(Click the book cover to see on Goodreads)
Genre: Adult, Fantasy
Title: A Clash of Kings
Author: George R. R. Martin
Length: 1009 pages
Publication: November 16, 1998 by Voyager Books
A comet the colour 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 at 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 Clash of Kings’ is written in third person limited with multiple point of views, in the same style as ‘A Game of Thrones’. However, a few new characters are added from book one. Even with these new points of view, however, a lot of action and plotting is still left in the dark because the added characters interact with existing point of views. Even so, they offer opposing thoughts to the events that transpire throughout the book.
Pacing: Perhaps it was the multiple view points, the length of the novel, or the constant waiting the characters did, but this book took quite some time to take off. There’s a lot of intrigue and plotting going on amongst the characters, which naturally takes time. Characters are constantly traveling across the large continent and by sea, which takes time. The book didn’t seem to really pick up until about 75% of the way through when the characters were finally forced to interact with each other.
World: The world is exquisite. Each and every detail is explained explicitly, but also vibrantly. Thus, it’s easy to envision, and disappear into, the world of Westeros and the outlying lands. Also, every aspect of life is described fully. There are multiple religions, multiple ranks and professions, multiple lifestyles, multiple traditions. It’s not an enclosed world. People are influenced and changed by the other varying lives and people around them, which deepens the reality of the world.
Writing: The writing style is concise. Crisp, clear, and eloquent. Yet, sometimes more than enough, such as in the cases of listing off multiple lesser lords whom will never play a big enough role to remember, or immaculately describing the meal courses or clothing items. Such grandiose descriptions, while enhancing the world-building, become tedious to read.
Non-Spoilered Plot: A Clash of Kings is the aftermath of A Game of Thrones in that a king is dead, rumors are spread, and chaos bloom throughout the realm of the seven kingdoms. With such unrest, true characters are revealed. Plots are conjured, manipulated, and foiled, and while some people are fighting for a throne, others are just trying to stay alive.
Character(s): The book follows Arya Stark, Bran Stark, Catelyn Stark, Sansa Stark, Tyrion Lannister, Theon Greyjoy, Daenerys Targaryen, Jon Snow, Davos Seaworth, and Maester Cressen. With this broad array of points of view, the war and battles are visible from multiple different angles. Unfortunately, that revealed the idiocy and stubbornness of most of the characters vying for the throne.
Even so, the characters were all very authentic. They may have been annoying and done stupid, unimaginable things to reach their goals, but none of them were out of character. Each one simply had a different standard of what was acceptable means to reach their goal. Thus, the lines between good and evil were regularly blurred, adding to the realism of the characters.
Plot: The main plot is exactly as the title says: multiple people, whom think themselves the rightful king, clash together in laborious and brutal battle as they try to claim the throne of the seven kingdoms. In so doing, the ‘kings’ adopt multiple tactics to win themselves a throne. The varying strategic styles are exciting. Yet, most of the book is just a build up to the main battle or side-notes to the main plot.
Everything happening to Arya and Sansa Stark is just filler content. Their actions and the events effecting to them don’t effect the plot in any way, except when Arya helps the Northern men take over Harrenhal in Tywin Lannister’s absence. Thus, the castle belongs to the King of the North, Robb.
Theon Greyjoy’s experiences are a compound of his arrogance, rash behavior, and need for revenge. He thinks he’s the Gods gift the world, though he doesn’t believe in the Gods(any of them). He hits on his sister before he realizes its her. He demands he be made heir just because he’s his father’s only son. To prove himself he foolishly captures Winterfell, believing he can hold it. Only to lose it to Northern men whom he believes are allies, proving he’s an idiot.
Dany runs around on a different continent the entire book, trying to keep her tiny menagerie of people alive. Yet, she makes no progress whatsoever in figuring out a way back to Westeros. Even when she possibly finds help from a pair of men in the market, she can’t take back Westeros until her dragons are big enough to fight for her.
Davos Seaworth gives insight into Stannis Baratheon’s inner legion. The stubborn elder Baratheon demands the throne as his birth right since Joffrey isn’t Robert’s legitimate child, and yet the throne wasn’t even Baratheon’s to begin with. (It was Targaryen before the Baratheon’s murdered them and took it for themselves.) In other words, Stannis’ claim to throne is as worthless as everyone else’s in Westeros.
So is Renly’s claim. Yet, he at least knows how to please his people and have them rally behind him for the love they bear him… until a magical shadow kills him, which may be the work of the red woman, Lady Melisandre, who sways Stannis to the Lord of Light, a God from across the sea.
Meanwhile Jon Snow trudges around in the icy wilderness of the world beyond the wall. Here, he and the Night’s Watch try to protect the realm below the wall from the deserter Mance Rayder and his horde of wildlings. Yet, very little progress is made in this endeavor until Jon yields to the wildlings. After all, what better way to find out someone’s plan than to join them?
The only person who seems to be making progress throughout the book is Tyrion Lannister. He gains allies in the mountain men. With them at his side he invokes his demands as Hand of the King to keep the city from falling apart under the psychotic whims of his nephew, Joffrey, and the estranged schemes of his sister, Cersei. It’s his plotting and scheming that keeps the city in the hold of the Lannister’s until his father, Tywin, arrives and swoops Stannis Baratheon out of the running.
All in all, there’s a lack of movement through most of the book, and many of the sub-plots were mildly irrelevant to the main plot. That being said, I leave A Clash of Kings with a rating of three stars.
Have you read ‘A Clash of Kings’ by George R. R. Martin? What did you think of it?