“A Storm of Swords was so good that I was hesitant to read A Feast for Crows. I worried that it would be disappointing, and I was correct in my hesitation. I think it is actually my least favorite in the series so far. Like the first two books in the series, A Feast for Crows was slow moving and dull until the last quarter. Then, as some of the loose ends were being tied and the characters made their exits by dying or ending old story lines, things finally started getting interesting again. I am not sure that it was enough, however, to redeem this installment in the A Song of Ice and Fire series.
Like the other books, this one is told from the perspective of several different characters, with each chapter told by a different person. But I noticed early on in this novel that something seemed different. The chapters seemed to be a little longer, and there seemed to be fewer characters telling the story. It felt like big pieces of the story were missing, things didn’t flow as well, and the various plot lines and characters weren’t as well integrated. In the three previous books, especially A Storm of Swords, I hated to see the ends of the chapters and felt compelled to keep reading just so I could get back to that character and see what happened next. This book lacked the emotional involvement that the other books drew from me – I found it difficult to sympathize with the characters, there was very little action to get excited or horrified over, and I found myself not really caring about what might happen in the characters’ next chapters. Some of the story lines even seemed to grow stale and pointless, just wandering off into nothing. I hate to say it, but A Feast for Crows was boring and lacked the energy and eloquence that I have come to expect from Martin.
At the end of the novel, and then again at the beginning of A Dance with Dragons, there are notes from Martin saying that these two books started out as just one book. At some point he realized that it was getting too long, so he decided to split them up. Rather than dividing them up chronologically, however, he decided to divide them geographically. So A Feast for Crows focuses mainly on the characters in and around Kings Landing, while the beginning of A Dance with Dragons covers the same time period through the eyes of the characters at the Wall and across the Narrow Sea. I think that this division sounds logical, but it just didn’t work and A Feast for Crows suffered for it. A big part of what has made this series so brilliant is the way Martin takes all these different characters and plot lines and weaves them into a tight mesh – like the links in a knight’s chainmail they interlock with each other so strongly that it is impossible to split them apart. And I think that is what caused Feast to fail for me – the links were broken and separated which led to the holes and that disjointed feeling that I got. I felt that parts of the story were missing because they literally were.
I was once again hesitant to begin the next book in the series, but I don’t think it can go anywhere but up and Martin’s explanation about how the two books came about has sparked the hope that A Dance with Dragons will contain all the things that I found lacking in A Feast for Crows. I also hope that it will be closer to the genius that Martin showed in A Storm of Swords, and for that reason I have actually already started reading it. So far, I have not been disappointed.