A Feast for Crows is the fourth novel in George R. R. Martin’s epic fantasy series, “A Song of Ice and Fire.” When the previous novel, A Storm of Swords, ended, Tyrion Lannister killed his father, Tywin. Lord Tywin Lannister had not only been one of the most powerful lords in the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros but had also been the “Hand of the King,” the most powerful member of King Tommen’s small council. Since King Tommen is still a boy, Tywin had been the true ruler of the Westeros. Now, his responsibilities fall to his daughter, Cersei Lannister, the Queen Regent of Westeros.
Like her father, Cersei is cunning and manipulative, though she lacks Tywin’s judgment. She is also deeply paranoid of any threat to her rule, not to mention the lives of her children, and she is haunted by a prophecy she was told as a girl: that a younger and more beautiful queen would replace her and take everything she loves. When A Feast for Crows begins, Cersei is awoken in the middle of the night and is told of her father’s death. She walks to the Tower of the Hand and discovers, to her irritation, that she was not even the first person told of the Hand’s murder. She has been preceded by her twin brother, the Lord Commander of the King’s Guard, Jaime.
The court at King’s Landing holds a funeral in Lord Tywin’s honor, one that is ruined by the strong scent of Tywin’s decay. Cersei is furious throughout the funeral. Her son, King Tommen, cries in front of his lords, and Tommen’s betrothed, the beautiful and popularly admired Margaery of House Tyrell, puts on a show of mourning, though Cersei does not believe it. Looking at her father’s corpse, the Queen Regent resolves to rule the realm so that Tywin will be remembered not as a great Hand of the King or even as a great lord, but rather as the father of Queen Cersei.
Cersei sets to work removing her rivals. She allows Margaery to wed Tommen in exchange for sending her father, Mace Tyrell, the Lord of Highgarden, and his armies away to battle the king’s remaining enemies. Only a few castles still defy the Lannisters from the War of the Five Kings—Dragonmount, Storm’s End, and Riverrun—and Tyrell and his armies are tasked with laying siege to the first two. Although Cersei attempts to have her Uncle Kevan become her Hand, he refuses unless she leaves King’s Landing. Cersei rejects these terms, and is pleased to see Kevan leave King’s Landing with his son, Lancel. Cersei is refused again by Jaime, who reminds her of the Kingsguard’s oaths. Cersei is especially infuriated since Jaime actually murdered the first king he had sworn to protect, and since she and Jaime had been lovers. Tommen is in fact Jaime’s son, though his power derives from Cersei’s marriage to the deceased king, Robert Baratheon. Spited, Cersei wastes little time before she burns down the Tower of the Hand and raises minor lords, ones who she feels cannot threaten her, to the King’s “Small Council.” She even sends Jaime into the Riverlands to end the siege of Riverrun. Surrounded by minor lords, Cersei appears to have secured her power. News of Cersei’s deeds soon begins to spread throughout the realm.
The Vale, located in the East of Westeros, has long been ruled by the House of Arryn. Lord Robert Arryn is a sickly child who is small for his age and suffers from the “shaking sickness.” The Vale is actually ruled by Lord Petyr Baelish, or “Littlefinger,” who had married Robert’s mother Lysa before murdering her and blaming it on a singer. Littlefinger also cares for Sansa Stark, the heir to the North, whom he passes off as his “natural” daughter, “Alayne,” ostensibly to protect her. Littlefinger poses as Sansa’s father, but he always asks Sansa to “kiss her father,” complaining about how dutiful her kisses are. Littlefinger had loved Sansa’s mother, and appears to have transferred his feelings to Sansa. He tells Sansa that once he has secured power in the Vale, he will reveal her true identity and ask the lords of the East to win the North for her. Littlefinger may make for a suspect guardian of Robert and Sansa, but in comparison to Cersei, he is a very gifted politician. He quickly quells the lords that defy his rule of the Vale.
The Vale is not the only part of the realm to suffer upheaval. In the deep south of Westeros, the people of Dorne demand vengeance of their lord, Prince Doran. In the previous novel, Doran’s brother, Prince Oberyn, the Red Viper, died in combat defending Tyrion Lannister against Gregor Clegane. Doran suffers from gout, and he hides his weakness by ruling from the Water Gardens rather than at the court at Sunspear. Doran’s daughter, Arianne, runs the court at Sunspear, an important task since Princess Myrcella is staying there. Arianne, however, wants vengeance for Prince Oberyn’s death, and she hatches a scheme to crown Myrcella and invade the rest of the Seven Kingdoms. Her plot fails and she is imprisoned. However, when she finally is granted an audience with her father, she learns that Doran does mean to exact vengeance on the Lannisters. He has in fact been conspiring to support the return of Daenerys Targaryen, the rightful Queen of Westeros.
Though Prince Doran finds himself hard-pressed to control Dorne, there is even more unrest...
(The entire section is 2179 words.)