A Feast for Crows and A Dance with Dragons are (respectively) the fourth and fifth books of George R. R. Martin’s ‘A Song of Ice and Fire’ series. A Dance with Dragons is the latest to be released, and, as of the latest reporting, there are two more on the way. I have decided to review these two books together because they are essentially the same book. Going off the authors note at the end of A Feast for Crows, it appears that when Martin was almost done with A Feast for Crows he realized that he had too much material for one book. Being someone for whom brevity is a vice, he chose to publish what he had over two books, with the stories running in parallel. To be honest I am not happy with the result. Where the earlier books, especially A Game of Thrones, were fast paced (for the genre), publishing one story over two books has resulted in a slow, meandering story. It has resulted in thousands of pages with very little progress. Thousands of pages between what are some of the best story lines and characters. Thousands of pages of tedium.
As I said before, the two books are chronologically parallel. They are separated by the location and characters featured rather than by the timeframe. A Feast for Crows focuses on the characters and plot developments that occur around Kings Landing, and is largely dominated by the stories of Cersei, Brienne, Arya and Sam. Unfortunately some of the best characters, like Daenerys and Tyrion, are completely absent. By comparison A Dance with Dragons is largely centered around events at the Wall and outside of Westeros. It is very much concerned with the stories of Jon Snow, Daenerys, Tyrion, Arya. Furthermore, only at the very end of A Dance with Dragons does the story progress beyond what had already been alluded to in A Feast for Crows. Having read A Feast of Crows right before I read A Dance with Dragons, A Dance with Dragons felt very much like revision rather than a new and compelling story.
But beyond an absence of interesting characters in A Feast for Crows, there was also a dearth of interesting developments. The story meandered along, with much of the text feeling like filler. Having less characters seems to have given Martin the idea that he needn’t cut much story he normally would have. For example much of the Brienne and Sam storylines were extraneous to the story arc at large, and reminded me of Lord of the Rings; lots of walking and talking, very little action. Much of the content should have been scrapped, placed in the appendix, or sold as an extra book for die hard fans. The content should not have been left to weigh down the actual book.
When you start A Dance with Dragons you are essentially traveling back to the beginning of A Feast for Crows, only from a different perspective. It was a bit disappointing. Like achieving something monumental then starting again. This book did have the advantage of some of my favourite characters (like Tyrion), and some slightly better story-lines, but, again, many of them dragged on far longer than they should have. And again it seemed like, having decided to split the story in two, Martin was trying to justify it by making the stories longer. There is a lot of garbage in there that needn’t have been. About the only positive you can say, is that yet again I was on the edge of my seat, not knowing who would get it next. This is something I will forever praise Martin for; none of his characters are off limits.
All in all these two books disappointed me greatly. In my opinion splitting the story was a horrible move, made worse by putting so many of the more interesting characters in the second novel, leaving the first high and dry (literally dry). Although, to be honest, I can’t think of a better solution to his problem (apart from writing less). Looking back, the two books almost seem like a chore I had to get out of the way to be ready for the sixth book. I read them because I had enjoyed the previous ones, and I wanted to be able to understand the next two when they are released, I only hope the next two do enough to justify the tedium. If you are reading this you are probably in the same situation I was: having read the first three and waiting for the last two. I would say it is probably a good idea to read A feast for Crows and A Dance with Dragons just so that you do understand the last two in the series (when they are eventually released), but, if you are already wavering on the series, I would say go find something else. I would not recommend these books purely for their own sake.
Title: A Feast for Crows
Author: George R. R. Martin
Pages: 976 (Paperback)
Josh’s Rating: 2/5
Buy it on Amazon: A Feast for Crows
Title: A Dance with Dragons
Author: George R. R. Martin
Pages: 1056 (Paperback)
Josh’s Rating: 2/5