(Cover picture courtesy of Ciska’s Book Chest.)
In this thrilling sequel to A Game of Thrones, George R. R. Martin has created a work of unsurpassed vision, power, and imagination. A Clash of Kings transports us to a world of revelry and revenge, wizardry and warfare, unlike any we have ever experienced.
A comet the color of blood and flame cuts across the sky. And from the ancient citadel of Dragonstone to the forbidding shores of Winterfell, chaos reigns. Six factions struggle for control of a divided land and the Iron Throne of the Seven Kingsdoms, preparing to stake their claims through tempest, turmoil, and war. It is a tale in which brother plots against brother and the dead rise to walk in the night. Here a princess masquerades as an orphan boy, a knight of the mind prepares a poison for a treacherous sorceress, and wild men descend from the Mountains of the Moon to ravage the countryside. Against a backdrop of incest and fratricide, alchemy and murder, victory may go to the men and women possessed of the coldest steel…and the coldest hearts. For when kings clash, the whole land trembles.
Since we got over all of the character introductions in the first book, A Clash of Kings really starts to heat up. We see Tyrion’s triumphs, Sansa’s struggles, Jon wrestling with decisions involving family and honour and so much more. Not only do we get to see these characters, we also continue on Arya’s and Daenerys’ points of view and have the added POV of Davos, the ‘Onion Knight’. This is all very fascinating, but I’m getting the impression that the series could suffer from extreme character bloat in the next few books. As things heat up in all threads of the plot, I have a feeling it may be hard to keep all of the characters’ stories straight because Martin seems to be adding more and more all of the time.
However, A Clash of Kings generally manages to stay on topic and not get too sidetracked. We see characters like Sansa finally mature and unlikely heroes like Tyrion and Daenerys triumph in their own ways. Part of what has impressed me so much about A Song of Ice and Fire is the characters and how much time is devoted to their development. They are so much more complicated than their archetypal descriptions would suggest and that makes A Clash of Kings a fascinating read. Characters can make or break a story for me, so I’m thankful for Martin’s attention to detail.
For an epic fantasy novel, A Clash of Kings is quite fast-paced. There is a bit of a slouch in the middle of the story, but compared to a lot of epic fantasy out there, the plot still moves forward. Alliances are made and broken, murders are planned and carried out and treason is all around. You never really know what’s going to happen next and that’s really what made this second book so exciting, even more so than the first.
The further development of the fantasy world is satisfying as well. We start to learn about places other than Westeros, in part because of Daenerys’ travels. We also learn more about the other powerful empires in Martin’s world as well as the fact that there are free, trade-based cities within this world of kings and tyrants. This is not just your typical epic fantasy with kings and queens; George R. R. Martin has obviously studied history and knows that nothing is ever that simple. In some places, there are republics and in others there are oligarchies and in still others (Westeros) there are the traditional monarchies. The politics within all of these countries are more nuanced than I’ve come to expect, so I really do appreciate Martin’s world-building.
I give this book 5/5 stars.