A Feast for Crows is the fourth of seven planned novels in A Song of Ice and Fire, an epic fantasy series by American author George R.R. Martin. The novel was first published on 17 October 2005 in the United Kingdom, with a United States edition following on 8 November 2005. Its publication was preceded by a novella named Arms of the Kraken, which collected the first four Iron Islands chapters together. Arms of the Kraken was published in the August 2002 edition of Dragon Magazine. Another chapbook featuring three Daenerys chapters was published for BookExpo 2005, although these chapters were subsequently moved into the fifth volume, A Dance with Dragons.
Like its predecessor A Storm of Swords, A Feast for Crows was nominated for the Hugo Award for Best Novel, one of the two most prestigious awards in science fiction and fantasy publishing, although it lost on the 2006 ballot to Robert Charles Wilson's Spin. A Feast for Crows was also the first novel in the sequence to debut at the top of the New York Times bestseller list, a feat among fantasy writers only previously achieved by David Eddings, Robert Jordan and Neil Gaiman.
Due to complexities that arose during the writing process, A Feast for Crows only includes some of the POV characters from the past novels, as well as some new characters who appear only briefly. The remaining characters return in A Dance with Dragons, the fifth book.
A Feast for Crows picks up where A Storm of Swords left off and runs simultaneously with events in the subsequent novel, A Dance with Dragons. The War of the Five Kings seems to be winding down. Robb Stark, Joffrey Baratheon, Renly Baratheon and Balon Greyjoy are dead. King Stannis Baratheon has fled to the Wall, where Jon Snow has become Lord Commander. King Tommen Baratheon, Joffrey's eight-year-old brother, now rules in King's Landing under the watchful eye of his mother, the Queen Regent Cersei Lannister. Lord Tywin Lannister is dead, murdered by his son Tyrion during his flight from the city. Sansa Stark is in hiding in the Vale, protected by Petyr Baelish, who has murdered his wife Lysa Arryn and named himself Protector of the Vale and guardian of eight-year-old Lord Robert Arryn.
The novel spans several months in the first half of the year 300 After the Landing, possibly longer.
In the Seven KingdomsEdit
In the city of Oldtown, a young novice of the Citadel named Pate steals a master key from one of the maesters and sells it to a mysterious man calling himself 'the Alchemist'. Shortly after receiving his payment, Pate collapses in the street.
In the city of King's Landing, the funeral of Tywin Lannister is held. To Cersei's distaste, Lord Mace Tyrell tries to use the occasion to put himself forward for the position of Hand of the King and get one of his retainers from Highgarden installed on the small council. Cersei rebuffs him and asks her uncle Kevan to serve as Hand. Kevan says he will accept only if Cersei steps down as Regent and returns to Casterly Rock as Tywin's heir. Cersei furiously refuses him and Kevan leaves to help his son Lancel rule his new castle of Darry in the Riverlands. Eventually, she names the biddable Harys Swyft as Hand and fills the rest of the small council with her minions, including Gyles Rosby as master of coin, the sellsail Aurane Waters as Commander of the Royal Fleet, and the disgraced ex-maester Qyburn as master of whisperers.
At the Wall, Samwell Tarly receives a new mission from Jon Snow. He is to take Maester Aemon back to the Citadel in Oldtown by sea and see if he can research information on the Others in the archives there. The information may be essential in the possible war to come. The wildling girl Gilly and the singer Dareon will accompany them as well. Jon is busy rebuilding the Watch following the battle before the Wall, and is concerned over Melisandre's plans to burn the captive Mance Rayder. Sam, Aemon, and Gilly take ship across the Narrow Sea for the Free City of Braavos, but Aemon's health begins to fail him. Gilly cries throughout the journey, and Aemon reveals that she was forced to swap her baby with Mance's at the Wall (again to avoid Melisandre's fires). In Braavos, Aemon's health takes a turn for the worse and they miss the ship that was supposed to take them south. Dareon makes money singing, but constantly spends it on wine and prostitutes, leaving the group stranded. Dareon also hears rumours in the city of a three-headed dragon in Meereen. After Sam violently confronts Dareon, he meets a Summer Islander who saw Daenerys Targaryen's dragons in Qarth. Aemon comes to believe that Daenerys fulfills the prophecy of the Prince Who Was Promised, reasoning that dragons are hermaphroditic. He also reveals to Sam that he was in touch with Rhaegar by letter, and Rhaegar believed his son Aegon was the Prince Who Was Promised, apparently erroneously. Aemon resolves to travel to Meereen, and the Summer Islanders agree to take them south to Oldtown as part of the journey. At sea, Aemon dies of natural causes. His last instructions to Sam are to tell the maesters of the Citadel what has happened and make them understand they must send aid to Daenerys. Gilly and Sam become lovers along the way.
In the Free City of Braavos, Arya Stark finds her way to the House of Black and White, a temple to the Many-Faced God. There Arya is inducted into the ranks of the Faceless Men as a novice. She learns that the Faceless Men are not simply a band of skilled assassins, but also a religious sect dating long before the Doom of Valyria. They consider their assassinations to be holy sacraments to their god of death. As Faceless Men must have no true identity, Arya assumes the role of 'Cat of the Canals' and becomes a familiar sight on the streets of the city. However, her old identity occasionally slips through. She hides her sword Needle rather than discarding it as ordered and later kills Dareon for forsaking his vows to the Night's Watch. The priests of the House of Black and White strike her blind by some means, but it is unclear whether this is part of her training or punishment for her transgressions.
Brienne of Tarth continues her quest to find Sansa. She is found by Podrick Payne, Tyrion's former squire, and agrees to let him accompany her. They pass north through the town of Duskendale, where they encounter the Tyrell army under Lord Randyll Tarly and are joined by an old acquaintance of Brienne, Ser Hyle Hunt. Brienne's explorations take her along Crackclaw Point, where she kills several of the now-scattered Bloody Mummers, and to a septry in the estuary of the River Trident. The Elder Brother of the septry tells her that he found Sandor Clegane dying under a tree and learned that he had been with Arya Stark, who fled towards the coast. Brienne's pursuit takes her to Maidenpool and then Saltpans, but she can find no sign of Arya. Her group runs across the remnants of the Brotherhood Without Banners, who take her captive. Thoros of Myr tells her that Beric Dondarrion has died, giving up his borrowed life to save another. They take her to the undead Catelyn Stark, whom they have named 'Lady Stoneheart'. Catelyn believes that Brienne has betrayed her by allowing Jaime to go free without returning with her daughters. Catelyn offers Brienne a chance for restitution by agreeing to find and kill Jaime, but when Brienne refuses Catelyn orders her, Podrick, and Hunt hanged. As they dangle on the noose, Brienne screams a word.
Paxter Redwyne's fleet of the Arbor arrives at Dragonstone and the castle is put under siege, whilst Mace Tyrell leads his army south to invest Storm's End and end the pretensions of Stannis's loyalists in the south once and for all. Cersei has the High Septon murdered so that he can be replaced by someone loyal to her, but the newcomer turns out to be a zealous martinet who has the support of the refugees from the war that now throng the city. He offers to speed up Tommen's coronation and forgive the crown its monetary debts to the church if Cersei will restore the Faith Militant, outlawed after the uprising against King Aenys I and Maegor I over 250 years ago. Cersei agrees, to the horror of Grand Maester Pycelle.
In the Eyrie, Littlefinger is confronted by several of the lords of the Vale, who are unhappy with him becoming their de facto ruler after the death of Lady Lysa Arryn. One of the lords, whom Littlefinger bribed ahead of time, breaks custom by baring steel during the meeting. Littlefinger uses the insult to turn the tables on the lords, who eventually allow him to remain Lord Protector of little Lord Robert Arryn for the next year. Afterwards, Littlefinger discusses the deception with Sansa (who is posing as his bastard daughter, Alayne Stone) and is impressed at how quickly she picks up on the subtleties of his scheme. He reveals to her that if something should happen to little Robert, the Eyrie and the name Arryn will pass to Harry Hardyng, a distant nephew of the house, and if Harry and Sansa were to wed, that would give her an army with which to reclaim Winterfell. Whilst Sansa thinks on this, the weather is worsening, a sure sign that winter is almost upon the Seven Kingdoms, and the household of the Eyrie begin their move to the Gates of the Moon at the base of the mountain. During the move Sansa befriends Mya Stone, one of the late King Robert Baratheon's bastard daughters. Sansa also becomes a new mother figure for sickly Robert Arryn.
Jaime departs King's Landing to help end the siege of Riverrun, where the Frey and Lannister besiegers are still defied by Lord Edmure Tully's uncle and castellan, Brynden the 'Blackfish'. Jaime has the captive Edmure brought down from the Twins and promises not to harm him and to allow the smallfolk of the castle to remain if Brynden surrenders. After a lengthy siege, in which Edmure is made to stand on a gibbet in a failed attempt by the Freys at a threat, Brynden refuses Jaime's terms of surrender. Jaime cuts Edmure down and negotiates a surrender with him, as he is the true lord of the castle. Edmure is returned to Riverrun, but delays his surrender for half a day, slipping his uncle out one of Riverrun's water gates, past the Lannister siege. Furious, Jaime has Edmure sent under heavy guard to Casterly Rock. Emmon Frey takes his appointed place as Lord of Riverrun. Shortly after the siege has ended, snowflakes start falling across the Riverlands. Winter has come. Jaime realizes that there will be no time for another harvest. The war-ravaged Seven Kingdoms will suffer harshly in what is to come.
The ironborn strike hard along the coast of the Reach, conquering the Shield Islands and virtually blockading the mouth of the Honeywine and the route into Oldtown. Furious, Margaery Tyrell and her brother Loras ask Cersei for aid, but Cersei is reluctant to give it. She gives permission for Lord Redwyne to take his fleet home and destroy the ironborn, but only once Dragonstone is taken. Loras leads an assault on the castle and takes it, but is reported grievously injured in the process. Margaery's protestations vex Cersei, causing her to doubt her future role as Tommen's wife. She conceives a plan to ruin Margaery by framing her to the Faith for sleeping with Osney Kettleblack. Unfortunately the plan backfires when the new High Septon has Osney Kettleblack scourged to ensure the truth of the matter, and he confesses about Cersei's many impropieties as well. The Faith Militant arrest both Cersei and Margaery. Kevan Lannister is recalled to take over as Regent and Hand. Cersei's summons for Jaime to return and defend her go unanswered. Mace Tyrell lifts the siege of Storm's End barely weeks after it began to race back to the capital and learn the fate of his daughter, whilst Randyll Tarly marches on the city from the north. Meanwhile, Aurane Waters absconds with the newly-rebuilt royal fleet.
Sam's ship reaches Oldtown, barely evading the ironborn reavers. They learn that the ironborn have raided and seized territories on the Arbor and failed an attempt to burn the city harbor of Oldtown. Sam goes to the Citadel, but is intercepted by Archmaester Marwyn. Marwyn reveals that the other archmaesters will not be impressed or moved by Sam's revelations about Daenerys. When Sam asks how Marwyn knows that he was coming, Marwyn reveals that the Citadel has some of the ancient Valyrian obsidian candles, through which they could see things from afar. Marwyn states that nearly two centuries ago the maesters helped kill the last of the dragons to rid the world of magic forever, but now it is returning. Marwyn departs immediately for Slaver's Bay, telling Sam to study hard and fast, for the Wall will need his services soon. Sam is left in the company of two students, Alleras the Sphinx and a boy named Pate.
On the Iron IslandsEdit
Following the death of King Balon Greyjoy, a kingsmoot is summoned by Aeron Damphair, Balon's youngest brother and the most respected priest of the Drowned God. With Theon Greyjoy a prisoner of the Boltons at the Dreadfort, the strongest candidates are Balon's brothers Victarion and Euron Crow's Eye, who has just returned from reaving in the east. Asha Greyjoy, Balon's daughter, also tries to claim the Seastone Chair, although in ironborn tradition no woman is allowed to claim the crown. The moot is deadlocked between the three until Euron reveals his plan to seize control of Daenerys's dragons through the use of magic and so rule all of Westeros. The moot crowns Euron king, and Asha disappears with her ship northwards. Aeron, who considers Euron ungodly, also leaves to gain popular support against him.
Euron launches an ambitious campaign against the Reach, sending ships under his brother Victarion to conquer the Shield Islands and raid the coast. Initial appetites for plunder are sated by the raids in Westeros, however, and both support for Euron's trip across the Narrow Sea and his hold over the ironborn dwindles. He realizes that he must remain and consolidate his control. Victarion agrees to go to Slaver's Bay and deliver Euron's marriage proposal to Daenerys in his stead. However, Victarion hates Euron for sleeping with his wife and decides to get revenge by courting Daenerys himself.
In Sunspear, the capital of Dorne, news is received of the death of Oberyn Martell at the hands of Gregor Clegane, although Gregor was mortally wounded in the same battle. Oberyn's bastard daughters, the Sand Snakes, proprose various plans for vengeance, including attacking Oldtown and raiding the Reach. Prince Doran Martell has them locked up to prevent them from doing anything too precipitous, and sends word to King's Landing confirming his loyalty. His eldest daughter and heir (due to Dorne's equal primogeniture), Arianne is disgusted with her father's weakness and suspicious that her father would prefer to supplant her with her brother Quentyn, who she learns has travelled eastwards on unknown business. Princess Myrcella Baratheon, elder sister to King Tommen, is in Sunspear, as she has been betrothed to Trystane Martell, and Arianne hatches a plan to crown Myrcella Queen of the Seven Kingdoms according to Dornish law and reignite the war. Her attempts are thwarted, however. Ser Arys Oakheart, the Kingsguard guarding Myrcella, is killed in a melee and Myrcella is injured. Arianne is imprisoned for her actions.
Prince Doran finally lets his daughter visit him and learns of her grievances. He explains that whilst he had intended Quentyn to follow him as Prince of Dorne, he had a greater role in mind for Arianne: she was to have become Queen of all Westeros. Arianne is confused, but learns that Doran planned to wed her to Viserys Targaryen, but that plan was thwarted when Khal Drogo killed Viserys. Now the plan has changed. Quentyn is on his way to Slaver's Bay to find and win the Martells' heart's desire: "Fire and Blood."
The tale is told through the point of view of 12 POV characters and, as with previous volumes, a one-off prologue POV.
- Prologue: Pate, a novice of the maesters in Oldtown.
- 2 chapters: Aeron "Damphair" Greyjoy, a priest of the Drowned God.
- 1 chapter: Areo Hotah, Captain of Guards to Prince Doran Martell of Dorne.
- 10 chapters: Cersei Lannister, the Queen Regent.
- 8 chapters: Brienne of Tarth, a female warrior and former member of King Renly Baratheon's Rainbow Guard.
- 5 chapters: Samwell Tarly, a brother of the Night's Watch.
- 3 chapters: Arya Stark, later referred to as 'Cat of the Canals'.
- 7 chapters: Jaime Lannister, Lord Commander of the Kingsguard.
- 3 chapters: Sansa Stark, pretending to be Lord Petyr Baelish's bastard daughter.
- 1 chapter: Asha Greyjoy, King Balon Greyjoy's daughter.
- 1 chapter: Arys Oakheart, a knight of the Kingsguard.
- 2 chapters: Victarion Greyjoy, King Balon's brother.
- 2 chapters: Arianne Martell, daughter and heir to Prince Doran.
Delay in publicationEdit
The novel was published five years and two months after the previous volume in the series, A Storm of Swords. This was due to a series of problems that arose during the writing of the novel. George R. R. Martin originally planned for the fourth book to be called A Dance with Dragons with the story picking up five years after the events of A Storm of Swords (primarily to advance the ages of the younger characters). However, during the writing process it was discovered that this was leading to an overreliance on flashbacks to fill in the gap. After twelve months or so of working on the book, Martin decided to abandon much of what had previously been written and start again, this time picking up immediately after the end of A Storm of Swords. He announced this decision, along with the new title A Feast for Crows, at the World Science Fiction Convention in Philadelphia on 1 September 2001 . He also announced that A Dance with Dragons would now be the fifth book in the sequence.
The reason for the subsequent delays were that the novel grew too long and the format changed from the previous book, with the introduction of short-lived POV characters who only had one or two chapters apiece. Martin also wrote a 250-page prologue to the novel which he then scrapped and scattered throughout the novel. Finally, when the novel was nearing completion his publishers realised it was significantly longer than A Storm of Swords and requested it be split in half for publication. After initially considering publishing it as 'Part 1' and 'Part 2', Martin's friend and fellow author Daniel Abraham suggested splitting it by POV and location instead, which Martin agreed with. Thus A Feast for Crows only contains the POV characters from the South of the Seven Kingdoms and the Iron Islands. The characters in the North, in the Free Cities and in Meereen (including fan-favourites Tyrion Lannister, Jon Snow and Daenerys Targaryen) will return in the fifth book. The split of the novel also meant that the series would be seven rather than six books long. A Dance with Dragons remains the title of the fifth book.
Martin supplied a note at the end of A Feast for Crows explaining the reason for the split and suggesting that A Dance with Dragons would follow with the missing POV characters 'next year'. However, subsequently Martin embarked on a four-month signing tour in the US, Canada and Europe at the request of his publishers and lost that time in writing the novel.
Allusions/references to other worksEdit
Bakkalon, the Pale Child, is one of the Gods worshipped mostly by soldiers at the House of Black and White. This god appeared already in Martin's 1975 story And Seven Times Never Kill Man (where he is worshipped by a religious sect called Steel Angels), as well as in some other stories of the same era.
In Oldtown, mention is made that Maester Rigney believes that time is a wheel. This could possibly allude to fantasy author Robert Jordan and his popular series, The Wheel of Time, as Jordan's true name is James Rigney. Another character, the southern noble Lord Trebor Jordayne of the Tor, is also an allusion to Jordan, Tor Books being Jordan's best-known publisher, and the name Trebor itself being an anagram of Robert.
In the Chapter "Cat of the Canals" a reference is made to a story about the "Lord of the Woeful Countance," which is believed to be a reference to Don Quixote.
A Feast for Crows was published by Voyager, the SF imprint of HarperCollins, in October 2005, ahead of its American publication. The cover art, a chalice, was by Larry Rostant, replacing an earlier cover prepared by Jim Burns but which was never used. A paperback edition followed in November 2006.
The novel was first published by Bantam Books in hardcover in November 2005 with a new cover design to the previous books in the series. Stephen Youll had prepared a cover in a similar style to the first three books, but this went unused. The mass-market paperback edition was released, as one volume, in October 2006.
Subterranean Press released a two-volume limited edition with illustrations by Tom Canty in early 2008.
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