I started reading one of the books I bought with my Barnes and Noble gift cards, A Feast for Crows this week. It’s the fourth book in the fantasy series “A Song of Ice and Fire” by George R. R. Martin. I really enjoy this series because it turns many of the tired fantasy cliches upside down, or simply ignores them. There’s very little magic in the series, and what there is is subtle and in the background. There’s no “farmboy with royal lineage who discovers his personal journey to find the throne while battling a wicked magician who lives in far off mountains,” thank god. Wikipedia gives a better explanation than I could:
A Song of Ice and Fire is set in a fictitious world reminiscent of Europe in the Middle Ages, except for the fact that in this world, seasons can last as long as a decade. Driven by members of the Houses, great and small, the plot is recounted from the perspectives of more than ten main characters and takes place on the continents of Westeros and the eastern continent, the former being the locale of fierce power struggles between several aristocratic families after the death of king Robert Baratheon, who by lineage, marriage and personal relationships had united them all.
The model for the series was England’s Wars of the Roses, and the story follows several different richly-drawn characters on different sides of the struggle. The thing I found compelling was that I sympathized with characters on both sides of the war who would have been allies in other circumstances but who found themselves at odds due to family loyalties and conflicting religious beliefs.
A Feast for Crows is starting pretty slowly for me, because it begins by following some minor characters that I can’t quite remember from the previous books. The gap between the publication of the last novel and this one was large; I read A Storm of Swords in 2002 and am struggling to remember where the series left off. I read over Wikipedia’s summaries, though, and was able to get my bearings, so I have an idea of who and where everyone is.