Sunday, May 1, 2011

A Clash of Kings (A Song of Ice and Fire #2)

A Clash of Kings (A Song of Ice and Fire #2)

By:  George RR Martin

Available Format:  Hardcover, Paperback, ebook, Audiobook

My Rating:  ★★★★★

A Clash of Kings, the second of George RR Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire epic fantasy series, picks up where A Game of Thrones ended.  It follows the same style—each chapter focused on a particular character from a limited third person view.   The newly contracted second season of HBO’s Game of Thrones will depict this installment of the series.

Civil war plagues The Seven Kingdoms of Westeros as The War of the Five Kings ensues.   Joffery Baratheon, Renley Baratheon, Robb Stark, Balon Greyjoy, and Stannis Baratheon all declare themselves king and fighting breaks out in different areas of the kingdom for each of them.  When the brothers, Renley and Stannis, attempt a meeting to work out some sort of peace agreement between themselves and the Starks, mysterious events begin to occur.  After the failed meeting, Renley is murdered in his tent by a mere shadow in the night; a shadow that will later reappear to insure the Renley forces are completely disbanded.   Could the strange Red Priestess that Stannis has named his banner “woman” be the source of this cruel sorcery?  How far will Stannis take his claim to the iron throne?

In the North, Greyjoy, Eddard Stark’s former ward, moves on Winterfell, now governed by little, crippled Bran and his Steward.  Greyjoy hunts down and murders the young Stark boys to strike fear and loyalty into the hearts of the citizens, but things are not always what they appear.  It seems karma is all that is in store for hasty Greyjoy. 

King’s Landing is also under attack.  Tyrion Lannister, Queen Cersei’s dwarf brother, is now the Hand of the King and virtually ruling the broken kingdom as best he can.  When Stannis finally attacks the city, Tyrion finds himself where he never thought he would be:  right in the thick of raging battle.  The sudden arrival of his father, Tywin, changes many things for the so-called Imp.

On the wall, a ranging party is assembled to travel north and investigate the disappearance of others of the Night’s Watch, particularly Jon’s uncle, Benjen Stark.  The threat of the evil white walkers is ever present, but it soon becomes apparent that a more immediate danger is closing in on them.  The wildings are gathering together to march south, and the rangers are severely outnumbered.  Jon Snow is forced to make a dangerous choice that will either save his life or insure his death, while possibly aiding his homeland.   

I know if you have read this far, you may be thinking, “What the heck is going on???”  You are absolutely correct in believing that there is a lot to follow in this series!  I think Martin had no other choice but to write each chapter from a different character’s point of view (there are nine main characters in this book).  How else would he be able to tie in all the diverse events occurring across the Westeros and beyond?  With that, I think he does a wonderful job.  He is able to give the story a seamless flow, even as he is jumping from one person and place to the next.  Everything fits together like one big beautiful puzzle, and it takes some amazing talent to be able to do that with such a complex story. 

My favorite character in A Clash of Kings is Arya, Eddard Stark’s youngest daughter and sister to the newly named King Robb Stark of the North.  In A Game of Thrones, Arya was able to escape King’s Landing with a group of men and boys en route to the Wall.  In this book, she and some of her companions are captured and essentially made slaves at the Lannister-held Harrenhal, where Arya now poses as a peasant serving girl.  She is approached by a mysterious man, Jaqen Hagar, who repays Arya for saving his life by taking three lives of her choice.  When his payment is complete, and the ownership of Harrenhal is subsequently changed, Hagar gives Arya a strange coin and phrase for her to use in an emergency.  There is obviously more to Hagar than we know, and I am anxious to see how that plays out. 

I think I like Arya so much because she is a spitfire little tomboy with a huge, courageous heart.  I wonder if she will ever be able to make it home, and if she does, will she even have a home to return to?  I also anticipate some romance between her and Gendry, the former king’s bastard son.  At least I hope there is! 

A Clash of Kings is full of war and betrayal and mystery.  Martin certainly leaves enough unexplained to keep the reader interested in the series.  There is no way I could stop reading now!  Just like A Game of Thrones, each chapter is a little teaser that raises more and more questions while still carrying you a bit closer to the truth.

If you are fans of epic fantasy and massive, imaginative plots, then the Song of Ice and Fire series is must for your to-read lists!   My boring little review doesn’t even being to do justice to Martin’s immense talents.  Pick up a copy, get good and comfortable, and see for yourself!