I do love discovering a new series, especially one that has me completely hooked and needing to read the next book. The A Song of Ice and Fire series is the first in a number of years to have captured my attention in this way. (NOTE: If you have not finished the first book in the series, A Game of Thrones, you will find some spoilers in this post).
So we left the characters of A Game of Thrones in a variety of different states. The Starks of Winterfell are dispersed across the Seven Kingdoms, in shock and mourning the death of Eddard Stark. In King’s Landing, Eddard’s daughters are seperated; Ayra hiding from King Joffrey’s men and Sansa alone amongst the Lannisters. In the north, Bran and Rickon remain in Winterfell with their trusted Maester Luwin and their direwolves. Further north still, Jon Snow is growing into a man, about to leave the safety of the Wall and plunge into the unknown, icy lands beyond. And an exhausted and emotionally drained Cateyln Stark watches as her eldest son is hailed King of the North by his followers.
The most intriguing cliffhanger is kept until the very end, with Daenerys Targaryen emerging naked from the ash of her dead husband’s pyre, carrying three dragons. Well if that isn’t enough to make you run out and buy the second book in the series, I don’t know what is!
A Clash of Kings introduces new characters and different areas of the Seven Kingdoms. More depth is given to the characters we have already got to know; we explore the mind of Theon Greyjoy who is given a larger role, a different side of Sansa is shown and Bran becomes a much more complex character.
There are now four main Kings fighting for the throne; the young and violent Joffrey Baratheon, his two uncles, Stannis with a mysterious and sinister woman in red to hold his banner, and the handsome and charismatic Renly. Finally, from Winterfell Robb Stark has stepped up to demand the north as his kingdom.
Away on the Iron Islands, the Greyjoys have their own ideas and are planning their own attack. Daenarys is no closer to the throne but her courage is growing, along with her dragons. Meanwhile, things are not looking good in King’s Landing, with the public going hungry and constant plotting and backstabbing between the more influential characters in the castle. Among them, we have Tyrion, continuing to shine through the pages with his wit and intelligence. The reader also learns that the dwarf has a soft spot, which only makes him more likeable.
While battles are being fought in every storyline and the trust of the people is constantly wavering and changing, a more important war is brewing beyond the Wall. Finally the reader is allowed to enter the icy lands with Jon Snow and his brothers. And what a fascinating, terrifying place it is! This plot thread could have its own book. The characters are interesting, the tension is palpable and the reader is forever left wanting to know more.
As I said in my review of A Game of Thrones, I don’t normally read books in the fantasy genre, but I have enjoyed the way this series introduces the idea of magic gently. However, I was correct in guessing that the theme of magic would play a greater role as the series went along. A Clash of Kings definitely has more magic, but yet again it is realistic and makes sense within the world that has been created by George R. R. Martin. When there are dragons in the world once again, magic becomes stronger. The pyromancers notice as they make wildfire and the street ‘magicians’ are now able to perform tricks they had never dreamt of. A particularly subtle involvement of magic is brought to us by Bran and his strange dreams, which slowly become more powerful and real as the book goes on.
The theme of magic in some storylines did remind me with a jolt that I was indeed reading a fantasy book. There is a whole chapter where Daenerys is surrounded by a dreamlike, eerie and magical world, and I did not enjoy this at all. It seemed out of keeping with the rest of the book and, as far as I could tell, not necessary for the progression of the plot.
Although I am enjoying the A Song of Ice and Fire books, I did have a few problems with the second volume in this series. It is difficult to keep up the pace after such a wonderful opening book, and parts of A Clash of Kings certainly did drag. George R. R. Martin wastes an unnecessary amount of words and time on detail. In A Game of Thrones, the detail was fantastic, because a whole new world was being created and it needed to be realistic and believable. But there is only so much we need to know about what clothes characters are wearing or what food they are eating. Another thing that I began to notice, is the irritating repetition of certain words and phrases, such as “if truth be told”, sometimes as often as four or five times on one page. I am glad that I persevered through these slightly annoying moments because the good bits are really worth it!
If there is one place where George R. R. Martin uses his skills of description well, it is on the battlefield. I don’t usually appreciate a big battle scene, but the fighting in A Clash of Kings is always told from an interesting angle and in a way that is never boring. Although often lengthy, these scenes are from the points of view of characters such as dwarves, young girls or sailors, which brings a whole new light to a battle which in other circumstances, I might have found very uninteresting.
I’m not sure what to expect from A Storm of Swords, but I do know that I can’t wait to find out!
If you are ready for A Clash of Kings and don’t already have it, click on the picture below!