Saturday, July 9, 2011

A Thought on A Feast for Crows

I find the negative flack this book has gotten to be unfounded and naive. Made by those who think everything should follow a linear path and operating under the faulty assumption that this series will end in some glorious conclusion that ties everything together. I have no such expectation. As we have already experienced throughout 'A Song of Ice and Fire' thus far is that nothing is safe and nothing stays the same. Personally I feel this book is as good as any of the others in the series, it's an intricate bridge between the first and second half of this saga and I personally can't wait for the second half to begin! "A Feast for Crows" is exactly what it states in the title: a fractured war torn country with the remaining powers-that-be picking through the carnage struggling to put itself back together again, amidst corruption, conspiracies and the constant grab for power amongst its players. We are finally being introduced to the Bishops and Rooks in this giant game of Chess. I know some people want to just focus on pawns, knights, and kings, but I would like to see how the whole game is played. I also like the focus on the feminine in this book. I think it helps set the table for Dany's return. Some have complained that Martin is misogynist in his approach to female characters. I don't agree at all. I think the gender rolls in this book are deeply rooted in the medieval histories that Martin draws upon. With that in mind I see the female characters as women struggling within the confines of those norms. I love the parallels between Sansa's emergence into "the game" and Cersei's fall from power. Cersei has always been one of the most interesting characters in the series and was glad to see her finally introduced as a POV character. Martin once again takes things deeper and makes her more ambiguous by taking us into the psychology and early childhood experiences of her flawed character. I also like the parallels between the Arya and Brienne stories. Another motif that seems to pop up repeatedly is that every commoner is talking about how they have some royal blood in them. I don't recall this being as central in the prior books and it seems to me that this reflects the beginning of a change in mindset as more and more common people start to hint that they might be just as good as anyone else. The Feudal system of Westeros still looks an awful lot like slavery at times and I can't wait to see how the entrance of the Free Folk and Dany's ideas about ruling start to impact the seven kingdoms and their fracturing houses. Some people bitch about all the random new POV characters and more seem to complain how he left out 3 of the most central characters (namely Tyrion, Dany and Jon Show.) It seems to me that this complaint is premature until the series is complete. We are only at a bridge section now. Minor characters in the first book are major characters in the third book and some characters disappear in the first book only to pop up again in the third. With this in mind I will assume that these 'filler' characters and the information revealed in their chapters is relevant to later parts of the story. I also hope these whiners didn't miss that several MAIN (Sansa/Arya) characters have changed chapter titles to reflect a change in their own self-concept. If they missed the "Alayne" chapters or "Cat of the Canals" then they missed out on important developments regarding several of the core characters in the book. I've always felt that THEE central character in 'A Song of Ice and Fire' is the world that Martin has created, not one individual (Same could be said for Tolkien's LOTR.) The great houses are turning against each other and power becomes more and more fractured amidst a spiritual renaissance. The emerging powers are these religious leaders but their competing faiths are clearly in moral conflict with one another. And let us not forget the rational/scientific side reflected by the Maesters. Few of them seem to respect or acknowledge the re-emergence of magic. I was so excited to finally get to know Oldtown and gain some insight into the Maesters and how they fit into the game as well.

Like many I'll be starting 'A Dance with Dragons' very soon, and it will be interesting to see how it reflects against this book... and for some reason I have a feeling that there will be plenty of complainers about that one as well. We'll have to see but it's nice to gather some thoughts on 'A Feast for Crows' at the cusp of ADWD so I can personally have this, at this date to look back on when I'm done reading book 5 of 'A Song of Ice and Fire.'

...a few more of my thoughts collected on AFFC that I posted on message board....

I can't see how anyone could have been disappointed with AFFC, as there's so much going on here for anyone to become bored with the story: finally baring witness to Cersei's flawed character, her fall from grace as well a making key mistakes that lead to that fall (militarizing the church, pissing on Kevan, her growing paranoia, etc), Jamie and his gradual change of heart, he actually seems to "mature" and see things in a new light during this post-handloss version of Jamie, not to mention him finally seeing Cersei as the flawed person as she's always been. You get more inside on Oldtown and the Maesters, Doran and Arianne Martell and the Sand Snakes (who I think are fucking awesome! I can't wait to see how these sly and beautiful women start bringing down the powers that be from the inside and out.) And of course a true inside to The Greyjoy's and the Drowned God, with Aeron and the Kingsmoot, Euron and the Horn, and of course Victarion who totally fucking Slays in his Reaver chapter.

There are 2 kinds of people who read this book. Those who go in expecting everything to tie up in the end in a nice pretty little bow, they don't want to put too much effort in memorizing much beyond the Stark children and their revenge, and Dany as some sort of flawless super hero thats going to come back to Westeros save all, and every time the story opens up beyond that delving further into complication and detail it frustrates them and they blame GRRM for not doing what they want.

Then there are those like us, who know you have to give and invest time and brain power in order to get the full potential out of this story. There comes a point in the story where you really need to start committing the details to memory, towns, castles, map locations, names, houses, histories and so forth. Its not just about the present and whats to come in the future but also the past and how it will all eventually tie together. I believe you get even more from re-reading the entire series (or at least listening to the audio while you work, like I do), or at least going back and re-reading certain parts in order to get some of the finer details down pat. . This shit just comes alive in your mind like no other. Tolkien's world was just as rich, but not as much text nor nearly as many players (which is saying quite a lot considering the histories of Beleriand and Middle-Earth still had an above average amount of named characters and players in them.) I don't even think any of the renowned Russian classics with all their character's can come close to the shear vastness created by GRRM. I've read War and Peace and it seems small in comparison. It boils down to this and a question I would pose to anyone wanting to start the series - my GF as well as coworker has started reading and what I ask is - how far are you willing to go? and how much are you willing to give in order to get the most out of these novels?

1 comment:

  1. People that accuse Martin of misogyny have completely missed the point of his books. He depicts a world that is brutal to women, sure, but that doesn't mean he approves of it. He's depicting it in order to condemn it. I thought that was obvious. It's basically comparable to Mad Men in that regard.

    Great write-up.