The War of the Five Kings is all but over with only a few holdouts remaining in the realm, however as Westeros attempts to recover enough before winter hits it appears that more carrion will be on the menu of A Feast for Crows. The fourth installment of George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series shows the ugly aftermath of war which other fantasy epics seemingly ignore after the triumphant conclusion, but as the middle of Martin’s series begins it shows that politics and opportunists use any situation for their advantage.
Unlike the first three volumes of the series, Martin divided narrative settings in half with some point-of-view characters appearing in Feast while some had to wait until the fifth volume (A Dance with Dragons). With the focus on the events in southern Westeros, primarily King’s Landing and the Riverlands, the story feels more intimate than grand as the previous volumes did. The fallout of Tywin’s death is felt in King’s Landing the most when Cersei takes control and attempts to outshine her father in governance, yet it caught up getting entrapped within her own web of intrigues. Jaime’s story shows a man looking to redeem himself while taking advantage of his dishonorable reputation in wrapping up the war in the Riverlands. Along with the Lannister siblings, readers followed Arya to Braavos where she happened to interact with a traveling Samwell Tarly headed for Oldtown who on his journey sailed around a conspiracy filled Dorne and saw the effects of events among the Ironborn. Within the untouched Vale finds Sansa Stark under a false name watching as Littlefinger schemes to retain power and set up events for the future. Yet Martin’s best writing is following Brienne of Tarth’s quest to find Sansa in the war ravaged hinterland, showing off the results of war upon the land and the populace which is often avoided in other epic fantasy.
While many fans have found the division of the narrative upsetting and following Brienne’s journey annoying, some didn’t realize how much set up Martin was writing for events in the last 40% of A Dance with Dragons as well as the last two books of the series. In the chaos of war’s aftermath just like in battle, anyone can take power and some who thought themselves natural wielders of power are outplayed in the game of thrones. The events in Dorne and the Iron Islands change the completion of the entire series, making it more epic in scale when seen in context of the whole story. One of Martin’s best decisions was to both begin and end in Oldtown with characters introduced in the prologue appearing again at the end from the point-of-view of a favorite character in a sense connecting the whole book together.
A Feast for Crows shows the aftermath of war as well as showing that schemes for power never end, especially as a realm tries to put itself together after it was shattered by war. While not as “epic” as the first three volumes of A Song of Ice and Fire, this book is still a fantastic read on why the game never ends.