Review: A Clash of Kings (A Song of Ice and Fire #2) by George R.R. Martin

War is coming.

All over the Seven Kingdoms, chaos  reigns! With King Robert dead and the Lannister family on the brink of scandal…the fate of the Iron Throne is in question–four different self professed ‘kings’ proclaim their imperial rule over the Seven Kingdoms threatening to divide the realm. Brother against brother–house against house–alliances made and broken–war changes everything.

A Clash of Kings is the second in George R.R. Martin’s epic fantasy series A Song of Ice and Fire. I think this is the longest and most complex books I have ever read (1,009 pages). Though it is long, the story itself is rich and the prose lyrical–this series definitely reads like a hero’s ballad adventure.

As I mentioned in my review of the first book Game of Thrones, the series itself is intricate and tedious. Once you get into the story as I did with this book and figure out how to read high fantasy such as this…the reader can fully appreciate the story, characters, prose, and plot.  This series is a beautifully written adventure and I can wholeheartedly say I liked this book much better than the first because I could appreciate the story more once I knew how to navigate the genre.

I found this book much easier to read than the first one. In the first book I found my self really confused by the different ‘houses’, genealogy, and the overall layout of Westeros (creatures, myths etc)….but now that I have the basics down I could sit back and appreciate the story and characters.

The second book also devoted the last 25+ pages of the book to the house genealogies, colors, sigil, and mottos….and this book also provided a map of King’s Landing and a map of Westeros–though I wished there was a map for the the Dothraki–and yes I did reference both the maps and genealogies often. I also highly recommend browsing the Ice and Fire Wiki page….it was extremely useful to have a guide!

One thing that I could especially appreciate in this book more so than the previous was the character POV’s. Most everyone can agree–the best characters are ‘heroes’–and really all the character POVs we read are heroes in their own ways (yes even Theon Greyjoy). The heroes are flawed in their own ways but in other ways they are infallible: they are sympathetic, trying to do the right thing by their standards, and have some characteristic the reader can admire (kindness, empathy, bravery, and loyalty etc). They have their own struggles and failures which makes them relatable.

My personal fav characters are Tyrion, Arya, Bran, and Jon Snow (though I think the series is ultimately about Daenerys Targaryen). The only character I really struggled with was Sansa, her POV reads like the victim and I found her perspective to be the most uncomfortable.  However as the book ends, I finally started to appreciate her as a ‘hero’ but I still don’t enjoy her perspective as much as the others.

Martin’s books are ‘game changers’ for me….most of the time, the hero never dies–Martin taught me that just because we have one narrative perspective in the epic doesn’t mean they can’t be killed off. I found this approach grossly entertaining! This is what made the books so unpredictable and riveting for me!–you never really know what the characters are going to do–none of their fates are certain.

Robb Stark is now king in the north and making war against the Lannisters heading south toward King’s Landing. The widow Catelyn Stark and Robb hold Jamie Lannister (the Kingslayer) hostage and hope to barter a trade for the two Stark sisters–Sansa and Arya. Sansa is still to wed King Joffrey but Arya has escaped the Lannisters unbeknownst to the Starks.

Tyrion is now the Hand of the King and doing damage control in the realm that the tyrants–King Joffrey and his mother Cersei–have created. The two Baratheon brothers–Renley and Stannis–are both making claims to their dead brother’s throne but instead of uniting together as one front, they are battling each other.

Knowing that he is no match against the realms golden boy, Renley,–Lord Stannis stacks the deck in his favor by recruiting a witch. Using shadows, magic, and spells–Stannis gains the advantage over Renley.

No longer a captive/ward to the Starks, Theon Greyjoy has returns to his homeland–the Iron Islands–and means to be his father’s heir. Theon fancies himself the Prince of the Iron Islands…meaning there is yet another contender for the Iron Throne….but with his father the ‘king’ of the Iron Islands, Theon is a prince without a realm but he intends to conquer one–in north.

The mother of dragons, Daenerys Targaryen, is still in exile across the Narrow Sea on the Dothraki Island. When she hears the Iron Throne is in question she decides to throw her name into the battle since she is the last–and rightful heiress–to House Targaryen, not to mention she has the only living dragons in all of Westeros….let’s be honest she’s going to tear shit up….she’s woken the dragon…everyone better RUN!

While war rages on, Bran the cripple of Winterfell is trying to come to terms with his new role as “Lord of Winterfell”–there must always be a Stark at Winterfell and with Robb away…Bran is it! And to complicate matters further, Bran is haunted by dreams and night terrors of crows, wolves, green dreams, and falling….always falling. Some say that Bran has become a warg (a skinchanger) who can ‘see’ the future through his dreams.

Jon Snow is out ranging beyond the Wall with the Brothers of the Nights Watch…the Lord Commander knows something isn’t right beyond the Wall and he means to find out what. That they discover is worse than imagined….mammoths, white walkers, wildlings, giants, wargs–evil is mounting an army to march through the Wall. Jon and the Brothers must find out what their intentions are and how to stop them before they breech the Wall and destroy the kingdoms.

War is here.

While I liked many things about this book, the one thing I did not favor was that by the time it was over….I was REALLY ready for someone to seat the Iron Throne already! That and there were too many ongoing alliances….it was hard to tell who was friend and who was foe….many of the characters were changing sides over and over again which I found confusing on occasion.

Though the action was fast paced and a lot happened, there were parts that were sluggish. I have also found that the second book in a series is usually the ‘necessary’ book that bridges the journey and paves the way to the final show down….which means I expect Book III to be the ‘end all battle’ for the Iron Throne.

I am also really really excited to follow the Bran story line and all they mythical evils beyond the Wall!! I am REALLY anxious to see what happens to Jon Snow and all the other Brothers of the Nights Watch…I can’t wait to get more into the magic/supernatural side of this series!!

This series is an all encompassing read for me….and having read the Book I, I had the foundations for this second book and could enjoy it better (especially since I knew what was going on!!!), I don’t know that this is a series I could sit down and read the books all back-to-back….which is good because then I can sit and enjoy them each individually :) .

Even if you aren’t into high fantasy or epic fantasy, I think this is one series you cannot pass up….though the length and complex story can be intimidating, it is completely worth it! A truly beautiful tale worthy of every page!

Winter and war are here.

Challenge/Book Summary:

Book: A Storm of Swords (A Song of Ice and Fire Book II) by George R.R. Martin

  • Mass Market Paperback, 1009 pages
  • Published 2011 by Bantam (first published 1998)
  • ISBN 0553579908 (ISBN13: 9780553579901)

This book counts toward: Game of Thrones (Song of Ice and Fire) Reading Challenge 2012 

Recommendation: 5 out of 5 (uniquely different epic fantasy, worth every page!)

Genre: Fantasy, epic, epic fantasy, Medieval fantasy, high fantasy

Memorable lines/quotes:

Power resides where men believe it resides no more no less–power is a mummers trick…a shadow on the wall yet shadows can kill (132)

There are ghosts everywhere. We carry them with us wherever we go (196)

The brightest flames cast the darkest shadows (622)

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6 Comments

  1. Jerika

     /  March 25, 2012

    I liked this book. There are a variety of characters that everyone can root for or hate. I seem to have developed a certain dislike for Dany beginning with this book though. To me, she has become arrogant. And my hatred for Sansa has withered down a bit but I still wish she would grow a tougher spine and learn to lie a little bit better. Other than that, the character POVs have been a joy.

    Other than the usual suspects, I also enjoyed Davos Seaworth and Stannis Baratheon (just make Melisandre go away). Jaqen H’ghar was an interesting one as well. I really enjoyed Tyrion Lannister in this book and the little games he played with Varys, Littlefinger, Pycelle, and Cersei.

    I thought Robb was making his way south to put an end to the siege of Riverrun and to defend the riverlands from the Lannister army. I do not think his goal was King’s Landing.

    I like the mythical aspects in Bran and Jon’s storyline and would like to see how far they take their warging abilities.

    All in all, it was a very enjoyable read.

    Reply
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