Five years after my first reading, and inspired by the popularity of the television show, I’ve decided to revisit George R. R. Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire series. Follow along for the thoughts, connections, and new insights that come from reading a story the second time around. Catch up with the first installments here, here, and here. Newcomers take note: spoilers ahead.
Number of Narrators: 13
Number of Narrators Who Die a Horrible Death: 2
Number of Times the Feasting of Crows is Discussed: 8
Remember how I told you that A Song of Ice and Fire was originally supposed to be three books? And now it’s stretching into seven? Part of the reason for that was author Martin’s decision not to jump five years into the future after the events of A Storm of Swords, after realizing he was relying too heavily on flashbacks in his writing process and figured he might as well write out the whole thing. A Feast for Crows, and its companion novel A Dance with Dragons, are those five years—or the beginning of them, anyway—that he originally intended to skip.
I wish he had.
This book, and the next, both feel like a lot of set-up—pieces moving on a chessboard, skills being acquired, the game of thrones playing on—but after the massive, game-changing events and satisfying character arcs of A Storm of Swords, it genuinely feels like there’s not much going on. Martin decided to split Feast and Dance by character (for the most part) rather than chronology, and without the familiar and favourite voices of Daenerys, Tyrion, and Jon Snow, it’s left to newer and somehow less interesting narrative characters to draw us in.
In terms of engagement, Jaime Lannister and his continuing arc of becoming not such a terrible person after all comes closest, but he’s not really given all that much to do. Cersei is tiresomely stupid, Brienne stubbornly misled. Asha Greyjoy, with all her talk of a queensmoot, disappoints. Sansa Stark needs to hurry up and start playing the game of her own accord instead of being Littlefinger’s pawn, and her sister Arya is still in endless training to become the badass assassin we now know she’s being groomed to be. The new setting and characters of Dorne offer some interest, but the cartoonish Sand Snakes seem like they would be better suited to a comic book than an epic fantasy novel (perhaps The Sand Snakes: Avengers of Westeros).
In the end, this book is lacking—in a strong sense of plot, in half its main characters—and really doesn’t meet the high expectations set up by the preceding novel. Five years for this book to be published, and six for the next—it’s a poor payoff for the devoted reader. Will the series be worth it in the end?