Review of A Feast for Crows by George R.R. Martin

January 16, 2006 by · Leave a Comment
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Fantasy Audiobook Review

Fantasy Audiobook - A Feast for Crows by George R.R. MartinA Feast for Crows
By George R.R. Martin; Read by John Lee
26 CDs – Approx. 31 Hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Random House Audio
Published: 2005
ISBN: 0739308742
Themes: / Fantasy / Epic Fantasy / Medieval setting / Power Struggle / Dragons /

There’s a long story behind A Feast for Crows, but I’ll make it short. George R.R. Martin, while writing the fourth installment of the superior A Song of Ice and Fire epic fantasy series, found it was getting too long. Long enough, in fact, that if he published it as-was, it would need to be broken up into two volumes. So, rather than break the book into two pieces at the middle, he split the book by character, including the complete story of select characters in one volume, leaving the rest of the characters to appear in the next volume. A Feast for Crows, then, is the fourth book, and a new fifth book (A Dance with Dragons) will be published relatively soon. This novel is a bit shorter than the previous volumes, but still clocks in at 31 hours on unabridged audio.

Roy Dotrice read the first three volumes in the series, but this time British actor John Lee narrated. I’m not sure why the change was made; the narrators were very different. While Dotrice has a rough, earthy delivery, Lee’s style is smooth and skilled. Both narrators succeed with Martin’s story, because with such a large number of characters, ranging from royalty to peasants, each found places to shine.

The myriad of characters brings me to my next point. This is the first of these large novels that I’ve heard before I read. Some listeners have complained that the novels are difficult to follow on audio because there are so many entrances, but I didn’t feel that way until now. With this novel, I found that the portions of the book that involved characters I didn’t know from previous books were indeed difficult to follow. When a character I knew arrived on the scene, I was fully engaged with the story.

There is a very simple remedy to this. There are acres of real estate on the packaging for large audiobooks. Why not include a Cast of Characters (Dramatis Personae)? Why not include the maps from the print version? Both of these items would have been welcome.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I am a huge fan of Martin’s, and especially this series. I felt that this one started a bit slowly, but ended with a bang. I reveled in being in Westeros again. Many of the characters I like were not included in this novel, which both disappointed me and heightened my anticipation for the next volume. A Feast for Crows delivers much – I was riveted to the last third of this audiobook – but I can’t help to feel that it is incomplete, because of the missing characters and because it is the middle of a long wonderful saga that I am patiently waiting to see through.

Posted by Scott D. Danielson

Review of A Clash of Kings by George R.R. Martin

April 12, 2004 by · Leave a Comment
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Fantasy Audiobooks - A Clash of Kings by George R.R. MartinA Clash of Kings
By George R.R. Martin; Read by Roy Dotrice
21 Cassettes – 37 Hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Random House Audio
Published: 2004
ISBN: 073930870X
Themes: / Fantasy / Medieval setting / Power struggle / Dragons /

A Clash of Kings continues the saga started by George R.R. Martin in A Game of Thrones. There are six projected volumes in this series. The first three novels are currently in print, and all three of them are now available on unabridged audio from Random House Audio or Books on Tape. A Game of Thrones and A Clash of Kings are also available on Audible.com.

This volume is frankly more of the same kind of thing experienced in A Game of Thrones. (See the SFFAudio review of A Game of Thrones here). In this case, that’s a good thing. A Clash of Kings is a direct continuation of the first volume with the addition of several new characters. The stories of members House Stark and House Lannister were again the center of the plot – their struggle for power in the land of Westeros continues, while the supernatural threat from the North continues to gather, and Daenerys Targaryen, with her dragons, gains power. Tension runs high throughout the book, and resolution is left for future volumes.

George R.R. Martin has created a medieval world filled with interesting characters that I continue to care about. The plot is complex, and each time I felt a question was answered, a new mystery unfolded.

The myriad of characters created a challenge for narrator Roy Dotrice, but again he does a fabulous job. With captivating skill and range he charges on, unfolding the story chapter by chapter, character by character, event by event. The book is certainly a marathon for the listener, but by the end, after 37 hours, I was (and am) still eager to continue listening to this truly excellent fantasy series.

Review of A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin

February 8, 2004 by · Leave a Comment
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Fantasy Audiobooks - A Game of Thrones by George R.R. MartinA Game of Thrones
By George R.R. Martin; Read by Roy Dotrice
19 Cassettes – 34 Hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Random House Audio
Published: 2004
ISBN: 0739308688
Themes: / Fantasy / Medieval setting / Power struggle / Dragons /

A Game of Thrones is the first of six projected volumes of George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire fantasy series. It was published in 1997, where it joined a host of other fat fantasy series, including Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series and Terry Goodkind’s Sword of Truth series. With many fully realized characters and subplots that don’t fail to surprise, Martin’s series stands tall above the rest in the genre. This particular volume won the Locus Award for Best Fantasy Novel (1997) and was nominated for the Best Novel Nebula Award.

I was very much looking forward to the audio version of this novel, and followed some of the discussion on George R.R. Martin’s website concerning it. He apparently rejected an offer to make a 9-hour abridged version of the book, which he felt would be more of a summary than a novel. He was right – this unabridged version is 34 hours long, and I for one am delighted that he waited.

A Game of Thrones is not fantasy in the style of Tolkien. In fact, it has much more in common with Herbert’s Dune than Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. The book is a chess game played by various Houses in a quest for power in a land called Westeros. The setting is medieval, with kings, knights, lords, and ladies. At the beginning of the novel, we’re introduced to House Stark, led by Lord Eddard Stark of Winterfell. He and his family live in a castle in the northern country, and are reminded often that winter is coming… in more ways than one. Eddard’s wife is Catelyn, formerly of House Tully, and their children are Robb, Sansa, Arya, Bran, and Rickon. Eddard also fathered a bastard named Jon Snow – his mother is a mystery to all but Eddard.

The struggle around which everything revolves is between House Stark and House Lannister. Cersei, the king’s wife, is of that house, as is Jaime, her twin brother, and Tyrion, a dwarf. Every one of the characters mentioned play important roles in the story, and because they are so realistically portrayed, they are not difficult to tell apart, nor are they hard to remember as they love, fight, promise, and betray.

What makes this novel fantasy? Magic plays a very small role in the story. The characters in this novel are all grey, unlike the black and white good/evil of typical fantasy characters. But there is a growing supernatural threat in the north, introduced in the Prologue. And there is also Danerys Targaryen, of the house that held the throne years before the events in this novel, who is coming of age… and Targaryens are known for their dragons.

George R.R. Martin’s writing style is very easy to follow, and translates beautifully to the spoken word. Roy Dotrice does an excellent job. In my opinion, his performance is on par with Jim Dale’s reading of the Harry Potter novels. Many, many characters present themselves here, just as in the Potter novels, yet Dotrice, like Dale, manages to keep them all separated and gives them all distinct mannerisms and voices that keep the story flowing. I caught a few mispronunciations in the book, all names where Dotrice gets caught up in the moment and calls Prince Joffrey “Jeffrey”, for example, or pronounces the name “Varys” two different ways. This did cause me pause, but it happened only a few times in the 34 hour performance.

This was one of my favorite novels before I listened to this audiobook. Martin has created a realistic world peopled with authentic characters that are not difficult to care about. The book runs me through a huge range of emotions as the complex plot runs its course. This audiobook enhanced the experience – listening to Dotrice’s performance was like reading it again for the first time.