A Feast of Crows – GRRM – Review (Spoilers)

afeastforcrowsI have loved fantasy books ever since I was little. Harry Potter was my true gateway into the genre and ever since I have been fascinated by the possibilities and extent that this genre can be used. The Song of Fire and Ice series is unlike any book series I have ever read before. I could spend pages analyzing pieces of the plot and going on and on about a number of theories I have; who will be the last ones standing and how I have no true clue where this whole series is actually going. Instead I want to concentrate on reviewing the characters and how complex they have become.

Diving into the psychology of characters is one my favorite aspects of reading and what I love to do as a writer. Understanding why someone behaves as they do is fascinating. Generally I learn the characters pretty well in the beginning and then spend the remainder of the tale predicting what their decisions will be or trying to analyze why they make the moves that they make.

This series has made that nearly impossible because of how much depth these characters actually have. I have no idea where this book is actually going because of the turns each character continues to take. The characters I hated in the first book are quickly becomes my favorites and the characters I loved I have found myself distrusting and becoming disappointed in. This is brilliant and exactly how a story should be because it is realistic. People are complex and layered, so layered that it is nearly impossible for us to ever truly know someone. George R. R. Martin exemplifies this with perfection.

There were four characters in this fourth book, A Feast of Crows, that really stood out to me. They were Cersei Lannister, Jamie Lannister, Jon Snow and Catelyn Stark. I still hate Cersei but I feel bad for her. I am falling in love with Jamie, Jon is making decisions that scare me and zombie Catelyn is just not right.

First let’s have a look at Cersei. She started the series as this very strong woman who was going to manipulate everyone and every situation until she has everything she ever wanted. She loved her children and Jamie, hated her husband and Tyrion and resented her father for forcing her hand so many times. She seemed pretty simple and almost like a cookie cutter villain character. She was the power hungry, manipulative bitch we were supposed to hate and despise. That idea held well until this last book.

Through this last book this woman has fallen almost completely apart. She slowly crumbles until the last moment when she is imprisoned. She has hit rock bottom, as she should, but I still feel for her. I thought I would get extreme satisfaction when she was locked up and had to make a desperate plea to Jamie to save her. I instead felt sadness and a regret for her, something I wasn’t really expecting.

Cersei is a woman in a world dominated and controlled by old horny men. She is sold to a marriage that is for her family and not herself. She is used by her husband whenever he feels like it. For so long she is a pawn, a play piece for all the men in her life.

The only thing she ever could control was her relationship with Jamie and her children. Despite how it could destroy everything she maintained her intimate relationship with her brother. He is her solace and her refuge. This relationship lets her feel meaningful and special. But that doesn’t last long, as nothing ever does.

When Jamie finally comes home, expecting a warm welcome and receives none, she loses her one and only alley and confidant. She alienates him and now she is completely and utterly alone. No one is on her side anymore.

Losing Jamie sealed her fate. As in Jenga she pulled out the wrong tile and the tower is now going to fall to pieces in front of her. She tries to do everything herself. She manipulates and frames everyone she can, not thinking past the immediate moment. She is so intent on succeeding alone, that she makes it impossible for her to ever win.

She is not a man, so she grew up having little self worth. She was set on doing her duty to her family until her trust was betrayed, then she gave up being the perfect little subservient woman. She wants to prove her worth and power so badly that she refuses to trust anyone, including Jamie. You can’t build an empire by standing alone. Someone has to hold you up and stabilize you or you will lose your balance and fall on your face.

She wanted to be in control so badly, to rule her own life, to forget how she has been used and abused that she refuses to trust anyone. That is the saddest part. She has no one to trust, to go to when she needs help. She is a lone island and the tidal wave is crashing down and eating away at her small piece of dry land. I don’t see anything good coming for this woman.

Jamie receives her raven and does exactly what I thought he would do, he ignores her.  She hurt him to his core and he can’t get over that. Jamie pretends to be this tough, hard man but he is really soft on the inside. I love these type of characters. The harder someone is on the outside the softer, kinder, gentler and more pleasant they are on the inside. My two favorite characters on TV right now are Damon from the Vampire Diaries and Daryl from The Walking Dead. They have to be hard to survive, but they don’t want to be that person. They want someone to see the real them, to pick off that outer layer and see the fantastic heart warming person that lies beneath that shell.

In this last book we see Jamie’s true nature and it is exactly like Damon and Daryl, a hard exterior with a soft and sweet center. Losing his hand I think really pulled this side out of this man.

He used to define himself by his power with a sword. He could defeat anyone in battle, everyone feared him and he drank that up. His family defines themselves by being in control, having everyone around them fear and pseudo-respect them. Jamie only knew that life.Then he is taken prisoner, makes a promise to rescue Cateyln’s daughters and loses his hand and his whole world changes.

First Jamie comes across a woman he doesn’t quite understand, Catelyn. He grew up believing that winning, power and land was what was important in life. Then he meets Catelyn and she frees him so he could help her to rescue her daughters. She cares little about the consequences of her actions for the war, what matters is that her family is safe. Family love is what rules her, something Jamie doesn’t quite understand.

Jamie sees a different side of life in this moment and it appeals to him if only slightly at first. He is led by Brienne, she is charged with protecting him and making sure he gets to Kings Landing safely. Then he gets to know this woman and he sees something else he never has truly seen before, devotion and unwavering loyalty. She does what she believes is right, no matter what is may cost her personally. She stands up for herself and what she believes in. Jamie is deeply affected by this woman, no matter what he portrays on the outside. He can say her hates her and he can call her ugly all he wants, but we can see the true feelings he possesses for this woman. He respects and cares about her, something that is yet again new for him.

He cares about Cersei but it almost feels like he had an obligation to love her. They fell for each other because they spent all their time together. Jamie was that kid who falls for the girl next door because he has no other choice. It was convenient, something taboo and exciting, forbidden. There was a sense of a thrill to it, but after he meets Brienne he realizes that his love for Cersei might not be what he thought it once was.

With Brienne it is about falling for a person for who they truly are where sex isn’t a factor. He respects this woman because she holds so many of the virtues he holds dear. They live for much the same reasons, to protect those they care about and to be loyal to those they trust. Jamie and Brienne are both very much true soldiers. Jamie has finally found someone who truly understands him, someone he can confide in because she would understand. She gets under his skin and it makes him uncomfortable and makes him lash out but deep down he is realizes what type of friend this woman could be.

He spent his life believing he was alone in how he thought and acted and now he has Brienne and it confuses him. He wants to protect her, he gives her a sword and with that comes power. Deep down he wants to see her succeed because of how proud he would feel afterwards. He wants to be proud that this woman he believes in haswon, and is now someone everyone respects. I am very curious to see how he takes the possible death of Brienne.

Jamie losing his hand is really what put the first true crack in his outer shell. In the beginning he defined himself by his power with a sword. Now he has to redefine himself and that is why I am really starting to love his character. I hated him at first because he was a smug ass, who liked killing, slept with his sister and walked around with a huge ego. I wanted him gone because he was annoying. That “I am awesome”, mentality is extremely irritating. But now he’s been knocked down and instead of raving and destroying the world around him; he landed on his feet, pulled his head out of the clouds and now sees how the world truly is.

The final blow to Jamie’s ego was Cersei’s rejection. She was too busy trying to rule the world and make a name for herself that she pushed Jamie aside and that cut him deep. He saw how his sister truly was and he wants nothing to do with her. He still wants to defend his families name but now it is on his terms and through his own decisions for himself.

Not responding to Cersei’s plea for help was a very telling moment. He could have run back to her and been her little pet once again but instead he stood on his own and said no. Now he is in charge of himself and I can see this being a turning point for his family. They are about to change how they are viewed, who they are and what they stand for because of Jamie.

Jamie and Cersei were first shown as the villains we are supposed to rally against. We see that, that idea is changing, the lines are becoming very blurred when it comes to good and evil. Even those we see as heroes are becoming hazy as well.

First there is Jon Snow. We don’t get his POV in this book, just his actions second hand through Sam, so making a full analysis of him is tough but what we see is very telling. He was my favorite person at the very start and now I am not entirely sure what I think of him. The Jon who first went to the wall was a man who as fiercely loyal to his family and wanted to prove his worth. He tried to run when he thought he was needed by his brothers, no matter what it would mean for himself. He was a strong man who let his heart make numerous decisions for him. His family still meant something to him, no matter what his vows said or what his “brothers” said he should feel. Then he went off on this trek through the mountains and he became a different man, which isn’t surprising because of what happened during that time.

He was forced to become a murderer and had to be play traitor to maintain his cover and gain information he needed. He broke his vows, fell for a woman, only to see her die. The man who was so emotional and used to let his heart decide things for him, has become much harder and colder.

It makes complete sense that Jon no longer holds the good of the one over the good of the many. He became Lord Commander and he has to protect the Wall, the only defense the kingdom truly has. That requires him to put his own personal worries and concerns aside and make decisions for what will help everyone not just the few people he holds close to him.

This change is worrisome to me. I liked the Jon who still had love in his heart. The man who cried for the death of his brothers and who remained loyal to his father to the very end. I am worried that this new position of power is beginning to harden Jon to a man who is all about strategy and not about saving actual lives worth living.

The old Jon would never have switched the babies. He wouldn’t have wanted to cause that much pain to Gilly. He would have figured out another way to save the children and to keep them with their mothers. He would have wanted to make sure that everyone was safe as well as happy. He wouldn’t have sent Sam away like he did. He would have talked it over with Sam, made him see that it has a purpose and if he still had protested he would have decided on another path. He needs Sam to learn trades, secrets and history so he can use the knowledge as an asset to them later. Keeping the wall standing is what matters now.

In war it becomes less about maintaining a way of life and it becomes about making sure life is still possible. In the process of ensuring everyone lives, the fighting and decision making makes life not worth living. I am afraid Jon is falling in this trap and I don’t know if he is going to be able to pull himself back out again. I am afraid he is going to lose his heart.

The other character that is giving me pauses this new reincarnated Catelyn, (which i will refer to zombie Catelyn from now on, because I can). Now I have no idea what this breath of life actually is and does to the people who are brought back by it. I can’t imagine this method brings people back as exactly as they were when they died. I am almost positive they are altered in some fashion.

Zombie Catelyn seems like a completely different person. She ignites fear and dread into everyone’s hears with only a few words. She can condemn anyone and she has a loyal following. She has complete power over the people, which is the opposite of who she as before she died.

She used to try so hard to get people to listen to her. She was only concerned with rescuing her family. Now she is no longer that person. She barely listens to Brienne. She gives her one choice and one chance to do as she commands and when Brienne refuses Zombie Cateyln condemns her to death. I was horrified at this. Catelyn would have never had done that before. She would have listened, would have understood where Brienne was coming from, and would have made a deal with her that would have worked for both of them.

I don’t like this zombie Cateyln and I am praying she has been altered in some way. I know she is angry and has a fire in her heart but I can’t believe vengeance would turn her so cold. Hopefully in the next books we will learn how she came back and who she really is.

George R. R. Martin writes such realistic and compelling characters. These are real people with real depth and dimension to them. If they walked off the pages they would be real and breathing people who we could meet anywhere. We all have these twists and turns to us, these deep desires and hard pieces that we struggle to live with and rid ourselves of. The true entertainment of these book is watching these characters rise, fall and change. I love that chapter by chapter my opinions change and evolve to the point that I don’t know who I want to win in the end.

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Posted on March 5, 2014, in Book Reviews, fantasy and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Thanks for the comment. And yeah I completely agree with your comments on Catelyn and Jamie. She was always very good at looking at the depth of people and not just the facade. I agree after that conversation she saw that there was much much more to Jamie then everyone previously thought.

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  2. Thank you for this great character analysis. I think it’s solid.

    I especially appreciated your discussion on Cersei and Jaime.

    Cersei is one of my favorite POV characters. Getting insight into her thought process didn’t make her a sympathetic character to me like Jaime’s POV did, but I feel I understand her very well. I appreciate her desperate plight and appreciate how she was the architect of her problems when given the reigns of power.

    One thing about Catelyn and Jaime, and I’ve argued with people about this, it goes unsaid but Catelyn was one of the few people to recognize the hidden honor inside Jaime (that we get more of in book four.) Before Catelyn frees Jaime, they have a fantastic conversation in the dungeons of Riverrun, and Cat is pretty hard on Jaime with her accusations and her disdain. But Jaime impresses Cat with his honesty and the complexity of life as a kingsguard for the Mad King, and she realizes that if she frees Jaime with Brienne as escort, he would honor a promise.

    He might try to escape, but that just underlines that should Brienne get Jaime safely to the Lannisters, he would cooperate in getting the girls freed.

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