A Clash Of Kings by George R.R. Martin
Genre: High Fantasy
Series: A Song of Ice and Fire #2
Publication Date: November 1998
This review is for book 2 in a series. It's spoiler-free, but you might want to check out my review of A Game of Thrones.
OMG, guys, I finished this beast. It took me a whole month, and I’m way behind on my Goodreads challenge, but it’s done. When I fail all my reading challenges at the end of the year, remind me that it’s George R.R. Martin’s fault. This series is not ideal for slow readers.
Do you know what I did as soon as I finished A Clash of Kings? I went online and ordered the sequel, A Storm of Swords. That book is 1177 pages. I’m addicted guys. Send help. My poor reading challenges.
Anyway, I like this novel more than the first in the series because most of the setup happens in the first book. When this novel starts, we already know the major players and can get right to the chaos and murder. After the death of King Robert Baratheon, six people declare themselves ruler of the realm. They’re amassing armies and weapons by any means necessary. Only one person can rule Westeros, so this will be a fight to the death.
“Crowns do queer things to the heads beneath them.” – A Clash of Kings“Power resides only where men believe it resides . . . A shadow on the wall, yet shadows can kill. And oftentimes a very small man can cast a very large shadow.” - A Clash of Kings
George R.R. Martin is a master at using point-of-view. I don’t know how he juggles all of these different storylines. There are a lot of characters, and they’re all well-developed, and they’re all living their own lives. Martin must be the most organized author ever. I wonder what his notes look like. HOW DOES HE KEEP ALL OF THIS STRAIGHT IN HIS MIND? This series takes place on a massive scale—there’s an entire world at risk—but it’s still easy for readers to connect with individual characters. Each character is a unique person. Some of them are easy to love, and others are easy to hate.
Like I said, this book is long, but I could happily sit down and read big chunks of it. That’s because of how the author uses point-of-view. When one storyline starts slowing down, the author switches to a different character and pulls the reader back in. I was rarely bored while reading this 1000-page brick. The chapters are fairly short, so if you don’t like one point-of-view, you don’t have to wait long for it to change.
As the story progressed, I found myself looking forward to the chapters that involve my favorite characters. The anticipation helped me plow through some of the more “meh” sections. A book this big is bound to have slow parts, but those didn’t bother me because I knew I’d see my favorite people again soon.
The best POVs (in my opinion) are Tyrion and Arya. Tyrion is a genius and the ultimate underdog. I want him to be king. Arya’s chapters are surprisingly funny. She’s stuck in a depressing situation, but she has the fierceness and discipline to get herself out of it.
Gendry: “If you need help, bark like a dog.”Arya: “That's stupid. If I need help, I'll shout ‘help.’” – A Clash of Kings
I also appreciate the addition of Theon’s point-of-view. In the first book, you know he’s a sketchy dude, but you don’t fully understand his motivation until you see the world through his eyes. I don’t like him, but he keeps things interesting with his impulsive incompetence.
There are a lot of themes in this book, but the one that stands out to me is the danger of getting swept up in the quest for power. Some of these characters will sacrifice anything to become ruler of Westeros. I’ve seen the TV adaptation of the series, so I know that their behavior will continue to get more extreme, but this book is where the power-hunger really starts rolling. It kind of freaked me out. Probably because there are too many power-hungry people in real life.
“When you tear out a man's tongue, you are not proving him a liar, you're only telling the world that you fear what he might say.” – A Clash of Kings
I’ve said before that I don’t love George R.R. Martin’s writing style. He has a few quirks that get on my nerves. First, the names. There are so many names! Even minor, unimportant characters who are going to be dead within the next few pages have names. How am I supposed to remember all of these people? To make it worse, Martin likes to introduce a bunch of characters at once, so there are these paragraphs that are just names and descriptions of what people are wearing. I skimmed them.
I was also slightly annoyed that the author likes to focus on the ugliness of certain characters. Maybe he does it because there are so many characters, and we need ways to remember who’s who? I don’t know. I especially noticed it with Tyrion and Brienne. The author constantly reminds us how physically unappealing they are. I guess it’s possible that I only noticed the ugly fixation because I watch the TV show, and the actors who play those characters aren’t ugly? I’m ashamed to admit that I pictured the characters as the TV actors while reading the novel. I know I shouldn’t do that. Still, I didn’t like that the ugly characters get tons of repetitive description, but we barely get any description of the pretty people.
Despite my irritations, I like this book more than the first one. I’m hoping that the series gets even stronger as it goes. Bring on the next book!
“A woman's life is nine parts mess to one part magic, you'll learn that soon enough . . . and the parts that look like magic turn out to be the messiest of all.” – A Clash of Kings
TL;DR: Really long, but better than the first book. I will happily continue with the series.