Number of pages: 1,060
One thing I noticed as I read through the fourth book in the Song of Ice and Fire series was that many of the characters ; for example, Danaerys Targaryen and Jon Snow, were mentioned but did not feature. Tyrion Lannister appeared only briefly in dream sequences.
The reason for this is explained at the end of the book; George R.R. Martin realised that what he was writing was song long that he had to split it into two separate titles. So, this book covers events at King's Landing, while events in other regions feature in the two volumes that make up A Dance with Dragons.
This book mostly takes place in the aftermath of the previous book, and seems to concentrate largely on female characters, particularly Cersei and Brienne who to my recollection did not have chapters written from their point of view in the previous titles.
Cersei's storyline starts off with her wanting Tyrion dead and receiving the heads of many dwarves who are believed (wrongly) to be her brother. The reason for this is that...
[Spoiler for A Storm of Swords]
Tyrion murdered Tywin Lannister, their father. He is also believed to have been the one responsible for killing the vile King Joffrey.
Towards the end though, Cersei's story involves an extreme religious cult of "sparrows" who like to shame people who have committed adultery or fornication in a manner that makes The Scarlet Letter look tame.
Brienne's story involves her searching for the missing Sansa Stark, which occupies most of her chapters. The book pairs her with the character Podric Payne, who acts as her squire (assistant).
I noticed that the pace of this book seemed quite slow, and at times it felt a bit long-winded, with a lot of depictions of how characters were feeling and reminders of past events. The book also introduces a number of new characters (for example, "The Kraken's Daughter", "The Princess in the Tower") that are loosely connected with the plot, and a lot of the text was about their backstories. The other thing I noticed was that I really had to pay attention, especially as some of the characters changed their names and were subsequently referred to in chapter headings as their new name. So, I realised after about five minutes of reading, that "Cat of the Canals" wheeling her barrow of cockles, was Arya, during her training to become a "faceless person", but it took me almost two full chapters revolving around the character Alayna to realise that she was Sansa Stark.
While this wasn't my favourite in the series, with more politics and dialogue than action, there was lots of stuff that I liked, particularly towards the end, which made me want to see what happened next to the characters. I loved how descriptive the book got at places; for example, how the Eyrie was accessible to visitors only by climbing a wall or a primitive elevator, and the casual reference to oubliettes so tight that it was impossible to move inside them.
My favourite character throughout this book was Brienne, and she was the character I enjoyed reading about most. I noticed that several of the events of this book were changed significantly, or not included in the TV show so far, but as I understand it, the latest season is where the TV show started to make up its own storylines instead of just following the books.
My intention is to read the next book soon, and hope that the title, The Winds of Winter gets published soon, as I am definitely becoming hooked.
Next book: Stars in God's Sky (Faith Cook)