A Clash of Kings by George R R Martin
Please note A Clash of Kings is the second novel in an on-going series and may therefore contain potential spoilers for anyone who has not read book one of the series, A Game of Thrones. Proceed at your own peril.
The price of glory
From the ancient citadel of Dragonstone to the forbidding shores of Winterfell, chaos reigns as pretenders to the Iron Throne of the Seven Kingdoms prepare to stake their claims. As a prophecy of doom cuts across the sky – a comet the colour of blood and flame – five factions struggle for control of a divided land. Against a backdrop of incest and fratricide, alchemy and murder, the price of glory is measured in blood.
Almost a year ago I finally got around to reading the first novel in the saga A Song of Ice and Fire. I had actively avoided A Game of Thrones for a long time because, if I’m being honest, I was a little intimidated by the hugeness of it all. By the time I started reading there were already four novels available and the fifth was on the horizon. After completing, and enjoying, the first book I had significantly revised my opinion but decided to eek out the rest of the series so my reviews tie in with each new season of the HBO adaptation.
A Clash of Kings picks up from exactly the point where its predecessor left off. Westeros has been plunged into a bloody civil war as various factions attempt to stake their claim for the Iron Throne. The deaths of Robert Baratheon and Ned Stark have left a power vacuum and everyone is scrabbling around trying to fill it.
There are some truly epic moments as this massive, labyrinthine plot continues to unfold. The events at King’s Landing and Winterfell alone are guaranteed to capture a reader’s imagination. The fall out from both are bound to have wide ranging repercussions in the rest of the series. Meanwhile beyond The Wall the men of the Night’s Watch move closer to discovering the wildlings plans and far to the East, Daenerys Targaryen attempts to cement her position as the Mother of Dragons and leader of the Dothraki horde.
I also particularly enjoy the little details that Martin scatters throughout the story. A personal favourite is all the differing interpretations of the comet that has appeared in the night sky. Each group of characters uses its appearance to justify their own worldview. Is the comet a harbinger of doom, the herald of a new God or a sign of victory?
And what of all the huge cast of characters? You’ll be spoiled for choice, there are so many to choose from. Tyrion Lannister impresses as he deftly uses his only weapon, his intellect, to out think the rest of his family on an almost daily basis. Ser Davos Seaworth faces the difficult choice of doing what is right against remaining loyal to his king. Sansa and Ayra Stark both, individually, face the full horror of war. As an aside, it’s a genuine strength of the writing that I did start feeling sorry for Sansa. No mean feat when I actively disliked her character in the first novel. Even less prominent characters like The Hound, Sandor Clegane, get some excellent scenes.
Why is it worthwhile committing to reading such a huge series then? The bottom line is that A Song of Ice and Fire is all about Martin’s writing. He is a master storyteller and he breathes life into each and every scene he crafts. Swapping between multiple different story threads and viewpoints keeps things interesting once you get used to it.
It’s rare for me to get so caught up in the lives of the characters I read about, but there are so many gems just waiting to be discovered. With all the political machinations and personal vendettas you might think that a book this large, seven hundred plus pages, would feel a trifle bloated but the narrative doesn’t suffer and maintains an even pace.
I’m happily admit that Mr. Martin has his hooks firmly in me now. I’m committed to this series for the long haul. Suffice to say I’m willing to put money on the fact that at some point in 2013 I’ll be reviewing A Storm of Swords (book three).
A Clash of Kings is available now and is published by Harper Voyager. Unless I am very much mistaken, a television adaption of said tome is due to begin airing in the US on 1st April and on 2nd in the UK. I’ll be watching and I’m sure my enjoyment will be enhanced having read the mighty source text first.