Author: George R.R. Martin
First Published: 2005
Page Count: 976
Film/ TV Adaptation: Yes*
Rating: 3/5 Stars
Note: Book 4 of A Song of Ice and Fire series
*Worst Book of 2011 on Without a Book
Compared to the three action packed books that came before, the story in book 4 feels more like a companion piece to the series rather than a true part of the epic adventure.
*Lays the groundwork for the next book
*Absence of major characters *Plot lacks the shock and awe of the previous books
“I never wanted to see half the things I’ve seen, and I’ve never seen half the things I wanted to. I don’t think wanting comes into it.” I doubt I will ever be able to find a book containing a quote which summarizes its own story as perfectly as the one above from A Feast for Crows. Martin’s story takes a turn as the reader follows the lives of familiar characters who had played secondary roles within the previous books as they journey around the Seven Kingdoms pursuing one goal or another. Greed and a thirst for power still drive the citizens of Westeros to commit their heinous crimes and the innocent, as always, suffer the greatest blows.
About the only good thing I can say about this book is that it firmly lays the groundwork for the next book. That means that by book 5 in the series, we should be able to jump right into the action. I suppose it is also fair to say that as a standalone book it probably reads better than most of the dribble that is being published nowadays, even if it’s not as strong as its predecessors. Ultimately if you are a fan of A Song of Ice and Fire this book is worth reading so that you can have a well-rounded view of the events happening in Westeros, big and small.
Now the negatives. While reading this book I was shocked and more than a little disappointed to find that some seriously important characters were completely absent from the story. Instead, readers are left following the lives of secondary characters. Despite the fact that I have a special place in my heart for all of Martin’s characters, I don’t love some of them nearly enough to want to follow them through a 900 page book. I really could care less about some of the characters’ missions, and I was only motivated to read on because every once and awhile I could catch a glimpse of one of the main characters in the form of gossip or rumors. There were some interesting developments for the characters in this book but compared to the last three books, there really was a lack of the drop-everything-and-keep-reading cliffhangers that give the other stories their punch.
This book was the chink in the armor of a nearly flawless fantasy series. And I had to question the necessity of this book after reading the explanation Martin gives for the absence of the major players in his series at the end of his book. However, this series has given me many hours of enjoyment and hopefully the story in this book will add something to the next book in the series. Though this book was a bit of a let down, it doesn’t tarnish my view of A Song of Ice and Fire as a whole. And I probably would have regretted skipping this book simply because I would have wondered what happened within its pages anyway. I just hope, in the future, Martin doesn’t force a 900 page book of secondary character stories on me again; I don’t think I could handle it.
*TV Adaptation: (Game of Thrones Season 5 HBO 2015)