Book Review: A Feast for Crows by George R. R. Martin

A Feast for CrowsTitle: A Feast for Crows

Author: George R. R. Martin

Publication Date: 2005

Why did I choose to read this book?

I read A Feast for Crows (the fourth book in the A Song of Ice and Fire series) when it was first published in 2005. I decided read it again before starting the newly-published fifth book in the series, A Dance With Dragons.

Summary

From Amazon:

The fourth volume in the hugely popular and highly acclaimed epic fantasy. There is passion here, and misery and charm, grandeur and squalor, tragedy, nobility and courage.

Bloodthirsty, treacherous and cunning, the Lannisters are in power on the Iron Throne in the name of the boy-king Tommen. But fear and deceit are in the air: their enemies are poised to strike.

The Martells of Dorne seek vengeance for their dead, and the heir of King Balon of the Iron Isles, Euron Crow’s Eye, is as black a pirate as ever raised a sail.

Across the war-torn landscape of the Seven Kingdoms, Brienne the Beauty (thus named in mockery of her great size and strength) seeks for Sansa Stark, having vowed to protect Sansa from the wrath of Queen Cersei, Tommen’s power-hungry mother.

Meanwhile apprentice Maester Samwell Tarly brings a mysterious babe in arms south to the Citadel from the cruel frozen north where the sinister Others threaten the Wall…

Review

One of the key features of Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series is the way that the story is told from multiple viewpoints. Although written in third person, each chapter is devoted to one character and the reader gets to see events and scenes from his or her perspective. As the series has progressed, the number of viewpoint characters has increased. In order to prevent A Feast for Crows becoming too large, George R. R. Martin decided to divide the viewpoint characters into two groups. The storylines involving the first set of characters became A Feast for Crows, and the storylines involving the other group would be contained in A Dance With Dragons (Book 5). These two books  pretty much cover the same time period, they just recount the story events from the perspectives of different characters.

The move by Martin to split the book in this way has proved to be quite a controversial one, and I admit that when I first read A Feast for Crows, I was quite frustrated by the fact that some of my favourite viewpoint characters (Jon and Tyrion in particular) were missing. However, this didn’t seem such a big deal to me during the re-read. In fact, I quite liked the way that other characters came to the fore and were given more space and attention.

George R. R. Martin’s writing is always vivid and easy to read and, although the plot becomes even more convoluted and complex, it’s never hard to keep track of and follow.

Because of the decision to remove half of the viewpoint characters, A Feast for Crows doesn’t feel as complete as the first three books in the series. It doesn’t have such a clear beginning, middle and end, and it doesn’t really work as a standalone novel. But this isn’t really a big problem as most people will read this book and then read the next book in the series, A Dance With Dragons, straight after. I still think the best book in the series so far is A Storm of Swords (Book 3), but A Feast for Crows is also very good. I’m really glad I re-read it and I can’t wait to begin A Dance With Dragons.

Rating: 8 out of 10

Check out my review of A Storm of Swords (Book 3 in the A Song of Ice and Fire series)

Book Review: A Storm of Swords by George R. R. Martin

Title: A Storm of Swords

Author: George R. R, Martin

Publication Date: 2000

Why did I choose to read this book?

I first read this book about seven years ago. At the moment, I’m in the process of re-reading the first four books in George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series in preparation for the release of book five, A Dance With Dragons, in July. A Storm of Swords is the third book in the series.

 

Summary

From Amazon UK:

The Seven Kingdoms are divided by revolt and blood feud, and winter approaches like an angry beast. Beyond the Northern borders, wildlings leave their villages to gather in the ice and stone wasteland of the Frostfangs. From there, the renegade Brother Mance Rayder will lead them South towards the Wall. The men of the Night’s Watch are ready for the coming of a great cold and the walking corpses that travel with it. But now they face a horde of wildlings twenty-thousand strong – hungry savage people steeped in the dark magic of the haunted wilderness – poised to invade the Kingdom of the North where Robb Stark wears his new-forged crown. But Robb’s defences are ranged against attack from the South, the land of House Stark’s enemies the Lannisters. His sisters are trapped there, dead or likely yet to die, at the whim of the Lannister boy-king Joffrey or his depraved mother Cersei, regent of the Iron Throne. Cersei’s ambition is unfettered while the dwarf Tyrion Lannister fights for his life, a victim of treachery. And on the other side of the ocean, the last of the Targaryens rears the dragons she hatched from her husband’s funeral pyre. Daenerys Stormborn will return to the land of her birth to avenge the murder of her father, the last Dragon King on the Iron Throne.

Review

The fact that I’m re-reading these books should make it pretty clear that I’m a big fan of the A Song of Ice and Fire series. In fact, I’d be willing to say that this is the best fantasy series I’ve ever read. I loved The Lord of the Rings, I loved Tad William’s Memory, Sorrow and Thorn books, I loved Robin Hobb’s Farseer books, and I loved J. V. Jones’ The Book of Words trilogy. But this is better!

George R. R, Martin has created a fantasy world which is as believable and richly detailed as Tolkien’s Middle Earth, and combined it with an incredibly intricate plot and fully-rounded, three-dimensional characters. The sheer scale of the series is breathtaking. The story takes place across two continents and is told through the eyes of a whole host of point of view characters. However, despite the epic scale,  the plot never feels disjointed or confusing, and it certainly doesn’t lack pace.

It’s quite hard to review the books in this series as separate entities. It’s really just one massive story. However, I think it’s safe to say that A Storm of Swords is my favourite installment so far. Whether that’s because it features a lot of chapters told from the points of view of my three favourite characters – Tyrion Lannister, Jon Snow and Arya Stark, or whether its due to the fact that some of the events in this book are truly and shockingly unexpected, I’m not sure. What I am certain of though, is that A Storm of Swords strikes the perfect balance between politics, warfare and traditional fantasy elements (magic and dragons). Although the previous books in the series hinted at the existence of magic and supernatural powers, these come more to the fore in the third book, adding another dimension to the plot.

I can’t really say enough good things about A Storm of Swords. Never before has such a long book (A Storm of Swords is more than 1000 pages) captured my imagination and sustained my attention from start to finish. I really cared about the fates of the characters. It’s a testament to George R. R. Martin’s skill that he can advance such a multi-faceted plot while still writing characters and scenes which fully engage the reader.

I would thoroughly recommend this book (and the entire A Song of Ice and Fire series). I think you would enjoy it even if you’re not a fan of the fantasy genre.

I’m looking forward to re-reading A Feast for Crows later this month, and I can’t wait for the publication of A Dance With Dragons.

Rating: 9 out of 10

Book Review: The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

Title: The Perks of Being a Wallflower

Author: Stephen Chobosky

Publication Date: 1999

Why did I choose to read this book?

This has been on my to-be-read pile for ages. I can’t even remember when I bought it.

After reading Hangover Square and having started to re-read A Storm of Swords by George RR Martin, I was looking for something a bit less demanding. The Perks of Being a Wallflower seemed to fit the bill.

Summary

From the blurb of the Pocket Books paperback:

Charlie is a freshman. And while he’s not the biggest geek in the school, he is by no means popular. Shy, introspective, intelligent beyond his years, yet socially awkward, he is a wallflower, caught between trying to live his life and trying to run from it. Charlie is attempting to navigate his way through uncharted territory: the world of first dates and mixed tapes, family dramas and new friends; the world of sex, drugs, and The Rocky Horror Picture Show, when all one requires is that perfect song on that perfect drive to feel infinite. But Charlie can’t stay on the sideline forever. Standing on the fringes of life offers a unique perspective. But there comes a time to see what life looks like from the dance floor.

Review

I enjoyed The Perks of Being a Wallflower. Although I’m nearly old enough to be his father, I really identified with Charlie and his struggles to understand the world around him. His relationship with his best friends, Sam and Patrick, a really important element of the storyline, was dealt with very well by Stephen Chbosky -it was both touching and believable.

I’ve read quite a few coming of age novels. Whilst reading The Perks of Being a Wallflower I was reminded of Naive.Super by Erland Loe, Train Man by Hitori Nakano, and, of course, The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger. The Perks of Being a Wallflower wasn’t as good as these other titles, but it held up surprisingly well.

One of the things that I liked most about The Perks of Being a Wallflower was that it referenced other books. Throughout the story, Charlie’s English teacher, Bill, gives him books to read, such as: To Kill a Mockingbird, On The Road and Naked Lunch. Twelve classic books are mentioned in total, and these become Charlie’s favourite books. At some point I’d love to read all of these books. Most would be re-reads for me, but some of the titles (Walden, for instance), I’ve never read before. Perhaps I’ll run it as a reading challenge on The Book Base.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower is being made into a film (due to be released in 2012). Emma Watson, Hermione Granger in the Harry Potter movies, will play the part of Sam, and Charlie is to be played by Logan Lerman (Percy Jackson). Luckily, the film is being directed by the book’s author, Stephen Chbosky, so the source material shouldn’t be tampered with too much. However, as is the case with most book to screen adaptations, it’s probably a good idea to read the book first.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower is not the best coming of age story I’ve ever read, but it is both poignant and well-written. I thoroughly enjoyed it and I regret leaving it on my to-be-read pile for so long.

Rating: 8 out of 10