(Cover picture courtesy of Goodreads.)
In the aftermath of a colossal battle, the future of the Seven Kingdoms hangs in the balance — beset by newly emerging threats from every direction. In the east, Daenerys Targaryen, the last scion of House Targaryen, rules with her three dragons as queen of a city built on dust and death. But Daenerys has thousands of enemies, and many have set out to find her. As they gather, one young man embarks upon his own quest for the queen, with an entirely different goal in mind.
Fleeing from Westeros with a price on his head, Tyrion Lannister, too, is making his way to Daenerys. But his newest allies in this quest are not the rag-tag band they seem, and at their heart lies one who could undo Daenerys’s claim to Westeros forever.
Meanwhile, to the north lies the mammoth Wall of ice and stone — a structure only as strong as those guarding it. There, Jon Snow, 998th Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch, will face his greatest challenge. For he has powerful foes not only within the Watch but also beyond, in the land of the creatures of ice.
From all corners, bitter conflicts reignite, intimate betrayals are perpetrated, and a grand cast of outlaws and priests, soldiers and skinchangers, nobles and slaves, will face seemingly insurmountable obstacles. Some will fail, others will grow in the strength of darkness. But in a time of rising restlessness, the tides of destiny and politics will lead inevitably to the greatest dance of all.
After loving the first four books, I’ll admit that I really wanted to love A Dance with Dragons. I really, really tried. But it was such slow-going. It took me over a month to finish this book which should be a warning sign right there.
The problem, I think, at this point in the series is a little something called character bloat. There are too many characters. There are so many different houses and players entering into the war for Westeros that it’s simply become ridiculous. I can hardly keep track of them all and I’m not bragging when I say I have a good memory when it comes to books. Some points of view could have been cut from the book entirely. Did Quentyn Martell really have to have his say? Arya’s story barely went anywhere.
If it was just a slow plot I could handle it but it feels like the characters are going in totally different directions. Daenerys is an indecisive, idealistic moron compared to the strong, sure young woman she was in previous books. Jon Snow keeps swinging between rigidly sticking to his oath as a man of the Night’s Watch and totally violating it by siding with a king. Tyrion…well I don’t know what to think of him anymore. It’s okay that characters change and explore themselves. That’s what makes a story good! But it’s not okay that they randomly go in a whole different direction with pretty much zero explanation.
Despite all this, when I actually sat down to read A Dance with Dragons I didn’t mind it all that much. Some parts were pretty darn good. Although George R. R. Martin lost some of the things that made his series great in the beginning (his ability to kill off main characters ruthlessly, for one) he still has that amazing world-building. We learn so much about Westeros and the rest of Martin’s world that it almost makes up for everything else. The history of all Seven Kingdoms and the impact on people and other places was fascinating. I loved learning more about the world’s history! It added more depth to Martin’s world.
Yes, I will read The Winds of Winter when it finally does get published. Will I be looking forward to it as much as I did this book? Probably not. I’m just hoping that the next book will be better and that we’ll go back to that magical spark George R. R. Martin had in A Game of Thrones.
I give this book 3/5 stars.
(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.
Spotlight is my weekly feature in which I highlight a book I’m really looking forward to or really enjoyed. This week it’s A Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin, a book it seems everyone is talking about.
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.
Is A Game of Thrones the best fantasy book ever published like some claim? No, not really. But is it a good book? Certainly!
I love to get lost in a good book, especially when it’s epic fantasy, so George Martin’s book was a great escape for me lately. Being propelled into a world where dragons once existed and where winters can last for years was quite the change from the swath of realistic and historical fiction I’ve read lately. I haven’t curled up with a good fantasy book in a while and if you haven’t either, I’d highly recommend A Game of Thrones.
The world-building is pretty good, but it’s definitely the characters that made me want to highlight this book. The Starks are obviously the main attraction since the saga follows them, but characters like Tyrion Lannister will make you see both sides of the conflict. Of course there are the ‘bad’ characters as well, but they’re not all they seem as well. Cersei, the Queen of Westeros, seems to be your stereotypical Evil Queen, but it’s her background story that makes her oddly sympathetic to me.
I don’t want to give too much away, but if you like characters with actual depth and long, intertwined narratives, you’ll love A Game of Thrones.