The first half of A Feast for Crows continues on from A Storm of Swords as normal, but the second half continues with the storylines of only a few characters. The noticeably absent characters’ storylines are continued in the first half of A Dance with Dragons, which runs parallel to the last half of A Feast for Crows. The second half of A Dance with Dragons continues on with all storylines as normal.
Confused? So was I. (I got over it.)
Thar be spoilers below.
I was not a fan of the split format. Besides being a bit jarring, the odd time-shifted/backtrack was largely unnecessary. Perhaps it was because most my favorite characters (Jon, Tyrion, Danaerys, Arya) disappeared during the last half of A Feast for Crows, but the novel took me quite a long time to read and was, in my opinion, the least exciting in the series so far. I could be wrong, but if the timelines had stayed parallel, I don’t think A Feast for Crows would have come across as quite so dull.
Jon’s appointment as Lord Commander is one of my favorite events so far, but I foresaw his later death almost as soon as it happened. It’s been a trend so far that any Stark who gains some semblance of political power gets murdered in a heartwrenching manner. I started getting anxious as soon as Jon started locking Ghost in his room. The scene itself was tragic, well-written, and dripping of Julius Caesar (in this analogy, Ghost is Lucious Vorenus). I had to stop reading for a few hours after that. (I stopped reading A Storm of Swords for two days after the Red Wedding). Good thing Arya and Sansa have stuck to rather humble aliases and Bran is puttering around in a cave peeping through heart trees. I’m guessing we’ll see a bit of Rickon in the next book, because if I have to sit through more of Davos trying to fondle his missing fingers without a payoff, I’ll just start skipping his chapters (not really).
Daenarys’ time in Meereen seems more like a training ground before she reaches Westeros than an actual storyline. While I love the fact that we get to see her come into her own as a ruler and dragon-tamer (this part still needs work, apparently), I’m a bit impatient to see her have a face-to-face with Cersei and promptly douse her in dragon fire. This isn’t so much a critique on the story as it is a display of my childish impatience. And Quentyn got roasted. Sadface.
Rhaegar is alive! I didn’t see that coming, though I really should have (Everyone saw his head crushed and unrecognizable!). I’m hopeful that he won’t suffer a Stark or Quentyn-like death. The War of Five Kings is over, but there are still three hanging around.
I miss Arya being herself, though her adventures in Braavos give me no idea as to what lay ahead for her. While the mystery is interesting, given that the Starks aren’t really doing that well in the staying-alive department, I’m a little concerned.
By far, my favorite storyline in this pair of books is Theon’s return as Reek and his gradual transformation into a new Theon with less teeth, hair, fingers, and cockiness, but more resolve. I’m eager to see if Theon Turncloak will ever return to being Theon Greyjoy and what his presence (and his meeting Asha) will mean for the other claims for the Seastone chair.
Overall, the only real problems I had with these two books were the odd formatting and the amount of chapters dedicated to Cersei. The premonition about her children didn’t really put as much dimension to her character for me as I think was intended.
The writing is great and Martin definitely has a Whedon-like knack for making you want to cry when your favorite characters get killed off. As heartbreaking as it is, it injects a feeling of real danger as you read. He commented on this at Comic-Con this year:
I’ve always believed I want people involved in my story and when they’re in a dangerous situation…I want the readers to be almost afraid to turn the page, not knowing whose gonna win or whose gonna die. …We all know books and movies where the hero may seem to be in deep trouble, but you know he’s going to get out of because, after all, he is the hero. Those shows are fun, but they don’t really involve your emotions and that’s what I’m looking for.
So, as much as I want to read about the adventures of Jon Snow and Ghost ruling Winterfell, I bow to Martin’s efforts for emotional authenticity.