As the summer feels like it is drawing to a premature close here so my summer reading of this massive series is drawing to a close (even if the series itself is still a few books away from completion).
After the major events in the third book, A Storm of Swords – with the weddings; the change in Jaimie’s circumstances and his relationship with his sister; and the deaths of many of the characters who were around in book 1 – the fourth book is a bit of a disappointment. The main reason for this is the fact that many of my favourite characters, such as Jon Snow, Daenerys and Tyrion, do not appear in this book. Instead the book opens up some new vistas with multiple character viewpoints from Dorne and the decision over the successor to Balon Greyjoy – both of which are fine but events in the north (in the aftermath of the fall of Winterfell) have been overlooked since book 2 and revelations there have been a long time coming. The main problem is the established character viewpoints in this book are not particularly that interesting to me or their quests in this book are not that exciting. [On the plus side I could finally listen to the Game of Thrones RevCast spoiler free!]
Of the characters chosen, Arya’s chapters continue to be the most interesting as more things seem to happen to her and she is exploring new lands – I would have liked more of these.
Samwell and Brienne are sent on journeys that lead nowhere and seem to have little relevance to wider events – these chapters, especially Brienne’s, sort of remind me of the wandering chapters in the Deathly Hallows where Harry and his friends are searching for horcruxes but have no clue where to start or how to hunt them down.
Sansa’s chapters are fine – she is still a hostage to fortune but her proximity to Petyr Baelish provides some revelations and the machinations of a master of political intrigue.
That leaves just Cersei and Jaimie.
Jaimie has become a more sympathetic character since the bold, brash warrior that was depicted in the first two books. However, in this book he is given the runaround by his sister and sent off to secure Riverrun and the constant self-loathing and pity in his chapters becomes wearing after a time.
Cersei assumes what she thinks is her rightful place as Queen and regent to the King and starts to govern the Seven Kingdoms. Unfortunately she does not have the cunning of her father, or her brother Tyrion, and so events in King’s Landing quickly spiral out of her control as she makes a series of increasingly poor decisions in her desire to discredit the young queen and rule without interference. While it was entertaining to see that she truly was as evil and idiotic as I believed her to be, I could not believe that it took as long as it did for the new High Septon to turn his attention to her lax morality.
Only one more (published) book to go and I am looking forward to finding out the fortunes of the characters sorely missed from this book – though given Martin’s explanation of how books 4 and 5 came about I guess I will be cursing him for not revealing the fates of Arya, Brienne and Cersei and the decision that Jaimie reaches.