It was a long, long road, but I finished with my re-read of A Song of Ice and Fire this past Sunday night just a couple days before A Dance With Dragons hits the shelves, which is today!. I could say I planned this, but until last week I wasn't sure I'd be caught up. As most of you know A Storm of Swords is quite the wrist breaking giant, but when I finished it late Thursday I immediately started A Feast for Crows and powered through it. I won't claim to have re-read Feast as closely as the other volumes, but I'm done and happy about it. NOTE: Some readers may want to not read below because of possible spoilers. I did try to take care not to put any in, but some readers of Martin might take the mention of a character still being alive as a spoiler.
One of the biggest problems are that the first two chapters - not counting the prologue - are from new points of view. Martin immediately threw readers off doing this. A Jamie, Arya, or Sansa chapter could have easily fit in earlier just by juggling them a bit or even Cersei with her new perspective since she is a beast we're immensely familiar with. So after years of long waiting we aren't even returned to the characters we've grown to know and love or hate as the case may be. The tone was set from the beginning to be off-putting and unfamiliar.
Brienne's chapters move at a snails pace just like I remembered. The only thing interesting about these sections is what comes at the end of them. Otherwise it is just her wandering around getting insulted left and right. How many times can you call a women ugly? Apparently hundreds. These were the chapters I found myself more skimming, which I don't normally do with any of my reading, but every chapter felt the same with little or no movement forward for her or the story.
Seeing things from Cersei's perspective was certainly an eye opener. The sections don't make you care for her any more, in fact they probably make her even more unlikable, but she provides the impetuous behind so much of what has happen and will happen that it was the right time time to delve into her chaotic mind. Then we have the Samwell chapters that show a lot of growth for the character, especially towards the end. These parts also give us a lot more back story on Aemon, which we all have been waiting for. The Dunk and Egg fans have a lot to grab onto here. Still these sections dragged quite a bit, but Sam is being setup for a more pivotal role, I feel.
The Iron islands portion of the story, while seemingly important to the whole story gives us poor perspectives as it often switches POV multiple times mostly from characters barely mentioned in previous volumes. It makes me long for more smarmy Theon. The other major problem with A Feast for Crows is there aren't many "Oh, wow!" moments as there have been in the previous volumes. There is one good one, but the cliffhangers for other characters are a disappointment.
Even amongst all this negativity the writing is still superb and nearly unparalleled in most Fantasy today. And if/when I re-read Feast again I'll probably skip entire perspectives (Iron Islands/Brienne). Now I just have a certain Dragon to slay over the next week or so. I need my Tyrion, Bran, and Jon fix. And some Dany wouldn't be bad either.
I'm also hoping to attend the George R.R. Martin signing this Thursday in NYC. If any you will be there say hullo. I'll be the burly guy in the swank hat.
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