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

Posted October 5, 2014 by Debby in Book Reviews

Book Review: A Clash of Kings by George R.R. MartinA Clash of Kings by George R.R. Martin
Series: A Song of Ice and Fire #2
Published by Bantam Books on February 2nd, 1998
Genres: Adult, Epic Fantasy, Fantasy, High Fantasy
Pages: 761
Format: Hardcover
Source: Purchased

Time is out of joint. The summer of peace and plenty, ten years long, is drawing to a close, and the harsh, chill winter approaches like an angry beast. Two great leaders—Lord Eddard Stark and Robert Baratheon—who held sway over and age of enforced peace are dead...victims of royal treachery. Now, from the ancient citadel of Dragonstone to the forbidding shores of Winterfell, chaos reigns, as pretenders to the Iron Throne of the Seven Kingdoms prepare to stake their claims through tempest, turmoil, and war.

As a prophecy of doom cuts across the sky—a comet the color of blood and flame—six factions struggle for control of a divided land. Eddard’s son Robb has declared himself King in the North. In the south, Joffrey, the heir apparent, rules in name only, victim of the scheming courtiers who teem over King’s Landing. Robert’s two brothers each seek their own dominion, while a disfavored house turns once more to conquest. And a continent away, an exiled queen, the Mother of Dragons, risks everything to lead her precious brood across a hard hot desert to win back the crown that is rightfully hers.

A Clash of Kings transports us into a magnificent, forgotten land of revelry and revenge, wizardry and wartime. It 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.

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.

Audacious, inventive, brilliantly imagined, A Clash of Kings is a novel of dazzling beauty and boundless enchantment—a tale of pure excitement you will never forget.

4 Stars

It took me a month of scheduled reading to manage fitting A Clash of Kings in with the rest of my towering stacks of books to be read, but I did it. Now, this won’t be my most coherent review ever, because how on earth do you review a book of over 700 pages, but more just my thoughts overall. Enjoy.

What I think continues to be Martin’s strength in this series is how he truly encapsulates the importance of each of these characters. Epic fantasies, with their many POV’s, can be slow or boring. There will always be some characters you don’t care for – and certainly, I have mine in A Song of Ice and Fire too. Bran’s POV made me fall asleep multiple times in this book, which is just like, ugh what why asdfjkl;. I wish more happened in his POV, but still, what does happen to him is an essential part of the storyline, and at the end, with the Battle of Blackwater Bay, we don’t see him for a while because there’s just not much happening there. The balance, overall, is still well maintained.

But in A Clash of Kings, what impressed me was how I managed to put aside my dislike for certain characters to truly get caught up in their personal journeys. I would never call Catelyn one of my favorite characters – by far, no. But it was easy to understand the somewhat questionable decisions she makes in this story because of her deep love and devotion to her children. Likewise, Theon is kind of an asshole – but his story has a lot of depth to it in how he wants to impress his father and claim the titles that are rightfully his. The characters are all so distinct, so human, and understandable. It’s really amazing.

But my favorites remain my favorites. Arya is a freaking badass in this book, and I loved her meeting Jaqen H’ghar. She continually melts my heart with her fierceness and strength. And the more I read in the books, the harder I fall for Jon – whose awesomeness is 10x more than in the TV series. He’s really proving himself to be strong, a leader, an inspiration. But he still has his loyalty to his family and worries for their fates. The Jon-Arya passages are sweeping me up in feels and I dunno if I could handle it if they never see each other again. Tyrion is still a brilliant snarky schemer, and I will never get enough of him. Daenerys is starting to grow up, become a fierce leader, and make the tough decisions – though in this book arguably she doesn’t get too far, being stuck in the middle of nowhere (literally). I’m trying to let Sansa grow on me but… it’s happening pretty slowly. Though I will say I have major sympathy for her with respect to Joffrey’s torture, which I felt was even more harsh in the book.

The plot in this one has its ups and downs for me. I will say I don’t find it quite as exciting as A Game of Thrones (nor as what I know will come in A Storm of Swords). The action that does happen – the Battle of Blackwater Bay – was a bit hard for me to follow. I don’t think Martin’s strength really lies in depicting these huge battles. But none the less, the political dynamics remain super intriguing to me. The games that are played within the council, with Tyrion, Varys, Littlefinger, and Cersei, are brilliant. The rivalry with Stanis and his struggles with Renly? Oh ho ho ho. I love getting caught up in all their motivations and scheming, and that’s totally my thing. But in this book, the progression of it feels rather slow. I’m actually upset that we didn’t have Rob’s point of view – because although Catelyn gives a narrow view of what’s happening in the West, there’s so much action that we’re clearly missing out on. In that sense, I liked how the TV series was more comprehensive and made Rob a bigger character.

What did make the book fun for me, though, is that knowing what will happen in the next book is letting me pick up on some foreshadowing and some clues that I otherwise definitely would have missed. Yes, you can argue I’m doing this in the wrong order and it’s lame, but it is what it is. Spoilers for seasons 3-4 of Game of Thrones here: View Spoiler » These things all just kind of make me giddy, because it clearly shows the amount of planning and detail that Martin works into this story. It makes me want to read everything super closely. There could be other clues hidden all around.

Summing Up:

Though I found it somewhat less exciting that A Game of Thrones, A Clash of Kings continues to impress me with Martin’s amazing world building and character depth. This story is immense but so detailed and engaging. It’s a pity they take me so long to get through, but I am definitely enjoying it and hope to catch up with the series… this year. Hopefully. We’ll see how that goes.

GIF it to me straight!


Recommended To:

Fans of richly detailed, politically-oriented fantasy.

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One response to “Book Review: A Clash of Kings by George R.R. Martin

  1. I was pleasantly surprised by ACoK. I had heard that it was much slower paced, and while I thought it was, I was still thoroughly entertained throughout the entire thing. I wasn’t a huge Catelyn fan, and like you would have loved to have seen more Robb. But I found that A Clash of Kings changed my perspectives on some characters, which I liked.

    Great review, and I’m so happy you liked this one! Book 3 is even better in my opinion!! 🙂