A Clash of Kings book review

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A Clash of Kings, book two of the A Song of Ice and Fire series, is the follow-up to George R. R. Martin’s A Game of Thrones.

Robert Baratheon and Eddard Stark are dead; the crown rests with King Joffrey but Robb Stark, Stannis Baratheon and Renly Baratheon all lay claim. The comet in the sky is seen as a sign of war and incest, fratricide and murder discolour the landscape.

Winter is coming and the undead and Others are beginning to stir. Into this, from across the sea, comes the daughter of the Dragon King to add her name to the list of pretenders to the throne.

Second in what is believed to be a planned seven book series, ‘A Clash of Kings’ continues George R. R. Martin’s epic ‘A Song of Ice and Fire.’ With the disastrous and literally heart breaking conclusion to its predecessor, this book only continues the strife raging across Westeros, providing a total lack of end in sight.

The Seven Kingdoms have been plunged heavily into civil war. Five are vying for contention and naming themselves king, with none abiding the others. Stories and alliances are fracturing alike, and the reader is helpless before the onslaught of new characters, new plot lines, and revelations and cliff-hangers that leave the mind reeling.

It is hard to fully explain the brilliance of a sequel like this in a review, without giving away its content. There is far too much going on that to even hint at some of it is to take away surprises that are part of the thrill of reading Martin’s work.

The characters allotted chapters is upped to nine, promoting one supporting character from book one to fully fledged lead, and introducing an entirely new character to introduce us to the inner workings of an entirely new plot thread.

Tyrion Lannister is once again one of the highlights of the book, providing a much needed breath of humour as well as an intelligence that is not hindered by personal greed, ambition or idiocy. This in no way means that any of the other characters are a chore to read, but rather act in ways that leave the reader entirely certain they deserve to be smacked upside the head with a shovel.

The sheer bastardry of some of the characters both introduced and returning is horrific at points. The loss encountered by some of the characters rends the heart, and the entire lack of instant communication between characters – so evident in other fantasy books, allowing for absolutely no miscommunications and misunderstandings – leaves you wishing just once that the author would provide a backdoor for you to whisper “it’s ok, she’s alive” to mum, sister or brother.

One of the story’s most tragic plot threads belongs to young Arya Stark. Nothing seems to go her way, almost to the point of absurdity. You are left at the end of each chapter pining for something good to happen to her. And even when a ray of light comes through, it is a dirty ray of light, tainted with worse news to come.

Arya, along with several other characters, provide the only hindrance to reading these books. I believe that it requires an understanding of human culture in medieval times, but it seems that the responsibilities of children aged between eight and eighteen are immense indeed. Marriage is commonplace in the early teens (soon after their first period), boys are kings before they’re allowed to drink (... you know what I mean) and young girls come to taking lives far too easily.

That is not to say it is unrealistic. More, it is a hard pill to swallow, with the knowledge that all of this was commonplace a thousand years ago and less. So once again, the only hindrance to the book is only in our inability as 21st Century humans to see beyond our own lives and into the lives of others less fortunate than us.

Martin is a genius, there seems to be no doubt about that. His gift with words and storytelling combine to craft a tale that will one day rival Tolkien’s as a fantasy tale for England. Make sure you are reading ‘A Song of Ice and Fire’ today.
Joshua S Hill

I knew before I read this book that it was very highly rated by a lot of people and it was with real anticipation that I read the first pages. However, I did not enjoy it as much as I'd hoped. The characters are good and storyline itself cannot be faulted but I felt that it was overly long and more than a bit confusing in places. There are a lot of characters to deal with and at times it was overwhelming, difficult in places to keep track with who is who and what their role in the story was.

His sister’s arms dug painfully into his arms. For a moment she stared incredulous, as if he had begun to gibber in an unknown tongue. “Stannis and Renly are fighting each other?” When he nodded, Cersei began to chuckle. “Gods be good,” she gasped, “I’m starting to believe that Robert was the clever one.”
Tyrion: A Clash of Kings
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After reading authors of the calibre of Robin Hobb and Steven Erikson I would have to say that George R. R. Martin is not quite in the same league as a storyteller and that the characters are not as well formed or as deserving of the readers emotions.

He turned over the glass, and he did not know whether to laugh or cry. The gash was long and crooked, starting a hair under his left eye and ending on the right side of his jaw. Three quarters of his nose was gone, and a chunk of his lip. Someone had sown the torn flesh together with catgut, and their clumsy stitches were still in place across the seam of raw, red, half healed flesh. “Pretty,” he croaked, flinging the glass aside.
Tyrion: A Clash of Kings

The character driven chapter structure is a positive and it keeps the book well structured and at times fast paced. The book starts rather slowly but gains momentum towards the end, which always seemed rather too distant. This is a very good book but there are finer examples of the genre available. If you are looking for a tale that features more sword than sorcery and enjoy the nuances of epic battles then this will be just your cup of tea. If you have read Game of Thrones and want more of the same then this will not disappoint but unfortunately I was rather looking forward to finishing the book and not for all the right reasons. A good book but too long.
Floresiensis
 
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