A Clash of Kings: Review


'A Clash of Kings' cover

Title & Author: A Clash of Kings (A Song of Ice and Fire #2) by George R. R. Martin
Genre: Fantasy, Action & Adventure, Fiction
Synopsis (from Goodreads):

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 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.

A Game of Thrones, the first book in the ‘A Song of Ice and Fire’ series, was really slow throughout the first half of the book, so much that I set it down and forgot it for nearly a year. Thankfully the second half was much better (in my opinion). Plus I’m now starved for GOT since the most recent season ended so…here we are!

Two things to note before I get started:

  1. I’m not going to get into all the history of Westeros for this review, and who’s related to who, and when this house defeated the other. That’s for GRRM to write and it would take me way too long to attempt a summary.
  2. Spoiler alert: there are spoilers in this review if you haven’t read the book or have only watched season on of the ‘Game of Thrones’ television series. But they aren’t massive spoilers and the book has been out for 15 years. Anyway, proceed with caution if you care.

A Clash of Kings picks up right where AGoT left off. The Starks are all over the Westeros map, scattered to the winds: Bran and Rickon are still in Winterfell; Sansa is pretty much a hostage in King’s Landing, though still betrothed to Joffrey; Robb is marching his bannermen south; Lady Catelyn is traveling to various locales in an effort to help Robb; Jon Snow is at the Wall; and nobody [except the reader] knows what has become of Arya. Troubled times, indeed!

One of the repeated themes in ACoK is betrayal. Brothers–and men who are practically brothers–betray each other to gain glory and riches for themselves. It’s amazing to me what people will do to elevate their own status…but I suppose it shouldn’t be. All that said, there are some loyal-to-a-fault characters in this series just to even things out. Sadly it seems like the characters with higher moral fiber don’t fare as well.

The book centers around King Joffrey’s rise to power and the subsequent effects in King’s Landing. He treats his subjects appallingly; as King’s Landing becomes cut off and food becomes scarce, the people start to rebel a bit. Those cutting off the throne are primarily Joffrey’s uncles, Stannis and Renly Baratheon, who both feel that they should be king after the death of their brother (and Joffrey’s father) Robert. They [correctly] believe that Joffrey isn’t Robert’s true son. Rather than get dispose of the boy king together, they fight amongst themselves with disastrous results.

In addition to the Baratheons, Robb Stark proclaims himself “King in the North”. The men who swore fealty to his father, Lord Eddard, take up the cause and follow him to defeat the Lannisters. [Despite the fact that Joffrey is a Baratheon by name, the Lannisters–his mother’s side–fight for him while the Baratheons are at war amongst themselves.]

So yeah, there are four people proclaiming themselves King of Westeros (or at least part of it). And then there’s Daenerys Targaryen–daughter of the last of the Targaryen kings–angling to get the throne back from Essos, an entirely separate continent. She’s attempting to build an army and purchase ships so that she can sail back to Westeros and reclaim her birthright.

Take a number!

There are so many characters and locations in this series of books that I can’t imagine how Martin can keep it all straight. He must use some really great project management software or have a mind like a steel trap! I can’t tell you how many times I thought, “Who is this again?” or “Why are they important?” or “Am I supposed to know who this is?” Some characters, such as Beric Dondarrion, I can’t even recall after I look them up online. Shrug.

Martin’s writing is lovely–you can see the scenes that he describes vividly. There’s a lot of what I assume is foreshadowing as well, I just don’t know enough to piece it all together on my own. Also, there was so much discussion of food in this book that it kept making me hungry. Well, until they would talk about eating something weird…then the hunger abated.

Ultimately the wheels that had been put in motion during AGoT have gained speed in ACoK. The reader is merely watching, helpless to do anything to stop the train from reaching its eventual destination though you can feel it picking up steam.

Verdict: I thoroughly enjoyed this book! I’m trying to pace myself because who knows when The Winds of Winter [the sixth book in the series that Martin has been writing since at least 2011] will actually be released, but I’m excited to read more in this series. I’m sure that I’ll finish the third book, A Storm of Swords, before the year ends.

Recommend for: fans of the Game of Thrones television series who want to go a bit more in depth on the stories of Westeros. Also anyone who enjoys epic-style fantasy stories and doesn’t mind waiting forever between books.

Price: currently about $5.22 (Kindle) to $9.94 (paperback) on Amazon.

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