***SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS***
A Storm of Swords was one of the most amazing books I have ever read. It was chock full of action and suspense and major major surprises (the Red Wedding, the 'birth' of Stoneheart, Joffrey's death) so I could not WAIT to find out what the hell happened...
...and wait I must do.
This particular novel, while it touched on the world after all that happened in A Storm of Swords, it is told from a slew of brand new characters. Well, not all new characters. We still see through the eyes of Sansa, Arya, Brienne, Jaime and Cersei, but we also meet people from the Iron Islands: Asha and Victarion Greyjoy, brother and sister to Theon -- who was the ward of Eddard Stark and 'killed" Bran and Rickon (he didn't really). The Greyjoys are fighting to rule the Iron Islands...
We also hear from characters in Dorne, where Oberyn Martell, the Red Viper, is from, and where Princess Myrcella (Cersei's daughter) is being held.
So there is much chaos in Westeros, despite the fact that there is a King: King Tommen who, at 8 years of age, took over the throne after his older brother Joffrey was poisoned at his own wedding. King Tommen has married Joffrey's widow, Margaery, who is 16.
Of course, Tommen is not really ruling...his evil, conniving, slutty mother Cersei has made herself Queen Regent. But secretly, she is ruling as though she were the Queen. She feels that she makes a hell of a Queen but she has greed and ill-intent in everything she does and wants. She is just like the evil queen in Snow White except we can read the craziness that goes on in her head. She appoints a weak council to do her bidding. She puts papers in front of Tommen to sign without really explaining anything to him and thankfully, at the very end, this ploy of hers turns and works against her. It is one of the sweetest moments in this novel that reprieves me from the excitement of A Storm of Swords.
Brienne of Tarth has made a promise to Jaime (and Lady Catelyn, when she was alive) to find and save Sansa Stark. Sansa has escaped from the wedding-that-killed-Joffrey and is in hiding. Who helps her? Petyr Baelish - a low-born man who grew up with Catelyn and her loony sister, Lysa. He has an undying love for Catelyn but also, a vendetta to become a successful Lord, despite his low-birth. Throughout the series, Petyr is very sultry with the young Sansa and is actually the plotter behind the death of Joffrey and then saving Sansa from the uproar. For now, Petyr has Sansa disguised as his bastard daughter Alayna, as he continues to figure out how he can take the Eyrie, the castle in the Vale.
We read a lot about Brienne's travels. She goes all over Westeros on little clues of finding Sansa. She stumbles upon the story of The Hound and a Stark daughter seen together...and figures out that it wasn't Sansa but Arya, who almost all have believed to have died. Brienne is an amazing character and one that I fell in love with. She reminds me of Eddard Stark in her loyalty and doing what is right. She's also a tortured soul as she is not pretty, she's big like a man but yet, she is still a woman and women knights are not really around nor _wanted_ during these years.
She appears to be hanged towards the end of the book...after being almost beaten to death by Rorge, an old foe from the previous novels. She is captured and brought to Stoneheart, who happens to be the dead-brought-back-to-life-but-still-dead Lady Catelyn. Stoneheart calls her an oathbreaker and believes she aligned herself with the Lannisters (Jaime, specifically) and hangs her and her companions. I don't think she's dead because she yells out something...and while we don't know what that is, I think it's "Arya" since she is now the only person that knows Arya is alive.
Jaime Lannister, as evil as I believed him to be, has also struggled with doing good vs. following the evils that his Lannister family has brought to Westeros: Cersei being the douche that she is, his father Lord Tywin bringing on the Red Wedding, and then his brother the Imp for killing their father. But he truly respects Brienne and gives her a sword, Oathkeeper, made of valyrian steel -- the creme de la creme of any metal to be forged into a sword -- to find Sansa Start and keep her safe. We also learn how Jaime loves Cersei, more than any brother should love his sister, but also realizes how fucking looney his sister really is...and how much ass she's been giving to the entire male population...
Arya has left Westeros and traveled across the great sea to Braavos. There, she resides at a temple where people go to commit suicide and throws out all her material things to learn and follow the ways of this temple. She is told to live amongst the people of Braavos, so she can learn the language and their ways. She is to stay in Braavos until she learns three new things, to which she comes back and reveals the three new things...then she goes back out again. She is no longer Arya but Cat of the Canals, where she sells shellfish for a fisherman.
She has a chance encounter with Sam Tarly, who is on his way to the Citadel to study to become a maester. He mentions Lord Snow of the Wall but either she didn't understand that Lord Snow was in fact her brother, Jon Snow, or she didn't care to have Sam know who she was. I can't believe it was the latter.
We don't know what is going on at the Wall, where Bran and his companions are...other than we know they are alive and well and Samwell Tarly knows that they are OK and near / or at the Wall.
Tyrion is MIA in this entire novel. All know that he has killed his father but he is nowhere to be found. Many think he and Sansa are together but there is zero clues (that I picked up on) about his whereabouts in this novel.
We also have no Daenerys in this one. We left A Storm of Swords with her settling into a city to make it her own before she heads to the Iron Throne to claim her stake. Samwell is the only person that knows that she is what the prophecy fortells: that she is the rightful ruler. Well, he tells some folks at the Citadel but we know nothing about Daenrys' life in this book. She is still considered a myth: a queen with her dragons.
The very last chapter of the novel is titled "Meanwhile, Back on the Wall" and it ends up actually being a 'letter' of sorts from Martin, explaining that he had written so many people into this novel that he had to put a stop somewhere...and this is what A Feast for Crows became. I assume A Dance with Dragons will have the characters that I have missed and some questions will be answered (and more will be formed).
The only problem with his letter? Which I loved so much, BTW...such a personal note for fans of his books...it was endearing. But he writes:
Tyrion, Jon, Dany, Stannis and Melisandre, Davos Seaworth, and all the rest of the characters you love or love to hate will be along next year (I devoutly hope) in A Dance with Dragons...Read "next year". He signed this letter in 2005. A Dance with Dragons came up this past summer...five years later. I can't wait that long for book six!! I simply can't!!! And then i have to wait how many more years for book seven???
I have to believe that he is finished...and just hasn't put all the pieces together for finalization. Yup. That's what I'll go with...