A Feast For Crows by George R.R. Martin

feastforcrowsThe 4th book in the epic fantasy series is as exhilarating as the previous three. Martin explains at the end of the book how his original manuscript¬† was too large for publication considering the ongoing saga of the multitude of characters we were introduced to in the first three volumes. And so he decided that it was “better served by a book that told all the story for half the characters, rather than half the story for all the characters.”

Therefore this book focuses on just the characters from King’s Landing, The Riverlands,¬† The Eyrie, The Iron Islands, Dorne, Oldtown, and Braavos. At King’s Landing we have the Lannisters who include the evil Queen Regent Cersei, twin brother Jaime, 8-year old King Tommen who succeeded King Joffrey, the Tyrells of Highgarden who include Queen Margaery, Tommen’s wife (yeah, forced to marry at 8 to cement the alliance with the Tyrells), and an assortment of cronies aligned to Cersei.

Elsewhere the continuing tales of Brienne of Tarth, Petyr Baelish and Sansa Stark, The Greyjoys of The Iron Islands, The Martells of Dorne, and Samwell Tarly of the Wall, play out.

We also continue to enjoy the story of Arya Stark’s journey to Braavos since fleeing from King’s Landing after the execution of her father Eddard Stark.

Synopsis

There is a great deal of moral ambiguity throughout the book, indeed in all 4 volumes thus far. While one is accustomed to good triumphing over evil and the good guys always winning in the end, the good guys in Martin’s books don’t necessarily always come out on top, nor do the bad guys always get their comeuppance. Martin allows for the characters we initially despise, to be able to redeem themselves. And a lot of the good guys die unnecessarily.

However some of the characters such as Cersei and Joffrey were irredeemably bad, and while we know that the latter suffered an agonising death in the previous book, Cersei’s scheming and cruelty goes unpunished, at least until the end of this book. But I’ll have to wait for the next installments to find out to what extent she suffers.

In conclusion, I once again found the historical backgrounds provided for the characters, too in-depth and long-winded. However, so fantastic is the overall story that I’m willing to overlook this, and eagerly look forward to Book 5.

A Storm Of Swords by George R. R. Martin

stormofswordsThis being the third book in the A Song of Ice and Fire series, continues the epic fantasy saga of the people’s of Westeros and Essos, most of whom are either fighting to ascend the Iron Throne, defend it, or are just caught in the middle. The one exception being the Brothers of the Night’s Watch, defending the Wall in the North of the Seven Kingdoms, against the Wildlings and the more sinister The Others.

Basic Plot

New alliances are formed, old ones broken as the five contenders for the Iron Throne continue their rivalry in the North and South. Meanwhile in the East on Essos, Daenerys Targaryen is busy gathering her forces, watching her three dragons grow, and preparing to stake her claim to the self-same throne. On the Wall, the Night’s watch venture beyond into the icy North to face the threat of the Wildlings and their leader Mance Rayder, but also come face to face with The Others, ghostly creatures that cannot be killed… easily.

While the Lannister’s, primarily Cersei, plot and scheme to keep the evil boy King Joffrey on the throne, Stannis Baratheon, brother to the recently deceased King Robert, also plots to ascend the throne with the help of Melisandre the Priestess whose use of sorcery disposes of Renly Baratheon, another contender for the Iron Throne.

Central to all these plots for the throne are the Starks. Robb Stark’s push for the Iron Throne ends with him being betrayed and murdered by the Frey’s in what becomes known as the Red Wedding. His sister Arya Stark meanwhile having escaped from King’s Landing and the Lannister’s, continues her journey to nowhere really, searching for a new home, with Winterfell the castle of the Starks being destroyed in the North.

Synopsis

This is the longest book in the series thus far and is just as intriguing as the others, perhaps more so. There are literally hundreds of major and minor characters dotted throughout the book. That makes for exceptional story-telling having to keep track of all them as the story is told through the eyes of the major characters.

However I feel that the chapters telling the story of Bran (Brandon Stark) could have been eliminated altogether, as they add very little to nothing to the overall saga. Bran’s adventures, if you can call them that, are a sort of distraction from the overall main events, as they have no link to them in any meaningful way.

The other gripe I have is with the length of detail Martin goes into describing the scions of the past, kings, knights and lords and other peripheral characters. The level of detail was unnecessary and just takes up page space.

Otherwise an excellent book. Really epic. I’m already well into Book 4, which is beginning to tie up some of the loose ends from Book 3.

A Song of Ice and Fire by George R.R Martin

I’ll bet more people have watched the first two seasons than read the first two books by George R. R. Martin, A Game of Thrones and A Clash of Kings. Who can blame them – the television series is without doubt superb in almost every respect.

But the books are so much better.

I’ve just completed reading the first two books (volumes).There’s probably hundreds of reviews for Martin’s epic fantasy elsewhere, so I’m not going to add my two cents worth here. My aim is to advocate for the actual reading of each and every volume in this collection, instead of just watching the television series.

While the first TV series kept pretty much faithful to the book narrative of Book One, the second series strayed quite a bit. Whole scenes were filmed out of sequence with the book and even actions were attributed to characters who did no such thing in the book. Even locations where key events occurred did not correspond with Martin’s narrative. [You’ll have to read the books to find out what the main differences are between the book narrative and the filmed series, because I’m not going to list them. Alternatively this wiki does].

I guess it’s a near impossible task fitting around 1200 pages of a book into a 10-episode TV series, but if the overall essence of what Martin was trying to convey, is not bastardized too much, I guess it’s okay. In fairness, the TV series does do justice to the books.

However, I urge you to read each volume because there’s just so much more in the books. I’ve started reading the third volume in the series A Storm of Swords, and will be hoping that the third season which has just started flighting in some parts of the world, will not deviate as much as Season Two did.