Well, here we are. By “here,” I mean the part of the books where the book readers all say GRRM’s editor settled in for a nice, long nap and hasn’t since reappeared. (Except she apparently does exist, and is awake, and is somehow okay with the idea of an eighth book?) Spoilers for the prior three books obviously follow.
Given the grumbling over this book and its successor, I liked A Feast for Crows more than I expected to. Yes, certain words and phrases are repeated over and over ad nauseum, and yes, there are, collectively, about 100 pages of overly verbose description that could have probably been excised. I, admittedly, didn’t read every chapter completely thoroughly — I still can’t convince myself to care much about Sam Tarly, or for the Ironborn — but I can still confidently say that I was invested in the majority of the book. I loved the addition of the Cersei POV chapters to continue the narrative at King’s Landing, and the juxtaposition of her chapters versus Jamie’s furthered the emotional stakes behind the crumbling of the Lannister family (and dominion.) We finally see the extent of Cersei’s manipulations and the messy, faltering dissolution of Jamie’s love for her as a result of her machinations. And of course it isn’t just Jamie’s love that is ruined by Cersei’s scheming, as her decisions start to take a disastrous toll on the stability of the kingdom.
Another mirrored pair are the Stark sisters, both of whom abandon their identities to move forward and survive. Granted, Arya has been in hiding for awhile, posing as a boy and responding to nicknames, but she still lived as a Stark and her motivation for survival was revenge against those who wronged her and her family. Now, in Braavos, as she trains under the Faceless Men, she is required to completely absolve herself of her identity, her personality, and her possessions, leaving everything behind that marks her as belonging to anyone or any name. Sansa, on the other hand, is living a game of deception under the tutelage of Littlefinger. Similar to Arya’s “first stage” of hiding, she takes on a new name and background story, but she still hasn’t forgotten who she is. Still, she reminds herself that until the proper time to reveal herself, she must not be Sansa Stark, but Alayne, natural daughter of Littlefinger.
Part of the length problem has to do with there being a million other characters that I haven’t discussed. Among those are Brienne, a character who I like a lot but whose storyline here wasn’t especially compelling, as she was mostly reduced to tromping around places where she thinks Sansa might be and asking after her. We also got a few chapters about the events in Dorne, which I definitely do want to see unfold further. I loved the potential of Ariane Martell’s character and am hoping to see more of her and the Sand Snakes in action in the next volume.
Overall, though I grant that there was a bit more to slog through than necessary, the progression of what I perceived to be key plotlines continued in interesting directions and I’m actually still optimistically looking forward to A Dance with Dragons.