Tuesday, September 13, 2011

A Clash of Kings
George R. R. Martin

Before we even get into this review, I must warn you that there are some spoilers in this review for events in both A Clash of Kings and A Game of Thrones. My A Game of Thrones review was pretty non-spoilery, but in order to talk about the events in A Clash of Kings, I may give things away that happen in that first book.
So, you know. Fair warning.

A comet the color of blood and flame cuts across the sky. Two great leaders - Lord Eddard Stark and Robert Baratheon - who hold sway over an age of enforced peace are dead, victims of royal treachery. Now, 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 Kingdoms, 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.

This book is called A Clash of Kings for good reason. Kings are clashing from the first page to the last. Both Renly and Stannis Baratheon have declared their kingship and have raised opposing armies. Robb Stark have been properly asserting himself with the Tullys of Riverrun. The Greyjoys in the Iron Islands have declared a kingdom and are intent on expanding that kingdom into the Westeros mainland.
King’s Landing has its own special brand of kind clashing with Joffrey on the throne, Cersei as the Queen Regent, and Tyrion as the King’s Hand are all vying for control of the kingdom while trying to make it appear as if they aren’t betraying each other.
The Night’s Watch is intent on clashing with Mance Raynor, the proclaimed King beyond the wall, and his wildling army.
And Daenerys clashes with the ruling classes and organizations in Qarth in her quest to gather enough forces to take back Westeros.
In fact, I think the only major character from A Game of Thrones that doesn’t directly clash with any kings is Arya, who starts the book travelling north to Winterfell as the orphan boy Arry and ends up heading in any direction that may result in safety as whatever identity is necessary.

I expected this book to be brilliant. How could I not after A Game of Thrones? But the moments of fun and victory are fewer in this book because of the prevalence of war. This book becomes more about the politics and how politics shape characters, whereas A Game of Thrones seemed to be more about how individuals shape politics. Usually, politics shaping characters isn’t quite my flavor of fiction, but this really grabbed my brain because I was already entrenched in this rich, fictional world with all these fantastic characters.

Next time on A Song of Ice and Fire… A Storm of Swords!

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