A Feast for Crows – a review

This is the fourth book in mega-franchise Song of Ice and Fire … aka Game of Thrones.

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Blurb:

It seems too good to be true. After centuries of bitter strife and fatal treachery, the seven powers dividing the land have decimated one another into an uneasy truce. Or so it appears… With the death of the monstrous King Joffrey, Cersei is ruling as regent in King’s Landing. Robb Stark’s demise has broken the back of the Northern rebels, and his siblings are scattered throughout the kingdom like seeds on barren soil. Few legitimate claims to the once desperately sought Iron Throne still exist–or they are held in hands too weak or too distant to wield them effectively. The war, which raged out of control for so long, has burned itself out.

But as in the aftermath of any climactic struggle, it is not long before the survivors, outlaws, renegades, and carrion eaters start to gather, picking over the bones of the dead and fighting for the spoils of the soon-to-be dead. Now in the Seven Kingdoms, 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–are seen emerging from an ominous twilight of past struggles and chaos to take up the challenges ahead.

It is a time when the wise and the ambitious, the deceitful and the strong will acquire the skills, the power, and the magic to survive the stark and terrible times that lie before them. It is a time for nobles and commoners, soldiers and sorcerers, assassins and sages to come together and stake their fortunes…and their lives. For at a feast for crows, many are the guests–but only a few are the survivors.

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NB: This review will contain spoilers from books 1-3.

Firstly, can I just say that I understand why everyone wants to be Ruler of the Seven Kingdoms? This is a pretty fabulous hometown, I would want it too.

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A Feast for Crows marks a departure from the previous books in this series in a number of ways. Firstly, you don’t see the perspectives of all the key players in the Game of Thrones. Only half of the characters will have their stories told. The other half have their stories told in the subsequent novel, A Dance of Dragons. As such, the novels take place simultaneously, whereas the series was previously told chronologically.

I do not like this new style. After finishing Crows and (at the point) getting about halfway through Dragons, I certainly feel that the pace of the story is much slower. And in an intricate and highly detailed story, it can be difficult to go back and think to yourself while reading Dragons, ‘ok, this happens when blankedy-blank happens in Crows’.

There are a few websites out there run by what I can only assume to be dedicated superfans, who have stitched the timeline of the two books together for other readers. If you are willing to read Crows and Dragons simultaneously, these sites outline the sequence of chapters from the books to give you a chronological timeline.

I thought about using this to read the books (I’d been forewarned) but I worried it would be too much of the world, and I wouldn’t make it through. I have to have a good break between books of a least a few months, or I find that I can’t get through the second novel.

So with that having been said, here are my thoughts on A Feast for Crows!

 

petyr baelish

Petyr Baelish aka ‘Littlefinger’   I found Petyr be less fun and a whole heck of a lot creepier than he was in the previous books. He comes across as a real ‘come get candy out of the back of my van, little girl” kind of guy. I definitely like his portrayal better in the show, where he is deliciously creepy but in Crows, he has an “ick-                                                                                        factor”.

 

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Jaime Lannister aka ‘Kingslayer’     Jaime is much more clever, serious and responsible in this one. He reads less as a spoiled (though talented) courtier of the most powerful noble family in Westeros and more as a ‘man’. It is too bad that he and Ned Stark were enemies … if they had of spent a lot of time with each other, I think that each would have improved the other.

I foresee Jaime becoming more of a heavy hitter as the series continues and think he and Cersei will be less of a dynamic duo. (okay, very minor spoiler in this sentence) I really loved that Jaime tried his best to keep his promise to Catelynn Stark and to protect Sansa. It will be fun to see if they ever cross paths, or if he finds out that Arya is still alive.

 

cersei lannister

Cersei Lannister aka ‘The Queen’   Cersei. Ugh. She was deliciously evil in the previous books and starts out that way in Crows. As much as she is the antagonist, there were things you had to admire in her and at times I even pitied her in the past. Not so much now. I wonder if Cersei is losing her grip on reality since Joff’s death. She is certainly a worse ruler and cannot keep up with the changing hands of power in King’s Landing. The Kingdom is on the brink of collapse  and for once it has nothing to do with usurpers to the throne.

Cersei is nowhere near as clever as she thinks she is and is so terrified of losing another child, that she acts blindly. Pride goeth before a downfall and that is most certainly going to be the case for her. She has received fantastic advice from Jaime and her Uncle but doesn’t trust them, just as she had no respect and grace in receiving Tyrion’s assistance during Stannis’ invasion. I’m going to foretell her demise in the forthcoming sixth book.

 

Game-of-Thrones-game-of-thrones-21613125-500-281Samwell Tarley                                     I think that Sam should get the “most improved character” reward. His story-line went from mainly whining about how cowardly he was and ‘just leave me here to die’ melodrama to interesting and exciting. His plot has finally divested from The Watch and the reader gets to see more mysticism entering the series in The Citadel. This hasn’t shown up yet on the show; it will be interesting to see the new sets and meet new characters when it does.

 

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Brienne of Tarth

Brienne’s journey was pretty boring until the very end of the book when things got serious right quick.

Her’s is one of the stories I am most looking forward to exploring in the future. She meets Lady Stoneheart. If you don’t understand who this as you read the books, google it. Very important, but too spoilery to post here.

 

sansaSansa Stark aka ‘Alayne’

Sansa is just beginning to make her transition from young, feeble-minded girl to confident woman. She isn’t playing the Game of Thrones yet, as portrayed on television, but she is heading in that direction.

I enjoyed A Feast for Crows but not nearly as much as I enjoyed A Storm of Swords. Then again, how could you top a book that contained both the Red and the Purple Weddings?!

A lot of new, seemingly unimportant characters are introduced in this one, from The Prophet, and The Captain of the Guards to The Reaver, The Iron Captain, The Drowned Man and the Queenmaker. While I’m sure they will contribute to the breadth of the story later on, as I was reading, it felt like filler. It was difficult to keep track of everyone and I missed the heavyhitters who were saved for Dragons, like Dany.

If, like me, you struggle a bit with this book, give into the internet and do some quick googling. Especially if you have seen the HBO series or are unafraid of spoilers. At this point, you probably won’t find too many major spoilers because you are almost up to date and it really increases the experience by having all these random bits explained … like the real identity of Lady Stoneheart. The tower of the hand website was my favourite information guide.

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Who is Jon Snow’s Parent?

Game of Thrones is back into full-swing.  Oh how this fandom lives for 10 Sundays out of the year.

One of the most widely discussed debates are theories as to Jon Snow’s parentage. If you need a recap, Jon Snow is Ned Stark’s bastard who goes to the wall and takes the black in book/season one. He has never learned the identity of his mother and there have been numerous suggestions that point to this being purposeful. Eventually, Martin (the author) will release the truth and it will have effects that reverberate across Westeros, and quite likely, beyond. In the mean-time, it is one of the best things to debate with fellow GoT aficionados, and something that can be done without too many spoilers, because no one really knows.

A very popular theory is that Jon is the son of Ned’s sister Lyanna (who died before the books began) and Rhaegar Targaryen. The most common version of this theory is that even though Rheagar was married to the sister of the Red Viper of Dorne, he and Lyanna fell in love and conceived a child, who was born just before she was murdered by the Mad King.

There are other theories abounding, but since I’m not caught up on the series and try to avoid spoilers, I’m not going to look them all up for you.  Go search google.

I believe that Jon Snow is not Ned Stark’s son.  Perhaps it is wishful thinking on my part because Ned was so honourable and beloved as we knew him and no one wants to speak ill of the beheaded. But at the time that he is alleged to have conceived this illegitimate son, he was a much younger man and I’ll admit he may have been a little more wild and less responsible back then.

But there are three main reasons why I still don’t think he is Jon’s father. Firstly, the real identity of Jon’s mother is a huge deal. I suspect that it is one of the key pivotal plot points that in retrospect, we will realize the entire series is based around unraveling. You thought you were reading an epic fantastical saga? Wrong. You were reading a mystery. George Martin likes to reveal these little, surprising, vastly important threads way later, like (********* spoiler alert *********) revealing that it was Lysa Arryn, under the direction of Littlefinger aka Lord Petyr Baelish, who killed her husband John Arryn, Hand of the King before Ned Stark.  Those two essentially set off this whole War of Five Kings and started tugging on the thread that destroyed the Stark family.

I believe that the truth of whoever sired/birthed Jon Snow will have similar implications and importance as the truth of who killed John Arryn. Interviews with Martin and the show creators David and Dan have suggested that we at least know of the identity of Jon’s mother by the fourth book, even if we don’t realize it.  Dead or alive, she has been named. How can we be sure? When David and Dan read the books and met with Martin to convince him to let them and HBO turn it into this mega-hit, the first question he reportedly asked them is, Who is Jon Snow’s mother? If she hasn’t been written in somehow, given a moniker or something with which to identify her, you can’t answer the question.

So I don’t think that Ned Stark is Jon’s father. Great, now we have to guess the identity of both his parents?! I firmly believe that Jon is son of (former) King Robert Baratheon. Why? His hair. In discovering that Joffrey et al are the result of incest between Cersei and Jamie Lannister, we discover that every Baratheon has been black of hair since the beginning of record-keeping. This isn’t too much of a stretch. Ned and Robert were around each other at the time of conception, making it easy to pass off a bastard as belonging to the other. And Robert certainly had dozens of bastards. But I will further this theory and suggest that Jon is the only legitimate son of King Robert and Queen Cersei.

There are two points in the first book/season where they talk about the birth of Robert and Cersei’s first child, who is NOT Joffrey. They had a legitimate heir together, who was a beautiful little baby black of hair. And then he died, and so did any love between, dooming the future of the Kingdom. Cersei talks about how when her baby died she cried and Robert held her and they took the bundle away and she never saw him again. I don’t think he died. I have no idea how Ned Stark came to be in possession of this little baby, whether it was Robert’s will or he had no idea, but I think that the baby is Jon. His age fits the timeline. And it places him in the position of the only legitimate heir to the throne, before his Uncle Stannis and the rest of Robert’s bastards, some of whom, like Gendry, I’m pretty sure are older than Jon.

Thirdly, it feels like Jon has been primed for an important position and I hope, that after a series of mad, drunk, evil kings, Martin will leave the Seven Kingdoms with a strong and honourable ruler post-books. Jon is a prime candidate, although Daenerys and Tyrion would also make could rulers, IMHO. Ned Stark raised a well-educated, strong, good man and his experiences as a Man of the Black Watch have only furthered his character. He is learning to play the political game in ways his Ned couldn’t. I can foresee him becoming King in the distant future. He will be a wiser King than any of his predecessors, that’s for sure.

Now, I’m going to remind you that I have only read to the end of the third book so far, so maybe my theories won’t make much sense to someone who is caught up, but I ran them past a friend who is finished book five and she didn’t say, ‘hold on to that post til you catch up’, so I’m sticking to my theory for now.

What are your thoughts?

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Game of Thrones

Well, it’s here. Game of Thrones. Season 5.  Let the Monday Morning Madness at the water cooler begin.

I haven’t seen the first episode yet.  I am hiding in a cave, trying to head off any spoilers, in a desperate attempt to wait until at least half the season has aired.  I prefer to binge watch a show in a few days, rather than wait a whole week, or two!, for another episode. But it is so hard to avoid the spoilers!

As much as I hate them, I’m getting better at managing when they happen.  In Sons of Anarchy, the only spoiler-free season I enjoyed was the last.  And my blasted siblings spoiled both the Red Wedding and the Purple Wedding for me.  That was cruel.

I have read A Game of Thrones, A Clash of Kings, and A Storm of Swords, which gets me to more or less where season five starts off, so I don’t know too much of what is coming, other than what has been in the promotional material so far. For a saga like this, we all have to decide if we would rather read the books first or see the show first, and personally, I prefer the shock and awe of Game of Thrones on the screen rather than the page.  So each year or so, I read a book, recapping the previous season to lead into the next.

What about you?  Have you read the books? Or do you delight in the twists and turns playing out on screen, like me?

I’m excited to begin this journey into Westeros again, and presumably into Dorne and Braavos as well….. I’ll just be a month or two behind the rest of you guys.

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A storm of swords (II)

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(A word of warning, this post will contain spoilers from the book)

I wanted to talk a minute to take about my impressions of A storm of Swords, by George R.R. Martin, now that it has had time to sink in a bit.

It was definitely my favourite so far.  The pacing was much quicker and more dramatic. From the Red Wedding, to the Purple Wedding, to the deaths of the Hound and Tywin Lannister, the shock factor just kept driving, again and again, boom boom boom.  I loved it.

The first novel was exciting as well, but I hadn’t yet seen the show and had trouble keeping track of all the characters and histories, on top of the rather complicated plot. The second book was easier and enjoyable, but by that time I had seen the show, and it stayed so true to the book, I got a bit bored.

This time around, things had changed. Maybe because it’s been nearly a year since I saw the third and fourth seasons, which are both based on the third novel,  but also because you can see where the book and the script are diverging in places, and its fun to learn the different interpretations.

Side-bar: Is Martin’s work really an interpretation?  It is HIS story after all. Hmmmm. Sorry, back to my regularly scheduled post.

I liked the bit that we had in Nymeria’s POV, finding the naked, milky, female body in the river.  I knew at once it had to be Catelyn but to find out in the epilogue that there was some magic about, made me think much harder back on that scene.  Did Nymeria somehow install some magic in the bloated corpse?

As the recording ending, I couldn’t help but gasp, “Holy Crap! Catelyn Stark is a zombie?!!”

Guess I’ll have to wait until next month to see if David and Dan write that in.

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A Storm of Swords

I just finished A Storm of Swords!

If you don’t know, this is the third book in the mega series Game of Thrones, written by George R.R. Martin.

I listened to it via audiobook and it is 48 hours long.  Is it childish to feel like it is a huge boost to my ego to have finished the first three books in this series? Its nothing tens of thousands, perhaps millions, haven’t done already – that and more. After all, Martin has released 5 books in the series thus far.

And yet 48 hours is a huge commitment to one book and it is an accomplishment.  To be one among many does not diminish the time or effort I spent, just as mine does not diminish another’s.

Now that I am finished it, I am ready to spend some lazy evenings on the couch, re-watching the last four seasons while I wait for the fifth to begin in a month.  Can’t wait!

I give it * * * * *