Tuesday, February 12, 2013

A Feast for Crows ~ George R.R. Martin

I finished A Feast for Crows about a month ago, just recently enough that I still have a sense of it and feel like I can adequately review it, and just long enough ago that I had to check Wikipedia to make sure that I wasn't mixing up the story lines with those from past books.  Oops.  But, with this review I'm finally caught up on my reviews (I think) so woot for that.  Since A Feast for Crows is the fourth book in GRRM's A Song of Ice and Fire series, there will obviously be spoilers to the past books, so read those reviews instead if'n you want:
Game of Thrones
A Clash of Kings
A Storm of Swords

Apparently when GRRM was writing the fourth book in his increasingly long series, he suddenly realized that he was only halfway through the storyline but had already written more than enough for a book, and the prior books in the series are chunksters as it is.  So he did something bizarre and interesting: instead of splitting it chronologically into a part one and part two as one would expect, he split the book geographically.  This is really annoying because I had to miss out on some of my favorite characters, like Danaerys, Jon Snow, Tyrion, and even Stannis (who I don't actually like but gets my vote for king) and that makes me SAD.  But it's also really cool, because GRRM is willing to take the risk of pissing off his readers to maintain the integrity of the story: each characters gets his or her own story arc in each book, which would be broken and lose its drive if the book was split chronologically.  That would also probably make for a really boring part one, since it would be all set-up and no action (see my chess theory).

So yeah, I missed some of my favorites in this book BUT I got to see more of some characters who only recently started creeping into my heart, like Jaime and Brienne, and also was introduced to the dark, murky depths of Cersei's mind and I have to say, I like it (but not her and omg what's going to happen to her?!).  Before we go any further, let's just take a minute to talk about little King Tommen and how hilarious and excellent he is:
"Yes, but I'm the king.  Margarey says that everyone has to do what the king says.  I want my white courser saddled on the morrow so Ser Loras can teach me how to joust.  I want a kitten too, and I don't want to eat beets." (505)
LOL.  That king has some priorities and none shall challenge him.

Snort*.
As disturbing and also kind of sad and desperate as Cersei is, you can kind of see why she's getting increasingly manic from that quote.  This sweet little Margery has wormed her way into Cersei's court and her eight-year old son's bed (ick).  And she seems all sweet and lovely and humors her little husband and everyone loves her but Cersei sees right through her.  Why?  Because she was the same at one time and knows exactly what Margery is doing.  It would probably behoove her to do it again, because people hate her and her method is losing followers.  Of course, then we get into the whole feminist argument of how men gain followers using Cersei's methods so why does she have to be feminine to do the same and yeah it's shitty but cultural context people.  In short, Cersei's strong and powerful and crazy (I mean, she's turning into her dead husband - what?!) and I loved getting into her brain.

Meanwhile, her arrogant brother/lover Jaime becomes ever more lovable as he tries to bring her kingdom into check without actually having to talk to her.  And his little protege, Brienne, runs all over the place with Podrick Payne, her head full of chivalry and dragon-slaying and princess-rescuing, and it's so sweet and sad because that is not how things work but it's nice of her to babysit Tyrion's abandoned squire.  And then I think of Sansa/Alayne and all of her beliefs in the same fairytales and how disappointed she would be to be rescued by a woman, no matter how masculine she is.  Sansa/Alayne isn't even sure she wants to be rescued because at least in the Eyrie she's safe and has an only vaguely pedophilic douchebag to watch over her, and she gets to boss people around and pretty much just be in charge of things.  But even gullible Sansa/Alayne is uneasy at the situation.  Is she a pawn?  Is she beloved?  Is she a middle-aged man's fantasy brought to life?

Sam's story was...interesting.  It was probably the least exciting of the novel and maybe could have been swept over a bit.  I don't think he really grows very much and just when he got to the Citadel and things got interesting - the book was over.  And it'll be another two books before we find out what goes on there.  But it was amusing to read about him having sex for the first time and OHMYGOD poor Gilly (Because of her son, not Sam.  She can diddle whosoever she wants.).  Arya's story was also underwhelming, though I treasured any info about her that I could glean.  I think I just had a few too many questions about that temple in Braavos.  But she does grow as a character, even if she still can't let go of her hatred.  But she gains control and to combine that with her vengefulness is a scary thing.  I'm wondering if she and Danaerys will meet up at some point because I think that combination would be excellent and deadly.

Speaking of Danaerys, I think it would be interesting to compare her to Cersei.  Both women are in positions of power but Cersei is mistrusted while Danaerys is revered.  What are these two women doing differently in a world defined by gender roles (besides GRRM's obvious manipulation of his readers' feelings and also the dragons)?  Cersei has this manic energy, always scheming and running around and sending people to be tortured or worse (what the hell is going on in the dungeons?? **shudder**), but I think that underneath that is a lot of anxiety.  She constantly needs to prove herself and her strength, belying her lack of confidence in herself.  Danaerys, on the other hand, is calm, even peaceful, imbued with assurance in the righteouness of her quest.  No matter what the reader thinks, she truly believes that Westeros is her right, and this calm acceptance of her truth draws people to her.  Again, she has to seem feminine to accomplish it - she is called "the Mother" - but I don't think she has to resort to feminine wiles in the way that Margery does.  It is more the fact that she is content and strong even in her femaleness, without having to deny it as Cersei does.  I could probably go on about this but maybe I'll do so in a separate post because this post is getting long.  But it's so interesting!

So now I only have one more book left in this series and then I have to wait, wait, WAIT until GRRM gets around to number six.  I should put off A Dance with Dragons for like a year so that the wait afterwards won't be quite so long... who am I kidding, we all know I'm going to start it the second I graduate in May!  Oh well, I think that I will have earned such an indulgence. :]

*Comic stolen borrowed from Raych at Book I Done Read.

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