Saturday, January 07, 2006

Books: A Feast For Crows

The book I mentioned finishing yesterday was A Feast For Crows by George R.R. Martin. It's a book that was 5 full years in the making, as I've complained about many, many times before. I've been impatiently awaiting the book all this time because the previous book (A Storm of Swords) was one of my favorite books in recent years (well not so recent anymore).

Despite my best attempts to keep my expectations low, I couldn't help but be a little excited to start into the book. Even if it was only half the book it should have been. After finishing the latest Robert Jordan book (after all, it did come out first), I couldn't stop myself from immediately starting up A Feast For Crows.

I have mixed feelings about the book. It was certainly a George R.R. Martin book, with a complex cast of characters, rampant political intrigue, battles, and a detailed, intertwined plot. At the same time, I was virtually guaranteed to be disappointed by the book, since I had such high expectations.

Part of my problem with the book is a combination of the horrendously large cast of characters and the ridiculous delay between the books. To get an idea of the number of characters that are involved in the world/story, at the end of Feast For Crows there is a 65(!) page appendix detailing all the various characters in the houses, courts, and historical families that play a part in succession squabbles. Obviously not all those people make an appearance in the books, but a good portion are at least mentioned and many have significant parts in the books.

After 5 years, I was having trouble just remembering what the characters names were, let alone remembering who was backstabbing who, who had secret alliances, how people had ended up where they were, etc. I spent a good fourth of the book somewhat lost and flipping back to the appendix to figure out who everyone was.

I'm sure the next book will be just as bad, since it deals with a nearly entirely different subset of characters. And by the time that comes out, A Storm of Swords will be even further removed from my recollection.

Now, there were certainly good aspects of the book. Once I got a handle on most of the characters, I started enjoying the complexities of the story, one of my favorite things about Martin's books. With the very dense plot and storyline, Martin's books don't feel like fluff fantasy books.

I also like the fact that there are very few (possibly no) outright evil people. There are selfish people, there are unscrupulous people, there are people who will sell you out for a little more power, but there hasn't so far been a typical fantasy 'evil' bad guy. Personally, I think that makes the stories much more interesting and realistic (as much as any fantasy book is 'realistic') then some other series.

While reading the book, I got the feeling that I would get a lot more enjoyment out of the book if I would just sit down and re-read the previous three books again before reading A Feast For Crows. That way everything would be fresh in my mind. But alas I don't have that sort of time on my hands.

In the end, I certainly have to say that I enjoyed the book and am looking forward to the next (and following) book in the series. I just hope George picks up the writing pace a bit.


Scooter said...

I read most of your post, but I was trying to be careful not to bump into a spoiler :) I went back and read some of the chapter by chapter synopses that are on the web yesterday - just to make sure some of the things I was remembering weren't from another fantasy series entirely. Wikipedia always seems to have good resource links to fantasy series, including full write ups by fans.

Steve Eck said...

Yeah, I try not to include spoilers in any of my reviews, but sometimes they sneak in there without me realizing it.