A Feast For Crows by George R.R. Martin (2005) 1060 p.

How George R.R. Martin must rue the afterword he wrote for this book, which includes the line:

All the rest of the characters you love or love to hate will be along next year (I devoutly hope) in A Dance With Dragons.

In fact, A Dance With Dragons was only released this years, six years behind schedule, and Martin became a figure of bizarre, obsessive hate by many fans.

A Feast For Crows and Dance With Dragons were originally meant to be one book, but it grew so long that he was forced to make it two. Rather than chopping it in the middle, he opted to focus A Feast For Crows on some characters, and reserve A Dance With Dragons for the others. The two books take place chronologically at the same time.

The problem is that he left all the best characters for the follow-up. A Feast For Crows contains no Jon, no Davos, no Daenerys, no Bran and – worst of all – no Tyrion. Arya and Sansa are here, but have only a handful of chapters each. The vast majority of the book is devoted to Cersei and Jaime, with Brienne and Sam also getting a slice. There are also, unfortunately, a number of newly introduced characters in the Iron Islands and Dorne, who seemed to exist mostly to lay the groundwork for future plot lines and were always terribly uninteresting to read about. In retrospect these chapters were probably less than 10% of the book, but they felt like a lot more. I finished the book a few days ago and I’m honestly hard-pressed to remember any of the characters, power struggles and plot developments in either of these story threads.

Overall, the best option for Martin – rather than splitting the book in two – would have been to heavily trim and edit this one. In my review of A Game of Thrones I said that it was one of the best-paced 1000+ page books I’d ever read. Those days, sadly, are long gone. A Feast For Crows groans under the weight of unnecessary characters and meandering storylines.

It’s still a good book, but I doubt there’s a single reader of the series anywhere in the world that would call it their favourite. I’m particularly impressed with how Martin has managed to make Jaime – initially a villain that I utterly loathed and wanted to see brutally killed – into a relatively likeable hero, and the conclusion of events in King’s Landing is quite satisfying. Nonetheless, A Feast For Crows is a classic example of a mediocre book that serves merely as an iteration in a series, and hopefully A Dance With Dragons will be much better.