already rated this book at four stars. By the time I was done, I'd upped the rating to five stars and determined that this was my favourite book of the entire series.
I can see why many people would not like this book. As I said, "nothing" happens for a thousand pages. After the Battle of Blackwater, the Red Wedding, the War of Five Kings and various other violent and magical events that have taken place over the last three books, this book is stark change, but it is the book that proves just how atypical a fantasy series it is. I cannot think of a single fantasy trope that Martin uses in his storytelling. I cannot identify any tropes, for that matter. From the moment he chopped off the apparent hero's head, Martin made it clear that we are not to expect anything but the unexpected. Don't try to guess what happens next and to whom because you are very likely to be wrong.
No, that's not true. If you guess that someone is going to die, then you'd probably be right. Where, when and how, you won't guess, but it's pretty safe to assume that everyone's going to die in A Song of Ice and Fire. Don't get attached. There is no shortage of death in this book, but, interestingly, a lot of it happens offstage. A lot of everything happens offstage, actually, with information passed on through rumours and the occasional crowmail.
The reader is just as much in the dark about many occurrences and there is no such thing as dramatic irony to rely on. Keeping in mind that A Feast of Crows is only half the story Martin wished to tell in this part of the series, this shouldn't be a surprise. The prominent characters missing from this book are a part of the next and presumably, the rumours we are reading about here will be made more clear in A Dance with Dragons. Not that there are no prominent characters here. There are many, many characters in Crows, with several new ones being introduced, as well as new plots and twists. It may seem as though this would make the series too convoluted for its own good, but the beauty of Martin's epic is that it is so realistic. Of course all these plots and characters would exist in such a world, under such circumstances. It is absolutely amazing that Martin threads it all together so coherently and completely such that a reader paying attention simply can't get lost, despite the magnitude of characters and plotlines.
Crows takes the time to delve very deeply into these characters and plots. This is where many may complain, because the book does not seem to move very far forward. It is filled with characters conniving, searching, plotting, whining, grieving, coping, and most importantly, changing. Several major characters undergo some intriguing transformations throughout this book. Some don't realize they are changing, while others have recognized the changes in themselves and their relationships and look further inward as they grow and learn to survive within the game of thrones. Others change literally, becoming someone else, even as they try to stay true to who they were.