Book Review of A Feast for Crows (Song of Ice and Fire, Bk 4)

A Feast for Crows (Song of Ice and Fire, Bk 4)
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Helpful Score: 4

The much-hyped and much-awaited 4th volume in 'A Song of Ice and Fire'...
While I have been loving these books, and was excited to find out 'what happens next' to the characters, I don't think this volume is going to win any awards... one could argue that it's not really even a novel - it doesn't really have any coherent structure - or even actual plot.
Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed reading it immensely...
but, it continues in the manner of the previous books, devoting each chapter to a different character. This book doesn't contain all of the characters (half were 'saved' for the next volume) but even so, there are so many characters that they seem to rarely repeat. You read an episode in one person's life.. then on to the next person, and then the next... and there's so many that what's happening doesn't progress that much...

Basically, and these aren't really spoilers, 'cause you could have guessed most of it from the last books: Cersei is being crazy and making an egomaniacal mess of trying to rule as regent for Tommen.
Brienne, in accordance with her vow, is tromping around looking for Sansa, with no luck, enduring tribulations.
Sansa is living under an assumed identity in a vaguely creepy situation (with Littlefinger).
Arya has found shelter (?) in a weird religious death cult.
Jaime is pissed off about losing his hand, but overall isn't as nasty as he used to be.

And a bunch of other characters are doing their various things, and not really (for the most part) interacting with one another.

There is hardly any mention at all of what initially seemed like it would be the main drama in this story - the supernatural threats from beyond the Wall.

The writing and characterization is great. Martin is a truly great writer.
But this book is just not as good as the first three in the series, as literature.

Also, the first three books do a good job of balancing the grittiness, misery, perversion, plotting and violence of the drama with moments of love, joy and honor - all that good stuff. This volume has few, if any, moments of brightness to contrast with the sordid reality that the characters are all living in. This is, undoubtedly, intentional, but makes the book less 'fun' than previous installments.