The following post is part of an on-going yet randomly occurring series of book reviews from Fernando, my webmaster/taste tester/getter of things on high shelves. He doesn't read a lot of novels, thus the title of the series. However, if he continues to enjoy the books he reads, I might turn him into a reader yet!
A Clash of Kings (A Song of Ice and Fire #2)
George RR Martin
Random House (1999)
Epic Fantasy / Dragons / Magic
Well here we are again. I have managed to read through the next installment in George RR Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series: A Clash of Kings.
The title says it all. When last we left the world of the seven kingdoms, it was in complete and total chaos.
** WARNING IF YOU HAVE NOT READ A GAME OF THRONES, DON'T READ THIS REVIEW YET**
The former King Robert Baratheon is dead. Ned Stark, honored Lord of the North and Robert's trusted friend and ally, is dead. Khal Drogo, the once mighty warlord of 40,000 Dothraki warriors, is dead. Most stories have trouble losing one central character, let alone three, but A Clash of Kings uses this as the beautiful centerpiece to the fantastic bouquet that is this second installment of Martin's series.
Those three deaths serve as a catalyst that leads to civil war. I truly enjoyed every chapter in this book. Chapter by chapter this book’s plots add layer upon layer into the already deep mythology that Martin built in the first book.
After Robert's death, Joffrey, his eldest son, claims the throne. Small problem-Ned Stark knows that Joffrey is the bastard son of siblings Cersei, and Jamie Lanister, thus nullifying his claim to the throne. At the end of A Game of Thrones, Joffrey orders Ned to declare him king and then orders that Ned’s head be chopped off. Enter Rob Stark with 20,000 bannermen in tow. He marches against Joffrey to avenge his father and rescue his sisters. Before his death, Ned managed to get a raven to Stannis telling him of Joffrey's lineage. Enter Stannis Baratheon. Stannis marches with 40,000 banner men against Joffrey because as the next oldest Baratheon, he is technically the rightful heir to the throne. Enter Renly Baratheon, Roberts youngest brother, who feels he would make a better king than Stannis and gathers 100,000 bannermen and marches to claim the iron throne.
Well, Joffrey sits on the iron throne and when he isn't being a sadistic-mega-douchebag spoiled-power-tripped-brat, he calls himself king. When Stannis marches toward Kings Landing, he declares himself the true King of Westeros. Not to be out done, Renly with a new family banner and a new wife, also declares himself king. During one of the many nights on Rob Stark's march to Kings Landing, Rob’s bannermen declare him King of the North. Rob sends his family’s ward Theon Greyjoy to see if Theon's father will join the Starks’ cause. Instead Balon Greyjoy decides to declare himself lord of dance King of the Iron Islands. And those are the five kings who are clashing in a civil war for the lands in Westeros.
Meanwhile on the other side of the world, Daenerys Targaryen continues on her quest, baby dragons in tow, to locate some kind of host to help her reclaim her birthright as Queen of the Seven Kingdoms.
All of that is the set up! George gives us plot points, not through direct chapters but through the supporting cast. None of the "kings" have any chapters. Dany is the only major claim holder who has chapters in her point of view.
This leads to the true richness of Martin's work. If the story was told from each of the king's point of view, it would have been a marathon of tactics, strategy and testosterone. Instead, the reader is treated to the guile and sarcasm of Tyrion Lannister. We get the wisdom, worry and strength of Catelyn Stark. We get the ever evolving feisty cleverness of Arya Stark. We get the post-traumatic and ultra-dramatic world of Sansa Stark. The reader gets a glimpse of the wilderness that lies north of the wall from Jon Snow’s chapters. We get the paradox that is Theon's stupidity ego.
That is the true richness of these books. The plot moves and expands chapter by chapter, not by plot point by plot point, but character by character. Each personality adds depth and intrigue. Martin fuses his rich characters with an ever expanding world filled with magic, dragons, direwolves and the omnipresent whitewalkers.
This book was a treasure to read. The odds are if you slightly enjoyed the first book, you will enjoy this one much, much more.