(pb; 2005: Book Four of A Song of Fire and Ice)
From the back cover:
"After centuries of bitter strife, the seven powers dividing the land have beaten one another into an uneasy truce. But it's not long before the survivors, outlaws, renegades, and carrion eaters of the Seven Kingdoms gather. Now, as the human crows assemble over a banquet of ashes, daring new plots and dangerous alliances are formed while surprising faces - some familiar, others only just appearing - emerge from an omnivorous twilight of past struggles and chaos to take up the challenges of the terrible times ahead. Nobles and commoners, soldiers and sorcerers, assassins and sages, are coming together to stake their fortunes. . . and their lives. For at a feast for crows, many are the guests - but only a few are the survivors."
It would be difficult for Martin to top the character-familiar plot corkscrews and karmic resolutions of the third book, A Storm of Swords, which was a near-operatic culmination of two books' worth of personal machinations, often grim and rape-fixated actions and bloody conflicts whose survivors who found themselves with the taste of ashes and bitterness in their mouths.
I bore this in mind as I read Feast. I'm glad I did, because while I wasn't as emotionally invested in this fourth Song novel, I enjoyed it a lot. Getting to know new characters, a few of whom aren't chapter titled by their names, was initially a bit of a chore after my familiarity with the characters in the previous books - but, ultimately, it was worth it, between Martin's fast and furious plotwork and writing, as well as the equally familiar grim and bloody actions of its characters; because of these elements, Feast proved to be a worthwhile sequel to its predecessors.
Of course, I missed certain characters - e.g., Tyrion Lannister, aka "the Imp" - whose stories weren't told in Feast, but given the narrative flow of this novel I understand why Martin chose to save their stories for later.
This is worth reading if you don't mind being introduced to new characters, and don't expect the easy familiarity of characters from the first three books. Feast is clearly setting up a new round of love, lust and war, and I look forward to seeing how it plays out.
Followed by A Dance with Dragons.