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Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Book Review: A Clash of Kings by George R. R. Martin

A Clash of Kings by George R. R. Martin
Book 2 of A Song of Ice and Fire series
Mass Market Paperback, 1,009 pages
Bantam Spectra
September 5, 2000
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Genre: Technically Fantasy, I’m going to classify it as Historical Fantasy as it has strong medieval elements and has frequently been compared to the Wars of the Roses.

Source: My boyfriend’s personal collection
“Transporting readers into a forgotten land of revelry and revenge, wizardry and warfare, A Clash of Kings is a tale in which maidens cavort with madmen, brother plots against brother, and the dead rise to walk in the 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. Set against a backdrop of incest and fratricide, alchemy and murder, the price of glory may be measured in blood. And the spoils of victory may just go to the men and women possessed of the coldest steel and the coldest hearts. For when rulers clash, all of the land feels the tremors.”
Last year, my boyfriend, Nick, and I read the first book in A Song of Ice & Fire series, A Game of Thrones, together over the course of several months. We wrote a two part review of the first book – you can find my portion here and Nick’s portion here. We started this second book back in early summer of 2010, but then with moving and everything I think it was November before we finished it. Plus it’s over 1,000 pages, so finding time to read that much together takes a little work. I thought it was only fitting that Nick have a little bit of say in this review as well, so there will be asides throughout from him.

In this book series, every chapter has an alternating narrator. You see the world from their perspective and from their place in the world. All of the characters are spread over the vast world of Westeros and beyond so it is quite helpful to have narrators in the different areas so you can more easily keep track of what is happening (although I would recommend you keep some notes, because there is often many, many pages before you will come across that character again and you will likely have forgotten what is happening anyway). Most of the main narrators from book 1 are back again – with the notable except of Robb Stark (whose exploits we hear a lot about but don’t have the opportunity to hear from – which I missed). We also meet some newer narrators – some are people we haven’t heard from before, but others were merely characters prior to being elevated to narrator status.
Nick says: My personal favorite is not related to the nobility at all - Davos Seaworth. He is a daring rogue who saved the denizens of a castle from starvation by smuggling onions in to them under the cover of night. He is now lovingly referred to as the Onion Knight, and gives us a fresh perspective on the goings-on of the court.
The very most basic premise of this volume in the series can be summed up like this – everyone wants to be, and proclaims himself to be, king. Each faction has a representative and they are all doing battle with one another (Renley for House Baratheon, Stanis for House Baratheon (the true Baratheon heir), Robb for House Stark, and Joffrey for House Lannister). And then you have Daenerys of House Targaeyen who is in the Free Cities and believes she is the true heir to the Iron Throne.

Let’s take a look at those vying for the throne since they really are what this central premise of the book is about – hence A Clash of Kings.
  • Renley is the pretty boy, youngest brother of the three Baratheons. His brother Robert was the king of Westeros and his seat being now open has left the region in turmoil.
  • Stanis is the middle Baratheon brother – believing he is the true heir to the throne because he is Robert’s next oldest sibling. He doesn’t support the reign of his nephew Joffrey. He has been living on the island of Dragonstone and the people of the main country do not really know him well.
  • Joffrey is the son of Robert and his wife Cersei Lannister – he is also only 13 years old and mostly rules how his Lannister relations instruct him to.
  • Robb is the son of Eddard and Catelyn Stark. The Stark family are the Lords of the North and were very close with King Robert. He is leading those from the North as an alternative to the Lannister rule (the Starks and Lannisters have been perpetual enemies).
  • Daenerys is the daughter of King Aerys who held the throne of Westeros prior to him being killed and his throne usurped by the eventual King Robert. She believes that she has the right to rule because she is a true heir.
Nick says: Throughout all of these battles, a bright red comet blazes across the sky. It is very interesting to read how each hopeful ruler believes that the comet is a heavenly sign of THEIR right to the throne.
There are some awesome battle scenes throughout the book. It is also filled with the requisite back-stabbing, intrigue, the best laid plans going awry, and just when you think you have it all figure out – the game changes.

And they never let you forget…Winter is Coming…whatever that means – at this point we don’t really know. But it is certain foreshadowing for the books to come.
Nick says: I like to think it has to do with the evil lurking beyond The Wall to the North – an ancient force that is in the perfect position to strike while the rest of Westeros squabbles over titles and power.
A wonderfully written sequel that never has a dull moment. There is a lot of character development and we get to see some changes happen in some people, but I think there will be much more of that in book 3.

Besides the first book, A Game of Thrones, there are two others that have been currently released, book 3 –A Storm of Swords and book 4 – A Feast for Crows. The highly anticipated release of book 5 – A Dance with Dragons is still floating out there to be released at some point (although the date has been pushed back a million times). There is a television series being made from these books airing on HBO starting in April 2011. The first season looks to follow the first book very, very closely. You can follow the production on the following blog, Winter is Coming.

Here is an inside look at the upcoming show from HBO. Just watch this and I bet you will be sucked in. I will for sure be tuning in!


  1. I'm v excited for the HBO show, I confess, and I feel guilty b/c I haven't read these books. Your review has me wondering if I can do it before the show debuts!

  2. Audra - I think that it would be feasible to get through the first book - which is what the first season is based on. The books are SO good!

  3. I have heard so many readers rave about these books -- and who are waiting desperately for the next one! I'm kind of stunned I never read them before!

  4. I have never heard about this series and once again you have turned me towards something I can't pass up. When you recommended Water For Elephants I went out a couple of weeks later and bought it and LOVED it! So I HAVE to get a hold of this series! Unfortunately, I don't have HBO only Showtimes so I'll just have to wait till it comes out on DVD.


  5. Taylor - it is a great series - although it could be forever until the 5th book comes out. Glad you loved Water for Elephants. I only have HBO, so I'm going to miss out on the Borgias when it starts :(.

  6. I got to book 4 and the series started to slow down for me. Actually I can't remember if I read book 4?? Books 1-3 I read quickly. Thanks for the refresher on the characters. I need it. Glad you and Nick are enjoying it, and can't wait to see the HBO version. It looks fraking awesome!

  7. Jenny - Nick has read the first half of book 3 and he said that it starts to slow down too. I am excited to read book 3 tho. The show does look phenomenal.


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