Review: A Feast for Crows & A Dance with Dragons by George RR Martin

I have been missing for several weeks now. I’m blaming these two books for my absence. I quickly burned through my backlog of books to review and then found myself at a loss for material to post. It also didn’t help that work has been burning my brain out, but that’s a totally different subject. Anyway here is my joint review for A Feast for Crows and A Dance with Dragons, the fourth and fifth books in the A Song of Ice & Fire series by George RR Martin.

 

A Feast for Crows & A Dance with Dragons
George RR Martin

Bantam
Fantasy / Epic Fantasy / Dragons

AFFC on Goodreads | ADWD on Goodreads

AFFC on Amazon | ADWD on Goodreads

A Feast for Crows

With A Feast for Crows, Martin delivers the long-awaited fourth volume of the landmark series that has redefined imaginative fiction and stands as a modern masterpiece in the making.

After centuries of bitter strife, the seven powers dividing the land have beaten one another into an uneasy truce. But it's not long before the survivors, outlaws, renegades, and carrion eaters of the Seven Kingdoms gather. Now, as the human crows assemble over a banquet of ashes, daring new plots and dangerous new alliances are formed while surprising faces—some familiar, others only just appearing—emerge from an ominous twilight of past struggles and chaos to take up the challenges of the terrible times ahead. Nobles and commoners, soldiers and sorcerers, assassins and sages, are coming together to stake their fortunes...and their lives. For at a feast for crows, many are the guests—but only a few are the survivors.

A Dance with Dragons

In the aftermath of a colossal battle, the future of the Seven Kingdoms hangs in the balance — beset by newly emerging threats from every direction. In the east, Daenerys Targaryen, the last scion of House Targaryen, rules with her three dragons as queen of a city built on dust and death. But Daenerys has thousands of enemies, and many have set out to find her. As they gather, one young man embarks upon his own quest for the queen, with an entirely different goal in mind.

Fleeing from Westeros with a price on his head, Tyrion Lannister, too, is making his way to Daenerys. But his newest allies in this quest are not the rag-tag band they seem, and at their heart lies one who could undo Daenerys's claim to Westeros forever.

Meanwhile, to the north lies the mammoth Wall of ice and stone — a structure only as strong as those guarding it. There, Jon Snow, 998th Lord Commander of the Night's Watch, will face his greatest challenge. For he has powerful foes not only within the Watch but also beyond, in the land of the creatures of ice.

From all corners, bitter conflicts reignite, intimate betrayals are perpetrated, and a grand cast of outlaws and priests, soldiers and skinchangers, nobles and slaves, will face seemingly insurmountable obstacles. Some will fail, others will grow in the strength of darkness. But in a time of rising restlessness, the tides of destiny and politics will lead inevitably to the greatest dance of all.

My one review of both these books: Ugh.

I am not a fan of George RR Martin’s pointless ramblings. The only reasons I’ve pushed myself through these thousands and thousands of pages is because A) I can’t stop things in the middle, B) I need to read things before I see them on screen and the most important one, C) Fernando really loves this series. He sits through so much of my stuff that probably bores him to tears, so it’s only reasonable that I share his favorite series with him. I grumble, he defends. We bond over geek stuff.

In total these two books are over 2,000 pages and that’s counting the large hardback pages as an equivalent to the small trade paperback pages. If these were both paperbacks, it would most definitely push the 3,000 mark. You’d think with so many pages, TONS of things would happen.

You would be wrong.

Mostly it’s walking and running into fourth tier characters, having a short conversation – normally involving one person threatening the other in a not-so-subtle manner – and then parting ways to walk some more. There is a lot of walking and when they aren’t walking, they’re riding on boats and getting sea sick. There is so much walking that it makes the quest in Lord of the Rings look like a Sunday stroll.

If you ripped out the pages of unnecessary descriptions, the lists of food eaten, lords’ banners being seen from a distance and the patronage of Wildlings you’ll probably never hear about again, these books could have easily been combined into one 1,000 page door stopper. But no, editors fear Martin’s wrath and so they don’t point out that every other page is filled with pointless vanity and “Look at me, I’m impressive” babbling.

Almost all 2,000+ pages of these books are building up to a payoff that may be somewhere long in the distance, but this is going to have to be some spectacular payoff to justify the frustrations of hours upon hours of boredom and pointless nattering. The fourth book has so many exciting things happening that I can barely remember much that even occurs in the books. Some people die. People ride horses and look for other people. People have encounters with mutual friends though they use different names and don’t realize they have mutual friends that could provide them with important information about goings ons that would be important to them if only they knew they were happening.

Look at me being vague! Not much happens and all the most interesting characters are completely missing from A Feast for Crows. There is a tiny smidge of Arya, but Tyrion, Jon and Dany are both missing. By the end I was even missing Bran and never wanted to get inside the inane ramblings within Cersei’s head ever again. AFFC takes part concurrently with the first half of ADOD before the plots combine into the latter half of the fifth book. It is probably best to read these two books back to back, but it is a long, slow ride.

A Dance with Dragons finds almost everyone trying to get to Dany because she has dragons and everyone wants dragons. They all conveniently have forgotten that dragons breathe fire, probably aren’t the most docile of creatures and don’t respond to commands. Then they’re surprised when they’re suddenly caught on fire.

As with the first three books, the Starks carry the most interesting storylines. There are just a lot fewer of them now. The Lannisters still make me want to stab myself in the eye with the exception of Tyrion, though Tyrion starts bumbling into idiocy in ADWD to the point that I didn’t exactly look forward to his chapters anymore. The Boltons take up a larger portion of the book and Martin got to more blatantly show off how far his sexism can go. Some boys for Dorne take up a lot of space that is a waste of plot. The Greyjoys just continue to be pointless advisories to no one, thinking they’re very important while everyone else thinks they’re a swarm of mosquitoes that will eventually get squashed, but aren’t exactly a priority.

Both these books start branching away from the point of views of regularly occurring characters, bringing in side characters and introducing them with chapters title cryptically like “Oathbreaker”, “The Queenguard”, “The Lost Lord” and “The Wayward Bride”. These were hit or miss. The hits were anything involving Barristan Selmy, who is probably the smartest person in either of these books. The misses were the previously mentioned pointlessness from the boys of Dorne and anyone with the last name Greyjoy with the exception of Asha.

I’m glad to have these books behind me. I can’t with good conscious recommend them to anyone, but I’m glad I defeated these challenges. Epic fantasy lovers with more patience for nothing happening for long stretches of time would probably enjoy the series. If you love slow burn character development that sacrifices any sense of pacing, then you might like this series. If you’re expecting the same sort of action that you get from the television adaptation, you will be sorely disappointed.