Somehow I managed to waddle through Martin’s fourth installment of “A Song of Ice and Fire.” While I’ve given five stars to the prior three books, he’s finally worn me down. Not that the series isn’t still a terrific, dark fantasy epic but the “epic” is becoming over-extended. At the end, Martin even admits to the frustration he gave his readers with this book.
What’s great about the fourth book is that winter finally comes to the wealthy, powerful, self-serving Lannister family. Like the already scattered Starks, they become leaderless and scattered, left up to their own devices. Unlike the Starks, they still have a greater sophistication, and continue to hold places of power. While my favorite character, “The Imp” moves away from center stage, it’s taken partly by his hottie older brother Jaime, who, after swallowing a rather large slice of humble pie, rethinks of the kind of man he wants to be. Meanwhile, his twin sister Cersei tries to continue the power-plans typical of the Lannister family line.
The almost as powerful Tyrell family also moves closer to the center, as the Lannister power begins to fail, they wait for opportunity as well. After merging with the Lannisters by marriage, they find the double-sided coin of power as well.
Meanwhile, Martin for reasons unclear to me feels the need to bring even more characters and families into the story. The “Dornish” families come in sideways, bringing us more names to keep up with, and unfortunately leaving the reader with a telephone directory of names to follow.
One can assume the beautiful dragon-blooded Dany with her unusual "children" still roam other parts of the world, but unfortunately, it's left as an assumption. The same can be said for the Ice Wall and the horrors beyond.
Do I still recommend “A Feast for Crows” in “A Song of Ice and Fire?” Yes. In order to follow the epic, this book keeps the reader in line. Unfortunately, Martin has gone beyond the distance required for a great epic, going for more characters instead of good use of the ones he’s already thoroughly developed. His writing is detailed all the way to what they wear and what they eat for almost every meal. I’m not sure I’ll look at roast duck the same for a while.
For the Martin fans don’t let yourself get too frustrated in this tome. The characters you know develop and by the end, make the laborious read worthwhile. But at this stage, “A Song of Ice and Fire” is to me “over-epic-ed,” (I know, not a word) but it’s befitting. Three stars!