Sunday, 1 June 2014

'A Clash of Kings' by George R.R. Martin (1998)

Synopsis: A Clash of Kings is the second book in George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire. The Seven Kingdoms of Westeros are now in the midst of a civil war. The cruel and sadistic King Joffrey sits on the Iron Throne following the death of his father King Robert Baratheon. However, rumours are beginning to spread that Joffrey isn't really a Baratheon at all and is really the child of an incestuous relationship between his mother Cersei and her twin brother Jaime Lannister. As a result, both of the late King Robert's brothers are determined to take the Iron Throne from Joffrey. Stannis Baratheon has enlisted the aid of a mysterious priestess called Melisandre who believes Stannis is the reincarnation of Azor Ahai - a legendary figure in her faith. This is much to the alarm of Stannis's loyal knight Ser Davos Seaworth. Renly Baratheon has allied with the powerful House Tyrell and has gathered a large army. Robb Stark is fighting the Lannisters in order to rescue his sisters Sansa and Arya, avenge the execution of his father, and claim independence for the north. Sansa Stark is being held captive by the Lannisters and is being subject to the cruelty of King Joffrey, whilst Arya Stark is now disguised as a boy and is travelling back to Winterfell. Tyrion Lannister is now serving as the Hand of the King and is working to improve the defences of the city and keep his sister and nephew in check. Balon Greyjoy has declared himself King of the Iron Islands and is plotting to conquer the north in Robb Stark's absence. The Night's Watch is mounting a reconnaissance mission over the Wall in order to investigate the Wildlings and their "King-beyond-the-Wall" Mance Rayder. Meanwhile, Daenerys Targaryren is travelling across the deserts of Essos with a small group of Dothraki followers, her loyal advisor Ser Jorah Mormont, and her three baby dragons. She is working to amass an army that she can bring across the Narrow Sea and use to reclaim the Throne of her ancestors.

After becoming a big fan of the HBO show Game of Thrones it was only going to be a matter of time before I decided to read the book series that the show is based on - A Song of Ice and Fire. I read the first book in the series a couple of months ago and I loved it. Even though I already knew almost everything that was going to happen I still found it to be an incredibly absorbing and suspenseful read. I loved that I got to know the characters and the world that they lived in better. I loved George R.R. Martin's truly excellent writing. I have to admit that I didn't enjoy A Clash of Kings as much as its predecessor. A Game of Thrones has faster pacing and a tighter narrative than this book. I also found myself struggling with the new POV characters. Theon Greyjoy does so many terrible things in this book and I find him so unlikeable; although at least his story is more interesting than Davos Seaworth's. Davos has never been one of my favourite characters in the TV show but his POV chapters in this book bored me to tears. I'm aware that Davos gets POV chapters in the following ASOIAF books so I'm really hoping that either he gets fewer chapters or that his story becomes far more interesting! I really wish that Daenerys Targaryren could have gotten more page-time in this book too. Dany is one of my favourite characters and, given the finale of the first book, I was quite surprised by how little page-time she got in this.

This review is probably sounding quite negative now so I should stress that I still found this book highly entertaining for the most part. I loved Daenerys, Jon, Tyrion, Sansa, Bran and Arya's storylines. I know I've complained about Dany's lack of page-time in this book but I still really enjoyed the chapters that she did have. And the House of the Undying chapter? Uh-may-zing! It's so much cooler than how it's depicted in the TV show (although I do love the part where Dany's dragons breathe fire right through her body). It has so many enticing prophecies and visions! The prophecy about the three-headed dragon, the Prince that was Promised, the song of ice and fire, the glimpse of Rhaegar Targaryren, etc. I can understand why the writers might have wanted to get rid of the Red Wedding hint but I'm sure that if I'd have watched that episode after reading this book then I'd been really upset by the lack of supernatural awesome-ness! :D Jon Snow's warging into Ghost and his glimpse of Mance Rayder's army was another one of my favourite scenes in this book. I was really pleased that Jojen and Meera Reed were introduced in ACoK earlier than they were in the TV show because I really like their characters and they made Bran's scenes much more interesting. Arya's scenes are full of action and adventure. I missed her scenes with Tywin Lannister (which were added for the TV show) but her scenes with Ja'qen Hgar are still there. Sansa Stark becomes much more likeable in this book. She was quite naive and selfish in AGoT but she develops hugely in this book and really starts to come into her own. You get to see how sweet and kind she is. Jaime Lannister only gets one scene in this book but it's terrific. His confrontation with Catelyn Stark is very powerful.

Then there's Tyrion Lannister. If Ned Stark is the main character of A Game of Thrones then I think Tyrion is the main character of A Clash of Kings. Tyrion struggles with his new position as the Hand but he ends up doing a superb job. Ned was a good, kind and honourable man but Tyrion is obviously far more suited to the position of the King's Hand than he ever was. Tyrion is much more crafty than Ned and is far more deft in dealing with political and court situations. He manages to outwit his sister, slap Joffrey, make Sansa's life at court easier, rally troops against Stannis at the Battle of Blackwater Bay, and still be witty and optimistic. It's such a shame that Tywin Lannister takes the position away from him at the end. Who knows what Tyrion would have then gone on to do?!

I'm really looking forward to the next book in the ASOIAF series. Everyone seems to think that A Storm of Swords is the best book in the series. I did really enjoy this book and I think the next book will be even better :)

Rating: 4/5


Mizzie-Me said...

This really is kind of an "in-between" phase that you have to get over with just to get to the awesomeness of A Storm of Swords. Just you wait ;)

Hannah said...

I've read A Storm of Swords now. I loved it! :)