(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.
(Cover picture courtesy of Eat, Run, Read.)
In A Game of Thrones, George R. R. Martin has created a genuine masterpiece, bringing together the best the genre has to offer. Mystery, intrigue, romance, and adventure fill the pages of the first volume in an epic series sure to delight fantasy fans everywhere.
In a land where summers can last decades and winters a lifetime, trouble is brewing. The cold is returning, and in the frozen wastes to the North of Winterfell, sinister and supernatural forces are massing beyond the kingdom’s protective Wall. At the center of the conflict lie the Starks of Winterfell, a family as harsh and unyielding as the land they were born to. Sweeping from a land of brutal cold to a distant summertime kingdom of epicurean plenty, here is a tale of lords and ladies, soldiers and sorcerers, assassins and bastards, who come together in a time of grim omens. Amid plots and counterplots, tragedy and betrayal, victory and terror, the fate of the Starks, their allies, and their enemies hangs perilously in the balance, as each endeavors to win that deadliest of conflicts: the game of thrones.
So, here we are again: I’m about to tackle another incredibly famous book. Only this time there’s now an even more popular television series based on it. And I’ve already watched up to the most current episode of the show while reading A Game of Thrones. This will be interesting, won’t it? As always, one must ask if the book is as good as its hype.
In a way it is, and in a way it isn’t.
I say that in a way A Game of Thrones doesn’t live up to its hype is because for an avid fantasy reader like me there is no way it could ever live up to such ridiculous hype. Not even Harry Potter could live up to all of that hype. And that’s perfectly okay. It’s still a good book and I’ll try to look at it objectively, disregarding the fact that I’ve watched the television series as well.
George R. R. Martin jumps between quite a few points of view during the course of his epic novel, but I wouldn’t say that it got confusing at any point. Mostly the characters don’t retell the same thing another character covered and it does move events along quite quickly for a fantasy novel. The tales of the Starks and the Lannisters are fascinating and I love how we get to see both sides of the story, as well as the great subplot with Daenerys Targaryen, one of two remaining descendants of the last king. Daenerys is a personal favourite, but Tyrion Lannister and Sansa Stark are close runners up.
The thing I love about A Game of Thrones is that we get to see what drives pretty much every character. Not all characters are sympathetic in the traditional sense (Joffrey), but some of them like Cersei are oddly sympathetic. It might just be me but I feel sorry for her being forced into a marriage with a man who would always love a dead girl even though she loved him in the beginning. Robert never even gave her a chance. Characters like Sansa who seem annoying in the beginning actually acquire depth throughout the story and even minor characters are well fleshed out. There are the sort of girl power characters like Arya, but I like Sansa more because she’s a product of the culture she was raised in. In short, she was raised to be the definition of a ‘lady’ and that’s who she is in the beginning.
Westeros isn’t exactly the most unique fantasy world I’ve ever encountered because it’s based on Britain yet again. You can easily draw comparisons between Hadrian’s Wall and the Wall, the barbaric tribes, the brutal ruling classes, etc. However, I wouldn’t say it’s completely cliché partly because the concept of ever changing seasons like summers or winters that last for years is intriguing. The different lands in Westeros are interesting as well as the lands across the Narrow Sea.
So would I recommend A Game of Thrones? Absolutely! Would I call it the greatest fantasy novel I’ve ever read or ever will read? No.
I give this book 4.5/5 stars.