06 March 2007

Afterthoughts on A Feast for Crows [ASoIaF book 4]

Cross-posted from here.

I've just finished reading this last night. All in all book four has managed to solidify my thoughts about Martin some more and formulate some thoughts I'd been carrying around for a while with regards to his works. First off - I've said before that this book would make or break whether I read on and to answer that: I shall. Why? Because I love the pitch. I love the subject matter and there are enough interesting set-ups to make me want to keep going.

However I have come to realise that whilst I love Martin's subject, schemes and ideas, I really don't rate him as a writer and I feel he has an overblown sense of his own wordliness. There is an awful lot of chaff that could, IMO, be cut from the books and find him to be dull when delivering the Big Reveal and, frankly, chose some awful viewpoint characters for this book.

Most notable on these fronts was the whole Brienne tract. It was largely dull, told us basically nothing we didn't know already, and ended up with her (apparently, at least) being put to death having advanced nothing apart from delivering the reader news that minor character #574 (a random number; Beric Dondarrion) was actually dead for good this time. In his place... it had been obvious since before this book began that Catelyn Stark was alive (for want of a better word) so that wasn't a shock.

Cersei was also just... dull. I find stupid people who think they're really clever to be tedious in life, and so in fiction. Yes, there was interest in how the twins drifted apart into enmity but all of that interest came from Jaime's viewpoint, not Cersei's and I really don't think it was written all that well. I was a little surprised at how Cersei ended up gaoled though, I'll grant Martin that, but after all the scheming it felt like a let down to me: some guy we have no insight into made a move that has little rationale and no background. Sure, it'll almost certainly become clearer come future books but frankly a couple of years wait for that means it'll be cold by the time its brought forward.

The better stuff: Dorne was good. I liked the powerplays there and it really established a sense of what might happen next time out. Ditto, to an extent, the Ironmen - though from Martin's map their whole conquest makes little sense in terms of the numbers of people they could marshall [come one, they're just a few small islands!]. Dramatic license, though, so that's cool.

Jaime was interesting. I hated his chapters in previous works but he has become a character with depth and interest, though the writing hasn't really borne out why too well. The culmination at Riverrun was a highlight - and, perhaps, Martin's best reveal. I didn't see Jaime keeping his vow, but he managed it in a believable way, and Martin managed to have the Blackfish escape as a possible setup for bigger and better things in future.

Petyr Baelish is an interesting character too, and this seems to be the key point of interest for me now - someone who not only thinks he is clever but actually appears to be so. To no small part the fact we only see him through others' eyes is an advantage; I wish Cersei had been the same, then her obvious stupidity would have been bearable. Petyr is the only reason Sansa/Alayne is a tolerable viewpoint - she's been dull from book one and continues to be.

Anyhow, I think that's that for now. Feel free to tear my thoughts apart if you've read it.

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